During the time of the founding pioneers of the Seventh-Day Adventist church (from the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s), there could be no question as to what Seventh-Day Adventists believe after hearing a sermon, lecture or reading a publication from an Adventist pastor, speaker or author. If a member were to attend any Seventh-Day Adventist Church on a Sabbath, that person would not have to wonder what topics were going to be addressed. The distinctive messages of the three angels of Revelation 14:6-12 would be clearly and definitively articulated in no uncertain language, with urgency and conviction. Seventh-Day Adventist pastors during that era would touch on some portion of these distinctive messages every time he was given the opportunity to present; and after attending such meetings, there would be no ambiguity whatsoever as to what Seventh-Day Adventists believe and what there work is.
There has been an unfortunate change however, leading up to 1957 when The Review and Herald Publishing Association published the book “Seventh-Day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine,” prepared by Seventh-Day Adventist leaders, Bible instructors and editors, wherein most of the foundational pillars of the Seventh-Day Adventist faith were completely rejected and renounced, some overtly, others covertly. From that time until the present, a first-time visitor may attend a Seventh-Day Adventist Church on a Sabbath and hear a message almost identical to the messages being preached every Sunday in non-Seventh-Day Adventist congregations, the churches of Babylon. The only difference would be the respective names of the churches and the day in which the services are held. The messages being preached and emphasized today in the popular churches of the world are based upon the social gospel, which is a gross perversion of the everlasting gospel. It is truly unfortunate that today Seventh-day Adventist pastors are patterning after these churches and generally are no longer preaching the judgment-hour message, the significance of 1844, Christ’s mediatory work in the Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary, the fall of Babylon and who constitutes Babylon, the mark of the beast and its image, along with the lifestyle reforms that God calls for in these last days. They are rather preaching a social gospel that leads to ecumenism and the reception of the mark of the beast. They are not accomplishing the commission that God has established the Seventh-Day Adventist church for, which is to proclaim by pen, voice, and lifestyle the components of the everlasting gospel; which, if accepted, will lead men and women to be prepared for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
“In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. On them is shining wonderful light from the word of God. They have been given a work of the most solemn import–the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention. The most solemn truths ever entrusted to mortals have been given us to proclaim to the world. The proclamation of these truths is to be our work. The world is to be warned, and God’s people are to be true to the trust committed to them.”1
The social gospel is a movement that is not new; it has been around since the days of Christ, but has recently revived and been new-modeled in the wake of society’s injustices, oppression and abuses. The social gospel is concerned with bettering society and the lives of its members through social reform, political processes and humanitarian efforts. The social gospel places little or no emphasis on the souls of men and sinners’ need of Christ for the eradication of sin, and ignores the essential truths of the everlasting gospel. Seventh-Day Adventist pioneer, Ellet Joseph Waggoner, in one of his articles, addresses the social gospel that is now permeating the Seventh-Day Adventist churches, and places it in its proper perspective when contrasted with the work of the everlasting gospel.
“There is a widespread conviction or sentiment that nothing more is needed for the redemption of society than a rearrangement of social conditions; salvation will be wrought by science and sanitation; the heart will be cleansed by an external application; lusts and envies, and hatreds, will cease when the body’s cravings are satisfied. On the top of these vain dreams there comes the clamour for a social gospel…The preacher is to put into the background the eternal truths that he may cater for temporal wants.”2
These are the sentiments that pervade many of the discourses, sermons and discussions given by a large class of Seventh-Day Adventist pastors and members today, the very sentiments that are practically being put into practice, based on the notion that in order for man to be uplifted and ministered to, the focus must be placed solely upon his physical, temporal needs. And this is termed the work of the gospel. Seventh-Day Adventist proponents of the social gospel are indeed placing the eternal truths of the three angels’ messages in the background to advocate and lobby for changing the plight of the marginalized, and achieving equality for minorities. In response to the recent killings of unarmed African American males at the hands of Caucasian police officers, who were not charged, members of the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination have not been silent. Marches and rallies have been organized and conducted by students and staff-members of Oakwood and Andrews Universities, and other Seventh-Day Adventist institutions, protesting injustice and demanding change. During these marches and protests, there has been no mention whatsoever of sin and righteousness and the only remedy for societal and institutional evils and abuses. Social reform and the acquisition of temporal benefits are meaningless if those being targeted, both the oppressed and the oppressor, are not led to repentance and heart conversion. Christ’s truth is not uplifted and emphasized in these activities; therefore such exercises are ineffective in achieving lasting change. E.J. Waggoner continues:
