Monthly Archives: August 2017

Questions and Answers (7:2)

Lou: But what about some other instances in the Old Testament where God uses force? Let’s go back to Mount Carmel and Elijah. What about the fire that comes down, burns up the sacrifice and even the stones, and licks up the water in the trench. That’s pretty dramatic.
Graham: Now that’s a classic case because it’s so dramatic, the fire consuming everything. I remember as a boy thinking of the stones burning and the water being lapped up. It’s significant, though, that when all the excitement dies down, Elijah himself is depressed. The impact of dramatic events doesn’t last long, it doesn’t have staying power. And so Elijah ran away and hid in a cave. Then his spirits rose again when he felt the earthquake, and he heard the wind, and he saw the fire, and he thought God was approaching. So it’s very significant that the Bible says God was not in the wind, He was not in the earthquake, and He was not in the fire. After these things came the sound of a small silence, “the still small voice.” And Elijah was informed that that was the sound of God approaching. God is willing to use dramatic means when the circumstances call for it. But when He has a friend, there is no more wind, earthquake, and fire. Just the still, small voice of truth. And I’m impressed that soon after that Elijah was ready to be translated to heaven.

Lou: Does that same principle provide answers for some of the other stories that people have raised questions about?
Graham: There are stories like that seemingly without number. If this picture didn’t fit consistently, I wouldn’t find it very believable.
Lou: Well, what about the plagues of Egypt then? Think of the tension there! Isn’t judgment involved?
Graham: Yes, among other things. When God speak or acts He is usually saying several things at once with great skill. The Israelites themselves were tempted not to trust God, because in those days you measured your god by success on the battlefield or by personal and national prosperity. What kind of a God would be the God of a people in captivity? Meanwhile, the Egyptians thought their gods were stronger, because they had tyrannized the Israelites and their God. So the plagues came. Certainly it encouraged the Israelites to believe that maybe God could do something for them after all. As for the Egyptians, many of the plagues were directed toward their deities. So Exodus itself says that God was judging the gods of Egypt (Exod 12:12). Through the plagues He was demonstrating the weakness of the gods there. So God encouraged the beginning of Israel’s trust with a show of power. We often need to be convinced that He’s infinitely powerful before we will be willing to listen to him and follow Him, even when He speaks in a still, small voice. But why does God take so long to move from the thunder to the silence? Because some people prefer thunder all their lives.

Questions and Answers (7:1)

In the original lecture series done in 1984 at the Loma Linda University Church, Graham Maxwell spoke for about a half hour each Friday night following by written questions and answers from Lou Venden and also from the audience. The next several posts contain questions and answers from the seventh presentation, “The Question of Authority.”

Lou: Earlier you mentioned how God’s response to the great controversy was not a great show of power or force; you said He took His case into court. I wonder if you might explain just a bit more what you meant by the word “court.”
Graham: It is an absolutely magnificent verse in Romans 3:4. Sometimes it’s translated “You [God] must be shown to be right when you speak; you must win your case when you are being tried” (TEV). And the verse is so crucial in understanding why Jesus had to die, that in the next chapter we will look at that verse in a number of versions. Now I deliberately chose the translation that I used. The closest to the meaning of the verse is the translation by Goodspeed, although I modify that slightly. “God, may You win Your case when You take it into court” just rings a bell with me; it fits there. What court is this? It is the court of the universe.
Lou: Oh, that does answer what I was wondering. By “court” you mean the entire universe. Could we say that we are included in that court, too?
Graham: Very much. And I would want to use many passages in Scripture that speak of God taking His case into court. Look at the gathering in Daniel seven, when a hundred million angels are watching. Or in Job 1 and 2, where God conducts a conversation with the adversary about God’s friend, Job. There are many references to this in Scripture.

