The Struggle for Unity

Today the revival and reformation movement in Adventism is being attacked from several different directions.

  1. It is attacked by professed Adventists in the organized church structure.
  2. It is attacked by the world.
  3. It is being attacked, and will be more and more, by the powers of Babylon.

However, none of these attacks are our most serious threat. The most serious problem that the revival and reformation movement in Adventism has today is what I call the attack from within.

Zechariah 13:6 speaks about the experience which Christ went through when He was here on this earth. “And one will say to Him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms [or between your hands].’ Then He will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’”

Where was Jesus wounded? In the house of His friends! What was the most serious attack that Jesus had to meet? Was it the Romans? No, it was not. It was the attack from within.

In The Great Controversy, 187, 188, we find a statement about the reformation in the time of Martin Luther. “The opposition of the Pope and the Emperor had not caused him so great perplexity and distress as he now experienced. From the professed friends of the reformation had risen its worst enemies.”

Where did the worst enemies of the reformation come from? From her professed friends. Where is our greatest danger today? Is it from the world, or Babylon, or is it from the structure church? No, the worst danger for the revival and reformation today is our professed friends. We are our worst enemies!

“From the professed friends of the reformation had risen its worst enemies. The very truths that had brought him so great joy and consolation were being employed to stir up strife and create confusion in the church.” Ibid.

Is there strife and confusion in the revival and reformation movement in Adventism today? Yes, it is all over the world. We are in a battle: not against human beings, but against the greatest deceiver of all times and he deceives human beings and uses them to wound the very work which they profess to be strengthening. This is why we have so much strife and confusion in our midst today.

However, look at what the Lord desires for us. In Christ’s most famous prayer He said, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” John 17:20–23.

Do you believe that, by the grace of God, we are going to develop unity and harmony? Are we going to learn how to get along with each other or must we just go on scrapping and fighting until the Lord takes us to heaven and works a miracle in our hearts so that, suddenly, we will be able to get along? Even if we wished that it could happen this way, we know that the Lord will not change our characters when we go to heaven. We must finish that work here, with His help.

Do we have work to do? We have much work to do if we are going to be part of the one hundred and forty-four thousand who will be perfectly united. I cannot say that I have all of the answers, but through studying the inspired writings on this subject I am trying to learn all that I can on how we can have unity. In this article, we will study just a few of the thousands of inspired quotations on this topic, as we consider character traits that we must develop or character flaws that we must overcome if we are going to have unity among us today.

Respect and Honor

As I have studied the Ten Commandments, I have come to the conclusion that every one of the Ten Commandments has to do with the concept of respect and honor. We will never have the harmony and unity that we want until we learn to respect one another.

Much is said on this topic in inspired writings. Inspiration instructs that in the home we are to cultivate honor and respect. Children should never see their father say or do something that is disrespectful to their mother. Likewise they should never see their mother say or do something that manifests a lack of honor or respect for the father. (See Child Guidance, 239.)

However, this concept is not just for the home. We must especially learn respect in our relationships with others in the church. We must have respect, not just for certain people, but for every person in the church. We need to ask ourselves, Do I respect my brother when he does something that I do not like? Or when he holds a different opinion on some issue, do I still respect him? I do not have to think the same way that every one else thinks, but I must still respect them, even though I do not agree on every point.

In 1888, Ellen White wrote a letter to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. At the time that this testimony was written, Kellogg was trying to promote health reform in the Adventist Church almost single handedly, and was receiving opposition from other leading men in the church. And, as can easily happen when one is standing alone, he became discouraged. The following is a part of the message Sister White gave him: “We must have unity. These representative men [physicians and ministers in Battle Creek that Kellogg was having difficulty working with] must respect one another and work in harmony. You have a most responsible position, and the Lord will greatly bless you if you walk in humility before Him. But do not, my brother, expect every mind to be constituted like your own. Do not expect that your brethren will see everything in the same light, and attach the same importance to some matters that you do, for you will certainly be disappointed.” 1888 Materials, 1156.

Did you notice the two major points that Sister White made in this statement? They were that:

  1. We must have respect for all our brothers and sisters in the faith.
  2. While we must respect each other, we must not expect that everyone else is going to think just like we think on everything.

It is only when we learn these principles about respect and honor that we will be able to find true unity and harmony.

As we noted earlier, these lessons should first be learned and practiced in the home. Children need to learn it because, the fifth commandment says, “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12. No one will go to heaven who has not learned to keep the fifth commandment. A young person may not agree with the way his father or mother manages the household (and he does not have to think exactly as his parents do), but he still has an obligation, written in the law of God, that he is to honor his parents.

Do we honor each other in our homes? Do we honor each other in the church? Consider for a moment how the principle of respect applies in practical situations. Take the following example: If I am going to honor you and respect you, even though you think completely different than I do on some points, will I try to prove that you are wrong and make you look like a fool in public? Will I do that? No, I will not. I may go to you privately and say, “I do not see this the way you do,” but if I truly respect you, I will not try to make you look foolish before others.

