Friday: Further Thought – Unity of the Gospel

Further Thought: For further study on the issue of unity and diversity in the church, read Ellen G. White, “Investigation of New Light,” pp. 45, 47, in Counsels to Writers and Editors“An Explanation of Early Statements”, p. 75, in Selected Messages, book 1;“Tactfulness,” pages. 117-119, in Gospel Workers; and “Manuscript Release 898,” pgs. 1092, 1093, in 1888 Materials, vol. 3.

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“Even the best of men, if left to themselves, will make grave blunders. The more responsibilities placed upon the human agent, the higher his position to dictate and control, the more mischief he is sure to do in perverting minds and hearts if he does not carefully follow the way of the Lord. At Antioch Peter failed in the principles of integrity. Paul had to withstand his subverting influence face to face. This is recorded that others may profit by it, and that the lesson may be a solemn warning to the men in high places, that they may not fail in integrity, but keep close to principle.” — Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1108.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Very few people enjoy confrontation, but sometimes it is necessary. In what circumstances should a church condemn error and discipline those who refuse to accept correction?
  2. As the Seventh-day Adventist Church grows around the world, it becomes more and more diverse at the same time. What steps can the church take to make sure that unity is not lost in the midst of such diversity? How can we learn to accept and even enjoy the diversity of cultures and traditions among us, while at the same time maintaining unity?
  3. When sharing the gospel in a different culture, what are the essential elements that should not change, and what can be changed? How do we learn to distinguish between what must remain and what we can, if necessary, let go of?

Summary: The insistence by some Jewish Christians that Gentiles must be circumcised in order to become true followers of Christ posed a serious threat to the unity of the early church. Instead of letting this issue divide the church into two different movements, the apostles worked together, in spite of conflicts among themselves, to ensure that the body of Christ stayed united and faithful to the truth of the gospel.



Friday: Further Thought – Unity of the Gospel — 8 Comments

  1. I don't know who made the decision to repeat these lessons on Galations for this quarter (last used 4th quarter 2011), but it seems very timely. The 1888 materials quote contains the following:

    "The church may pass resolution upon resolution to put down all disagreement of opinions, but we cannot force the mind and will, and thus root out disagreement. These resolutions may conceal the discord, but they cannot quench it and establish perfect agreement. Nothing can perfect unity in the church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance."

    It appears the GC is attempting unity through resolution (2016 Autumn Council, Unity document, IBMTE, etc.) They are probably acting from motives that seek to guard from error. And that appears to be what many members want. Yet several (Knight, Patterson, Johnson, Gibson, etc) have noted that the GC's course is coming dangerously close to the abuse of authority that Luther stood against 500 years ago.

    I am praying for Elder Wilson, et al, that they will allow God to lead. And praying that those in leadership of Conferences and Unions will have the courage to stand for Biblical principle. I don't know what else to do.

    • Dana, it is so true what you say. I totally agree and neither we should be surprised. We know the enemy is zeroed in, to create disunity and it seems as success, and for sure things will get worse; yet, we also know at the end the bride of Jesus will come out pure and clean.

      Still, a list can be made how we are united in diversity. I think that -maybe- the Sabbath School lessons from the GC could be one way to be united not matter what culture and/or language we live, as they are the same lessons studied in all the cultures and lenguajes around the world; however, more and more, Sabbath School clases/groups are cutting off from studying the GC's Sabbath School lessons, choosing to study anything else but. I didn't see a big deal about it, but the question above got me thinking about the GC Sabbath School lessons as an attempt for all of us around the world to be united in Spirit and knowledge every single Sabbath as we study the same exact lessons.

  2. I would like so share some tentative observations on circumsision as a national religious badge over against the gospel of Christ as a worldwide spiritual unit.

    In his first missionary jouney the apostel Paul was establiching churches in Galatia. The second journey was to deliver the decree of the apostle convent of Jerusalem proclaiming freedom from chircumsision to the gentiles (Acts 16:4). Taking Israel to be a spiritual (not a national) religion, circumsision besomes needless. As national Israel with a national religion no longer exists, wearing a badge of that national religion has become obsolete in Christ. The believers are either Christians or Jews on very clear lines, no mixing up with cirumsision as an entrance in a national religion that in Christ no longer exists. Circumsision as a national religious doctrine has ceased. The new Testament is taking up circumsision of heart spoken of even by Moses (Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 36:26-27). Beyond all limits of nationality, here and now, circumsision denotes a new creation, not operated by human hands (Colossians 2:11). This is a new badge signifying a new spiritual entity as a worldwide, universal church.

    The first christians were Jews, but Christ had already outlined before the scope of mission to embrace the whole world (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8). Crossing national boundaries, problems would arise to be overcome, enlarging the vision of a worldwide religion, already present in the expectation of the Old Testament (Isaiah 11:10;49:6;56;7); without there being a break between both Testaments.

    The advent movement portrayed in the three angels messages is a religion and mission not limited to any country of state (Revelation 14:6).
    So we have to be aware to limit message and religion to any nation, state or country, sometimes using arguments that we all have different cultures. This may be true. But the pillars of adventist faith are the same in China as in Europe, in America or elsewhere. Taking different cultures as excuse for having different doctrines would spilt the unity of the church and weaken the wordlwide proclamation of the gospel. The view of the new circumsision of the new Testament (Colossians 1:11) as a new creation is not a new light, but the old light shining more fully in Christ Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

    With regards

    Winfried Stolpmann

  3. It's unfortunate when we teach one thing about unity and live another. It's not uncommon to have the support of important and influential church members when living this type of hypocrisy. There's no one group or culture responsible for all of the inconsistency in our beliefs and behavior when it comes to separation and the human tendency to be exclusive.

    I do believe that God will unify His people as time comes to a close. As it is with sincere love for Christ, there will be no substitute or alternative for unity among all of His children then...

  4. When we read this quarters lesson study we must say the same as Peter and Paul. What was that? Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ " by faith", be baptized in his name and you will be saved. What they were saying to us here in2017 is "faith alone!" Not faith plus circumcision or faith plus idol worship. Faith in Jesus Christ must stand alone.
    Nothing must be added or taken away from it. This is the message that Peter and Paul was teaching in their day which is for us today. Everything(custom,tradition,culture,language) has all been settled in Christ at the cross.
    The Jew must believe by faith. The Gentile must also believe by faith. This puts both as first-class citizens in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Sure keep your diversity of customs,culture,tradition,and language. But they must not rise above faith in Jesus Christ "alone!" Salvation comes from a person(A GOD), not through customs,etc.

  5. Is it true that currently our church have got about 78 groups. What is the course of this and can it come to an end after writing and knowing the importance of the unity of the gospel?

    • I am not sure just where the idea of 78 groups came from, but Unity does not necessarily imply that their should be no groups. In a church of any size there are likely to be groups which share together for a variety of reasons. In my own church I belong to a group of retired academics, mainly because of shared experiences and outlook. What is important is that groups need to work together. I sometimes despair a little when I see calls for unity that border on homogeneity, where everyone thinks the same. Unity is a call to work together, not a call to all think the same way. The real danger of groups is when their members think that their group is somehow better than other groups.

      Paul talks about diversity in the body of Christ quite a bit and makes the point that we are not all the same but should all work together.


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