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Unity upon the right premises
This series was born out of a sincere desire to see unity among believers in the Three Angels’ Messages.
After the passing of time in 1844, God raised up a people to do a special work which would prepare His followers to receive the Latter Rain and to hail Christ as their Saviour at His glorious return. It is today, as it has always been, Christ’s desire to see his followers united in heart and spirit upon the solid, immovable platform of truth.
Unity is good, only if the premises on which unity is established is good. Uniting upon a false premise or uniting to do something that is bad is worse than not uniting at all. The scriptures record an occasion when Israel was so united that when they shouted, “the earth rang again” (1 Sam. 4:5) and “the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.” (1 Sam. 4:7, 8). But unfortunately, it ended with the Ark being taken away by the Philistines, the shock of the news causing Eli, the High Priest, to fall over and break his neck and a woman in labour, dying in child-birth and crying “Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel” (1 Sam. 4:21). What was the reason for such a tragedy? Simply put, God was not with them on that mission! Yes, they were still God’s people, but He was not with them! On any mission, we must first ensure that God is with us.
Efforts are being made to unite the Advent people today, and that is good. The 28 Fundamental Beliefs are being promoted as a doctrinal foundation for unity. But is this the foundation on which God would have us unite? Would the pioneers and all faithful Seventh-day Adventists be able to unite on such a foundation? Or is it a foundation that would exclude some of God’s faithful children? A faithful believer who got baptized in 1978, pointed out that the Baptismal Vow that he took, had, as the first belief, the following: “I believe in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit”. That vow came straight from the scriptures – Matt. 28:19, 20. But now, for his faithful children to be accepted into fellowship, they are required to make the following vow: “I believe there is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons.”. This new version includes elements that are not explicitly stated in scripture, and thus excludes those who have chosen to go no further than what the scriptures explicitly say. Was the previous statement not clear enough and scriptural? Why then change it to exclude some of the faithful?
It is very unfortunate that the present state among those who embrace the special truths for this time is a far cry from the state of unity that is envisioned in Christ’s earnest prayer of John the seventeenth chapter. Numerous groups and factions of varying sizes, all of which claim to be Seventh-day Adventist endeavour to establish legitimacy (and in some cases, exclusive right) for their operations, while at the same time manifesting towards each other, in some cases, a cold indifference, suspicion and virtual hostility, even denouncing each other openly at times.
It is a fact that the coming of the Lord is near, and before He comes, the venom of the Beast and his Image will be unleashed against, not one only, or another of these groups, but against all Sabbath-keeping Adventists. The inspired messenger has repeatedly urged “the little company” to “press together”.
We cannot afford to deny our history at this time, because we have nothing to fear for the future except as we forget how God has led us in the past. Therefore, there is need for a re-focus on the distinctive truths which have brought the Advent people into existence. Otherwise, we run the risk of failing to acknowledge the Divinely established criteria that identifies Seventh-day Adventists as God’s denominated people. We are likely to establish our own criteria for the identification of God’s denominated people and hence continue either to exclusively acknowledge the faction with which we identify ourselves, or wrongfully denounce those who we think have no right to consider themselves as being numbered among God’s denominated people.
History and denominational identity
This series outlines some of the more notable aspects of the history of the Advent people. It extracts from Inspiration the parameters which delineate the boundaries of the denominational identity of Seventh-day Adventists. It further notes the primary role that Seventh-day Adventists have been called to fulfill as the controversy between good and evil approaches its culmination, and in view of all the above, makes an earnest appeal for unity.
To the reader, an earnest appeal is made, that we consider the subject that is discussed here prayerfully and with a genuine spirit to establish the truth. We are reminded that:
“There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed and that all our expositions of Scripture are without error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation.” – White, Ellen G., Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 35.
“There are those who oppose everything that is not in accordance with their own ideas, and by so doing, they endanger their eternal interest as verily as did the Jewish nation in their rejection of Christ.” – White, Ellen G., Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 35, 36.
“We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and Heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion will be disappointed.” – White, Ellen G., Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 37.
Indeed, one might hold opinions on the subjects that are discussed here and feel satisfied with one’s already established perspective. This should not, however, inhibit an open and fair consideration of that which is presented here. One’s experience could be, as was the Apostle Paul’s, of which he testified as follows:
“For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” – Rom. 7:9.
He was satisfied as he was. He felt settled (in whatever it was that he was doing). But when the law came, he saw himself differently.
The point being made is not that the thoughts presented here are presented as ‘the law’, but simply that, a feeling of being settled does not mean that one’s perspective might not still need some measure of adjustment in order to place it in fuller consistency with the truth. And such an adjustment (if needed) may not necessarily be apparent to the individual prior to his/her considering the perspective being given for him/her to consider. In fact, adjustments might not even bring the individual to the exact perspective that he/she is presented with; it might well be just a stepping stone or even that which triggers a thought that leads to further enlightenment.
If this presentation can help in whatever way to lead to a fuller understanding or more complete acceptance of that which is the truth, then, may God be praised, for there is hardly a greater hope in the heart of this writer in presenting this series. This is particularly so because the truth is the instrument by which the Holy Spirit accomplishes the work of sanctification in the human heart and brings us into closer fellowship with God, according as the Holy Scripture declares: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
Unfortunately, sometimes, in our state of feeling settled, we close the door to all possibility of seeing anything otherwise. This situation has resulted in a rejection of truth in numerous instances, the consequences of which have been extremely detrimental to both individual and church alike.
The writer’s hope and prayer are that the reader will be uplifted and enlightened through a fair consideration of the subject that is here presented, and that individuals and the church will be guided by the Holy Spirit in arriving at and settling into the truth.
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).
For further information, please visit Patience of the Saints at http://thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/
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