Who and What is the Church?

Who is at the helm of the ship?


“There is no need of doubts and fears that the work of God will not succeed. God is at the head of the work, and He will set everything in order. Let us have faith that he is going to carry the noble ship which bears His people, safely into port. At one time when I sailed from Portland, Maine, to Boston, a storm came upon us, and the great waves dashed us to and fro. The chandeliers fell, and the trunks were rolled from side to side like balls. The passengers were frightened, and many were screaming, waiting in expectation of death. After a while the pilot came on board. The captain stood near the pilot as he took the wheel, and expressed fear about the course in which the ship was directed. “Will you take the wheel?” asked the pilot. The captain was not ready to do that, for he knew that he lacked experience. Then some of the passengers grew uneasy, and said they feared the pilot would dash them upon the rocks. ‘Will you take the wheel?’ asked the pilot; but they knew that they could not manage the wheel. When you think that the work of God is in danger, pray, ‘Lord, stand at the wheel; carry us through this perplexity; bring us safely into port.’ Have we not reason to believe that the Lord will bring us through triumphantly?” Signs of the Times, July 15, 1892.

“I know that Satan’s work will be to set brethren at variance. Were it not that I know that the Captain of our salvation stands at the helm to guide the gospel ship into the harbor, I should say, Let me rest in the grave.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, 26.


Where are we to get our orders?


“You should remember that the Master of assemblies is here. God does not leave the ship for an ignorant pilot to steer anywhere; He just stands at the helm, and then we work under orders. Now, we want the orders, and we want the orders from the Captain of our salvation.” 1888 Materials, 565.


Who has God promised to carry through the storm?


“The cause is the Lord’s. He is on board the ship as commander-in-chief. He will guide us safely into port. He can command the winds and the waves, and they will obey Him. If we follow His directions, we have no need to be anxious or troubled. In Him we may trust. He bestows His richest endowments upon those who love Him and keep His commandments. He will never forsake those who work in His lines.” Review and Herald, July 16, 1901.


Will a ship go through if men are at the head?


“Every ship sailing the sea of life needs to have the divine Pilot on board; but when storms arise, when tempests threaten, many persons push their Pilot overboard, and commit their bark into the hand of finite man, or try to steer it themselves. Then disaster and wreckage generally follow, and the Pilot is blamed for running them into such dangerous waters. Do not commit yourselves into the keeping of men, but say, “The Lord is my helper”; I will seek His counsel; I will be a doer of His will. All the advantages you may have cannot be a blessing to you, neither can the highest class education qualify you to become a channel of light, unless you have the co-operation of the divine Spirit. It is as impossible for us to receive qualification from man, without the divine enlightenment, as it was for the gods of Egypt to deliver those who trusted in them. Students must not suppose that every suggestion for them to prolong their studies is in harmony with God’s plan. Let every such suggestion be taken to the Lord in prayer, and seek earnestly for His guidance—not only once, but again and again. Plead with Him, until you are convinced whether the counsel is of God or man. Do not trust yourself to men. Act under the divine Guide.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 348.

“Should there be less sermonizing by men who are unconsecrated in heart and life, and were more time devoted to humbling the soul before God, then might we hope that the Lord would appear to your help and heal your backslidings. Much of the preaching of late begets a false security. Important interests in the cause of God cannot be wisely managed by those who have had so little real connection with God as some of our ministers have had. To entrust the work to such men is like setting children to manage great vessels at sea. Those who are destitute of heavenly wisdom, destitute of living power with God, are not competent to steer the gospel ship amid icebergs and tempests. The church is passing through severe conflicts, but in her peril many would trust her to hands that will surely wreck her. We need a pilot on board now, for we are nearing the harbor. As a people we should be the light of the world. But how many are foolish virgins, having no oil in their vessels with their lamps. May the Lord of all grace, abundant in mercy, full of forgiveness, pity and save us, that we perish not with the wicked!” Testimonies, vol. 5, 104.


Are men to control God’s church?


“ ‘The head of every man is Christ.’ God, who put all things under the Saviour’s feet, ‘gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.’ 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 1:22, 23. The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. This claim God does not sanction. The Saviour declares, ‘All ye are brethren.’ All are exposed to temptation, and are liable to error. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. ‘Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.’ The Lord ‘is the Rock, His work is perfect.’ ‘Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.’ Jeremiah 17:5; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalms 2:12.” The Desire of Ages, 414.


What constitutes God’s church—“the ship”?


“The church is God’s fortress. His city of refuge, which He holds in a revolted world. Any betrayal of the church is treachery to Him who has bought mankind with the blood of His only-begotten Son. From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth. In every age the Lord has had His watchmen, who have borne a faithful testimony to the generation in which they lived. These sentinels gave the message of warning; and when they were called to lay off their armor, others took up the work. God brought these witnesses into covenant relation with Himself, uniting the church on earth with the church in heaven. He has sent forth His angels to minister to His church, and the gates of hell have not been able to prevail against His people.” The Acts of the Apostles, 11.


