The Initial Steps Toward Unity

The messenger of the Lord to the remnant church has told us explicitly that unless we press together, we will be destroyed in the storm that is coming. See Signs of the Times, October 31, 1900. Unity is not something that is just nice to study about; it has to do with your survival.

“Our only hope of reaching heaven is to be one with Christ.” Upward Look, 141. Therefore, the most important unity that we need to seek is to be one with Jesus. Unless we are one with Christ, we have no chance of being saved. If we are one with Jesus, Ellen White continues, “then, in and through Christ, we shall be one with one another.” Ibid. As we come closer to Christ, we come closer to one another.

The Christian world today is seeking for unity, but they do not know how to find it. One of these days very soon, they will believe they have finally achieved it and that the whole world is in unity. See Maranatha, 209. The whole world is going to think that they are in unity, but their harmony will be with the Antichrist.

Unity is a primary subject of Jesus’ prayer in John 17; how we might be one with him. If I am not in harmony with Jesus on something, who do you think should change his mind? The Bible is crystal clear on this subject. “For I am the Lord I do not change.” Malachi 3:6. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8. What Jesus said when He was here almost 2,000 years ago, is still what He thinks; it is still what He believes; it is still what He is like. He is the same; His character has not varied. So, if I want true unity with Jesus I must study what He is like, as recorded in his word. Then, as we come into unity with Jesus, we will come into unity with each other.

Coming into unity is like a jigsaw puzzle—it has more than one piece and we cannot look at all the pieces at once. Right now, however, we will look at one of the initial pieces, a first step toward coming into unity.

You cannot imitate or emulate someone if you do not know what they are like. Therefore, we want to study to understand what Jesus is like. Though I do not spend a lot of time giving my opinions when preaching, I am going to share one of my personal opinions with you. As I have studied the life of Jesus, it does not appear to me that there are very many Seventh-day Adventists who know what Jesus is really like.

There are many people coming to historic Adventist preachers and saying: “You should not do that, or you should not say that; it is not Christlike.” When I hear that, the first question that comes into my mind is simply this: How do you know that it is not Christlike? I personally believe that there are many Seventh-day Adventists telling us those things who have no idea what Jesus is like.

In Hebrews 1, we see a text that graphically tells us in just a few words, something about what Jesus is like. “But unto the son He saith [This is the Father speaking to the Son and He addresses Him as God—One equal in authority with the Father.] ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness.’” Hebrews 1:8-9. Jesus loves what? Righteousness!

We cannot generate love. Love is a precious gift that we receive from Jesus. See Ministry of Healing, 358. If we are to become like Jesus, coming into unity and harmony with Him, we must learn to love righteousness just as He does.

A few years ago I read a story of a beautiful young lady who experienced an automobile accident. Not having her seat belt on, she was thrown through the windshield of her car. Though she survived, her face was badly disfigured. As a result of her change in appearance, her husband divorced her. He had married a beautiful face and when that face was no longer there, there was nothing to hold the marriage together.

What is called love in the world today is often nothing short of selfishness. There are many people who have been married for years but who have never really loved each other. They have gotten married because of what the other person could do for them, and that is not godly love at all.

It took me a long time to learn that I did not have the ability to generate love of any kind, not even for my wife. But, Jesus’ heart is full of love, and He wants you to have that love. His final request in his last prayer, recorded in John 17, is that He would be in his followers and that this love would be in them.

Jesus loves righteousness, and if we ask him for this precious gift of love, he will give it to us. See Romans 8:32.

What is righteousness? Sometimes the easiest way to explain an idea is to express it in opposite terms. What is unrighteousness? In 1 John 5:17, we are told that all unrighteousness is sin. And, what is sin? “Sin is the transgression of the law.” 1John 3:4. Then what is righteousness? It is being in harmony with the law.

Did you know that there are things Jesus hates? Though there are some people who do not seem to believe this anymore, Hebrews 1:9 (last part) tells us that Jesus not only loves, but that He hates as well. So, if you are really going to be like Jesus Christ, you are not only going to have love in your heart, but you also have hatred there. Notice what it says in Hebrews 1:9 “You have hated lawlessness.” (NKJV)

Another text that also reveals this hatred is Psalm 87:10, “You who love the Lord hate evil.”

