A Prophet Among You


Chapter 5—Instruction By The Prophets

Of the various types of prophetic messages recorded in the Bible, the most important are those that have come as instruction in the will of God for His people. Prediction is vital because it confirms God’s ability to penetrate the future in a fashion that cannot be duplicated by man or idols, and because it guides Christians in their relation to the plan of salvation. Rebuke is necessary because of the natural perverseness of the sinful human being and because of his tendency to wander from the pattern of Christian living. History gives an insight into the way God has dealt with His people in the past; and in a sense it serves the dual purpose of providing information and, by example, instruction for God’s faithful ones. Each kind of communication serves its own peculiar function, and when the various types are combined they constitute a comprehensive picture of God’s relation to man—past, present, and future. But to God’s people, instruction as to what God expects of them and how they can fulfill His expectations is the most important contribution of the Scriptures. APAY 77.1

For example, the Bible record of the origin of sin, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the atonement for sin, and the predictions of His second advent to destroy sin would, by themselves, accomplish little except give information and perhaps send fear into the hearts of human beings. The denunciation of Matthew 23, if it stood alone, would not enlighten men and women as to what they might do to avoid coming under the same condemnation. Observing the fulfillment of predictions would be an interesting and, under some circumstances, an awe-inspiring occupation; but one would have no idea how he could prepare to escape the destruction to come. These and other phases of the Bible account have significance and value to the individual only as they are considered in the light of God’s instruction. In this instruction He makes clear His great objectives for human beings and for the earth, and He prescribes clearly and simply the course that will lead to the achievement of the objectives. APAY 77.2

A quick review of some of the changes that came about in man’s thinking as a result of sin (see chapter 2) will remind one of the problem God faced in trying to restore human beings to their original sinless state. The plan of salvation provided for instruction so that man could be led step by step to fulfill God’s requirements. While redemption through the sacrifice of Christ is the only means by which we have eternal life, and the transformation of the human heart is a miracle brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit, the introduction of man to the plan, his knowledge of how to accept it, and his information about how to grow as a Christian are all part of an educational program. In this sense the objectives of the plan of salvation and those of Christian education are the same. APAY 78.1

Not long before His crucifixion Jesus expressed the aim of the plan of salvation: “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us.” John 17:21. Oneness of human beings with each other and with God is the goal to be reached, and the human family can achieve unity only as they meet “in Us” that is, in God and Christ. In His plans for the revelation of His will to us through the Bible, the Lord took into consideration all that was essential to accomplish His purposes. A partial restoration of man to harmony with God will not prepare him to live with heavenly beings throughout eternity. God’s plan is to lead His people into perfect concord with Himself. This harmony must be known in every phase of human life and endeavor. It does not involve merely a preparation of the mind to understand and appreciate heavenly things; but it comprehends every power, every attitude, and every relationship of life. Guiding principles for the growth of spiritual experience, the balanced development of the mind, proper attitudes toward, and the care of, the physical being, social contact with all its ramifications, were needed in order that the process of restoration might be carried out successfully. All these the Lord has made available in the Scriptures. A way of life is revealed there. The Lord’s interest in the minute details of our daily living is as thoroughly made known as are the great outlines of history and prophecy. All this was pointed out through the prophets and placed in a setting that would render it most useful—the daily lives of men and women in centuries past. APAY 78.2

Of course, the instruction given was not intended to apply only to the persons or groups to whom it was originally sent. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. The incidents that took place in the lives of God’s people have been used by the Lord to illustrate the working of the principles of life. If, as Paul declares, the whole Bible is profitable for our study, it is obvious that these are principles that apply to human beings in every age. The basic principles of right and truth never change. APAY 79.1

