Ellen G. White Writings

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Bible Echo and Signs of the Times

September 1, 1888

The Unity of the Church

By Mrs. E. G. White

Just before his crucifixion, Christ prayed for his disciples that they might be one, even as he was one with the Father. His words are, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” This most touching and wonderful prayer reaches down the ages, even to our day; for he said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” How earnestly should the professed followers of Christ seek to answer this prayer in their lives. Christ is leading out a people to stand in perfect unity on the broad platform of eternal truth. He gave himself to the world that he might “purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” This refining process is designed to purge the church from the spirit of discord and contention and from all unrighteousness, that they may build up the cause of God and concentrate their energies on the great work before them,—that of saving souls.

Our profession is an exalted one. As Christians, we profess to obey all of God's commandments, and to look for the coming of our Redeemer. This involves a solemn message of warning; and we should show by our words and works that we recognize the great responsibility laid upon us. Our light should shine so clearly that others can see that we glorify the Father in our daily lives. If we are joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, when he shall appear in power and great glory we shall be like him.

A mere profession of Christ is not enough to prepare one to stand the test of the Judgment. True conversion is a radical change. The very drift of the mind and bent of the heart should be turned, and the life should become new in Christ. There should be a perfect trust in God, a childlike dependence on his promises, and an entire consecration of self to his will, remembering that the observance of mere external forms will never meet the great want of the human soul. We are Christ's representatives on the earth, and none of us can occupy a neutral position. We are active agents for God or for the enemy. We either gather with Christ or scatter abroad. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God,” says the apostle. We should keep in mind this holy relationship, and do nothing to bring dishonor upon our Father's cause.

The people of God, with various temperaments and organizations, are brought together in church capacity. The truth of God, received into the heart, will do its work of refining, elevating, and sanctifying the life, and overcoming the peculiar views and prejudices of each. All should labor to come as near to one another as possible. All who love God and keep his commandments in truth, will have influence with unbelievers, and will win souls to Christ, to swell the glad songs of triumph and victory before the great white throne. Selfishness will be overcome, and overflowing love for Christ will be manifested in the burden they feel to save souls for whom he died.

We should feel an individual responsibility as members of the visible church and workers in the vineyard of the Lord. The advancement of the church is often retarded by the wrong course of its members. Uniting with the church, although an important and necessary step, does not of itself make one a Christian. If we would secure a title to heaven, our hearts must be in unison with Christ and his people.

As all the different members of the human system unite to form the body, and each performs its office in obedience to the intelligence that governs the whole, so the members of the church of Christ should be united in one symmetrical whole. If the world sees a perfect harmony existing in the church, it will be a powerful evidence to them in favor of the Christian religion. Dissensions, unhappy differences, and petty church trials dishonor our Redeemer. All these may be avoided, if self is surrendered to God, and the voice of the church is obeyed. Unbelief suggests that individual independence increases our importance, that it is weak to yield to the verdict of the church our ideas of what is right and proper; but to cherish such views and feelings will bring anarchy into the church and confusion to ourselves. Christ has delegated to his church the right of decision in the words, “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained unto them.” God has made his church a channel of light, and through it he communicates his purpose and his will; and individual judgment should yield to the authority of the church.

Those, too, who hold responsible positions should have the support and confidence of their brethren. They may have faults in common with other people, and may err in their decisions; but notwithstanding this, the church of Christ on earth has given them an authority that cannot be lightly esteemed.

If it seems hard to yield, remember that for our sakes God surrendered his dearly beloved Son to the agonies of crucifixion. When so great a sacrifice has been made to save men, to reconcile them to God, and to bring them into unity with one another, what sacrifice is too great in order to secure and preserve that unity? There is nothing too precious for us to give to Jesus. Nor will this course result in our personal loss. Every effort we make for Christ will be rewarded; every sacrifice that we make, every duty that we perform in his name, will minister to our own happiness.

Church relationship is not a light matter. Every believer should be whole-hearted in his attachment to the church of God. Its prosperity should be his first interest. Unless he feels under sacred obligations to make his connection with the people of God a blessing to the church rather than to himself, the church can do far better without him. But none need stay out because their talents are small or their opportunities limited. It is in the power of all to do something for the cause of God. They can illustrate in their lives and characters the teachings of Christ, being at peace with one another and moving in perfect harmony. They can, too, by a little self-denial, help to bear the financial burdens of the church. They should not feel at liberty to receive the benefits and share the privileges of the church relationship without doing this. And if as faithful stewards we return to God the talents of means he has intrusted to us, he will give more into our hands.

Christ saw that unity and Christian fellowship were necessary to the success of his cause, therefore he enjoined upon his disciples to cultivate these qualities. And the history of Christianity from that time to this proves conclusively that in union only is there strength.

The apostles felt the necessity of strict unity, and labored earnestly to this end. Paul exhorted his Corinthian brethren: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

To his Philippian brethren he wrote: “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

To the Romans he wrote: “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus, that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.”

Peter wrote to the churches scattered abroad: “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.”

And Paul, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, says: “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort; be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”

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