The prophet Amos once asked the question, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) The answer is obviously no, they can’t, simply because the two are walking in different directions. They are on different paths. As long as the two hold opposing views, they can never walk together in the same direction.
So, how is it that some Seventh-day Adventists are “walking” with those who are on a different path to us? How could that be possible?
Back in November 2016, we wrote about the blatant ecumenism displayed when Dr. Ganoune Diop, Director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church, attended the annual conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions in Rome, where they had an audience with Pope Francis.
We saw the photo revealing Diop shaking hands with Pope Francis. The question we asked back then was, “how can Seventh-day Adventists preach the three angels’ messages and call people out of Babylon when at the same time they are uniting with Babylon?”1http://www.formypeople.org/current-event/blatant-ecumenism/ Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
Shortly after, on 21 January 2017, Frontiera, an Italian news site ran an article titled, “Catholics and Adventists Praying for Christian Unity.”2http://www.frontierarieti.com/wordpress/cattolici-avventisti-preghiera-per-unita-cristiani/ This took place in the Rieti Seventh-day Adventist Church, Italy.
Jesus prayed that His followers might be united as one. “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21). In the book of Psalms, David also wrote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
Unity is a precious thing among Christ’s followers. It proves to the world that Jesus is the Saviour. But true unity can only exist in truth. In the context of praying for unity among His followers, Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17).
Catholicism does not possess the truth. It is bent on destroying the truth and leading as many as they can to destruction. And yet we see time and again Seventh-day Adventists who are happy to “unite” in Christian fellowship with Babylon.
What kind of unity could Catholics and Seventh-day Adventists be praying for? Would it be the unity Jesus prayed for? Would it be a unity in the truth? No, that would be impossible. And why is that? Because Rome never changes.
“How the Roman Church can clear herself from the charge of idolatry we cannot see. True, she professes to worship God through these images; so did the Israelites when they bowed before the golden calf. But the Lord's wrath was kindled against them, and many were slain. God pronounced them impious idolaters, and the same record is made today in the books of heaven against those who adore images of saints and so-called holy men. And this is the religion which Protestants are beginning to look upon with so much favor, and which will eventually be united with Protestantism. This union will not, however, be effected by a change in Catholicism; for Rome never changes. She claims infallibility. It is Protestantism that will change.” – The Review and Herald, June 1, 1886
We are seeing this prophecy being fulfilled right before our eyes. But how sad that some of our own are following the rest of Protestantism on their journey back to Rome. Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
It wasn’t by chance that Catholics and Seventh-day Adventists united to pray for Christian unity on this occasion. The time of this event happened to coincide with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an annual event that is observed in the northern hemisphere between the 18th and 25th of January. It is an international Christian ecumenical observance that originated in 1908 in part by Franciscan Paul Wattson, to cover the days between the Catholic feasts of St Peter and St Paul and received the “blessing” of Pope Pius X.
The theme for the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was, “Reconciliation: The love of Christ compels us.” According to the Vatican’s website, the resources used for the week of prayer were jointly prepared and published by The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and The Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches. On the Vatican’s website, it notes:
“When the German national planning committee met in the autumn of 2014, it quickly became clear that the materials for this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity would need to have two accents: on the one hand, there should be a celebration of God’s love and grace, the “justification of humanity through grace alone”, reflecting the main concern of the churches marked by Martin Luther’s Reformation. On the other hand, the materials should also recognize the pain of the subsequent deep divisions which afflicted the Church, openly name the guilt, and offer an opportunity to take steps toward reconciliation. Ultimately it was Pope Francis’ 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) which provided the theme for this year, when it used the quote: “The Love of Christ Compels Us” (Paragraph 9). With this scripture verse (2 Cor 5:14), taken in the context of the entire fifth chapter of the second letter to the Corinthians, the German committee formulated the theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2017.”3http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/weeks-prayer-doc/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20160531_week-prayer-2017_en.html
The purpose of the week of prayer for 2017 was twofold. It was designed to make Protestants think that Catholicism now accepts Luther’s so called “main concern” justification by grace alone, and secondly to make Protestants feel guilty about the deep division and pain the reformation brought to the Catholic Church, and “take steps toward reconciliation.” The steps are outlined in the resources, which we will get to in a moment.
