Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. Ephesians 1:4,5.
"Unity with Christ establishes a bond of unity with one another. This unity is the most convincing proof to the world of the majesty and virtue of Christ, and of His power to take away sin." (SDA BC 1148)
Have you ever tried to prove something true that you are not sure of yourself? Legal, scientific, and philosophical arguments often provide the platform for just such attempts. For science, 95% probably of being true is respected, while philosophy has a much lower bar. Even in the legal realm, for some disputes, a preponderance of the evidence is enough.
But for true unity, two parties must agree, or be united 100%. We might wonder where on earth we can find such unity. The answer is that we can't. Unity, like every other spiritual blessing, only comes from its heavenly source. Unity with Christ is the only thing that provides proof to the world, manifested in bonds of unity with each other.
The Godhead is united:
For there are three that bear witness in heaven: The Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 1 John 5:7.
"The prayer of Christ that His people 'all may be one,' is for unity such as exists between the Father and the Son, a unity that is forever and in all things. Then God will be manifest always and in all things with that people, in ways that are beyond all human comprehension; and the world will know that God did send Jesus, and has loved these, His people, as He loved Jesus." John 17:21-23. A. T. JONES. (June 1, 1901 ATJ, UCR 14.7)
Only as we unite with the Godhead in their assessment of humanity and their successful plan for salvation can we experience unity here on earth.
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 1 John 5:11.
Are we 100% sure of this truth?
Under the Cross of Jesus
1 Corinthians 5:14 tells us that Jesus died not merely a substitutionary, but also a representative, death for all mankind. His humanity was ours, and His death was ours. We were representatively in Him as part of all humanity; we personally enter into that death by faith. The foundation of His death as us was His sacrificial unity with us when we were hopelessly separated from Him. In Him the inheritance of eternal life is already legally established as being bequeathed to everyone.
"Before ascending to heaven, Christ gave His disciples their commission. He told them that they were to be the executors of the will in which He bequeathed to the world the treasures of eternal life."(AA 27)
This is the true foundation of our unity, effective in us to the extent that we accept it. We, like the disciples, are to execute the bequest found in the will of Christ. All other truths we share as Seventh-day Adventists center around the person of Jesus. We tend to focus on what we are doing, how we are responding, what we are believing, as the foundation of our unity. But unity comes when we behold Jesus. He is the great unifier.
Ministry of Reconciliation
It is because God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, and because He accomplished that reconciliation in Christ that we have any ministry at all inviting others to be reconciled.
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18,19.
This invitation is based on the objective reconciliation of the world through the death of Christ, proving that God was forgiving, or not counting against humanity, their sins against Him. We are unified because God has treated all of us the same. Like Israel of old, God has extended to us the fact of His accomplished work in this reconciliation as an incentive to "be reconciled."
Contemplate this passage and note the sequence:
I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. Isaiah 44:22
First God blots out sin. Then He calls for repentance. When we are sure of this truth, we can effectively minister the reconciliation the gospel brings because we see everyone differently (2 Corinthians 5:16).
While it is true that we are to emulate Christ as our example, the only way we can possibly do this is to emulate His faith, the Faith of Jesus, that relied on the indwelling of the Spirit to direct every step and every word as from His Father. We cannot be like Him without Him dwelling in us moment by moment, letting His mind, His personal presence, dwell in us. "Let this mind dwell in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:5
Unity Amid Diversity
The lesson asks this question: Is there anything that we believe and practice as Seventh-day Adventists that all who claim to be Adventists need not believe and adhere to? Wow, that is a loaded question. The Bible talks of diverse gifts given to the church, but not of diverse gospels. Paul was quite clear:
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:8
If every doctrine was properly centered in Christ, there would be no diverse opinions of what we believe, and a much greater unity in what we practice. The 1888 message was to bring this unity. There would be "command and control" from the true head, Jesus Christ.
"The unity of belief in the church is not forced by the church coming together and the majority defining the creed to be beloved. The church cannot define doctrine, nor make laws for itself or anybody else. The church of Christ is made up of all who obey the Lord's commands not a body to issue commands. The Head directs, the body obeys. God speaks; each one must listen to His voice, for faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and no one can give faith to another. 'It is the gift of God.'" E. J. WAGGONER. (May 8, 1901 EJW, SITI 292.7)
"Many people seem to be ignorant of what constitutes faith. Many complain of darkness and discouragements. I asked, 'Are your faces turned toward Jesus? Are you beholding Him, the Sun of Righteousness? You need plainly to define to the churches the matter of faith and entire dependence upon the righteousness of Christ. In your talks and prayers there has been so little dwelling upon Christ, His matchless love, His great sacrifice made in our behalf, that Satan has nearly eclipsed the views we should have and must have of Jesus Christ. We must trust less in human beings for spiritual help and more, far more, in approaching Jesus Christ as our Redeemer. We may dwell with a determined purpose on the heavenly attributes of Jesus Christ; we may talk of His love, we may tell and sing of His mercies, we may make Him our own personal Saviour. Then we are one with Christ. We love that which Christ loved, we hate sin, that which Christ hated. These things must be talked of, dwelt upon.'" (3SM 183)
Unity in Mission
"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure." (TM 91)
When we become united in the mission of proclaiming and living the message God commanded to be sent to the world, unity will be perfected. The main reason our church is not unified is that this message has not been accepted as it should be. Our focus remains our subjective response to the gospel rather than the objective truths of the gospel itself. We need our eyes directed to the person of Jesus.
Current Issues with Unity
Consider this in light of today's challenges:
"Oh, how Satan would rejoice to get in among this people, and disorganize the work at a time when thorough organization is essential, and will be the greatest power to keep out spurious uprisings, and to refute claims not endorsed by the word of God. We want to hold the lines evenly, that there may be no breaking down of the system of regulation and order. In this way license will not be given to disorderly elements to control the work.
"We are living in a time when order, system, and unity of action are most essential. And the truth must bind us together like strong cords in order that no distracted efforts may be witnessed among the workers. If disorderly manifestations appear, we must have clear discernment to distinguish the spurious from the genuine. Let no messages be proclaimed until they have borne a careful scrutiny in every jot and tittle.
"My soul is much burdened, for I know what is before us. Every conceivable deception will be brought to bear upon those who have not a daily, living connection with God. Satan's angels are wise to do evil, and they will create that which some will claim to be advanced light, and will proclaim it as new and wonderful; yet while in some respects the message may be truth, it will be mingled with human inventions, and will teach for doctrine the commandments of men. If there was ever a time when we should watch and pray in real earnest, it is now. Many apparently good things will need to be carefully considered with much prayer; for they are specious devices of the enemy to lead souls in a path which lies so close to the path of truth that it will be scarcely distinguishable from it. But the eye of faith may discern that it is diverging, though almost imperceptibly, from the right path. At first it may be thought positively right, but after a while it is seen to be widely divergent from the way which leads to holiness and heaven. My brethren, I warn you to make straight paths for your feet, lest the lame be turned out of the way." (3MR 26-7)