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Part one of our discussion considered Christ’s prayer for unity recorded in John 17. In this most sublime prayer we receive Christ’s innermost thoughts for His church. His concern for their unity weighed heavily upon His heart as His journey to Calvary loomed. Two points are found emphasized in Christ’s prayer: unity with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and unity with the Apostles’ doctrine. That is, spiritual and doctrinal unity.
We seek doctrinal and spiritual unity so that “the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (John 17:21). A visible unity results when we are in harmony with the Apostles doctrine, and with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This unity is actual, practically seen by the world. It convinces them of the truthfulness and power of the Christian message. Thus, true followers of Christ will not choose to separate themselves from the organized body of Christ—His visible church—in any way, shape, or form. To do so would show the world a fragmented picture having no beauty to offer its fragmented society.
The Basis of Our Unity
As a global movement, made up of people from “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6), the Seventh-day Adventist Church prayerfully and actively works to assure that an unbelieving world can see the grand truths for this time. Without the church’s worldwide and unified organization, this prophetic movement would disintegrate. It would amount to little more than patterns of local options, spurious ideologies, and powerless fuzzies. Such a witness would lead only to confusion.
Our ability to carry forward our Bible-based mission, vision, and values, with strength and credibility, to large extent will depend on our unity of action. How shall we convince the world that we have a message that makes a difference in lives, and is able to heal wounds of division, if we ourselves are seen traveling in different directions? God’s gracious leading through our history shows three major factors which have greatly contributed to our worldwide unity:
1. Our distinctive and biblically based doctrines and lifestyle. Even though we are a Culturally diverse people, Adventists everywhere in the world hold the same doctrines and embrace the same lifestyle. As a movement, we have manifested a unique and distinctive personality. We have been able to accomplish this because of our adherence to the simple teachings of God’s Word.
2. Our sense of the mission God has given. Out from the disappointment of 1844 came the clear leading of God to share a special message to a dying world. As the early advent believers prayerfully turned again and again to their Bibles, trying to figure out what had gone wrong, God opened to them truths for just such a time. They understood the fulfillment of prophecy, and accepted the call to distinctly share the everlasting gospel of (Matthew 28:18-20), in the context of the three angels messages of (Revelation 14:6-12). If we will remain united and committed to this mission, as a body of people drawn from all nations, we will see God’s work on earth accomplished. We will rejoice for having the privilege of working together with Him.
3. Our unique church polity (organizational structure). Human organization always has its limitations. But the stability of the church, the doctrinal unity and purity, and the equitable distribution of resources for the purpose of accomplishing our mission, is a reality. Why is this? Because of our unique structure of uniting local churches, conferences, unions, and divisions as part of the General Conference.
These factors, together with the Lord’s blessings, may explain why the Seventh-day Adventist Church is growing all round the world. There are, however, disturbing indications that our unity as a people is being threatened. To this we turn in our next installment of “A Unified Church.”
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Mike and Jayne Lambert have served throughout the NPUC, including Montana, Idaho, and Oregon. Elder Lambert is presently pastor of the Stateline Church, in Milton Freewater, Oregon.
4 replies on “A Unified Church, Part 2: The Basis of Our Unity”
” hold the same doctrines and embrace the same lifestyle”
This is not really true. If one travels around the Adventist world you’ll soon discover that vegetarianism is almost exclusively found in white SDAs who come from the developed world. Don’t know why this is so. Anyone disagree with me?
Perhaps you have a valid point in some areas Gerald, I have seen a remote area of Nicaragua where many of the Adventists only knew that they didn’t work on Sabbath and that they didn’t eat pig. But as they grew, these things changed. As medical staff addressed their many health problems, they learned to eat more healthfully. I have also seen in Guatemala, Honduras, and even Haiti (just after the earthquake) that those who understood our faith, were educated and could study our beliefs, usually chose a healthier lifestyle. Many adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet. But this may not be the real issue, I choose to live a vegan lifestyle because I believe it to be the best I can do for my body, but that does not mean it is a salvational issue. I also choose to exercise regularly to keep myself in good physical shape, but that does not make it a point of salvation. However I do believe it to be in harmony with the fact that our bodies are the temple of God and we should care for them. I think that the issue we need to address is the doctrines of the church and that our calling as a people is to take the gospel to the whole world. To do this we must be unified. The Holy spirit will convict on some of these other issues in His time.
I would argue that what we eat is not merely an issue of health or choice, and that, in fact, it is a salvational issue. The God I know would not want to open heaven to those who participate in brutal cruelty against His creation.
In fact, I think I could make an equally strong Biblical case for veganism as others on this site make for male headship. Yes, there are texts that appear to allow meat consumption, but that clearly wasn’t God’s original plan.
I definitely agree that it was not God’s original plan to eat meat. But I am not here to debate whether or not it is a salvational issue. It would be very easy to make a hundred websites dealing with a thousand different issues which we as Adventists need to address. This being the case, it seems to me that the issue of great pressing importance that is being addressed here, is not one of diet, or any other other issues; which I do not want to slight in any way, they are areas which I feel very passionate about. However is it not time for us to unify as a people and stand to the dangers facing our church? We may each have our own pet agenda’s that we are temped to push. But that is not the issue currently at stake here, the issue is that one of our Unions is choosing to go against the GC and could be setting a precedence on this issue that could eventually reach far greater issues. God has chosen us as a people to do His work. Should we not then address the issues in front of us? A nation that is divided can not stand. Then what picture does it paint to the world around us if we spend all our time fighting with our brethren? We know time on this earth is very short, let us unite, stand fast, and pray for our families, our church and the world, for we know the days ahead will be trying times for us all.