The Body of Christ, part 1

As we approach the Second Coming of Jesus, the signs of the times are coming in upon us so rapidly that it is difficult to keep up. We are seeing developments taking place with lightning speed just as Ellen White said that they would. We see God’s judgments in the land, and we see a new world order taking shape. We find Vatican insiders, such as Malachi Martin, writing books, The Keys of This Blood, which provide us an astounding picture of the developments taking place as the pope strives to gain control of the world, undoing all that Protestantism has done and establishing persecution once again.

One of the most significant factors facing humanity is the disintegration of the sense of reality. It is as George Orwell wrote years ago in his book 1984. The totalitarian systems rule by dislocating the people’s sense of reality. As God’s people approach the Second Coming of Jesus, one of the great challenges is to have a correct perception of truth, of reality, a correct understanding of what is happening around us in the field of human thought. This is particularly difficult and yet important when we have a media that is being used as a propaganda tool for the new world order.

Over and over again my thinking has been brought back to the fundamental statement in the first verse of the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” One of the fundamental problems with humanity at this time, which has unleashed all manner of evil in the world, is a failure to recognize and worship the Creator. It is this issue that is addressed by the first angel’s message. “Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him.” Revelation 14:7. The whole concept of worship rests upon the idea of the Creator-creature distinction which our society has lost. Having lost the concept of the creatorship of God, humanity today has lost its orientation. It no longer knows who God is, who we are, and who humanity is. The entire sense of reality has been shifted and warped in preparation for totalitarian systems to revive in the world.

The first chapter of the book of John begins much the same as the first verse of the Bible. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake [that is a literal translation right out of the Greek] it.” John 1:1-5

The very foundation of all human life is the Word of God. He spake and it was done. He commanded and it was done. He commanded and it stood fast. That Word is omnipotent, it is all powerful, and it is the voice of God to our souls, transforming human life and bringing us into contact with reality. So when we look at all of human life, we have to dig deep. As Ellen White says, hunt for the Rock and make sure we are grounded on the Rock, Christ Jesus, who is the Word of God.

In the time in which we live, and particularly since Vatican II, the Protestant churches, which are virtually asleep, are being led step by step back into the fold of Rome. Soon to be raised is the issue of whether a power on this earth can exalt itself against the law of God, challenging his sovereignty, and whether the rest of humanity will yield allegiance to that power. We must never forget that the fundamental question of the Sabbath-Sunday issue at the end of time is, will divine authority be in its rightful place or will human authority replace divine authority and pervert humanity? J.A. Wylie in his The History of Protestantism, which paints for us the struggle that has gone on through the centuries between the forces of Protestantism and the Papacy, points out that human liberty depends upon its recognition of divine authority.

In 1215, the barons of England forced King John to sign the Magna Charta. Wylie points out, however, that the great charter for England was not, in reality, the fundamental charter of liberty for the English-speaking people; it was the Word of God. When the Word of God sank down into the hearts of Englishmen, it transformed all of human life in England and exalted England to greatness. When divine authority is present, it demands freedom to obey God and is a fundamental principle of all liberty.

But we live in a society that has rejected the authority of God, laying the foundation for human tyranny. In England the teachings of evolution destroyed the concept of the creatorship of God. For some time the American nation has been driven hard to the left into immorality and homosexuality, and we may except to soon see a hard shift back to the right. Already, Patrick Buchanan, regarded as a staunch conservative, is holding seminars across this land asserting that the only way to save America is to make it Catholic.

Soon, every person in this nation is going to have to come to grips with issue of what they are going to do with the creatorship of God and with the authority of His Word. Even in Adventism we are wrestling with this issue, and it is the result of a regard for the authority of God’s Word that we see the independent movement today.

When Luther, in reading the Scriptures, found that Christ is the head of the body, he began questioning whether there was any head of the whole church other than Christ. There came a point in his experience where he was engaged in the Leipzig debates, and, as a result of that experience, Luther began coming to grips with the issue of authority in the church. He finally came to doubt whether, after all, any other head of the whole church had been appointed upon earth except Christ. Once he accepted the principle that the authority of God’s Word is above counsels, popes, and all human authority, it began to transform all human life, changing even people’s concept of the church.

