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A Firmly Laid Foundation

Posted Jan 17, 2011 by Kel Cobbin in Adventist History
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The question may be asked, how important is the foundation of a building or organisation? A church is described as having pillars of faith, and it is true that whenever one pillar is attacked at least a portion of the building will be in danger of collapse. An example of a pillar of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church is the Sanctuary Doctrine. This pillar is described by Mrs Ellen G White as the Central Pillar of our faith! (See GC.p409). Now if the central pillar of a building/organisation is removed the whole structure would become unstable. What about if the foundation is removed?


The Bible states in 1 Cor 3:11 that “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” And Eph 2:20 states “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”. The church of the apostles was built upon Christ as can be seen from the above quoted texts. I do not expect that there would be any resistance to this concept among the SDA people.

We would however, find disagreement from the Roman Catholic Church, as they believe in a clear succession of authority from the apostle Peter through to the present day Pontiffs. This belief though, is uniquely Catholic, and even Protestants today are at odds with this interpretation of Matt 16:13-18 which states: “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock (the inspired confession of Peter) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”

I would like to have another look at Matthew 16:13-18 as I believe this is the key to understanding the very foundation of the Christian church. If this is so, it would not be surprising then that the Roman church has gone to these verses to justify her position of papal succession. I think you will find that what we are going to reveal here is quite astounding in its simplicity and you may very well ask yourself how have we missed this? It is very sobering to reflect on how whole generations can loose sight of truth because of the “baggage” of traditions and the lack of diligent study which sadly has prevailed.

Matthew 16:13-18 “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock (the inspired confession of Peter) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”

Jesus congratulates Peter for expressing the words “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God” then Jesus says, Peter this didn’t come from your natural thought but rather it was revealed to you by my Father. This answer to the question Jesus posed to the disciples must have been of the uttermost importance as the Holy Spirit spoke through Peter to ensure it was understood. This question, that Jesus asked of the disciples of Galilee, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? , has been asked by myriads ofpeople since, whether they be individuals, Sabbath School teachers, Scholars, Church Councils or believers in their private devotion. The answer to this question needs to be clearly understood.

Let’s take a closer look at the context of Peter’s confession:

• Jesus asks His disciples “who do people say that I am?” This question, as it did then, would receive a variety of responses even within the SDA church. We would have to answer as did the disciples, some say “you are the 2nd person of the trinity, who has always existed along with the Father and the Holy Spirit.” Others would say “thou art one of the personalities within the one being of God”.
• Jesus specifically asks the disciples “Who do you say that I am”?
• Peter, the regular spokesperson for the group, says something that he didn’t realize he was going to say. I can just imagine Peter thinking “hey, that was a great answer”, and just then Jesus says, “Peter, you will have to credit the Holy Sprit for that response.”
• Jesus then says, in the context of that profession, that this (the truth that Jesus is the Son of the Living God of what the Holy Spirit revealed) is the foundation upon which I will build my church and the gates of Hell, though they will try, will not prevail against it.
• The truth within Peter’s confession is that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, not a prophet not a spirit not a Guru not a member of an incomprehensible trinity, not God himself but rather on the inspired truth of the statement "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God".

Sister White comments on this verse “The truth which Peter had confessed is the foundation of the believer’s faith.”{DA p412} Oh how we have forgotten the simplicity and yet enormous depth of Peter’s confession. This is so important as to be the very foundation of the Christian church and more specifically the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist Faith.

So we conclude that yes, the church is built upon Christ, but more specifically the truth of who Christ really is, His identity, as stated in Peter’s confession. Our pioneers saw this clearly and opposed vehemently the doctrine of the trinity that is taught throughout most of Christendom today.

Catholicism’s foundation or central teaching

“The mystery of the Trinity is the central doctrine of Catholic faith. Upon it are based all the other teachings of the Church. The Church studied this mystery with great care and, after four centuries of clarifications, decided to state the doctrine in this way: In the unity

of the Godhead there are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: 'The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three gods but one God.” – {Handbook for Today’s Catholic, 1977. pg12}.

“Our opponents [Protestants] sometimes claim that no belief should be held dogmatically which is not explicitly stated in scripture (ignoring that it is only on the authority of the Church we recognize certain Gospels and not others as true). But the Protestant churches have themselves accepted such dogmas as the Trinity for which there is no such precise authority in the Gospels... it is our claim that Tradition alone - founded on the Apostles' teaching, analyzed and reflected on through the ages by the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit promised by Christ - illumines the full and true meaning of the Scriptures.” – {The Catholic Church's New Dogma: The Assumption Of Mary By Graham Green, LIFE, Oct.30, 1950}, (emphasis in [brackets] supplied)

The doctrine of the trinity is the central teaching or foundation of the church of Rome. Seventh-day Adventists were given a different foundation; it was the same foundation that the church of the apostles was built upon, “Christ the Son of the Living God”. It is interesting that we, as modern Seventh-day Adventists have missed the point that Jesus was endeavouring to reveal to us. The truth about this passage of scripture is vital to our understanding of the Godhead and to the relationship of the Father and his beloved Son. God through Christ gave this special insight through Peter’s testimony so that His disciples would clearly be able to teach this indisputable truth and lay a foundation that the gates of hell would not be able to prevail against.

The challenge for us as Seventh-day Adventists today is to re-establish this great foundation that was laid and to return to the worship of “The God of Our Fathers” John 17:3 states “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” 1John 2:22 states, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? (the anointed one – this is a reference to Proverbs Ch 8:23 the word in the King James Version “set up” is the word anointed) He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son”.

