Seventh-day Adventists, in common with all other Christians, have staked their hopes for the present life and the future upon three great facts, which are to the non-Christian mere assumptions, but to the Christian, facts of faith.
In thinking about Christianity we come to the conclusion that we must begin with those three basic concepts.
The first and most important is a belief in the existence of God. How do we know that God is? Can we go into the laboratory, take a test tube, and by manipulating certain chemicals and things like that prove that God is? No. How then would you go about to prove that God is?
The fact is that most of us as Christians do not ask for proof. We just say, Well, God is. And that in itself is a manifestation of our implicit faith in Him. To us belief in the existence of God is simple, but to non-Christians, to unbelievers, it is more difficultit is at times a stumbling block. To us God's existence is a fact,
but a fact of faith. To them it is pure foolishness. They demand proof. They demand evidence. Of course, we can use such evidence as the beautiful sunset, the planting of the seed, the growing of the trees, and the bearing of the fruitall of that. We can easily prove that everything that exists must have a maker, and by inference come to the conclusion that God is the Maker of the world and the universe. So to me as a Christian, and to all Christians generally, there is no difficulty at all about this first great fact upon which Christianity is basedthe fact that God is.
Because of our implicit and unbounded faith in God, we take for granted that He is. We simply know that God is in his holy temple; therefore, let all the earth keep silence before him (Hab. 2:20), for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6). (See also Job 22:21, 26.)
Without hesitation or a word of proof, Christ admonishes all who claim His name, Have faith in God (Mark 11:22); and Seventh-day Adventists, more than a million strong, from every corner of the earth declare, Lord, we believe; help Thou our unbelief.
Is it important that we know that God is? The importance is this: Only as I know that God exists, that God is in His heaven, that God is looking down upon the earth, that God sees me and hears me, do I become careful as to what I do and what I say. My faith that
God is, causes me to live in such a way that before Him, in His presence, I shall walk and talk in a manner pleasing to Him.
I thought of it the other day as a friend and I were driving through the country. He had a new car. He wanted to show me how good that car was. I noticed that he looked ahead and then he looked into the mirror. He looked all around and then said, Now, let's try it. When we got up to more than eighty miles an hour I said, You have a good car; now let us slow down. I noticed that he looked again. Can you guess for whom he was looking? Why, of course, the traffic cop. Had the traffic cop been behind, do you think he would have let loose at almost ninety miles an hour? No, indeed!
We are all just like that. Human nature is that way, and so you and I as Christians must first believe that God is and that we are living every moment in His presence. I call this the first great fact of Christianitythat God exists, that God sees and hears, records, and judges everything I do, every word I say. Do you understand now? The first great fact of Christianity is a fact of faithGod is.
The second great fact of faith is something like it. To be a Christian I must believe that the Bible is God's Book. How do I know? How can I prove it? Oh, we have several simple little proofs, or evidences, that we try to apply to it. But as for me, I am not asking for the proof. I simply believe that it is God's Book. This
is the second great fact of faith upon which Christianity is based. This Bible, my friends, is God's Book. How do I know? How else could you know?
One answer is that you could go over to Palestine, to some of those old, old places, and find there some stones with inscriptions on them that tell about the Hebrews and that mention the Israelites. Some of those ancient stones tell of the Egyptians, the Flood, and many other things mentioned in the Bible. We have them as an external evidence of the internal correctness, the validity, the genuineness of this Book. I do not need to go to Palestine or to Egypt or to any other place to find those things to cause me to believe that this is God's Book. I just believe it, and so it is with every other Christian.
The Bible is a revelation of His love, His will, His plan, His purpose, and His standard for men of all ages and in all climes. Paul's counsel to Timothy is God's word to all men who, by faith, have accepted the Bible from Genesis to Revelation:
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:14-17).
Seventh-day Adventists receive the Scriptures as the voice of God speaking directly to them. They fear and tremble at God's Word, for to them every thought, every sentence, every verse, every chapter, is a real message from the living God, given through His chosen messengers of old. Seventh-day Adventists open their hearts and their minds to receive it, for in it are God's commands, entreaties, counsels, appeals, warnings, and promises. They accept it freely, willingly, literally, and fully as of God, and therefore not to be despised or treated lightly. They neither add to nor diminish therefrom. It is not for them to accept this and reject that according to their own whims, fancies, or convenience. It is indeed the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (1 Thess. 2:11-13).