Lou: Our subject tonight raises many questions that have come up in the past, and I would like to press some of these questions. You talk about God establishing the authority of truth and trust and love, but didn’t God, in fact, use force and power? Isn’t the Old Testament record filled with incidents that would support the idea that God was putting on a show to intimidate us?
Graham: There’s no question! That’s what always astounds people who have never read the sixty-six books through before. Innumerable times God is pictured as showing His physical force and power. I don’t think He ever did it to win anybody. In fact, I don’t think He ever won anybody that way. He often did it simply to get their attention. Or at the time of the Flood, He did it in order to maintain His contact with the human race. But if it puzzles us, how it must delight the adversary to have this information to use! I think the devil is puzzled that God would hand him so much evidence in support of his accusations.

Lou: Let’s look at a specific instance. Here is Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus, and you’ve already referred to how Saul misunderstood Jesus. But here he is on the way. And Acts says that a great light flashed from Heaven and he fell to the ground. That’s a very impressive use of force or power. Didn’t it win Saul?
Graham: No, it just floored him. But it got his attention. And I would judge, with a man like Saul, nothing less would have gotten his attention, as he was quite a firebrand. Now already he was quite tormented within because of the behavior of Stephen. When Stephen said, “Lay this not to their charge,” he must have remembered the report that when that Heretic died on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them.” And Saul knew his Old Testament well; he knew that this was ideal, godlike behaviour.
In order to stifle the prickings of his conscience, he went out to conduct another “evangelistic” effort. So God floored him on the Damascus road, and got his attention. But then notice what God did once he had his attention. He just said, “Saul, you’re having trouble with your conscience, aren’t you?”
And Saul said, “Yes, I really am.”
“Then why don’t you give in?”
“I give in. What do You want me to do?”
And Christ didn’t say, “I want you to do the following, and be sure you do it or else.” No, the Lord said, “Your way is to overwhelm people. Mine is for you to go and talk to Ananias, one of your peers. That’s all I’m going to say.” And from then on, Saul/Paul never pressured anybody. He said, “If you disagree with me, well—let everyone be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom 14:5).
Before the incident on the Damascus road, Paul put Christians in prison or had them stoned. Afterward he realized that persuasion can only really come when in the highest sense of freedom you yourself become convinced; and he adopted that method. Now he truly knew God. He didn’t change his diet, his Sabbath, his dress, his Bible, or even the name of his God. He changed his picture of God. But he wouldn’t have done it if God had not hit him with a two-by-four on the Damascus road.
Lou: So the show of force on the Damascus road was to get Saul’s attention. It fulfilled a function.
Graham: Well, we know from experience with children, you sometimes have to do this.

The Authority of Jesus Christ

Because truth and evidence were on Christ’s side, He spoke with great authority. Matthew 7:29: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority. . .” (NIV). And Luke 4:32 adds: “His message had authority” (NIV). Now in what did His authority lie? And how can we recognize the voice of true authority?

Did Jesus base His authority on His claims? No, He is the One who inspired the warning against accepting mere claims (1 John 4:1-2). When John inquired if He really was the Messiah, Jesus didn’t just say, “Yes, I am.” He offered evidence to John (Matt 11:4-6). Did He base His authority on miracles or a show of power? No, it was Jesus who inspired the warning, “Don’t trust miracles if they are not associated with the truth” (Deut 13:1-3). In fact, He even turned the crowds away when they were following Him for the miraculous food and the miraculous healing (Matt 14:22; Mark 6:45; John 6:15). How Jesus must have been tempted to use His power when He was winning so few! He knew the people were expecting a Messiah who would come with great physical power to drive off their enemies and establish an earthly kingdom. But He wouldn’t do it. It would have misrepresented the truth about God’s way of exercising His authority.

Did Jesus base His authority on His loud voice and bombastic manner, as is so customary of many evangelists today? Just read the gospels. The people marveled at the gracious words that came from His lips. “Blessed are the humble in spirit. Blessed are the meek” (Matt 5:3, 5). You simply cannot shout those words. People who shout don’t teach things like that. Christ’s manner of speaking must have been as music to His audiences.

