Thursday, March 13, 2014

Discipling the Spiritual Leaders

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 11: Discipling the Spiritual Leaders
This lesson focuses on how Jesus selected his original apostles, the twelve, and how He trained them to "continue the work after He left." This is an interesting topic, and very important, and we encourage our readers to study the Bible texts and resources cited. However, these essays focus on the "1888 message dynamic," so we will give an account of an event that occurred early in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church having to do with our "spiritual leaders." The Holy Spirit has been "discipling" them for 125 years to accept the "most precious message" that the Lord gave to our church in 1888.
George Santayana wisely said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." [1] We could well paraphrase him to say that a denomination that does not remember its past is fated to repeat it. Apparently we must know it before the gospel commission can be finished: "The Lord has declared that the history of the past shall be rehearsed as we enter upon the closing work." [2]
If the time is near for that "closing work" (as we hope), we may also believe that the time is here when the 1888 "history of the past" must be faithfully, honestly "rehearsed." "We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history." [3] For once in history we must not repeat history.
Ancient Israel failed on the borders of the Promised Land, and were turned back for another forty years of wandering. Moses sent twelve "leading men" to "explore" the Promised Land, "whether it is easy or difficult country in which to live." Ten "explorers" thought it was "difficult," and only two thought "it is easy. ... Let us go up at once and occupy the country" (Num. 13:3, 16, 18, 30, New English Bible).
Many thoughtful Seventh-day Adventists have understood this episode as a "type," and our 1888 history and its aftermath as the "antitype." In 1888 the Lord sent two "messengers" to "explore" the finishing of the gospel commission who brought a report that it is "easy" rather than "difficult" if only we can believe the word of the Lord. He chose to send the message first to "leading men" at a General Conference Session. [4]
Throughout her seven decades of service as special messenger to the remnant church, Ellen White demonstrated more than human ability to discern serious issues beneath the surface. Never is her prophetic gift more clearly displayed than in her comprehension of the 1888 message and its history. For example, a statement familiar to Sabbath School Today readers:
"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders [A. T.] Jones and [E. J.] Waggoner. ... This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world, ... proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure." [5]
Frequently she referred to the message as the initial outpouring of the Latter Rain of the Holy Spirit. [6] As a farmer's crops need rain if the harvest is to come, so the Latter Rain is to ripen the "grain" and prepare "for the sickle." This is "the completion of the work of God's grace in the soul ... that prepares the church for the coming of the Son of man." [7] And Satan's slanderous charges against God can never be silenced and the "great controversy" resolved for the government of God, until His people believe and receive this "completion" of grace "in the soul." Ellen White spoke openly and frankly about getting ready for "translation" then and there in that generation. [8]
She also said that Israel's "leading men" refused the message and shut it "away from our people in a great measure." "By the action of our own [leading] brethren [it] has been in a great degree kept away from the world." [9] God's plan was (1) to give the message first to the leadership; (2) they were to give it to the laity; and (3) the church unitedly was to give it to the world. [10]
"Had the purpose of God been carried out in giving the message of mercy to the world, Christ would have come, and the saints would have received their welcome into the city of God." [11]
Like Israel's history at Kadesh-Barnea, can any aspect of our history be more important than our preparation for the sealing, our reception of the Latter Rain, the giving of the Loud Cry, and a preparation for the second coming of Christ?
But there is reassuring Good News. The truth of Seventh-day Adventist history does not indicate that the Lord has (or will) cast off His people. "The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out--the chaff separated from the precious wheat." [12]
Something will have to "give": either the conviction that "the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history"; or that the church has ceased to be the agent which the Lord will employ in finishing His work on earth [13] (this author refuses to accept either). The only reasonable option seems to be that we shall have to surrender our spiritual pride, and let our "glory" be laid "in the dust." This is what happens by accepting the full truth of the Lord's "teaching in our past history."
It will be genuine justification by faith, the message that will lighten the earth with glory and call God's waiting people, "Come out of her [Babylon], My people."
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
[1] The Life of Reason, vol. 1, "Reason in Common Sense."[2] Selected Messages, book 2, p. 390.[3] Life Sketches, p. 196 (emphasis supplied).[4] E. J. Waggoner communicated his convictions to the General Conference president, George I. Butler, in a letter dated Feb. 10, 1887, and published "nearly two years later" (The Gospel in Galatians). The evidence seems clear that the opportunity to accept the light was given the "leading men" at an official Session of the church--its highest body of deliberation.[5] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.[6] See Early Writings, pp. 271, 279, et al.[7] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 506.[8] Review and Herald, March 4, 1890, etc.[9] Selected Messages, book 1, p. 235.[10] See Review and Herald Extra, Dec. 23, 1890, etc.[11] Review and Herald, Dec. 24, 1903.[12] Selected Messages, book 2, p. 380.[13] This is the conclusion which many zealous offshoot groups advocate.
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