TABLE OF CONTENTS
Spiritual Nature of the Church
Israel (Abraham’s seed)
The apostasy in Christendom
When reformation of the church was impossible
Can you tell the difference between the true church and the professed- only church?
Two true churches? (the invisible church)
The professed church and the true church
Who are God’s denominated people?
Questions and answers
To be a Christian is not merely to take the name of Christ, but to have the mind of Christ, to submit to the will of God in all things. Many who profess to be Christians have yet to learn this great lesson. Many know little of what it is to deny self for Christ’s sake. They do not study how they can best glorify God and advance His cause. But it is self, self, how can it be gratified? Such religion is worthless. In the day of God those who possess it will be weighed in the balance and found wanting. TMK 174
ISSUES: Part Two SECTION TWO “The Church”
Dr. John J. Grosboll
The church is one of the things of God, the most precious thing on earth in His sight. It has been established and purchased at an infinite cost to heaven. What is it about the church that makes it so precious? Although no human can give a complete answer to this question, a very imperfect and partial answer could be as follows. When the great controversy was inaugurated in heaven, God and His government were challenged with the following justification:
- First of all, Lucifer claimed that God’s law was unnecessary for angels, and second, he claimed that created beings could not perfectly keep the law. Lucifer wanted a change in God’s law that would allow him to be part of the Godhead or like God (this would require a change in the first commandment and a change in the spiritual meaning of the rest of the commandments).
- Lucifer claimed that Christ had privileges that he should have also. God did not at all consent to this demand.
- Lucifer claimed that he wanted to obtain more freedom and liberty and that the principles of God’s government did not work perfectly and could be improved upon. Although Lucifer attempted to gain God’s condemnation by the entire universe of creatures created by God’s own hand, the nature of the charges made it impossible for God to vindicate His character or government as God because the charges which were accepted by about one third of the angels were not only against God, His government and His law, but they claimed that created beings could not keep His law and that His law resulted in a condition of life for created beings that was inferior to that life which could be enjoyed if the law were changed.
After Lucifer was expelled from heaven, he determined to be revenged upon God by causing the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, which he succeeded in doing. When Adam and Eve fell, they lost their former righteousness and purity of character. They were transgressors of the first commandment and spiritually they had broken every commandment in God’s law (Romans 7: 14). Satan claimed that either Adam and Eve would have to die with all the other transgressors of God’s law (including himself) or God would have to allow him and all the other fallen angels back into heaven if Adam and Eve were forgiven. God said to the devil, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise your head and you will bruise his heel” Genesis 3: 15.
SPIRITUAL NATURE OF THE CHURCH
Here in Genesis 3: 15, immediately after the fall, God announces the establishment of His church as His people. All people in the world can claim Eve as their mother according to the flesh, but God was here speaking only of those who would be, not just the fleshly descendants of Eve, but her spiritual descendants— those who would demonstrate by the character that they would develop that God was their Father and the devil their adversary.
Immediately after the fall of man, the spiritual nature of the church is revealed. There would be descendants of Eve that would be the seed of the devil— his spiritual children— and there would be enmity between these descendants of Eve according to the flesh and the descendants of Eve who were not only her fleshly but her spiritual children. Immediately after the fall, God makes it plain that ONLY the spiritual descendants of Eve are His people, His church. Those who are only her descendants according to the flesh, or who make a profession of being His children but develop characters like Satan, are the seed of the serpent and are not God’s children or part of His church at all. “There must be open and avowed enmity between the church and the serpent, between her seed and his seed” ST 8/ 26/ 89.
From this time on, often the church was again likened to a woman or sometimes the seed of the woman. This promise in Genesis 3: 15 was passed down for twenty generations. In the twentieth generation, the promise was renewed and more explicitly stated to Abraham in Genesis 12, 15, and 17. God’s covenant renewed with Abraham included the following provisions: (1) The sign or token that one had entered into this covenant was the rite of circumcision (Genesis 17: 10- 14). (2) For everyone who entered into this covenant, God promises to be their God (Genesis 17: 7, 8). (3) God promised that everyone who was part of this covenant would “inherit the land in which you are a stranger” (Genesis 17: 8). Some have thought that this refers only to the land of Palestine, but Abraham understood it to refer not only to Palestine but to an eternal inheritance in the earth made new at the end of time (Hebrews 11: 8- 10). The righteous are strangers in this earth (Hebrews 11: 13- 16; 1 Peter 1: 1), but they will inherit the earth (Psalm 37). (4) To be part of the covenant you must be part of Abraham’s seed because the covenant was made only to Abraham and his seed (Genesis 17: 7). (5) The covenant was not made with the fleshly descendants of Abraham but only with those who were his spiritual seed. We know for sure that this was a condition of the covenant from the beginning because Ishmael was of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh and was circumcised— he received the token or symbol of being part of the covenant (Genesis 17: 25), yet Ishmael was never part of the covenant! (see Romans 9) This is absolute proof that to be part of the covenant or testament you must be the spiritual seed of Abraham, not just the literal seed. In fact, you could be part of the spiritual seed of Abraham and thereby be part of the covenant even if you were not of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. The experience of Rahab the harlot in Jericho and of Ruth the Moabitess who became one of the progenitors of Christ demonstrates this fact— neither were of the physical seed of Abraham, but they both became part of his spiritual seed, so much so, that Ruth was chosen to be an ancestor of the Christ who was to come from the seed of Abraham.
ISRAEL (ABRAHAM’S SEED)
This covenant or testament of promise was renewed with Isaac and Jacob. After the night of Jacob’s trouble, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means “a prince with God,” and this became the official name of God’s people in this world forever. (This is not the only official name of God’s people today, however.) From this time on, one of the most common names for God’s church is “Israel.” In describing the victory of the saints at the end of the time of trouble, Ellen White calls them the Israel of God (EW 285).
However, many in ancient times and today are confused because they think that whenever the Bible talks about Israel it is talking about God’s true church. This assumption is often not true.
