Sermons and Talks, vol. 1


The Minister's Relationship to God's Word

[A sermon preached in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Des Moines, Iowa, December 1, 1888.]

Text: 2 Timothy 4:1-11

Here we have presented before us the work of him who shall open the Scriptures to others. It is a most solemn work, and all who engage in it should be men of prayer. It is not enough for the minister to stand up in the desk and give an exposition of the Scriptures. His work has but just begun. There is pastoral work to do, and this means to reprove and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine; that is, he should present the Word of God, to show wherein there is a deficiency. If there is anything in the character of the professed followers of Christ, the burden should certainly be felt by the minister, and not that he should lord it over God's heritage. To deal with human minds is the nicest job that was ever committed to mortal man. 1SAT 61.1

There will be human prejudices and many other things that will bar his way. He will have to meet hearts that have never been subdued in their childhood. They have never been brought into order and into line; they have never been brought under control. Therefore, in dealing with these minds, where reproof is necessary, to rebuke with all longsuffering, to be successful in this work, the servant of God will have to arm himself with the same mind that was in Christ Jesus; and if he walks humbly with his God, he will recognize in every soul for whom he has labored that they are the purchase of the blood of Christ; that our precious Saviour considered them of such value that He did not withhold Himself, but gave up His life in order that they might have a provision, a trial, a time when they should consider the things of eternal interest, and that they should weigh them carefully, attentively, and see if they do not consider whether or not it is to their advantage and profit to build into eternal life. 1SAT 61.2

Here the apostle presents a solemn charge to every minister of the Gospel. He arrays them before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead, to preach the Word, and they are not to show a partiality for merely the prophecies and the argumentative portions of the Scriptures, but the greatest and most important lessons that are given us are those given us by Jesus Christ Himself. If we become thoroughly acquainted with the doctrines of Jesus Christ, then we shall be able to win souls to Christ. We shall have the love of Christ in our hearts, for we will see that we can do nothing without it. Why, Christ says, “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” [John 15:7]. 1SAT 62.1

It is not enough that we merely give an exposition of the Scriptures, but we must have the Word of God abiding in us; and Christ has said that unless “ye eat of My flesh and drink of My blood, ye shall have no part with Me. None but those who eat of My flesh and drink of my blood shall have eternal life.” [See John 6:53-56.] Then He goes on to explain what it means. Why, he says, “the flesh profiteth nothing; it is the spirit that quickeneth” [see Verse 63], and He says that His flesh is meat indeed and drink indeed. Therefore, we are not to merely open the Bible and read something to the people and then go away out of the desk and carry no burden of souls with us. 1SAT 62.2

God designs that every minister of the gospel shall increase in efficiency. He designs that they shall have more power in prayer, that they shall become more intelligent in handling the Word of God, continually growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and the more that they think and talk of Christ, the more they will meditate upon the blessed Saviour and the Word He has given them to obey, the more they will reflect the image of Jesus Christ; and by so doing they will become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 1SAT 63.1

Remember this point—“having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” If we are in that position where we shall speak the truth in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, we shall be men and women of prayer. We shall seek God earnestly, and as ministers of God preaching the gospel, we should carry these great truths into our daily lives, and show that we are living examples of what we preach—that we are carrying into our everyday life practical godliness—then wherever we go we will be a power. 1SAT 63.2

There are some who have power just while they are in the desk, and it goes no further, therefore their influence is like the morning dew which the sun shines upon and drinks up; there is nothing to it; but if he carries the Word into his life, if he is eating and drinking of the blood and flesh of the Son of God, then he is a party with Christ, he is a partaker of the divine nature. Like the branch connected with the living vine, he has been drinking sap and nourishment from the True Vine, and it will be seen wherever he is. 1SAT 63.3

Let us see what [the Word says] further: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” [2 Timothy 4:6-8]. 1SAT 64.1

