Manuscript Releases, vol. 13 [Nos. 1000-1080]


Lessons From the History of the Early Christian Church

“And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables” (Acts 6:1, 2). 13MR 187.3

This matter was not decided by one man. Had it been, many things would have been neglected. “The twelve called the multitude of the disciples” together. They did not call a lawyer who had no personal interest in the prosperity of the church. They called the multitude of the believers, and said to them, “It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.” 13MR 187.4

More was said regarding the matter than is given in this record. But the conclusion is stated: “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude” [verses 3-5]. They chose seven men, “whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” [verses 6, 7]. 13MR 188.1

The Lord here gives us an example of the care that should be exercised when choosing men for His service. In this case, one man was not made the only burden bearer of great responsibilities. Seven men were chosen, and they were to be closely united in their work. 13MR 188.2

Those chosen were not to be like Ananias, who had appropriated to his own use certain sums of money, representing at the same time that he had given the whole amount to the cause of God. At that time, we read, that “as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet” [Acts 4:34, 35]. This was an occasion of temptation to the selfish and covetous, notwithstanding the fact that the Holy Spirit was working among the people. Hereditary and cultivated traits of character developed, showing that not all were cleansed from their evil tendencies, but dared to practice lying and fraud. None of them were compelled to give up their possessions. 13MR 188.3

Ananias and Sapphira wished to be regarded as giving all, and yet keep part. In order to do this, they falsified. Both of them agreed to practice deception, but they did it at the cost of their lives. God struck them both with death. Thus He passed judgment on those who, while His grace and light and power were working, dared to commit sin against the Holy Spirit. This God did to warn the believers against fraud and deception and every species of dishonesty. He knew that doors of temptation would open before those who were bringing in of their means to sustain His cause. He knew that those not under the control of His Spirit would be tempted to work as they had done before they were brought under gospel principles. Some would think that they were not paid sufficient for their work, and would appropriate money or goods to supply this fancied deficiency. This would bring in untold evil. 13MR 188.4

For this reason the Lord directed Peter to deal as he did with the first departure from truthful dealing. A severe warning must be given at the very first instance of dishonesty. Thus it was shown that all unjust, selfish actions are known to God, and will be searched out. Every hidden evil, however secret, will be punished. God will be glorified in those who serve Him. 13MR 189.1

As with Ananias and Sapphira, so it was with Judas. His covetousness led him to steal from the Lord's treasury. He carried the bag containing the gifts made by Christ's followers to sustain the work, and he appropriated sums of money which he never allowed to appear on the account. He reasoned that his labors were not sufficiently appreciated, and therefore that it was right for him to pay himself in accordance with his own ideas. This principle, acted upon, perverted his conscience. Had he allowed himself to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, he would have retained righteousness and preserved integrity. He would not have accused Mary of extravagance in anointing Christ with precious ointment. But from the very first act of dishonesty, his character began to deteriorate. 13MR 189.2

This history is given that corruption may not be brought into the church by men who sell themselves to Satan to carry out his suggestions. Such men not only take themselves from under God's protection, and lose peace and happiness, but they will betray the cause of God into the hands of sinners. All their work is against God. Their talents of usefulness are used to forward the work of the great deceiver. They will lose eternal life. Their misappropriation of the Lord's goods, their robbery of His treasury, may ever be kept secret, but it is at the loss of their souls. 13MR 190.1

This is one reason why Brother Ballenger's proposed enterprise [of establishing a settlement in the South] would not be a safe one. There are those who are supposed to be excellent men, but they have some flaw in their character which, under special temptation, becomes as a dead fly in the ointment. The whole character will be perverted by one unconfessed sin. 13MR 190.2

Then let all plans to establish a community in the Southern field be abandoned. Let not one or two men devise methods of work which according to foresight promise to be a success, but which aftersight will reveal to be a mistake, involving the work of God in difficulty. 13MR 190.3

The workers in God's service need to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. This kind of talent is especially needed in the work in the South. There are men who if they choose can make it very hard for those who take hold of the work in any part of the field, because their hearts are not linked with the heart of the great Worker. They need to be controlled by the Spirit of God, else they will make great blunders, which will imperil their own souls and the souls of their fellow-men. 13MR 190.4

God calls for a living, straightforward testimony to be borne. Testimonies have been borne, but a new impulse must be given to the work. Jesus Christ is the Captain of the Lord's host. He must be recognized as the leader. All who heed the words, “Follow Me,” will reveal the fruit of obedience. The ground upon which we are to stand unitedly in doing God's service is that the Bible is the true guide, and not the idle sophistry of men. The Bible is our Counselor, and is to be obeyed. Justification by faith is the article of our true standing in the sight of God. Sanctification through the Holy Spirit binds up man's will and purpose with the will and purpose of God. If we have not these features in our experience, the church will be sickly and feeble. The safety of God's people is in coming to His living Word. When no human authority is put before this Word, then will men unite in gospel harmony, for the doing of the Word binds heart to heart, causing the workers to blend as one in Christ Jesus. The living oracles are fresh and beautiful. To study them is to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God. 13MR 191.1

Greater care should be taken in regard to the spirit circulating through the institutions at the heart of the work. All should bear the signature of God. All the workers are to humble their hearts before the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty. All are to work in humility of mind, as servants of Christ, yoked up with Him. All are to live lives of self-denial and self-sacrifice. They are to learn Christ's meekness and lowliness. No vestige of an overbearing spirit will then be seen.—Manuscript 91, 1899. 13MR 191.2

White Estate

December, 1983.