1. Not by Discussion

By John Thiel, Restoration of the Marriage Institution Seminar, Study 1, mp3

We are in need of understanding a question that has been tossed about in many minds and in ranks of Adventism. This question deals with the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, the mount of blessings and yet this verse has caused all sorts of complications and problems in the minds of people.

Matthew 5:31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. 

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus declared plainly that there could be no dissolution of the marriage tie, except for unfaithfulness to the marriage vow. MB 63.1

In Adventist Home this statement is qualified without any confusion whatsoever;

I saw that Sister Johnson as yet, has no right to marry another man; but if she, or any other woman, should obtain a divorce legally on the ground that her husband was guilty of adultery, then she is free to be married to whom she chooses… There is only one sin, which is adultery, which can place the husband or wife in a position where they can be free from the marriage vow in the sight of God. Adventist Home page 344

Then come all the other texts in the Bible that say what Sister White says doesn’t seem to gel. So we have a difficult question that needs to be answered. To gain an answer to such a difficult question is not gained by debate or discussion. This is my title for this study here. I have been in debate and discussion on this and other subjects and my soul is terrible constricted by this kind of method to learn truth and righteousness in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t achieve it and yet the question must be solved. During my walk with God in dealing with this kind of debates, the Lord gave me wonderful answers to deal with these problems. I hope to be able to do that during this seminar time.

To gain a correct picture we need to engage according to God’s directive, God actually gives us the right ways by which we can resolve doctrinal questions and difficulties by exploring the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy. The Bible is the Word of God. We all agree with that. What is the Spirit of Prophecy? It’s the Testimony of Jesus. So as we read and as we research we are dealing with what Jesus is communicating.

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. 6 Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

What does this tell us? Every Word of God is pure. So as I read a scripture, that Word is pure, it doesn’t need any interpretation, it doesn’t need any adding or taking away from it. That is the principle by which I have gained my understanding over the years. I have stuck very dearly to that principle. I will not change a single word in explanation of that Scripture lest I be found a liar. I don’t know if you have noticed, people do a lot of that.

They say: “O, that doesn’t mean exactly like that.” Sorry I cannot agree, for every Word of God is pure. I cannot alter it, no matter how much I would like too and I am a person who like to change a lot of things to suit my background and my opinion. But I can’t, and neither can anyone else. Sometimes there is something that appears obscure and difficult to put into place. We don’t rely on one statement alone to get a clear picture. If I want to get that statement qualified, it must be done as God has instructed us to.

Isaiah 28:9 Whom shall He teach knowledge? and whom shall He make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people. 12 To whom He said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.

Do you seek for a resolution for a serious debate? You are looking for a resolution to difficulties of interrelationship with people of different opinions. There is a conflict of knowledge and a conflict of doctrine. It says you want to find rest and knowledge then it must be by not altering or changing to the slightest degree a single statement of God’s Word but placing it next to other texts, precept by precept, here a little and there a little, as this is how God speaks to us. He did it for a very special purpose, yet they would not hear. There is a strong opinion in every sinful human being even if God makes it clear they are still going to reject it so He has put it in such a way that only the genuine seeker will find its way through the confusion. He will search for the hidden Manna. We are distinctly told that if we are going to come to a correct teaching, then we must search the Scriptures and correctly compare Scriptures with Scriptures.

2.Timothy 2:14 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. 15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.

Don’t argue over words. Don’t argue about the ins and outs of a particular statement. It reads as it reads. Don’t try to fiddle it around. But study rightly to dividing each statement where it really belongs. If you keep yourself strictly on that plan, you will come away with a wonderful peaceful solution. I’ve done it every time. It never fails but people who don’t do it that way who go into all sorts of arguments over the little detail of that Scripture or that statement find themselves in conflict continually with different minds. As it says: “to the subverting of the hearers.” How many people in all my experience have given up a simple beautiful Christian walk because it has become so complicated by so many versions of interpretations. It is heart sickening to me yet it is so simple if we follow these principles.

This is the purpose of this Seminar that we find rest and peace by upholding what is approved of God. We want to have God’s approval and not human scrutiny and human direction. “This is what the Church says, therefore it must be right.” We must be approved of God. God chooses which church is His, not we and we can learn from Him. As we proceed you will discover that I speak very little about the problem that I initiated here. I am going to cover material that for a while you think: “What is he doing? Why is he bringing this or that up?” But if you follow very carefully with this backdrop of question in your mind, you need to pick up the principles that are being established through each section of this Seminar. You will be able to see a picture that is painted from God’s Word in reference to the issues at stake. We want to be among a people whom God approves.

