Is Uniformity of Belief Necessary for Unity?
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So is there a difference between uniformity and unity?

In “uniformity,” you will find the word “uniform.” And that serves as a good illustration. When I taught in a Christian school with school uniforms, all the students look equally good. But do you believe their uniforms make them equally good in heart and character?

Diversity_and_Unity

Unity in Diversity (Wikimedia Commons)

In His intercessory prayer, Christ prayed for unity in the body of believers, asking that …

” … they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. … that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:21-22 ESV)

Do you get the idea of uniformity in this prayer or something much deeper?

It seems to me that unity among believers is more of a heart matter – a matter of loving each other as Jesus loved us, in spite of differences – a matter of respecting each other’s views, even when we think they are wrong, in lowliness of mind esteeming each other better than ourselves, as Paul suggested in Phil 2:3. This is in sharp contrast to insisting that we truly understand the mind of God and that any who disagree with us are fighting against God.

When I put it that starkly, you think, “But I don’t do that!” Perhaps not, but I have been saddened to see the self-assurance evident in arguments among Seventh-day Adventist Christians when controversial subject come up – subjects such as music, dress, role of women in the church, the trinity, prophetic interpretation and others. 1 I have been concerned to see arguments that insist that a particular topic is a salvation issue, and that those who disagree are representing arguments from Satan.

I suggest that whenever we have a discussion/argument, we need to consider what we are saying about God – not just in what we say about the subject, but also how we say it. In person, body language plays a part, but in written discussion, it is the words we use and what they imply about the other person(s). God is depending on us to portray His character to the world, and I believe that issues that affect the perception of the character of God are the truly important issues.

As faithful followers of Christ, we are to be true to principle. But we need to consider which issues are clear biblical truths and which are our traditions. While traditions may be good, traditions are subject to change. If the subject is not clear in the Bible to those who are honestly studying, it is not a subject that should cause division. I believe that, at this point, we have defined the important biblical teachings fairly well as a church, and these are encapsulated in our Fundamental Beliefs statements. When we have opinions regarding how to put these beliefs into practice, we need to do so with humility, recognizing that there may be a difference between our opinion and God’s.

Many of us are familiar with the 1888 General Conference session which focused on the doctrine of righteousness by faith – a teaching which we now understand much better. Ellen White traveled through North America with Bros. Waggonner and Jones to present the subject to all who would listen. She thought it was that important. So I decided to read some of her talks and writings on the conference, and I discovered that she was far more concerned about the way those on both sides of the issue interacted than the subject itself. She was more concerned about a loving spirit than correct doctrine.

And it seems Jesus made a similar point when He told the parable of the sheep and the goats. (Matt 25:32-46) He was more concerned about loving actions than correct doctrine.

I have seen claims that one of the current hot topics threatens the unity of the church. Perhaps so – if we let it, and if we refuse to follow biblical precedents. But the church has survived much greater divisive issues. For thousands of years, circumcision had been the sign of God’s covenant with His people. So, when the Messiah came, those who accepted Him as the Messenger of the covenant naturally assumed that the circumcision which was to be an “everlasting covenant” was to continue. (See Gen 17:13-14) But Paul appeared to be careless in his teaching of the Gentiles. He did not teach them about circumcision, but taught that faith was more important than physical circumcision. (Ro 3:30) Can you understand how heretical such a teaching was to the converted Jews? It’s hard to imagine a teaching more fundamental to their understanding of the covenant.

Yet, when the Jerusalem Council met to discuss the matter, they listened to Peter’s speech about the work of the Holy Spirit among the Gentiles (Acts 15:7-11), and they rendered the decision that the Gentiles did not need to be circumcised. (Acts 15:19-20)

I believe Paul was correct about the matter of faith versus circumcision, but the Jerusalem Council did not enforce uniformity in practice. And the apostolic church did not splinter over the lack of uniformity. Jewish Christians continued to practice circumcision for hundreds of years because it was part of their identity. And Gentile Christians did not circumcise. Insisting on uniformity could easily have killed the infant church, but unity was preserved by allowing diversity of practice.

Can we today learn a lesson from our apostolic spiritual forebears? Can we demonstrate the unity of Christian love even while we may disagree on some practices?

Will we insist on uniformity at the expense of unity? Or will we practice humility by allowing some diversity in practice and thus preserve unity the way the apostles did?


  1. While comments on the topic of what is or is not important for unity and why are welcome, this is not an invitation to discuss any of these controversial topics mentioned. No such comments will be published at this time.
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Is Uniformity of Belief Necessary for Unity? — 68 Comments

  1. We have to be careful in where we draw the line in putting love above correct doctrine. There must be a line, but we should always love, even if there must be separation over an issue (think of how the Protestant movement began. They had to separate). To quote from this week's lesson, "Love without truth is blind. Truth without love is fruitless." I believe the Bible is pretty clear on how far we are to go for the sake of unity without becoming blind. We should never replace God's directives with our traditions or preach tradition as doctrine. Other than that, I believe the Spirit is to personally lead individuals/churches/conferences/cultures. The world will know we have Jesus in us by our love for each other and ability to get along despite our differences. If we did not have differences, our ability to get along would say nothing to the world. People of the world can already get along with like-minded persons. The challenge comes when ppl are different from what they're used to or what they like.

    Like(26)
    • When Jesus told the parable of the sheep and the goats, where did He draw the line? According to Christ's parable, are doctrinal truth and loving action equally important, or is one more important than the other? If so, which one is the more important?

      Since I believe I am largely addressing Seventh-day Adventists, I suggested that we should be careful to make a distinction between our fundamental truths that define the character of God and our interpretation of these truths.

      For instance, while our Fundamental Beliefs have a teaching on Christian behavior, they do not specify exact skirt length, dress style, behavior, etc. That is our interpretation, and in different cultures standards of modesty are interpreted differently, and for good reason. We need to be able to act in unity in spite of such differences.

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      • When you say "our interpretation", I think it should be understood that our interpretation will be Spirit led if we are in Christ. We will not be left to lean on our own understanding, but will trust in the Lord with all our heart(meaning perfect willingness to be taught) and acknowledge Him in all our ways. Anything other than this will be doing what is right in our own eyes. Paul's counsel is: "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;". This is what Solomon writes about in Proverbs 3:1-8.

        If Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, will we look like the world in our dress? Will pride be catered to? Won't the principles of purity, modesty and humility be seen in the life that is transformed?(this is not to suggest a "Church Uniform") We don't need some denominational standard to be set, for everyone will be taught of God who presents themselves as living sacrifices (Ps 32:8). Our unity will be in taking Jesus yoke upon ourselves. The church's work is best focused on training workers rather than trying to maintain mere external standards, though the latter may need attention at times if we truly love our neighbor as our self and they are on a path to ruin. Not in a judgmental way, but to restore the erring in a spirit of meekness. While certain differences may be acceptable, some simply are not. The chapter on Baptism in T6 is solemn counsel on a vital subject. So much is lost when we neglect this vital work of "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you".

