The pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Movement came from various Protestant church backgrounds, most of them having considered themselves Bible-believing Christians in the full tradition or concept of the Reformers of the sixteenth century.
The Bible and the Bible only
Dr Paul Ratsara, President of the Southern Africa Indian-ocean Division, said: “every position we take should be critically examined and tested by the Scriptures. Movements are at work to undermine biblical truth. We should never forget that we are in the midst of a “great controversy” and therefore, need to be fortified by the Word of God. Every position of our faith will be searched into, and if we are not thorough Bible students established, strengthened and settled, the wisdom of the world’s philosophy will overwhelm us. Therefore, I encourage every person, young and old, to ‘search the Scriptures’ and join the program of “Revived by His Word.”
From the developmental years of the Seventh-day Adventist church, the Bible has been accepted as the Sole Rule of Faith and Practice. Dr Ratsara, a keen student of Bible history further said that back in 1889, the position of the church has been “That the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, contain a full revelation, of His will to man, and are the only infallible rule of faith and practice” (Fundamental Principles, art. III, p. 148). From that day to this, Seventh-day Adventists have consistently proclaimed to the world that their message is based on the Bible and that they are in full harmony with the Reformation leaders in insisting on the Bible and the Bible only as the foundation of doctrine and guide for Christian duty and practice.
Speaking of the church history and the Reformation, we are reminded by Mrs White who referred to the Waldenses as those who, in their day, regarded “the Bible as the only rule of faith” (4SP 68, 1885). And she intensifies the description in The Great Controversy, that “they held the Bible as the only supreme, infallible authority” (p. 68, 1888). We must return to the Protestant principle of the Bible and the Bible alone. Luther himself, met them [the papal contenders], with the Bible, and the Bible only” (GG 132, 1888).
In “The Desire of Ages” Mrs. ‘White declares of the Word, “Here alone is truth unmixed with error” (p. 398, 1898). And the climax is reached in this appeal: “In our time … there is need of a return to the great Protestant principle - the Bible, and the Bible only, as the rule of faith and duty” (GC 204-5, 1888).
Back in 1853, we were admonished: “As darkness thickens, and error increases, we should obtain a more thorough knowledge of the truth, and be prepared to maintain from the Scriptures the truth of our position.” (R&H, Aug. II, 1853, p. 53). What the Reformers meant when they said “the Bible, and the Bible only,” is that they rejected church tradition as having any authority in deciding doctrine or practice for the Christian. The Christian must get his instruction from God, directly from the Bible – without any intervening ecclesiastical interpretation. In other words, each sincere believer could arrive at truth by personal study of the Bible, without the mediation or management of priest and prelate.”
Is it possible to have a balanced understanding of the Word if God without the Holy Spirit?
Our church is praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit because no person can have insight into the Word of God without the illumination of the Holy Spirit. “Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit speaks to the mind, and impresses truth upon the heart.” (DA 671.) After all, it was holy men of God who were moved by the Spirit as they penned the words in the Holy Scriptures.”
I am reminded of the statement: “We can attain to an understanding of God’s word only through the illumination of that Spirit by which the word was given.” (5T 703.)
There is an accusation that the doctrines embraced by the Seventh-day Adventist church have their origin in Ellen G White. How much truth is there in this statement?
“We praise the Lord for the gift of prophecy, and it is one of the identifying marks of God’s remnant church. However, our basic structural doctrines are all Bible-based and were introduced through individual and group Bible study as Bible truths. They definitely did not have their origin, or initial enunciation, in or through Ellen White’s visions. “Where shall we look for light? The answer is in the words of the Psalmist, ‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.’ No MAJOR doctrinal truth or prophetic interpretation of the Advent Faith was initially introduced among us through the agency of the Spirit of Prophecy – that is, through the instrumentality of Ellen White. That was never the design, or purpose, or sphere, of the operation of the Spirit of Prophecy. That was not God’s method for the introduction of basic doctrinal truth into the Church of the Remnant.
James White stated the principle very clearly when he discussed a new doctrinal advance in the experience of our developing church in 1856. There had been a difference of opinion as to the correct time to begin the keeping of the Sabbath, and some wondered why the error had not been pointed out sooner by the gifts of the Spirit. Elder White said: “Said Jesus, ‘Search the Scriptures.’ … The revival of any, or of all the Gifts, will never supercede the necessity of searching the Word to learn the truth … In our opinion, the error never would have been pointed out by any of the Gifts, unless the Word had first been thoroughly searched on the question. It is not God’s plan to lead out his people into the broad field of truth by the Gifts. But after his people have searched the Word, if then individuals err from Bible truth, or through strife urge erroneous views upon the honest seekers of truth, then it is God’s opportunity to correct them by the Gifts (Review and Herald, February 28, 1856).
Ellen White admonishes ‘us to “present the Bible, and the Bible alone) as the foundation of our faith” (2SM, p. 85, 1894). She further declared that the Bible and “the Bible only is to be our refuge” (That I May Know Him) 342). Such was her unvarying emphasis. Nothing, upon her part, could be clearer or more emphatic.”
The study of the Bible, rightly understood, will make us “wise unto salvation,” which, after all, is what we want. In reading the Bible, may we find the Man of the book – Jesus Christ? The Bible is still the oldest book on record. A divine hand has preserved it down through the ages. No other book in all the world has been fought against and pulled apart by its critics as the Bible has, yet this book lives on and towers above all its enemies. It is still the most beloved to all literature. It above all else can bring comfort and solace to the lonely, afflicted, desolate and bereaved. It is God’s eternal living Word. The Bible endures forever (1 Peter 1v25; Ps. 119v89). It is good for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness and thereby being perfect (2 Timothy 3v16, 17). It has the power to preserve from sin (Ps. 119v11) and the Lord’s keeping power will be experienced in the life of him who accepts and obeys the Word of God (Revelation 3v10). We cannot approach the Bible as we would any ordinary book. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2v14). The word of God is still the sceptre by which Christ rules the church and the food with which He nourishes it!
Let us search the Scriptures. “If God’s Word were studied as it should be, men would have a breadth of mind, a nobility of character, and a stability of purpose that are rarely seen in these times” (GospelWorkers, p.249). As more than twenty million people, worldwide, have already committed themselves to daily reading at least one chapter of the Bible, Seventh-day Adventists affirm their commitment to continue the work of the Reformers in clinging to a faith rooted in the Bible and the Bible alone.
Dr Paul Charles
SID Communication – We Connect