Some people think that they should just put up with everything, but Jesus is not like that. Jesus is not like that. Jesus and His father have decided that lawlessness is something that they are going to obliterate because they hate it. If you love Jesus, you will also hate lawlessness, especially when you realize that it was this lawlessness—this sin—that caused Jesus to go to the cross. You cannot love Jesus and something that caused Him to go to the cross. That is why Ellen White tells us that, even though those who teach people to break God’s laws may consider themselves Christians, God considers that they hate Him.

The first angel’s message says to fear God.

What does it mean to fear God? For one thing, it means to hate evil. “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Proverbs 8:13. This idea that we can just live a good life, setting a good example, is not enough. If we are really going to be Christlike, we must not only love righteousness, but we must hate lawlessness. We will never achieve Christian unity until we hate lawlessness as much as we love righteousness.

So, what are you to do in a world of evil, among people who profess to follow the Lord, but are not living righteously. The first step that must be taken before we can have Christian unity is that someone is going to have to stand up and attack the evil? It is not enough just to teach the truth; not enough just to set a good example. It is not enough to be loving and kind; you must attack evil. Now we will see the evidence for this from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.

In about the 1920s, Julius Gilbert White wrote a manuscript called The Alpha and the Omega of Apostasy. In this book he accurately describes a departure from truth that was then taking place in Adventism, and that I have seen during my whole lifetime. The result of this departure from truth is the great apostasy that we see in the church today; the greatest apostasy that has ever been seen in the 6,000 years of this world’s history, except perhaps at the time of the flood.

“Those who reject the apostasy [he is speaking to Adventists] will be severely charged with criticism because they will protest against it. [Have you ever been accused of being too critical?] A great effort has been made for a long time to eliminate ‘criticism.’” The Alpha and the Omega of Apostasy, 57

What is it that he says has been going on for a long time? “A great effort has been made for a long time to eliminate criticism.” Remember now, this was written in the 1920s. This plot of the devil was laid a long time ago.

“It [criticism] has been terribly condemned far and near in sermons, articles, conventions, institutes, camp meetings and conferences. Honest protest has been stifled and suppressed by branding it ‘criticism’ and then condemning it. A distinction must be made between ‘protest and criticism.’ For if not, no voice can be raised against wrong! Pernicious criticism is a wicked thing, and ought to be confessed and forsaken. Criticism of men is that bad. But there is another side to this question of criticism.

“If men have gone so far in criticism that they criticize the work of the Spirit of God and the messages from the Spirit of God and denounce those who are maintaining those messages as having the spirit of the devil, that would come terribly close to being a sin against the Holy Spirit and would call for alarm and utter humiliation and abasement before such men should dare lift up their heads and ask God for the gift of His Holy Spirit in the latter rain.

“This criticism of the work of the Spirit of God is more heinous and disastrous to ourselves and to the work of God than is criticism of men.

“If leaders so criticize the Spirit of Prophecy that men are moved by the Spirit of God to protest against such apostasy, there must be a distinction made between such protest and evil criticism. When men are in the wrong and do not see it and God sends brethren to counsel them and they persist in denouncing such counsel as unjust criticism, they are indeed in a great delusion, and it is most difficult for God to reach them.

“According to Inspiration, there will be various voices in the church from this time forward till after the shaking is over. There will be false reformations that will sweep in thousands; there will be great worldliness and there will be those who ‘sigh and cry’ over the condition of the church as God sees it, and these will reprove and warn and ‘will not hold their peace to obtain the favor of any.’ (See Testimonies, vol. 5,209).” Ibid., 58,59

Ellen White here describes two groups of people. One group of people put a cloak over the existing iniquity, but another group will not hold their peace for anyone. They are going to protest. Now, if you would like to know who is sealed and who is not, you need to read the rest of the chapter.

There have been times in the past when God has sent people to attack evil. Concerning these people, Ellen White says, “They have ever been received with distrust and suspicion.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 261. Anciently, when Elijah was sent with a message from God, the people did not heed the warning. They thought him unnecessarily severe.