But first, we need to ask the question. Was it a coincidence that the Vatican and World Counsel of Churches planned to have Christians focus on reconciliation in a year that marked the 500th anniversary of the Protestant reformation? For Rome to rule the world again, it needs to have people forget why the reformation began in the first place.
According to the Resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2017, Martin Luther only “raised concerns about what he saw as abuses in the Church of his time.”4Ibid. It further notes, “Separating that which is polemical from the theological insights of the Reformation, Catholics are now able to hear Luther’s challenge for the Church of today, recognising him as a ‘witness to the gospel’ (From Conflict to Communion 29). And so after centuries of mutual condemnations and vilification, in 2017 Lutheran and Catholic Christians will for the first time commemorate together the beginning of the Reformation.”5http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/weeks-prayer-doc/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20160531_week-prayer-2017_en.html
By reducing the reformation to simply “concerns about what he [Luther] saw as abuses in the church of his time” the Papacy has effectively destroyed any valid reason for the reformation, hence the need for Protestants to “openly name the guilt” of division and ask for forgiveness.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we should have an understanding of the true issues surrounding the Protestant reformation. In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the church door of Wittenberg as a protest against the selling of indulgences. Notice the following from The Great Controversy:
“The Roman Church had made merchandise of the grace of God. The tables of the money-changers (Matthew 21:12) were set up beside her altars, and the air resounded with the shouts of buyers and sellers. Under the plea of raising funds for the erection of St. Peter's Church at Rome, indulgences for sin were publicly offered for sale by the authority of the pope. By the price of crime a temple was to be built up for God's worship--the cornerstone laid with the wages of iniquity! But the very means adopted for Rome's aggrandizement provoked the deadliest blow to her power and greatness. It was this that aroused the most determined and successful of the enemies of popery, and led to the battle which shook the papal throne and jostled the triple crown upon the pontiff's head.” The Great Controversy, p. 127
In response to this, the Catholic Church says on its website, Catholic Answers: “The Catholic Church does not now nor has it ever approved the sale of indulgences. This is to be distinguished from the undeniable fact that individual Catholics (perhaps the best known of them being the German Dominican Johann Tetzel [1465-1519]) did sell indulgences--but in doing so they acted contrary to explicit Church regulations. This practice is utterly opposed to the Catholic Church's teaching on indulgences, and it cannot be regarded as a teaching or practice of the Church.”6https://www.catholic.com/qa/does-the-catholic-church-still-sell-indulgences
This is of course a lie. The history books testify to this. The fact that the Pope sent his legate to make Luther recant or else be brought back to Rome for discipline, proves the sale of indulgences for the remission of sin was approved by the Pope. Notice the following:
“Upon arriving at Augsburg, Luther immediately informed the pope's legate that he was in the city. The legate heard the news with joy. He felt assured that the troublesome heretic who was setting the whole world astir was now in his power, and determined that he should not leave Augsburg as he had entered. … The legate commended Luther's humility, and at once made known what was expected of him: "First, you must return to your duty. You must acknowledge your faults, and retract your errors, your propositions, and sermons. Secondly, you must promise to abstain from propagating your opinions. And thirdly, you must engage to be more discreet, and avoid everything that may grieve or disturb the church." – The Signs of the Times, July 12, 1883
Notice the argument used against Luther now is the same as back then. He was propagating his own opinions. Continuing on, Ellen White writes:
“Luther then asked to be informed wherein he had erred. With an air of condescension, the cardinal made answer: "Two propositions are put forward by you that you must, before all, retract. First, the treasure of indulgences does not consist of the merits and sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, the man who receives the holy sacrament must have faith in the grace offered to him." If generally received, these propositions would be fatal to the commerce of Rome, overturning the tables of the money-changers, and driving out of the temple those who made merchandise of the grace of salvation.” The Signs of the Times, July 12, 1883
The reformation started because the Catholic Church had obscured the truth of God’s salvation and trusted in the Pope and tradition more than the Word of God. Rome teaches that salvation is by God’s grace, and Protestants and some Seventh-day Adventists think Rome has changed. Not so. It has always taught salvation is by God’s grace. “As Tetzel entered a town, a messenger went before him, announcing: 'The grace of God and of the holy father is at your gates.' ” – The Great Controversy, p. 127. The grace here referred to was the indulgences they could buy.
The difference between Protestants and Catholics is how grace is received. Luther and the reformers taught that grace was received by faith alone. Nothing we can do will sway God to bestow on us His grace. The Catholic Church teaches faith alone is not enough to procure it. One can only receive it by faith and works.
