Sabbath, November 21, 2015
“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, p. 9.
Building on the living Rock
1. Who presented the plan for establishment of the church? How stable is it?
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
“Human power and human might did not establish the church of God, and neither can they destroy it. Not on the rock of human strength, but on Christ Jesus, the Rock of Ages, was the church founded, ‘and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ Matthew 16:18. The presence of God gives stability to His cause. ‘Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man,’ is the word that comes to us. Psalm 146:3. ‘In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.’ Isaiah 30:15. God’s glorious work, founded on the eternal principles of right, will never come to nought. It will go on from strength to strength, ‘not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.’ Zechariah 4:6.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 595, 596.
2. Upon what firm foundation is the Christian church built? What confidence is expressed in the holy Scriptures concerning the church being truly built on a solid foundation?
1 Corinthians 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:20-22 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
“Peter was not the rock upon which the church was founded. The gates of hell did prevail against him when he denied his Lord with cursing and swearing. The church was built upon One against whom the gates of hell could not prevail.
“Centuries before the Saviour’s advent Moses had pointed to the Rock of Israel’s salvation. The psalmist had sung of ‘the Rock of my strength.’ Isaiah had written, ‘Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.’ Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalms 62:7; Isaiah 28:16. Peter himself, writing by inspiration, applies this prophecy to Jesus. He says, ‘If ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious: unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house.’ 1 Peter 2:3-5, R.V.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 413.
The first step in organization
3. What was the first step Jesus took in laying the foundation of His church? What purpose did He have in its organization?
Mark 3:13, 14 And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. 14And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,
Matthew 10:1; 5:14 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. 5:14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
“The first step was now to be taken in the organization of the church that after Christ’s departure was to be His representative on earth…. The Saviour led His disciples to the retreat He loved, and in their minds the sacred experiences of that day were forever linked with the beauty of mountain and vale and sea.
“Jesus had called His disciples that He might send them forth as His witnesses, to declare to the world what they had seen and heard of Him. Their office was the most important to which human beings had ever been called, and was second only to that of Christ Himself. They were to be workers together with God for the saving of the world. As in the Old Testament the twelve patriarchs stand as representatives of Israel, so the twelve apostles were to stand as representatives of the gospel church.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 291.
Like a body
4. With what illustration did the apostle show the diversity and unity of God’s church? What attitude does every member need to have so the church as a body may grow and work in harmony for the advancement of the heavenly kingdom?
Romans 12:4, 5 For as we have many members in one body… 5So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
Ephesians 4:16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
“As all the different members of the human system unite to form the entire body, and each performs its office in obedience to the intelligence that governs the whole, so the members of the church of Christ should be united in one symmetrical body, subject to the sanctified intelligence of the whole.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 16.
“The Jewish tabernacle was a type of the Christian church…. The church on earth, composed of those who are faithful and loyal to God, is the ‘true tabernacle,’ whereof the Redeemer is the minister. God, and not man, pitched this tabernacle on a high, elevated platform.
“This tabernacle is Christ’s body, and from north, south, east, and west He gathers those who shall help to compose it…. A holy tabernacle is built up of those who receive Christ as their personal Saviour…. Christ is the minister of the true tabernacle, the high priest of all who believe in Him as a personal Saviour.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 931.
Engaged in a great war
5. What terrible enmity and war will the church face, especially in the last days? Therefore, what is required of every member?
Revelation 12:17 And 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.
1 Timothy 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
1 Peter 5:8, 9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
“In vision I saw two armies in terrible conflict. One army was led by banners bearing the world’s insignia; the other was led by the bloodstained banner of Prince Immanuel. Standard after standard was left to trail in the dust as company after company from the Lord’s army joined the foe and tribe after tribe from the ranks of the enemy united with the commandment-keeping people of God. An angel flying in the midst of heaven put the standard of Immanuel into many hands, while a mighty general cried out with a loud voice: ‘Come into line. Let those who are loyal to the commandments of God and the testimony of Christ now take their position. Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters. Let all who will come up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 41.
A special love
6. How strong is Jesus’ love for His church? Therefore, how deeply do its members love the church?
Ephesians 5:25-27 Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
John 15:12, 13 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.
“Trust to God’s guardianship. His church is to be taught. Enfeebled and defective though it is, it is the object of His supreme regard.” –Selected Messages, book 2, p. 396.
“The church of Christ, enfeebled and defective as it may be, is the only object on earth on which He bestows His supreme regard…. The Lord has a people, a chosen people, His church, to be His own, His own fortress, which He holds in a sin-stricken, revolted world.” –In Heavenly Places, p. 284.
“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.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 11.
Unity and progress
7. Considering the current world conditions and the prayer of the Saviour, what relationship is critically necessary among church members for the accomplishment of His plan?
John 17:11, 20, 21 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are…. 20Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
“Only as they were united with Christ could the disciples hope to have the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit and the cooperation of angels of heaven. With the help of these divine agencies they would present before the world a united front and would be victorious in the conflict they were compelled to wage unceasingly against the powers of darkness. As they should continue to labor unitedly, heavenly messengers would go before them, opening the way; hearts would be prepared for the reception of truth, and many would be won to Christ. So long as they remained united, the church would go forth ‘fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.’ Song of Solomon 6:10. Nothing could withstand her onward progress. The church would advance from victory to victory, gloriously fulfilling her divine mission of proclaiming the gospel to the world.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 90, 91.
For additional study
Psalm 118:22, 23
“ ‘Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 3:11. ‘Upon this rock,’ said Jesus, ‘I will build My church.’ In the presence of God, and all the heavenly intelligences, in the presence of the unseen army of hell, Christ founded His church upon the living Rock. That Rock is Himself–His own body, for us broken and bruised. Against the church built upon this foundation, the gates of hell shall not prevail.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 413.
“The church of Christ was organized for missionary purposes…. By it the members are inspired with zeal to deny self, to put forth self-sacrificing efforts to send the truth to the regions beyond. It has a salutary influence upon unbelievers; for as the workers labor under divine supervision, worldlings are led to see the greatness of the resources that God has provided for those who serve Him…. The church is to work actively, as an organized body, to spread abroad the influence of the cross of Christ.” –Gospel Workers, p. 464.
“When the storm of persecution really breaks upon us, the true sheep will hear the true Shepherd’s voice. Self-denying efforts will be put forth to save the lost, and many who have strayed from the fold will come back to follow the great Shepherd. The people of God will draw together, and present to the enemy a united front…. The love of Christ, the love of our brethren, will testify to the world that we have been with Jesus and learned of Him. Then will the message of the third angel swell to a loud cry, and the whole earth will be lightened with the glory of the Lord.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 401.