Reading 2 – Sabbath, December 3, 2011
By Tzvetan Petkov, U.S.A.
“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6.
“Like the branches of the True Vine, the Word of God presents unity in diversity. There is in it a perfect, superhuman, mysterious unity.” –Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, p. 53.
Unity is important in the family and in the church of God. Without unity, the mission and the goal of God’s church will be hindered. Unity in the church was the subject of Christ’s prayer in John 17. Unity among the believers is a condition for the outpouring of the latter rain. But such unity cannot be achieved only by human effort; it is a fruit of divine intervention.
Consecration beautifies individuality
“A life consecrated to the service of God will be developed and beautified in its individuality.” –Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, p. 426.
Some may think that, in order to achieve unity, the individual’s personality has to be sacrificed. But this is not so in spiritual unity. The connection with Christ will never destroy. It will only build up, encourage, and produce growth. “The Lord does not desire that our individuality shall be destroyed; it is not His purpose that any two persons shall be exactly alike in tastes and dispositions. All have characteristics peculiar to themselves, and these are not to be destroyed, but to be trained, molded, fashioned, after the similitude of Christ.” –(Letter 20, 1894) Our High
Calling, p. 90.
The individuality of the believers will be preserved and developed by divine intervention and will also be seen as very important and necessary. The foundation of character is laid in childhood. Every child needs to be carefully educated and enabled to develop a strong personality and a strong individuality in harmony with God’s Word. “The training of children must be conducted on a different principle from that which governs the training of irrational animals…. The will must be trained to obey the dictates of reason and conscience. A child may be so disciplined as to have, like the beast, no will of its own, his individuality being lost in that of his teacher. Such training is unwise, and its effect disastrous. Children thus educated will be deficient in firmness and
decision…. A wise instructor will give special attention to the development of the weaker traits, that the child may form a well-balanced, harmonious character.” –Child Guidance, p. 39.
Only individuals with strong characters filled with the power of the Holy Spirit will be able to remain faithful in understanding and faith. The pressure from the unbelieving society with which we are surrounded is incredible. We should not set our goals low. The children in the church of God need to be prepared to be not only members but also leaders and preachers of the Word. Church members should follow the faith not because of church order or because of unpleasant consequences but because they have pleasure and joy in their walk with Christ. This is possible only if daily conversion takes place and the Spirit of God keeps our fallen human nature under control.
Diversity in character–unity in Christ
“From the endless variety of plants and flowers, we may learn an important lesson. All blossoms are not the same in form or color. Some possess healing virtues. Some are always fragrant. There are professing Christians who think it their duty to make every Christian like themselves. This is man’s plan, not the plan of God. In the church of God there is room for characters as varied as are the flowers in a garden. In His spiritual garden there are many varieties of flowers.” –(Letter 95, 1902) Evangelism, p. 99.
The church of God is a home for many people. Its members come from different nationalities and cultural backgrounds; they have diverse education and family influences, and their horizon
cosmology (their understanding about everything in the world) is unique, differing from that of others. Furthermore, we are all born with different temperaments, and we have different characters. To achieve unity in such an environment is, humanly speaking, impossible. But “…The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:27.
When true conversion takes place and God makes us partakers of His divine nature, this miracle will happen. “In the apostles of our Lord there was nothing to bring glory to themselves. It was evident that the success of their labors was due only to God. The lives of these men, the characters they developed, and the mighty work that God wrought through them, are a testimony to what He will do for all who are teachable and obedient.” –Conflict and Courage, p. 288. Unity also depends on the level of each person’s conversion and consecration. The diversity in temperament, experience, and personality is not to be considered a problem but a necessity for the growth of the community of believers. It was for a purpose that the Lord chose disciples with different types of characters. The differences among us contribute to our development and help us grow in patience, love, and understanding.
Diversity of gifts–unity in the Spirit
Another miracle that the Lord carries out in the heart and life of the believer is the impartation of the gifts of the Spirit. The Spirit of God distributes to every converted believer a unique gift necessary for the spread of the gospel and the spiritual growth of the church.
“God has different ways of working, and He has different workmen to whom He entrusts varied gifts. One worker may be a ready speaker; another a ready writer; another may have the gift of sincere, earnest, fervent prayer; another the gift of singing; another may have special power to explain the word of God with clearness. And each gift is to become a power for God, because He works with the laborer. To one God gives the word of wisdom, to another knowledge, to another faith; but all are to work under the same Head. The diversity of gifts leads to a diversity of operations; but ‘it is the same God which worketh all in all.’ 1 Corinthians 12:6.” –Gospel Workers, p. 483.
