Theme: Blessings of the Prophetic Gift
Leading Question: Is the prophetic gift more important for blazing a new trail or defending old landmarks?
In Adventist History, two key words represent the poles between which any community must find its way: Landmarks: The Old – that which never changes; Present Truth: The New – the cutting edge. Sometimes Ellen White warned the church of the danger of losing its moorings and its foundations. So she defended the Landmarks. On other occasions she warned the church of the danger of becoming conservative and avoiding discussion. So she argued for Present Truth. Succumbing to either danger can be deadly. One of the most significant moments in its history, however, was the 1888 crisis, when Ellen White clearly came down on the side of Present Truth. Here are two of her most famous statements in that connection:
Peter exhorts his brethren to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” [2 Pet 3:18]. Whenever the people of God are growing in grace, they will be constantly obtaining a clearer understanding of His word. They will discern new light and beauty in its sacred truths. This has been true in the history of the church in all ages, and thus it will continue to the end. But as real spiritual life declines, it has ever been the tendency to cease to advance in the knowledge of the truth. Men rest satisfied with the light already received from God”s word and discourage any further investigation of the Scriptures. They become conservative and seek to avoid discussion.
The fact that there is no controversy or agitation among God”s people should not be regarded as conclusive evidence that they are holding fast to sound doctrine. There is reason to fear that they may not be clearly discriminating between truth and error. When no new questions are started by investigation of the Scriptures, when no difference of opinion arises which will set men to searching the Bible for themselves to make sure that they have the truth, there will be many now, as in ancient times, who will hold to tradition and worship they know not what. (Testimonies 5:706-707 ; also in GW 297-98 and CWE 38-39])
From MS 8a 1888, address to ministers on October 21, 1888, with apparent reference to a telegram from the “absent and ailing” president who urged the delegates to “stand by the landmarks” [Olson, Thirteen Crisis Years (1981) 282]
The message “Go forward” is still to be heard and respected. The varying circumstances taking place in our world call for labor which will meet these peculiar developments. The Lord has need of men who are spiritually sharp and clear-sighted, men worked by the Holy Spirit, who are certainly receiving manna fresh from heaven. Upon the minds of such, God”s Word flashes light, revealing to them more than ever before the safe path. The Holy Spirit works upon mind and heart. The time has come when through God”s messengers the scroll is being unrolled to the world. Instructors in our schools should never be bound about by being told that they are to teach only what has been taught hitherto. Away with these restrictions. There is a God to give the message His people shall speak. Let not any minister feel under bonds or be gauged by men”s measurement. The Gospel must be fulfilled in accordance with the messages God sends. That which God gives His servants to speak today would not perhaps have been present truth twenty years ago, but it is God”s message for this time.
Among the blessings that have come to the Adventist community as a result of the prophetic gift, the following are significant. In each case, the blessing is rooted in its biblical heritage:
1. World-wide mission (Mat 28:19-20). The vision of a world transformed by the Gospel is one rooted in Jesus’ commission to his disciples. How is Adventism doing in living up to this God-given mandate?
2. Health (Exod 15:26). God promised Israel that if they would faithfully follow him he would bring upon them “none” of the diseases which had afflicted the Egyptians. Many of the laws given to Israel are seen to have hygienic overtones. In Adventism, the “health message” brought life and health to a group of people who were really quite sickly. In a study of life expectancy among early Adventists, the age at death was analyzed for all 63 of those whose obituaries were published in the Review and Herald in 1962. Here are the results:
Obituaries in Review and Herald, 1862: 63 Total (from Senior SS Lesson Quarterly, 1/13/93)
Under age 7 18 29% 7-20 9 14% 21-40 14 22% 41-60 14 22% Over 60 8 13%
Clearly, the “health message” began to make a difference for good among a people for whom the message of health reform was truly “good news.”
3. Publishing (Deu 6:1-9). Before the printing press, “publishing” had to mean something quite different than what it means today. But even ancient Israel, the people were told to let their “good news” be known to the world. They were to write the principles of good living “on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Are Adventists still eager to get the good word out to the world?
4. Theology (John 8:32). Jesus told his listeners that if they would continue to follow him, they would know the truth “and the truth will make you free.” Adventists have been great lovers of “truth.” What aspects of our theological heritage have served to make us “free”?