Well, there is an incentive before us constantly to be faithful. As to those [to] whom God has committed sacred trusts, we are to be faithful, and if we are faithful, then the God of heaven will pronounce us worthy of eternal life, and [will bestow] that crown of righteousness that is laid up for the faithful who shall be overcomers at last. 1SAT 64.2

Now, there are some that may think they are fully capable with their finite judgment to take the Word of God, and to state what are the words of inspiration and what are not the words of inspiration. I want to warn you off that ground, my brethren in the ministry. “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” There is no finite man that lives, I care not who he is or whatever is his position, that God has authorized to pick and choose in His Word. 1SAT 64.3

It is true that the apostle has said that there are some things hard to be understood in the Scriptures. So there are. And if it were not that there are subjects that are difficult and hard to be understood, well might the skeptic who now pleads that God has given a revelation that cannot be understood—well might he, I say—have something else to plead. God's infinity is so much higher than we are, that it is impossible for man to comprehend the mystery of godliness. 1SAT 64.4

Angels of God looked with amazement upon Christ, who took upon Himself the form of man and humbly united His divinity with humanity in order that He might minister to fallen man. It is a marvel among the heavenly angels. God has told us that He did do it, and we are to accept the Word of God just as it reads. 1SAT 65.1

And although we may try to reason in regard to our Creator, how long He has had existence, where evil first entered into our world, and all these things, we may reason about them until we fall down faint and exhausted with the research when there is yet an infinity beyond. We cannot grasp it, so what man is there that dares to take that Bible and say this part is inspired and that part is not inspired? I would have both my arms taken off at my shoulders before I would ever make the statement or set my judgment upon the Word of God as to what is inspired and what is not inspired. 1SAT 65.2

How would finite man know anything about that matter? He is to take the Word of God as it reads, and then to appreciate it as it is, and to bring it into the life and to weave it into the character. There is everything plainly revealed in God's Word which concerns the salvation of men, and if we will take that Word and comprehend it to the very best of our ability, God will help us in its comprehension. 1SAT 65.3

Human minds without the special assistance of the Spirit of God will see many things in the Bible very difficult to be understood, because they lack a divine enlightenment. It is not that men should come to the Word of God by setting up their own way, or their own will or their own ideas, but it is to come with a meek and humble and holy spirit. 1SAT 66.1

Never attempt to search the Scriptures unless you are ready to listen, unless you are ready to be a learner, unless you are ready to listen to the Word of God as though His voice were speaking directly to you from the living oracles. Never let mortal man sit in judgment upon the Word of God or pass sentence as to how much of this is inspired and how much is not inspired, and that this is more inspired than some other sources. God warns him off that ground. God has not given him any such work to do. 1SAT 66.2

We want to keep close to the truth that is for our times—present truth. We want to know what is the truth now. We claim to believe the third angel's message; we claim that the angel was flying through the midst of heaven proclaiming the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. This was the proclamation. Did you hear his voice? Did he speak so you could hear that message? Did the world hear it? Did the world hear any note? Did they want to hear? Will anyone hear it? Yes, those who have been walking out step by step as Jesus leads the way, and when the position of Christ changed from the holy to the most holy place in the Sanctuary, it is by faith to enter with Him, understand His work, and then to present to the world the last message of mercy that is to be given to the world. And what is it? It is a message to prepare a people for the second coming of the Son of Man. It is God's great day of preparation, and therefore every minister of Jesus Christ should have in his course of action, in the burden of his labor, a zeal and living interest, and intensity in his efforts which is appropriate to the truth that is for this time, which is claimed to be the last message of mercy to our world. Well, then, we cannot sleep, we cannot be indifferent; we must labor for the precious souls around us, of men and women; we must work with all our might, for the Lord is coming. 1SAT 66.3