The human mind was originally created to operate in harmony and within the parameters of the Ten Commandments. Almost all learning from babyhood is based on the assumption that what is heard or what is seen is the truth. Without an observance of the ninth commandment, no order or learning can take place. But sin deceived (Romans 7: 11) and people who were the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh did not develop a character of faith and love like Abraham. They were his descendants according to the flesh, but they were not his spiritual descendants; they were not God’s children. Therefore an element of confusion was initiated which has continued to the present day: people who professed to be the children of Abraham, Israelites, God’s people, part of His church, were not the spiritual children of Abraham at all; spiritually they were not Israelites but they were called Israel; they professed to be part of Israel; they professed the same religion and were called Israelites (and they were Israelites according to the flesh). They were Israel by profession but not in reality. This is one of the awful results of sin— you cannot determine reality by a person’s profession or word.
Even a casual reading of the Old Testament reveals that many who were Israelites according to the flesh were not God’s people (some of them were called by the Old Testament writers the sons of Belial, that is, the devil); whereas those who are really part of His church are His people. Notice how explicitly the Bible writer states it: “They are not all Israel who are of Israel” Romans 9: 6. Those who are of Israel are those who profess to be God’s people, those who profess to be the Israel of God; but not all of these are really Israel; not all of them are really God’s people; not all of them are really part of the church. Today as then there are many who are “of Israel.” They have received the rite of baptism; they have professed to be God’s people; they are accounted by men to be God’s people, His church; they are numbered with God’s people and joined to them, but they are not really part of the church at all— they are only “pretended believers,” they are “false brethren” (COL). A false brother is not a true brother, but all those who are really part of the church are true brethren.
Until this basic fact is understood, much confusion will exist in the mind of a student of the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy. In the Bible “different meanings are expressed by the same word; there is not one word for each distinct idea” 1SM 20. If the word Israel or the word church is always interpreted to mean the same thing, then explicit contradictions are found in the inspired writings; but a real contradiction is impossible because ‘‘ all truth. . . . is consistent with itself in all its manifestations PP 114. No lie is of the truth (1 John 2: 21).
It is a common practice when an apparent contradiction occurs in inspired writings for students to make philosophical models to explain these contradictions. Because those who are part of the true church by profession and those who are part of the true church in character (reality) as well as profession have not been the same group for thousands of years and the prophets are using the imperfect language of men (1SM 20) in prophetic writings, both groups are often called simply “the church.”
In the Bible the word law is another example of the imperfectness of human speech. Sometimes the Bible writer uses the word law when talking about the Ten Commandments. At other times the same word without qualifiers is used to describe the ceremonial law or the same word is used to describe the first five books of Moses which were called the law in the Hebrew Bible. And still other times the word law is used to describe the effect of sin on a person or persons. In each case, the context of the verse must be examined to determine what law is being talked about.
This multiple use of the word law has been a prolific field for misunderstanding in which Seventh- day Adventists have had to learn how to explain the different ways that the word is used and that the moral law of Ten Commandments has never been and never can be changed. If a person is candidly looking for evidence, the different ways that the word law is used can be demonstrated from the text itself so that there is no real contradiction, even though from the first casual reading there had seemed to be. The same is true for the word church.
Until it is understood that “they are not all Israel who are of Israel,” the Old Testament prophets cannot be properly understood because when they use the word Israel, sometimes they are talking about the real or true Israel of God, His true church, and sometimes they are talking about Israel according to the flesh, those who profess to be Israel but are not all Israel. A knowledge of this fact explains many apparent contradictions in the Old Testament. For example, compare the following apparently direct contradictions: “I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritage”; Jeremiah 12: 7 (see also Deuteronomy 31: 17; Isaiah 2: 6; Jeremiah 7: 29; 2 Chronicles 15: 2; 24: 20) and “For Israel is not forsaken nor Judah by his God, the Lord of hosts, though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel ” Jeremiah 51: 5 (see also Deuteronomy 31: 6, 8). How do you explain this apparently direct contradiction? An examination of all similar passages reveals the answer. The professed Israel, or Israel according to the flesh, the professed church of that day was forsaken and left by God (Ezekiel describes it graphically in the first chapters of his book.) because they had forsaken Him; but the true Israel of God never has been and never will be forsaken (Hebrews 13: 6). Those who will never be forsaken are the spiritual seed 01 Abraham— those who seek God and put their trust in Him (Psalm 9: 10), those who are righteous, the saints (Psalm 37: 25,28). Because God’s professed people forsook Him, He forsook them; but even though the land (that actually belonged only to His true people) was filled with the sin of His professed people, His true people were not forsaken and never will be.
But in Bible times as today people often base their life on what they can see and not on the spiritual reality of a godly character. Most of the tribes of the children of Israel were “lost” as a result of the Assyrian captivity and have not since that time had a distinct visible identity. Of the Israelites who remained, the majority were of the tribe of Judah and the name for God’s true people became the Jews instead of Israel (which they still were).
Most of the Jews eventually put their trust in the outward church organization instead of developing a godly character. They became so confused their thinking that they thought the outward manifestations or symbols of true religion were the essence itself. They could not tell the difference between the professed church and the true church. They could not distinguish the form from the substance. They could not tell the difference between profession and spiritual reality. This is always the result of spiritual blindness. (Jesus said that the Jews were spiritually blind— John 9 and Matthew 15.) This is one of the main reason for the confusion today about who and what the church is— Laodicea is spiritually blind.
One of the results of this misperception is that religious faith and trust is placed in church organizations, creeds and outward forms of religion. When trust is placed in the creature instead of the Creator, instead of fearing God (Revelation 14: 6) men fear other men. This fear of men is amply documented in the gospels which speak often about the fear of the Jews (see John 7; 9; 12).
Also, whenever spiritual blindness has occurred, the emphasis in religion is always upon the physical— circumcision of the flesh, baptism with water, the attainment of various human goals and objectives; but it does no good to keep the symbols if the spiritual reality that is symbolized is lost. Circumcision represented the cutting away of sin from the life (Deuteronomy 30: 6); baptism represents the washing away of sin from the life and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It does no good to observe the symbol if the spiritual reality is not experienced.