The Bible is concerned with two vital elements—what we believe, and how we act. Right action stems from right belief and understanding. Both belief and action must be based on principle. In the realm of belief, a principle is a fundamental truth from which other truths are derived; by its very nature it is unchangeable. This does not imply that the application and understanding of the principle are the same for each individual, or at all times. If we take the Bible declaration, “God is love” (1 John 4:8), we may readily discern that this fundamental proposition has endless meanings. Each person’s understanding of the love of God is conditioned by his knowledge of the Bible and his own experience in spiritual matters. To the reclaimed drunkard the love of God means rescue from bondage, satisfaction of an insatiable appetite, recovery of self-respect and community esteem. It means that there is One who is not only interested in his welfare, but who has the power to bring about a transformation in mind and body. It means the assurance of continued victory, of companionship. But to the youth who has been reared in a Christian home, daily advancing in a knowledge of God and growing in personal spiritual life, the love of God means something vastly different. Through his life there has been a growing awareness of the presence of the Lord, an increasing sense of fellowship. If these two persons were to write down what the love of God has meant to them, the two lists would have little in common. But this would in no wise affect the principle that God is love. APAY 79.2

Similar illustrations might be given concerning the understanding of great Bible principles. Here are a few of them: APAY 80.1

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12. APAY 80.2

“Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4. APAY 80.3

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21. APAY 80.4

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14. APAY 80.5

“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything.” Ecclesiastes 9:5. APAY 80.6

These are basic, unchangeable truths, belonging to all future generations as well as to the one to whom they were first stated. We will give attention to only the first principle in this list—all salvation is through Christ. That was true before the first advent of Christ as well as afterward. It was as true for Adam and Eve as for John the revelator. No other means of salvation can be provided for heathen, or for the civilized and educated. If some men are saved who have never heard the name of Christ,—and it seems apparent that some will be,—it will be through the salvation that was provided by Jesus Christ, of whom they knew nothing. His sacrifice has brought about the reconciliation of man to God. The price He paid with His own life is ransom for any and all who permit Him to apply the price for their purchase. The wages of sin is death. Had it not been for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, every sinner would have to die the second time. Anyone who is granted immortal life will receive it only because Christ died to make it possible. There can be no deviation from this principle, even though men are called by different means. Their understanding of the plan may vary, but that does not change the divine principle. APAY 80.7

What is true of principles involved in belief is also true of those pertaining to action. In this connection a principle is to be understood as a settled rule of action or a governing law of conduct. Again we must recognize that the principle may not guide every life into exactly the same channel. The golden rule is fundamental, but it can scarcely be followed by everyone in exactly the same fashion. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Matthew 7:12. The wealthy man, because of his love for God and his desire to serve Him by serving his fellow men, may provide a hospital, finance education for young people, clothe and house the unfortunate, and make great strides in fulfilling Christ’s command. The poor man who perhaps has received some of the rich man’s favors cannot duplicate the work of his benefactor. But it may be that his kind word, his cheery smile, his expression of gratitude will be as useful in the hands of God to lead someone to a decision to accept Christ as are the actions of the rich man. The responsibility to act in harmony with this principle is as binding today as it was when Cain killed Abel. No person is excluded from its claims. APAY 81.1

Once more it is possible to gather from the Bible, examples of the principles which reveal God’s purposes for His children. APAY 82.1

“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7. APAY 82.2

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” James 1:5. APAY 82.3

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15. APAY 82.4

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33. APAY 82.5

“In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:6. APAY 82.6

Again let us notice 1 John 1:7, in regard to walking in the light. No two minds are enlightened to exactly the same degree. Each individual’s heredity, environment, and opportunities help to determine to a large extent the light he can or does receive. Therefore, walking in the light does not mean exactly the same thing to any two persons. Human beings are incapable of evaluating another’s light and knowing just how the Lord views his response to the light he has been given. That was why Jesus counseled, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Matthew 7:1. The African native, or the Australian aborigine, is as responsible to walk in the light he obtains as is the man who has had the advantage of Christian education throughout his lifetime. The amount of light differs, but the obligation to “walk in the light” remains constant. It is an unchanging principle from whose note of urgency none may escape. APAY 82.7

A correct use of the messages of the prophets depends upon a grasp of this fact. Truth can be made to apply in the life of every person regardless of his age or location, or the century in which he lives. From every page of Scripture there are lessons to be learned, lessons that bring light and truth to the conscientious seeker. No page is obsolete or uninstructive to the twentieth-century Christian. We turn our attention now to several of the general lines of instruction given in the Bible. In these we see something of the Lord’s interest in our daily life and the counsel He gave us based upon eternal principles. APAY 82.8