“He [the preacher] is ‘to forsake the Word of God and serve table;’ he is to forget the soul’s hunger in speaking for the necessities of the body. He is to resign the prophet’s functions for the more popular arts of the demagogue.”3
How true it is that some Seventh-Day Adventists have forsaken the word of God, specifically, the everlasting gospel of Revelation 14:6-12, and are “serving tables!” One way in which they are “serving tables” is by the operations of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). ADRA is a humanitarian organization that provides relief in disasters and organizes community development projects. ADRA receives government financing and is therefore limited in carrying out the gospel work that the Lord has called Seventh-Day Adventists to perform. Because of this funding source, leaders and missionaries working for ADRA are prohibited from publicly and consistently preaching, teaching, and distributing literature concerning the three angels’ messages; there work is relegated to ministering only to the physical needs of individuals. ADRA’s work is that of the social gospel. The administrators, missionaries, and those who financially support the operations of ADRA are supporting a social gospel. As commendable and plausible a work that ADRA is undertaking, God has called Seventh-Day Adventists to a higher, nobler work that combines the humanitarian work with that of the three angels’ messages. Ellen White comments:
“The Lord has marked out our way of working. As a people we are not to imitate and fall in with Salvation Army methods. This is not the work that the Lord has given us to do… The Salvation Army workers are trying to save the neglected, downtrodden ones. Discourage them not. Let them do that class of work by their own methods and in their own way. But the Lord has plainly pointed out the work that Seventh-day Adventists are to do.”4
“The Savior made each work of healing an occasion for implanting divine principles in the mind and soul. This was the purpose of His work. He imparted earthly blessings, that He might incline the hearts of men to receive the gospel of His grace.”5
Another way in which some Seventh-Day Adventists are “serving tables” and neglecting the work of the gospel, is by hosting roundtable discussions, some of which are aired on 3ABN’s Dare To Dream Network, others are being circulated on social media platforms, in which they encourage pastors and members to become socially conscious and arouse others to become involved in social activism and community programs to improve the temporal circumstances of people in their communities. The unfortunate reality is that the discussion and mission being advocated and carried out is devoid of the promulgation of the everlasting gospel. Social gospel adherents even have the audacity to denounce those who disagree with their advocacy of the social gospel, and they criticize those who affirm the mission of Seventh-Day Adventists, which is to carry the three angels’ messages to the world, as being indifferent to human suffering and out of touch with society. Such persons will quote Isaiah 58:6-11, which speak about uplifting the oppressed, liberating the captives, and undoing the heavy burdens; yet they ignore other portions of the same passage that unite this work with crying out unsparingly against sin (Isaiah 58:1). They also deliberately ignore the verses regarding Sabbath reform and the final crisis surrounding the Sabbath issue (verses 12-14). Reading such passages in the context of the everlasting gospel, and not through the lenses of the social gospel, will bring the honest seeker to the conclusion that the uplifting of humanity can never come through social activism, political reform, or mere humanitarian labor, but rather through the implantation of divine principles into the hearts of men and women. This is the work that Christ performed in His earthly ministry.
Continuing in his description of the social gospel, E.J. Waggoner states: “We are told even that if Christ were to come again He would come as a social reformer, as the champion of the labour party; to multiply loaves and double wages.”6
As the Jews of old rejected Christ and the everlasting gospel because they were expecting Christ to come as an earthly ruler to improve only their temporal circumstances and preach a social gospel, so men and women today, are rejecting the everlasting gospel because they are looking for a social gospel.
“Christ’s mission was not understood by the people of His time…. The message, ‘Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,’ they answered by demands for a miracle. Matthew 3:2. The gospel of Christ was a stumbling block to them because they demanded signs instead of a Savior. They expected the Messiah to prove His claims by mighty deeds of conquest, to establish His empire on the ruins of earthly kingdoms. This expectation Christ answered in the parable of the sower. Not by force of arms, not by violent interpositions, was the kingdom of God to prevail, but by the implanting of a new principle in the hearts of men.”7
It is important for Seventh-Day Adventists to know how to answer the proponents of the social gospel, because on the surface it seems to promote noble and worthy causes.