The third great fact of faith is simply that God spoke through His prophets and gave us this Bookthe Bible. How do I know that? How can I prove it? I was not back there when Samuel lived, nor when Daniel had his dreams and visions. But on Tuesday, November 24, 1953, it was my good fortune to go out from the city of Baghdad about sixty miles to the site of the ancient city of Babylon, where are now only piles of sand and dirt and rubbish. As I looked at those piles I said to myself, How can I know that this is where Daniel lived? When we came a little closer to the place where the German archeologist had excavated more of those great piles of dirt, my guide,
Melvin Jacobson, said, This is the very road on which Daniel walked. I looked at him and said to myself, How do they know that?
As I walked about that place, looked around, and saw the inscriptions on the bricks, I remembered my history books and other books that describe those places. I said, Well, Brother, this is really a fulfillment of prophecy. Just then in the midst of all that stillness, where not a man was seen or a sign of life was found, an animal suddenly jumped from one pile to another, and scampered over the mounds. I said, That, too, is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah. (See Jer. 50:39.)
You see, we have such evidences that will help me to some extent to believe the Book. However, I do not need these evidences. I simply believe that this is God's Book, and the more firmly I believe in it, the more careful I shall be to observe what it tells me to do. But if I say that Book is just like any other book, I am not likely to pay any particular attention to it.
In Hebrews, the first chapter and the first verse, I read, God at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.
Here is all the evidence I need. God says so; therefore it is so. That is the way I see it, because that is the way God states it. Since I believe in God, and know that He cannot lie, I take Him at His word in this as in all other matters. Peter says of those prophets that they were holy men moved by the Holy Ghost.
Amos himself says, Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). Now how do I know that all this is true? What evidence have I that this is indeed God's Book? and that God spoke the words of this Book through His prophets? The honest answer is that we have only faith, and by this act of faith I believe that this method of communication is the one used by God from the very earliest period of man's history to our own time. If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream (Num. 12:6).
If by faith Christians accept the fact of God, and recognize the Bible as God's Word, then it is but natural and logical that Christians will accept the fact that God chose prophets as His spokesmen. Christians will, therefore, ask for no more proof for the one great assumption than they do for the otherboth alike are matters of faith.
Concerning prophets and their messages from God the apostle Paul says:
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:18-23).
Salvation comes through faith in the Lord Jesus. Sanctification and ultimate perfection come through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Through prophets God has set forth in the Bible and in the writings of the Spirit of prophecy a pattern of Christian living that shows us the kind of people Christians must be here and in the everlasting kingdom; for if we would be saints in the kingdom to come, we must be saints in this world now. The business of Christianity is not so much how to get a man into heaven, as it is how to get heaven into the heart of a man. This is the work of prophets in both Old and New Testament times, and also in the present remnant church.
Take away faith and what have you left? No God. No Bible. No prophets. No recognition of man's sinfulness. No need of the Saviour. No Saviour, Jesus Christ. And what is left of Christianity when you take away all of that? Nothing.
If our reasoning is correct, there were prophets in ancient times, and there might be prophets in modern times. The important fact is that God said there were prophets through whom He spoke in the past, and that there would be prophets through whom He would speak in this our day. If I believe God, then I must accept His prophets.
We have had many movements in the history of the Christian church that have grown out of the leadership of some individual who claimed to be a prophet. There have been prophets, and we all admit
the fact. But you say, How can you tell whether they are true or false? To which I must reply, That is indeed our only problem now. How may I know whether anyone who steps forth and claims to be a prophet is indeed a true prophet?
Christians everywhere are willing to accept the first fact, that God is. They are all willing to accept the second fact, that the Bible is God's Book. But the only one in question is the third. Even this fact is partially accepted, for they do believe that God spoke through prophets, so far as Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, and John, who wrote the Revelation, are concerned. They will accept all of that. Why do they stop there? They stop only on the last part of this third great fact of faith, namely, that God plans to speak through His servants in modern times. There is the problem. This is where Christians part company.
This makes it clear that Seventh-day Adventists do not have much to prove. All we have to prove is that God has spoken through at least one prophet in our own times.
Dear brethren and sisters, what we need above all else is to come to a conclusion in our own thinking with regard to the Word of God, the conclusion to which the Christians in Thessalonica came nineteen hundred years ago:
As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto
his kingdom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (1 Thess. 2:11-13).
What is the business of the prophets who wrote that word? Hosea says, Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets. Paul says, The word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. What then is the purpose of the message of the prophets contained in this Book, the Word of God? The Bible declares God's purpose to be that these messages might effectually work within us to make us the kind of men and women God wants us to bethe kind He would have in His kingdom.
You see now that I am leading you to a conclusion; and you have almost reached that conclusion in your thinking, because you believe the great facts of Christianity. I do not need to bring all the proofs and evidences to you, but I shall briefly review some of the evidences in this series of studies, so there will be no question in any mind as to whether God chose to speak His word to the remnant church through one whom we know as Ellen G. White.