The Most Convincing Proof

This week’s lesson focuses on the visible unity of the church that is seen in the lives of the Christians and the mission of the church. This kind of unity is stressed by the death of Christ on the cross. The death and resurrection of Christ are supposed to produce unity in the Christian church, and in turn, practiced in the life of the believer through the rite of baptism. “Baptism is another bond that we Adventists commonly share, as it symbolizes our faith in Christ. We have a common Father; thus, we are all sons and daughters of God. And we have a common Savior in whose death and resurrection we are baptized (Rom 6:3, 4),” says the writer of the lesson (p. 73).

The death of Christ on the cross did not only bring salvation to mankind but reconciled us with God (Rom 5:8). Christ’s death overcame alienation and separation that sin caused. His death restores the believer to a condition of peace. Reconciliation is God’s initiative in the work of salvation; He reconciles us to Him. Christ “made him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21).

Graham Tomlin, in his book The Power of the Cross: Theology and the Death of Christ in Paul, Luther and Pascal, says that, “The unity of the church is grounded not just in Christ, but in Christ crucified for them. Christ’s death for them places them in a relationship of belonging and interdependence to him and to each other.”[1] Ellen G. White says, “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.”[2]

The crucified Christ is the foundation stone of the unity of the church today. Christ’s death on the cross is the focal point of unity because by His death He ushered us into a new dispensation. His death breaks all barriers and makes the old divisions and oppositions irrelevant. In the powerful words of Tomlin, the cross is “the decisive criterion of the church’s unity and identity,”[3] and both, unity and identity, should not be compromised within the Adventist Church today.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) compares the human race to a bunch of porcupines huddling together on a cold winter’s night. Schopenhauer says,

The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth’s winter eventually we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness.[4]

Christ has given us an alternative—to forgive each other for the pokes we receive. That allows us to stay together and stay warm. Whatever cultural, social, political, theological, and ethnic barriers amongst Adventists believers should be reconciled from the viewpoint of the cross of Christ, which overpowers all hurts (see Eph 2:13–16). Even different theological viewpoints should be reconciled from the perspective of the cross. I like the words of Kelly Kapic who said, “One of the greatest dangers in theology is making our faith something we discuss rather than something that moves us.”[5] According to him, “theological reflection is a way of examining our praise, prayers, words and worship with the goal of making sure they conform to God alone”[6] Jesus Christ admonishes us when He says, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Christ’s death on the cross made both Jews and Gentiles one. His death broke down the hatred, hostility, and enmity that existed between them. Practical unity emanates from the work and the example of Christ. Paul says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). The words of White are reminiscent of such thoughts, she states: “What Christ was in His life on this earth, that every Christian is to be. He is our example, not only in His spotless purity, but in His patience, gentleness, and winsomeness of disposition.”[7]

Unity of believer should not be only theoretical but also practical, seeking after the interests of others. To be practical is to take the cognizance of the theories and ensure it is being implemented. Unity is not merely theoretical but exceedingly practical, if tact and good will accompany the effort. Unity must rest on a convergence of self and group interests. Self-interest should be shunned away. “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil 2:4).

This unity should not be enforced by one particular ethnic group over another. Unity in diversity is one of the goals of the Church. Adventist religious education and faith should promote unity in diversity. The Adventist Church should celebrate the idea of unity in diversity because the church is composed of different cultural and historical contexts. John Calvin is quoted as saying:

Among Christians there ought to be so great a dislike of schism, as that they may always avoid it so fast as lies in their power. That there ought to prevail among them such a reverence for the ministry of the word . . . [as] they perceive these things to be, there they must consider the church to exist. . . . nor need it be of any hinderance that some points of doctrine are not quite so pure, seeing that there is scarcely any church which has not retained some remnants of former ignorance.[8]

Unity is also extended to the mission of the church. Norman E. Thomas wrote, “The churches were called to recognize the relationship between mission and unity. Unless the pilgrimage route leads the churches to visible unity in the one God, the one Christ, and the one Holy Spirit, the mission entrusted to us in this world will always be questioned, and rightly so.”[9] One of the important aspects of the unity of the church lies in its mission. When the church is united in mission, it helps the church break down barriers at various levels. In simple terms, the unity of the church lies in the way the church relates with the world in her mission.

A visitor to a mental hospital was astonished to note that there were only three guards watching over a hundred dangerous inmates. He asked his guide, “Don’t you fear that these people will overpower the guards and escape?”

“No,” was the reply. “Lunatics never unite.”

