Use of the Spirit of Prophecy in Evangelism

Presentation at recent workers' meeting in the Brit­ish Union Conference, its object being to suggest ways of introducing the Spirit of prophecy to the public in con­servative countries.

 By H. W. LOWE, President of the British Union Conference

I. Evangelism Initiated Through Prophetic Gift

When the earliest believers in the advent came out of the nominal churches, there certainly was no world evangelistic vision in their minds. There was not even any idea of establishing a new church organization, which to them would have been a return to Babylon.

This state of affairs changed, however, within a few years, and the messages of the Spirit of proph­ecy infused a world evangelistic vision into the development of the Lord's work, which affected its every activity.

The first vision that came to Mrs. White, in December, 1844, had to do with the selection and unity of the 144,000. (Revelation 7.) Even the literality of that figure involved a formidable ex­pansion in numbers to the little group of Advent­ists at that time. It was evangelistic foresight, however, which they failed to perceive and were reluctant to follow in many cases.

Another very early view given, as Mrs. White says, "in my very girlhood," was even more definitely expansive in its evangelistic conception of God's work. "Jets of light" were seen spring­ing up all through the moral darkness "of the whole world."—Gospel Workers (1893 ed.), p. 378. This was hard for the believers to under­stand when they considered their own numbers, their despised condition, and meager resources. W. A. Spicer has recorded that as late as 1891, when he was called from Europe to America to act as secretary of the Foreign Mission Board, he shared these restricted ideas, although enlarge­ment was then becoming apparent. (Spirit of Prophecy in the Advent Movement, p. 94.)

In 1893 the church was galvanized into a spirit­ual awakening on world evangelism. This came from Australia, where Mrs. White then was, and in unequivocal clarion tones it was stated that the work being built up in America must also be es­tablished in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, India, China, and the islands of the sea. The evangelistic outgrowth of the three angels' messages is de­scribed in simile by Mrs. White as rays of light spreading clear around the world.

II. Consolidated Through Prophetic Gift

The inference from these simple historic facts is that inasmuch as the prophetic gift initiated evan­gelism as the main work of the second advent movement, then evangelism will be accompanied by, and consolidated through, the counsels of God's messenger.

Church activities, mission projects, public cam­paigns, schools, colleges, hospitals, sanitariums, are presented in the writings of Mrs. White as agencies for the conversion of men and women to faith in God's message of truth. We have been led to the employment of these agencies through the gift of prophecy. They will be guided by the gift to the end. Any evangelistic program which eliminates this gift is devitalized from the start. People cannot be built into this movement in igno­rance or partial knowledge of these things.

III. Using the Writings Among Protestants

1. In presenting a subject somewhat unusual in Christian preaching, we should be. on guard not to suggest that there is something abnormal in this gift of prophecy. The Bible presents Israel as a supernatural people by reason of God's presence with them. But prophecy was a normal thing in their history. Prophecy was never an abnormality in either the Old or the New Testament church. It was God's accepted method of revelation, of guid­ance, of reproof. It was the way in which the Divine Presence was mercifully clothed among a sinful and needy people. (2 Chron. 36 :15, i6; Ps. 136:16.)
 
2. In presenting prophecy to the public as a normal work of God for His church, it is helpful if we preachers can avoid the habit of using the phrase "the Spirit of prophecy" as though it re­ferred only to the work of Mrs. White. The Spirit of prophecy operated through many men and women inside, and doubtless outside, the canon of Scripture. We should use the phrase in relation to the prophets in general. We can occasionally say in our sermons to the public, for example, "Isaiah through the Spirit of prophecy declared—" In this way the people become accustomed to a phrase they will hear a good deal about later on.

IV. Use Among Roman Catholics

1. It is well, in preaching to predominantly Catholic congregations, to cultivate the use of cer­tain expressions which are current in Catholic the­ology and which involve no teaching contrary to our own belief. Thus from the outset, prophets and apostles can be associated together, and also described adjectively as "holy." The name "The Lord Jesus" or "The Lord Jesus Christ" should be used for the more familiar abbreviated titles, and the prophetic aspects of His work should be stressed. The Messianic prophecies give oppor­tunity to lay a foundation of respect for, and deeper faith in, the prophetic gift.

2. Prophetesses should be mentioned, for good Catholics have no difficulty in accepting this idea as embodied in such outstanding women as Huldah and the daughters of Philip the evangelist. (Acts 21 :8, 9.) The Spirit-filled Elisabeth and others referred to in the New Testament will not fall amiss on their ears.

3. We must be careful to avoid the transference of the virgin Mary complex from one person to another, and for this reason we must certainly present, when the time comes, Mrs. White's own description of herself and her work. It will not be difficult for Roman Catholics to understand pro­phetic revelation as such, and specifically in Mrs. White's ministry, if we remember all the implica­tions of Roman Catholic teaching on Mariolatry.

4. Devout Roman Catholics are much impressed with Mrs. White's statements on the sufferings of Christ, the love, grace, and mercy of God, the angels, the judgment (care being exercised on certain phases until the whole subject has been presented), the divinity of Christ, His priestly ministry, prayer, marriage, divorce, Christian edu­cation, and certain phases of health reform. Our world missionary program also appeals to Catho­lics, as well as to Protestants.

