Sabbath, October 12, 2013

“Many have tried neutrality in a crisis, but they have failed in their purpose. No one can maintain a neutral ground. Those who endeavor to do this will fulfill Christ’s words, ‘No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon’ (chap. 6:24). Those who begin their Christian life by being half and half, whatever may be their intentions, will at last be found enlisted on the enemy’s side.” –This Day with God, p. 240.

The chief priests question Jesus

1. Revealing their opposition to His actions in driving the merchants from the temple court, what intimidating question did the chief priests and elders ask Jesus? Were they willing to accept His answer?

Matthew 21:23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?

“Repairing to the temple where He was teaching, they proceeded to question Him: ‘By what authority doest Thou these things? and who gave Thee this authority?’ They expected Him to claim that His authority was from God. Such an assertion they intended to deny.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 593.

A question directed to the conscience

2. Did the Lord answer their question directly, as He had done many times before? Knowing their intentions, what serious, thoughtful question did He ask them?

Mark 11:29, 30 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.

“But Jesus met them with a question apparently pertaining to another subject, and He made His reply to them conditional on their answering this question. ‘The baptism of John,’ He said, ‘whence was it? from heaven, or of men?’ ” –The Desire of Ages, p. 593.

Inconsistent reasoning

3. Was Jesus’ question easy for the leaders to answer? What were the consequences if they answered positively?

Mark 11:31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?

“The priests saw that they were in a dilemma from which no sophistry could extricate them. If they said that John’s baptism was from heaven, their inconsistency would be made apparent. Christ would say, Why have ye not then believed on him? John had testified of Christ, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ John 1:29. If the priests believed John’s testimony, how could they deny the Messiahship of Christ?” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 593, 594.

“ ‘He that loveth his life shall lose it’ (John 12:25). When a man loses the shield of a good conscience, he knows that he has lost the cooperation of heavenly angels. God is not working in him. Another spirit inspires him. And to be an apostate, a traitor to the cause of God, is much more serious than death; it means the loss of eternal life.” –(Manuscript 87, August 19, 1897, “All That Will Live Godly in Christ Jesus Shall Suffer Persecution”) This Day with God, p. 240.

4. Was the opposite answer a possible one for them? What would have been the consequences if they had denied the heavenly origin of John’s ministry and baptism?

Mark 11:32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.

“If they declared their real belief, that John’s ministry was of men, they would bring upon themselves a storm of indignation; for the people believed John to be a prophet.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 593.

5. Caught in a dilemma, what calculated answer did they give? Were they sincere in their answer?

Luke 20:7 And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was.

John 9:29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.

James 1:8. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

“With intense interest the multitude awaited the decision. They knew that the priests had professed to accept the ministry of John, and they expected them to acknowledge without a question that he was sent from God. But after conferring secretly together, the priests decided not to commit themselves. Hypocritically professing ignorance, they said, ‘We cannot tell.’ ‘Neither tell I you,’ said Christ, ‘by what authority I do these things.’ ” –The Desire of Ages, p. 594.

Thought question: Could the Lord bless them in such lack of honesty?

“There are many who would serve Christ provided they could serve themselves also. But this cannot be. The Lord will not accept cowards in His army. There can be no dissembling. Christ’s followers must stand ready to serve Him at all times and in every way that may be required. God will accept only true-hearted, level-headed, all-round men. ‘He that is not with Me is against Me,’ Christ declared; ‘and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad.’ Matthew 12:30.” –This Day with God, p. 240.

The result of compromise

6. In what other serious circumstances did the people of Israel take no clear position? What demonstrates Lukewarmness and neutrality when the Lord has clearly revealed the truth?

1 Kings 18:21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

Revelation 3:15, 16 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art Lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

“What astonishing deception and fearful blindness had, like a dark cloud, covered Israel! This blindness and apostasy had not closed about them suddenly; it had come upon them gradually as they had not heeded the word of reproof and warning which the Lord had sent to them because of their pride and their sins. And now, in this fearful crisis, in the presence of the idolatrous priests and the apostate king, they remained neutral. If God abhors one sin above another, of which His people are guilty, it is doing nothing in case of an emergency. Indifference and neutrality in a religious crisis is regarded of God as a grievous crime and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 280, 281.

7. Having revealed their lack of sincerity and unwillingness to accept the truth, what did Jesus answer the priests?

Luke 20:8 And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.

“Scribes, priests, and rulers were all silenced. Baffled and disappointed, they stood with lowering brows, not daring to press further questions upon Christ. By their cowardice and indecision they had in a great measure forfeited the respect of the people, who now stood by, amused to see these proud, self-righteous men defeated.

“All these sayings and doings of Christ were important, and their influence was to be felt in an ever-increasing degree after His crucifixion and ascension. Many of those who had anxiously awaited the result of the questioning of Jesus were finally to become His disciples, first drawn toward Him by His words on that eventful day. The scene in the temple court was never to fade from their minds. The contrast between Jesus and the high priest as they talked together was Marked… Many of those who witnessed the words and deeds of Jesus in the temple from that time enshrined Him in their hearts as a prophet of God. But as the popular feeling turned in His favor, the hatred of the priests toward Jesus increased. The wisdom by which He escaped the snares set for His feet, being a new evidence of His divinity, added fuel to their wrath.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 594.

For meditation

“Double minded men and women are Satan’s best allies. Whatever favorable opinion they may have of themselves, they are dissemblers. All who are loyal to God and the truth must stand firmly for the right because it is right. To yoke up with those that are unconsecrated and yet be loyal to the truth, is simply an impossibility. We cannot unite with those who are serving themselves, who are working on worldly plans, and not lose our connection with the heavenly Counsellor. We may recover ourselves from the snare of the enemy, but we are bruised and wounded, and our experience is dwarfed. ‘Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God’ (James 4:4).” –This Day with God, p. 240.