The Roots Of The SDA Church

There is an oft-quoted statement from the pen of Ellen White that reads “We have nothing to fear for the future except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us and his teaching in our past history.” Looking back over the span of history it is easy to discern God’s hand leading His people from generation to generation. Since the fall of man as described in Genesis 3, our world has been caught in the vortex of an epic cosmic struggle. A great controversy between good and evil that has played itself out in every epoch of this earth’s history between those who believe in God and those who don’t.

This struggle was especially fierce during the early middle ages in Europe largely spurred by Constantine’s decision to become a Christian. Constantine’s conversion introduced a host of pagan ideas into the church that began to choke out the truth. He polarised the church in more ways than one and from that point forward there were those who separated themselves from Constantine’s special brand of Roman Christianity. The conversion of Constantine to Christianity marked the falling away that Paul mentions in his letter to the Thessalonians and also in his final address to the Ephesian Elders under the imagery of wolves coming in among the fold in sheep’s clothing. 

As this mixture of Paganism and Christianity began to grow and evolve the church began to gain more and more control over the minds of the masses. Finally, Europe plunged into an era known as the Dark Ages, a 1260 year period of largely unmitigated Papal Supremacy ranging from 538-1798 AD. During this time those who chose to cling to the unadulterated truth of God’s word found themselves persecuted and maligned, finding shelter among the peaks of the great mountains in Northern Italy and Southern France. Groups such as the Waldenses and the Albigenses chose to keep the light of gospel truth burning even amidst the prevailing darkness. Then from century to century, God began to raise up voices in the darkness to unflinchingly proclaim the light. In the 14th Century, there was John Wycliffe, whose writings and translation of the Bible sparked a spiritual revival across the continent. Then in the 15th Century, God raised up John Huss and Jerome in Bohemia who were both influenced by Wycliffe. Following this, as the 16th Century dawned, the heavyweights of the Reformation began to rise up one by one. 

Martin Luther in Germany, John Calvin in France, John Knox in Scotland, Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland, all key stakeholders in the new Reformatory movement that was slowly rising throughout the century. Each reformer was a revolutionary, choosing to commit himself wholeheartedly to studying the Bible and advancing as far and as fast as the light of truth led him. However, their followers were not as quick to follow in their footsteps, choosing to hunker down around the pillars they had erected instead of steadily advancing at each sign of new light.

A Mission Movement

During the 19th Century, the Great Second Advent Movement rallied people around the hope of Jesus’s soon return but the movement met with bitter disappointment when their long-cherished hopes did not come to fruition. In the aftermath a small group rallied together and continued to dig through the scriptures. From their diligent and faithful study of the Bible, there sprang a small but sturdy movement that continually persevered in its pursuit of truth until it grew into the movement that it is today. A global mission movement devoted to the proclamation of the gospel and the preparation of a group of people prepared to meet their God. 

Today we stand on the knife edge of time. We form part of the toes of Daniel’s image, teetering on the brink of eternity. Time is short but the journey is far from over. Looking back over our spiritual Lineage we see the encouraging evidence of God’s leading. These realities of God’s faithfulness should serve to gird us and strengthen us as we look forward to the battles that are still ahead. 

Our work is clear; to proclaim the three angels message to every nation kindred, tongue and people so that the gospel of the Kingdom might be preached in all the world for a witness. Our mission is to advance and not retreat. To hold the lines of battle steady in the face of every attack of the enemy and to taste the final and glorious victory of that happy multitude.

The work needs to move forward in every line. For every moment of progress that we have seen in our past history, we need to facilitate greater moments of progress in the future. The Bible still needs to be translated and distributed, missionaries are still needed both in far off lands and in the big cities, books still need to be printed and published, the messaged still needs to be preached over every available platform and channel. 

We believe that the best days of the church and its mission still lie ahead. The best sermons are yet to be preached, the best Bible studies yet to be given, the best health work yet to be accomplished, the best schools yet to be established. The character of Christ and his love revealed in greater and more complete fullness in our lives. Don’t be a bystander or an armchair supporter of the work that God has called us to do. Jump in with both feet and let us strive together to finish the work God has given us to do. Maranatha, Jesus is coming soon. 

Further Reading

  • White, E.G. (1888) – The Great Controversy
  • Wylie, J.A. (1878) – The History of Protestantism
  • Maxwell, C.M. (1976) – Tell it to the World