1. GOD’S CHURCH—THE FAITHFUL
a. What has God had in every age, and what does He call them? Acts 2:47; Jeremiah 7:23; Romans 9:26. What is the evidence of our love to God? John 14:15.
“Christ has a church in every age. Obedience to the commandments of God gives us a right to the privileges of this church. . . . If we comply with the conditions God has made, we shall secure our election to salvation. Perfect obedience to His commandments is the evidence that we love God.”—The Review and Herald, July 17, 1900.
“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.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 11.
b. Even though the church on earth has ever appeared imperfect, how does God regard it? Exodus 19:5; 1 Peter 2:9.
“Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts.”—Ibid., p. 12.
2. GOD’S CHURCH BEFORE THE FLOOD
a. Among the descendants of Adam, who maintained the worship of the true God? Genesis 4:25, 26.
“To Adam was given another son, to be the inheritor of the divine promise, the heir of the spiritual birthright. The name Seth, given to this son, signified ‘appointed,’ or ‘compensation;’ ‘for,’ said the mother, ‘God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew’ (Genesis 4:25). Seth was of more noble stature than Cain or Abel, and resembled Adam more closely than did his other sons. He was a worthy character, following in the steps of Abel. Yet he inherited no more natural goodness than did Cain. . . . While Adam was created sinless, in the likeness of God, Seth, like Cain, inherited the fallen nature of his parents. But he received also the knowledge of the Redeemer and instruction in righteousness. By divine grace he served and honored God; and he labored, as Abel would have done, had he lived, to turn the minds of sinful men to revere and obey their Creator. . . .
“The faithful had worshiped God before; but as men increased, the distinction between the two classes became more marked. There was an open profession of loyalty to God on the part of one, as there was of contempt and disobedience on the part of the other.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 80.
b. Following after the example of Abel, what hope did the descendants of Seth cherish? Hebrews 11:13, 16. What is often necessary in order to preserve the faith of God’s children? 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18.
“Abel had led a pastoral life, dwelling in tents or booths, and the descendants of Seth followed the same course, counting themselves ‘strangers and pilgrims on the earth,’ seeking ‘a better country, that is, an heavenly’ (Hebrews 11:13, 16).
“For some time the two classes remained separate. The race of Cain, spreading from the place of their first settlement, dispersed over the plains and valleys where the children of Seth had dwelt; and the latter, in order to escape from their contaminating influence, withdrew to the mountains, and there made their home. So long as this separation continued, they maintained the worship of God in its purity.”—Ibid., p. 81.
3. GOD’S CHURCH AFTER THE FLOOD
a. Who among the three sons of Noah maintained the worship of the true God? Genesis 9:18–27. After idolatry again became widespread, who was called to preserve the principle of true religion among the lineage of Shem? Genesis 12:1–3.
“After the dispersion from Babel idolatry again became well-nigh universal, and the Lord finally left the hardened transgressors to follow their evil ways, while He chose Abraham, of the line of Shem, and made him the keeper of His law for future generations. Abraham had grown up in the midst of superstition and heathenism. Even his father’s household, by whom the knowledge of God had been preserved, were yielding to the seductive influences surrounding them, and they ‘served other gods’ than Jehovah. But the true faith was not to become extinct. God has ever preserved a remnant to serve Him. Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Shem, in unbroken line, had preserved from age to age the precious revealings of His will. The son of Terah became the inheritor of this holy trust. Idolatry invited him on every side, but in vain. Faithful among the faithless, uncorrupted by the prevailing apostasy, he steadfastly adhered to the worship of the one true God. ‘The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth’ (Psalm 145:18). He communicated His will to Abraham and gave him a distinct knowledge of the requirements of His law and of the salvation that would be accomplished through Christ.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 125.
b. What nation from the lineage of Abraham became God’s church for many centuries until the coming of Jesus Christ? Exodus 3:10; Deuteronomy 7:6–8; 14:2; Acts 7:38.
“God chose Israel to reveal His character to men. He desired them to be as wells of salvation in the world. To them were committed the oracles of heaven, the revelation of God’s will. In the early days of Israel the nations of the world, through corrupt practices, had lost the knowledge of God. . . . Yet in His mercy God did not blot them out of existence. He purposed to give them an opportunity of again becoming acquainted with Him through His chosen people.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 14.
4. GOD’S CHURCH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
a. Because of their apostasy and rejection of Christ, what judgment did God render against the Jewish church? Matthew 21:42–45; 23:37, 38.
“Through unbelief and the rejection of Heaven’s purpose for her, Israel as a nation had lost her connection with God.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 377.
“But Israel as a nation had divorced herself from God. The natural branches of the olive tree were broken off. Looking for the last time upon the interior of the temple, Jesus said with mournful pathos, ‘Behold, your house is left unto you desolate’ (Matthew 23:38). . . . Hitherto He had called the temple His Father’s house; but now, as the Son of God should pass out from those walls, God’s presence would be withdrawn forever from the temple built to His glory.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 620.
b. What important truth can we learn from the rejection of the Jewish church? 2 Chronicles 15:2; Jeremiah 18:7–10.
“There is no such thing in the Word of God as unconditional election— once in grace, always in grace.”—The Faith I Live By, p. 157.
“God’s promises are all made upon conditions.”—Faith and Works, p. 47.
“When a church proves unfaithful to the work of the Lord, whatever their position may be, however high and sacred their calling, the Lord can no longer work with them. Others are then chosen to bear important responsibilities.”—The Upward Look, p. 131.
c. What church was raised up in place of the Jewish church? 1 Peter 2:5–10; Romans 11:20–22; Acts 11:26.
“As a people the Jews had failed of fulfilling God’s purpose, and the vineyard was taken from them. The privileges they had abused, the work they had slighted, was entrusted to others.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 296.
5. PAGANISM CORRUPTED THE CHURCH
a. After the death of the apostles, what sad event did the professed Christian church experience? 2 Thessalonians 2:3–8.
“This compromise between paganism and Christianity resulted in the development of ‘the man of sin’ foretold in prophecy as opposing and exalting himself above God. That gigantic system of false religion is a masterpiece of Satan’s power—a monument of his efforts to seat himself upon the throne to rule the earth according to his will.”—The Great Controversy, p. 50.
b. How did Satan successfully cause the church to become corrupt? James 4:4; 1 John 2:15; Amos 3:3.
“The great adversary now endeavored to gain by artifice what he had failed to secure by force. Persecution ceased, and in its stead were substituted the dangerous allurements of temporal prosperity and worldly honor. Idolaters . . . professed to accept Jesus as the Son of God . . . , but they had no conviction of sin and felt no need of repentance or of a change of heart. . . .
“Most of the Christians at last consented to lower their standard, and a union was formed between Christianity and paganism. . . . Unsound doctrines, superstitious rites, and idolatrous ceremonies were incorporated into her faith and worship. As the followers of Christ united with idolaters, the Christian religion became corrupted, and the church lost her purity and power.”—Ibid., pp. 42, 43.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. From a biblical perspective, what makes up God’s church on earth?
2. Although both Seth and Cain had sinful natures, what made Seth different?
3. How was Abraham’s faith a blessing to those around him?
4. How is God’s organized church in danger of losing her connection with Him?
5. How could the church have avoided apostasy and corruption?