Was His authority based on a dazzling display of who He really was? He really was the Son of God, the Creator of the Universe, worshiped by all the angels. Yet on the road to Emmaus, He didn’t reveal who He was until He had led them through the Scriptures and until their decision was based on evidence, not on His authority as a person. Note the marvelous understanding of the Emmaus road experience in the following:

Jesus did not reveal Himself in His true character to them, and then open the Scriptures to their minds. . . . He maintained His disguise till He had interpreted the Scriptures, and had led them to an intelligent faith in His life, His character, His mission to earth, and His death and resurrection. He wished the truth to take firm root in their minds, not because it was supported by His personal testimony, but because the typical law, and the prophets of the Old Testament, agreeing with the facts of His life and death, presented unquestionable evidence of that truth. When the object of His labors with the two disciples was gained, He revealed Himself to them. (E. G. White, 3SP 214)

You see, Jesus spoke with authority because He always told the truth. And some of those who heard Him also perceived it to be true. To them He spoke with great authority. But He did not speak to everyone with authority. Some said He had a devil, because of the way He presented His Father. But Jesus spoke with authority to everyone who recognized that His words were in full harmony with the truth revealed in God’s Word. And when John the Baptist received the report of what Jesus was saying and doing, he said, “That fits Isaiah perfectly. Yes, He is the one” (based on Luke 7:22).

The ultimate authority then is the truth. It is God’s only means of persuasion, the only safe basis for our trust. In many and various ways, God has revealed the truth to us and then has invited our questions and our examination of Him. For three and a half years God lived among us to demonstrate His way of using and exercising authority and power.

As a result, many people despised Him as weak, just as the Old Testament had predicted they would (Isa 53:2-4). They were looking for someone who would lead them mightily against their enemies. They wanted miracles. They wanted free food and free healing. They didn’t want the kind of person the real Messiah proved to be. Nor did they like His picture of the Father.

But some people respected Him. They recognized gentle Jesus as the supreme authority. I think that’s why Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the meek” (Matt 5:5). Meekness is not weakness, though it is widely misunderstood that way. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matt 5:5). Because, you see, only the meek, only the gentle, would be safe to admit to the kingdom, the kind of kingdom that will be governed the way Jesus exercised His authority and power during those three and a half years.

Or do you think He will act differently in the hereafter? It’s true. He thundered many times in the Old Testament. But those were all emergency measures. For three and a half precious years, He finally got to run His kingdom on this planet the way He will do it in eternity. It didn’t work, did it? Well, it worked for a few. It worked with the meek. They loved it. And the poor people heard Him gladly. But most people did not appreciate this kind of government.

Which raises the question with us—which kind of government do we prefer? Under which kind of government do we feel most secure; a powerful tyranny, or the gentle exercise of authority and power that Jesus demonstrated for three and a half years? Obviously it would not be safe to admit people who do not respect the authority of truth spoken softly in love. Blessed indeed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matt 5:5).

I myself prefer a God who is infinitely powerful, to be sure, but an equally gracious person who values nothing higher than the freedom, dignity, and individuality of his intelligent creatures. With that kind of God, our love, our trust, our worship, and our willingness to listen and obey, may be freely given. It would be a pleasure to live with a God like that. That is the quality of life in the hereafter that has been reserved for us. We can throw it away if we wish or we can be convinced by the evidence that this is the kind of person our God really is. We can find Him worthy of our trust. Personally, I am convinced that God has more than amply demonstrated that He is precisely the kind of a God He claims to be.