When Jesus was here, the Jews believed they were the true church because they were the seed of Abraham. They forgot that the promises were given only to the spiritual seed. They forgot that without a spiritual similarity to Abraham, a genealogy showing your fleshly connection to him was useless. When John the Baptist said, “And do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father, ‘ ‘ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” Matthew 3: 9, he was assaulting their most treasured religious beliefs. They believed that, because they were Abraham’s descendants, they were members of the true church, the true people of God. John the Baptist told them not to think that a fleshly connection to Abraham guaranteed this. “John declared to the Jews that their standing before God was to be decided by their character and life. Profession was worthless. If their life and character were not in harmony with God’s law, they were not His people” DA 107. (All emphasis supplied) It was true that to become Abraham’s seed was to have everlasting life, but the Jews thought it was the literal seed that counted and John the Baptist said that this counted for nothing— profession counted for nothing. It was character that counted and God could raise up from the stones (Gentiles— people spiritually dead) people who would have the character of Abraham and therefore be in the most literal sense Abraham’s spiritual children. John the Baptist said that it was character likeness or spiritual relationship to Abraham that counted, not an outward relationship of profession (or of the flesh).
Jesus stated this truth in even stronger language “‘ I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father and you do what you have seen with your father. They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father. ‘ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’ children, you would do the works of Abraham. Bu now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did no do this. You do the deeds of your father. ‘ Then the said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication; w have one Father— God. ‘ Jesus said to them, ‘I God were your Father, you would love Me, for proceeded forth and came from God; nor have come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” ‘ John 8: 37- 44.
Jesus acknowledged that they were the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, but He denied that they were the children of promise. He denied that they were Abraham’s spiritual seed; He denied that they were part of the church, rather Jesus said plainly that they were of the synagogue of Satan. Jesus here made it plain that it was spiritual or character likeness that counted.
“The Pharisees had declared themselves the children of Abraham. Jesus told them that this claim could be established only by doing the works of Abraham. The true children of Abraham would live, as he did, a life of obedience to God. They would not try to kill One who was speaking the truth that was given Him from God. In plotting against Christ, the rabbis were not doing the works of Abraham. A mere lineal descent from Abraham was of no value.
Without a spiritual connection with Him, which would be manifested in possessing the same spirit, and doing the same works, they were not His children” DA 466, 467.
The Jews believed that the professed church professed Israel (Israel according to the flesh), was the true church; but Jesus said that they were not truly the children of Abraham but rather the children of the devil— they were not the true church at all, but of the synagogue of Satan, the devil’s children. They were the professed church of God. the professed people of God, the professed true church, but not the true church at all in reality. In a time of apostasy, the professed church and the true church is not the same at all.
This same battle over the definition of the true church— that the professed or outward church is not the same as the true church— had to be fought by the apostles and is discussed in detail in the New Testament, not only in the gospels but in the epistles and other New Testament books.
The theology of the Jews taught that the professed church was the true church. The theology of the apostles taught that the true church could only be defined by spiritual relationship and not on profession alone.
The Jews thought that the fleshly seed of Abraham or the professed church was the true church, but the apostles taught that only the spiritual seed was truly the church (Romans 4: 13- 17; 9: 8; Galatians 3: 7).
The Jews thought that the visible, outward relationship was what counted, but the apostles taught that it was the inward, vital relationship that counted (Romans 2: 28, 29).
The Jews professed to be the true church of God. If you could not tell the difference between the professed church and the true church, you would not have become a member of the apostolic church at Pentecost.
THE APOSTASY IN CHRISTENDOM
However, in Christendom something very similar happened to what had formerly happened in Judaism. Part of the great apostasy in Christianity, was the teaching which has affected Christendom to the present day that “Christianity consists in the mere profession of the name pertaining not to the essential character, nor implying any material change in the general conduct” Great Empires of Bible Prophecy, A. T. Jones, 471.
A person calling himself a Christian, professing to be a Christian but not living a Christlike life, is a fraud; he is a Christian in name but not in character. He is not really a true Christian but a professed Christian only. Likewise a church professing to be Christian but breaking God’s law, teaching others to break God’s law or saying that it cannot be kept, is a Christian church in name only, not in reality. It is not a true Christian church at all. As apostasy comes into a church, the whole church is of professed Christians; but within the professed church is a usually much smaller number of true Christians whose character is in harmony with their profession. A true Christian may not have character perfection yet and may be making many mistakes, but he will be loyal to the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus or spirit of prophecy and will not seek any excuse to explain away disobedience.
Professing Christians became confused again between the profession and the reality. A philosophy was developed which has enslaved billions of human beings right up to the present day. Seventh- day Adventists are not exempt from this slavery. Again the confusion had to do with the identification of the true church just as in the days of John the Baptist, Jesus and the apostles. The philosophy which has enslaved so many could be summarized like this:
Christians were taught and believed that you could only have eternal life if you belonged to the “visible church.” They believed that this was the professed Christian organization who claimed to have received apostolic authority directly from a line of uninterrupted bishops all the way back to Peter and that these bishops had the keys to the kingdom of heaven and could send a person to heaven or hell. People believed that if these bishops or their appointed subordinates cut one off from their church organization (excommunication and mass excommunications called interdicts), that one would lose eternal life and go to everlasting burnings.
WHEN REFORMATION OF THE CHURCH WAS IMPOSSIBLE
As in the time of Christ, people were confused between profession and real spiritual relationship. Eternal life is only for those who are a part of the body of Christ, but who is part of the body of Christ? It is spiritual relationship and not merely visible profession that makes one a part of the church or the body of Christ (see Ephesians 5: 25- 32).
There has only been one church since the beginning of time. The apostolic church was not a new church, and the Seventh- day Adventist Church is not a new church founded in the nineteenth century. The Adventist Church is but the remnant of the church that has existed since the beginning of time (see Revelation 12 and the first chapter of Acts of the Apostles).
The keys to the kingdom of heaven— the power to bind and loose— is given to all Christians (see 1 Corinthians 5 and Matthew 18: 15- 20), but a person is not a Christian unless he is Christlike in character (see 1 John 3). In other words, it is impossible for any person or group of persons who do not have a Christlike character to actually cast a person out of the true church. In the Dark Ages there never could be revival or reformation until the fear of man was broken. Many Roman Catholics abhorred the apostasy which had engulfed the Christian world and they wrote and preached about the need of revival and reformation, but reformation was impossible. Every time revival and reformation started, the church threatened excommunication.
