Scripture and Ellen White on
(the individual’s responsibility for
the actions of the entire group and the group’s responsibility for a single individual)
“Review and Herald”
Those who have an opportunity to hear the truth, and yet take no pains to hear or understand it, thinking that if they do not hear, they will not be accountable, will be judged guilty before God the same as if they had heard and rejected. There will be no excuse for those who choose to go in error when they might understand what is truth. In his sufferings and death Jesus has made atonement for all sins of ignorance, but there is no provision made for wilful blindness. Those who have hid their eyes from the truth lest they should be convinced, must exercise repentance toward God
RH April 25, 1893, par. 10
Corporate responsibility of every member of any church organization is taught in Scripture by the Achan principle. It is also taught by the “one body in Christ” principle. Were corporate responsibility not a fact of Scripture, the entire Protestant Reformation would be an abominable heresy! Separation from Rome would be unnecessary! All one would need do is remain and protest what he/she regarded as error!
Joshua chapter 7
1 But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel
10 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? note
11 Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.
12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.
13 Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.
Notice how when just one man, Achan took the accursed thing, from God’s perspective the entire congregation sinned: “children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing” and verse 11 places the guilt of the act upon the whole group, all of Israel. Verse 13 calls for a sanctification of the group :”Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow”. How was this sanctification to be made? The answer for it comes next in the verse: “take away the accursed thing from among you.” Basically Israel had to deal with the sin and with the sinner. This is no longer taught in the SDA church, but God does not change. But what do the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy reveal?
“From Eternity past” pages 351 and 353
One Family’s Sin Brings Defeat to All Israel
God’s command had been disregarded by one of those appointed to execute His judgments. And the nation was held accountable for the guilt of the transgressor: “They have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also.” The lot was to be employed for the detection of the guilty, the matter being left in doubt for a time that the people might feel their responsibility and thus be led to searching of heart and humiliation before God.” EP 351.2
“Achan had seen the armies of Israel return from Ai defeated and disheartened, yet he did not come forward and confess his sin. He had seen Joshua and the elders bowed to the earth in grief too great for words. But he still kept silence. He had listened to the proclamation that a great crime had been committed, and had even heard its character definitely stated. But his lips were sealed. EP 353.3
“Patriarchs and Prophets” page 519
The ten tribes remembered how, in Achan’s case, God had rebuked the lack of vigilance to discover the sins existing among them. PP 519.4
“S.D.A Bible commentary volume 2” page 996
The history of Achan teaches the solemn lesson that for one man’s sin the displeasure of God will rest upon a people or a nation till the transgression is searched out and punished. Sin is corrupting in its nature. One man infected with its deadly leprosy may communicate the taint to thousands. Those who occupy responsible positions as guardians of the people are false to their trust if they do not faithfully search out and reprove sin. Many dare not condemn iniquity, lest they shall thereby sacrifice position or popularity. And by some it is considered uncharitable to rebuke sin. The servant of God should never allow his own spirit to be mingled with the reproof which he is required to give; but he is under the most solemn obligation to present the Word of God, without fear or favor. He must call sin by its right name. Those who by their carelessness or indifference permit God’s name to be dishonored by His professed people, are numbered with the transgressor, – registered in the record of heaven as partakers in their evil deeds…. 2BC 996.6
1Cor. 6:15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make [them] the members of an harlot? God forbid.
