The Banner of Our Faith
“One thing is certain: Those Seventh-day Adventists who take their stand under Satan’s banner will first give up their faith in the warnings and reproofs contained in the Testimonies of God’s Spirit.” [Last Day Events, page 177]
his is another one of those rare articles that deals primarily with the Seventh-day Adventist perspective. As such, it may not have much import for those who are not yet under the conviction that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was an appointed conduit of God’s revelation. For those who do and have believed this, however, the following has great relevance in light of current events. I encourage those who are drawing near to what we believe to be the Church of Christ to read and understand.
Recently, on a website run by former SDAs (some of whom claim to still be Adventists “spiritually,” but have surrendered the actual title) there was a discussion about whether or not the name that God has given His people [Selected Messages Book 2, p. 384] is still applicable in these last days.
The main thrust of the argument of those in favor of abandoning the name Seventh-day Adventist may be broken down as follows:
1) God gave the name “Seventh-day Adventist” to his people in the 1860s.
2) The Seventh-day Adventist Church apostatized, thus ruining that name.
3) The remnant will therefore give up that name to avoid being confused with the apostate organization.
4) Anyone who keeps the name does so either out of ignorance, or because they have made an “idol” or a “god” out of the title.
With the first two of these points, the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church entirely agrees. With the third and fourth, we do not (as evidenced by the very name we bear). The Scriptures declare to those who had fallen away, “And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my Chosen: for the Lord GOD shall slay thee, and call His servants by another name.” (Isa 65:15)
Though the verse says that the tarnished name is left unto the Chosen, one of the arguments made by those who believe that the name is merely an “outward” sign is this: they say that in every age a new people has been called out of a previously fallen Church; and having done so, they have taken a new name. Whereas this is true to a degree, it must be understood clearly that none of the previous names have ever been abandoned. To be sure, Protestants will no longer call themselves “Catholic” for fear of confusion, but neither of these titles was explicitly given by an inspired source. The Scriptures tell us, “And the vessel that He made of clay was marred in the hand of the Potter; so He made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the Potter to make it.” (Jer 18:4) The Hebrew term for “another” reveals the principle clearly. The word is acher which means “following,” “further,” or “different.” The original name is left to the faithful as “Seventh-day Adventist,” regardless of the fact that another, further name may be added. It is not a new name to replace the old, but to further distinguish the Chosen in the present age.
In short, All the names that were given by means of God’s messengers directly have been retained: Sons of God, (Gen 6:2, 1John 3:2) Israel, (Gen 32:28, Eph 2:12) Christian, (Acts 26:28, 1Pet 4:16) and Seventh-day Adventist. [2SM 384, 1T 224] It is true that a new primary name often supplants the old, but even here the name SDA has been declared to be unique by the very messenger through which it has come:
“No name which we can take will be appropriate but that which accords with our profession and expresses our faith and marks us a peculiar people. The name Seventh-day Adventist is a standing rebuke to the Protestant world. Here is the line of distinction between the worshipers of God and those who worship the beast and receive his mark. The great conflict is between the commandments of God and the requirements of the beast. It is because the saints are keeping all ten of the commandments that the dragon makes war upon them. If they will lower the standard and yield the peculiarities of their faith, the dragon will be at peace; but they excite his ire because they have dared to raise the standard and unfurl their banner in opposition to the Protestant world, who are worshiping the institution of papacy.” [Testimonies for the Church Volume One, page 223]
The above statement was made of no name in the past given to Yahweh’s people; it was not tied to any condition, (including apostasy) nor is its continuing validity directly dependent upon the actions of the world, such as was the case with various conditional prophecies to be found in both the Bible and the writings of Mrs. White.
In no age before this one has the name of an organization had such significance. In ages past Israel was the only nation worshipping Yahweh exclusively. Christians were the only direct followers of Christ. There was no potential for confusion. But now? In these last days things are very different! Many groups claim to be worshippers of Yahweh. Many groups claim to be Christian, and… many groups claim to be Seventh-day Adventist. In no age before this one has Satan’s wrath been aroused against the name of a people because of their name. Israel was persecuted by the surrounding nations because of its beliefs. Christians were martyred because of their beliefs.
