The Church of God

In every age, from the beginning of the world, the church of God has been constituted of faithful souls. Genesis 4:26; 1 Peter 2:9; Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 1:2. Through these chosen ambassadors, His spokesmen, He has been speaking to the children of men, revealing to them the "manifold wisdom of God." Ezekiel 33:7-9; Acts 20:28. Through the church, the gospel has brought light and truth to all men, showing them the way back to God and to His glorious kingdom. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Acts 16:17.

 

"During ages of spiritual darkness the church of God has been as a city set on a hill. From age to age, through successive generations, the pure doctrines of heaven have been unfolding within its borders."—Acts of the Apostles, p. 12.

 

The Foundation

God is truth; Christ is the truth; His Holy Spirit is the truth; His Gospel is the word of truth; His law is the truth. Deuteronomy 32:4; John 14:6; 16:13; 1 John 5:6; Ephesians 1:13; Psalm 119:142. Therefore, all those who are begotten through the word of truth form the true church, "the pillar and ground of the truth." 1 Timothy 3:15.

 

Referring to Himself, Christ said: "Upon this rock I will build My church." That Rock is Christ Himself. 1 Samuel 2:2; Isaiah 44:8 (mgn); 1 Corinthians 3:10, 11; Matthew 7:24, 25; 24:35; 1 Peter 1:25.

 

"We build on Christ by obeying His word."—Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 149.

 

"The word of God is the only steadfast thing our world knows. It is the sure foundation."—Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 148.

 

The kingdom of God on earth is established on two basic principles—love toward God and love toward our neighbor. These principles are clearly enunciated in the Word of God. Matthew 22:36-40; Luke 10:25-28; Matthew 7:12.

 

So long as the believers remain upon this foundation, the gates of **** cannot prevail against them, because the presence of Christ is with them. But those who turn away from the foundation of truth cannot claim the presence of Christ. Thus the church of Christ on earth is a succession of true believers. 2 Timothy 2:19; Matthew 16:16-18; Jeremiah 11:4; John 8:31; Luke 12:32; Romans 11:1-6; 9:27; 2 Chronicles 15:2.

 

"'Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.' 1 Corinthians 3:11. 'Upon this rock,' said Jesus, 'I will build my church.' (Matthew 16:18). In the presence of God, and all the heavenly intelligences, in the presence of the unseen army of ****, Christ founded His church upon the living Rock. That Rock is Himself—His own body, for us broken and bruised. (1 Corinthians 10:4). Against the church built upon this foundation, the gates of **** shall not prevail."—The Desire of Ages, p. 413.

 

"Descent from Abraham was proved, not by name and lineage, but by likeness of character. So the apostolic succession rests not upon the transmission of ecclesiastical authority, but upon spiritual relationship. A life actuated by the apostles' spirit, the belief and teaching of the truth they taught, this is the true evidence of apostolic succession. This is what constitutes men the successors of the first teachers of the gospel."—The Desire of Ages, p. 467.

 

Purpose

"The church is God's appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God's plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to 'the principalities and powers in heavenly places,' the final and full display of the love of God. Ephesians 3:10."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 9.

 

"Christ has given to the church a sacred charge. Every member should be a channel through which God can communicate to the world the treasures of His grace, the unsearchable riches of Christ. There is nothing that the Saviour desires so much as agents who will represent to the world His Spirit and His character. There is nothing that the world needs so much as the manifestation through humanity of the Saviour's love. All heaven is waiting for men and women through whom God can reveal the power of Christianity.

 

"The church is God's agency for the proclamation of truth, empowered by Him to do a special work; and if she is loyal to Him, obedient to all His commandments, there will dwell within her the excellency of divine grace. If she will be true to her allegiance, if she will honor the Lord God of Israel, there is no power that can stand against her."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 600.

 

"The church is God's fortress, His city of refuge which He holds in a revolted world. Any betrayal of the church is treachery to Him who has bought mankind with the blood of His only-begotten Son. From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth. In every age the Lord has had His watchmen, who have borne a faithful testimony to the generation in which they lived. These sentinels gave the message of warning; and when they were called to lay off their armor, others took up the work. God brought these witnesses into covenant relation with Himself, uniting the church on earth with the church in heaven. He has sent forth His angels to minister to the church, and the gates of **** have not been able to prevail against His people."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 11.