The real laborers will be careworn, oppressed in spirit, and they will feel as did Christ when He wept over Jerusalem. When they see crookedness and impenitence, and when they see people who will not listen to the Word of the Lord, why they will feel as He felt when He exclaimed, “O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not” [Matthew 23:37]. Here are precious invitations of mercy, and while we carry them and try to let the light be reflected upon the world in darkness, we cannot see, perhaps, that the rays of light are penetrating everywhere. We may not see this, but it is so, if we carry the light and have the right spirit—and we want the right spirit—and we want to labor in Christ and have Christ with us constantly. 1SAT 67.1

Here in Second Timothy, the second chapter, beginning with the eleventh verse, we read: “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us: If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself. Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers” [Verses 11-14]. 1SAT 67.2

What does that mean? It means that there may be contentions over words and over ideas, but they should be to some purpose, they should be to break down the stubbornness and the opposition that is in human hearts in order that their spirits may be softened and subdued, so that when the seeds of truth are dropped into the soil of the heart, they may take root there. We do not know which shall prosper, this or that; it is God alone that giveth the increase. Therefore we must labor in discouragements, but we want to labor in Christ. The life must be hid with Christ in God, and as the minister's labor is to watch over the flock of God as overseers, there are cautions that they are to heed: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word” [Verse 15]. This is a great labor; it is a great burden. It is not to obtain the praise of men, it is not to look to any living mortal on the earth, but to God we are to look, with an eye single to His glory. 1SAT 68.1

If we look to Him, He will certainly help us. He will give us His grace to help to labor on; He will give us strength to go forth weeping, if need be, bearing precious seed, and doubtless we shall come again with rejoicing, bringing our sheaves with us. That is what we want. We want to bring sheaves to the Master. We want to consider that we are missionaries, wherever we are, in the highest sense of the word, and there is a great work before us. We want a sharpened intellect, growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, growing up to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. 1SAT 68.2

What then? Why, we are to present every man approved in Christ Jesus. That is our work; and when men and women accept the truth, we are not to go away and leave them, and have no further burden for them. They are to be looked after. They are to be carried as a burden upon the soul, and we must watch over them as stewards who must render an account. Then as you speak to the people, give to every man his portion of meat in due season, but you want to be in that position where you can give this food. 1SAT 69.1

The Word of God is rich. Here are the precious mines of truth, and we can dig for the truth as for precious treasures hidden away. We buy a field. After we buy it, we hear that there is buried in it a vast amount of wealth; so we begin to plow and turn over every portion of that field carefully, till we have found the precious jewels. 1SAT 69.2

Here is the garden of God. Here is the precious Word, and we should take that Word and study it carefully; study its pages thoroughly and be in a position where we can gather the divine rays of light from glory, and reflect them on those around us. God wants us to be fruitful in the Scriptures. And when you may go forth to your fields of labor, you may indeed feel that you are weak men, but you are not handling weak subjects. You are handling subjects of eternal moment, and you are to study and search the Scriptures for yourselves. You are to dig in this mine all the time, and the “entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” [Psalm 119:130]. 1SAT 69.3

Whereas [people merely with] human nature might search the Bible, study its pages, be able to see its beauty, yet the searching would profit them nothing, but when they come with a humble heart, with a prayerful spirit, when they take hold of that Word with reverence, and open its pages with a prayerful heart, why the enterings of that Word—the Word must enter into the heart. It is not enough to read it merely, but it must enter, it must take right hold of the soul, and bring your spirits into subjection to the Spirit of God. 1SAT 70.1

And when this transforming process has been accomplished—and we know that you are men mighty in the Scriptures when you can stand up before the people and can present Christ to them crucified—we know you have been to the Living Fountain; we know that you have been drinking of that Fountain, which is Christ in you springing up into everlasting life, so the words that you shall utter will be right words. They will not be vain words, coming together with a jingling sound, just to please the people. No, all this is to be shunned. You are to shun everything of that character. You want to be in a position where the blessed truth of heavenly origin shall have a transforming influence upon the life and upon the character. 1SAT 70.2

Now let us see what it saith in Philippians, second chapter, commencing at the twelfth verse: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” 1SAT 71.1

