When a prophet uses such terms as “one,” “only,” “always,” or “never,” it gets my attention. In this case Ellen White, writing in 1890, declared there was “one great central truth” that was to be “kept ever before the mind in the searching of the Scriptures.”*
As Bible-believing Christians who maintain a jealous commitment to the study of Scripture, such a statement should elicit our curiosity. Implicit in the idea is the sense that there are other truths that—important though they are—aren’t the lens through which we should read the Bible.
According to Ellen White, there aren’t three, or seven, or 28 central truths. There’s simply one that we should keep in mind when we try to make sense of God and study His Word.
So what is that “one great central truth”? Is it the Sabbath? the sanctuary? the Second Coming?
For Ellen White, it was simply this: “Christ and Him crucified.”
Perhaps just as important and provocative is what she says in the next sentence: “Every other truth is invested with influence and power corresponding to its relation to this theme.”
In other words, Scripture is powerless and truth impotent if not understood and presented within the framework of God’s self-giving, self-emptying love. If we divorce the Bible’s teachings, and the church’s doctrines, from the truth of Christ’s sacrifice, they’re devoid of all “influence” and “power.”
But what does this look like?
Take the Sabbath as an example. We can spend time trying to prove that Saturday is the Sabbath and that it’s still binding on Christians. We can further point out that adherence to the Sabbath will be a defining issue in the last days, and people should therefore observe it so they can be sealed for Christ’s return.
Such sentiment may be all well and good and true, but absent any connection to “Christ and Him crucified,” it lacks motivational force and power. It does nothing to stir one’s affection for Christ, and subtly uses fear and a sense of duty as the source of inspiration. It speaks mostly to the head and does nothing to draw out the heart.
What if we spent the bulk of our time talking about Christ’s character of love—about how He gave up all for our redemption and committed Himself to our ongoing well-being? And it was out of that heart of love that He gave us the gift of the Sabbath—which is an invitation to rest in His finished work and experience His sanctifying grace and peace.
Of course, we can still speak of its end-time significance and how it was never done away with. But avoid the ways that leave people with the impression that God’s love for them is based on keeping the Sabbath or that their security and well-being are dependent on perfect adherence to the Sabbath (or anything else).
Simply put, we can never divorce any truth of Scripture from the beautiful news of what God has done for us in Christ. Doing so just leads people into bondage rather than freedom.
This is just one example of how we can make sure we keep that “one great central truth” ever before our minds and hearts.
* Ellen G. White, The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials (Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1987), vol. 2, p. 806.