In these last days, faithful Seventh-day Adventists (not affiliated with the General Conference) are being ridiculed and persecuted (in the courts of law and public opinion), not only because of their beliefs, but because one of their beliefs is that God has given them their distinctive name. Some have said, “You can give up the name ‘Seventh-day Adventist’ and retain your faith.” This is not true if we believe the following: that God has given us that name, that God has promised to protect His people, and that “no name which we can take will be appropriate but that which accords with our profession and expresses our faith and marks us a peculiar people,” that name being identified by the instruments through which that Church was founded. It is, indeed, a matter of faith.
That having been said, the name of itself is not the issue. It was never the issue, and those who seek to excuse their own compromises by saying that those who wish to remain faithful to God in this way are making an idol or god of the name itself are not being truthful in their assessment.
Does keeping the Sabbath save a man? No.
Does practicing dress or health reform lead to salvation? No.
I do not believe many people will disagree with the two replies given above. Yet those who are saved will, because they are filled with the Holy Spirit, be both Sabbath keepers and practitioners of the reforms outlined in the Bible and re-stated by our forerunners in the faith. If, however, we make the claim, “Those who are saved will be gathered together as one, according to the prayer of Christ in John 17, and that name will consist of the term ‘Seventh-day Adventist’ according to the writings of Ellen White, whom we consider to be a prophet,” the above two ideas are forgotten, and the accusation comes forth, “So you are saying we MUST take that name, or we will be lost.”
The things Yahweh gives His people are gifts, not burdens. It is true that at times we must bear a load, and a shameful title. Remember, the names “Israel,” and “Christian” have been badly tarnished; yet if someone puts a gun to my head and says, “Renounce that you are a Christian,” I cannot do it. Similarly, if someone puts a gun to my head (or a lawsuit against my name) and says, “Renounce that you are a Seventh-day Adventist,” suddenly the separatists want to change the rules. This is a double standard; this is hypocrisy! Peter says, “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (1Pet 4:16) Some were ashamed, not of the beliefs, but of the name itself… and the apostle encouraged them that, even should this name be dragged through the mud, God honored it. Let him glorify God on this behalf.
It is true that there may be confusion if we identify ourselves as SDAs while being separate from the Conference. This is not, however, an excuse to surrender the instructions of Heaven. There is as much, if not more, potential for confusion by calling one’s self a Christian, a “Spiritual Jew,” an Adventist Believer, a “member of the Remnant Church,” etc. There is a potential for confusion with ANY name a sincere believer may take in these wicked times. The “confusion” potential is one of the worst objections one can raise to doing anything worthwhile under these dark conditions.
Some say, “If we do not give up the name, even if we do not confuse people, we may lay a stumbling block before them due to their (perhaps justified) preconceptions about Adventism.”
Solomon, the wisest man on earth, reasoned, “If I do not get horses from Egypt and strengthen my armies, I will be attacked by the heathen.”
We cannot fault Solomon for his wisdom, and we cannot fault the separatists for theirs. It’s a very clever argument. What we can fault them both for is disobedience and a lack of faith. Human reasoning, no matter how good and sound it appears, can never take the place of divine instruction.
The name “Seventh-day Adventist” is not an idol to the sincere believer; it is who we are. We are not Christians doing “Adventist” things; we are Seventh Day Adventist Christians, and to say, “Give up the name and continue to teach the truth” makes absolutely no sense. The TRUTH is that God gave us the name. The TRUTH is that no other name is appropriate for us to take. The TRUTH is easily found by asking a simple question: Who is telling believers to surrender the name Seventh-day Adventist so that “the dragon will be at peace?”
Let us make a simple chart:
Those who say, “Surrender the name Seventh-day Adventist”
Spiritual Babylon: “The SDA Church is not in the truth. No one group has all the light anyway.”
The World: “The Conference has protected this name by means of civil law. You have no right to it.”
The First Beast: “The [Roman] Catholic Church is the true church; you should not even be Protestants.”
The Second Beast: “We will sue all groups who do not belong to the General Conference SDA organization, on their behalf, if these groups retain that name.”
The Clueless: “It doesn’t matter what you call yourself, God looks only on the inside.”*
The Fearful: “I am praying I have enough faith to go to jail (if I have to) for the commandments; I’m not going to jail for a name!”
The Compromising: “If we don’t give up the name SDA we might confuse people, and we might have a harder time sharing the TRUTH with them. We can still be Adventists on the inside.”
The Finger Pointers: “The SDA name has been tarnished; I don’t want to be associated with it.”
