Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 8, 1888
(Vol. 65, #19)
"Some Shall Depart From the Faith"
When the Redeemer of the world walked among men, many who identified themselves with him as his disciples, afterward forsook him, and became his bitterest enemies. The Saviour tested their faith, and developed the real characters of the most ardent believers by applying spiritual truths to their hearts. At one time when the multitude were gathered about him, he uttered a truth revealing the requirements for his service, and the people were offended. Jesus said unto them, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. . . . Many therefore of his disciples when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."
The Saviour knew the character of those who claimed to be his followers, and his words tested the quality of their faith. He spoke a sacred, eternal truth, regarding the relation that must exist between himself and his followers. Their spiritual life must be sustained by assimilating the principles of the truth. They must accept, believe, and act upon the words he uttered, which were spirit and life; and by this means they would become partakers of the divine nature. They must be Christlike, meek and lowly of heart, self-denying, self-sacrificing; they must walk in the narrow path trodden by the Man of Calvary, if they would share in the gift of life, and the glory of heaven. But the test was too great. They walked no more with him. They could not hear the saying, nor comprehend the nature of the truth he taught.
As they turned away from the divine Teacher, a different spirit took control of their minds. They could see nothing attractive in Him whom they had once found so interesting. They sought out his enemies, for they were in harmony with their spirit and work. They carried all kinds of false reports, misinterpreted his words, falsified his statements, and impugned his motives, thus inflaming the passions of men, and confirming them in hatred and unbelief. They sustained their course by gathering up every item that could be turned against him; and such indignation was stirred up by these apostates that his life was in danger, and he could not walk in Jewry, but went into Galilee. Even his relatives were so influenced that they partook of this bitter spirit of prejudice and unbelief, and thought that he could not be the Messiah. They were dissatisfied with his manner of working, and urged that if he were the Saviour of the people, he should make himself known by asserting his power, and sustaining his claims. "For," says the inspired word, "neither did his brethren believe in him." The unbelief of his kindred was most cutting to the heart of Jesus.
What a position was this for the Son of God, the Majesty of heaven! "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." Even his brethren did not believe on him. But did this prove his mission a failure? Did it destroy his truth and make him a false teacher, an impostor? Jesus answered his unbelieving brethren as they urged him to prove his Messiahship before the world, "My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil." "And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people."
There was a division among the people concerning the world's Redeemer. Like seeks like. Like appreciates like, and those who loved truth gave their verdict of the righteousness of Jesus; but wherever evil exists, it leagues with evil for the destruction of the good. Fallen men and fallen angels, by likeness of purpose and principle, will join in a desperate and determined companionship to resist truth and righteousness. When Satan can induce men, as he induced angels, to unite with him in rebellion, he has them as his allies and associates in every enterprise formed for the seduction of souls from the principles of truth. Whatever disunion there may be among themselves on other matters, the wicked are one in their opposition and hatred of the truth.
The word of God declares that the followers of Christ will be called upon to endure trials for the sake of truth. Says Paul, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution; for "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." Said our Lord, "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." With what zeal will the workers of iniquity pursue their Satanic purpose! They will put light for darkness, and darkness for light, until they will sincerely believe they are servants of God, and doing him service by persecuting his children. It has been so in the conflicts of the past; and in the closing work of God the same spirit will be manifested. Says the prophet, "The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Jesus was treated as the worst of malefactors, and the servant is not greater than his Lord. Said the Saviour, "These things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them."
In these last days, when iniquity shall abound, and the love of many shall wax cold, God will have a people to glorify his name, and stand as reprovers of unrighteousness. They are to be a "peculiar people," who will be true to the law of God, when the world shall seek to make void its precepts; and when the converting power of God works through his servants, the hosts of darkness will array themselves in bitter and determined opposition. Satan will work with "all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness." He will employ every device of deception to seduce the souls of men and if "it were possible," he "shall deceive the very elect."
We must put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand. There will be a constant conflict from the time of our determination to serve the God of heaven, until we are delivered out of this present evil world. There is no release from this war. The work of God for this time cannot be accomplished without arousing opposition, reproach, and calumny. Satan is at enmity with the truth, and he will instigate against its advocates every manner of warfare. His efforts to overthrow the word of God will not be wholly confined to the ranks of its avowed enemies; but among those who claim to believe and practice it, "some shall depart from the faith." The impression given by those who have turned away from the doctrines of the Bible, is that the work committed to men for this day will come to a speedy end, and thus they make it manifest that they have esteemed themselves as the very pillars of the truth. "Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his;" and the work goes on to accomplish the fulfillment of the sure word of prophecy. The infinite God is the originator and sustainer of his work and his people. The cause of Christ does not stand in the wisdom of man, and it cannot be overthrown by his power. "The Lord knoweth them that are his." He can discern the steadfast souls who stand by faith, who will not be moved from their allegiance to him and his law. He reads the hearts of his children, and knows those, also, that believe not.
Our work is an aggressive one, and as faithful soldiers of Jesus, we must bear the bloodstained banner into the very strongholds of the enemy. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." If we will consent to lay down our arms, to lower the bloodstained banner, to become the captives and servants of Satan, we may be released from the conflict and the suffering. But this peace will be gained only at the loss of Christ and heaven. We cannot accept peace on such conditions. Let it be war, war, to the end of earth's history, rather than peace through apostasy and sin.
The work of apostasy begins in some secret rebellion of the heart against the requirements of God's law. Unholy desires, unlawful ambitions, are cherished and indulged, and unbelief and darkness separate the soul from God. If we do not overcome these evils, they will overcome us. Men who have long been advancing in the path of truth, will be tested with trial and temptation. Those who listen to the suggestions of Satan, and swerve from their integrity, begin the downward path, and some masterful temptation hastens them on in the way of apostasy, till their descent is marked and rapid. Sins that were once most repugnant, become attractive, and are welcomed and practiced by those who have cast off the fear of God and their allegiance to his law. But the most pleasurable beginning in transgression, will end in misery, degradation, and ruin.
We need to be constantly on our guard, to watch and pray lest we enter into temptation. The indulgence of spiritual pride, of unholy desires, of evil thoughts, of anything that separates us from an intimate and sacred association with Jesus, imperils our souls. We must have living faith in God. We must "fight the good fight of faith," if we would "lay hold on eternal life." We are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." If the thought of apostasy is grievous to you, and you do not desire to become the enemies of the truth, the accusers of the brethren, then "abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good;" and believe in Him who is "able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. By Mrs. E. G. White.