Ellen White fully supported the Biblical principle of corporate responsibility. Here are a few of her many statements to that effect:
“Elder Daniels and the Fresno church” page 17
One Man Responsible for Another Man’s Unfaithfulness
“Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins; keep thyself pure.” (1 Tim. 5:22) …Sin should be rebuked. Whatever opposition and trial might come to the elder of the church because of his faithfulness, he should not swerve from true principles. Sins should not, because of unsanctified preferences and sympathy, be lightly regarded in one man which would be condemned in another. This matter is one of great importance. If he trusts responsibilities to one whose habits and practices he knows to be wrong, he shows that his own principles are not sound, that his motives are questionable. By this very act he sanctions the errors and sins of the man he has commended and appointed to the sacred office of caring for the flock of God. Unless he is guarded by heavenly wisdom, he will place himself in a position where he will feel it necessary to sustain the man with whom he has united his influence; and God will hold him RESPONSIBLE for his brother’s unfaithfulness in office, and for the harm which will result to the church. He must keep himself pure by refusing to mingle with any unholy influence. (PH028 17)
“Testimonies for the church volume 5” page 278
Individual Members Responsible for State of the Church
Each member of the church should feel under sacred obligations to guard strictly the interests of the cause of God. The individual members of the church are RESPONSIBLE for its distracted, discouraged state, by which the most sacred truths ever committed to man are dishonored. (5T:278)
“Welfare Ministry” pages 212, 213
Church Body Accountable for Negligence and Sin of Members
God will hold the church at _____ RESPONSIBLE, as a body, for the wrong course of its members. If a selfish and unsympathizing spirit is allowed to exist in any of its members toward the unfortunate,…He will hide His face from His people until they do their duty and remove the wrong from among them….the Lord holds the church accountable for the sin of its members until they have done all they can to remedy the existing evil. (WM 212, 213)
“Prophets and Kings” page 651
The church is in a great degree RESPONSIBLE for the sins of her members. She gives countenance to evil if she fails to lift her voice against it. (PK 651)
“The southern review”
The church is in a great degree RESPONSIBLE for the sins of her members. She gives countenance to the evil, if she fails to lift her voice against it. The influence from which she has most to fear is not that of open opposers, infidels, and blasphemers, but of inconsistent professors of Christ. These are the ones who keep back the blessing of the God of Israel. (SW 05-10-04; pr:06)
“Testimonies for the church volume 4” page 490
The church as a whole is in a degree RESPONSIBLE for the wrongs of its individual members because they countenance the evil in not lifting up their voice against it. The favor of God is not enjoyed for several reasons. His Spirit is grieved by the pride, extravagance, dishonesty, and overreaching which are indulged by some professing godliness. All these things bring the frown of God upon His people. (4T 490)
“Child guidance” page 235
Those who have too little courage to reprove wrong, or who through indolence or lack of interest make no earnest effort to purify the family or the church of God, are held accountable for the evil that may result from their neglect of duty. We are just as RESPONSIBLE for evils that we might have checked in others by exercise of parental or pastoral authority, as if the acts had been our own. (CG 235)
“The signs of the times”
Aaron failing to stand up boldly for the right, his yielding to the strength of numbers, placed him with the majority. Aaron represents the cases of a large number composing our churches at the present day. They pass over sins existing in the church which grieve the spirit of God. They are lax where order and principle are involved, because it is not pleasant to reprove and correct wrongs. They are themselves carried along with the current, and become RESPONSIBLE for a fearful neglect of faithfulness. (ST 05-27-80; pr:04)
“Testimonies for the church volume 3” page 265
…if the sins of the people are passed over by those in responsible positions, His frown will be upon them, and the people of God, as a body, will be held RESPONSIBLE for those sins. (3T 265)
Brethren and sisters in the faith, does the question arise in your hearts, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” If you claim to be children of God, you are your brother’s keeper. The Lord holds the CHURCH RESPONSIBLE for the souls of those whom they might be the means of saving. (ChS 13)
“The signs of the times”
We repeat, God holds the CHURCH RESPONSIBLE for the sins of its individual members. When coldness and spiritual declension exist, God’s people should put away their pride and self-confidence and self-exaltation, and should come to the Lord in sorrow and humility, not charging him with injustice, but seeking wisdom to understand the hidden sins which shut out his presence. (ST 04-21-81; pr:24)
“Testimonies for the church volume 3” page 270
God’s Displeasure at Sin Among His People
God’s displeasure is upon His people, and He will not manifest His power in the midst of them while sins exist among them and are fostered by those in RESPONSIBLE positions. (3T 270)
“Testimonies for the church volume 4” page 166