 

"We become overcomers by helping others to overcome, by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony."—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 974.

 

"In order to be happy ourselves, we must live to make others happy." —Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 251.

 

The Spiritual Building

Christ is the head of the body, the church. Colossians 1:18. He is also the Chief Corner Stone of the spiritual temple. Ephesians 2:20. All those who by faith accept Christ as their Saviour, showing repentance and conversion, are led into all truth. Mark 16:15, 16; Acts 2:38; John 16:13. The Holy Spirit "adds" them to the church, the body of Christ, bringing them in through profession of faith and baptism. Acts 2:47. Established upon the eternal foundation of truth, they grow into a holy temple. 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 2:21, 22; 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Corinthians 3:9, 12, 16, 17.

 

Membership

"Connection with Christ. . . involves connection with His church."—Education, p. 268.

 

"All who believe are to be gathered into one church."—The Desire of Ages, p. 821.

 

"The church is very precious in His sight. It is the case which contains His jewels, the fold which encloses His flock, and He longs to see it without spot or blemish or any such thing."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 261.

 

"God's Spirit convicts sinners of the truth, and He places them in the arms of the church."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 69.

 

"We should all feel our individual responsibility as members of the visible church and workers in the vineyard of the Lord."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 16.

 

"Church-membership will not guarantee us Heaven. We must abide in Christ, and his love must abide in us."—Review and Herald, June 3, 1884.

 

Unity

Read Psalm 133:1; John 17:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:2-5; 1 John 1:7.

 

"If the world sees a perfect harmony existing in the church of God, 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 followers of Jesus obey the voice of the church. Unbelief suggests that individual independence increases our importance, that it is weak to yield our own ideas of what is right and proper to the verdict of the church; but to yield to such feelings and views is unsafe and will bring us into anarchy and confusion. Christ saw that unity and Christian fellowship were necessary to the cause of God, therefore He enjoined it upon His disciples. And the history of Christianity from that time until now proves conclusively that in union only is there strength. Let individual judgment submit to the authority of the church."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 19.

 

"The cause of division or discord in the church is separation from Christ. The secret of unity is union with Christ. Christ is the great Center. We shall approach one another just in proportion as we approach the Center. United with Christ, we shall surely be united with our brethren in the faith. To be a Christian means a great deal more than is supposed. A Christian is Christlike. Membership in the church does not make us Christians."—The E.G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1125.

 

"When the storm of persecution really breaks upon us, the true sheep will hear the true Shepherd's voice. Self-denying efforts will be put forth to save the lost, and many who have strayed from the fold will come back to follow the great Shepherd. The people of God will draw together and present to the enemy a united front."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 401.

 

"Unity is the sure result of Christian perfection."—Sanctified Life, p. 85.

 

"We are to unify, but not on a platform of error."—Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, p. 259.

 

Apostolic Succession

Apostolic succession rests, not upon mere lineal descent or transmission of ecclesiastical authority, but upon spiritual relationship or likeness of character. Exodus 33:13-16; Matthew 3:9; John 8:39; Romans 9:6-8; Galatians 3:7. Only those who comply with the conditions set forth in the Word of God, doing His will and keeping His commandments, can claim apostolic succession. Exodus 19:5; Matthew 7:21; Luke 3:8; John 8:31.

 

The "Gates of ****" Will Not Prevail 

"The apostles built upon a sure foundation, even the Rock of Ages. To this foundation they brought the stones that they quarried from the world. Not without hindrance did the builders labor. Their work was made exceedingly difficult by the opposition of the enemies of Christ. They had to contend against the bigotry, prejudice, and hatred of those who were building upon a false foundation."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 596.

 

"The enemy of righteousness left nothing undone in his effort to stop the work committed to the Lord's builders. But God 'left not Himself without witness.' Acts 14:17. Workers were raised up who ably defended the faith once delivered to the saints."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 598.

