The Sin of Unbelief
The Review and Herald
January 24, 1899
The Sin of Unbelief
Mrs. E. G. White
The Jews as a nation were not atheists nor avowed unbelievers, but the vital truths concerning Jesus Christ were misapprehended by them. They wrested the Scriptures to justify their own course of action [Note: as professing Christians do today] and refused to receive Christ as the
Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world.
John the Baptist had preceded Christ with the message, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." He had called upon the Jews to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Christ came to reveal to men the nature of the kingdom of heaven. He came to show that it is not instituted by men; that it is not controlled by partiality, nor corrupted by hypocrisy. It is not for the few self-centered ones to share largely of the heavenly gift, while the stricken and unfortunate are left desolate and forsaken. The kingdom of heaven is a dispensation of divine mercy, of forgiveness and peace. The darkness of a guilty world was broken by the bright beams of the Sun of righteousness. And "as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."
When the Pharisees saw the Spirit of Christ working in the hearts of the disobedient; when they beheld sinners coming to the righteousness of the Just; when they saw impartial goodness and mercy, the attributes of the throne of God, extended toward those whom they despised, their hearts
were filled with hatred against Christ. The scribes and Pharisees were full of self-conceit and ostentation, and they were disappointed that Christ did not approve of these attributes. They were not deceived in the character of Christ. They saw the contrast between their own impurity and unholiness and the purity and holiness of Christ. In such a
kingdom as he would set up, they would find nothing to nourish their pride and ambition. Had Christ fallen in with them, and strengthened their high claims to superiority, they would have looked upon him with favor; but when they saw the publicans and sinners attracted to him, and following him, they were exasperated. They saw these men listening with earnestness to his lessons, and the word went round, "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them."
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." It was this teaching of Christ that called forth from the Pharisees such bitter hatred. That all were lost; that all were sinners and needed forgiveness; that both Jew and Gentile were included in the work of the Redeemer; that all must conform to the great moral standard,—this was contrary to their self-righteous ideas, and they hated the Great Teacher. They would not tolerate the teaching that did not distinguish them as a holy people, a royal nation.
Was the unbelief of the Jews excusable? Were they guiltless?—Christ's word to them made them responsible. He addressed them as responsible agents, setting before them their duty. He healed the sick, comforted the sorrowing, and relieved the distressed.
The dead obeyed his voice, and came forth to
life. But his grand work of mercy and compassion was unheeded. The rulers of Israel closed their hearts against their Messiah. Lessons and
appeals fell from his lips with so convincing a power that they were convicted
of the truth; but they resisted the impressions of the Holy Spirit, and Christ
said to them, Ye will not come to me, that ye might
In rejecting Christ, the Jewish nation put from them the blessings which he came to bring them. They bound themselves in everlasting chains of unbelief and resistance. They placed themselves in a position where the calamities predicted must come upon them, because they knew not God, nor Jesus Christ, whom he had sent.
God gives sufficient evidence to every soul. He does not promise to remove every doubt, but he gives a reason for faith. And sufficient evidence was given to the Jews.
Note: SDA’s have received the same sufficient evidence. End note.
On the day of Pentecost the message of the
apostle Peter was: "Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth,
a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God
did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: him being delivered
by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,
ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." "Ye
denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto
you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof
we are witnesses."
"I wot that through ignorance ye did it," said Peter; but this
ignorance did not excuse the action; for they had had great light. Peter says that had they known Jesus to be the Prince of life, they would not have crucified him. But why did they not know?—Because they did not choose to know. They had no interest to search and study, and their ignorance proved their eternal ruin. The ignorance of the Jews was inexcusable, and involved a fearful responsibility. They had had the strongest evidence on which to base their faith, and they were under obligation to God to accept the evidence he had given them. Their unbelief made them guilty of the blood of the only begotten Son of the infinite God.
Note: God says that His people perish for a
lack of knowledge. Most SDA’s think that have it all, and that is why most of
them have no interest to search and study the deeper things of the Word. That
is why they do not know that amongst them, men, maiden and little children will
experience another literal manifestation of Ezekiel 9, says Ellen White. End
The followers of Christ will experience the same kind of treatment that their Master received at the hands of men. Men who have had light and evidence will turn as determinedly from Christ as did the Jewish nation. Christ declares: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world; therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me."
"It is enough for the disciple," said Christ, "that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
There should be no reluctance on the part of man to make known the truth of the word of God, because his neighbors are not pleased with his difference of opinion. This will be a trial of faith, and there will be a temptation to shirk responsibilities because the duties presented are not agreeable. Your neighbors may choose to stand with those who do not love God with the whole heart, who selfishly serve their own interests; but is that sufficient reason why you should do the same? When the invitation is given, "Come; for all things are now ready," will you say, "I can not come to the gospel feast; I can not heed your invitation: my neighbors will think me foolish, and will ridicule me,
and I can not bear ridicule"? Will you say, "I must not
displease my neighbors; I must attend to my farm; I must work on the Sabbath: if I keep the commandments of God, I can not be in harmony with my neighbors"? Jesus says that those who slight the gospel invitation,—an invitation purchased at the cost of the life of the Son of God,—shall not taste of his supper.
