Seventh-Day Adventists follow the teaching of Ellen G. White. They seem to defend everything she wrote whether she agreed with the Scriptures or not. She was in error on many things—not the least of which was insisting that worship be on the Sabbath day because it was part of the Law of Moses—even though the New Testament says that the Law was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14) and that we are under the new covenant of Jesus (Heb. 8:6-7). But much more information is available on this subject in other articles.
The point is that even on their advertising brochures one of their local groups quotes from her. The sixpanel brochure has a front cover that identifies itself as Solomon Porch Advent Ministries, complete with name, address, telephone, and website. The first two inside columns serve as a worship program; the third one lists announcements. The fifth page identifies what the Solomon’s Porch Church is, and the last one contains a quotation from Ellen G. White, a portion of which is cited below.
There is too much formality in our religious services. The Lord would have his ministers who preach the word energized by His Holy Spirit; and the people who hear should not sit in drowsy indifference, or stare vacantly about, making no responses to what is said.
The gist of the entire paragraph is that people should be involved in worship, occasionally saying, “Amen,” when it is warranted. She goes so far as to say that the “spirit of the world has paralyzed” worshipers and that the “truths of God’s word are spoken to leaden ears and hard, unimpressible hearts,” which is quite an indictment. We agree that for worship to be in spirit and in truth, all must participate in each of the various aspects of worship.
The puzzle is what she means in the paragraph cited above when she says ministers should be “energized by His Holy Spirit.” So what is supposed to happen? The Holy Spirit revealed God’s Word, and it is a message of eternal life. What is supposed to make it better than that? Was Paul not energized by the Holy Spirit when he preached directly by inspiration? Even so, Eutychus fell asleep (Acts 20:9). The problem was not with Paul, the Holy Spirit, or the Word. Eutychus simply “was overcome by sleep.”
Surely, he did not intend to fall asleep; he was undoubtedly eager to hear what Paul had to say, but a combination of various factors probably led to what occurred. He may have been up since dawn, worked all day, and it was way past his usual time for sleep. Paul did speak until midnight. He could also have been ill, and his body needed rest. We don’t know what all entered into it, but it was not the fault of God’s Holy Word.
Would Eutychus have remained awake if he had been saying an occasional, “Amen”? Not necessarily. When someone is tired, he can say, “Amen,” and still fall asleep between the next two syllables. Today, we might avoid this embarrassment if we made sure that we were well-rested before coming to worship (although this is an ideal situation that is not always possible).
So, if a person could fall asleep while an apostle inspired of the Holy Spirit spoke, what does Ellen G. White mean by ministers “energized” by the Holy Spirit? Did she expect them to shout periodically or wave their arms in the air? Was she advocating that they leap around the podium like the prophets of Baal did around their altar? All of these might keep people awake, but they are not proof of being energized by the Spirit.
Did she mean what some people have since talked about—that the Bible is basically a dead letter, and it needs to be illuminated by the Holy Spirit who inspired it in the first place. At first glance, some think that such a notion makes sense, but if what the Spirit initially inspired has become dead, then what will happen when it is illuminated the second time? Will additional illuminations need to follow every time it begins to become dead again?
Or maybe White just means that a minister should preach with enthusiasm. Brethren have made the same observation, however—totally unrelated to the Holy Spirit. As one black brother said years ago: “Either put some fire into the sermon, or throw the sermon into the fire.” Just because someone does not “appear” to be as enthusiastic as someone else does not mean he is deficient. Different individuals express themselves in different ways.
The same is true if people think White is talking about conviction. A number of different preaching styles might be observed, and every one of them could be coming from a person of conviction, yet seldom might any two of them express themselves identically. In fact, some who seem very enthusiastic and “full of the Holy Spirit” may have no convictions at all. Everything they do might be for show or to garner financial support, as some do from a TV audience.
The only person who is really “energized” by the Holy Spirit is the one who preaches what the Spirit inspired in the Word. One obtains convictions and enthusiasm from knowing the Word of God, and that condition results only from studying and meditating upon Holy Writ. No one today receives knowledge directly from God; it comes through diligent study and application of that which edifies and builds up. For that reason Paul commended the Word of God (Acts 20:32). Only the Scriptures will make a person wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15) and cause him to teach or preach the truth. Relying on the word of men (or women) results in error.