Friday, August 22, 2014

“The Church”

Insights #8 August 23, 2014


Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

"The Church"

For the week of August 23, 2014  


In our lesson this week, regarding "the church," the author rightly spends the lion's share of the time on unity.  Both the words of Jesus, and the writings of the New Testament authors—particularly Paul—are replete with counsel about unity in the church.  Throughout the history of the Great Controversy, from its origin in heaven, to the aftermath of the fall where Adam and Eve accused (gossiped) regarding each other, to the division between Cain and Abel, and on to the end of time, unity has been a rare commodity in this world.  Lucifer up in heaven introduced disunity into the universe through the avenue of gossip—gossip about God.  There was the first schism in God's universal church.  The patriarchs, the prophets, the kings, the young church, and the remnant church, have all struggled for unity.


The 1888 era was a time where profound challenges to unity—both of doctrine and of attitude/spirit—plagued us.  Ellen White kept pleading with us to "press together."  Her calls frequently were unheeded as pride of opinion or position carried the day.


"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message through Elders Waggoner and Jones."  As A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner were in the center of the storm regarding this "most precious message," they wrote much about the imperative for unity, what it would look like, and how to experience it.  Below is a powerful excerpt from some of A.T. Jones' writings in the immediate aftermath of the 1888 era that is as present truth today as it was 125 years ago.


WE have noticed those scriptures which set forth the church as the body of Christ, and the members of the church as members of the body of Christ, and therefore members one of another, as they by "joints and bonds" are "knit together in love." As the members of the church are members of the body of Christ, and also members one of another, how can it be but that there shall be unity in the church. If I am a member of the body of Christ and you are a member of the body of Christ, then if we have any respect for Christ how can it be that we shall have any disrespect for one another? If we love Christ how can we have anything but love for one another? But more than this, we are also members one of another, and as "no man ever yet hated his own flesh," how then can it ever be that we should not love one another.


This is the very test of our love for Christ: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" 1 John 4:20. No man can appreciate the love of Christ while he is cross and spiteful and cruel to his brother, for whom Christ died. Church-members cannot expect to honour Christ while they dishonour one another. In dishonouring one another they do dishonour Christ, because "we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones." But when each one sees in his brother one for whom the Saviour died, and one who is a member of the body of Christ, then each one will treat his brother tenderly, lovingly, as the Saviour is tender and loving. When each one sees in his brother a soul so precious as that Christ died for him, he is not going to treat him slightingly, nor needlessly cause him pain. To cause a brother pain cannot be without causing Christ pain, for we are members of His body, and He is the Head of the body, and it is the head always which is really conscious of any pain in the body. The Scripture would have us realize the closeness, the intricacy, of the relationship between Christ and the church, and between the members one with another in the church.


Thus it is with the human body, as everybody knows; and thus it is with the body of Christ, the church—as everybody ought to know. Each member of the church, in his place, is necessary to every other member of the church. Yea, even "those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary." And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, upon these we should bestow more abundant honour. Christ has honoured them with a place in the church, shall we despise them? "The members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it." Or as it is said in another place: "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body." Heb. 13:3. "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." And, oh, that everyone who is a member of the church would realize how sacred is the relationship into which he has entered! Then indeed would the disciples of Christ be one, and the world would believe that God sent Him."


But though all could speak with the tongues of men and of angels, if they have no charity—the love of God—they are but as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Though all had the gift of prophecy, and the gift of wisdom to the understanding of all mysteries and all knowledge; and though all had faith that could remove mountains, if they have not charity they are nothing. And though all were so benevolent as that they would bestow all their goods to feed the poor; and though they were all so perfectly assured of what they believe that they would die at the stake as witnesses to it, if they have not charity it will profit nothing. Charity is love. It is the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. It is that love which keeps the commandments of God, "for this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments;" and "love is the fulfilling of the law." Therefore, though all have all these wondrous powers, and have not the keeping of the commandments of God, they are nothing. "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." But if there be in the church the love of God, keeping the commandments of God, then all these gifts, working together with charity, build up the body of Christ, make increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love, and increase it with the increase of God." {August 11, 1892 ATJ, PTUK}


When any member of our natural body is affected, or in pain in any way, it is the head which is first and most conscious of the pain. So, also, it is with the body of Christ, the church. When any member of Christ, of the church, is afflicted, it is Christ who is first and most conscious of the affliction. "In all their affliction he was afflicted." Isa. 63:9. "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Eph. 5:30. When you or I cause grief or pain to any member of Christ, it is Christ to whom we first and most cause the grief or pain. Therefore, as certainly as we love Christ, so certainly we will never willingly or intentionally cause grief or pain to one of the members of Christ—one of these little ones who believe in him. So surely as we love Christ, so surely will we love those whom Christ loves.


The relation of church-members, one to another, therefore, is the relation of these same members to Christ.


If the relation of church-members one to another is one of hatred, the relation of those same members to Christ is one of hatred. If the relation of church-members one to another is one of variance, then the relation of those same members to Christ is one of variance. If the relation of church-members one to another is one of envy or bitterness or strife, then the relation of those same church-members to Christ is also one of envy or bitterness or strife. It matters not what they may say, or profess that it is, that is what it actually is. For from every consideration which the Scriptures present, we repeat, The relation of church-members one to another, is the relation of those same church-members to Christ.


It is clearly evident, therefore, that the only true relation of church-members one to another is the relation of the love of Jesus Christ—a relation created and sustained by the love of Christ. This is so plainly manifest from all the Scriptures, that it is not necessary to multiply references. One quotation is enough: "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, AS I HAVE LOVED YOU." John 15:12.


"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." 1 John 4:10, 11. "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." Verse 7.


Finally, brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently. Let brotherly love continue. And, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Amen.

—A. T. JONES. {November 1890 ATJ, HOMI}

-Bob Hunsaker

Raul Diaz