There is no carelessness allowed here; there is no indolence; there is no indifference; but we are to work out, each of us, our own salvation with fear and trembling. Why? Let us see: “Wherefore, my beloved, ... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Well, then, you say, am I to go around fearing and trembling all the way? Yes, in one sense, but not in another sense. 1SAT 71.2

You have the fear of God before you, and you will have a trembling lest you will depart from the counsels of God. There will be that trembling. You will be working out your own salvation all the time with fear and trembling. Does it rest here? No, let us hear how the divine power comes in: “For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” [Verse 13]. Here are man's works, and here are God's works. They both cooperate. Man cannot accomplish this work without the help of the divine power. 1SAT 71.3

God does not take man with his own natural feelings and deficiencies and place him right in the light of the countenance of God. No, man must do his part; and while man works out his own salvation, with fear and trembling, it is God that worketh in him to will and to do of His own good pleasure. With these two combined powers, man will be victorious and receive a crown of life at last. He stands in view of the haven of bliss and the eternal weight of glory before him, and he fears lest he will lose it, lest a promise being left, he shall come short of it. He cannot afford to lose it. He wants that haven of bliss, and strains every energy of his being to secure it. He taxes his abilities to the utmost. He puts to the stretch every spiritual nerve and muscle that he may be a successful overcomer in this work, and that he may obtain the precious boon of eternal life. 1SAT 71.4

What will I do? When the world sees that we have an intensity of desire, some object that is out of sight, which by faith is to us a living reality, then it puts an incentive to investigate, and they see that there is certainly something worth having, for they see that this faith has made a wonderful change in our life and character. 1SAT 72.1

A transformation has taken place, and you are a different man. You are not the same passionate man that you used to be. You are not the same worldly man that you were. You are not the man that was giving way to lust and evil passions, evil surmisings and evil speakings. You are not this man at all, because a transformation has taken place. What is it? The image of Christ reflected in you. Then you are bearing in view that there is a company to stand by and by on Mount Zion, and you want to be one of that company, and you are determined that you will form a part of that company. Let me read: [Revelation 14:1-3, quoted.] 1SAT 72.2

Why were they [the 144,000] so specially singled out? Because they had to stand with a wonderful truth right before the whole world, and receive their opposition, and while receiving this opposition they were to remember that they were sons and daughters of God, that they must have Christ formed within them the hope of glory. They were ever keeping in view the great and blessed hope that is before them. What is it? It is an eternal weight of glory. Nothing could surpass it. 1SAT 72.3

Paul had a view of heaven, and in discoursing on the glories there, the very best thing he could do was to not try to describe them. He tells us that eye had not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for those that love Him. So you may put your imagination to the stretch, you may try to the very best of your abilities to take in and consider the eternal weight of glory, and yet your finite senses, faint and weary with the effort, cannot grasp it, for there is an infinity beyond. It takes all of eternity to unfold the glories and bring out the precious treasures of the Word of God. 1SAT 73.1

Do not let any living man come to you and begin to dissect God's Word, telling what is revelation, what is inspiration and what is not, without a rebuke. Tell all such they simply do not know. They simply are not able to comprehend the things of the mystery of God. What we want is to inspire faith. We want no one to say, “This I will reject, and this will I receive,” but we want to have implicit faith in the Bible as a whole and as it is. 1SAT 73.2

We call on you to take your Bible, but do not put a sacrilegious hand upon it, and say, “That is not inspired,” simply because somebody else has said so. Not a jot or tittle is ever to be taken from that Word. Hands off, brethren! Do not touch the ark. Do not lay your hand upon it, but let God move. It is with His own power, and He will work in such a manner that He will compass our salvation. We want God to have some room to work. We do not want man's ideas to bind Him about. 1SAT 73.3