 

Organization

The God we worship is a God of order. Consequently, God expects order and discipline to be carried out in all facets of church life. 1 Corinthians 14:33, 40. The first step in the organization of the New Testament church was the ordination of the twelve apostles. Mark 3:14. Further steps were taken later. The apostolic church was blessed with "spiritual gifts" described by the apostle Paul: "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." 1 Corinthians 12:28. The necessity of church organization is confirmed by different symbols in the Bible, showing that the church is an organized unit. Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:20-27 (a body, not scattered bones); John 10:16 (a fold, not scattered sheep); 1 Corinthians 10:17 (a loaf of bread, not scattered crumbs); Ephesians 2:19-22 (a building, not scattered stones).

 

"The spirit of pulling away from fellow laborers, the spirit of disorganization, is in the very air we breathe. By some, all efforts to establish order are regarded as dangerous--as a restriction of personal liberty, and hence to be feared as popery. These deceived souls regard it a virtue to boast of their freedom to think and act independently. They declare that they will not take any man's say-so, that they are amenable to no man. I have been instructed that it is Satan's special effort to lead men to feel that God is pleased to have them choose their own course independent of the counsel of their brethren....

 

"Oh, how Satan would rejoice if he could succeed in his efforts to get in among this people and disorganize the work at a time when thorough organization is essential and will be the greatest power to keep out spurious uprisings and to refute claims not endorsed by the word of God! We want to hold the lines evenly, that there shall be no breaking down of the system of organization and order that has been built up by wise, careful labor. License must not be given to disorderly elements that desire to control the work at this time."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 257.

 

"Some have advanced the thought that, as we near the close of time, every child of God will act independently of any religious organization. But I have been instructed by the Lord that in this work there is no such thing as every man's being independent....

 

"Some workers pull with all the power that God has given them, but they have not yet learned that they should not pull alone. Instead of isolating themselves, let them draw in harmony with their fellow laborers. Unless they do this, their activity will work at the wrong time and in the wrong way. They will often work counter to that which God would have done, and thus their work is worse than wasted.—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 257-259.

 

Authority

"God has invested His church with special authority and power which no one can be justified in disregarding and despising, for in so doing he despises the voice of God."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 417.

 

"Christ would have His followers brought together in church capacity, observing order, having rules and discipline, and all subject one to another, esteeming others better than themselves."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 445.

 

"The Redeemer of the world does not sanction experience and exercise in religious matters independent of His organized and acknowledged church, where He has a church. Many have the idea that they are responsible to Christ alone for their light and experience, independent of His acknowledged followers in the world. But this is condemned by Jesus in His teachings and in the examples, the facts, which He has given for our instruction."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 432-433.

 

"No such thing is countenanced as one man's starting out upon his own individual responsibility and advocating what views he chooses, irrespective of the judgment of the church. God has bestowed the highest power under heaven upon His church. It is the voice of God in His united people in church capacity which is to be respected."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 450-451.

 

"On the church has been conferred the power to act in Christ's stead. It is God's instrumentality for the preservation of order and discipline among His people. To it the Lord has delegated the power to settle all questions respecting its prosperity, purity, and order. Upon it rests the responsibility of excluding from its fellowship those who are unworthy, who by their un-Christlike conduct would bring dishonor on the truth. Whatever the church does that is in accordance with the directions given in God's word will be ratified in heaven."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 263.

 

"When every specification which Christ has given has been carried out in the true, Christian spirit, then, and then only, Heaven ratifies the decision of the church, because its members have the mind of Christ, and do as He would do were He upon the earth."—Selected Messages, bk 3, p. 22.

 

The Mission of God's Church on Earth

(a) Through their godly lives, the true followers of Christ bear a powerful testimony to the world. Isaiah 43:10; Matthew 5:13-16; John 12:35; 13:34, 35; 1 Peter 2:9-12.

 

(b) The believers in Christ uphold and teach the truth, working for the salvation of souls. 2 Corinthians 5:20; Matthew 28:19, 20; Romans 1:14-16; 1 Corinthians 9:16; Ephesians 3:8-11; 1 Timothy 2:3-7; Mark 16:15; Luke 14: 21, 23; Ezekiel 33:7-9.

 

(c) The remnant church has a specific message, the present truth, to be given to the house of Israel, to the fallen churches and to the world in general. Matthew 10:6; 2 Peter 1:12; Revelation 14:6-12; 18:1-4; Habakkuk 2:14; Isaiah 60:1; Matthew 24:14.