The Catholic Church has refuted the arguments Luther made 500 years ago and Protestantism accepts their answers without any questions.
In accordance with the 2017 week of prayer, the Vatican and World Council of Churches designed the order of service for participating churches to get them to acknowledge the “sin” of separating from the Catholic Church. Under section II titled, “Divided by our Sins (Confession)”, it notes:
“Let us confess our sins and pray for forgiveness and healing for the wounds which have resulted from our divisions. As we name these sins we will see how they become a wall which divides us. … We experience renewal through your Holy Spirit, and yet we still construct walls that divide us, walls which hinder community and unity. We bring before you now the stones with which we erect our walls and pray for your forgiveness and healing.”7http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/weeks-prayer-doc/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20160531_week-prayer-2017_en.html
The congregation is then to form a wall of blocks representing stones of a wall. Each block represents a sin that has been instrumental in forming walls that have divided Catholics and Protestants. When each block is put in place, the congregation is to pray for forgiveness of this “sin”. These sins are:
- Lack of love
- Hate and contempt
- False accusation
- Broken communion
- Religious wars
- Abuse of power
The congregation then finishes its prayer with, “Lord, our God, look upon this wall that we have built, which separates us from you and from one another. Forgive us our sins. Heal us. Help us to overcome all walls of division and make us one in you.”8Ibid.
As you will notice, the symbolic act of building this wall of division was to convince church participants that the reformation and the subsequent division between Catholics and Protestants is something that needs repenting of. This was the primary purpose of the 2017 week of prayer.
Why, then, would any Seventh-day Adventist Church want to participate in efforts that are designed to heal the Papacy’s deadly wound? During this meeting in a Seventh-day Adventist Church, the local Roman Catholic Bishop, Domenico Pompili, head of the Catholic Diocese in Rieti was invited to speak to the congregation. Why would a Seventh-day Adventist Church and its pastor allow a Catholic priest to teach them in regards to Christian unity?
We are told in the news report that the participants “wanted to find ourselves as children beyond the doctrinal differences and divisions that remain…”9http://www.frontierarieti.com/wordpress/cattolici-avventisti-preghiera-per-unita-cristiani/ It then finished its report by noting, “At the end, we took each other by the hand, forming a circle, in raising the concluding prayer to the Father of whom we all feel children and brothers among them.”
The message was clear. Doctrine is not important anymore. There may be differences of doctrine between us, but let’s not allow that to divide us. We are all children of God, and we are all on the same path. Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Obviously in this case, the Seventh-day Adventists and Catholics are in agreement.
Sadly, the path that leads to unity with Rome leads to perdition. The second angel’s message warns: “And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” (Revelation 14:8) And the fourth angel which lightens the whole world declares, “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4)
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been commissioned to declare the sins of Babylon and call people out of it. But we are not being obedient to our calling. Instead, some of us are standing with Babylon and, by this witness, are declaring there is no need to flee Babylon.
This was not the first time the Rieti Seventh-day Adventist Church participated in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It also participated in the week of prayer in 2016. Frontiera labelled it, “Christian Unity: three days of common prayer for Catholics, Orthodox and Adventists.”10http://www.frontierarieti.com/wordpress/unita-dei-cristiani-tre-giorni-di-preghiera-comune-per-cattolici-ortodossi-e-avventisti/
If this was one isolated incident, we might be forgiven for brushing it aside. But this is a growing trend within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We have documented much of this in episode 7 of the Apostasy in Our Midst series.
In another recent event, on October 31, 2017, exactly 500 years after the Reformation began, pastor Ted Wilson, General Conference president, with his wife and Mikhail Kaminsky, president of the Euro-Asian Division of the Adventist Church, and an Adventist choir, attended an ecumenical event in Russia to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation.
The event was attended by Protestant, Russian Orthodox, Islamic, Roman Catholic and political figures. According to the Russian Adventist site, Mikhail Kaminsky said “It was interesting to see that people from different walks of life find something in common. Everyone spoke about the importance of the Word of God.”11http://adventist.ru/2017/11/09/rossiyskie-protestantyi-otprazdnovali-500-letie-reformatsii-v-dome-pashkova/ One has to wonder how the Islamic faith shares a common interest in the Bible? And what about the Catholic Bible and their added books of the Apocrypha? Vague statements like this helps no one, especially at an event which was celebrating the reformation.