Another View of Women in Ministry

One of the regular contributors of my Facebook page, Linda Hoover, has sometimes taken issue with my position on women’s ordination (that the Bible neither requires nor forbids it). Being more interested in what the Bible actually says than in what I think about it, I have often challenged her to share biblical evidence for her confidence that I was wrong and recently she sent me a piece that is fresh and interesting, so I thought I’d share it with those who might have missed it at the bottom of a discussion on my Facebook page. Linda does not claim to be a biblical scholar, but shows creativity in addressing a subject that has been analyzed to the nth degree. I have edited just a bit for format and clarity but believe her views come through clearly. I share the following from her without comment for your consideration and welcome your feedback:

I formed my position from several SDA sources including WO (women’s ordination) proponents, and some outside sources, including an article from Answers in Genesis ( non-SDA on FB), and maybe the most influential source is the spiritual application of an article shared with me by my daughter. That article presented a detailed account of a large corporation that was sinking rapidly into failure as it was run by the top-down model of management. By suddenly changing the management model to the new team management approach, the corporation was rapidly turned around to give us an amazing success story. Even at the time of reading it I had immediately seen the application to church management, but I had heard nothing of the WO dispute at the time. This article resurfaced in my thinking during this WO discussion, inspiring me to review all of the direct Bible texts on the topic of the position of authority in the church.
I will share a few spiritual concepts I gleaned from the article since I cannot find it at present. This I would rather do before giving you my other sources, for the understanding gleaned from that article helped me hear terms such as headship, authority, rule, equality, submission, and roles with different ears.

I see God as the prime example of the owner of a huge corporation which He runs on the team leadership model. He illustrates perfect team leading in Himself as three in One, so that every team leader under Him will have His example to follow in their position of responsibility. The product of His corporation is love, joy, peace, unity, and redemption for fallen mankind. So when He creates man in His image He wants us to be part of His team in production of the same. Adam was to be the team leader of earth and was given Eve as co-leader. Together they ruled earth as part of God’s huge corporation. The team leader, Adam, was primarily responsible for working in cooperation with his equally essential and perfectly matched assistant. He first provided for her as a spiritual guide and protector, as she then was better able to assist him in bearing and raising children. He was the lawgiver; she was the nurturer. He had extra physical strength and natural leadership drive; she had more emotional, nurturing, and counseling skills. They were each perfectly adapted to their roles as husband/father and wife/mother. And they perfectly complemented one another as they co-ruled their family and the earth.

As team leader Adam is not the owner of the corporation but is responsible for forwarding the goals of the CEO/owner. But this he must fulfill by also developing a successful cooperative team–his family. So he also becomes their servant leader. His goal was to serve their needs and guide them in ways to benefit the company and forward its goals. He has responsibilities both to the company owner and those on his team, for no team is successful without leadership that pulls people together in cooperation, inspiration, and motivation to make the company successful and the owner happy.

The pastor/elder is to be a team leader. He does not own the company. He does not make the policies without approval of the owner/CEO. He is not a boss but a guide to protect, inspire, encourage, and strengthen the abilities of the team members–men, women, and children. For it is they who do the work together in production. He teaches them the principles of the company (kingdom), protects them from error, and empowers them to do the work of pastoring, Bible studies, spiritual visitation, evangelizing, public speaking, health work, and whatever other gifts the members may have. If any devote themselves to full time work in their ministry, they should be paid accordingly. But that does not make them the team leader.

The servant-leader asks for and receives counsel, correction, and recommendations from his team members as needed, for his authority is limited to team leading–he does not make arbitrary decisions on his own, but seeks the mind of the whole team. Besides ongoing teaching/training and guidance, at times he may have to remind the members of company rules set by the owner, but otherwise the collective wisdom and action of the team is what drives the company’s success.

So the team leader pastor/elder is a servant leader. If he is not training those under him toward the kind of leadership that forwards the work of the company, then he has missed his calling. He is not called to do the work by himself, but to develop the team’s ability to do the work. Every team member that has gifts or talents should be encouraged to put them to work for the company. Some of those team members may become leaders over their own assigned area and given as much responsibility as they can to benefit the company. Some may become spokesmen for the organization, advertising agents, support personnel in various ways, etc.
With this model the pastor multiplies his efforts by developing a whole team full of workers and even some “pastors” to the flock. He is a “pastor” trainer. Both men and women can do this work, but as Ellen White stated, women are often more effective in this personal work. They can reach hearts and families in ways that men are not as effective. Can you imagine a church full of “pastors”? Instead of women taking the position of team leader, they should be free to minister where they are most effective.