        Concerning other cultures, there is a point where individual culture is given up for the culture of Christ (which will fit in every culture). Isn't this the meaning of conversion? Otherwise the door is open for anything goes. God does not encourage this in any way. The church, if following it's Leader, will make the right judgments when required.

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        • Robert,
          Good comment. One may also inquire, if we show up in Heaven and find that God is peculiar about dress and requires some uniformity, like some blue piece of garment (presuming there is more than a garment of light, as it was in the beginning) (Numbers 15:38) would there be a protest on the basis of culture?

          Does God value cultural loyalty or submission more?

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        • Robert and Hugh, if we remember to submit ourselves one to another (Eph 5:21), I believe we will be in unity.

          Problems arise when some folks consider themselves to be more "Spirit-led" than others and seek to impose their understanding on others. That sort of controlling spirit is not the Spirit of Christ because it is not submissive.

          It is our responsibility to live in harmony with the understanding God has given to us. He most surely has not given us the responsibility to judge others in matters of appearance and behavior that is not explicitly spelled out in Scripture.

          Robert, you wrote about the "culture of Christ." If you are using the word "culture," as I used it, the "culture of Christ" would refer to first-century Judaism, and we would have to dress, eat, and work like first-century Jews.

          Otherwise, you are using the word in a very different way, and that's a sure recipe for mis-communication.

          And, Hugh, are you currently dressing in robes with tassels of blue on their corners? Are you suggesting that others ought to do the same? If not, to what biblical dress standard are you referring?

          Please understand that I'm not against modesty. However, I know of great harm that has been done by the "modesty police." I don't know what God is going to do with all the "righteous" folks who have turned so many away from Christ in their eagerness to enforce outward conformity. (I'm happy to leave the judging to Him.)

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        • Hugh, there IS a dress code in Heaven, and yes...all will be in perfect conformity, clothed in LIGHT! We will wear the same garment as God Himself. It symbolizes Holiness. We know that some will have a red border to signify their faithfulness unto death at the hands of their enemies, but "white robes were given unto everyone of them...".

          All I have found so far is our dress will involve a white robe and a crown. Who knows what else God has prepared for those who love Him? Soon we'll know. Did I forget to mention harps of gold?

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        • Inge, isn't the culture of Christ made clear in His life AND death for others? Isn't it said to be void of gender, social status, wealth or poverty, etc?[meaning no division on such things] Isn't based on loving as He loved? It has no time period or specific "dress code" except that the garments worn will reveal a surrendered heart that is filled with the Holy Spirit, and empty of all earthly pride.

          In this culture, there is no need for "modesty police", only the prayerful teaching of the principles of this culture as Jesus commands us, and then His Spirit will guide each soul by faith into perfect conformity to Christ, not the world. No, there is no need for a uniform for the Spirit-led soul, and those without this union of grace would protest any effort to human dictation of what is "right".

          As the prophet writes; "And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children."

          Like(1)
        • Sis Inge,
          Specific to your very good point quoted as follows: "Problems arise when some folks consider themselves to be more "Spirit-led" than others and seek to impose their understanding on others"

          Can you expand/clarify on how one imposes their understanding on others?

          Is it by passionately communicating their conviction? Is it by somehow orchestrating the last word? Or does it require the exercise of some power to which others are subject?

          To the same extent one may reject truth, is one not free to reject the misguided and supposedly "spirit-led" understanding of others, unless there is something (or someone) else at work?

          Truth has nothing to fear from error, no matter how strong it is presented. In any case if it is the Holy Spirit who makes the difference arguments can go only so far.

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  2. Well written Inge! Very relevant for the church today :)
    There is certianly a difference between unity and uniformity. I dont think uniformity is the Biblical model. I must admit though, I havent quite figured out what the parameters of unity are. I know we are not meant to be uniform, but how different can we be before we cross the "beyond unity" line? Is there such a line? Ted Wilson recently said that if you beleive in evolution you are not an Adventist. I dont beleive in evolution so I guess im safe, lol. But what of those who do? Can they still be united with us without "uniformly" sharing that belief? Or have they embraced a belief that places them beyond unity? Just some questions I havent quite figured out yet.

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    • Unity is in Truth. Jesus is "The Truth". Truth changes the beliefs and behavior of sinners. Sinners cannot remain against truth (shown in belief and behavior) and be in unity with those who are changed by Truth. How can unity exist without agreement? We need only to be sure which matters affect the power and witness of the Church in regard to the Truth. Some differences can exist, but we need wisdom from above to know the difference, and "with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

      Paul writes to the church in Corinth about the lack of unity in opposing beliefs and practices. (2 Cor 6:14-18) Yet our personal focus remains to be abiding in the Vine and God will prune the unfruitful branches Himself. We are branches, not the Vine Dresser.

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      • "The Truth" is relative to our experience with Jesus. His Spirit of Truth reveals "the truth" to our hearts. This Spirit does not contradict itself, however, different people with different levels of experience may contradict one another--kind of like the proverbial elephant and the blind men.

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        • The story of the blind men and the elephant only applies to the blind. Jesus bids us buy of Him eye-salve, among other things. All who are properly prepared for baptism will not be deficient in their knowledge of the fundamental doctrines, beliefs or practices, and will have confidence in the church and it's Leader. Everyone who allows the Spirit to lead will be led by the Spirit. This will cure disunity and conflicts. Isn't this the lesson of Jesus' prayer?

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        • Robert, I suspect it also applies to those of us who cannot see over the horizon as well. Coming to an understanding of truth is a journey and not a destination - at least while we are here on earth. I appreciate that I have not learned all truth yet, and I also realise that I am going at some stage, to unlearn some things that I regard as truth. That thought prompts me to be tolerant of those whose perception of truth is different to mine. Our love for the truth should sustain our love for one another, even when we see truth differently.

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        • Maurice, what horizon? Isn't our present truth well established? Are you speaking of the truth that can only unfold through eternity? Does that affect unity today? If our unity must accept departure from established truth, is this the unity we would desire?

          There seems to be different ideas of what is being discussed concerning unity on this post.

          Jesus clearly diagnoses Laodicea as blind and offers a solution. Are you saying this is limited in it's ability to bring clarity to our understanding as a body of believers? I always felt Jesus was offering a real remedy for our present need.

