Clarity on the role of the health message
In a recent church member survey this “agree/disagree” statement bothered me: “Following the health message ensures my salvation.” Does it?
No. Our salvation comes through accepting Jesus, His righteousness, and His death on the cross in our place: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9, NIV). Thankfully, this includes all forms of deeds and actions—including healthful habits and behaviors. Our salvation is not earned through exercise, rest, or even diet. Salvation is a gift!
A significant number of respondents to the world church survey you cite reported they thought that following the health message ensured their salvation. It is vitally important that we have clarity on this question.
As a church and as individuals we have been blessed with a wonderful, wholistic, preventive, preserving, and at times even healing, grace-filled health message. After the Otsego, Michigan, United States, vision in June 1863, Ellen White stated that we were given the health message because our work was not yet done. In short, we are saved to serve, not healthy in order to be saved! Let’s allow Ellen White’s writings to elucidate the purpose for healthful living by asking the what, why, and how of it all.
The health message is wholistic and addresses all aspects of our being—physical, mental, spiritual, social, and emotional.
“In teaching health principles, keep before the mind the great object of reform—that its purpose is to secure the highest development of body and mind and soul. Show that the laws of nature, being the laws of God, are designed for our good; that obedience to them promotes happiness in this life, and aids in the preparation for the life to come.”1
Through comprehensive health ministry, we may educate on health, meet people’s needs in a practical way, and demonstrate God’s love.
“As a people we have been given the work of making known the principles of health reform. There are some who think that the question of diet is not of sufficient importance to be included in their evangelistic work. But such make a great mistake. God’s word declares, ‘Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.’ 1 Corinthians 10:31, KJV. The subject of temperance, in all its bearings, has an important place in the work of salvation.”2
In our daily living, careful health choices and temperate living may enhance our communication with God and relationship with Him.
“The brain nerves which communicate with the entire system are the only medium through which Heaven can communicate to man and affect his inmost life. Whatever disturbs the circulation of the electric currents in the nervous system lessens the strength of the vital powers, and the result is a deadening of the sensibilities of the mind.”3
Good news! Saved by His grace, we may share wholeness and serve all.
1 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 146. (Italics supplied.)
2 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Health (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1923) p. 443.
3 Ellen G. White, Child Guidance (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1954) p. 447.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.
Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.