Pride and Passion

Consider this statement: “There is nothing which will weaken the strength of a church like pride and passion. If one engaged in the work of God does things in contradiction to another engaged in the same work, that is strife and variance. If we do this to be esteemed or to exalt self, it is vainglory, and death to spirituality and to Christian love and unity of action.” Review and Herald, July 5, 1887.

Pride is a very serious problem according to Malachi 4:1. “‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up’ says the Lord of Hosts.” Is pride a serious problem? It will send you straight to hell. And it is one of the most deeply ingrained problems in fallen, sinful, human nature.

What really is pride? Pride is a disease of the heart that you and I cannot see. So, I do not have any right to go to anyone and say, “You are proud.” Only the Lord could do that through His prophet. However, pride is one of the roots of disunity and I need to know something about the symptoms of pride so that I can check myself to see if pride is still alive in my heart.

I have found two major symptoms of pride in inspired writings. First, pride leads people to make a display. This love of display can be seen in the clothes we wear, the homes or cars we buy or in the way that we behave. In The Desire of Ages, 261, we read about the life of Christ: “ In that life no noisy disputation, no ostentatious worship, no act to gain applause, was ever witnessed. Christ was hid in God, and God was revealed in the character of His Son. To this revelation Jesus desired the minds of the people to be directed, and their homage to be given.” Christ never behaved in any way that would lead others to look to Him; He never sought the applause of others.

We need to teach this principle to our young people. I think it is wonderful when we train our young people to be musicians, but we must be careful that the motive in learning to play music is not to demonstrate skill so that we attract attention to ourselves. That is pride; the desire to make a display. And remember there is nothing that will weaken the strength of a church like pride.

The second symptom of pride is the desire for self-exaltation. When pride first developed in heaven, this is the symptom that was manifest in Lucifer. It finally led him to the point where he wanted to control the angels and possess the position that Jesus Christ alone was worthy to hold. He wanted to be in control of the government of God. He wanted to be in control of the work. Have you ever been in a church where there is one or more persons that think that they ought to control what goes on there? If you or I desire to control others or we demonstrate that we want to control the work, we still have a problem with pride. And if we get upset because someone else does not do exactly what we told them to do, it is time that we begin searching our hearts and realize how deeply pride is rooted there!

Brotherly Love

“Our strength is in our unity. We are weak when we do not love one another.” The Kress Collection, 84.

When we do not love one another, what is the problem? We are weak. We may know all the right theology. We may be able to prove all of our positions, but if we do not love one another, we are weak. Ellen White wrote many testimonies and counsels to people that needed help in this area.

I would like to quote a few lines that are pertinent to our study, from a testimony that Sister White wrote to a Seventh-day Adventist woman. She said: “You see the truth, and then you mark out how this one and that one should practice it; and if they fail to come up to the mark you set, you feel to draw off from them. [When did she begin to condemn others? When they did not come up to how she thought they should behave.] You cannot fellowship with them, and love dies out of your heart for them, when in reality they are just as near right as you are. [This is quite a warning for us!] You make yourself enemies when you might have friends. You are ardent and positive in your temperament, and when you see points of truth, you carry matters to extremes. You thus repulse persons, instead of winning and binding them to your heart.

“You look upon the objectionable features in the character of those with whom you associate, and dwell upon their seeming inconsistencies and wrongs, overlooking their redeeming traits. I was referred to this scripture: ‘Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.’” Testimonies, vol. 2, 437.

This sister was looking on the objectionable points of other’s temperaments. But do we not all have objectionable traits of character which require mercy from others. Shouldn’t we then be willing to give mercy to other people who have some objectionable traits of character, as we do? If God treated us the way we treat each other, I do not believe any of us would be here today. We serve a wonderful God of mercy; are we really His children?

“Here, dear sister, you may meditate and speculate with profit. Dwell upon the good qualities of those with whom you associate, and see as little as possible of their errors and failings.” Ibid. If we could just put this sentence in our mind and say, “Lord, help me to dwell on the good qualities of those with whom I associate.”

Did you know that there are people that you associate with who already know about some of their objectionable traits of character and they sometimes abhor themselves because of the way they are? They need a word of encouragement so that they will be encouraged to fight the battles with self and to overcome their objectionable traits of character. Just think, Is it easier for you to overcome an objectionable trait of character if someone is encouraging you or if they are condemning you?

“You possess too much of a spirit of war, and throw things into confusion and strife. You must change your life and character if you are ever classed with those who hear the words: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’” Ibid.

“The great lesson that Christ taught by His life and example was that of unity and love among brethren. This love is the token of discipleship, the divine credentials which the Christian bears to the world. ‘By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.’ Love to God and man must be an inwrought principle in the soul; for there is no other way that the Christian can become a ‘partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’” Review and Herald, August 12, 1884.