          If truth is seen differently, how can it be established? I feel truth is clearly set forth by God to all who will follow it in faith. "Whoever does His will shall know the doctrine". John 7:17

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        • Inge, we must study the counsel of the True witness to understand the need don't we? No where does He say our need is intellectual truth. The need is clear, they are mistaken on their true condition before God, and are lukewarm. It is THIS need and the provided remedy that I refer to as the "present need". We have doctrines that are right, we have structure, we have institutions, yes a "holy city with a sanctuary" and mistakenly we often depend on "these things". The real need is met by "gold tried in the fire", "eye salve", and "white raiment". The cure for the blindness works. It will allow us to find true unity in conjunction with the other remedies, which are all needed and which will bring the perfect unity Jesus prayed for. As with the teaching to eat His flesh and drink His blood, Jesus' words are "spirit" and "life", not literal gold, salve and robes. Yes, it involves the mind(heart if you wish) that is transformed by being renewed through "the washing of regeneration and the Holy Ghost". They are after all, gifts of the Spirit.

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        • Robert, the problem with Laodicea is a heart issue, and that's also what I am attempting to address in my post.

          Laodicea is not aware of her own condition of spiritual nakedness and blindness. The cure for this is not more intellectual "truth." The cure is found in allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our own unlikeness to the character of Christ. And since the Laodicean condition is a heart problem, it's not one we can diagnose in others. That's the Holy Spirit's job, and we had best not meddle with His job. Instead, we can share what Christ has accomplished in us and for us and thus testify to the goodness of Christ who wants nothing more than to enter our hearts and the hearts of those within our circles of influence.

          Unity among the people of God is also a heart issue - a matter of learning to "be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." (Eph 5:20 NASB) I believe that this mutual submission is the antithesis of Laodicean spiritual pride.

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    • About the parameters of unity, the Church Manual is one guideline for Seventh-day Adventists for starters. In that document, we find what the church has (in formal session) decided what is important that we should agree on. It defines what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist. Not everyone will like those decisions, but to be faithful to the Seventh-day Adventist church will mean to uphold those decisions anyway. That's why President Wilson could say what he did about those who choose to promote evolution within the church and its institutions.

      Of those who choose to believe in evolution, I may not be in unity with them on that point of belief. At the same time, I may be in unity with them on some other point of belief or action. In that sense "unity" is relative to the subject of discussion.

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      • We have been educated by our pioneers and by Ellen White to draw a quite sharp line between the Remnant and the Babylon. We must certainly love people of Babylon, despite their "wine" and the "marks" they assume. Many of them are God's people. However, while love is essential to the unity, it is not sufficient. Church unity, if we speak about God's Remnant, not about the World Council of Churches, depends so much on the sound teaching – our doctrinal faith. Evolution (theistic or atheistic) is so contrary to the Bible and to Christianity, to say nothing of Adventism, that one cannot be Adventist and evolutheist at the same time. I cannot see any valid, comprehensive doctrinal statement to include evolutheistic "Adventists". If Adventist still has a meaning beyond that of a cultural milieu. The only excuse may be that there are no scientific-creationist answers to sattisfy our "Adventist" evolutheists, to this time. They may be and usually are sincere and honest people, but their worldview is more remoted from adventism than of some conservative Christian denominations. I simply cannot understand, why is helpful for them or for us that evolutheists be kept as Adventist members, to preserve the unity. And if anyone would send us to the criteria of the parable of Matthew 25, why don't we abandon every form of religion and doctrine, and just be concerned to care for the world's needs.

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      • John,
        Per your comment, "Of those who choose to believe in evolution, I may not be in unity with them on that point of belief. At the same time, I may be in unity with them on some other point of belief or action. In that sense "unity" is relative to the subject of discussion."

        If as it seems on the surface theistic evolution is farther removed from SDA fundamental beliefs than Sunday Observance and it is okay to still unite, what is it that would prevent us from uniting with those who simply observe a different Sabbath, but share much in common with us?

        Sunday observance trades a day. Theistic evolution undermines a foundation. In fact it makes a case against the Sabbath and much more.

        So what would be the practical and spiritual value (not theoretical and intellectual) of uniting on the few remaining points, if we can identify and agree on them (Amos3:3)?

        Would the unity be an end in itself, or towards something else?

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        • Hugh and Florin, you both have good points. Perhaps my comment was too brief. As an Adventist, I definitely do not want to give the impression that I would support organizational unity with those who have been "Adventists" (i.e. allowing their membership to remain) while they deny the beliefs of Adventists (e.g. while they hold to the theory of evolution in contrast with literal Biblical creation).

          Florin, as you said,"I simply cannot understand, why is helpful for them or for us that evolutheists be kept as Adventist members, to preserve the unity." I totally agree. In fact, I might be so bold as to say that I believe that to keep them as members is not to preserve unity but to promote a lowering of the standard of unity, or even to promote disunity as acceptable under the term "Adventist."

          My point was using the term "unity" in a broader sense. I can be, to a degree, in unity with my coworkers on a professional level, even while being in disunity on issues of faith. I can be in unity with my next door neighbors regarding how we handle the borders of our property, even though we mad disagree on other things. I may agree with (be in unity with) a Catholic or Muslim regarding the need of reverence in worship while not being united on the subjects to be revered. I believe this "unity" is consistent with the counsel we have in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22.

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        • John, your comment raises an important point; many levels of "unity" in various situations, and many here are probably looking from these various ideas and interpretations of what unity can be. The prayer of Jesus is not about compromise or accepting those who oppose truth or it's standards, both which limit the effectiveness of giving the Gospel to the world. Only the oneness that Jesus holds with the Father and wants us to hold with both of them can lend real power to our efforts to evangelize the lost. This is where the Holy Spirit works in each believer through the conditions set forth in God's word.

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    • Perhaps if we trusted ourselves less and the Holy Spirit more, we would exhibit the kind of love and unity that would demonstrate that we really are followers of Christ?

      Certainly we cannot be in unity with those who misrepresent the character of God with false teachings. Yet even in such cases, I believe we should emphasize the beliefs we hold in common so that we may form relationships and move hearts. People listen to those they regard as friends much more readily than to strangers.

      And Robert, I invite you to consider that Jesus said, "I am the Truth." And John tells us that the God is love. If we put these profound statements together, we come back to the understanding that unity will be achieved through the love of Christ in us, not on intellectual agreement about "truth." Or so I see it ...

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      • Exactly Inge, and the one verse that should have been included in the lesson is Eph 4:2-3, where this is emphasized. But we must understand the true meaning of this love when error persists and threatens to erode saving truth. I think I've been clear that every effort to preserve unity of beliefs is to be done in the Spirit described. This is not a witch hunt, but a genuine entreaty when others are taken by compromise with the world.
        The principles revealed in the colored horses of Revelation 6 tells the tragic story of false unity being favored over truth to God and His word as shown in the life and death of Jesus. We are warned in these messages aren't we? What will happen soon to most who are considered brethren when the time of testing falls as a thief in the night? For what cause does prophecy show the sealed ones sighing and crying for? Aren't we in this day? Souls are deciding for eternity and too often false ideas are held up as true, while they oppose the very words of Jesus. Being "nice" isn't always love, but love will always be kind, courteous and sympathetic.