 

(d) The members of the body of Christ have been called to relieve suffering. Isaiah 58:7, 8; Matthew 10:8; 25:34-40; Mark 14:7; James 1:27.

 

(e) The most important work that God wants to accomplish through the faithful remnant in these last days is the preparation of a people for the soon coming of Christ. Ephesians 5:26, 27; Amos 4:12; Matthew 24:44; Luke 1:17; 2 Peter 1:3-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 14-23; Titus 2:11-14.

 

Responsibilities of Church Members

All Christian responsibilities are based upon mutual love and respect between the disciples (John 13:34-35) and is considered a privilege as well as a duty. Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 5:5-6.

 

(a) Maintain our connection to Jesus Christ. Romans 11:17-24; John 15:1-8; Galatians 2:20.

 

(b) Share the gospel message of salvation with others. Mark 16:15, 16; Matthew 28:19, 20.

 

(c) Regularly support the cause of truth with our finances in tithes and liberal offerings. Deuteronomy 14:22; Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:21; Malachi 3:7-10; Matthew 23:23; 1 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 9:6-11; Hebrews 7:8 (cf Revelation 1:18).

 

(d) Regularly attend the appointed services of the church. Hebrews 10:25-26; Psalm 27:4; 122:1.

 

(e) Prepare our hearts and faithfully participate in the washing of the feet and the Lord's Supper. John 13:1-17; Matthew 26:21-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29; John 6:53, 54.

 

(f) Faithfully carry out the responsibilities received. 1 Corinthians 4:1, 2.

 

(g) Respect the church officers and cooperate with them in caring for the flock. Ephesians 4:11-13; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13.

 

"The faith of most Christians will waver if they constantly neglect to meet together for conference and prayer. If it were impossible for them to enjoy such religious privileges, then God would send light direct from heaven by His angels, to animate, cheer, and bless His scattered people. But He does not propose to work a miracle to sustain the faith of His saints. They are required to love the truth enough to take some little pains to secure the privileges and blessings vouchsafed them of God."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 106-107.

 

"When our brethren voluntarily absent themselves from religious meetings, when God is not thought of and reverenced, when He is not chosen as their counselor and their strong tower of defense, how soon secular thoughts and wicked unbelief come in, and vain confidence and philosophy take the place of humble, trusting faith."—Vol. 5, Testimonies for the Church, pp. 426-427.

 

"Every believer should be wholehearted in his attachment to the church. Its prosperity should be his first interest, and unless he feels under sacred obligations to make his connection with the church a benefit to it in preference to himself, it can do far better without him."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 18.

 

"Let those who attend committee meetings remember that they are meeting with God, who has given them their work. Let them come together with reverence and consecration of heart."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 256.

 

"Those who take no interest in the business meetings, generally have no real interest in the cause of God, and these are the ones who are tempted to believe that the management of our various enterprises is not just what it should be.

 

"Brethren and sisters, if we love the truth, which has brought us from the darkness of error to the observance of the law of God, we shall highly estimate everything connected with its interests. At our business meetings everything is laid open, so that all may understand how our institutions and various enterprises are conducted and sustained; and when they have this opportunity to know, and yet fail to improve it, ignorance is sin."—Review and Herald, April, 29, 1884.

 

Church Discipline

(a) Church discipline is based upon the ordinance given by Jesus in Matthew 18:15, 16. It is the responsibility of every church member to both give exhortation in love as well as to receive it according to the truths received in the word of God—especially from the gospel ministers. Proverbs 15:31, 32; 10:17; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9; 2:15.

 

(b) Although we have a responsibility to exhort one another, we must remember that all admonition, in order to be effective and long lasting, is to be given distinctly and in the spirit of love; "considering thyself, let thou also be tempted." Galatians 6:1; Revelation 3:19. This spirit of love is the attitude manifested in the willingness to lay down our life for the erring while giving them rebuke. John 13:34; 15:12, 13.

 

(c) The discipline of the church, unlike disfellowshipment, places restrictions upon a member for a time while he considers his condition and takes steps to correct his ways. Hebrews 12:5-12.