According to Adventist News, Pastor Wilson addressed 200 of the leaders in a short speech and said, “It is a great privilege on this day 500 years after the Reformation began, when there seem to be so much instability and challenges in the world, to continue the reformation in our own hearts.”12https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2017-11-01/ted-wilson-points-russian-political-and-religious-leaders-to-bible/ He then noted, “the Seventh-day Adventist Church was grateful for the foundations of the Reformation, and he singled out several principles as especially important: only the Bible, salvation only by faith in Jesus, Christ is the only mediator, eternal life only through the grace of Jesus, and to God only be the glory.”
It is commendable that Wilson would point out the five solas (scripture alone, faith alone, Christ alone, grace alone, and glory to God alone) to those present, but that is not the main focus of the message we have been commissioned to give. Our calling is to preach the three angels’ message whenever we get an opportunity:
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. The three angels of Revelation 14 represent the people who accept the light of God's messages and go forth as His agents to sound the warning throughout the length and breadth of the earth. … But very few of those who have received the light are doing the work entrusted to their hands. There are a few men of unswerving fidelity who do not study ease, convenience, or life itself, who push their way wherever they can find an opening to press the light of truth and vindicate the holy law of God. But the sins that control the world have come into the churches, and into the hearts of those who claim to be God's peculiar people. Many who have received the light exert an influence to quiet the fears of worldlings and formal professors.” - Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 456
Did Pastor Wilson, as a man with unswerving fidelity, find an opening to press the light of the three angels’ messages while in Moscow? According to his Facebook page, yes.
“It was at this program where Pastor Wilson spoke and was able to share our obligation to proclaim the three angels' messages of Revelation 14, to uphold the five pillars of the Protestant Reformation, indicating that we are to continue the Protestant Reformation.”13https://www.facebook.com/PastorTedWilson/posts/1570107129711840
So what did Pastor Wilson share in relation to the three angels’ messages? Adventist News reports, “Keeping his focus on church mission, Wilson also emphasized practical Christianity and the three angels’ messages in his remarks at a Moscow forum… Wilson said that those Reformation truths [five solas] are proclaimed by sharing the three angels’ messages of Christ’s soon coming in Revelation 14. The very heart of the three angels’ messages is righteousness, the justification of Christ.”14https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2017-11-01/ted-wilson-points-russian-political-and-religious-leaders-to-bible/
So, is this what it now means to proclaim the three angels’ messages? Is a quick reference to the principles of Scripture alone, faith alone, Christ alone, grace alone, glory to God alone and the justification of Christ fulfilling our mission? No, it’s not! To proclaim the three angels’ messages is to call attention to the everlasting gospel, which is righteousness by faith; the judgment, which began in 1844; to worship God who created this world in six literal days; the Sabbath and the law of God; the second coming of Christ; the fall of Babylon; and the mark of the beast.
To Pastor Wilson, the reformation seems to be simply a heart issue. But for Luther and the reformers, it was a protest against the errors and evils of the Roman Catholic Church, which often led to persecution and death. One would think if you were going to commemorate the reformation, and you had just one opportunity to give a message from God, you would at least take the opportunity to remind the people what the protest was all about.
We cannot judge Pastor Wilson’s motive for joining this celebration of lip service to the reformation, but in the light of a growing trend within the Seventh-day Church to unite with Babylon and her daughters, doesn’t it promote the idea of ecumenism? After all, if the president is doing it, it can’t be so bad, can it?
We began this article by repeating a question we asked when Diop met with the Pope: “How can Seventh-day Adventists preach the three angels’ messages and call people out of Babylon when at the same time they are uniting with Babylon?” The answer is plainly revealed by Pastor Wilson’s visit to Moscow. We can’t. His preaching of the three angels’ messages was far from what God has called us to proclaim. We cannot unite with those who do not accept the truths of God’s word and then call them out. Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
God has warned us not to yoke up with those in darkness. Paul wrote, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
It is time for us as God’s people to start doing the work we have been called to do. If we are ever going to fulfil this work, we cannot have fellowship and communion with those whom we are called to witness to. Rome and the Protestant churches are walking on a downward path to destruction. If we choose to join them, our lives, too, will end in destruction. Can two walk together, except they be agreed?