Gospel Adventist Ministries

"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." ~ 1 Cor 2:2

Category: Biblical Interpretation (Page 1 of 3)

Doctrinal Unity within the Seventh-day Adventist Church

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Over the past few days I have been meditating on what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist. It is obvious to say that being a member of the church means one is willing to support the official teachings of the church as documented in the Statement of Beliefs.

However, while the church pushes for doctrinal unity, it is important to note that unity is not uniformity. The church still allows for diversity of thought and disagreement. One group wants to emphasize the holiness and justice of God, while another group wants to emphasize God’s love and forgiveness. The problem we face is that liberty can lead to license for some groups who disregard the official church doctrine at any cost.

The real danger within the church is when doctrinal truth is stretched to extremes and fervor becomes fanaticism. Too much of a good thing is extremely bad. This is why I have always supported a balanced approach that seeks to avoid extremes.

“Do not be overly righteous,
Nor be overly wise:
Why should you destroy yourself?
Do not be overly wicked,
Nor be foolish:
Why should you die before your time?”
Ecclesiastes 7:16-17,NKJV

Should the church focus on God’s justice or His mercy? It would be a mistake to make this an either/or problem. The truth is we need to emphasis both in a way that fully explains the character of God.

This balance is found at the cross where God satisfied the justice of the law by pouring out his punishment for sin on Jesus. God did this so He can have mercy on us sinful and fallible human beings. If God could have changed His law then there would be no need for the cross, but if God was not loving then He would have destroyed us all at the beginning.

We do not worship only a God of holiness, or only a God of love, but we worship a God of Holy Love. This should be our balance and our emphasis when it comes to expressing the character of God.

Paul understood this balance when he declared, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23, NKJV).

When it comes to doctrinal unity, I think the quote by C.S. Lewis explains the correct approach to various doctrinal theories:

“The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work” (Mere Christianity, Book 2).

When it comes to diversity of thought within the Adventist church there are many theories about inspiration, prophecy, and the atonement. While we might not all agree on the details, we should all agree that we are talking about divine mysteries that are rooted in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We should be able to focus on the main and the plain teachings of scripture, and while we may not be able to explain them fully, we can know that they are divine truth.

At the same time, we cannot allow spiritual liberty to decay into spiritual anarchy. If a member of the SDA church cannot agree (at least in principle) with the official teachings of the denomination, then they should not be calling themselves Seventh-day Adventist.

If the church is serious about doctrinal Unity then we need to focus our teaching around the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is our focus and it is His spirit that brings us into oneness with Him.

Stephen Beagles

Truth: The Main and the Plain

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People tell me over and over again that my beliefs about the Bible are simply a matter of personal interpretation. But that statement assumes truth cannot be known as objective fact. No one agrees 100 percent of the time, yet there are some basic undeniable facts. For example, if a person jumps off an airplane at an altitude of 13,000 ft without a parachute then that person will succumb to the laws of gravity.

I understand why people are skeptical of anyone claiming to have objective truth. Everyone has their own opinion and few will ever admit to being wrong. Logic states if you put 100 master theologians in a room and they all disagree on a certain point of doctrine then only one of them can be right. The odds are all of them are wrong. Still, it is possible for one to have the truth. It pays to be skeptical in most cases, but there is danger in being overly skeptical when we assume it is not possible for anyone to know the truth about anything.

If truth does not exist then how do scientists establish scientific fact? How can a jury find anyone guilty of committing a crime?

When it comes to understanding the Bible, many people are convinced it takes years of seminary training to interpret scripture. It seems we give people with a doctoral degree in theology more credibility than the average lay person. However, the important truths of holy scripture are easy to comprehend.

The following verse about Jesus is crystal clear:

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NIV).

I know some philosophers will torture logic to make that verse say the exact opposite of what the author intended, but a majority of rational people with no ax to grind will be able to understand the plain meaning of the text–Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life.

Not every text of scripture is easy to understand, but a major principle of biblical interpretation is to interpret the difficult passages in the light of the easy ones. The clear teachings of scripture can never be contradicted. If we allow ourselves to disregard the main and plain teachings when interpreting difficult Bible texts then we are only encouraging a form of spiritual anarchy.

Join me in fulfilling our responsibility to spread the truth of God’s word.

Stephen Beagles

Is knowledge Essential to Salvation?

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I almost do not want to write about this subject. Many times, I have come close to giving up on any attempt to communicate this message. I am not even sure that I completely understand all of the implications that arise because of my conclusions. However, it is an important message to understand in the 21st century of post-modern relativism and mass communications where conflicting opinions bombard us from every direction.

Recently, I engaged in many debates on social media regarding the fine complexities of biblical doctrine. It is interesting to see how many people arrive at different ideas about the Christian faith. It can also be confusing. But the first major fallacy that is easy to overcome is the “ALL or Nothing” paradigm where if a person does not agree with everything someone else teaches regarding the Bible then they are servants of the devil. Even the apostle Paul, who had his own disagreements with some in the church of Jerusalem, allowed many to follow their conscience over some theological issues of the day such as whether or not to observe Jewish festivals.