There is no doubt that, in His divine plan, God wants to teach every believer to accept the diversity within the church and to enable him to work with everyone else in united action under the guidance of His Spirit. If unity is not there, it is because the Spirit of God is absent. Instead of joy and friendliness, envy, jealousy, and personality clashes are the natural reactions of the carnal heart. The enemy is trying to destroy the united effort of the church by taking advantage of such sinful tendencies. “The Lord desires His chosen servants to learn how to unite together in
harmonious effort. It may seem to some that the contrast between their gifts and the gifts of a fellow laborer is too great to allow them to unite in harmonious effort; but when they remember that there are varied minds to be reached, and that some will reject the truth as it is presented by one laborer, only to open their hearts to God’s truth as it is presented in a different manner by another laborer, they will hopefully endeavor to labor together in unity. Their talents, however diverse, may all be under the control of the same Spirit. In every word and act, kindness and love
will be revealed; and as each worker fills his appointed place faithfully, the prayer of Christ for the unity of His followers will be answered, and the world will know that these are His disciples….” –Evangelism, pp. 99, 100.
Diversity in ideas and methods– harmony in faith and doctrine
God is the Creator, and He wants His followers to be open minded and creative. He inspires true believers not only by imparting His gifts but also by sharing a variety of ideas and plans. By applying different ideas and methods, while preserving unity in spirit and in action, the believers will defeat the wiles of the enemy. “The vine has many branches, but though all the branches are different, they do not quarrel. In diversity there is unity. All the branches obtain their nourishment from one source. This is an illustration of the unity that is to exist among Christ’s followers.” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 211.
Sometimes leaders in the church are afraid of new initiatives, new technology, and new methods of work. Unfamiliar things often seem scary and suspicious. “On the other hand, the leaders among God’s people are to guard against the danger of condemning the methods of individual workers who are led by the Lord to do a special work that but few are fitted to do. Let brethren in responsibility be slow to criticize movements that are not in perfect harmony with their methods of labor. Let them never suppose that every plan should reflect their own personality. Let them not fear to trust another’s methods; for by withholding their confidence from a brother laborer who, with humility and consecrated zeal, is doing a special work in God’s appointed way, they
are retarding the advancement of the Lord’s cause.” –Gospel Workers, p. 488.
However, the diversity of methods, ideas, temperaments, and gifts does not justify a difference in the understanding of faith and doctrine. Those who are connected with Christ and have His Spirit will be taught, reminded, and comforted by the divine presence; and a harmonious understanding of the Scriptures will be the natural result. “The apostles differed widely in habits and disposition…. These were brought together, with their different faults, all with inherited and cultivated tendencies to evil; but in and through Christ they were to dwell in the family of God, learning to become one in faith, in doctrine, in spirit. They would have their tests, their grievances, their differences of opinion; but while Christ was abiding in the heart, there could be no dissension. His love would lead to love for one another; the lessons of the Master would lead to the harmonizing of all differences, bringing the disciples into unity, till they would be of one mind and one judgment. Christ is the great center, and they would approach one another just in proportion as they approached the center.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 296.
“Love of self, pride, and selfsufficiency lie at the foundation of the greatest trials and discords that have ever existed in the religious world.” –Evangelism, p. 102.
When we follow our natural tendencies and sinful desires, selfishness is cherished and supported and will grow as a cultivated part of our character. Any kind of selfish desire is against unity and true spiritual harmony. The natural, selfish heart is disturbed when service for others is required; and the selfish mind fights against the tolerance and acceptance of others’ ideas. Selfishness craves constant appreciation and praise, which makes the success of others a painful experience. Sometimes selfishness is hidden under a cloak of good works and is difficult to discern. But
if selfishness controls the mind and heart, the influence of the Holy Spirit of God will be rejected. “If self had not been so carefully, tenderly cherished, lest it should not find room enough to preserve its native dignity, the Lord could have used these differently constituted characters to do a good work and much larger; for in their diversity of talent, yet unity in Christ, was the power of their usefulness. If, like the diverse branches of the vine, they were centered in the vine stock, all would bear the rich cluster of precious fruit. There would be perfect harmony in their diversity, for they are partakers of the nourishment and fitness of the vine.” –Evangelism, p. 101.
Striving for supremacy
The desire for supremacy over others is a natural consequence of deeply ingrained selfishness, and it is the opposite of the character of Jesus Christ. He left heaven to save the fallen human race. “And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:8. By contrast, Satan did everything possible to obtain supremacy in heaven.