 

"If the erring one repents and submits to Christ's discipline, he is to be given another trial. And even if he does not repent, even if he stands outside the church, God's servants still have a work to do for him. They are to seek earnestly to win him to repentance. And however aggravated may have been his offense, if he yields to the striving of the Holy Spirit, and by confessing and forsaking his sin gives evidence of repentance, he is to be forgiven and welcomed to the fold again. His brethren are to encourage him in the right way, treating him as they would wish to be treated were they in his place, considering themselves, lest they also be tempted."—Gospel Workers, p. 501.

 

"Do you feel, when a brother errs, that you could give your life to save him? If you feel thus, you can approach him and affect his heart; you are just the one to visit that brother."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 166.

 

"In this work we are to co-operate. 'If a man be overtaken in a fault, . . . restore such an one.' Galatians 6:1. The word here translated 'restore' means to put in joint, as a dislocated bone. How suggestive the figure! He who falls into error or sin is thrown out of relation to everything about him. He may realize his error, and be filled with remorse; but he cannot recover himself. He is in confusion and perplexity, worsted and helpless. He is to be reclaimed, healed, re-established. 'Ye which are spiritual, restore such an one.' Only the love that flows from the heart of Christ can heal. Only he in whom that love flows, even as the sap in the tree or the blood in the body, can restore the wounded soul."—Education, pp. 113-114.

 

"The effort to earn salvation by one's own works inevitably leads men to pile up human exactions as a barrier against sin. For, seeing that they fail to keep the law, they will devise rules and regulations of their own to force themselves to obey. All this turns the mind away from God to self. His love dies out of the heart, and with it perishes love for his fellow men. A system of human invention, with its multitudinous exactions, will lead its advocates to judge all who come short of the prescribed human standard. The atmosphere of selfish and narrow criticism stifles the noble and generous emotions, and causes men to become self-centered judges and petty spies."—Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, p. 123.

 

"In seeking to correct or reform others we should be careful of our words. They will be a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. In giving reproof or counsel, many indulge in sharp, severe speech, words not adapted to heal the wounded soul. By these ill-advised expressions the spirit is chafed, and often the erring ones are stirred to rebellion. All who would advocate the principles of truth need to receive the heavenly oil of love. Under all circumstances reproof should be spoken in love. Then our words will reform but not exasperate. Christ by His Holy Spirit will supply the force and the power. This is His work."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 337.

 

(d) Disfellowshipment is also based upon the ordinance of Christ. Matthew 18:17, 18; 1 Corinthians 5:11-13; Romans 16:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; Titus 3:10, 11. The church is obliged, before God, to remove from its membership those whose conduct is in open and persistent contradiction to the principles of our faith.

 

"The names of those who sin and refuse to repent should not be retained on the church books, lest the saints be held accountable for their evil deeds. Those who pursue a course of transgression should be visited and labored with, and if they then refuse to repent, they should be separated from church fellowship, in accordance with the rules laid down in the Word of God.

 

"Those who refuse to hear the admonitions and warnings given by God's faithful messengers are not to be retained in the church. They are to be disfellowshiped; for they will be as Achan in the camp of Israel--deceived and deceiving."—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1096.

 

"'Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' (Matt. 18:18). When every specification which Christ has given has been carried out in the true, Christian spirit, then, and then only, Heaven ratifies the decision of the church, because its members have the mind of Christ, and do as He would do were He upon the earth.—Letter 1c, 1890."—Selected Messages, bk 3, p. 22.

 

(e) It is only the church of which the person is a member, under the guidance of an ordained minister (elder when authorized), in consultation with the president of the conference or his representative, that is authorized to perform the disfellowshipment in a lawful manner and in harmony with the Word of God. 1 Timothy 1:19, 20; 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; Titus 3:10, 11.

 

(f) In this process, we need to ensure that Matthew 18:15-17 is followed in the case of personal sins. Some public sins may require a different approach, with immediate action, that the church be not reproached. 1 Timothy 5:20. See Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2, pp. 14, 15.

 

(g) Once a person has been disfellowshipped from the fold and is no longer a member, we need to treat him in the same way as we would regard "an heathen man and a publican" (i.e. an outsider). But a special work needs to be done for his reconversion and restoration. Luke 15:4-6. We are not to associate any further with those who are causing division in the church. Romans 16:17.