The surface reader will read this text (1John 2:22) and think that actually there are no Christian religions that deny the Father and the Son. The Catholic church certainly believes in the Father and the Son. So what is this text telling us? Let’s look at this a little deeper. Clearly it is not the existence of the Father and the Son that is being denied, as most Christian faiths would embrace this. It is the literalness within the Father and Son (Son being of the Father) relationship that is denied through the Catholicism’s foundation doctrine of the trinity.

In a trinity there is no literal Father and Son relationship because there are no literal sons. Within the modern SDA trinity teaching, there is a fanciful role play type Father and Son relationship without any scriptural basis i.e. “The Father seems to act as source, the Son as mediator and the Spirit as actualizer or applier” {Seventh-day Adventists Believe p24}. Our Sabbath School Lesson Study states “But imagine a situation in which the being we have come to know as God the Father came to die for us, and the one we have come to know as Jesus stayed back in heaven (we are speaking in human terms to make a point). Nothing would have changed, except that we would have been calling each by the name we now use for the other. That is what equality in the Deity means.” {Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide April, May, June 2008 Thursday April 10}

This is not what the Bible teaches regarding the Godhead. John 17:3 states “And this is life eternal, that they may know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” The concept of the trinity and the interchangeable deities is negated by this verse which states that there is one God in an absolute singular sense otherwise why would the bible go on to describe Christ as a separate being and not part of the one God?

Further to the Father Son relationship, John 3:16 tells us that “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God could not send a Son unless He had a Son to send. See Heb 1:6 “And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten (this word in the Strong’s Concordance means literally firstborn) into the world...”. Context here demands that God had a firstborn Son before he came to earth and then Christ was begotten again in a new sense (born of a woman). This is how Mrs Ellen G White describes the same thought. “In His humanity He was a partaker of the divine nature. In His incarnation He gained in a new sense the title of the Son of God...While the Son of a human being, He became the Son of God in a new sense. Thus He stood in our world-the Son of God, yet allied by birth to the human race…” {5 Bible Commentary p1114, 1115}.

The Firm Foundation of Our Faith as emphasised by the Spirit of Prophecy

“Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid.My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce*, Elder [Hiram] Edson, and others whowere keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied andprayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimesthrough the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word. Again and again thesebrethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning,and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in their studywhere they said, "We can do nothing more," the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me.” {E. G. White, Selected Messages Book 1, pp. 206, 207. 1904}

“The leading points of our faith as we hold them today were firmly established. Point after point was clearly defined, and all the brethren came into harmony. The whole company of believers were united in the truth. There were those who came in with strange doctrines, but we were never afraid to meet them. Our experience was wonderfully established by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.” {E.G. White, Manuscript Releases Volume 3, p. 413. 1903}

“In the future, deception of every kind is to arise, and we want solid ground for our feet. We want solid pillars for the building. Not one pin is to be removed from that which the Lord has established. The enemy will bring in false theories, such as the doctrine that there is no sanctuary. This is one of the points on which there will be a departing from the faith. Where shall we find safety unless it be in the truths that the Lord has been giving for the last fifty years? {Ellen White, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 5, 1905}

“When men come in who would move one pin or pillar from the foundation which God has established by His Holy Spirit, let the aged men who were pioneers in our work speak plainly, and let those who are dead speak also, by the reprinting of their articles in our periodicals. Gather up the rays of divine light that God has given as He has led His people on step by step in the way of truth. This truth will stand the test of time and trial.” Ms 62, 1905, p. 6 {A Warning against False Theories, May 24, 1905.} {Ellen White, 1905, Manuscript Releases Volume One, page 55}

“I have had presentations regarding the deceptions that Satan is bringing in at this time. I have been instructed that we should make prominent the testimony of some of the old workers who are now dead. Let them continue to speak through their articles as found in the early numbers of our papers. These articles should now be reprinted, that there may be a living voice from the Lord’s witnesses. The history of the early experiences in the message will be a power to withstand the masterly ingenuity of Satan’s deceptions. This instruction has been repeated recently. I must present before the people the testimonies of Bible truth, and repeat the decided messages given years ago. I desire that my sermons given at camp meetings and in churches may live and do their appointed work.—Letter 99, 1905. {Ellen White, 1905, Counsels to Writers and Editors, page 26}

“When the power of God testifies as to what is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the truth. No after-suppositions, contrary to the light God has given are to be entertained. Men will arise with interpretations of Scripture which are to them truth, but which are not truth. The truth for this time, God has given us as a foundation for our faith. He Himself has taught us what is truth. One will arise, and still another, with new light which contradicts the light that God has given under the demonstration of His Holy Spirit. A few are still alive who passed through the experience gained in the establishment of this truth. God has graciously spared their lives to repeat and repeat till the close of their lives, the experience through which they passed even as did John the apostle till the very close of his life. And the standard- bearers who have fallen in death, are to speak through the reprinting of their writings. I am instructed that thus their voices are to be heard. They are to bear their testimony as to what constitutes the truth for this time”. Preach the Word, p. 5. {Ellen White, 1905, Counsels to Writers and Editors, pages 31, 32}

Summary of the importance of a church’s foundation

Now let’s reason in regards to the importance of the foundation of a building or a Church. It is upon the foundation that the pillars are established, and upon the foundation the whole building/structure or Church is built. Therefore we can conclude that without the foundation a building or church cannot stand.

So we can conclude that:
The Church in a time of storm and tempest would be left without security


The True Foundation

The question to be asked is:

“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Ps 11:3

Note the answer from Isaiah the Prophet

“And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:12.