Along with team leader responsibility there will of necessity be the degree of authority necessary to serve in that capacity. This is why we see words like “rule” and “authority” used in Scripture. It is servant leader authority. He is at the “head” of the church family activities, but he is not the owner/CEO. He is an under shepherd responsible for leadership-service to the church members. He stands on equal ground with all the other church members, but has a specific role to fulfill. This role is similar to the one a husband fulfills in the home. That is the reason his success at home is criteria for judging his effectiveness in the church (1 Timothy 3). If his family love and respect his leadership, this indicates he should succeed with a church family also.
As for references I like Clinton and Gina Wahlen, Women’s Ordination – Does It Matter? And “WO Overview,”…/womens-ordination-issues…/. Ingo Sorke has a good compilation of Ellen White statements.…/7118…/Ordination-Trifold.pdf.

How Satan Makes His Case

Satan, on the other hand, cannot use the method of open investigation and inquiry. He would lose his case if he did. He doesn’t dare invite our questions, for the truth is not with him. And so throughout history he has used religion to silence inquiry. And then diabolically, he calls that willingness to believe without inquiry faith. Instead of evidence and truth, he substitutes force, fear, and ignorance. On top of that he piles miracles, excitement, feelings, pomp, majesty, ceremony, and mystery. And on top of all that he piles claim upon claim. All these things we must beware lest we be deceived. Let’s not underestimate his cunning. He deceived one third of the brilliant angels.

Of course, if we read the sixty-six books through, we will realize how often we have been warned to beware of such things. Jesus Himself warns specifically of Satan’s methods, in the familiar words of Matthew 24:24:

If anyone says to you then, “Look, here is Christ!” or “There He is!” don’t believe it. False Christs and false prophets are going to appear and will produce great signs and wonders to mislead, if it were possible, even God’s own people (Phillips)!

Also a little earlier in the same chapter, in Matthew 24:4-5, Jesus says:

“Watch out, and do not let anyone fool you. Many men, claiming to speak for me, will come and say, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will fool many people” (GNB).

The most unusual Bible in my whole collection is The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as Revised and Corrected by the Spirits. It is the Spiritists’ Bible. It came out in 1861. What is so remarkable about it is that it thoroughly rewrites the New Testament in support of Spiritism. In the Introduction, it claims that Jesus came down from heaven, medium that He was, and the apostles came down with Him, and they corrected all the errors in the New Testament. And then it says, “Dear Reader, trust in God who made all things after the counsel of His own will. The Holy Spirits feel much interest in this work and the spirits who corrected this New Testament desire that the world will receive this correction as coming from them directed by God Himself, which is true. Signed, Jesus the Christ.” A diabolical fraud! But look at the claim. Anybody can make claims.

John warns concerning the use of miracles to deceive. Look at Revelation 13:13-14:

This second beast performed great miracles; it made fire come down out of heaven to earth in the sight of everyone. And it deceived all the people living on earth by means of the miracles which it was allowed to perform (GNB).

Speaking of that last period of human history, Paul gives the same type of warning in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10:

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refuse to love the truth. . . (NIV).

They refuse the very thing God designed to protect them from deception. But most seriously of all, Paul warns that professed messengers of God will also be engaged in this work of deception.

God’s messengers? They are counterfeits of the real thing, dishonest practitioners masquerading as the messengers of Christ. Nor do their tactics surprise me when I consider how Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is only to be expected that his angels will have the appearance of ministers of righteousness (2 Cor 11:13-15, Phillips).