        Inge, you put together well that "Truth" is "Love". Can falsehood be "love" also? Isn't there a reason it is "false"? I agree that restoration is always to be the motive when addressing falsehoods. They seem to be multiplying lately, but weren't we warned? (T5 707.3)

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  3. Can we be unified even though we have differences of opinion? If a man and his wife can keep their marriage together in spite of the fact that one was a Jehovah’s Witness and the other a Mormon then we can be unified also. I have also been to churches where there was absolutely no barrier between race, national origin, and culture where the marriages were completely mixed and that is normally not easy to do, but obviously it can be done.

    So, to me it is possible if we would only put our arrogant pride aside and consider others at least on equal ground and their particular interpretations just as valid as ours I think we would be truly unified in Christ.

    I also think that Inge makes a very good point that we often confuse salvation issues with the nonessential. We need wisdom in drawing the line between what is allowed and what isn’t and we can’t do that while majoring in the minors.

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    • To say that someone else's interpretations are "just as valid as our", comes really close to saying, as some do, that "what's true for me may be different from what's true for you, and both are OK." If we believe that there is absolute truth (and I think we can agree that His Word defines truth), then we should be seeking unity in understanding on all points possible. (Philippians 2:2) If in the process, we reflect the character of Christ, we may be "unified in Christ" even if we don't yet agree on some point of intellectual understanding.

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      • John, I believe Tyler was referring to the interpretation of Scripture, not the actual teachings and/or our stated foundational teachings. (It is quite likely that none of us interpret all Scripture 100% accurately.)

        If we do not regard the interpretations as valid as ours (at least for them), then we are essentially claiming superior spiritual wisdom and a closer connection to God. I would like to suggest that we are not the best judges of our own spiritual condition, since we are prone to self-deception. So our only safe course is to "be subject one to another" (1 Pe 5:5) in love and share our understanding of truth in a respectful way, while praying that the Holy Spirit will accompany our words.

        I believe that the only way we can be unified is if we each recognize that we could be wrong about our understanding and the other person right, while we pray for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. "Knowing" we are right too often leads to controlling behavior and a most unpleasant experience for those who have the misfortune to have to be around us. Unity is not achieved by our forcing our opinions on others, as I see it.

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  4. Yes and no. The question about the Sabbath, the ten commandants etc which the bible clearly without question teaches about cannot be debated, both unity and uniformity are paramount. We cannot say only unity is needed coz others will say we can worship on another day and maintain unity.
    on the other side, many of our bible interpreted beliefs are shaped by our traditions. Eg, wearing a suit with a tie to go to the pulpit, in other countries eg Nigeria, they have a very modest national dress and imposing a suit because of uniformity wouldn't be practical.

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  5. Inge I get your point, but one can easily drift to the other extreme. Christ welcomed prostitutes, but He did not participate in their trade; He welcomed tax collectors, but He did not condone corruption; Christ ate with Pharisees, but He did not have to become one of them to do so. He 'talked' with a Samaritan woman (LORD have mercy - a taboo at that time), a sinner even by the 'lower' Samaritan standards and showed her a better way. I believe there is a difference with Christ identifying with fallen humanity, with Christ identifying with sinful practices.
    For there to be real unity, there are habits and traits we all have to shed off, as we are refined in the refiner's fire. With the strong foundation of Bible based teachings, let us be revived and reformed, revived - brought back to life, and reformed - transformed to reflect the image of Christ, then unity shall be possible, because we will only have one standard - Jesus Christ, not our cultural background, or class or race or creed.

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    • Thank you for your contributions, Joe and Bill. I believe we are agreed that ...
      1) Unity requires some agreement on the foundational teachings of the Bible. To achieve that unity we need to be submitted to the Holy Spirit who will lead us into all truth, as Christ promised.
      2) Our submission to the Holy Spirit will also result in the transformation of character that makes us more like Christ and thus brings us into perfect harmony.

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  6. But as the article points out, even though we may be united on the Sabbath; we diverge again in our ideas about how exactly to be holy.

    I think one thing that heats up the space really quickly when it comes to differences is our emphasis on having the truth. Under this construct, wrong information can get you killed. As such, seeing things the wrong way is seen as perilous. So we're always searching for the correct application; but under the motivation of fear.

    This is closely tied to one's view of God.
    We tend to view God as particular, exacting and demanding. So every difference takes on a salvific urgency. Nobody wants to go to hell, so they try to get it right at all costs so as not to make God angry at us.

    I think that is the biggest obstacle to unity--fear.

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    • Is it possible, Andrew, that the biggest obstacle to unity is self?

      A love of one's own opinion can be hidden under a robe of religiosity, a claim to uphold the purity of the gospel.

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    • "I think that is the biggest obstacle to unity--fear."
      Possibly. Love must be stronger in our experience than fear, or perhaps fear will vanish some day. But I suspect that if we had no fear of anything, that will affect drastically our moral decisions, simply because we are fallen human beings. Therefore God's message also appeals to this uncomfortable feeling: "Fear God..., the hour of His Judgment has come", or "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1Pt 4:17-18).
      "Do you not fear Me?' says the LORD. 'Will you not tremble at My presence...?" (Jr 5:22)

      God character and attitude is paradoxical and mysterious as well as His nature. God is love, certainly, this is His nature, His essential being. However, at the same time God does terrible things in the Bible, from the Great Flood to the last seven plagues, and from instantly killing Uzzah to Hanania and Saphira etc., and many similar cases. Why such episodes have been left written in the Bible, if not to stirr our rethinking
      and feel a bit of fear?
      I'am affraid that our modern Adventist spirituality today is torn between a serious, stern, often fearful, middle ages religious attitude and a modern careless psychology of "Jesus, Hallelujah" lip service therapy. If one wants to find the middle (high) way, he/she must go to the Cross, where we can see the most important reason of being happy, and at the same time.... to tremble. Nowhere is shown God more loving and more fearful than at the Cross. Dear Andrew, do not consider my reply as a direct answer to your comment. Actually your comment was only a pretext for me to write what you see. God bless you, and I know that the apostle of love justified your comment (1Jn 4:18).

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  7. Does the Bible really and clearly teach respect for the views (opinion) of others, and if so where? More importantly what does it mean to respect another’s opinion? Is this simply some declaration to clear the way so one may say what they want to?

    Does respect for the opinion of others apply to all opinions, or just some and who determines which? Shall we respect the opinion of one whose opinion is, “we should not respect the opinion of others?” Do we respect the opinion which says “we should not love everybody, but freely hate?”