May the Lord help the Church not to be educated lunatics that never unite. But rather to be the kind of educated people that search for issues to unite them. If “the educated and intelligent people unite, the masses will not suffer,”[10] said Vallabhbhai Patel and ‎Pran Nath Chopra. At the signing of the Declaration of Independence in America, Benjamin Franklin is quoted saying, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”[11]

I, therefore, appeal to the educated people to be united. This unity is produced in the life of the Christian because of the cross of Christ, which brought the ministry of reconciliation. Practical unity, unity in diversity, and unity in mission are not possible in the Christian church without the working of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moves us to unity with God through love and self-giving, and thus to a unity in holiness and life. The Holy Spirit unites people to Christ. If we do not unite we will be guilty in the eyes of God. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Ps 133:1).

Youssry Guirguis is Lecturer in the Faculty of Religious Studies,Asia-Pacific International University (AIU), in Thailand.

Photo by MrPreecha on Adobe Stock

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[1] Graham Tomlin, The Power of the Cross: Theology and the Death of Christ in Paul, Luther and Pascal (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2007), 88.

[2] Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, 5:1148.

[3] Tomlin, Power of the Cross, 89.

[4] Mary E. Latela, Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Ten Steps to Peace (New York, NY: Liguori, 2003), 55.

[5] Kelly M. Kapic, A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), 9.

[7] Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times (July 16, 1902).

[8] David Cannistraci, God’s Vision for Your Church: Finding & Fulfilling God's Unique Purpose for Your Church (Woodland Hills, CA: Regal Books, 1999), 125.

[9] Norman E. Thomas, Missions and Unity: Lessons from History, 1792–2010 (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2010), 106.

[10] Vallabhbhai Patel and ‎Pran Nath Chopra, The Collected Works of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, 2 Vols (Odisha, India: Konark, 1991), 2:126.

[11] Dennis B. Fradin, Samuel Adams: The Father of American Independence (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998), 129.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9223
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Like all other gifts that emanate from God, unity doesn’t happen if we concentrate on being unified. Unity happens when people with differences focus on Christ as a commonality, not on the differences that need correcting. Christ is the aperture through whom we find ourselves unified. Looking for happiness doesn’t work, and neither does looking for unity. Too often we try to force God’s gifts to appear and call it the work of the Holy Spirit.

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The dominate issue in Christainity is the unity only exists in denominationslism. That is the driving force in Adventist evangelism in the United States. The Cross is not a proprietary item.

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For example?
Practically speaking, means what?
Explanation, elaboration required.

Is this another “keep your eyes on Jesus” advice?

If one actually goes through this week’s lesson , they will read that SDA are not unified with 99% of other Christians because other Christians have been deceived by religious teachers who have bible teaching that is corrupted by paganism. Christian doctrine got contaminated by syncretism in the 1st century.
The clue is on Thursday’s lesson…“this teaching has its roots in paganism”

SDA are not united on the topic on Tuesday’s lesson…“Jesus’ Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary.”

All of this call for unity by focusing on Jesus is just ambiguous, abstract, simplistic,superficial denominational fantasy.

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Yes, but I know what you’re getting at …

There are basically two types of people - those who must have concrete action attached to statements like “keep your eyes…”. To say just that, does sound like a cliche without actual real life activity to it. Others don’t need the statement spelled out. When we talk about our family (wife, husband, kids) we don’t need “love” spelled out in details that cover every aspect of daily life. That would be absurd. But somehow when it comes to focusing our lives on Christ, we seem to need to check with a list that tells us what exactly we need TO DO.

Basically, it means live your life, develop your attitudes according to the fact that all of us are in the same boat, and sinking, daily. Our only hope is to keep together as a unit, praying and forgiving each other without anyone assuming a higher position on a ladder, reaching heavenly status. The only way to do that is to see us, all together, at the cross, watching innocence being murdered; and then again, all together, at the mouth of an empty tomb, scared an astonished, but deliriously happy that hope didn’t die. On both occasions, we little notice what anyone is wearing, eating - whether the person next to us is a man, woman, or child. We are there together.

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Yet alone, it doesn’t.

To a small portion of humans.

Yes if one complies with the requirements.

That dispensation is of the Holy Spirit which brings unity if one obeys its influence.

For example?

Without any decision or effort on their part?

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The 2nd group needed it spelled out at some time in the past.

Want to focus on Jesus? Look at the practical detail examples He gave at the sermon on the mount. Matt 5-7

Read how Paul elaborates on what love is in 1 Cor 13.

What I am addressing is this ambiguous, simplistic, superficial religious lingo & clichés so often used by, inept fanatic teachers.

Great statement: “Practical unity, unity in diversity, and unity in mission are not possible in the Christian Church without the working of the Holy Spirit.” It is obvious that the Holy Spirit is NOT working in the Seventh-day Adventist Church! Who started all the Unity - disunity, conformity- non-conformity that all of these articles seem to address?

I got that.

We (all of us) are united first by grief, then by joy. The unifying factor is not what we have in common, but our reaction to the cross and the resurrection. If, after we personally experience those events, we feel nothing, then a list of do’s and don’ts will not help our situation. We are just looking for a means to a ticket out of the grave.