Who will you be connected with if you are truly part of God’s church?


“Very close and sacred is the relation between Christ and His church,—He the bridegroom, and the church the bride; He the head, and the church the body. Connection with Christ, then, involves connection with His church.” Evangelism, 318.


Is apostasy going through?


“Those who apostatize are voicing the words of the dragon. We have to meet the satanic agencies who went to make war with the saints. ‘The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ (Rev. 12:17). Those who apostatize leave the true and faithful people of God, and fraternize with those who represent Barabbas. ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’ (Matt. 7:20) . . . There is a decided testimony to be borne by all our ministers in all our churches. God has permitted apostasies to take place in order to show how little dependence can be placed in man. We are always to look to God; His word is not Yea and Nay, but Yea and Amen.” Selected Messages, vol. 2, 395.

“Shall we give heed to the warning of Solomon’s apostasy, and shun the first approach to those sins that overcame him who was called the wisest of men? In these days of peril, nothing but obedience will keep man from apostasy. God has bestowed on man great light and many blessings. But unless this light and these blessings are received, they are no security against disobedience and apostasy. When those whom God has exalted to positions of high trust turn from him to human wisdom, their light becomes darkness, and how great is that darkness! Their entrusted capabilities are a snare to them. They become an offense to God. There can be no mockery of God without the sure result.

“Till the conflict is ended, there always will be a departing from God. Satan will so shape circumstances that unless we are kept by divine power, they will almost imperceptibly weaken the fortifications of the soul. We need to inquire at every step, ‘Is this the way of the Lord?’ As long as life shall last, there is need of guarding the affections and the passions with a firm purpose. Not one moment can we be secure only as we are relying upon God, the life hid with Christ in God. The safeguards of our purity must be watchfulness and prayer. We must do nothing to lower the standard of our religious principles . . . Let none venture into sin as he did, in the hope that they, too, may recover themselves. Sin can be indulged only at the peril of infinite loss.” Review and Herald, February 2, 1906.


Do we struggle with a similar problem as Hus did if we believe the conference must go through?


“ ‘The mind of Hus, at this stage of his career, would seem to have been the scene of a painful conflict. Although the church was seeking to overwhelm him by her thunderbolts, he had not renounced her authority. The Roman Church was still to him the spouse of Christ, and the pope was the representative and vicar of God. What Hus was warring against was the abuse of authority, not the principle itself. This brought on a terrible conflict between the convictions of his understanding and the claims of his conscience. If the authority was just and infallible, as he believed it to be, how came it that he felt compelled to disobey it? To obey, he saw, was to sin; but why should obedience to an infallible church lead to such an issue? This was the problem he could not solve; this was the doubt that tortured him hour by hour. The nearest approximation to a solution which he was able to make was that it had happened again, as once before in the days of the Saviour, that the priests of the church had become wicked persons and were using their lawful authority for unlawful ends. This led him to adopt for his own guidance, and to preach to others for theirs, the maxim that the precepts of Scripture, conveyed through the understanding, are to rule the conscience; in other words, that God speaking in the Bible, and not the church speaking through the priesthood, is the one infallible guide.’ Wylie, b. 3, ch. 2.” The Great Controversy, 102.


Is God’s church the national establishment or grand institutions?


“God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matt. 18:20). Where Christ is even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church.” Upward Look, 315.

“It is not numerous institutions, large buildings, or great display that God requires, but the harmonious action of a peculiar people, a people chosen by God and precious. Every man is to stand in his lot and place, thinking, speaking, and acting in harmony with the Spirit of God. Then, and not till then, will the work be a complete, symmetrical whole.” Christian Service, 74.


What is God seeking to do for His church ?


“God is seeking to make His church the continued incarnation of Christ. The gospel ministers are the under-shepherds, Christ is the divine shepherd. The members of the church are the working agencies of the Lord. His church will stand out prominently. It is the Lord’s body. With all its working forces it must become one with the great Head. Among the members of Christ’s body there must be unity of action. They are partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. This lust has many branches and comprehends much; but those who are partakers of the divine nature will hold the doctrines of God’s word in their purity. The Bible is to be followed implicitly.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 7, 91.

“In Christ our hope of eternal life is centered . . . Our hope is an anchor to the soul both sure and steadfast when it entereth into that within the veil, for the tempest-tossed soul becomes a partaker of the divine nature. He is anchored in Christ. Amid the raging elements of temptation he will not be driven upon the rocks or drawn into the whirlpool. His ship will outride the storm.” That I May Know Him, 79.


What is the mission of the church ?


“The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to ‘the principalities and powers in heavenly places,’ the final and full display of the love of God. Ephesians 3:10.” The Acts of the Apostles, 9.