    Though not always the case sometimes the idea of respecting another’s opinion is used to get the fervent to back off their zeal for preaching their conviction. To this extent did the prophets of old and recent consider the various opinions of Israel, both ancient and modern (2 Peter 1:20, 21)?

    In the most practical sense respect for another’s opinion amounts to freedom of speech. It is not acting to forcefully suppress another’s opinion, any more than we would like our best opinions to be suppressed, and most of us are probably not in a position to do that. Usually this requires the exercise of power in some capacity.

    Keep preaching the Word in season, and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2), when it is the flavor of the day, and when it rebukes sharply, cutting like a sword (Hebrews 4:12).

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    • Hugh, perhaps "convictions" would have been a better word to use than "opinions." That's partly because we see ourselves as not having opinions but "convictions." We must respect our neighbors enough to respect their convictions, even if we regard them as mere "opinions."

      Off the top of my head, I can think of several passages that clearly teach respect for the convictions or opinions of others:
      Jesus said that to love our neighbors as ourselves is one of the two great commandments. (Matt 22:39) And so did Paul. (Gal 5:14) And that surely includes respecting our neighbour's convictions and opinions as much as our own.

      Peter teaches that we are to subject ourselves one to another. Again, mutual subjection requires that we respect the opinions and convictions of others as much as our own. To regard our opinions/convictions as being more correct is arrogance, not humility. (Remember that my whole post is in the context of unity in the body of Christ, not unity with the world. It is our common love for Christ that unites us.)

      Again Paul counsels us: "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another." (Ro 12:10 KJV) It seems to me that hat is not reconcilable with preferring our opinion/conviction above our brother's opinion/conviction.

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      • Hugh and Inge, I think you are both speaking of the same coin, just different sides. We are to maintain a forbearance of those who oppose us, but not to embrace error for the sake of some sort of "unity". Jesus prayed for a specific unity that will be accepting without compromise. Oneness with God and Jesus will have us at opposition with the world and it's views, even if they are accepted in the church by some. But Jesus always reverenced all people, even those who opposed Him.

        Hugh, do you mean "accept" instead of "respect"? We can reject error respectfully, considering our own selves as possibly in error. Close searching of both scripture and our own hearts will keep us "in the faith" and One with Jesus and His Father through the Spirit of truth.

        I see room for both of your views, and not just "either/or".

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        • Robert,
          Thanks for your question. A question is actually being asked, which is, what exactly does it mean to respect another's opinion? It is precisely because respect can be taken to mean "accept" that the question is posed. Love devoid of respect is not love. However it is important to understand how such respect is applied and not confuse respect for someone with respect for the opinion. None is compelled to agree with another, be silent on a matter, or go soft with a conviction just because it might not find favor with others.

          If someone expresses an opinion of hate and another rebukes the opinion is it disrespectful? What exactly would we do to show respect for the view/opinion (not the person) which holds that not all opinions are equal? Tolerance, as in freedom of speech is the respect due.

          Are the following instances of disrespect? Matthew 12:34; Matthew 23:32-34; Luke 12:56; Matthew 16:23. Were someone to be moved by the Spirit as Christ was to say anything close to this what would be the reaction?

          Was EGW disrespectful in some of her comments, some of which are stronger than most posted in this form? If we lead ourselves we will toe the line we define. If we follow the spirit we may be uncomfortable ourselves by some of what we are moved to say. Can we then set self aside, in spite of the criticism and follow the Spirit anyway? Self is not limited to a few areas, but every aspect of our life.

          The test of selflessness is not when we do something and win the expected applause, but when it hurts us (reputation and otherwise) and we seek to please the Lord anyway.

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        • Robert,
          Would you have a comment on the following relevant quote from the prophet, found in a book EGW wished to be widely circulated above others she wrote; and the SDA church is trying to fulfill that wish?

          " After a long and severe conflict, the faithful few decided to dissolve all union with the apostate church if she still refused to free herself from falsehood and idolatry. They saw that separation was an absolute necessity if they would obey the word of God. They dared not tolerate errors fatal to their own souls, and set an example which would imperil the faith of their children and children’s children. To secure peace and unity they were ready to make any concession consistent with fidelity to God; but they felt that even peace would be too dearly purchased at the sacrifice of principle. If unity could be secured only by the compromise of truth and righteousness, then let there be difference, and even war.

          Well would it be for the church and the world if the principles that actuated those steadfast souls were revived in the hearts of God’s professed people. There is an alarming indifference in regard to the doctrines which are the pillars of the Christian faith. The opinion is gaining ground, that, after all, these are not of vital importance. This degeneracy is strengthening the hands of the agents of Satan, so that false theories and fatal delusions which the faithful in ages past imperiled their lives to resist and expose, are now regarded with favor by thousands who claim to be followers of Christ." (GC pp. 45, 46)

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        • I suppose we all might use words differently at times. For me, respect is shown to people, though we might reject their ideas if they are not supported by Truth. Yes, we can have respect or disrespect to ideas as well, as long as we follow Jesus example "as I have loved you" while we take our stand for truth against errors.

          Concerning the quote from GC, I believe this will be the experience of those who are sealed. And it will come with great opposition from within and without. We are deciding today where we will stand with every choice made for either heaven or earth.

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  8. We don't need to think exactly alike or talk exactly alike to be unified.
    God made us all different, each with our individual idiosyncrasies.
    We need to unite on what the bible says about something, and if we disagree about it, do as the founding fathers did, study it out, pray and ask God for direction and be willing to listen to Him. After all, isn't true unity found in Christ?
    Just a thought.

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    • Unity is not really focusing on us. Keeping focus on us will make us lose sight of Jesus. We must diligently seek Him daily!! It is only by abbiding in Him,remaining in Jesus daily through prayer, contemplation and the study of His word that we must experience transformation of one self. It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit in us, that we are transform and guided to unity in Him. As a result the Church will be united and able to focus on the commission of sharing His love and the gospel.

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  9. "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" Amos 3:3

    Did the reformers maintain unity, though striving for it? God does not stand still and leads His servants to a constantly higher standard in Jesus.

    Yes, we can agree without perfect uniformity of understanding and practice, but anything that requires compromise with Truth must be prayerfully considered. Division exists and will until the very end. God has a plan and will lead all who will follow Him. Our only concern is to follow Him ourselves and leave others to God's care. Those who follow with all their heart will be united in Christ, and the main cause of their unity will be the manner in which they die daily to self. Perfect unity is only possible with Christ "dwelling in [our] hearts by faith".