Once Luther established the principle of the supremacy of the Word of God, he began energetically applying it to every phase of human life. The outgrowth of that principle is reflected in our Constitution in the principle of the free exercise of religion. The whole Bill of Rights rests upon this principle of the supremacy of divine authority. But what has happened in America? As the creatorship of God has been destroyed by the teachings of evolution, we have lost the concept of inalienable rights, and we now have a government that is contemptuous of the Bill of Rights.

In 1958, the year before the pope called for Vatican II, a European theologian sounded a warning. He did not know what was coming, but he pointed out that unless we begin to have an experience with the Word of God so that our entire life rests upon it and unless we have placed our feet so firmly on the Word that we can say we know with certainly what we believe, we will eventually come back under the dominion of Rome. He sent out that warning to the world. The next year, the ecumenical council was called. Vatican II met from 1962-1965, and the religious world has never been the same since.

But the people are not going deep enough. They are skimming the surface and are not rooted on the Word of God. Therefore, they do not know how to evaluate what is taking place, and after a while they begin to adjust, adapting to the new realities of Socialism as it comes in like a flood. Meanwhile, a totalitarian system of enormous proportions is being set up in our nation and around the world.

It was Luther who observed that, “A council cannot make divine right out of that which is not by nature divine right. To establish the Romish papacy by divine right is a ‘new dogma’ which is not binding. The church needs no head. The hierarchical system is not biblical, nor of divine right. The whole canon law [set up by Rome] begins to totter.” The History of Doctrines, 290

When the human being submits to the authority of God and His law of liberty, he finds true freedom; and he is delivered from human tyranny. The central orientation of the Protestant worship was the Word of God, not the charisma of the speaker. The movement of the three angels’ messages of Adventism will triumph as it adheres to this principle of the primacy of the Word of God.

And so, the principle of the supremacy of the Word of God was adopted by Luther in the Reformation, and it transformed his idea about the church. Because he had bowed to the supreme authority of Christ, who is the head of the church, he no longer felt that he had to somehow stay within the confines of the papacy. It was out of the fountain spring of personal salvation that a whole new conception of the church was born, bringing Protestantism into being.

Luther first develops this doctrine in detail in a tract in which he observed that the church is an assemblage of all Christian believers on earth and is made up of those who are of His flesh and of His bone, who are united with Him by faith. He further pointed out that as this is a community of saints and is represented as a spiritual fellowship, the principle of its unity is not to be seen in a body such as Rome, or the papacy, but in Christ. He went on to say that it is Christ operating upon the members that unites them into one community. (See Ibid., 291.)

Remember, Ellen White says that the groups of believers at the end of time are bound together by the truth; and the truth rests, of course, upon Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As the head, Christ infuses His disposition, temper, and will into the community. The church is, therefore, the spiritual association of those who believe on Christ, those established and sustained by Him.

“Where two or three are present who love and obey the commandments of God, Jesus there presides, let it be in the desolate place of the earth, in the wilderness, in the city enclosed in prison walls.” The Upward Look, 315

The idea that the true church is the spiritual fellowship where Christ presides is an entirely new concept of the church that came about from the study of the Word of God in the Protestant Reformation.

“By the word church is also understood the organized association of those who believe on Christ, ‘an outward thing with outward actions,’ and the order of the clergy. This ‘outward, bodily church’ and the ‘inner spiritual church’ are to be carefully discriminated, but not separated. They are related to one another as body and soul in man.” The History of Doctrines, 291. And in the Protestant Reformation, the concept that Jesus enunciated when He said the kingdom of heaven is within you, is an internal, spiritual kingdom of righteousness and peace. This is the non-negotiable element of the church that Luther seized upon in the Protestant Reformation. And then that spiritual fellowship that are of His flesh and of His bone have a visible, external manifestation as they gather together for the preaching of the Word and administration of the Lord’s ordinances, such as the Lord’s Supper and Baptism.