 

"Whatever the character of the offense, this does not change the plan that God has made for the settlement of misunderstandings and personal injuries. Speaking alone and in the spirit of Christ to the one who is in fault, will often remove the difficulty. Go to the erring one, with a heart filled with Christ's love and sympathy, and seek to adjust the matter. Reason with him calmly and quietly. Let no angry words escape your lips. Speak in a way that will appeal to his better judgment. Remember the words, 'He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.' [James 5:20.]...

 

"'But if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.' If he will not heed the voice of the church, if he refuses all the efforts made to reclaim him, upon the church rests the responsibility of separating him from fellowship. His name should then be stricken from the books."—Gospel Workers, p. 499.

 

"Elders and deacons are chosen to have a care for the prosperity of the church; yet these leaders, especially in young churches, should not feel at liberty, on their own judgment and responsibility, to cut off offending members from the church; they are not invested with such authority. Many indulge a zeal like that of Jehu and rashly venture to make decisions in matters of grave importance, while they themselves have no connection with God. They should humbly and earnestly seek wisdom from the One who has placed them in their position, and should be very modest in assuming responsibilities. They should also lay the matter before the president of their conference and counsel with him. At some appointed time the subject should be patiently considered. In the fear of God, with much humility and sorrow for the erring, who are the purchase of the blood of Christ, with earnest, humble prayer the proper officers should deal with the offenders. How different has been the course when, with self-assumed authority and a hard, unfeeling spirit, accusations have been made and souls have been thrust out of the church of Christ." (Manuscript 1, October 1878)—Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, p. 113.

 

"No church officer should advise, no committee should recommend, nor should any church vote, that the name of a wrong-doer shall be removed from the church books, until the instruction given by Christ has been faithfully followed. When this has been done, the church has cleared herself before God. The evil must then be made to appear as it is, and must be removed, that it may not become more and more widespread. The health and purity of the church must be preserved, that she may stand before God unsullied, clad in the robes of Christ's righteousness."—Gospel Workers, p. 501.

 

"Whosesoever sins ye remit,' said Christ, 'they are remitted; . . . and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.' Christ here gives no liberty for any man to pass judgment upon others. In the Sermon on the Mount He forbade this. It is the prerogative of God. But on the church in its organized capacity He places a responsibility for the individual members. Toward those who fall into sin, the church has a duty, to warn, to instruct, and if possible to restore. 'Reprove, rebuke, exhort,' the Lord says, 'with all long-suffering and doctrine.' 2 Tim. 4:2. Deal faithfully with wrongdoing. Warn every soul that is in danger. Leave none to deceive themselves. Call sin by its right name. Declare what God has said in regard to lying, Sabbathbreaking, stealing, idolatry, and every other evil. 'They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.' Gal. 5:21. If they persist in sin, the judgment you have declared from God's word is pronounced upon them in heaven. In choosing to sin, they disown Christ; the church must show that she does not sanction their deeds, or she herself dishonors her Lord. She must say about sin what God says about it. She must deal with it as God directs, and her action is ratified in heaven. He who despises the authority of the church despises the authority of Christ Himself."—Desire of Ages, p. 805-806.

 

"He [God] would teach His people that disobedience and sin are exceedingly offensive to Him and are not to be lightly regarded. He shows us that when His people are found in sin they should at once take decided measures to put that sin from them, that His frown may not rest upon them all. But if the sins of the people are passed over by those in responsible positions, His frown will be upon them, and the people of God, as a body, will be held responsible for those sins. In His dealings with His people in the past the Lord shows the necessity of purifying the church from wrongs. One sinner may diffuse darkness that will exclude the light of God from the entire congregation."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 265.

 

"If wrongs are apparent among His people, and if the servants of God pass on indifferent to them, they virtually sustain and justify the sinner, and are alike guilty and will just as surely receive the displeasure of God; for they will be made responsible for the sins of the guilty."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 265-266.

 

"The one that has strayed from the fold is not followed with harsh words and a whip but with winning invitations to return."—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 198.