V. General Comments and Conclusions

I. As a matter of fact, every subject we present to any kind of congregation can be connected with God's revelation to the remnant church through prophetic messages. The difference in presentation to Protestants, Catholics, and others is one of de­gree only. Ascertaining this degree in our ap­proach may be an art, but all preaching is a fine art, and the most delicate touches are reserved for the choicest subjects.

2. Along with our preparatory work, we should use another indirect method of approach. One of the great Spurgeon's sources of power lay in his constant conscious and unconscious use of Scrip­tural phraseology. How did this habit come to him? Obviously by incessant reading of the Book. Similarly, preachers who read the prophetic writ­ings thoroughly adopt many of their most beautiful phrases, and these fall naturally and influentially upon the public ear. God's promise of fruitage is not to a preacher, but to His Word. (Isa. 55:11.) Therefore we need constantly to employ the words of God. There is an infinite variety of choice phrases in the Bible and the Spirit of proph­ecy which we can incorporate into our language life to the greater power of our preaching.

3. Often it is possible to use an apt, short, beau­tiful quotation from an author whose writings have been translated into many languages—Ellen G. White, without reference or further comment. Then later, after the subject of the Spirit of proph­ecy has been first fully presented (usually at a week-night service), we can return to these in­direct quotations more specifically, when the peo­ple are accustomed to the peculiar power attached to the words of God's Spirit.

By quoting from the Spirit of prophecy writings key expressions setting forth the fundamentals of salvation by faith, we can give the lie to the charge by our enemies that we believe in redemption by the works of the law. Among these may be noted : redemption by the blood of Christ (Steps to Christ, p. 33), Christian service (Id., p. 86), prayer (Id., p. 103), the Word and the believer's life (The Desire of Ages, p. 612), the sufferings of Christ (Id., p. 534), the sinless One (Id., p. 761). Sim­ilar short quotations, according to taste and ap­positeness, can be found on such vital points as forgiveness, sanctification, grace, faith, heaven, prophecy, etc.

4. In these war days nearly all countries know the meaning of "meatless days," and the loss of what the public used to call "nice, white flour." Here we have a ready-made opportunity to present our health message. Similarly, war always brings the temperance question to the fore. It also pre­sents every country with greatly aggravated prob­lems of morality. Here again is an opening to use the powerful words of Mrs. White, both with and without references, both before and after full pres­entation of the Spirit of prophecy, in support of true Christian principles of temperance and mo­rality.

5. In an evangelistic campaign all the foregoing suggestions should culminate in a specific week­night address on the Spirit of prophecy, followed by a Sabbath sermon, before any baptisms take place. Most of our evangelists prefer two presen­tations of this subject in public. Experience teaches that people baptized with a poor under­standing of a subject so vital in our peculiar mes­sage, remain poor and problematical in every way. Moreover, they become potential apostates. But apostasy and a firm faith in the Spirit's gift of prophecy never go together. Just as a preacher cannot long remain a strong worker without faith in this gift to the remnant church, neither can a member remain a strength to the church if his faith in this vital gift is impaired.

6. In our handling of the subject it is well to remember that while much of Old Testament prophecy was purely predictive, prophecy is not primarily and exclusively foretelling. It is fre­quently a declaration of things not perceivable by natural minds and means. It reveals the will and teaching of God in reference to the past, present, or future. Abraham was a prophet, but, compared with predictive utterances of other prophets, his chief function was the exemplification of a godly, faithful, prayerful way of life amid pagan unbelief. Thus in Genesis 20:7 Abimelech is bidden: "Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live." In Revelation ii :3 the word "prophesy" has largely the significance of witnessing, teaching. So also do many other scriptures indicate the teaching, and, above all, the redemptive work, of prophecy.

We should make this matter of redemptive in­fluence an exceedingly strong part of our presen­tation of Mrs. White's work. Too many preachers in their early years miss this point and err in cre­ating the impression that her main work was a series of remarkable predictions. Her main work was soulsaving, redemptive, Christ-centered teach­ing of God's Word. Along with this were her warnings, her prescient counsel, her predictive utterances, now largely fulfilled, which have be­come additional evidence of her God-attested work among us.

7. Dr. R. E. Day, in his book The Shadow of the Broad Brim (page 120), calls attention to the fact that most of the great saints of God, who, like Spurgeon, "through faith subdued kingdoms," were made great conquerors for Christ by prolonged intercourse with the Bible and the writings of some Christian Greatheart who was himself on fire for God. Thus, Luther's blazing zeal came from a three-year vigil with the Bible and the writings of Augustine. The Puritans lighted their torches from the Word and the writings of John Calvin. The zeal of Spurgeon came from the Word and the Puritan divines.

While the doctrines of the advent movement came from the Sacred Book, the technique, the practices, the world expansion of this cause have been built up by the clearly inspired counsels of Ellen Gould White. The Bible and the Spirit of prophecy are the springs of our doctrinal beliefs, and missionary zeal, and our peculiarly effective methods of work. Therefore, the best way to use either the Bible or the Spirit of prophecy in evan­gelism is to live in these fountain depths of truth and power till they fill us and suffuse our whole work with the Spirit, which is their common origin.


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 By H. W. LOWE, President of the British Union Conference

December 1944

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