Revival and reformation could never come until the fear of man was overcome. In Jesus’ time you had to overcome your fear of man to follow Jesus. In the Dark Ages and in the time of the Reformers you had to overcome your “fear of man” to follow truth (see John 14: 6). It was impossible for the Reformation to succeed as long as people thought they would lose eternal life if the church excommunicated them. Until men understood who and what the church was according to the New Testament, there could be no reformation. People could see that the men who were operating the church were wicked, but they said the church is holy! Those who were following the doctrines and teachings of the church were evil, but they said the church was righteous!
Again, as in the days of Christ, men had mistaken profession for character, the symbols for the substance, the forms and rituals for the reality. Again mankind had to learn that if the character does not conform to the profession, all the professions in the world are worse than meaningless because, if our character does not conform to our profession, we are living a lie. The devil’s most successful agents are men and women who profess to be Christians but are unlike Christ in character.
Who has apostolic authority? The doctrine of apostolic succession teaches that Christ gave to the apostle Peter apostolic authority and this apostolic authority was passed down in succession to each later bishop of Rome (the pope). Ellen White comments on this “question that has long agitated the Christian world,— the question of apostolic succession. Descent from Abraham was proved, not by name and lineage, but by likeness of character. So the apostolic succession rests not upon the transmission of ecclesiastical authority, but upon spiritual relationship.
A life actuated by the apostles’ spirit, the belief and teaching of the truth they taught, this is the true evidence of apostolic succession. This is what constitutes men the successors of the first teachers of the gospel” DA 467.
This is especially applicable in the present day when such an ado is being made about who has authority to baptize, preach, write, or ordain or to call himself a Seventh- day Adventist, a Seventh- day Adventist minister or a Seventh- day Adventist Church. A real or true Seventh-day Adventist minister (an historic Seventh- day Adventist) will teach and preach the Seventh-day Adventist message that God raised up the second advent movement to proclaim to the world— Revelation 14: 6- 12. A person who claims to be a Seventh- day Adventist minister who is not preaching this message is not really a Seventh- day Adventist minister, no matter what credentials he has; and a person who is preaching the historic Adventist message is a Seventh-day Adventist minister, whether he has received credentials or not. The way some reason today would have kept them from hearing John the Baptist and Jesus and, for sure, the apostle Paul.
I wonder, have we learned and retained the lesson the apostles had to learn about the identity of the true church? Have we learned and retained the lesson the Reformers had to learn about who the church is? Is there any chance that in these last days the devil has forgotten errors which he has used so successfully in the time of Christ and since that time to cause the loss of countless millions of human beings?
CAN YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TRUE CHURCH AND THE PROFESSED- ONLY CHURCH?
In the days of Jesus and the apostles, unless you could tell the difference between the real true church and the professed true church you would never have been a Christian. The Jewish church professed to be the true church of God all the days of the apostle Paul (see Sketches from the Life of Paul, 226). In a time of apostasy, unless you can tell the difference, you will not be able to make proper decisions about what church to be a part of.
The Jews believed that the true church was professed Israel, but the apostles taught that the true church was spiritual Israel only (see Romans 9: 6- 8).
You become a member of God’s professed people when you are baptized with water, but you only become a member of God’s true people when you are baptized with the Holy Spirit—” By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body” 1 Corinthians 12: 13. Baptism with water is a symbol of baptism with the Holy Spirit and after the ratification of the New Covenant, if a person does not receive the Holy Spirit at his baptism (Acts 2: 38), his baptism is only a form.
You are in reality part of the church only when you partake of the life of Christ; and the person who partakes of the devil’s program of living— any kind of living in known sin— is not a member of the body of Christ (the church) no matter what his profession is (1 Corinthians 10: 15- 21).
Being part of the true church involves a vital union with Christ, but a person can be a part of the professed church with only a superficial or professed union with Christ (Ephesians 5: 32; John 12: 40- 42).
To really be a member of the true remnant church, you must keep the commandments and have the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 12: 17 and 19: 10); but you may profess to be a member, and outwardly be a member in a time of apostasy, and not live according to the spirit of prophecy or keep God’s commandments.
There could be no sixteenth century reformation until men understood who the true church really was because as long as they thought that they would burn in hell- fire if the church excommunicated them, fear of men would prevent any lasting reformation.
Disfellowshipping is occurring again today and a lasting revival and reformation cannot occur until men and women have no fear of what men can do. Whole churches are being disbanded. We must face reality. Whole conferences and even divisions could be lost. Even the General Conference could be lost in the battle before the final victory of God’s saints. Actually, all of these entities will be lost and destroyed if there is not true repentance, confession of wrong and restitution, and a determination to stand on the solid platform where the church militant stands (UL 152). If you are not prepared for such an eventuality, you simply are not prepared for what is very rapidly developing among God’s professed people today (see None Dare Call It Apostasy). Many who are professed “Christians” are actually part of the synagogue of Satan— Revelation 2: 9— they are not really part of the body of Christ, or the church, at all. This can be true of people in all churches, including the Seventh- day Adventist Church.
“The trials of the Children of Israel, and their attitude just before the first coming of Christ, have been presented before me again and again to illustrate the position of the people of God in their experience before the second coming of Christ” 1SM 406.
TWO TRUE CHURCHES? (THE INVISIBLE CHURCH)
In attempting to create a philosophical model which will explain the apparent contradictions in inspired writings, many inventions have been developed. One of the oldest of these is the theory of two true churches. The Bible teaches that there is only one true church (Ephesians 4: 4). This is true for both time and space. Ellen White concurs with this Biblical teaching as you would expect (see the first chapter of Acts of the Apostles) . There has only been one true church since the beginning of time and there is only one true church in all the universe. Ellen White says that the church in heaven and the church on earth are one (ST 6/ 6/ 95; 6T 366) and also that from the beginning of time faithful souls have constituted the church (AA 11; OHC 172).
There have not been two or three or six churches since the beginning. The church in Old Testament times, in the days of the apostles, and today are not separate churches even though they might be called by different names to designate the time or place being spoken of. They are each a part of the one church that has been since the beginning. This one church has always gone through and it will always go through. The true church went through in Jesus’ day, but very few of the professed church went through with it. The same was true in the time of the midnight cry and the same will be true at the end.
In the Dark Ages the theory of two true churches was developed. The theory went like this, “There is an invisible church and Christ is the head of that and there is a visible church and the pope is the head of that.” Concerning this theory John Wycliffe said that if the church had two heads, it was a monster. All the Protestant Reformers said that the church had only one head and that head was Christ (Ephesians 1: 22, 23).