*This ignores the fact that the motive for keeping or abandoning divine instructions (or for doing anything as a Christian – or worldling, for that matter) is very much an “inside” issue. (James 2:18)
I do not find in that chart anyone I would consider a divine authority. It is not an exhaustive list, to be sure, but neither would I listen to anyone in sympathy with any of these groups, they are motivated by either false doctrines or outright selfishness. This is not an ad hominem argument either; it is an exposition of the clearly and openly expressed motives behind the reasons given for disobeying Yahweh’s instructions. What we desire, or what we think “might” happen, has no bearing on what the Majesty of Heaven has positively directed His people to do. This should be obvious. Often, sadly, it is not.
There were some in Babylon who may well have said to the three Hebrew worthies, “Bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image. Your commandment does not actually say never to bend your bodies in front of a statue; you can just pretend to worship it, and then teach those in the country about the TRUTH, the character of Yahweh.”
What would the quality of their message be if they surrendered their outward integrity? What would the message of the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church be if we were to say, “Oh, we understand that it’s just a name, and so even though we have given up the title, we still keep the message of Adventism.” This is foolishness; this is short-sighted theology. The name “Seventh Day Adventist,” when it is kept by faithful believers in its message, stands for integrity. It is a banner of faith.
Speaking of which, there is one quote that merits some discussion:
“The banner of the third angel has inscribed upon it, ‘The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.’ Our institutions have taken a name which sets forth the character of our faith, and of this name we are never to be ashamed. I have been shown that this name means much, and in adopting it we have followed the light given us from heaven. Let us hear what the Lord saith, [Ex. 31:12-13, 17, quoted].
“A company was presented before me under the name of Seventh-day Adventists, who were advising that the banner or sign which makes us a distinctive people should not be held out so strikingly; for they claimed it was not the best policy in securing success to our institutions. This distinctive banner is to be borne through the world to the close of probation. In describing the remnant people of God, John says, ‘Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus’ [Rev. 14:12]. This is the law and the gospel. The world and the churches are uniting in harmony in transgressing the law of God, in tearing away God's memorial, and in exalting a sabbath that bears the signature of the man of sin. But the Sabbath of the Lord thy God is to be a sign to show the difference between the obedient and the disobedient. I saw some reaching out their hands to remove the banner, and to obscure its significance.” [Manuscript Releases Volume Thirteen, pp. 68, 69]
We have used this to show inspiration’s instructions regarding the name and beliefs of Seventh-day Adventism for some time now. Some, however, have tried to undermine the force of the above quotation on two main fronts.
a) They claim that the name was taken by the “organizations” only, and had no real value for the lay members of the Church.
b) They claim that since the name “Seventh day Adventist” was not specifically inscribed on the banner, it is not the “name” to which Mrs. White was referring.
Any faithful student of the Bible, Ellen White’s writings, and Adventist history can easily and thoroughly defeat both of these objections. The first contention, that the name had no value for the lay people, is particularly easy to expose as incorrect.
In the quote itself, Mrs. White did not say, “Our institutions have taken a name which sets forth the character of our faith, and of this name they are never to be ashamed.” Instead, the quote reads, “Our institutions have taken a name which sets forth the character of our faith, and of this name we are never to be ashamed.” (emphasis added) Notice that it is “we,” the members, and not the organizations, that are charged with the responsibility of upholding that name (not the banner, mind you, the name associated with it, as I will show below).
Furthermore we read in other places, “We have come to a time when God has been greatly dishonored. Those who have long known our belief, and what we teach, have been surprised by the statement that the Battle Creek Sanitarium is not denominational. No one has the right to make this statement. It does not bear the witness that God wishes His people to bear before men and angels. In the name of the Lord we are to identify ourselves as Seventh-day Adventists. If any one among us is ashamed of our colors, and wishes to stand under another banner, let him do so as a private individual, not as a representative of Seventh-day Adventist medical missionary work.” [Battle Creek Letters, page 52]
Notice that while some were surprised by the statement that the “organization” was non-denominational, because the Church members were not holding up “the banner” as strongly as it should have been upheld, she says, “If any ONE among us is ashamed of our colors…” This is speaking to individuals. It also identifies the name represented by, and associated with, the banner, which leads us to the second statement.
b) They claim that since the name “Seventh day Adventist” was not specifically inscribed on the banner, it is not the “name” to which Mrs. White was referring.