Isaiah 66:1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven [is] my throne, and the earth [is] my footstool: where [is] the house that ye build unto me? and where [is] the place of my rest? 2 For all those [things] hath mine hand made, and all those [things] have been, saith the LORD: but to this [man] will I look, [even] to [him that is] poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Whom does God approve? Him who trembles at His Word.

Isaiah 66:5 Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.

The people who tremble at God’s Word and do what is written, who take His Word and tremblingly and humbly are not theologically argumentative minded. They do not take God’s Word as a subject of debate. They take God’s Word as food for their soul. There lies the import issue. People who do that, God will not leave them to flounder. Because they tremble at His Word and God looks to them and approves them. Others who are theologically orientated to make the Scriptures a point of argument, they will be ashamed. Why should we tremble at His Word?

Isaiah 55:8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

Is that a reason for trembling at His Word? Obviously. To gain God’s thought, to gain His way is the objective of our research in this Seminar. This cannot be done without painstaking patient effort of waiting – here a little and there a little until the jigsaw puzzle comes together. You know what it is like, sitting over a big jigsaw puzzle.

I am amazed how people will patiently try to piece things together in a jigsaw puzzle and when it comes to God’s Word they want to find quick answers. It has taken me quite a few years to get the picture together. Once you have the picture together and you hear people arguing, you realize they put pieces in wrong places.

They look at the individual little bit and try to decipher it, instead of looking how it connects with others. As we go through this Seminar and a question arises in your mind that you would like to have an answer to, I don’t mind if you ask me to get just some answers if you wish, however if I don’t answer you satisfactory, the answer is coming later by the Word of God. We will get the answer by painstaking patient effort of going through here a little and there a little until the answers dawn on you. That’s the way it works. A very learned theologian once came to Jesus to engage exactly in what we are engaging in. He came at night, so he would not be seen with Jesus who was unrecognized with the leaders. He wanted to get into discussion with Jesus.

John 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

You come to me to get into a discussion? Sorry unless you become born again, you can’t even see what I am talking about.

John 3:4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

He is cynical here. He knew exactly what Jesus meant.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you [of] heavenly things?

Remember heavenly things are higher than man’s thoughts. You can’t reason with a theologian unless the theologian is born again. How can I tell you heavenly things that are higher than man’s thoughts if you can’t even understand what I am telling you about the new birth?

Nicodemus held a high position of trust in the Jewish nation. He was highly educated, and possessed talents of no ordinary character, and he was an honored member of the national council. With others, he had been stirred by the teaching of Jesus. Though rich, learned, and honored, he had been strangely attracted by the humble Nazarene. The lessons that had fallen from the Saviour’s lips had greatly impressed him, and he desired to learn more of these wonderful truths. Desire of Ages 167.1

Nicodemus who was affected by education and human intelligence was also affected by this strange atmosphere that was coming from Jesus and he wanted to find out more.

Nicodemus had come to the Lord thinking to enter into a discussion with Him, but Jesus laid bare the foundation principles of truth. He said to Nicodemus, It is not theoretical knowledge you need so much as spiritual regeneration. You need not to have your curiosity satisfied, but to have a new heart. You must receive a new life from above before you can appreciate heavenly things. Until this change takes place, making all things new, it will result in no saving good for you to discuss with Me My authority or My mission. Desire of Ages page 171.1

Here we see a principle. The new birth – and as we go through our Seminar you will see, it is a very rare experience in today’s churches. If that is the case we know why there are a lot of problems in churches.

The figure of the new birth, which Jesus had used, was not wholly unfamiliar to Nicodemus. Converts from heathenism to the faith of Israel were often compared to children just born. Therefore he must have perceived that the Words of Christ were not to be taken in a literal sense. But by virtue of his birth as an Israelite he regarded himself as sure of a place in the kingdom of God. He felt that he needed no change. Hence his surprise at the Saviour’s Words. He was irritated by their close application to himself. The pride of the Pharisee was struggling against the honest desire of the seeker after truth. He wondered that Christ should speak to him as He did, not respecting his position as ruler in Israel. Surprised out of his self-possession, he answered Christ in words full of irony, “How can a man be born when he is old?” Like many others when cutting truth is brought home to the conscience, he revealed the fact that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. There is in him nothing that responds to spiritual things; for spiritual things are spiritually discerned. But the Saviour did not meet argument with argument. Desire of Ages page 171.1

Isn’t that usually the way that we get into studies? One person says something and another person argues against it. That is what Jesus never did.

Raising His hand with solemn, quiet dignity, He pressed the truth home with greater assurance, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus knew that Christ here referred to water baptism and the renewing of the heart by the Spirit of God. He was convinced that he was in the presence of the One whom John the Baptist had foretold. Desire of Ages page 171.1

Nicodemus realized: Here is one that can see me through and through. Then Jesus continued and we read the beautiful description of the serpent on the pole, about the dying Savior.