The concept that there are two true churches, a visible church and an invisible church, is heresy and is not acknowledged by any inspired writer. This false teaching forms the foundation of an entire theological structure which may seem very logical but is not based on inspired writings. This theory was part of the confusion of the Dark Ages and, unfortunately, many have imbibed this ancient heresy and brought it into their experience today. This theory and all the theology built on it will end in disaster. It results in a totally distorted concept of who the church is. Anytime anyone starts talking about the “invisible church,” a red flag should wave in your mind and the bells should start ringing in your head that you are being taught heresy. Not once does Ellen White ever talk about an invisible church.
It is true that part of the true church is presently invisible to us, but it is not a separate entity or church. Ellen White says that the church on earth and the church in heaven are one and we cannot presently see the church in heaven while the church on earth is visible to us, but inspired writers never speak of a separate entity or church called the invisible church. Such an entity does not exist. Like the Virgin Mary, an entire theology has been built up over an assumption which is none- existent. When the foundation of a theology is based on a false assumption, no matter how logical the system is, it is entirely false.
Many Protestant theology students have been surprised to find out how logical Roman Catholic theology is. But even though it is logical, it is still false because it is built on a false foundation— the assumption that the Roman bishop is by divine right the head over all the churches in the world and that the decrees of the church supersede the Bible. In the same way, all the theology built on the theory of two true churches, a visible and an invisible church, will someday be seen to have caused the loss of a multitude of souls because it is built on a false foundation. One of the most common ways that this man- made theory is used to cause the loss of souls is to define the visible church as a certain church organization and then take inspired statements concerning the true church and use them to influence people to be faithful to that church organization no matter how deep in apostasy or sin it becomes. This sly tactic caused the loss of millions of souls during the Dark Ages and the devil has not forgotten it.
The net effect of creating two true churches and designating them the visible and the invisible church is to enable a person to ignore some of the plainest statements in inspired writings about who and what the church is. One of the most common ways that this man- made theory is used to cause the loss of souls is to pre- define the inspired statements about the true church to refer to a non- entity, the invisible church, and then simply sweep aside all the inspired statements that explicitly define who and what the church is. The most clear, simple, convincing and explicit definition statements in inspired writings are simply made of none- effect by this theory. But the statements still say the same thing and they will still have to be faced in the judgment if at no other time. It is not honest to take the clear statements of inspiration and simply sweep them aside and arbitrarily relegate them to something that really does not exist— the invisible church. Once this heresy has really taken hold of a person’s mind you cannot touch them with any evidence from inspired writings— as soon as you read a definition statement about the church, they immediately decide in their mind that the statement is talking about the invisible church (which term Ellen White never uses) and then refer to a quotation in which the word church is used in a different way to prove their position. It is very similar to talking to a Church of Christ member about the Sabbath and the law. The clearest statements in Scripture are swept aside with the theological system they have developed and then texts talking about the ceremonial law are used to prove that you are in error.
For example, in at least five places in the Ellen White writings you will find a statement similar to the following: “All down through the history of the world, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth” OHC 172 (see also AA 11; RH 12/ 4/ 1900). This is not just a sentence in which the word church appears, as are many of the statements used by those teaching the heresy of the invisible church. This is a definition statement of who and what the church is. But those who believe in the false doctrine of two true churches, a visible and an invisible church, sweep away this plain inspired definition of who and what the church is and make it of none effect by saying that it refers to the nonentity that they have concocted in their imagination— the invisible church. They make the plain inspired Word of God of none effect by their tradition— their man- made doctrine of the invisible church.
Notice that this statement is not talking about the church triumphant. It is talking about the church down through the history of the world or, as is stated in Acts of the Apostles on page 11, the church that has existed from the beginning. I
Incidentally, what does the word constitute mean? Synonyms would be the words compose , comprise, form, and make up. If you insert any of these simple words into the definition statement of Ellen White as to who and what the church is, you will see how plain inspiration is in defining who and what the church is. In the Appendix of this booklet there are listed numerous inspired definitions of the church; but if this was the only definition you had, you would have enough to know the truth for sure— you would never need to be mixed up because truth is always consistent with itself in all its manifestations (PP 113) and you can be sure that Ellen White, being an inspired prophet of the Lord, will never say anything in any other context that will contradict her plain definition statements about who and what the church is. If you are really a sincere seeker for truth, you will interpret all difficult texts that you may not understand in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy by the clear definition statements that are unmistakable. You would not, for example, use the details of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus as a definition statement about the state of the dead. In the same way, when the word church is used by Ellen White or a bible writer to describe many different entities in place or time, you will not take these statements as definition statements.
This is basic Protestant theology. Notice how John Knox explained this principle: “Said Mary: ‘Ye interpret the Scriptures in one manner, and they [the Roman Catholic teachers] interpret in another; whom shall I believe, and who shall be judge?” ‘
“‘ Ye shall believe God, that plainly speaketh in His word, ‘ answered the Reformer; ‘and farther than the word teaches you, ye neither shall believe the one nor the other. The word of God is plain in itself: and if there appear any obscurity in one place, the Holy Ghost, which is never contrary to Himself, explains the same more clearly in other places, so that there can remain no doubt but unto such as obstinately remain ignorant” ‘ GC 251.
But many people take some of the plainest statements in inspired writings about who and what the church is and make them of no effect because of their man- made doctrine about an entity that does not exist— the invisible church. This false teaching is often explained like this: All the statements in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy stating exactly who and what the church is are swept aside by saying that they are talking about the invisible church (the non- entity), and that all those in spiritual Babylon who are God’s true children, all in the apostate world who are His true children, compose this non- entity of the invisible church as well as the true and faithful Seventh- day Adventists. But then they say that there is a second true church, the visible Seventh- day Adventist Church or the church militant, which is obviously composed of wheat and tares. Since this is confusing to many people, we should ask the question: What is the church militant, which is often referred to as the visible church and sometimes as the organized church?
Before answering this question from inspired writings, it can be pointed out what the church militant is NOT. Never does Ellen White define the church militant as being a certain church organization. This is important to understand because many are reading into Ellen White statements their own preconceived opinions just as the Jews did with inspired statements in the time of Christ.