Luther recognized that the outward, bodily church and the inner, spiritual church are related to one another as body and soul to man. He asserted that, “It is, of course, of chief importance that we belong to the spiritual church, but this membership stand in close connection with membership in the external church.” Ibid. He went on to say that it is the Word of God, the preaching of the Word, externally set forth that calls into existence the inner, spiritual church. “The church is therefore in one aspect, an external, visible association. But this is not ‘the true church which is believed.’ Since, however, the Word and the sacraments are here operative, faith concludes that here in the external association may be found a community of saints. Thus the church is an object of faith and not the visible, ‘for what is believed is not bodily nor visible.’” Ibid., 292

Basically, what Luther was saying is that the invisible, inner relationship with Christ is the foundational concept of the church, just as Paul says here in Ephesians 5:30, “For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” And out of that inner relationship with Christ, there comes a visible, external manifestation of the church as the community of faith comes together and hears the Word of God preached to them. The church is the assembly of all believers, the holy Christian nation, the regenerated. It is holy because the Holy spirit reigns in it. Those who belong to it are all priests in the spiritual sense. It is the new creation of God, the product and sphere of the redemptive work of Christ, the kingdom of God in which Christ reigns through the spirit and faith.

The Reformers went on to say that, “If the question be raised, which of the two churches, the Romish and the Evangelical, is the ‘true’ one, the answer cannot be given on the basis of their comparative morality. But, sense the object of the outward organization of the church is to bring Christ to men through the Word, therefore, it can lay claim to the title, ‘true church,’ just in proportion as its preaching of the Word is in harmony with this purpose, i.e., is truly evangelical.” The History of Doctrines, 294. And so, the mark of the true church, Luther said, is that in it, the gospel is purely preached.

This entire movement of historic Adventism rests upon this principle of the primacy of the Word of God because we believe that, where the truth is purely preached is the sign of the true church. Martin Luther said that this true church must have the “teaching, faith, and confession of Christ. This can be known from the agreement of its doctrine with the ‘Word of Christ.’ That the true church holds with me to God’s Word.’ Our doctrine is ‘the Scriptures and the clear Word of God.’ The ‘pure doctrine’ is therefore of the highest importance, since every corruption of it must immediately influence the life. Hence, the church dare not tolerate false teachers.” Ibid., 295. That is the sixteenth century Reformation.

The struggle that we are involved in in Adventism today is that we are faced on the one hand with a structure that has very subtly shifted its emphasis from the authority of God and His Word to the authority of man, as is evidenced by the fact that we find men who profess to speak for the structure exalting the church manual as being an inspired document. Recently, a man from the General Conference, who was delivering a sermon at a baccalaureate service, asserted that, yes, we have the authority of Scripture, but we also have the authority of tradition which is to be interpreted for all by the community of faith. These are Roman Catholic concepts.

On the other hand, there is the celebration movement. This movement is right out of Vatican II.

The issue that Seventh-day Adventists are now having to come to grips with is, what are they going to do with a pastor who is going in a different direction, with a conference structure that is going a different direction? This is not a situation that is taking place only in Adventism but throughout the churches. We have Baptists who, as soon as their Adventists neighbors get Freedom’s Ring, want to borrow it. They recognize that this is happening in their church. I was just talking to Texe Marrs; some of you know who he is, exposing the occult, exposing spiritualistic forces, exposing the new world order in a remarkable way. He said to me, “You know, I was brought up as a Baptist. My mother was Pentecostal. But you know, I didn’t go to church very much; and when I was in the Air Force, Wanda, my wife, and I gave our hearts to the Lord and began pursuing truth. When we got out of the Air Force, we went to attend the Baptist church.” And he said, “It was nothing like the Baptist faith I had known about.” This is happening in all of the churches. I have a friend who went, just out of the appeal of his Lutheran family, to attend a Lutheran service in North Dakota. The whole sermon was New Age, about the God within. I have a book by a conservative Roman Catholic who tells how New Age is all through their schools and all through their whole movement.

To be continued…