In the gospel of Matthew, we see the reason why Jesus organized the church and gave her a mission. Jesus’ time on this earth was limited and He needed to make sure that the work He started would continue until the end of time. In Matthew 9 we read this account: “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith He unto His disciples, the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:36–38.
After Jesus spoke these words, He did not go and retire somewhere in the wilderness. When Christ said the harvest was ready, He was ready. He immediately began to organize His disciples for involvement in His work. In Matthew 10 Jesus gave them specific instructions on how to work. Too often we make a mistake in not following the Lord’s example. We can show others the need of working for the Lord. We can preach the importance of being involved in missionary work, but if we fail, by not actually showing them how to do it, we are only giving half a message. Jesus did not leave His disciples to themselves to figure out what to do, He gave them His strategy on how they could succeed. The instructions found in Matthew 10 are needed in the church today.
The first thing that we learn is that Jesus is interested in training others to work. He preached the gospel in Matthew 5–9. But He did not continue preaching all the way through the gospel of Matthew. Many sincere Christians are satisfied with just hearing. But that is not God’s perfect plan for His church. In Christ’s day there were many that followed Him because they desired to see a miracle. Others loved to see our Lord battle the demons and cast them out. There were some that liked to row Jesus across the Sea of Galilee, since they knew that He had the power to calm the sea. How many of you would like to have sat around the campfire with the Lord. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do that, but that is not God’s perfect plan for your life. Jesus is in the business of training disciples. In Matthew 28:19, the Lord says, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples.”
You can rejoice that you have heard the gospel. But the Lord says, “Make disciples.” Some say, “Oh, I have been an Adventist all my life.” So what. The Lord says, “Make disciples.” Many successful evangelists or pastors have the talent to preach the Word. Teach others to do what you do. We must not be selfish and think that we are the only ones that should share the Word in our church or ministry. If God has blessed you with the knowledge His Word, then find someone and show them how they can do what you do. If we had a hundred people doing what only one or two are now doing, we could finish the work. And that is what Christ wants to see in His church. Jesus in interested in what is known as “on the job training.”
Jesus often used people who did not appear to be very well fitted for the job. Look at the twelve apostles. Here we see a group of men who did not have the necessary skills for the work they were called to do. They did not have the ability to work well with others. They were not dependable. They were slow and easily discouraged. But that is the wonderful thing about Jesus. He not only sees how we are now, but He can see what we can and will be when we accept God’s call.
“And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples…” Matthew 10:1. It is to Christ that we are drawn. Who does the calling? The church did not find Christ. The twelve did not say, “This Jesus is perfect for the job.” The church today is guilty of reversing the Biblical order. The church today offers a Jesus that will run all of your errands. Some say, “Lord, You get me a job, You do this or that.” These people have been waiting for years to accomplish something, but the Lord has done nothing for them. It is presumption for us to ask God to do something that He has told us to do. If you notice, the Bible says that Jesus is the one who calls and sends out workers. It is His mission, His work, His church, and His strategy. He sends them; they do not send Him. Let us look at Christ’s strategy for saving souls. Jesus said, in Matthew 10:5-6: “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
When we think of mission work, we think of Africa or India, and there is nothing wrong with taking our work overseas. But what about the inner city mission? We have a tremendous work that needs to be done in our own neighborhoods. We must get involved in foreign mission, but we cannot forget our own neighborhoods. Jesus said to start with the people that you know. Start with the people that you live with. He called them the lost sheep of Israel. Those are people who know that there is something wrong with them, people who have problems, and people who need help. We are surrounded by those who are crying out for help. Pray for them. Talk to them. Encourage them. Invite them to church. Tell them you love them and that God does, too. You will find many opportunities to minister and witness to those around you. The point is just do something. Make a list of five people that you know and start working for them. Never give up and you will see the fruit of your labor.
The Need to Work Together
“No advice or sanction is given in the Word of God to those who believe the Third Angel’s Message to lead them to suppose that they can draw apart. This you may settle with yourselves forever. It is the devising of unsanctified minds that would encourage a state of disunion.” Manuscript 109, 1899.
Our prophet tells us that the Third Angel’s Message will be given by a unified body of Christians. Unity is not an option we choose, but an evidence that the Holy Spirit is leading us. God cannot bless us when we are going contrary to His Word, and His Word says to unify.
We have had brothers who have written us and called us on the phone saying that the Holy Spirit told them not to ever visit us again. Others have said that we are starting a new organization. Some have said that if we are going to follow the Holy Spirit we have to meet in a park under a tree.
“It is not a good sign when men will not unite with their brethren, but prefer to act alone, when they will not take in their brethren because they do not just exactly meet their mind. If men will wear the yoke of Christ, they cannot pull apart. They will wear Christ’s yoke, they will draw with Christ.” Manuscript 56, 1898.
We are our brother’s keeper. If you are in a situation where your brother has erred from the word, only a coward and a traitor would abandon his brother. How can we say we love someone and not do all we can to help them? “But he that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own, the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” John 10:12–13. “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15.