Today, someone says, “Do you have to state it so strongly?” Yes, I do, in order to have a clear conscience.

“They [children of Israel] even thought that he must have lost his senses.” What did they think about Elijah? They thought he had gone crazy! Why? “Because he denounced them, the favored people of God, as sinners and their crimes as so aggravated that the judgments of God would awaken against them.” Ibid. (All emphasis supplied.) Many people have never noticed this.

Is there to be an Elijah message to the church just before the end? Do you know what the Elijah message is? It is a lot different than what many people have thought. Very soon the judgements of God are going to fall on apostate Seventh-day Adventists and it is going to be worse than you can imagine. It is necessary to preach a message that will shake people right down to their toes and make them realize that if they do not change their ways they will be in worse trouble than they can imagine.

“Oh,” somebody says, “Pastor John, Jesus would never do anything like that.” Well, did Jesus approve of what Elijah did or not? Who was inspiring Elijah to denounce them? Many people think that anybody that does anything like that is the devil’s instrument, but according to the Spirit of Prophecy, Elijah was the Lord’s instrument. He denounced them because he was Christlike and was filled with the Holy Spirit.

“They abhorred not the sins which had brought them under the chastening rod, but hated the faithful prophet, God’s instrument, to denounce their sins and calamity.” Review and Herald, September 23, 1873

“But,” someone will say, “don’t you realize that we must respect our leaders?” Well, let me tell you, Elijah did not. “The prophet, as God’s messenger, had reproved their sins, and denounced the judgments of God because of their wickedness. Elijah, standing alone in conscious innocence, firm in his integrity, surrounded by the train of armed men, shows no timidity, neither does he show the least reverence to the king. The man whom God has talked with, who has a clear sense of how God regards man in his sinful depravity, has no apology to make to Ahab, nor homage to give him. Elijah, now as God’s messenger, commanded, and Ahab obeyed at once the command, as though Elijah was monarch, and he subject.” Ibid., September 30, 1873

There is a time when a rebuke must be given; and when God’s people are in apostasy, if God’s messengers do not stand up and rebuke it and reprove it, we will lose our own souls.

There was a time in the New Testament when there was perfect unity. It says in Acts 2:1 that they were all of one accord in one place. That is going to happen again. I long for it and want to be part of it, but do you know that that unity which they enjoyed would never have come to pass without the cross and the resurrection? Now the cross and the resurrection would not have done for the disciples what it did if they had not been acquainted with Him first for three years and gotten to know what He was like. But, they would never have gotten acquainted with Jesus and found out what he was like if it had not been for the ministry of John the Baptist. The ministry of John the Baptist was the initial step that finally brought that unity three and a half years later. What we are studying now is one of the initial steps that finally results in unity.

When John the Baptist came, the angel told his father that he would come in the spirit and power of Elijah. So, what did John the Baptist do? “John denounced the corruptions of the Jews, and raised his voice in reproving their prevailing sins.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol.5, 1089.

From time to time, someone will say, “Your preaching is not Christlike because Jesus would speak in a calm, soft voice; He would never raise His voice like you Historic Adventist preachers do.”

But, John the Baptist did not speak in a soft, quiet voice—he raised his voice and shouted it out. “Amid discord and strife, a voice was heard from the wilderness, a voice startling and stern.” Desire of Ages, 104

Stern is another adjective that Ellen White uses quite often in regard to both Elijah and John the Baptist; they were stern in their preaching. When they were stern, were they Christlike or not? Were they filled with the Holy Spirit, or were they filled with another spirit? The Bible says that John the Baptist was full of the Holy Spirit from his mothers womb. “With the spirit and power of Elijah he denounced the national corruption, and rebuked the prevailing sins. His words were plain, pointed, and convincing.” Ibid.

We want to have unity. Who is it in the last days who is going to have unity? Well, let us consider what took place at the first advent of Christ, which is a type of our day, and find out who came into unity then. It was the people who listened to John the Baptist, accepted his rebuke and reproof, reformed their lives and followed Jesus. Three and a half years later they were in a condition of perfect harmony. Do you think there is any parallel between then and our time?