The sin of Eli was in passing lightly over the iniquity of his sons, who were occupying sacred offices. The neglect of the father to reprove and restrain his sons brought upon Israel a fearful calamity. The sons of Eli were slain, Eli himself lost his life, the ark of God was taken from Israel, and thirty thousand of the people were slain. All this was because sin was lightly regarded and allowed to remain among them. What a lesson is this to men holding RESPONSIBLE positions in the church of God! It adjures them faithfully to remove the wrongs that dishonor the cause of truth. (4T 166)
“Review and Herald”
The leaven of unbelief is working, and unless these evils which bring the displeasure of God are corrected in its members, the whole CHURCH stands ACCOUNTABLE for them. (RH December 23, 1890, Art. B, par. 10)
“Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce” page 237
Cleanse the camp of this moral corruption, if it takes the highest men in the highest positions. God will not be trifled with. Fornication is in our ranks. I know it, for it has been shown me to be strengthening and extending its pollutions. There is much we will never know, but that which is revealed makes the CHURCH RESPONSIBLE and guilty unless they show a determined effort to eradicate the evil. Cleanse the camp, for there is an accursed thing in it. (TSB 237)
“Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce” page 188
We must as a people arouse and cleanse the camp of Israel. Licentiousness, unlawful intimacy, and unholy practices are coming in among us in a large degree; and ministers who are handling sacred things are guilty of sin in this respect. They are coveting their neighbors’ wives, and the seventh commandment is broken. We are in danger of becoming a sister to fallen Babylon, of allowing our churches to become corrupted, and filled with every foul spirit, a cage for every unclean and hateful bird; and will we be clear unless we make decided movements to cure the existing evil? (TSB 188)
“Review and Herald”
Becoming Partakers of Others’ Sin/Evil Deeds
The wheat is not to sow itself among the tares; for although we may not practice the works of some of the members of the secret orders, in joining them we are registered in heaven as partakers of their evil deeds, RESPONSIBLE for their works of evil, and bound up in bundles with them as tares. Thank God, it is not too late for Christians to sever themselves from all unholy connections, and come fully unto the side of Christ. (RH 01-10-93; pr:16)
“Gospel Workers” page 391
“The people of God are not to vote [for men in political parties] to place such men in office; for when they do this, they are PARTAKERS WITH THEM OF THE SINS which they commit while in office.” (GW 391)
“S.D.A Bible commentary volume 5” page 1096
The names of those who sin and refuse to repent should not be retained on the CHURCH books, lest the saints be held ACCOUNTABLE for their evil deeds. (5BC 1096)
“Testimonies for the church volume 4” page 516
What a lesson have we here for parents and guardians of youth, and for those who minister in the service of God. When existing evils are not met and checked, because men have too little courage to reprove wrong, or because they have too little interest or are too indolent to tax their own powers in putting forth earnest efforts to purify the family or the church of God, they are ACCOUNTABLE for the evil which may result in consequence of neglect to do their duty. We are just as ACCOUNTABLE for evils that we might have checked in others, by reproof, by warning, by exercise of parental or pastoral authority, as if we were guilty of the acts ourselves. (4T 516)
“Desire of ages” page 441
…if one neglects the duty Christ has enjoined, of trying to restore those who are in error and sin, he becomes a partaker in the sin. For evils that we might have checked, we are just as responsible as if we were guilty of the acts ourselves. (DA 441)
“Testimonies for the church volume 3” page 280
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. (3T 280)
“The plain straight testimony must live in the church, or the curse of God will rest upon His people as surely as it did upon ancient Israel because of their sins. God holds His people, AS A BODY, responsible for the sins existing in individuals among them” Testimonies, vol. 3, 269.
“I was shown that the pointed testimony must live in the church. This alone will answer to the message to the Laodiceans. Wrongs must be reproved, sin must be called sin, and iniquity must be met promptly and decidedly, and put away from us AS A PEOPLE.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 260.
“Should a case like Achan’s be among us, there are many who would accuse those who might act the part of Joshua in searching out the wrong, of having a wicked, faultfinding spirit…God’s displeasure is upon His people, and He will not manifest His power in the midst of them while sins exist among them and are FOSTERED BY THOSE IN RESPONSIBLE POSITIONS.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 270.
“God has not set any kingly power in the Seventh-day Adventist Church to control the whole body or to control any branch of the work. He has not provided that the burden of leadership shall rest upon a few men. Responsibilities are distributed among a large number of competent men.
Every member of the church has a voice in choosing officers of the church [This is why every member is responsible for the actions of their leaders].The church chooses the officers of the state conferences. Delegates chosen by the state conferences choose the officers of the union conferences, and delegates chosen by the union conferences choose the officers of the General Conference. By this arrangement every conference, every institution, every church, and EVERY INDIVIDUAL, either directly or through representatives, has a voice in the election of the men who bear the chief responsibilities in the General Conference.” E.G. White, Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 236.