When you are in a church or a home church, and problems arise, it is so much easier to run far away so that you do not have to deal with the problems. But the most difficult and necessary work is to solve them. Human nature always wants the easy road, but we cannot run away from our duty without risking great loss. Ezekiel 33:6, 7, gives this solemn warning to us, the watchmen on the walls. “But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at My mouth and warn them from Me.”
In the church, we must look at all men as our brothers and all women as our sisters. And when problems arise, we have a greater need to press closer together and look for solutions. Some of the problems today cannot be remedied in one or two meetings. It will take a lot of humility, study, fasting, and hours on our knees in prayer.
Questions on Unity
At times, people from the conference have read us these statements on unity by Ellen White, and accused us of not following God’s counsel on unity, because we meet in a self-supporting church. We have always believed that one should study the Spirit of Prophecy with the same care that we use when we study the Bible. Seventh-day Adventists have always been very careful Bible students. We never allow anyone to just read one or two texts to prove a Bible doctrine. We read every text that has reference to the subject in question. By doing this, we can make intelligent, informed decisions. But when it comes to the Sprit of Prophecy, we are often no different than those other churches that “twist the scriptures unto their own destruction.” 2 Peter 3:16 (NKJV).
Let us forever settle the fact that Ellen White never intended for anyone to use her statements on unity to refer to those who are in gross apostasy. She wrote in Manuscript 31, 1906: “We have a testing message to give, and I am instructed to say to our people, ‘Unify, unify.’ But we are not to unify with those who are departing from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. With our hearts sweet and kind and true, we are to go forth to proclaim the message, giving no heed to those who lead away from the truth.” (See also The Great Controversy, 445, 446.)
Let Them Alone
In Matthew 15:12–14, Jesus gives us counsel on unity. At this time Jesus’ disciples were troubled when they saw the Pharisees offended with Christ’s teachings. They approached Jesus in verse 12 saying, “Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?” The Pharisees hated Christ. They wanted Him dead. They were never going to accept Jesus or allow Him to work. Christ knew that, but the people (including His twelve disciples) thought that these men were God’s wonderful leaders. The apostles believed that if Christ was ever going to succeed in His labor, He must find favor with these men. “But He [Jesus] answered and said, ‘Every plant, which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.’ ” Matthew 15:13, 14.
Jesus told His disciples “Let them alone.” These men, “however great their authority with people, they could not endure the testing of God.” Desire of Ages, 389. This message rings true for us today, at a time when the prophet tells us that “God is now sifting His people, testing their purposes and their motives. Many will be but as chaff—no wheat, no value in them.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 51.
“The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity she will do in a terrible crisis under the most discouraging, forbidding circumstances.…And at that time the superficial, conservative class, whose influence has steadily retarded the progress of the work, will renounce the faith. …” Testimonies, vol. 5, 63.
“To stand in defense of truth and righteousness when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few—this will be our test. At this time we must gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their cowardice, and loyalty from their treason.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 136.
The Lord is not against human leaders. We see that He organized His work when He ordained twelve. But Christ does warn us against blindly following church leaders. Sadly, today, we are following in the same course as our spiritual forefathers; despite the warnings found in the Spirit of Prophecy. We give unquestionable loyalty and reverence to a man or a group of men.
It is past time that we learned to “Prove all things.” We can support men when they support and follow the Word of God. We should respect the authority of the church, when the church respects the authority of God’s Word. But when the majority forsake the truth, we must take our stand firmly against all unrighteousness, or suffer eternal consequences.
A High Sense of Duty
In order to fulfill the gospel commission, we must have a high sense of duty. This high sense of duty is more important than anything else we may have today. We have a duty to work. No church can last whose people are encouraged to be idlers and loafers. It is our duty to do our best and to be as productive as we can. We must love the work of God. Duty does not fall upon a select group of people, but upon the shoulders of each individual believer.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus described the responsibility of each individual as his use of that which was given him. There was no corporate report of earnings, but each individual stood alone as custodian of his gifts, and this is even more true in the day in which we live.
“We are not doing the will of God if we sit in quietude, doing nothing to preserve liberty of conscience. Fervent, effectual prayer should be ascending to heaven that this calamity may be deferred until we can accomplish the work which has so long been neglected. Let there be most earnest prayer, and then let us work in harmony with our prayers.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 714.
“Let not the commandment-keeping people of God be silent at this time, as though we gracefully accepted the situation. There is the prospect before us of waging a continuous war, at the risk of imprisonment, of losing property and even life itself, to defend the law of God, which is being made void by the laws of men.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 975.
“Those who have been warned of the events before them are not to sit in calm expectation of the coming storm, comforting themselves that the Lord will shelter His faithful ones in the day of trouble. We are to be as men waiting for the Lord, not in idle expectancy, but in earnest work, with unwavering faith. It is our duty to do all in our power to avert the threatened danger.” Review and Herald, December 11, 1888.
We have the privilege of being called by Christ to finish the work that He began during His earthly ministry. Let us take heed to His call and bring an end to the great gospel commission of Matthew 28:19. God bless you and prepare to meet thy God.
Raphael Perez has been a Seventh-day Adventist minister for the past ten years. He presently is publishing Earth’s Final Warning in major newspapers across the United States. He writes from West Palm Beach, Florida.