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  10. Re: "God is depending on us to portray His character to the world, and I believe that issues that affect the perception of the character of God are the truly important issues." Amen, Amen!!
    Re: the question of salvation issues, how do you decide what is a "salvation issue"? For me, if God has made something plain to me that requires a decision and an action from me, then that issue is for me a salvation issue. For me to say that it is not, may be to resist the moving of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, it may not be a salvation issue for someone to whom God has not yet made it plain enough for a decision to be required. I'm glad that God is judge. His judgment will be right.

    May God help each one of us to be right in our individual spheres of influence.

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  11. Thank you very much sister Anderson. I guess you managed to summarize the spirit of this week's Sabbath School lesson.

    May God bless you and give you a wonderful Sabbath. ;-)

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  12. In reading the posts so far, I wonder is there a hint of disunity? Hmm. The problem at hand as I see it, and has been noted here and in the lesson quarterly, is to love everyone although being in disagreement, at the same time. This may be nearly impossible for many. The same as being sinless through our own efforts alone. Are we talking about unity in our denomination or congregation of which we are members, or the church that Jesus called "Mine" in Matt 16:18. There was only one religeon and the "church" bulding was a synagogue or temple. Jesus did not agree with the religeous leaders. He called them hypocrits, whited sepulchres, vipers and more. There was disagreement in the most unlikely place, Heaven. The beatitudes were mentioned last week as a guide to how we should live. In reading those verses again, I would recommend reading those more than once or twice. They show what is important in the way we should live in our quest for eternal life. Unity has it's place but should not be over rated.

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    • Yes, Paul, unity has its place and must not be the center around which all else pivots. As with many other subjects (e.g. law vs grace, mercy vs justice, Christ's humanity vs His divinity, etc), both unity and division are principles of interaction within the church. Otherwise how could Jesus say, " Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword." (NKJ Matthew 10:34) He also said, as part of redemptive discipline, that we should regard as though they were outsiders, those who will not accept the guidance of the church (Matthew 18:17). May God help us to find the balance of truth that will represent Him best in every situation.

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  13. This has to be the key for a growing Church, after all a unified church is a growing church: We can deminstrate the unity of Christian love, even though we disagree with some opinions. I do believe that the text that says, "through Christ we can do all things," applys here also. It is found in Philippians 4:13. 1Corinthians 15:57 is good too.

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  14. Be aware of postmodernisms. The most striking characteristic of postmodernisms is complete absents of absolutes. Nothing is certain except a notion that everything is relative which is nonsense in itself. If nothing is absolute than a postulate that everything is relative is also relative. We need to pray for common sense. Postmodernism is directly aimed at God of Bible and has nothing to do with Unity Jesus has been talking about in the Bible . We must be careful where we are outsourcing from our understanding of church unity. I ‘ve got impression we spend too much time watching and reading main media. Church unity is to be found in the Bible and Bible only.

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    • I appreciate your concern about the relativism of most modernism. However that is not an excuse for me to say that I am right and those who disagree with me will not be saved. The problem with truth is that it does not come with bells that ring when you discover it. We need to grow into truth - and even discard some things that we held as true as we develop and understand more. Truth is essentially a journey. Once we understand that we can appreciate that all of us are on that journey of discovery and are at different stages of understanding.

      I have a grandson who is keen on Maths and he has just discovered the commutative law of addition (12 + 5 = 5 + 12 etc). I happen to understand differential equations and vectors. We are both excited by mathematics but are at very different stages in our understanding of it. Our unity is in our shared love for maths, not in how much of it we can use, understand and explain.

      In our Christian experience our unity is in our common love for Christ, and his for us; not in how much doctrine we can describe or explain.

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      • Maurice,
        Thanks for your comment.

        Do you think SDA's should attempt to unite with our Jehovah Witness brethren, Mormon colleagues, Catholic friends, fellow protestant associates, and other acquaintances who profess "common love for Christ, and His love for us?"

        If not, why not, considering that we do not question their love?

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        • I sat next to an old Catholic Nun a couple of years ago and we struck up a conversation about reading (I was reading my iPad at the time) I asked her what she liked reading and she told me that she enjoyed reading Pope Benedict's sermons. I asked her what she enjoyed about his sermons and she said that it was the message that we ought to look to Jesus and follow the example of Jesus. I responded that I thought that was a wonderful message and shared a bit about what Jesus meant to me. She was surprised and delighted that she had found someone (much younger than her) outside her community that knew what she was talking about and really interested in what she was saying. I felt no need to challenge her about the papacy; we just shared our love for Jesus. For those few minutes we were united in our common belief.The little old nun left our conversation with a smile, saying that it was encouraging to find someone so young who loved Jesus. (I don't know about the young bit - but she made me smile too.)

          There is a time and a place to challenge people's beliefs, but there is also a time to share in those beliefs that we have in common. It is by establishing those things that unite us that we find the opportunities to grow our experience in truth.

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        • Maurice, your conversation shows perhaps what Jesus said about having "other sheep who are not of this fold" that would hear His voice and follow Him.

          I don't believe this discussion is about taking every person we meet to task who has a different belief, but is more about how we are truly united vs unity lacking though having the same doctrinal conclusions.

          Time and circumstances will reveal all who are to be called out of Babylon. Those sealed will be united on present truth for that hour, by their genuine faith, and sacrificial service for others.

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      • I believe while you are doing calculus you still use numbers of whatever type they may be as well as four basic mathematical operations. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Hopefully there is no disagreement between you and your son about that.

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  15. Thank you, Inge, for stimulating discussion and deeper digging. In context of this discussion, please consider the prerequisites to unity found in the following quotation (from Manuscript Releases, Vol. 12, page 146-147):

    Gospel of Christ to Be Practiced--God says, "A new heart will I give you." Every learner may be renewed in knowledge and true holiness. The ransom of an enslaved race was Christ's purpose in coming to this earth. What a pity it is that human beings cannot discern their own weakness. What a pity that they enslave their souls by lifting themselves up unto vanity. Christ alone can make us free. And when He makes us free, we are free indeed. His power breaks the yoke of bondage that binds man to the great deceiver, the originator of sin. But how many there are who are unwilling to allow Christ to break their shackles. How many there are who choose to cling to the thraldom of sin. The gospel of Christ is truly believed only when it is practiced. Faith is justified by works. Self must be hid; Christ must appear as the chiefest among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely. When an unreserved surrender of the powers of body, mind, and soul is made to the Saviour, self no longer strives for the mastery. What man needs today is the crucifixion of self and the revelation in his life of Christ, the hope of glory. Then will be fulfilled the word, "Ye are the light of the world." Then will be answered the prayer, "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us" (John 17:21). In thought, word, and action, Christ's followers will be an exemplification of godliness. An atmosphere of peace will surround them.

    Step by step let us follow on to know the Lord, treading in His footprints, striving to live His life. He says to His followers, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14, 16). From the lives of God's children, the bright light of purity, of honesty, of unselfishness, is to shine forth.