The Principle of This Series

Those who had been bitten by the serpents might have delayed to look. They might have questioned how there could be efficacy in that brazen symbol. They might have demanded a scientific explanation. But no explanation was given. They must accept the word of God to them through Moses. To refuse to look was to perish. {DA 175.1}

In the Word of God, frequently this realization comes home. Here is what the Word of God says: Just look at it. Don’t begin to quibble about it. If you do you will not be healed. The Word of God is given for one purpose – to give us healing, rest and peace.

 Not through controversy and discussion is the soul enlightened. We must look and live. Nicodemus received the lesson, and carried it with him. He searched the Scriptures in a new way, not for the discussion of a theory, but in order to receive life for the soul. He began to see the kingdom of heaven as he submitted himself to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Desire of Ages page 175.1-3

Can you see something very important here? It is not by tossing Scripture around in argument or by establishing theoretical conclusions, it is that we may look and live.

There are thousands today who need to learn the same truth that was taught to Nicodemus by the uplifted serpent. They depend on their obedience to the law of God to commend them to His favor. When they are bidden to look to Jesus, and believe that He saves them solely through His grace, they exclaim, “How can these things be? Desire of Ages page 175.1-3

We can’t get our head around that process when we only understand intellectually and try to analyze individual points of the gospel intellectually and then we explain it and change it into something different. We need to look and live. When we study about the beauty of the nature of Christ, who was made in all points like us, made into sinful flesh, sin was in His flesh and people say, no, no, it doesn’t mean exactly like that. It doesn’t mean that sin was in His flesh, there is no such thing. They try to explain it into something different. Shall we debate with them? No, we must move on and tolerate each other. It is to look and to live that we need to study. The churches that have established their creeds, have established them in the way that Nicodemus came to Jesus.

The apostle Paul declared, looking down to the last days: “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:3. That time has fully come. The multitudes do not want Bible truth, because it interferes with the desires of the sinful, world-loving heart; and Satan supplies the deceptions which they love. Great Controversy page 594.

  But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. Great Controversy page 594.

Do you want to be part of these people? God will have them but we have to study according to God’s approval.

The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, Great Controversy page 595.

The General Conference, that’s an ecclesiastical council.

…as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority–not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain “Thus saith the Lord” in its support. Great Controversy page 595.

How clear do we want it? Don’t add, don’t take away. If they are trying to study the Word of God in their councils and come up to certain conclusions that is not a clear support of everything that has been stated in God’s Word, but have added or taken away, then sorry, no matter how honorable they are, how much as they claim to be God’s Church, the voice of the majority does not necessary mean that it is right. Just because it is built on the majority in these last days who are not even born again because the new birth is a rare experience in this last generation. So how can I trust it? This is a very important meditation here.

A Lot of Confusion

We are to tremble at His Word. We live in the last closing days of probation. We’re not just living in that time of the end when Sr. White lived, we’re right there at the last closing days of probation and today believe me, there is and you have experienced it a little bit yourself, a lot of confusion.

Confusion of Faces

Daniel 9:7 O Lord, righteousness [belongeth] unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, [that are] near, and [that are] far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. 8 O Lord, to us [belongeth] confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.

What belongs to us; confusion of faces. It is in the very near future that these next verses are the reality of our experience. How close we are to this? You can only discover when you are ministering in the Word that there are so few people today who communicate the pure Word of God.

Amos 8:9 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day:

This is such a painful experience to watch. People are rejoicing and praising the Lord and all of a sudden it is lamentation. I thought that I had the truth, I thought that this was the Church, but no and they can’t sing joyfully. For every song they sing appears as a contradiction of terms to them. I’ve gone through this many times.

Amos 8:10 And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only [son], and the end thereof as a bitter day. 11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: 12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find [it].

When this happens, it is the close of probation but how close is it already? How true is it that people travel from one side of the earth to the other, hoping they can hear the Word of God as it really is, as we have established at the beginning of our thought. That it is a “Thus says the Lord” because we take everything as it is written. That’s so rare today. The reason to tremble at His Word is very vivid here. Am I somebody that is finding it so hard to find the pure Word? I have to tremble at His Word to make sure I get it right. In patient humility as we worship together, lets us lay our opinions, our thoughts, our conclusions and deductions under the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit as under the latter rain. Are we not living in the time of the latter rain? We read about the Holy Spirits doctrine, not of the doctrines of the different ecclesiastical counsels.