 

"Not until you feel that you could sacrifice your own self-dignity, and even lay down your life in order to save an erring brother, have you cast the beam out of your own eye so that you are prepared to help your brother. Then you can approach him and touch his heart. No one has ever been reclaimed from a wrong position by censure and reproach; but many have thus been driven from Christ and led to seal their hearts against conviction."—Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pp. 128-129.

 

Confessions

"While confession is good for the soul, there is need of moving wisely.... Many, many confessions should never be spoken in the hearing of mortals; for the result is that which the limited judgment of finite beings does not anticipate. Seeds of evil are scattered in the minds and hearts of those who hear, and when they are under temptation, these seeds will spring up and bear fruit, and the same sad experience will be repeated. For, think the tempted ones, these sins cannot be so very grievous; for did not those who have made confession, Christians of long standing, do these very things? Thus the open confession in the church of these secret sins will prove a savor of death rather than of life.

 

"There should be no reckless, wholesale movements in this matter, for the cause of God may be made disreputable in the eyes of unbelievers. If they hear confessions of base conduct made by those who profess to be followers of Christ, a reproach is brought upon His cause....

 

"There are confessions of a nature that should be brought before a select few and acknowledged by the sinner in deepest humility. The matter must not be conducted in such a way that vice shall be construed into virtue and the sinner made proud of his evil doings. If there are things of a disgraceful nature that should come before the church, let them be brought before a few proper persons selected to hear them, and do not put the cause of Christ to open shame by publishing abroad the hypocrisy that has existed in the church. It would cast reflections upon those who has tried to be Christlike in character. These things should be considered.—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 645-646.

 

Special Warning

"In a trial for murder the accused was not to be condemned on the testimony of one witness, even though circumstantial evidence might be strong against him. The Lord's direction was, 'Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.' Numbers 35:30. It was Christ who gave to Moses these directions for Israel; and when personally with His disciples on earth, as He taught them how to treat the erring, the Great Teacher repeated the lesson that one man's testimony is not to acquit or condemn. One man's views and opinions are not to settle disputed questions. In all these matters two or more are to be associated, and together they are to bear the responsibility, 'that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' Matthew 18:16."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 516.

 

"God understands the perversity of the human heart. Personal enmity, or the prospect of personal advantage, has ruined the reputation and usefulness of thousands of innocent men, and in many cases has resulted in their condemnation and death. The worthless lives of violent and wicked men have been preserved by a bribe, while those who were guilty of no crime against the laws of the nation have been made to suffer. By their wealth or power, men of rank corrupt the judges and bring false witness against the innocent. The provision that none should be condemned on the testimony of one witness, was both just and necessary. One man might be controlled by prejudice, selfishness, or malice. But it was not likely that two or more persons would be so perverted as to unite in bearing false witness; and even should they do so, a separate examination would lead to a discovery of the truth.

 

"This merciful provision contains a lesson for the people of God until the close of time. It was Christ who gave to Moses those explicit directions for the Hebrew host; and when personally with his disciples on earth, the great Leader repeated the same lesson as he taught them, how to treat the erring. One man's testimony was not to acquit or to condemn. One man's views and opinions were not to settle disputed questions. In all these matters, two or more were to be associated, and together they were to bear the responsibility in the case. God has made it the duty of his servants to be subject one to another. No one man's judgment is to control in any important matter. Mutual consideration and respect imparts proper dignity to the ministry, and unites the servants of God in close bonds of love and harmony. While they should depend upon God for strength and wisdom, ministers of the gospel should confer together in all matters requiring deliberation. 'That by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.'"—Signs of the Times, January 20, 1881.

 

"If persons are as deserving of being separated from the church as Satan was of being cast out of heaven, they will have sympathizers. There is always a class who are more influenced by individuals than they are by the Spirit of God and sound principles; and, in their unconsecrated state, these are ever ready to take sides with the wrong and give their pity and sympathy to the very ones who least deserve it. These sympathizers have a powerful influence with others; things are seen in a perverted light, great harm is done, and many souls are ruined. Satan in his rebellion took a third part of the angels. They turned from the Father and from His Son, and united with the instigator of rebellion. With these facts before us we should move with the greatest caution. What can we expect but trial and perplexity in our connection with men and women of peculiar minds? We must bear this and avoid the necessity of rooting up the tares, lest the wheat be rooted up also."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 114-115.