“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 4:15, KJV).

Paul taught there was room for disagreement on some points of doctrine as long as personal opinions did not directly conflict with the message of Christ. On the other hand, Paul was adamant that all Christians believed some essential facts regarding the person and work of Jesus.

For example, Paul proclaimed to the Galatians:

“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4, NIV).

This statement reveals that a prerequisite for salvation is to give up attempting to be justified by the law of God, which means not placing conditions on salvation other than simple faith in Jesus Christ. Those who bought into a false gospel had been alienated from Christ and had fallen outside the grace of God.

These scriptures force me to conclude there are two groups of Bible doctrine. The first group are the essential doctrines of Christianity requiring an understanding of basic facts regarding Jesus and the plan of salvation. The second group contains the secondary and supporting doctrines needed for a full understanding of the Christian life, but are not necessary for faith in Jesus.

A basic understanding of the essential doctrines of Christianity is necessary for genuine faith in the God of the Bible and His Son Jesus Christ.

FALSE PROFESSION AND SPRITUAL DECEPTION

Some Christians believe that all who profess Christ are granted eternal life. What is required for salvation is a simple profession of faith in Jesus, but this is not the truth. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned about professing Christians who would be lost in the end-times:

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23, KJV).

Jesus taught a mere profession of faith in Him is not enough to bring a person to salvation. More is required than simply addressing Jesus as Lord even if professed Christians are able to perform miraculous works in His name.

Jesus also warned about mass deception that would lead many astray:

“For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:5, KJV).

FALSE RELIGION AND FALSE GOSPEL

Jesus repeated this sentiment later on during His ministry when He taught about the goats who professed Christianity:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25: 32-46, NIV)

Jesus gave us a hint of the major reason for their disqualifications as Christians. They saw themselves as God’s people, but they isolated themselves from the “least of these” and closed themselves off from those they saw as being unfit for the kingdom. They thought they were doing the right things, by doing good works, but their motivation was to bring glory to themselves instead of reaching out to the sinful and the ungodly. They saw themselves as good people and above the sinfulness of the world, but instead they are accounted by Christ as the worst of the cursed.

Jesus also rebuked the religious leaders of Israel and gave us another clue to the reason behind mass spiritual blindness:

“You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29, NIV).

These warnings of Jesus teach us the importance of knowing the Holy Scriptures as it pertains to the power of God to avoid spiritual deception. The power of God is nothing other than the cross of Christ to save all who trust His saving grace.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV)

Jesus warned the people of Israel about spiritual deception and gave them enough information about what to avoid so that they would not fall prey to false Christs. However, His primary motivation for these warnings was to help them to understand truth about Himself:

“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am” (John 13:19, NIV).

Is Knowledge Essential For Salvation?

 

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Christianity is not merely a matter of personal interpretation of bible doctrines. Christ commands that we know Him as opposed to false teachers.

Christ warned us about being deceived, and Paul proclaimed that people believing in a false gospel were cursed. At the same time, we need only to understand the bare essentials of bible teachings to avoid deception.

These teachings are the ones necessary to come to genuine faith in Christ: (a) Jesus is the Son of God foretold in the Old Testament, (b) Salvation is by faith alone in the Son of God, (c) Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected for our justification, (d) Christ is coming again to receive us into the heavenly kingdom.

A person does not need to be an automobile mechanic to know how to turn the key to an ignition and drive a car. In the same way, a person does not need to be a theologian to know how to read the Bible. However, if a person does not know the basics about how to drive a car then it would be unsafe for them to drive under any circumstances.

Being a Christian requires basic knowledge about God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ.

~Stephen Beagles

Was Jesus a False Prophet?

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Betrand Russell, a famous Atheist in his day, wrote in his book “Why I am Not a Christian” that Jesus misled the disciples, because He told them that His second coming would happen within their generation.

In response to the disciples asking about His second coming, after giving a few signs to look for Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24: 34, NIV). Obviously, we are living 2000 years after Christ made this prediction, so did Jesus make a false prediction as Russell claimed?

Many scholarly critics have used this verse to deny the divinity of Christ, and others have sought ways to reconcile what Jesus said by claiming all of Christ’s predictions foretold the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The latter group is half-right in that Jesus did predict that Jerusalem would be destroyed at the end of a literal period of time, but they are wrong to suggest Christ did not also give signs to the second-coming and the end of the world.

Jesus was referring to the final generation, when he foretold, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened.” The generation that sees ALL of the signs of His second coming is the generation that will see the return of Jesus Christ. However, He also correctly predicted that HIS generation would witness the destruction of Jerusalem: “Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation” (Matthew 23:36).

Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world almost in the same breath. The disciples assumed that Christ would return immediately after the destruction of the temple, but Christ warned that He did not know exactly when He would return. However, the generation to witness all of the signs of the second coming would be alive to see Him return in glory.

Jesus correctly predicted the destruction of Jerusalem within His generation, and the church is still awaiting His return 2000 years later. If Christ was right about the fall of Jerusalem, which occured exactly as He predicted, then there is no reason to doubt His second coming.

~Stephen Beagles

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