The above statement demonstrates that the professing SDA church is not of CONGREGATIONALISTS ORGANIZATION, whereby each individual church is under its own cognizance. Thus Corporate Responsibility is transferred to each member in this REPRESENTATIVE SYSTEM OF ORGANIZATION. Responsibility for departure from the representative system to that of a HIERARCHICAL SYSTEM still falls on the constituency membership for permitting such a state of affairs to occur! And, when such a state of apostasy occurs regarding any fundamental pillar of the faith, if the leaders have formed such a powerful lobby that members cannot change things, that is one of the points at which separation becomes an absolute duty. Surely, when it gets to the point where the membership is supporting a leadership that is teaching error to the entire world; errors which remove every pillar doctrine of historic Adventism, then the professing church has reached the point where separation becomes an absolute necessity lest any member be responsible for such a departure from truth and the work of the Lord. Here is the principle from Ellen White:
“The Lord Jesus will always have a chosen people to serve Him. When the Jewish people rejected Christ, the Prince of life, He took from them the kingdom of God and gave it unto the Gentiles. God will continue to work on this principle with every branch of His work. When a church proves unfaithful to the work of the Lord, whatever their position may be, however high and sacred their calling, the Lord can no longer work with them. Others are then chosen to bear important responsibilities. But, if these in turn do not purify their lives from every wrong action, if they do not establish pure and holy principles in all their borders, then the Lord will grievously afflict and humble them and, unless they repent, will remove them from their place and make them a reproach.
God is not ‘worshipped with men’s hands, as tough he needed anything.'” (Acts 17:25). E. G. White, The Upward Look, 131.
“….for none are so reckless and go to such lengths in sin as do those who have once had the light, but have resisted the convicting Spirit of God.” E.G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 95.
Some might say that it does not work this way today, well if it does not, you are in a new movement different from the historic adventism. And if it does, then the church should be held corporately responsible for retaining such corrupt leaders. Again Mrs. White states:
“In our largest churches the greatest evils exist, because these have had the greatest light. They have not a true knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent. The leaven of unbelief is working, and unless these evils which bring the displeasure of God are corrected in its members, the WHOLE CHURCH stands ACCOUNTABLE for them. The deep moving of the Spirit of God are not with them; the glorious presence of the King of saints, and his power to cleanse from all moral defilement, are not manifest among them.” Review & Herald, vol. 2, Dec. 23rd, 1890
“The headquarters of our church, affect the whole body of believers. If the physical heart is healthy, the blood that is sent from it through the system is also healthy; but if this fountain is impure, the whole organism becomes diseased by the poison of the vital fluid. So it is with us. If the heart of the work becomes corrupt, the whole church, in its various branches and interests, scattered abroad over the face of the earth, suffers in consequence.” Testimonies vol. 4, p. 210.
Corporate Repentance Denied by the Leaders
According to Roy Adams, associate editor of the Adventist Review, in his book, The Nature of Christ, (which the highest leaders in Seventh-day Adventism endorse) he blatantly ridicules and denies that the New Testament offers no support for the teaching of Corporate Repentance.
“Corporate repentance who demands it of us, I make bold to say it. Not the Lord! And is there any significance to the fact that the New Testament offers us not a single authentic example of general corporate confession?” Ibid. 112,104.
New Teachings For a New Movement
This teaching is recent in nature, it started with the downhill apostasy, which began in 1956-57 and has no support from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. The New Testament Act of the disciples in the upper room experience is a distinct example of general corporate repentance! The three angel’s messages of Revelation chapter fourteen is a corporate and individual call to repentance. The first angel’s message sounded in 1844 and the corporate church repented not. But God’s people, as few as there were individually repented and left the churches. Ellen White said:
“when the churches spurned the counsel of God by rejecting the advent message, the Lord rejected them. The first angel was followed by a second, proclaiming, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”[1 REV. 14:8] This message was understood by Adventists to be an announcement of the moral fall of the churches in consequence of their rejection of the first message. The proclamation, “Babylon is fallen,” was given in the summer of 1844, and as the result, about fifty thousand withdrew from these churches.” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, p.232.
In Matthew 23: 29-35, Christ denounced the scribes and the Pharisees on the behalf of their hypocrisy, rejection of the truth and seeking to kill him. By doing this they continued in the course of their four-fathers sins. They were corporately responsible which should have led them to corporately repent. Consider Exodus 20:5 and the following statement from Ellen White:
“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”
“It is inevitable that children should suffer from the consequences of parental wrongdoing, but they are not punished for the parents’ guilt, except as they participate in their sins.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 306.