“Strife for the supremacy makes manifest a spirit that, if cherished, will eventually shut out from the kingdom of God those who cherish it. The peace of Christ cannot dwell in the mind and heart of a workman who criticizes and finds fault with another workman simply because the other does not practice the methods he thinks best, or because he feels that he is not appreciated. The Lord never blesses him who criticizes and accuses his brethren, for this is Satan’s work.” –(Manuscript 21, 1894) Evangelism, p. 102.
Often the desire for supremacy begins by cherishing the idea of selfsufficiency. Without realizing it, one exalts himself when he criticizes the work, ideas, and abilities of others. When criticism turns into a habit, the strife for supremacy is a natural consequence. But “However large may be a man’s claim to knowledge and wisdom, unless he is under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, he
is exceedingly ignorant of spiritual things…. Those who are truly converted will press together in Christian unity.” –Gospel Workers, p. 485.
When selfishness and desire for supremacy work together, dictatorship is easily developed. Tragic and pitiful is the condition of a person who has indulged such human cravings. “No human being is to seek to bind other human beings to himself, as if he were to control them, telling them to do this, and forbidding them to do that, commanding, dictating, acting like an officer over a company of soldiers…. After the truth has made the impression upon hearts, and men and women have accepted its teachings, they are to be treated as the property of Christ, not as the property of man. In fastening minds to yourself, you lead them to disconnect from the Source of their wisdom and sufficiency. Their dependence must be wholly in God; only thus can they grow in grace.” –Gospel Workers, p. 484.
The problem of strife for supremacy can be observed not only among church leaders but also in families. Marriage is a mirror of a couple’s spiritual condition and growth in Christ. “Neither the husband nor the wife should attempt to exercise over the other an arbitrary control. Do not try to compel each other to yield to your wishes. You cannot do this and retain each other’s love. Be kind, patient, and forbearing, considerate, and courteous.” –The Ministry of Healing, p. 361 (1905); Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, p. 425.
The only solution is Jesus Christ.
“Christ is the foundation of every true church. We have His unalterable promise that His presence and protection will be given to His faithful ones who walk in His counsel. To the end of time Christ is to be first. He is the source of life and strength, of righteousness and holiness. And He is all this to those who wear His yoke and learn of Him how to be meek and lowly.” –Gospel Workers, p. 485.
The spirit of independence
“The world is filled with strife for the supremacy. The spirit of pulling away from fellow-laborers, the spirit of disorganization, is in the very air we breathe. By some, all efforts to establish order are regarded as dangerous, as a restriction of personal liberty, and hence to be feared as popery. These deceived souls regard it a virtue to boast of their freedom to think and act independently. They declare that they will not take any man’s say-so; that they are amenable to no man. I have been instructed that it is Satan’s special effort to lead men to feel that God is pleased to have them choose their own course, independent of the counsel of their brethren.
“Herein lies a grave danger to the prosperity of our work. We must move discreetly, sensibly, in harmony with the judgment of God-fearing counselors; for in this course alone lies our safety and strength. Otherwise God cannot work with us and by us and for us.” –Gospel Workers, p. 486.
The enemy makes every effort to sow disunity among God’s people. Every time he is successful, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is dishonored. A waste of time, effort, and precious means and, many times, a loss of souls are the consequences of his work. The enemy uses people as his instruments. Slowly, he plants erroneous ideas in the minds and hearts of those who entertain and cherish his influence. However, when the Lord opens a person’s mind and he sees clearly that he has been used by the enemy, pride generally prevents him from returning and rectifying
the harm that has been done. Therefore, it is extremely important for us to cling to the Lord daily and seek the baptism of His Spirit so we will not be separated from His divine presence
and protection. Selfishness, the striving for supremacy, and an independent spirit are three human tendencies that have produced division in God’s church and in the family.
“The spasmodic, fitful movements of some who claim to be Christians are well represented by the work of strong but untrained horses. When one pulls forward, another pulls back; at the voice of their master one plunges ahead, and the other stands immovable….” – Gospel Workers, p. 487.
“Will organization be necessary in the time of the end?” This is a question that many believers have. “Some have advanced the thought that as we near the close of time, every child of God will act independently of any religious organization. But I have been instructed by the Lord that in this work there is no such thing as every man’s being independent…. His people must draw
together.” –Gospel Workers, p. 487.
Press together, press together
“Again and again the angel has said to me, ‘Press together, press together, be of one mind, of one judgment,’ Christ is the leader, and you are brethren; follow Him.” – Evangelism, p. 102.
“The word and Spirit of truth, dwelling in our hearts, will separate us from the world. The immutable principles of truth and love will bind heart to heart, and the strength of the union will be according to the measure of grace and truth enjoyed.” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 211.
The promises of God are yes and Amen. They never fail. Let us pray and work for unity in diversity! “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Matthew 7:7.
May God bless His children! Amen!