I know something of the glory of the future life. Once a sister wrote to me and asked if I would not tell her something about the city of our God, further than we have in the Word. She asked me if I could not draw something of its plans. I wrote her that I would have to say to her, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” “No,” said I, “you cannot paint, you cannot picture, and the martyr tongue cannot begin to give any description of the glory of the future life; but I will tell you what you can do: You can ‘press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ You can die to self; you can seek to grow up to the perfection of Christian character in Christ Jesus.” That is our work, but when men begin to meddle with God's Word, I want to tell them to take their hands off, for they do not know what they are doing. 1SAT 74.1

But here is the company. John sees it and wonders what means the scene. The account goes back in the chapter previous. I will not read it, but it shows where Heaven sends a message to the children of men, and they begin to embrace it, and follow the Lamb step by step until they enter into the sanctuary, and on till they are redeemed and stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion. And then it is explained why their song was so different from any other song. It was a new song. And he goes on to state that “in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” 1SAT 74.2

Now, brethren, we see just what is before us. If we have unruly tongues, and they will talk, we want to have them cured. How shall we get them cured? Follow the Lamb. Follow the footsteps of Christ. We want our conversation to be sanctified. We want no impurities on our lips; we want none in our hearts; we want nothing that will defile. We want clean hands and pure hearts, and we want to keep our minds constantly awake. 1SAT 75.1

We are altogether too well satisfied. Many of our ministers are as weak as babes. They understand the theory of the truth—can present that well enough—but when it comes to working out their own salvation with fear and trembling, if they meet with a little obstacle, they begin to talk doubt and discouragement, and in a despairing tone, and you will find they will stumble over little mites of obstacles that they should not notice at all. That is terrible. 1SAT 75.2

What we want is to be armed with the same mind that was in Christ Jesus our Lord. And when we are armed with His mind, we can say with the apostle, that we are not to look at the things that are seen, but we are to look away from these things. These things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are unseen are eternal, therefore we are to keep our minds fixed upon heavenly things, the eternal weight of glory. That is what we are to think about and what we are to talk about. 1SAT 75.3

If we would only consider like rational beings that there is a heaven before us to gain and a hell to shun; if we should keep that in mind, do you think that we would let the things of this earth sap away all our religious fervor? We shall not handle these things long. We are passing through this world as pilgrims and strangers, and in a little while we shall lay off our armor at the feet of our Redeemer, and we must be getting ready for that event. We want our actions, and our words and our thoughts to be right, for we all have an influence for good or for evil. 1SAT 76.1

Here is my family that will be sanctified because of my right course of action. If I have spoken defiling words, if guile has passed my lips, if I have been peevish and cross, then I shall lie against the truth which I claim to believe. Therefore I will not be on that side of the question at all. I will have my mouth clean and my tongue sanctified. I will have my heart sanctified that I shall not take up a rumor against my brother, because I am told in the Word of God that he that taketh up a reproach against his neighbor shall not dwell in the hill of the Lord. [Psalm 15:3] Therefore, I must have clean hands and a pure heart, for it is they that shall stand in the hill of the Lord. Now, I want to be of that number that shall stand in the hill of the Lord. It does not make one whit of difference with my character whether anyone shall think ill of me or think good of me. It does not affect me, but it will affect them. May God help us that we may come up to that very place where we can appreciate these things. 1SAT 76.2

We want to see the family altar established, and we want there to bring our children right before God with earnest prayer, just as the minister labors for his congregation when he is before them. Every father should feel that he is placed at the head of his household to offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God and of praise to Him, and to present these children to God and seek His blessing to rest upon them, and never rest until he knows that they are accepted of God—until he knows that they are children of the Most High. Here is a work for the mother. What a responsibility rests upon her! Do we consider and realize that the greatest influence to recommend Christianity to our world is a well-ordered and well-disciplined Christian family? The world sees that they believe God's Word.—Manuscript 13, 1888. (A sermon preached in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Des Moines, Iowa, December 1, 1888. Reported by W. E. Cornell. Portions of this manuscript appear in Evangelism, 7BC, This Day With God, Our High Calling, and Manuscript Releases 347 and 749.) (MR 900.26) 1SAT 77.1