The Lord is sending an invitation in our day. Who will gladly accept it? Who will venture to refuse?
"For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, [Isaiah 8:9 quoted] Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid." What is their fear?—It is that if they obey the commandments of God, they will be despised and ridiculed; if they come out from the world, they will be left to suffer want. Such a fear reveals unbelief in him who provides all our blessings. He sends the showers upon our lands, and permits the sun to shine, that vegetation may flourish. One word from God could withdraw the rain and cut off our supplies of food. With locust and pestilence he could destroy our crops. The Lord has borne long with the perversity of men; but he has their deeds written in the books of heaven, and will repay for their unrighteousness and disregard of his commandments.
Christ made no ostentatious claims to the Messiahship; he did not choose to take a position of royal dignity. But his appearance as a man among men caused the multitude to be easily swayed by the prejudice which leavened the whole nation. From the time when Christ worked the miracle to feed the five thousand, and refused to become their king, his
popularity began to wane; and he devoted himself more earnestly to the instruction of his disciples. To inculcate the truth—this was his work, this was his great burden. The twelve were far from being perfect in knowledge, and Christ would not leave them in uncertainty. His enemies sought to prejudice every mind possible. The open hostility of the Pharisees made it necessary for Christ to lay out, in clear, decided lines, the truths concerning himself, and to unmask the hypocrisy of his enemies.
As he neared the time of separation from his disciples, his teaching became more significant and mysterious to their minds. He presented himself before the people as the bread of life. The multitude were impressed with his teaching, large crowds followed him, and precious rays of light were shed upon them; but the disciples no longer held to the hope that the Jews, as a nation, would receive Christ. And now as he clearly defined his spiritual kingdom, and discouraged the idea of a temporal reign, the worldly minded among the people, and even among those who professed to be his disciples, turned from him.
As light is presented before us, we need to watch and pray, lest in the day of our opportunity we follow the example of the Jews; lest we receive the sayings of men rather than the truth, which would disturb our complacency; lest we refuse to live the life of Christ, and thus sacrifice the favor of God. Those who refuse to follow where Christ leads can not have the faith that works by love and purifies the soul.
When called to trial, they will yield up their faith in Christ as their personal Saviour, and become open transgressors of the commandments of God. They choose to stand under the banner of the first apostate,—the one who brought sin into the world. They choose to be one with transgressors, rather than be out of joint with their neighbors.
Those who, because they see difficulties in their pathway, and do not want to suffer inconvenience, turn away from the most ample evidence, crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Christ to open shame. By turning from the truth of God to a lie, they give proof that, had they lived in Christ's day, they would have treated the Saviour as did the unbelieving Jews. These will not in any sense be found excusable before God, before the angels of heaven, or before men.
Man's own state of mind does not relieve him of responsibility; for he need not be in that state of mind which will lead him to refuse light. The mind that resists truth will see everything in a perverted light. It will be fastened in the toils of the enemy, and will view things in the light of the enemy. Saul of Tarsus was an example of this.
He had no moral right to be an unbeliever. But he had chosen to accept the opinions of men rather than the counsel of God. He had the prophecies pointing to the Messiah, but preferred the sayings of the rabbis, the word of men. In his own wisdom, Saul knew not God, nor Jesus Christ, whom he had sent. Afterward, in repeating his experience, he declared that he thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Saul was honest in his unbelief. His was no pretension; [Note: There is pretension with most professing Christians; meaning dishonest unbelief] and Jesus arrested him in his career, and showed him on whose side he was working. The persecutor accepted the words of Christ, and was converted to faith in the Saviour.
Saul did not treat with indifference the unbelief that had led him to follow in Satan's track, and cost the suffering and death of the most precious of earth,—those of whom the world was not worthy. He did not plead that his error of judgment was excusable. Long after his conversion, he spoke of himself as the chief of sinners. "For I am the least of the apostles," he said, "that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." He did not make one excuse for his cruel course in following faithfully the
dictates of a conscience that was false.
No human being is excusable for having a conscience that will permit him to cause pain or suffering to any of God's children. Christ declares: "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!"
Those who believe in Jesus are very precious to him; and any injury done to them is as if done to Christ himself. He identifies his interest with that of suffering humanity; and those that would interpose between God and the souls who would do him service will be punished in proportion to
the light they have had.
End of Article