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A Call to Complete Ministry

Dr. Thomas Jackson

Fourteen verses of the Old Testament are pointed to in the Spirit of Prophecy Writings as being especially pertinent to Adventist spiritual living and last-day witness. They are found in Isaiah 58 and among the numerous references to these in the Ellen G. White Writings, we will refer to three: 

“I cannot too strongly urge all our church members, all who are true missionaries, all who believe the third angel's message, all who turn away their feet from the Sabbath, to consider the message of the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah.” {6T 265} 

“If you will take heed to the words of warning found in the chapters that I am directed to present before you, you will change your attitude, and become children of God. Thus you may save your souls through faith in Jesus Christ. You will receive the counsel given in the fifty-eight chapter of Isaiah.” {TM 126} 

“The fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah contains present truth for the people of God. Here we see how medical missionary work and the gospel ministry are to be bound together as the message is given to the world.” {Ev 516} 

In view of this urgent counsel, it seems essential to inquire as to why this portion of God’s Word is marked out so clearly for consideration at this time. Through the years, constant reference has been made to Isa 58:13 and 14. Generally, the thought has been expressed that, because we keep the seventh-day Sabbath, we are truly God’s people. But if we refer to all of Isaiah 58 and not just the last two verses, would we with assurance say that this is a correct conclusion? If the conclusion is right:

  • Why has inspired counsel found it necessary to write so strongly about this one chapter? 
  • Why are we constantly directed to give it a close study?
  • Why do we not hold that position of prominence we should in communities where Adventists live and where Adventist churches are established, with perhaps a few isolated exceptions?
  • Why are we not a better understood people for the truths we profess to uphold? 
  • Why are we still a comparatively obscure people despite the varied activities of the church? 

Could the reason be that somehow the church has fallen short of God’s purpose? If we were to read inspired counsel aright, we would find that our attention is constantly directed to study the whole chapter of Isaiah 58, not merely the last two verses. 

In order to carefully examine the message contained in this chapter, we present it here diagrammatically. Notice that first of all, here is a message of extreme urgency to the church. God’s plan of the last-day evangelism begins with the church itself rather than with the secular world:

Isa. 58:1:

Cry aloud

Spare not

Lift up thy voice

Show mv people:

1. Their transgression

2. Their sins

These passages go on to point out that the church is guilty of formalism and selfishness:

Isa. 58:2-5:

      • Worship without dedication
      • Prayer without action
      • Knowledge without practice

= Sin of formalism and selfishness

= Sin of neglect

“Here is brought to view a class who think themselves righteous and appear to manifest great interest in the service of God, but the stern and solemn rebuke of the Searcher of hearts proves them to be trampling upon the divine precepts.”{GC 452} “The reason why God’s people are not more spiritually minded and have not more faith, I have been shown, is because they are narrowed up with selfishness. The prophet is addressing Sabbath-keepers, not sinners, not unbelievers, but those who make great pretensions to godliness.” {2T 35} God’s prescription for solving this problem of neglect, formalism and selfishness is spelled out clearly in eight lines of person-to-person ministry.

Isa. 58:26-27:

1.To loose the bands of wickedness

2. To undo the heavy burdens

3. To let the oppressed go free

4. That ye break every yoke

5. To deal thy bread to the hungry

6. That thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house

7. When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him

8. That thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh

The remedy for formalism and selfishness is that the church and its members are to go, give, and gain. They are to become actively engaged in personal ministry with heartfelt concern for fellow humans in every walk of life. Not only to care, but to share the precious knowledge of eternal riches. 

“The true fast is no mere formal service.  The Scripture describes the fast that God has chosen... Isa. 58:6, 10. Here is set forth the very spirit and character of the work of Christ. His whole life was a sacrifice of Himself the saving of the world.” {DA 278}

“He designs that the medical missionary work shall prepare the way for the presentation of the saving truth for this time, the proclamation of the third angel's message. If this design is met, the message will not be eclipsed nor its progress hindered.” {6T 293} 

“Do medical missionary work. Thus you will gain access to the hearts of the people. The way will be prepared for more decided proclamation of the truth.” {Ev 514} 

A close look at Isaiah 58 makes it clear that this chapter is the outstanding authority for medical missionary work. In this chapter is found a message of special urgency for the spiritual benefit of God’s people, and it contains practical instructions on personal ministry to meet the needs of the world. “The whole of the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah is to be regarded as a message for this time…" {WM 29}

In this setting medical missionary work:

  • Is of divine origin. Combined with the gospel it is person-to-person ministry and makes possible complete ministry for the complete restoration of man.
  • Is complete in every detail to meet human need in any emergency, and is God’s chosen method of approach for church members to minister personally in the neighborhood of their home or church.
  • Is a ministry of kindness, sympathy, understanding, and love.
  • Is basic to all phases of evangelistic endeavor, it is the right arm of the gospel. God desires His people to bind medical missionary work up with the work of the third angel's message. This is the work that will restore the moral image of God in man. {MM 160}
  • Ministered with Christ-like love, will reach human needs on all levels of society.
  • Provides a cure for selfishness. Overcomes cold formalism and superficial religion in the church.
  • Will give prominence to God’s message of salvation and speed the advancement of the work.
  • Will be the only work done along ministerial lines in the closing days. And, if carried out in harmony with Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy instructions, will broaden and deepen at every point of its progress. 

Next month we will look at what will happen to church members once they truly begin to put God’s plan in action by doing medical missionary work.

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