Paul’s reference to Satan suggests that the devil is still pretending to be Lucifer, the bearer of light and truth. This reminds us of Christ’s most serious words, spoken to a group of Sabbath-keeping, tithe-paying Bible teachers in His day. These Bible teachers had just denounced Jesus’ picture of His Father as satanic. Think of it! Sabbath-keepers, tithe-payers and Bible teachers were telling Christ He had a devil. And He turned to them and uttered those extraordinary words in John 8:44-45. And you can be sure there were tears in His voice when He said this:

The father whose sons you are is the devil, and you are bent on carrying out the wishes of your father. He proved himself a murderer at the very beginning, and did not loyally stand by the truth; in fact, there is no spark of truth in him. Whenever he gives utterance to his falsehood, then he gives expression to his real character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. I, on the contrary, speak the truth, and therefore you do not believe me (Kleist and Lilly).

Paul mentions forged letters being circulated, pretending to be from him and causing early Christians much distress. Look at 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3:

“We ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us. . . . Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way” (NIV).

From that time on Paul signed his epistles with greater care.

John also warns of false teachers who will arise, claiming to have the Holy Spirit, and yet their claim is a fraud. 1 John 4:1-2:

“My dear friends, do not believe all who claim to have the Spirit, but test them to find out if the spirit they have comes from God. For many false prophets have gone out everywhere” (GNB).

Claims alone are no proof of the Spirit, the spirit a teacher carries needs to be tested. Paul surely agrees that we should test everything before believing. That familiar text is in 1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Test everything. Hold on to the good” (NIV). God is not afraid to be tested. That’s what is so believable about God. The reason He is not afraid to be examined is that the truth and evidence are on His side.

How God Makes His Case

The question before us, therefore, is about authority. When we know how God exercises His authority and power, we will be better able to recognize Satan’s counterfeit. What does God want of us? Has He ever said to His children, “You either love me or I’ll have to kill you!” Did He ever say that? What about Satan’s charges that God is arbitrary, vengeful, and severe? Has God convincingly answered those accusations? How do we know if we are being told the truth? How does God seek to convince us of the rightness of His cause? In comparison, how does Satan seek to convince us of the rightness of his cause? Which method do we prefer? Which method do we find more convincing and more trustworthy? Under whose government would we rather live?

How do we settle these questions? Should we pick up our Bibles and begin to read God’s claims about Himself? If we do that, we will find, almost on page one, God’s statement, “Don’t do that! It isn’t safe. Anyone can make mere claims” (based on Gen 3:11 and the lessons found in the whole story). When God himself warns me not to accept mere claims, my trust in Him is immediately increased. In Deuteronomy 13 and 1 Kings 13 there were prophets who claimed to be prophets but who were lying. There were people who performed miracles, but at the same time they were not telling the truth. There are many other warnings in the Bible—remember the four hundred and fifty lying prophets of King Ahab (1 Kings 18:19, 22), and the lying prophets in the days of Jeremiah (particularly chapters 26-29). God has been very candid in warning us, “Don’t accept mere claims.” What we need is evidence and demonstration.

So when God was accused of being unworthy of the trust of His family, He humbly took his case into court (Rom 3:4). This is amazing! He’s the Infinite One. Yet He invites His children to investigate and to discover to their own satisfaction whether God is worthy of their trust. Imagine the Infinite One submitting His character and government to the scrutiny of His own creatures. Does that say something to us about God? Paul says in Romans, “God may you win your case when you take it into court” (based on Romans 3:4).

Has God already won his case? Of course! Throughout the rest of the universe. It is only down here that some of us are not too sure. He didn’t win His case by bribing the judge, or by intimidating the jury, or by hiding some of the evidence. He won His case because the evidence was on His side. He proved to the satisfaction of the whole onlooking universe that what He said about Himself was true. What evidence did He offer? The most costly and convincing evidence the universe will ever see or ever need. That will be the subject of the next chapter.