What the Bible
Says About

from one Seventh-day Adventist's point of view

Carrol Grady
© 2009 by Carrol Grady

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

—St. Francis of Assisi 

Present Truth

© 2009 by Carrol Grady

“Present truth” is a significant phrase for Seventh-day Adventists that dates back to the founding of the church. The expression implies truth that is particularly appropriate in a current historical situation – a fuller understanding of truth that was not available previously. Originally found in 2 Peter 1:12, (Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth), it referred especially to the truth about Jesus as the Messiah. In early Adventist history, pioneer Joseph Bates defined “present truth” as the sanctuary and Sabbath doctrines. Church founder James White wrote, “In Peter’s time there was present truth, or truth applicable to that present time. The Church have [sic] ever had a present truth. The present truth now, is that which shows present duty, and the right position for us.” The church has always paid lip service, at least, to the possibility that new truth may be revealed.

Is our human understanding of truth progressive?

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” John 16:12-13

“There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation.” Ellen G White, “Christ Our Hope,” Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, December 20, 1892, p. 785.

What biblical examples can we find of changes in perception of God’s truth or will?

1. Polygamy

"The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai.” Gen. 11:29

“Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.” Gen. 16:3

"Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed him in every way.” Gen. 24:1

Note: Abraham was blessed in spite of having more than one wife.

"Jacob said to Laban, Give me my [four] wives and children...” Gen. 30:25-26

“After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him.” Gen. 35:9

Note: Jacob also was blessed despite having four wives.

“If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights.” Ex. 21:10

“If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other...he must not give the rights of the

“If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her.” Deut. 25:5

Note: Brothers were even commanded to take a second wife in this circumstance.

“[Elkanah] had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah.” 1 Sam. 1:2

Note: God blessed the barren second wife with a child who became a leader of the Children of Israel.

“The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart...” (Samuel speaking of David) 1 Sam. 13:14

“Then Saul gave [David] his daughter Michal in marriage.” 1 Sam. 18:27

“Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife.” 1 Sam. 25:39    

“After the time of mourning was over, David had [Bathsheeba] brought to his house, and she became his wife.” 2 Sam. 11:2

Note: God blessed David and made him king and a forebear of Jesus, although he had several wives.

“Now the bishop must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife.” 1 Tim. 3:2

Note: this text indicates that although some men in the early Christian church may have had more than one wife, monogamy was recognized as the ideal.

2.   Women as inferior to men, or as chattel, belonging to their husbands or fathers.

“If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other...he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love.” Deut. 21:1

Note: Moses gave laws to protect a second wife.

“Laban replied, ‘It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also in return for another seven years of work.’” Gen. 29:26

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Ex. 20:17

“A woman who gives birth to a son...must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding.” Lev. 12:1, 4

“If she gives birth to a daughter...she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.” Lev. 12:5

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal. 3:28

Note: Jesus and Paul introduced a new paradigm concerning the equality of women, although it has been slow to be accepted by a male church hierarchy.

3.   Ceremonial purity laws

Old Testament:

“When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period...she will be unclean...and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.” Lev. 15:25,19

New Testament:

“A woman...who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years...touched the edge of his cloak....’Who touched me?’ Jesus asked....Then he said, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you.’” Luke 8:43-8

Note: Jesus did not consider himself unclean until evening.

Old Testament:

“Whoever touches the dead body of anyone will be unclean for seven days.” Num. 19:11

New Testament:

“Then [Jesus] went up and touched the coffin.” Luke 7:14

“They laughed at him, knowing that [Jairus’ daughter] was dead, But [Jesus] took her by the hand.” Luke 8:53-4

Note: Jesus did not recognize the defilement of touching a dead body.

4.   Slavery

“So he said, ‘I am Abraham’s servant.” Gen. 24:34

“The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work,... nor your manservant or maidservant.” Ex. 20:10

“If you buy a Hebrew servant;...If a man sells his daughter as a servant...” Ex. 21:2, 7

Note: Although the Bible appears to condone and regulate the practice of slavery, Christians today recognize that God’s will is for all men to be free.

Is there Scriptural precedent for the church changing its mind and accepting those previously considered unclean and unacceptable?

5. Circumcision

“And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem , to the apostles and elders about this question.” Acts 15:1, 2.

 “And when they had come to Jerusalem , they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.’” Acts 15:4-6.

Note:  After hearing the testimony of Paul and Peter and their work among the Gentiles, the Council, in direct conflict with the accepted interpretation of the Torah, decided that Gentiles could be Christians without becoming Jews. Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson, professor of New Testament at Chandler School of Theology, Emory University, affirms that the question of accepting homosexuals as full members of the church “is analogous to the one facing earliest Christianity after Gentiles started being converted.”1

Jeffrey Siker, associate professor of New Testament at Loyola Marymount University and ordained Presbyterian (USA) minister, says “Just as Peter’s experience of Cornelius in Acts 10 led him to realize that even Gentiles were receiving God’s Spirit, so my experience of various gay and lesbian Christians led me to realize that these Christians have received God’s Spirit as gays and lesbians and that the reception of the Spirit has nothing to do with sexual orientation.”2

6. Scientific understanding

“Joshua said to the Lord: ‘O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon. So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped.” Josh. 10:12-14

“It [the sun] rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other.” Ps.9:6

When early scientists discovered that the earth revolves about the sun rather than vice versa, Christians who understood from the above verses that the earth was the center of the universe resisted this scientific belief fiercely, but today we accept it without question.

Might there be some reasons why we should be listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in discerning a better understanding of God’s will for homosexuals?

1. Homosexuality is a prominent issue in our world today. Christians in many churches are being led to study the Bible’s truth regarding it.

2. Many thousands of hurting homosexual church members feel rejected by God. Many more thousands have left their churches because they feel there is no place for them there.

3. Jesus gravitated toward the outcast and marginalized. If we follow His example we will feel a responsibility to learn how to reach out to homosexuals and learn what His will for them is.

4. Recent scientific discoveries have helped us understand homosexuality more fully.


 1Scripture and Discernment: Decision-Making in the Church, Timothy Luke Johnson. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996, 147

 2Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture, Robert Brawley, Ed., Louisville : Westminster John Knox Press, “Gentile Wheat and Homosexual Christians” by Jeffrey Siker, 146