Christians to make trespass offerings?

Articles Studies Research

The following is number 5 in Dirk Anderson’s list of contradictions between Ellen G. White’s writings and the bible:

Ellen White:

Bring in your trespass-offerings, your thank-offerings, and your freewill-offerings; humble your hearts before the Lord, and He will be found ever ready to receive and pardon. Review and Herald, July 8, 1880

The Bible:

He, having offered one sacrifice for all time… Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Heb. 10:12,18

His comments:

This may have been good for SDA church finances, but under the New Covenant, Jesus paid the price for sin for all people for all time.

Our Response

Dirk Anderson shares with us this supposed contraction taken by a book written by ex-Adventist Dale Ratzlaff called “Cultic Doctrine of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.” However, when the entire article is read from beginning to end, one will notice that she is not even talking about anything that had to do with bringing in money to the storehouse or offering up sacrifices or offerings, as commanded in the Old Testament. Through the article she is addressing a specific problem that was creeping into the early years of the Adventist movement… a problem she called “Extravagance in Dress.”

She begins her article with a verse from the book of Matthew, quoting, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” –Matthew 6:24. Then she explains, through the example of Christ with regards to Solomon and the lilies of the field (verses 25-30), that we must not dwell more upon the outward beauty while at the same time neglecting the inward beauty, the beauty of repentance, thankfulness, and service towards God… all of which was being sacrificed for their love of dress and fashion. In fact, this was the very reason why Ms. White ended her article with her comment, because of those three necessities, each summed up by each offering. Take note that the first offering she mentioned was…

“Bring in your trespass-offerings…”

Through this she was emphasizing their need for confession and repentance of their sinful course. Notice, in context, what the effects of their course was having upon other souls:

Some try to imitate their sisters, and will frill, and ruffle, and trim goods of an inferior quality, so as to approach as near as possible to them in dress. Poor girls, receiving but two dollars a week for their work, will expend every cent to dress like others who are not obliged to work for their living. These youth have nothing to put into the treasury of God; for their little fund is too soon exhausted. Besides, their time is so thoroughly occupied in making their dress as fashionable as that of their sisters, that they have no time for the improvement of the mind, for the study of God’s word, for secret prayer, or for the prayer-meeting. The mind is entirely taken up with planning how to appear as well as their sisters. To this end, physical, mental, and moral health are sacrificed. Nor is this all. Happiness and the favor of God are laid upon the altar of fashion.” -paragraph 11.

“Many will not attend the service of God upon the Sabbath because their dress would appear so unlike that of their Christian sisters in style and adornment. Will my sisters consider these things as they are, and will they fully realize the weight of their influence upon others? By walking in a forbidden track themselves, they lead others in the same path of disobedience and backsliding.” -paragraph 12.

This exaggeration of dress and their desire to conform to worldly fashions was also having an effect upon their own souls:

“The duties devolving upon mothers to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord cannot be discharged while they continue their present manner of dress. They have no time to pray or to search the Scriptures that they may understand the truth and teach it to their children.” -paragraph 6.

It is already apparent that the problem she is addressing is of such a serious matter, that it not only perils their own souls, but the souls of others. Yet, wasted time upon dress and fashion was not the only problem, they were also spending all their money upon these clothes, and were causing others to do the same:

“Poor girls, receiving but two dollars a week for their work, will expend every cent to dress like others who are not obliged to work for their living.”-paragraph 11.

According to the Inflation Calculator, a $50 dress today would in 1880 (the year this article was written) have caused at least $2.27. If they received but two dollars a week, that means that they were spending nearly their entire check on these fashionable dresses!

God holds us responsible with what we do with the money we receive (Malachi 3:8-10), and he especially holds us accountable for causing other to stumble and fall (Matthew 18:6).

Because of the consequences being reaped from these sinful acts, Ellen White urges her Christian sisters throughout the article to return to the service of God by first sacrificing their desire to be like the world (through repentance) and then to begin their work in the spreading of the gospel truth. This is why she made her final comment in the order in which she did…

“… Bring in your trespass-offerings, your thank-offerings, and your freewill-offerings; humble your hearts before the Lord, and he will be found ever ready to receive and pardon.”

…Because once one comes humbly to God in repentance for their sins (trespass-offering) they will then, out of thankfulness (thank-offering) freely offer their service due to him (freewill-offering). Are we getting the picture? This is why she mentioned the offerings in this order, because throughout the entire article she is urging them to:

-Give Thanks
-Work for the Lord.

Notice the following quotes expressing her urge to offer God their freewill-offerings:

“God would be pleased to see our sisters clad in neat, simple apparel, and earnestly engaged in the work of the Lord. They are not deficient in ability, but if they would put to a right use the talents they already have, their ability would be greatly increased. If they would devote one-half the time they now spend in needless work to searching the word of God and explaining it to others, their minds would be enriched with gems of truth, and they would be strengthened and ennobled by the effort made to understand the reasons of our faith.” –paragraph 6.

“The time spent in this way might be devoted to doing good to others, and to cultivating your own minds; and the means expended would be better used in helping some poor sisters to more comfortable and respectable clothing, so that the contrast between your dress and theirs would not be so marked. This would be an excellent way of showing that you love your neighbor as yourself. -paragraph 4

In other words, she is telling them to offer their freewill-offerings by entering into the gospel field and spreading the word of God!

With the context read and understood, dear friends, we can better understand and appreciate Ms. White’s final comment. It was not a comment to literally perform the Old Testament rituals, neither was it a comment to bring her or the church any money. It was rather her way of summarizing what she was trying to express throughout the entire article.


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About The Author

Edwin Cotto

With over 13 years of experience in apologetics, evangelism and youth directing, Edwin has worked with various ministries both in English and Spanish. Having had the opportunity to travel to various states in the USA, and also to Venezuela and Mexico, he has enjoyed the privilege of conducting evangelistic meetings and apologetics seminars. His education includes training in the Medical Field, Adult Education at Valencia College, Biblical Hebrew with the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, and Evangelism with Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism. He is furthering his academic studies in theology while also working as a bible worker for the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Ordained as an elder, Edwin's passion for ministry begins first at home with his wife and kids.

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