    As I compare the above with most appeals for unity, it seems that some call for an outward show of unity which is not unlike the “peace and love” movement of the 1960s. The world can put on a show of unity under its own power and for its own purposes. The ecumenical movement also calls for a kind of unity which does not require much common understanding. If, on the other hand, we have new hearts, in our love for Him who is the truth, we will love one another and practice the truth we understand. Then God can guide us into all truth and even our intellectual understandings will come more and more into harmony. Therefore, I pray all the more for that unity which will be the out-flowing of true revival and reformation.

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  16. Inge, this may be your best article yet. It is clear, simple, precise and brief, yet so much was said. Now if we would only look to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you", i.e Jesus' culture, in my opinion, was love, love, love and not being judgemental. Those wedding guest who came in from the highways and byways were all given wedding garments; if we would only allow the Holy Spirit to do its work. God will and can handle those things that bothers us; those external things that makes Him stoop and write in the dust.

    His love will cover a multitude of sins and people will know we are Christians by our love then seek earnestly to serve Jesus in spirit and in truth. It's that unity that will usher in the latter rain. Studying God's word will create a new mind and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, people will change. It is not about us: Jesus said, let the wheat and the tares grow till the day of harvest. Too often we want to clean up the church ourselves on a sabbath when we have absolutely no clue what a brother or sister has gone through in the previous week or will face in the coming one.

    We should be cognizant of the fact that satan as a roaring lion is out there seeking to devour; there are members who are waiting for someone to speak to them about their attire, their jewellery so they can have an excuse to leave the church. Our love and non judgemental behavior can do the opposite, it just may force someone to ask, what can I do to be saved?

    Just thinking of that Pentecost day: "And there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven". And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved". Acts 2:5, 42-47.
    There would have to be differences there, I think, yet they were all united and in one accord on what was important.
    All I see is love in action, that's what unified the church. Conversion and change in behavior comes through sanctification, that daily growth that can only occur through connection with Jesus via the Holy Spirit in our lives.

    The apostles' doctrine is rooted in all that Jesus said and did. We should be careful that we do not take on the work of the Holy Spirit. Let us study to show ourselves approved while we love as Jesus would have us love and ultimately be so united, that Jesus can pour out His latter rain upon us and usher in His kingdom. Matt. 16:6, 28: 18-20, Luke 12:1, 1 Tim.3:15

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    • Thanks, Paulette :) Much credit goes to Maurice who continually reminds me of the value of brevity. :)

      I really like this and agree:
      "All I see is love in action, that's what unified the church."

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  17. To promote unity, we must have first a theological community more united, to form a society that is eager to promote valuable research and communication, and to have a more important official role in the Church than it has today. When a theology teacher is affraid to speak or write on his research, then all this discussions about unity versus uniformity are only rhetorical exercise. I am wonder if our leading Brethren use to read such comments.

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  18. Unfortunately Robert, we have run out of reply levels above so I am copying parts of your comment here so that I can reply to them and still makes sense.

    You wrote:

    "Maurice, what horizon? Isn't our present truth well established? Are you speaking of the truth that can only unfold through eternity? Does that affect unity today? If our unity must accept departure from established truth, is this the unity we would desire?"

    The horizons that I speak of are our own horizons of education and experience. We see truth through the filters of our background. I am not saying that we must accept departure from the truth, but we must accept that we all have room to grow in our understanding of truth.

    You wrote:

    "Jesus clearly diagnoses Laodicea as blind and offers a solution. Are you saying this is limited in it's ability to bring clarity to our understanding as a body of believers? I always felt Jesus was offering a real remedy for our present need."

    The blindness of Laodicea was speaking about the inability for us to see the truth about our own condition. While that is part of the problem, it is not speaking about truth in the sense we were talking about originally.

    One of the issues that divides us is that we think that our version of truth is right and therefore the other person's view is wrong because it does not fit our version.

    Let me give an example: We have had some interesting discussions on this blog about the nature of the Godhead and various ideas have been put forward about the Trinity and the nature of Christ and so on. I happen to believe that some of the ideas put forward are right and some of them are wrong. However, apart from some of the really "way-out" ones, many of the wrong ones are workable. Just because a person is a modalist or unitarian or whatever, does not mean that they won't be saved. We do not always see things clearly but we see enough for us to reach out in faith and grasp the hand of God.

    I grew up when the church was going through endless discussions about the pre-lapsian/post-lapsian nature of Christ. (I probably learned the meaning of those terms at too young an age to do me any good.) What really bothered me in the long run about this argument was not about who was right or wrong, but the number of good Christian folk who threw up their hands in disgust and left the church, not because they were wrong or thought that the church was wrong, but because they were sick of arguing about it in increasingly strident terms. I happen to believe that one of those positions is right (the truth) but I also want to be magnanimous enough to say that those who hold the opposite view are fine Christians who love the Jesus and accept His grace. And I also hope those many people who have heard of "pre/post lapsian" for the first time know there is no test on terminology in order to be saved.

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    • My belief is that most of our "dis-unity" occurs from so many not properly prepared to be baptized, so often being "buried alive". Read that chapter in T6 and you might understand what I'm saying. There should be no lack of thoroughness when it comes to preparation of candidates, who should be brought to understand clearly our present truth. One's education or experience does not need to set a limit on this ability to understand these truths, both in doctrine and in practice. Again, read that chapter on "Baptism" and see if what I'm saying makes any sense.

      I don't accept that there must be limitations on those who are newly baptized except when they are not ready for it but are baptized anyway. "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" comes from the top, and bypassing this mandate has brought much that would be expected if careless about completing this appointed work. The divisions that exist can't be blamed on truth that cannot be understood by all in the same way. God did not give such truth to the church that was to represent Him to the world. Confusion comes through compromise with sin. That's the only Biblical explanation. (John 7:17, 2 Thess 2:10-12) Receiving and obeying truth makes it clear to us, while finding pleasure in unrighteousness blinds our perception and ability to understand. Also intemperance in our physical life will cloud the mind as well. The Bible is written so the humblest believer can understand it it they are searching with their whole heart.

      When it comes to speculative theories or "questions which gender strife", what is our counsel? (2 Tim 2:23) The pure doctrines concerning salvation are simple and will not be clothed in mystery to the obedient lover of the Way, the Truth and the Life. Imagine if all who were concerned about post or pre lapsian nature were busy sharing the gospel with those still ignorant on the subject of God's grace for sinners, carefully teaching each point clearly until it is understood and accepted before baptism. Yes, we'd be a smaller church in numbers, but I would suspect the disunity on the fundamental beliefs would be an extremely rare thing.