Before Gethsemane, one of the last things Jesus told His disciples was that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will reprove, that is, rebuke. See John 16. If you are receiving the Holy spirit into your life, you will be rebuked; but if you persist in rejecting that rebuke, you will eventually lose the Holy Spirit.

Who is it today that is going to come into unity? Is it those who are fighting the messengers that God has sent to denounce the apostasy and make a call to repentance? Will it be the people who are following the New Theology, who are stepping off the platform of truth, or is it the people who are listening to the messages of rebuke from the Spirit of Prophecy and reforming their lives?

The people who are going to come into unity in Adventism today are the people who allow the Holy Spirit to rebuke them in any way God chooses. It is the Historic Seventh-day Adventists, those who stand on the three angel’s messages and accept all of the Spirit of Prophecy, who believe the fundamental truths that the Lord revealed to our spiritual forefathers. These are the only people who are going to come into unity.

You can trust the One who loved you enough to be nailed to the cross for you, that He will not rebuke you more than you need. This does not mean, however, that you may not need a lot.

Sometimes we meet someone who says, “I know that there are problems and that there is apostasy, but you are never going to get reformation by talking about the problems all time. You should talk more about positive things.”

Listen to this: “They treated the warnings of the Spirit of God as a matter of indifference, as though that voice were human in place of divine. What there was to make any demonstration of on there part they could not see. If they had done wrong, why dwell upon it so much?” Special Testimony to the Battle Creek Church, 1 (published in 1882)

This is what they were thinking in their minds: “Just go on; let it all drop, and say as little about it as possible.” Ibid. Have you ever heard it said; “You are talking about this all the time; you should not talk about it so much. Talk about it as little as possible. Talk about positive things. Teach people how to develop their character and how to have love and how to be patient and kind; don’t be rebuking all the time”? That is what they thought in Battle Creek.

Do you know who Ellen White says would be pleased if they did that? The next sentence tells us. “This is the very thing the enemy of souls wants them to do.” Ibid. It was the devil! The problem, friends, is not going to be solved unless we face the issue straight on and attack it. Evil must be opposed.

Somebody has to attack what is going on today, and it has to be a firm unflinching attack. It must not be some mild little talk; it must be like Elijah, like John the Baptist.

Ellen White says, concerning the rebuke that was given to the children of Israel, “This firmness was essential; in no other way could the existing evils have been rebuked….The messengers of the Lord are never to fear the face of man, but are to stand unflinchingly for the right.” Conflict and Courage, 202

Inspired writings tell us that when Elijah rebuked Israel, he was angry. Yet, he was filled with the Holy Spirit when he was angry. He was also Christlike when he was angry.

“Never seek to cover sin; for in the message of rebuke, Christ is to be proclaimed as the first and the last, He who is all in all to the soul.” Selected Messages, book 1, 380

Friend, are you going to be one of those who come into unity? If you are, you will have to be humble enough to accept rebuke from whomever God chooses to send.

Anytime God sends anyone to reprove the evil, people do not like it and the messengers of reproof are accused of being the cause of the division. Have you ever heard anyone accuse Historic Adventists of being the cause of the division? Elijah was accused of being a troubler of Israel.

“God’s plan for the salvation of men, is perfect in every particular. If we will faithfully perform our allotted parts, all will be well with us. It is man’s apostasy that causes discord, and brings wretchedness and ruin.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, 999

So, what is the real cause of the lack of unity in Adventism today? It is not the people who are calling for repentance, but the apostasy that is responsible for the discord; and the only Adventists who will ever have unity again are those who will fight apostasy. Brothers and Sisters, we will never have unity until we are willing to stand up and fight the apostasy.

What is the purpose of rebuke? When we look at the preaching of John the Baptist and the early preaching of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 3 and 4, we see that the burden of both Jesus and John the Baptist was repentance. See Matthew 4:17. The purpose of the rebuke is that we may repent, and it is only when people are willing to repent that they are able to come into perfect unity.

The End