1. A FOLD FOR CHRIST’S FLOCK
a. Why does God have a church on earth? 1 Peter 2:5, 9.
“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.
b. What characteristics are essential in God’s true church? Revelation 14:12; Ephesians 4:4–6.
“We are to unify but not on a platform of error.”—Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, p. 259.
2. A SAFE HAVEN
a. Since only the presence of Christ (John 15:4, 5) in our heart can make us one in the truth, what example of the early disciples should we never forget? Acts 1:13, 14; 2:46; 4:32.
“[The twelve apostles] were brought together, with their different faults, all with inherited and cultivated tendencies to evil; but in and through Christ they were to dwell in the family of God, learning to become one in faith, in doctrine, in spirit. They would have their tests, their grievances, their differences of opinion; but while Christ was abiding in the heart, there could be no dissension. His love would lead to love for one another; the lessons of the Master would lead to the harmonizing of all differences, bringing the disciples into unity, till they would be of one mind and one judgment.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 296.
b. What responsibility comes to each of us when we commit our life to Christ? 1 Timothy 3:15.
“Very close and sacred is the relation between Christ and His church—He the bridegroom, and the church the bride; He the head, and the church the body. Connection with Christ, then, involves connection with His church.
“The church is organized for service; and in a life of service to Christ, connection with the church is one of the first steps. Loyalty to Christ demands the faithful performance of church duties.”—Education, pp. 268, 269.
c. What privilege is extended to every member of God’s true church? 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 10:24, 25.
“Preaching is a small part of the work to be done for the salvation of souls. God’s Spirit convicts sinners of the truth, and He places them in the arms of the church. The ministers may do their part, but they can never perform the work that the church should do. God requires His church to nurse those who are young in faith and experience, to go to them, not for the purpose of gossiping with them, but to pray, to speak unto them words that are ‘like apples of gold in pictures of silver’ [Proverbs 25:11].”—Evangelism, p. 352.
3. CALLED TO SERVE
a. What duty of the believers is often neglected? Psalm 60:4.
“In many of our organized churches the banner of truth is trailing in the dust because the members are not doing service to God but are serving their own pleasure. They work through the influences that surround the soul. By precept and example, in self-indulgence, in their worldly habits of dress, in their words and actions, they testify against the truth, against self-denial, against the meekness of Christ. They are cold spiritually, and far separated from Christ. If they followed in the footsteps of Christ, they would be partakers of His self-denial, of His self-sacrifice, that they might lift up and save the souls that are ready to perish.”—Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, p. 173.
b. What is the calling of every follower of Christ? 2 Timothy 2:1–4.
“The church of Christ is organized for service. Its watchword is ministry. Its members are soldiers, to be trained for conflict under the Captain of their salvation. Christian ministers, physicians, teachers, have a broader work than many have recognized. They are not only to minister to the people, but to teach them to minister. They should not only give instruction in right principles, but educate their hearers to impart these principles. Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessing can be retained only as it is shared.”—The Ministry of Healing, pp. 148, 149.
c. What helps to unify the church? Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:1–3.
“Never can the church reach the position that God desires it to reach until it is bound up in sympathy with its missionary workers. Never can the unity for which Christ prayed exist until spirituality is brought into missionary service, and until the church becomes an agency for the support of missions. The efforts of the missionaries will not accomplish what they should until the church members in the home field show, not only in word, but in deed, that they realize the obligation resting on them to give these missionaries their hearty support.”—Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 47, 48.
4. GROWING AND DEVELOPING
a. How does Inspiration depict the growth and development of the believer and of the church? Ephesians 2:19–22; 4:14–16; 1 Corinthians 3:9–13.
“God is testing every soul that claims to believe in Him. All are entrusted with talents. The Lord has given men His goods upon which to trade. He has made them His stewards and has placed in their possession money, houses, and lands. All these are to be regarded as the Lord’s goods and used to advance His work, to build up His kingdom in the world. In trading with the Lord’s goods, we are to seek Him for wisdom, that we may not use His sacred trust to glorify ourselves or to indulge selfish impulses. The amount entrusted varies, but those who have the smallest gifts must not feel that because their talent of means is small, they can do nothing with it.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 245, 246.
“Our work was not sustained by large gifts or legacies; for we have few wealthy men among us. What is the secret of our prosperity? We have moved under the orders of the Captain of our salvation. God has blessed our united efforts. The truth has spread and flourished. Institutions have multiplied. The mustard seed has grown to a great tree. The system of organization has proved a grand success. Systematic benevolence was entered into according to the Bible plan. The body has been ‘compacted by that which every joint supplieth’ [Ephesians 4:16].”—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 27.
b. What enables talents and funds to be utilized most efficiently among believers? 1 Corinthians 1:10; 14:40. On the other hand, what causes much to be lost among many Sabbathkeepers?
“Oh, how Satan would rejoice 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 regulation and order. In this way license shall not be given to disorderly elements to control the work at this time. We are living in a time when order, system, and unity of action are most essential.”—Ibid., p. 228.
5. OPTIMUM SERVICE AND CREDIBILITY
a. Describe the condition that must exist among Christ’s followers to ensure success in our missionary endeavors. John 10:16; 13:35; 17:18–23.
“As our numbers increased, it was evident that without some form of organization there would be great confusion, and the work would not be carried forward successfully. To provide for the support of the ministry, for carrying the work in new fields, for protecting both the churches and the ministry from unworthy members, for holding church property, for the publication of the truth through the press, and for many other objects, organization was indispensable.”—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 26.
“[Said the angel,] ‘The church must flee to God’s Word and become established upon gospel order, which has been overlooked and neglected.’ This is indispensably necessary in order to bring the church into the unity of the faith.”—Early Writings, p. 100.
“Jesus has prayed that His disciples all might be one. . . . It is through this unity that we are to convince the world of the mission of Christ, and bear our divine credentials to the world.”—The Review and Herald, March 11, 1890.
“If there have been difficulties brethren and sisters—if envy, malice, bitterness, evil surmisings, have existed, confess these sins, not in a general way, but go to your brethren and sisters personally. Be definite. If you have committed one wrong and they twenty, confess that one as though you were the chief offender. Take them by the hand, let your heart soften under the influence of the Spirit of God, and say, ‘Will you forgive me? I have not felt right toward you. I want to make right every wrong, that naught may stand registered against me in the books of heaven. I must have a clean record.’ Who, think you, would withstand such a movement as this?”—Ibid., December 16, 1884.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How can we identify God’s true church?
2. Why is church membership important for the individual believer?
3. In what way may we be in danger of testifying against the truth?
4. Name some factors that will foster unity in the church.
5. How are we to bear our divine credentials to the world?