Our Supreme Need

Our Supreme Need (Part 1)*

The great question that concerns us is how to finish the work.

BY I. H. EVANS

We all believe that as a people we have a very definite work at this time, and that we are in the days of the finish­ing of this work. We have already been at this work, through our fore­bears and associates, about eighty-nine years. According to the reckoning of the world, that is close to three generations. Our people have worked untiringly and un­selfishly, and they have accomplished much. Now the great question that concerns us is how to finish the work.

We all believe that God led this people in other days than these in a very definite way. He inspired our leaders and committees never to take a backward step in the carrying on of this great world-wide work. It is a marvel to us who are older, and who have grown up in this work from childhood, to see how won­drously God has wrought. At the close of 1933 we had a membership of 384,151, who con­tributed $8,642,000 that year to the support of our work. That is a large sum of money to be given by a scattered, poor people like ours.

We have more than 22,000 salaried workers, and are now carrying on our work in 504 dif­ferent languages and dialects, thus being able to reach a large proportion of the world's pop­ulation as far as doing something, however little, to set lights aglow in many lands. We are doing some work in 295 different countries, and some publishing of our literature in 161 different languages. We are conducting 2,271 schools, in which we had 95,060 students in 1933, and we have more this year. All this has been worked out through the series of years that we have been a church. The work is well stationed in strategic points in all the great world centers. Never, by any human planning, without faith in God and the direction and leading of the Holy Spirit, could this great work have been accomplished.

Now the supreme question is, How are we going to finish this work so auspiciously begun?

Are we going to transmit it to our successors, and they to their successors, and thus go on for an indefinite time? Or is this work to reach a climax, and come to a finish, with the children of God triumphant and sanctified, ready for the second coming of Christ? I suppose that everyone would have an answer according to his faith; but let us study the question, and see what is our supreme need today.

In the first place, let me say that we can never finish this work simply by the multitude of enterprises that we promote, nor by the amount of money we can gather and use in carrying it forward. We have very strong statements in the word of God concerning how His work must be done. The 127th psalm plainly reveals the foolishness of thinking that we can gauge our success by material things:

"Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so He giveth His beloved sleep."

There is a lesson in this scripture for us. It is always good for us to refresh our minds, lest we forget and look to material things and to man power as evidences that God is with us. We must ever remember that numbers and ma­terial things are not necessarily a sign of spiritual power. The work of God can never be finished simply by numbers of people and large sums of money. We can never, by the use of physical power and material things, by a utilizing of men and management by the wisdom of men, finish God's work. We must have God with us, or we fail. I think we all believe this without argument. Again, we read:

"Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God." Ps. 146:3-5.

Let none say that these scriptures were writ­ten for the ancients, that we have learned how to do better, and they no longer apply to us. Men have never been able, in and of themselves, even by united efforts, to do the work of God. His is a spiritual work, and it can be wrought only by spiritual men and women. Carnal man and material things can never accomplish the work of God.

What is the work of God? I think the work of God is the work of grace performed in the heart of man. It is establishing the kingdom of God in men's hearts. It is not buildings, nor institutions, nor money; it is a spiritual work performed in the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. I wish you to hold that thought in mind, because it is very essential to us that we believe this truth. We must make it primary in our faith that we have God with us, and put all our confidence and faith in Him. We must be consecrated and surrendered to the Holy Spirit, that we may have God with us in the carrying forward of His work.

When the Saviour was here, He talked very definitely to His disciples, and to the church through them, about how He proposed to carry on His work after He went away. He did not leave them in doubt about His methods; but He clearly revealed the whole purpose and plan of His work in the great commission that He gave to His disciples:

"Go ye therefore, and teach ["make disciples, or, Christians of," margin] all nations, baptiz­ing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have com­manded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Matt. 28: 19, 20.

How were these weak, frail, human men to do this mighty work, to evangelize the world? Let us study the question a little. It is related of Christ that in the midst of His ministry, at the very height of His influence and power, —judging by the following that He had at that time,—He was preaching at Jerusalem, and talking in a way that greatly stirred the peo­ple. On the last great day of the feast He stood and cried out:

"If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" John 7:37-39.

We see, then, that the believers were to re­ceive a special endowment, even the Holy Spirit. These "rivers of living water" were to come from the believer, were to be an over­flow when the believer was filled. In the clos­ing chapter of Luke it is related that after Christ's resurrection, during the very last meet­ing with His disciples, He charged: "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be en­dued with power from on high." Luke 24:49. In the first chapter of Acts, which was also written by Luke, the apostle opens up the same question, and quotes Christ as saying (and that thought illuminates what was said in the closing chapter of his Gospel) : "John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." Then he adds: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Sa­maria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:5, 8.

Those are the last recorded words that our Saviour spoke on this earth. And when He had spoken these words, "while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight." What a marvelous sight —to see their Master taken from them! And what a solemn impression must have been made on the disciples, as they pondered the fact that the last word that fell from the Saviour's lips was that they were to receive power after the Holy Ghost had come upon them.

"Tarry . . . until ye be endued with power from on high." This is a very plain command. Even the disciples of Christ—men who had traveled with Him; who had sat by His side, and had listened while He preached; who had seen Him perform His miracles, and heard all that He had to say in explaining His mission to the world, and who were to carry the good news of the gospel to the world—were told to "tarry" until they were endued with heav­enly power. That was their supreme need, as it is ours today. In no other way could they make Christians. And that power was not to come from man, nor through their apostleship, nor from a committee, nor from a convention of men together; it was to come from a Source outside themselves. It was to come "from on high,"

In the gospel it is promised that the church of God may always have the power of the Holy Spirit. We talk about a divine power resting upon the church as a whole in the "latter rain," but how will it ever rest upon the church as a whole if it does not rest upon us as individuals? What is the church of Christ? It is not a thing that we can put our hands on, separate and distinct from men. It is not buildings nor material things. It is not something that we can look at and see. The church is a group of men and women professing the name of Christ; and if the church is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, He must come upon the men and women individually who com­prise the church. I repeat: If we are the men and women of whom the church is composed, the Holy Spirit must come upon us. Isn't that true? I can find nothing in the whole teaching of the word of God but that every member of the church of Christ, individually, each for himself, may receive the Holy Spirit.

* Sermon at Autumn Council, Sabbath, Nov. 3, 1934.


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BY I. H. EVANS

January 1935

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