One of the most prominent definitions of the church militant in the Ellen White writings is that it is God’s living church (TM 45). The living church has the following characteristics:
- It is a working church (RH 11/ 6/ 88).
- It has a high standard of holiness (9MR 185, 186).
- Each member of a living church is “individually a habitation of God through the Spirit.., that the Lord Jesus Christ may dwell in his innermost being, ennobling and sanctifying his human nature by His divine attributes” IHP 283.
- This living church was not founded in 1844 or 1863, it “through the ages has been building in accordance with the divine pattern, with materials that have been likened to ‘gold, silver, precious stones, ‘ ‘polished after the similitude of a palace. ‘ 1 Corinthians 3: 12; Psalm 144: 12. Of this spiritual temple Christ is ‘the chief Cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. ‘ Ephesians 2: 20, 21” PK 36, 37.
- It will be “practicing the word” (1888 Materials, 1532).
- “We have a work to do if we would be a living church. Individually and as a whole we are to tread sin under our feet. Our habits, our conversation, our daily life, must be placed on the Lord’s side. We must intercede and wrestle with a covenant- keeping God in behalf of His watchmen, that souls may be won to the Saviour” 12MR 102.
The above quotations do not exhaust the Ellen White descriptions of what a living church is but they do make it evident that not every professed Seventh- day Adventist is part of the church militant because the church militant is a living church (FLB 305).
Second, the church militant is fighting and wrestling against temptations and is fighting severe battles with the spiritual forces of evil. It is wrestling “against the confederacy of evil” (FLB 305). It is in a severe conflict and this conflict will become more bitter and fierce until the end. If we do not individually take part in the battle, we are not really part of the church militant and will never be part of the church triumphant. Notice the following graphic descriptions of this fact:
“The Christian life is a constant warfare. The church militant is not the church triumphant. Paul says, ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. ‘ We must meet human beings of power and influence who are on Satan’s side of the controversy” Peter’s Counsel to Parents, 23.
“The church militant is not in this world the church triumphant. From generation to generation, the enemy has been marshaling his forces against God. His enmity against the law of God has increased as time has passed. And his followers are at enmity with any one who has moral courage to depart from evil, and bear witness to the truth” RH 7/ 26/ 1898.
“The Church militant is not the Church triumphant. Unless the people of God wage a valiant warfare against every species of sin, they will never pass through the portals of the holy city. And we shall have no second trial” RH 12/ 31/ 1901.
“Christians are engaged in a warfare. The church militant is not the church triumphant. The followers of Christ, marching toward Zion, must fight at every step…. He [Satan] has claimed this world. Declaring that no human- being can keep the law of God’s kingdom, he claims all men as his subjects” ST 6/ 10/ 03.
“The Lord desires us to be victorious over the powers of darkness. He is willing to save to the uttermost all who come to Him. It is through Him that ~we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand. ‘ Through Him we have access to heaven’s treasure- house— His Word, the Holy Scriptures. From this treasure- house we are to draw the weapons of our warfare— the weapons so effectively used by our Saviour. With the sword of truth— ‘it is written’— He vanquished the foe. Armed with this sword, and protected by the shield of faith, we, the church militant, shall be able to stand unmoved by Satan’s assaults. Continuing to resist the enemy, we shall constantly gain strength, and finally become the church triumphant” ST 6/ 10/ 03.
Third, the church militant does not sustain (condone) those who are carnally minded although carnally minded people will be found within her borders (RH 1/ 16/ 94). We will see how this occurs shortly.
Fourth, the church militant is composed of erring men and women and is not yet perfect (as the church triumphant will be) and it will be necessary not only to exercise mercy toward the erring but also by this practice we will be preparing to become part of the church triumphant (ST 1/ 4/ 1883).
So who is the church militant? The church militant is the living church of God that has all the above identifying characteristics. Obviously, not every professed Seventh- day Adventist is part of the church militant— the church militant is by definition that church who is fighting the spiritual forces of darkness in this world; and those who are not taking part in the war, who are spiritually dead while they have a name that they are living, cannot be part of the church militant in reality. They are simply part of the professed church or/ people of God. This is a term used frequently by Ellen White and she often draws a sharp distinction between the professed church and the true church. In times of persecution, the professed people of God and His true people become almost the same thing, but, in times of liberty, the same is not true.
THE PROFESSED CHURCH AND THE TRUE CHURCH
We have seen that in Old Testament times there was only one true Israel of God, but we saw that this true Israel of God was a remnant of a much larger group that Paul calls Israel according the flesh. Paul made it very clear that “they are not all Israel [the true people of God] who are of Israel [the professed people of God]” Romans 9: 6. The same was true during New Testament times. We saw that the Jews were the professed true church of God all during the time of the apostle Paul’s ministry. But the true church of God were those, both Jews and Gentiles, who had not only the profession but the spiritual relationship to the True Vine, the ones who were in reality the spiritual seed of the woman. So there was a difference between the professed church in both Old Testament and New Testament times.
Was this true during the Dark Ages also? Indeed it was: “For many centuries, first through paganism and then through the Papacy, Satan exerted his powers to blot from the earth God’s faithful witnesses. Both heathen and papists were actuated by the same dragon spirit. They differed only in that the Romish apostate, making a pretense of serving God, was the more dangerous and cruel foe. Through the agency of Romanism, Satan took the world captive. The professed church of God was swept into the ranks of this delusion, and for more than a thousand years the true people of God suffered under the dragon’s ire” ST 2/ 8/ 1910. What is this inspired statement saying? Who was the professed true church of God during the Dark Ages? It was those churches that had been swept into the Roman apostasy and were no longer part of spiritual Israel but had become part of spiritual Babylon. In plain English, the professed true church of God during the Dark Ages was the Romanist or Roman Catholic Church. But was that giant professed true church the true people of God, His true church, the spiritual seed of the woman (Genesis 3: 15)? No, they were trying to destroy the true church. In plain language, the professed true church was attempting to destroy the real or true church. Obviously, the professed true church and the real or true church was not the same.
Would the same be true today during the time of the end? “Oh, no,” someone might say, “the cycles have to stop in the last days; God’s professed true people today are finally the true church in reality” (even though this has never once been completely the case in nearly 6,000 years!). The professed church will never be the same as the one true church until the very end (see Word to the Little Flock, 12). There is only one true church, not two; and this one true church is defined in Appendix #1.