It is true that the banner is not “inscribed” with the name “Seventh day Adventist.” Although this is a common objection to our position, this fact is entirely immaterial, for our argument is not that the banner has the name written on it. Our argument (supported by the other quotes given in this essay) is that the name “Seventh Day Adventist” is the only name capable of properly representing that banner, which banner is to be borne to the close of probation. We read, “In the power and strength and name of the Lord God of Israel, I stand before you and say, I know in whom I have believed. I know that we have the truth in regard to the three messages. I hide myself in Jesus. I am a laborer together with God, to give the message of warning, of reproof, of encouragement, holding aloft the banner on which is inscribed our message: ‘The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.’” [Manuscript Releases Volume Nine, page 133]
The banner is not a physical object; it is a spiritual construct. It consists of nothing that may be “read” by human eyes, just as the “seal of God” is not a physical seal; [MR1 249, 250] therefore to say that Mrs. White’s quote has nothing to do with the name God has given his people because the words are not “inscribed” on an invisible banner is a flawed argument from the beginning. The entire passage is about the name of the Church, as the context makes abundantly clear.
Furthermore, what is “inscribed” on the banner is our message, not our name. Yet “no name [other than Seventh Day Adventist] is appropriate” to be taken by the bearers of that message, as the author is explicit to point out elsewhere and on numerous other occasions. This is seen clearly in the various testimonies written by Ellen White, from which she said that unbelievers would depart in the last days. Let us not be counted among them. The implications of the quote from Manuscript Releases 13 are far too clear to be honestly avoided by those listed in the table of dissenters I have provided. While the name is not written on the banner, the name is given to those who bear the banner.
Our message (not our name) is written ON the banner, and it is the distinctive message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church; therefore, if the banner is to be borne to the close of probation, those who are “under the name of Seventh-day Adventists,” (taken from the same quote) are the only ones qualified to bear it. Were there not other (worldly and apostate) reasons for surrendering the name, this fact could be easily acknowledged. There was absolutely no controversy over the meaning of that quotation in any writings of our Adventist forerunners that I have read… until it became “fashionable” to call one’s self by some other human-inspired title.
Why are only those bearing the name “Seventh-day Adventist” capable of properly bearing a banner inscribed with the words, “The Commandments of God and The Faith of Jesus?” The answer is simple. One of the “commandments of God” is that we are not to worship idols. If we give up the name that Divine inspiration has given us because of human reasoning, the dictates of Babylon, the inducements of the world, power of the first or second beast, the arguments of the separatists, or the clueless, or the faithless, we will have bowed to an idol. We will have seen an instruction where none has existed (like those who claim that there was a spiritual commandment given to change the Sabbath to Sunday) and will have NO faith worth sharing. There will be no banner to bear that has been left untainted by compromise and hypocrisy.
To make sure that none have missed an important factor, the claim that Ellen White does not clearly identify the “banner” that is to be borne to the close of probation with the name “Seventh Day Adventist” is an absolute falsehood. To repeat a portion of an earlier quote, in the very context of names, institutions and individuals, “In the name of the Lord we are to identify ourselves as Seventh-day Adventists. If any one among us is ashamed of our colors, and wishes to stand under another banner, let him do so as a private individual, not as a representative of Seventh-day Adventist medical missionary work. [an organization that had chosen that name].” [Battle Creek Letters, page 52, emphasis added]
Of course, some may look at that and say, “Well, the ‘colors’ aren’t the name ‘Seventh-day Adventist’ either.” This would be straw-clutching; “in the name of the Lord,” we have been told what our only appropriate name can be, and the title we must use to identify ourselves: these are our colors.
I conclude thus: The issue is not about the name, and (to repeat) it never was. The issue is about the faith of Jesus. Faith, however, is not to be confused with one’s private interpretation of Heaven’s instructions. Faith is what Christ gives us to enable us to live the sanctified life. Faith is what allows us to grasp salvation. Faith is the issue in all controversies regarding Christ’s relationship to His people and to the world. Faith is what the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church promotes, and it is this same faith that has led us to keep the 7th day Sabbath in both letter and spirit. It is this same faith that has led us to keep the distinctive Adventist doctrines. It is this same faith that has led us to keep the lifestyle outlined in Scripture as “holy.” It is this same faith that has led us to retain the banner (both the message and the name associated with it) given to us by the Almighty because of His great love for His Redeemed.
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’” (Acts 5:29)
“It is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience... Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me. Amen.” [Martin Luther before the Diet of Worms, quoted by D’aubigné in History of The Reformation, p. 245]