Deuteronomy 32:1 Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. 2 My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: 3 Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. 4 [He is] the Rock, his work [is] perfect: for all his ways [are] judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right [is] he.

This is the outpouring of the latter rain, my doctrine, not human deductions and opinions.

Precious light is to shine forth from the Word of God, and let no one presume to dictate what shall or what shall not be brought before the people in the messages of enlightenment that He shall send, and so quench the Spirit of God. Testimonies on Sabbath School Work page 65

My doctrine shall fall. If we are going to hear a message from the Holy Spirit and people have set their stakes on a certain interpretation, what hopes do they have?

Whatever may be his position of authority, no one has a right to shut away the light from the people. When a message comes in the name of the Lord to His people, no one may excuse himself from an investigation of its claims. No one can afford to stand back in an attitude of indifference and self-confidence, and say: “I know what is truth. I am satisfied with my position. I have set my stakes, and I will not be moved away from my position, whatever may come. I will not listen to the message of this messenger; for I know that it can not be truth.” It was from pursuing this very course that the popular churches were left in partial darkness, and that is why the messages of heaven have not reached them. Testimonies on Sabbath School Work page 65

…the truth will bear investigation. The more it is studied, the more will its light shine forth. The Lord frowns upon everything that savors of harshness and severity, and puts his rebuke upon those who cast contempt and reproach upon those who differ with them in opinion, placing them in the worst possible light. All Heaven looks upon those who do this as Heaven looked upon the Pharisees, and pronounces them as ignorant both of the Scriptures and the power of God. The enemies of truth cannot make truth error. They may trample upon the truth, and think that because they have cast it down, and covered it with rubbish, it is overcome; but God will move upon some of his faithful ones to do as Christ did when he was upon earth, — brush away the rubbish, and restore the truth to its appropriate setting in the framework of truth. {HM, September 1, 1894 par. 2}

People lock themselves into certain subject matters and they have covered it over with their particular opinionated doctrines and Jesus comes along and wipes the rubbish away and puts the particular points of truth in a framework that is a general picture, not just a singular doctrinal argument.

I have seen this sad story of people honing in on singular doctrines and you hear sermons preached that is just a truth on its own and you don’t know where it fits in. That is not the way the Holy Spirit works. He brushes away the rubbish and puts the statements in such a frame and it is exclaimed ‘Oh how wonderful, I never thought of that!’ This is the way in which we want to proceed together in our research of truth. To research it together in Christ’s way in placing it in its appropriate setting in the framework of truth. This is our series that we want to go through.

Coming up;

2. Understanding Legalism versus Gospel Religion

3. Restorers of the Path to Dwell In

4. The Restoration of the Marriage Institution

5. Marriage, a Symbol of Heavens Union

6: Heavens Ideal of Marriage

7: Love, As I Have Loved You

8: Misinterpretations of the Compassion of God

9: The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

10. Harden Not Your Heart

11: Neither Male, Nor Female in Heaven.

May God help us to tune in on the framework of truth not honing in alone on one argument that we may see its framework. May God bless us to this end.


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Posted on 23/07/2010, in Restoration of the Marriage Institution (Seminar). Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Deborah Pullyn

    Very good. I must say that I have been thru these situations and the situation about being bombarded with scripture texts is disconcerting. Also having been thru a revolting marriage and divorced, with no thought of ever taking up with someone else and avoiding any situation that would produce such a relationship. Albeit, I met a man and when he asked to marry me I said no, partly because of this verse in matthew. But after much research by a brother, it came to light that the word for divorce in matthew actually means ‘put away’. The pharisees would put away their wife by sending her home (without giving her dowry back, which was equivalent to a year’s wages, thus leaving her destitute) and marry another woman. A woman had little means of support, especially if her parents were poor. A woman could not initiate a divorce, only a man could, so she was left unable to remarry, as she was already married, (maybe this is what happened to the woman at the well). As for the man, it was more honourable (though not righteous) to have 2 wives than to divorce. So whilst God allowed marriage because of the hardness of our hearts, he hated ‘putting away’. The word in the old testament that says God hates divorce also means ‘putting away’. Not by discussion, but by the Word of God.

  2. AMEN-i really Loved it. It was truly peaceful…..the truth is Always SUCH a blessing. It confirmed why I felt a certain way concerning “discussions” towards “doctrines” I’m NOT into them “theology” and “the tree of knowledge” that’s totally OUT of my heart-i was actually frusterated and later on Cried becuz someone approached in that way-just throwing knowledge of scripture at me with no spiritual essence….I know I Totally neeed my character built IN the LORD-yet for some reason I couldn’t take it=) but thank for this rhema WORD-thank You JESUS-ur always faithful and on time.

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