The professed Seventh- day Adventist Church is composed of all those who have made a profession of faith in all the doctrines of the Bible, including Revelation 14: 6- 12, and have been baptized by water. If they experience what they profess, they are really modern Israel, the spiritual seed of the woman (Revelation 12: 17). If they do not experience what they profess, if their character is not in harmony with their profession, they are only Israel according to the flesh— the professed people of God but not such in reality.
You become part of the professed church when you are baptized with water, but you are not actually part of the body of Christ unless you have been baptized with the Holy Spirit, which is one of the things baptism with water represents. Paul says that we become part of the body of Christ (the church) when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12: 13). You are part of the professed remnant church when, having been baptized with water, you profess to keep all the commandments of God and live according to the Spirit of Prophecy as revealed in the writings of Ellen White (Revelation 12: 17; 19: 10; Joel 2: 28- 32); but you are recognized in heaven as part of the true church when you actually do what you profess.
We are not to accept into fellowship in the professed church anyone who is living in open sin and all such that are already members are to be disfellowshipped (see 1 Corinthians 5; 2 John). This does not mean that there are no tares (A tare is someone who is living a righteous life on the outside, that is, he is not living in open sin, but his heart is not right— see COL 70- 74.) in the borders of the professed church of God. There will be tares until the angels separate them from the wheat. (It appears that we have been in this separation process now for several years— it is most commonly referred to by Ellen White as the shaking and is called a terrible ordeal.)
This shaking and sifting process continues until the end. Until the very end there will always be a difference between the professed and the true church or people of God. Following are a few Ellen White statements which contrast the professed church and the true church as we near the end. It is important to understand the difference because, just as in the Dark Ages, the professed Seventh- day Adventist Church can turn on and attempt to destroy the true Seventh-day Adventist Church (see the clear inspired definitions of the true Seventh- day Adventist Church in Appendix #1).
“The true people of God, who have the spirit of the work of the Lord and the salvation of souls at heart, will ever view sin it its real, sinful character. They will always be on the side of faithful and plain dealing with sins which easily beset the people of God. Especially in the closing work for the church, in the sealing time of the one hundred and forty- four thousand, who are to stand without fault before the throne of God, will they feel most deeply the wrongs of God’s professed people” RH 6/ 8/ 86 (parallel statements in 3T 266 and RH 9/ 23/ 1873).
“You think, that those who worship before the saint’s feet, (Rev. 3: 9), will at last be saved. Here I must differ with you; for God shew me that this class were professed Adventists, who had fallen away, and ‘crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. ‘ And in the ‘hour of temptation, ‘ which is yet to come, to show out every one’s true character, they will know that they are forever lost; and overwhelmed with anguish of spirit, they will bow at the saint’s feet” Word to the Little Flock, 12. In Maranatha on page 287, these professed Adventists are called the synagogue of Satan.
In Christ’s day, most of the Jews, the professed people of God, were actually the synagogue of Satan, as Jesus made clear in John 8: 44. A professed church becomes part of the synagogue of Satan when it becomes involved in deliberate disobedience to God’s law: “Christ speaks of the church over which Satan presides as the synagogue of Satan. Its members are the children of disobedience. They are those who choose to sin, who labor to make void the holy law of God. It is Satan’s work to mingle evil with good, and to remove the distinction between good and evil. Christ would have a church that labors to separate the evil from the good, whose members will not willingly tolerate wrong- doing, but will expel it from the heart and life” RH 12/ 4/ 00.
“All that is not in accordance with the known and expressed will of God, is at enmity with God, and has its origin in the synagogue of Satan. The will of God is expressed in his law, and sin is the transgression of the law. Those who disregard the commandments of God, and teach for doctrines the commandments of men, are working in Satan’s line, and are in harmony with the great leader of apostasy” ST 6/ 11/ 94.
“It should be noted that this is not the same as saying that a church or group has past the borders of probation. After a professed church has begun following Satan by practicing disobedience, the Lord sends messengers to them to turn them from this disobedience and bring them back into harmony with the law of God and the testimony of Jesus. If the reproofs and rebukes of God are listened to, a revival and reformation can happen and the lost sheep of the house of Israel can be reclaimed. If nobody will listen to messages of warning, then the last resort God has is to send judgments and finally mercy makes her last plea” (DA 587).
WHO ARE GOD’S DENOMINATED PEOPLE?
It is often assumed that God’s distinct denominated people must be a certain Seventh-day Adventist organization, etc., but we must let inspiration tell us who God’s distinct denominated people are. Again we will find that inspiration defines God’s distinct denominated people today in spiritual terms and if we do not have the spiritual characteristics, we are not really God’s distinct denominated people no matter what organization we are a member of.
- The identifying mark that makes you part of God’s denominated people is keeping God’s commandments:
“As I was considering this matter in the night season, it seemed as if One stood up in the midst of us and pointed us back to the Israelites as an illustration of a distinct people, denominated of God. That which made them denominational was the observance of God’s commandments. In the twelfth to the eighteenth verses of the thirty- first chapter of Exodus their distinguishing sign is mentioned. ‘Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep, ‘ the Lord declared, ‘for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.. . . It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever” ‘ 19MR 38.
- We are Seventh- day Adventists because we keep the Sabbath and look for the second advent:
“We are Seventh- day Adventists. This is a fitting name, for we keep the seventh-day Sabbath, and look for the second advent of our Lord in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. Even with respect to the name indicating some of the peculiar points of faith distinguishing us from other Christians, we are denominational. In keeping the Sabbath that God declares should be kept holy as a sign between Himself and His people, we show to the world that we are His peculiar, chosen people— a people whom He has denominated” 19MR 40.
- When you decide to serve God, you are denominational: Mrs. E. G. White: “When you come to the point where you decide to serve God, you are denominational.
You should not link up with men who have no faith, men who although acquainted with the truth for many years, refuse to obey its teachings. Such men are not to have a voice in your council- meetings. Even if they were very rich, I would not bind myself to them by a single thread. I would not seek their advice in regard to the business transactions and other matters connected with the management of the institution. The time has come when we must find our bearings. We must come to our senses, and know where we are standing. We are on the very borders of the eternal world. We cannot tell what may happen next” 19MR 52.
