In Part I of this article, we saw in Numbers 16:1 and 2 that Moses, as well as Aaron, was accused of being independent. The children of Israel had at that time a representative form of government where selected delegates from all the tribes came together to make decisions and vote on actions to take.
This is what happens within the organized church’s conferences today. Representatives from the churches within a conference attend a constituency meeting. The constituency meeting is the only group that has the authority to act for the sisterhood of churches. At the end of every constituency meeting a resolution is made authorizing the conference committee to act on behalf of the constituents until the next constituency meeting.
When the representatives of the children of Israel came together in their constituency meeting, they accused Moses and Aaron of being independent from the church and taking too much upon themselves without the approval of the church. They said, “God has chosen this church, and surely, when the entire church through its appointed representatives decides on something, it is as the voice of God to the people.” And they questioned, “How can it be that Moses and Aaron do not submit to the authority of the church and the leaders of the church? How can Moses and Aaron justify their independent ways?”
Actually, Moses and Aaron were not independent. They were the only ones that were really dependent on God. Appearances were deceptive, for the whole church body had become independent of God. The ones who were accused of being independent were the only ones who remained loyal and true to the God of heaven. The whole church was united against Moses. It says, in Numbers 16:19, that they all came together against Moses at the door of the tabernacle.
Obviously, God would accept the decision since the whole church, through their representatives, decided it—right? There are some people today still like that. They think that if the whole church decides something, the decision must be right; obviously, God is speaking, and they believe they must be in harmony with the decision. So, God accepted the decision of the representatives of the children of Israel, and they had new leadership, right? Is that what happened? That is not at all what happened. God did not choose other leaders, and God did not submit to the pressure of the whole church. He said no and that since these people were in rebellion, they would die.
No Assumed Kingly Power
Have you ever considered the fact, friend, that there is no committee, no conference, no general conference, no human authority or power on earth that has the authority to change one principle of truth? Not one! The antichrist power—that is the beast power—thinks that they can change something God has said and done. But God said no! God would not change it for the devil; He would not change it for Cain; He would not change it for Korah; He would not change it for Judas; and He is not going to change it for us.
God is seeking for the cooperation of His fellow workers on earth, but He has not abdicated the throne. Nor will He allow any church, any conference, any general conference, or anybody or anything to develop an assumed kingly power over His heritage, which is His purchased possession.
When we follow through the Old Testament, we see this principle demonstrated over and over again. We could look at Elijah. We could look at David and Saul. We could look at Jeremiah, Hosea, and Amos. But instead, let us go to the New Testament.
The ministry of John the Baptist is spoken of in Matthew 3. About this, Ellen White wrote: “John had not recognized the authority of the Sanhedrin by seeking their sanction for his work, and he had reproved rulers and people, Pharisees and Sadducees alike.” The Desire of Ages, 132, 133.
The Sanhedrin was the highest earthly authority in the church. Why had he not sought their sanction for his work, if he wanted to be successful? The Sanhedrin had tried to assume prerogatives and authority that belonged to God alone, thus making them independent of God. By refusing to submit to them, John the Baptist did not join in their independence. “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to [our] father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Matthew 3:7–9.
They thought that because they were descendents of Abraham, they were a part of the true church, no matter what. John said, “Do not even think that.” In verse 10, he continued: “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” John told them that the fact that they were the literal descendents of Abraham and that they had the right name, calling themselves Jews, did not insure that they were going to stay to the end.
The tree is not saved because it has the right name. It is only saved if it has the right fruit. When the man that has an orchard goes out to inspect the fruit, he does not look at the name of the tree to decide which to save; he looks at which ones bear fruit to decide which ones to save.
What does this mean to you and to me? It means simply that every church, every conference, every ministry, every institution, every family, and every individual that becomes independent from God will be cut down.
God Has a Church
God does have a church. He has always had a church. Ellen White said that God had a church in the days of Adam and Eve, and He has had a church ever since. (See The Upward Look, 228.) God still has a church. “God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:20). Where Christ is even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church.” The Upward Look, 315.
The church is the people that are not independent. They are not independent from God. They love Him, and they keep His commandments. Love and obedience, humility and dependence, not pride and independence—that is the criteria. “ ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:20). Where Christ is even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church.”
God’s church—His people—are those who are dependent upon Him, not those who are independent of Him. It is those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. This church will go through as the body of Christ. We have to understand that the movement is not at all the same as systems or buildings or institutions.
There was a time when the institutions in Battle Creek, the headquarters of the church, became independent from God. And do you know what God did? He burned them down. (See Testimonies, vol. 8, 97, 218.) The church survived.
A Purified Movement
The church will ultimately triumph. The greatest desire of our lives should be to triumph with it. God is not going to start some new movement, but the movement is going to be purified. The question is, Where are you going to land when the movement is purified? Are you going to be part of the purified movement, or are you going to be on the outside, separated from the movement because you are independent?
The movement is in the process of being purified right now. “If the fruit is worthless, the name cannot save the tree from destruction.” The Desire of Ages, 107. This is true of the Seventh-day Adventist name just as much as it was for the Jews. John declared to the Jews that their standing before God was to be decided by their lives. Profession was worthless. If their lives and characters were not in harmony with God’s Law, they were not His people.
When John warned the church that God could work without them, in their eyes he committed the unpardonable sin, and they tried to silence him. They did not accept him, because to them the church was the structure, the buildings, and the human leadership in Jerusalem. The system, in their eyes, was as secure as the throne in heaven. Do people still think like that? Some people do. But, actually, the fact is that, “from the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth.” The Acts of the Apostles, 11. Are you one of those faithful souls?
Never has God made His work dependent on physical structure—anciently or today. Study the life of David, Jeremiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, and especially Jesus. “In this fearful time, just before Christ is to come the second time, God’s faithful preachers will have to bear a still more pointed testimony than was borne by John the Baptist. A responsible, important work is before them; and those who speak smooth things, God will not acknowledge as His shepherds. A fearful woe is upon them.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 321.
How are we going to speak more plainly than John the Baptist if we do not even now speak as plainly as he spoke? We have to learn the lesson that John the Baptist was teaching, and he taught that the axe is laid at the foot of the tree. He said, “Do not even think that you are a member of the church just because you are a child of Abraham, because God can raise up from these stones (that is, the Gentiles) children from Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9.)
Humble, Loving Obedience
God will raise up anyone that is willing to become humble, obedient, and loving. Humble, loving obedience is all that is required; it is not complicated. At the end, it is as it has been before. The people who are really humble and obedient are going to look like the offshoots, and the people who are sinfully independent from God and His government are going to look like they are the establishment, that they are the people God is leading.
You must get this subject straight in your mind. You must be one of those who lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, one who does not just look to see what somebody else is doing.
As I have studied these things, in my heart I cried out and said, “Lord, I do not want to be found independent from You and Your government in the end.” How about you? It may look like you are independent to the rest of the world. That is the way it has been with God’s children for thousands of years. The important thing is not whether you are loyal to something human, to some human organization that may be totally independent from God. The important thing is that you are submissive and dependent on God’s Word and are living by every word in His Book. When you do that, the Bible says, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7.
[Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]
Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.