OK, let’s look at the Sermon on the Mount ---- Do you really think anyone can live up to the requirements there? Who would willingly walk that extra mile with a thug who just held you up with a gun - who would actually cut off their arm rather than steal - what guy would pluck out their eye when a short skirt walked by…We think those prescriptions are literally to be followed? It’s HUMANLY impossible to do that. That’s the point - we can’t - it’s like a knee jerk reaction to sin at that level. The Jews by-passed that problem by sticking to the letter of a law. That’s why every detail of their lives was under some law of either doing or not doing something. When it came to the crunch, and they realized they had missed the prescription, all they had to do was kill some animal,( farmers as most were,) and all would be good. That’s why Hebrews describes the “new covenant” as laws “written on the heart” (deal with that as a literal reading of the Bible).

Nothing affects the heart as much as a personal loss. Fairness and justice will affect most people, as well. To see an innocent pay for our shortcomings will reach most honest people. If we can’t conjure up sympathy for Jesus dying for our sin, maybe if we put our own dad or mom on that cross - will that do it?

Personally, I don’t believe God needed PAYMENT for our sins - WE, in the name of justice, require that payment; and God was willing to make that payment himself, so that we, on a human level, understand the enormity of sin.

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Leroy,

The Holy Spirit works but since it is the Spirit of Jesus, it gets rejected just like Jesus got rejected when as a human on Earth.

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Ever thought that it is an insult to Jesus to regard His teaching that way?

No.

The point is, we may be able to keep “the letter” of the law, but when it comes to reigningt in our humanity, we need more than will power. Can a leper change its spots, or a leper get rid of his leprosy? In fact, the story of Jesus cleansing the lepers directly follows the Sermon on the Mount - maybe a coincidence, or not. We have little or no control over the sins we inherit. We cannot control our feelings or our dreams. They are a good indication of who we really are. Even if we can control behaviour, we are inwardly what we are, unless and until we are changed miraculously despite ourselves, by “Christ in you”.

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I see why you put humanly in caps…

Now what does “Christ in you” mean and can it achieve what is said in the sermon on the mount?

From my sabbath school experience, most who attend sabbath school will not look at the lesson, especially in USA where the holidays fill the schedule.
Tuesday’s coverage of "Jesus’ Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary " is probably the topic of most denominational discord.

So much argument over time & heavenly geography which are just flanking tactics to keep away from the real issue…which is addressed in the most crucial/significant chapter in “Great Controversy”: ( another book which many SDA don’t read)……"Facing Life’s Record. Probably the most unpopular and challenging chapter in Adventism.

So much for unity.

It’s a life-long process of learning with humility.

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Thanks, @gideonjrn.

You said:

In response:

One way to think of this might be that Christ’s Spirit is an operating system for human beings, akin to iOS 12 for mobile devices.

Now, iOS 12 isn’t for every mobile device, or even every Apple mobile device. It’s just for the ones with certain technical capabilities; e.g., certain chip architectures.

In a similar sense, the Holy Spirit does not “run” “on” all people. In order to get the correct “chip architecture,” one has to do the things Christ’s commands; e.g., prayer, Bible study, etc.

Also, one can desire the Holy Spirit, and the change He can provoke, even before He dominates one’s thinking. One can do this through Him; i.e., He can aid the desire for His qualities, and the desire to do the things that keep Him “running,” even before He is downloaded. This is akin to the way mobile devices start telling you that you should upgrade to the new system that has just been released. They don’t do this on their own. They do this because they are built to respond such calls from the company that made them.

So, I’d say that “Christ in you” is somewhat similar to what “iOS 12 in your Apple-made mobile device” means: A set of instructions on how to interact with the world around you, or it, in a maximally desirable way.

In a related sense, then, the “unity” of which @Sirje spoke is an effect of having that iOS. Mobile devices that have a matching iOS can interact with each other in powerful ways. Through their operating systems, there are things that they will do when connected to each other, things that they won’t do, and things they can’t do, especially harmful things. That connection—that unity—is a side-effect of their having the same operating system.

HA

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Unity goes way past shaking hands & saying “Happy Sabbath” on Saturday mornings.

Spend an hour or more with any Adventists and see how much fellowship you really have.

You have heard how relatives can come over for a visit…yet by the end of the day or by the 2nd day, you are anxious for them to get out of town.

How many here would love to have an LGTarian visit them for over 24 hours…never mind 24 minutes.

How about a die hard anti W.O. old guard SDA?

This unity of faith, institutional stuff is so shallow & superficial.

When one visits an SDA church in another country, any SDA would be greeted since they are a small minority/“family” of Christianity, But let them talk together for over 20 minutes and watch the fellowship go into the cesspool.

Time for a reality check.

Many SDA I run into are so secular or culturally contaminated. Their interest in spiritual matters is on the low side.

Samo for 2000 years ago…lip service Jesus followers

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