HOW EPHESIANS CONTRADICTS ADVENTISM

 

by Rick Barker

 

In this blog post I will be comparing Paul’s clear theology as stated in Ephesians 1 with Adventist theology as state by Ellen White and as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist organization. The contrast between the two is startling. We will study this passage a few verses at a time and show how they contrast with Adventist doctrine.

Ephesians 1:1-12

v1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:

“By the will of God” certainly raises questions for Adventism’s over-emphasis on the importance of man’s will. Paul clearly focuses us on God’s action in his being an apostle, not his own action. This focus on God’s work instead of man’s may seem like only one small point, but it has significant impact on the Adventist worldview if this emphasis continues.

v2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

The question must be asked: how are we blessed—past tense—in the heavenly places? How can we have already been blessed if God doesn’t even know if we are safe to save until after an investigation that supposedly didn’t happen until centuries after Paul wrote? Paul’s confidence of our current blessings in the heavenly places in Christ contradicts the idea of an investigative judgment. If we are on probation, we have no assurance of heavenly blessings in the future, much less in the present.

v4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

I believe it is valuable to compare Paul’s description of our being chosen in Jesus from “before the foundation of the world” with Ellen White’s description of the plan of salvation. In the Adventist version, the plan of salvation is an afterthought developed after man sinned. How many times does a prophet need to contradict Scripture before one rejects her as false? Following is what Ellen White said about the plan of salvation:

Sorrow filled Heaven, as it was realized that man was lost, and the world that God created was to be filled with mortals doomed to misery, sickness, and death, and there was no way of escape for the offender. The whole family of Adam must die. I saw the lovely Jesus, and beheld an expression of sympathy and sorrow upon his countenance. Soon I saw him approach the exceeding bright light which enshrouded the Father. Said my accompanying angel, “He is in close converse with his Father.” The anxiety of the angels seemed to be intense while Jesus was communing with his Father. Three times he was shut in by the glorious light about the Father, and the third time he came from the Father his person could be seen. His countenance was calm, free from all perplexity and trouble, and shone with benevolence and loveliness, such as words cannot express. He then made known to the angelic host that a way of escape had been made for lost man. He told them that he had been pleading with his Father, and had offered to give his life a ransom, and take the sentence of death upon himself, that through him man might find pardon; that through the merits of his blood, and obedience to the law of God, they could have the favor of God, and be brought into the beautiful garden, and eat of the fruit of the tree of life {1SP 45.1}.

Clearly Ellen White drew her ideas from some source other than Scripture. In fact, her words directly contradict the Bible’s words about salvation. As Paul says in this passage of Ephesians, we who believe Him have been chose “in Him before the foundation of the world.” Jesus did not plead with the Father to be allowed to come and die. Rather, the triune God planned our salvation and chose us in Him before the creation was made.

v6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight

Again, Scripture contradicts the idea that our forgiveness is probationary, based on our later actions. Instead, we already have our redemption, and our forgiveness is based on His blood, not on our later works.

v9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

The emphasis throughout these verses is on God’s choosing and God’s will, which certainly raises questions about Adventist humanist theology. This fact of God’s sovereign will is an important point, but it is one that is hard for Adventists even to consider. So I will switch to another, even more important point Paul makes here: assurance of salvation.

According to Scripture we have obtained, past tense, an inheritance. According to Adventism God is still undecided about our inheritance. Until the investigative judgment is complete, He won’t have determined whether we are safe to save, whether we are worthy of that inheritance.   

Paul, however, tells us the truth: when we are in Him, when we have believed the word of our salvation, the gospel of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection on our behalf, we can know that we are saved. Our inheritance is secure—so secure Paul states it as an already-accomplished fact. Moreover, God predestined us for this inheritance not for our sakes, but for His. Our predestination and security in our salvation is for His purposes. Our security is His will, and we who believe are purposed to bring praise to His glory.

Our free will is not the sovereign force in the universe. Our salvation is secure when we believe because our security is for God’s glory. We do not have to fear an investigative judgment; we can reject it as a non-biblical idea that robs us of the security God gives His people.

v13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,

There are three important false Adventist teachings that are exposed in this one single verse: that Sabbath is the seal of God, that the seal of God is given at the final hour, and that we attain the seal of God by keeping the law and the especially the fourth commandment.

Despite the fancy footwork of recent Adventists, there is no doubt that Ellen White taught that the Sabbath was the seal of God. Here is what she says:

The enemies of God’s law, from the ministers down to the least among them, have a new conception of truth and duty. Too late they see that the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is the seal of the living God. Too late they see the true nature of their spurious sabbath and the sandy foundation upon which they have been building. They find that they have been fighting against God. Religious teachers have led souls to perdition while professing to guide them to the gates of Paradise. Not until the day of final accounts will it be known how great is the responsibility of men in holy office and how terrible are the results of their unfaithfulness. Only in eternity can we rightly estimate the loss of a single soul. Fearful will be the doom of him to whom God shall say: Depart, thou wicked servant {GC 640.1}.

Adventists claim that a seal must contain three things: the name of the one giving the seal, his title or claim to authority, and the region of his rule. This definition is not a Scriptural definition, but a man-made one. Neither is it historically accurate that all kings’ seals contained these items, as Adventists claim. These details are fabrications crafted to elevate the importance of the Sabbath in direct contradiction to Scripture. Scripture teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the seal of God. Adventism and EGW teach that the Sabbath is the seal of God. Whom will you believe?

Adventists also falsely teach that the seal of God is something that occurs in the future, at the close of probation, based on our proving we lived a sinless, spotless life. Scripture teaches differently. According to this verse, believers were sealed centuries before the investigative judgment was supposed to have begun. Once again the key concepts of the investigative judgment are at odds with the clear teaching of Scripture.

Even more important in this verse is the basis on which we are sealed. According to Scripture we are sealed as a result of having listened and believed. But Adventism asks us to “prepare” ourselves, to “remedy the defects of our character.” In Adventism we must earn the seal of God through our refined characters; in Christianity we are given the seal by God because of belief. Notice Ellen White’s words:

Not one of us will ever receive the seal of God while our characters have one spot or stain upon them. It is left with us to remedy the defects in our characters, to cleanse the soul temple of every defilement. Then the latter rain will fall upon us as the early rain fell upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost {5T 214.2}.

Now is the time to prepare. The seal of God will never be placed upon the forehead of an impure man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of the ambitious, world-loving man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of men or women of false tongues or deceitful hearts. All who receive the seal must be without spot before God—candidates for heaven. Go forward, my brethren and sisters. I can only write briefly upon these points at this time, merely calling your attention to the necessity of preparation. Search the Scriptures for yourselves, that you may understand the fearful solemnity of the present hour {5T 216.2}.

v14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

What do we think of God’s pledges or promises? If we are sealed with a promise from God, do we have reason to worry that He will revoke that promise? Adventism avoids this obvious question by placing the sealing in the future, but if we believe Scripture that it already occurs, what are the implications?

v15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

 

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Rick Barker

Rick Barker

Rick Barker is a native of Southwestern Ohio and facilitates a weekly Bible study for former and transitioning SDAs in the Dayton, OH area. More information on this study group can be found at www.gracediscovery.org. Rick graduated from Andrews University in 1987 and received a Masters degree from the University of Dayton. He previously served on the staff of the Thomas Bilney Institute for Biblical Research and is an active member of his local Lutheran church. Rick was a volunteer on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website for 6 years and remains a participant on the discussion boards. Rick and his wife Sheryl formally left the SDA chuch in 2004. Prior to this they had been active in the Miamisburg and Wilmington Ohio churches.
Rick Barker

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