“And our answer to all this is that, if Christ were to come again, He would come as He came before, to deliver men from the bondage of the devil and to save people from their sins, whether poor people or rich people. He would compassionate now, as He did then, the sufferings, hunger, ignorance, and wants of the toiling, groaning multitude. He would appeal to those who love Him to busy themselves in relieving every kind of human need. But His great work would still be to convince the world of sin, righteousness, and of judgment to come, to prove to men that the main cause of their misery is not in things external, but in their enmity to God and the evil of their own hearts, and to lift them up by faith, repentance, and regeneration to a new and happier life. And we cannot and dare not preach any other gospel. Our work is moral and not political. Our weapons are spiritual, not carnal.”8
The words of Ellen White concur with the above statement, and show more clearly the work that Seventh-Day Adventists are to imitate.
“The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses,–extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Saviour attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our example kept aloof from earthly governments. Not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. To be efficient, the cure must reach men individually, and must regenerate the heart. Not by the decisions of courts or councils or legislative assemblies, not by the patronage of worldly great men, is the kingdom of Christ established, but by the implanting of Christ’s nature in humanity through the work of the Holy Spirit.”9
There is a striking contradiction between the message and goals of the everlasting gospel and the message and goals of the social gospel. Because the social gospel does not emphasize sin, righteousness, and judgment, but focuses solely upon standing for the oppressed, the participation in the social gospel movement will surely lead its advocates to support and fight for the agendas of the LGBTQ community, which feels it is being oppressed. Additionally, within the Seventh-Day Adventist church, social gospel proponents will adamantly fight in favor of the unbiblical practice of women’s ordination, and will clamor for gender equality. The mission of the social gospel has nothing to do with distinguishing between right and wrong, righteousness and unrighteousness, truth and error, it is rather to stand up for the oppressed at all costs, even if that means taking positions that clearly defy the word of God.
Seventh-Day Adventists pastors should be exposing this diabolical evil, the social gospel. Since this perversion of the gospel does not emphasize the three angels’ messages, its adherents will be led to lay aside their peculiar doctrines and join in ecumenism with the various religions and churches of Babylon. Seventh-Day Adventists’ involvement in ecumenical projects and bodies will inevitably lead them to receive the mark of the beast. In the mark of the beast crisis, earthly governments will prohibit men and women from buying or selling unless they accept enforced Sunday observance. Because the social gospel is concerned with fulfilling the physical needs of the person and not obedience to God’s laws, social gospel proponents will make any compromise, they will rally, march, lobby and petition to have the ability to buy and sell, though in gaining such, God’s laws are dishonored. An evident sign that a large number of Seventh-day Adventists are infected by the social gospel is that non-Adventist reading material is promoted in Seventh-Day Adventist churches, schools, and institutions, ministers from Babylon are invited as guest-speakers in Seventh-Day Adventist churches, and Seventh-Day Adventists are partnering with Roman Catholics and other Sunday-keeping denominations to do humanitarian work. If Seventh-Day Adventists were preaching and teaching the three angels’ messages, along with their humanitarian work, non-Adventists would have no desire to join with them.
Seventh-Day Adventists are not to lose sight of their mission, and are not to unite with and promote the agendas of worldlings who have no understanding of the everlasting gospel. The words that Paul wrote under inspiration are a warning for Seventh-Day Adventists today: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” Galatians 1:8 and 9.
May God find Seventh-Day Adventists faithfully carrying out the sacred mission of communicating the everlasting gospel to the inhabitants of the earth and not being distracted and rallying to the cause of the social gospel!
“God has called His church in this day, as He called ancient Israel, to stand as a light in the earth. By the mighty cleaver of truth—the messages of the first, second, and third angels—He has separated them from the churches and from the world to bring them into a sacred nearness to Himself. He has made them the depositaries of His law and has committed to them the great truths of prophecy for this time. Like the holy oracles committed to ancient Israel, these are a sacred trust to be communicated to the world.”10
1 White, Ellen. Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9 (1909), page 19
2 Waggoner, E.J. The Present Truth Volume 11, May 9, 1985
4 White, Ellen. Testimonies for the Church, Volume 8 (1904), page 184
5 White, Ellen. The Ministry of Healing (1905), page 20
6 Waggoner, E.J. The Present Truth Volume 11, May 9, 1985
7 White, Ellen. Christ’s Object Lessons (1900), page 34
8 Waggoner, E.J. The Present Truth Volume 11, May 9, 1985
9 White, Ellen. The Desire of Ages (1898), page 509
10 White, Ellen. Counsels for the Church (1991), page 58