“In humility and union there is strength.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, 357. We are never going to have unity that we must have, according to John 17, until we learn how to be humble. And friend, it does not matter how wicked the world becomes or what Babylon does, I do not believe that the Lord will return to this world until John 17 is fulfilled. And it will never be fulfilled unless we become humble people. Are we humble enough yet so that the Lord could bring in unity among us through the Holy Spirit? Are we humble enough to realize that the Lord is in charge of the work and that we do not have to get everything straightened out? Is this a lesson that we need to learn?

“Another great need of the church is humility,—the deep humility of Christ. Believers need to see the necessity of working as Christ worked. O for that devotion and humility of heart that will lead God’s people to do those things that Christ has commanded, and still in all humility and truth say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done only that which it was our duty to do!’ But many, many are swelling with pride and importance, who in God’s estimation are lukewarm. Self-gratification is revealed because of a few things accomplished. Where do we hear the testimony of hearts that are broken in repentance and confession before God? Where do we see professed believers wearing the yoke of Christ? How little time is given to fervent prayer, the result of which would be the possession of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price.” Review and Herald, September 16, 1909.

Death to Self

One of the greatest reasons that we have so much strife is that self is not dead yet. The Holy Spirit wants to create unity among us, but it says in Manuscript Releases, vol. 20, 268, “Just as soon as self gains the supremacy, the Spirit of God is quenched.” When self is still ruling the hearts of those in the church, the Holy Spirit cannot work to bring unity.

When I read this statement, I wanted to know what the symptoms are of self still being alive so that I could examine my own life, and so I started studying the Spirit of Prophecy. Here are some of the symptoms that demonstrate that self is not dead and is gaining the supremacy in the human heart. They are taken from many different places in the Spirit of Prophecy.

The Basis of Unity

“The truth is one. It will take people . . . and, mingling them with other elements, soften and refine them through the truth. Teach them that in humility and union there is strength. The love of Christ and living faith would have a transforming power upon the man, upon his ideas, upon his character. The temper and the life experience will be softened and ennobled by divine truth. The influence of the truth is to take away from man that which is impetuous and rebellious, and bring him into harmony with heaven. God’s purpose is to bring all into harmony and unity on the platform of truth as it is in Jesus.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, 357, 358. [Emphasis supplied.]

The basis for true unity and harmony is whether or not we are willing to stand on the same platform of truth. When we talk about unity and harmony, we are not talking about it in an ecumenical sense. We are not talking about unity and harmony with all the world. We are not even talking about unity and harmony with all professed Adventists. We are talking about unity and harmony with the people that are all willing to stand on the same platform of truth. And what is that platform?

In the book Early Writings there is a chapter entitled “A Firm Platform.” In that chapter Sister White identifies the Three Angels’ Messages as an immutable platform. She also states that these three messages are infallible (this is a very strong statement if you consider what Adventists believe about the infallibility of the inspired writings), and will triumph over the whole world. A proper understanding of them will guide you to a complete chain of truth and prepare you for the Second Coming of Christ.

Many people ask, “Do you think the church is going through?” The truth is that the church which stays with the Three Angels’ Messages is going to go through and none of the rest of the churches are going through. Even if you meet in a tiny homechurch, if your church stays faithful and true to the Three Angels’ Messages, it will go through. Because, the Three Angels’ Messages, Ellen White says, will triumph. Conversely, if your church, no matter how large and respected it is, does not remain faithful and true to the Three Angels’ Messages, it will not go through. (This same principle applies to a sisterhood of churches or even a world-wide system of churches, for if these organizations apostatize from the truth, they will certainly not go through to the end, either.)

The truth is the platform on which unity is built. Do you want to be on the platform that is going through? People talk about the ship that is going through. However, contrary to popular opinion, the ship that is going through is the ship that is based on the Three Angels’ Messages. If there was only one person in the world that believed them, that person would go through and the rest of the world would go down, because these precious messages are infallible. The people that believe them, and are willing to change their ideas to come into perfect harmony with them, will triumph with them. Is this your great desire? Then diligently study the Word and ask the Lord to help you to stand faithfully on the platform of eternal truth.

If self is not dead the person:

  1. Is ready for a contest.
  2. Has an ambition to be noticed and is afraid of being in some way mistreated.
  3. Regards their judgment as the best of all.
  4. Is not willing to forgo his wishes. (He feels that he should have his own way.)
  5. Has too high an appreciation of himself and eventually he becomes “too good” to labor with his brethren unless he is in charge.
  6. Becomes self-sufficient.
  7. Feels that he can manage the work.
  8. Reveals self in his management.
  9. Is a part of many religious controversies which result.
  10. Is not tender when dealing with others.
  11. Is ready to express his own mind and will, all the time.
  12. Is strenuous to have his will regarded as the will of God.
  13. Wants rules and regulations concerning even the details of the work.
  14. Seeks for knowledge or skills that will bring him into notice.
  15. Shows exhibitions of self. (This has to do with being angry, being harsh or impatient.)
  16. Is jealous of others.