      If the scripture cited above are true, we must expect the blindness of Laodicea to affect our unity in Christ. How could it not? Is lukewarmness not a bad thing? Is it just about understandings or interpretations or does it affect actions as well? Worldly compromise led the white horse to become red, then black, then the paleness of death. Private interpretations will always follow any departure from conviction and obedience.

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      • Robert, I remember being baptised at 14 years of age. I was prepared - 2 VOP course completed; read Messages to Young People; sat through the baptismal classes run by the Pastor. But I still thought and acted like any 14 year old. I am thankful that I grew up in a church that was supportive and encouraging. It was not the uniformity of doctrinal belief that united us (I'm not discounting the importance of doctrine here) but the unity of a collaborative cooperative community of believers. Now over 50 years later, and having lived through the "Nature of Christ", "Faith/Works/Grace", "The Sanctuary", "Women Ministers Ordination controversies, I remain convinced that the real issue is that we lack the love of Christ. We are not interested in resolving issues and problems; we just want to win the fight. Go into any Adventist discussion forum, and you will see comments written in vitriol about what others believe and how others should behave. Such comments can only be divisive.

        I attended a church workers meeting several years ago where a particular issue was being discussed. An church elder took the floor to say that on this particular issue that many workers were wolves in sheep's clothing and that we had to rip the clothing off the wolves to clean up the church. Unfortunately the meeting was evidence that that was happening and in the aftermath sheep's clothing was ripped off - only to find a sheep inside. Sadly this tactic did not do a lot of good for the church.

        The most divisive thing that has happened to me personally in recent times is that the church pastor told a committee that the "old bloke" was past it (he did not know that I was a professional in what I was doing) and that I should be replaced by a younger person. I got to hear about the remarks! I have to say that it has taken me a long time to heal but it was the support of other church members who knew how I had been treated that have helped me to heal. It is that sort of ageist, sexist, conservative, liberal intolerance of one another that is more divisive than doctrine.

        We do not have to be right to be united, but we have to learn to be tolerant. Truth is a journey and if we do not share the road with others in a supportive way, we may find that we have gone off on a side track.

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        • Sad for the unChrist-like manner in which many treat others from their positions of trust, and yes, this strikes against "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace". But what student of scripture would be surprised this exists? There is a great mixed multitude today, seen in the love of the world and exhibiting worldly traits. Jesus prayer for unity included that we would be "sanctified by the truth" of God's Word. He also said the wheat and tares would grow together until the harvest. Can wheat and tares have the unity Jesus prayed for?

          My baptismal class at the ripe old age of 11 was a short review of the basics: Sabbath, Tithe, dews'n don'ts, and probably something about Ellen's place in our libraries. I don't remember much concerning a devotional life (except to study "seven times" each week!), what it means to take His yoke and learn of Him, abiding in the Vine, the meaning of Gethsemane and it's example for us, a daily cross, or what to expect from other kids in a Christian school once you took a stand for Heaven instead of earth. I did come to learn of those things when I began a personal study to "show [myself] approved unto God..." and was led to see all that I should have understood years before.

          However, I believe that things become divisive if we choose to allow it. Saul, when spoken against when being introduced as Israel's King by Samuel, was "as one who heard not" and did not retaliate though encouraged to do so. Perhaps the one bright spot of his sad experience as King of God's people. That incident encourages me tremendously, as does the account of Joseph becoming third ruler in Egypt. Can you imagine being Potiphar's wife when the news of Joseph's promotion came?! But we hear nothing of revenge taken, and instead, I see Joseph going as soon as possible to let it be known he had only forgiveness and that it had been God's leading. Or maybe not, but it wouldn't surprise me to hear it in heaven one day. His dealing with his brothers confirms the possibility doesn't it?

          That is how unity is kept, even with those who might cast stones at us. It is from being sanctified by the Truth of God's word. But that was not highlighted in the baptismal class, and instead of "unity" it was "sameness", and we knew which day to dress up, bring our 10% and that TV had to be off by sunset and couldn't come on again until right after the next sunset. Wow, learning to love/hate sunset! (No, that wasn't my personal experience because there was no TV in our home then, but many did and the love/hate existed.)

          When I first read the chapter on Baptism in 6T years later I hardly knew how to react, but realized the depth of God's mercy and grace for me. I have learned that when others fail their duty, that God Himself will guide those who will follow. "He leadeth me, O blessed thought!"

          Unity will exist with all who follow the Way, the Truth and the Life.

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      • Robert, I wonder whether there is a reason that "baptizing them" comes before "teaching them to observe all that I commanded you"?

        It seems to me that baptism is a public declaration of faith in and surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. At this point, a baptismal candidate knows the basics of Bible teaching, but there is much left to learn. "Discipling" is necessary after baptism, and it takes some dedication and commitment from more mature members.

        How many are really willing to go out of their way to "disciple" new members? I think that's where the problem that you mention occurs, and Maurice corroborates the value of a supportive community in his sharing.

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        • Inge, read this first, then decide: Testimonies Vol 6, Chapter 8, "Baptism". (begins on page 91) Keep in mind Who is the Author of this chapter.

          I would also say this; that in Jesus' day there was only the God of Israel and and the false gods of the heathen. There was only one religion if you became a Christian, and the distinction was well known until the 3rd century AD. Then the waters became muddy and now with over 30,000 "christian" denominations, it seems that the distinction is more critical. That chapter I recommend above will help to place the proper order on Jesus' commission.

          Some will cite the example of the Ethiopian whom Philip baptized, but remember what the Ethiopian already believed and practiced according to the Jewish laws of Moses. He only needed to know about Jesus to connect the dots, and there would be no confusion about his "denomination". The jailer in Philippi as well, who knew why these men were in his jail with bleeding backs and in shackles, but was willing to take what was a clear and distinct step. We don't know the details of his preparation, but the Holy Spirit was guiding and does today through the inspired pen. Or do we really trust it?

          Time will tell won't it?

          Also, how can anyone know the true cost of the step they take without first being taught "to observe all things" that Jesus commands? I have seen this backfire often when baptism takes place before the thorough instructions given by Jesus through both Matthew and Ellen. Is she a true messenger or not? Our response tells our true opinion. I think Jesus' intent is clear and it is verified today to Laodicea by Himself through His chosen vessel. However, not all accept it or will follow it.

          I share what I have come understand.

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  19. How sad Robert you quoted Spirit of Prophecy and that was the end of the discussion. I've got an impression that many world loving SDA secretly or less secretly believe that the Spirit of Prophecy is the main obstacle to our unity (with whom?). Most likely the world. It seems like we've been talking on this blog mostly about love but very little about the truth. Have we been somehow induced into believing that love and truth are two diametrically opposite principles and we can't have them both? Have you ever tried to love you spouse without being truthful to her or him? What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. Mark 10:9 And here is the warning to all of us "whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved."

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