- Those who keep the Sabbath are God’s denominated people and we are to cherish this denominational distinction:
“Do not these words point us out as God’s denominated people? and do they not declare to us that so long as time shall last, we are to cherish the sacred, denominational distinction placed on us? The children of Israel were to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations ‘for a perpetual covenant. ‘ The Sabbath has lost none of its meaning. It is still the sign between God and his people, and it will be so forever” RH 8/ 4/ 04.
- We are not to hide our name: “In the name of the Lord we are to identify ourselves as Seventh-day Adventists” BCL 52. “The reasons why we are denominated people of God are to be repeated and repeated. Deuteronomy 4: 1- 13; 5: 1- 33.— Ms 175, 1905. (Diary, July 10, 1905.)” 8MR 427.
There has been an attempt to slander God’s true people. God’s true people, His true church, are those who keep the commandments of God and obey the Spirit of Prophecy (see UL 315). But there has been an attempt to say that anyone who is not under the authority of a certain Seventh- day Adventist organization is not a part of God’s true people or true church. Conscientious Seventh- day Adventist ministers have been asked by a conference or union or the General Conference to do something that they could not do with a clear conscience. For being faithful to their conscientious convictions, they have been fired or disfellowshipped or in some other way forcefully separated from the organized structure, the professed Seventh- day Adventist Church, the professed true church of God of the last days. Then the message goes out far and near that these persons have separated from the church, that they are working independent of the church. In some cases the charge is made that they are not part of God’s denominated people anymore, that they are not Seventh- day Adventists, when the truth is that the professed Seventh- day Adventist Church cast them out with force. This has not only been done with individuals but with entire churches and even larger groups! This underhanded work is misleading because many Seventh- day Adventists do not yet know who the true church really is— they think that it is a certain church organization, but it is rather the people who love God and keep His commandments (UL 315). In many cases around the world, the true and faithful have been disfellowshipped; but these are still the only true church and those who have disfellowshipped them thereby give the whole universe evidence that they are on the opposite side of the great controversy from God’s true and faithful people— His true church. They thereby show that they are part of the synagogue of Satan just as the Jews were in Christ’s day. They are not part of the true church at all: “We can see from this scripture [Revelation 12: 17] that it is not the true church of God that makes war with those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is the people who make void the law, who place themselves on the side of the dragon, and persecute those who vindicate God’s precepts” ST 4/ 22/ 1889.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Question: Who and what is a Seventh- day Adventist church?
Answer: A Seventh- day Adventist church is a congregation of Seventh- day Adventist believers who are organized as a local church body. To tell if a professed Seventh- day Adventist church is a truly historic Seventh- day Adventist local church, you should find out if they believe the historic Adventist beliefs as listed in Appendix #3.
Question: Could you give me more quotations where Ellen White draws a distinction between the true church and the professed church?
Answer: Yes, see Appendix #2.
Question: What is an historic Seventh- day Adventist?
Answer: An historic Seventh- day Adventist is a person who professes to believe all the historic Seventh- day Adventist beliefs (briefly listed in appendix #4) and does not believe the “new theology.” Hallmarks of the new theology are the following concepts:
- A person cannot have complete and perfect victory over sin in this life,
- rejection of the significance of 1844 and the investigative judgment and the doctrine of the heavenly sanctuary being the antitype of the Jewish sanctuary,
- rejection of the writings of Ellen White as those of a true prophet of God and authoritative,
- salvation (and the gospel) is by justification alone and
- substitution of the authority of the church (church manual) in place of the supreme authority of the Bible. If a person believes any one of the five above, he is not an historic Adventist.
Question: Who is modern Israel?
Answer: “I was shown that those who are trying to obey God and purify their souls through obedience to the truth are God’s chosen people, His modern Israel” 2T 109.
Question: Could you give many Ellen White definition statements of the church to back up your thesis?
Answer: Yes, see Appendix #1.
Question: Doesn’t the Spirit of Prophecy say that God’s people today are destined to triumph?
Answer: The truth is soon to triumph and only those who stay with the truth will triumph with it:
“The church of God, hated and persecuted by the world, are educated and disciplined in the school of Christ. They walk in narrow paths on earth; they are purified in the furnace of affliction. They follow Christ through sore conflicts; they endure self- denial and experience bitter disappointments; but their painful experience teaches them the guilt and woe of sin, and they look upon it with abhorrence. Being partakers of Christ’s sufferings, they are destined to be partakers of His glory. In holy vision the prophet saw the triumph of the people of God. He says, ‘I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory, . . . stand on the sea of glass, having the hams of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints. ‘ ‘These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. ‘ Revelation 15: 2, 3; 7: 14, 15” MB 31. “The truth is soon to triumph gloriously and all who now choose to be laborers together with God will triumph with it” 9T 135.
Question: Who is really a church member? (Who is really a Seventh- day Adventist?)
Answer: (1) You become a member of the professed church when you are baptized with water; but you are not a member of the true church, the actual body of Christ, unless you are baptized with the Holy Spirit. According to 1 Corinthians 12: 13, we do not become a member of the true church— the body of Christ— until we are baptized by the Holy Spirit. (2) When your name is voted in by a local church body after your baptism with water, then your name is added to the church book on earth and you are a member of a local professed church. Usually, within this body, some are professed only, but some are both professed and members of the true church— the church of the Firstborn and the names of the members of the church of the First- born are registered in heaven (Hebrews 12: 23). “God . . . . draws the dividing line between those who bear his name by profession, and those whose character shows them to be his children” ST 6/ 30/ 1881.
Special Note: In this small booklet only the definition issue of the church has been addressed. Several other serious and slanderous charges are being leveled against ministries attempting to help complete the gospel commission in the world. These will be addressed later if the Lord wills. One issue is the charge of separation; another is the charge of criticism; another is the charges concerning church authority and church organization; and still another issue is the definition of Babylon. All these must be addressed because: “When man assails his fellow men, and presents in a ridiculous light those whom God has appointed to do work for him, we would not be doing justice to the accusers, or to those who are misled by their accusations should we keep silent, leaving the people to think that their brethren and sisters, in whom they have had confidence, are no longer worthy of their love and fellowship. This work, arising in our very midst, and resembling the work of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, is an offence to God, and should be met. And on every point the accusers should be called upon to bring their proof. Every charge should be carefully investigated” 3SM 348.