Maintaining the Spirit of Unity

A personal message from the General Conference President.

J. L.  McElhany

My Dear Fellow Believers Throughout the World:

Greetings in the Lord.

We live in a changing world. We have come into new times and conditions. Individ­uals, peoples, and nations find themselves fac­ing problems that are new and strange. The statesmen and leaders of the nations are greatly perplexed as they endeavor to face the problems of these times. Commercial and political rivalries, and the fear of what others may do, drive the nations of earth either to prepare for, or to engage in, war. As the word of God declares, the nations are angry, and men's hearts are failing them for fear as they look after the things that are coming on the earth. The spirit of peace and good will has largely given place to diScord and hatred. The whole world seems to be driven on help­lessly toward its impending doom.

It is in just such times and conditions as these that God's last message of salvation is to be given to the world. The people of God will not allow the spirit of worldly strife and evil, of discord and bitterness, to rend their ranks and divide them in a time when unity is highly essential. As the peoples of the world grow more unfriendly toward one another, and exhibit less and less of the divine principles of love, the people of God will learn to love one another more and more. This love will be based on the truth of God as revealed in His word, which will become more and more precious to every faithful believer. The hope of Jesus' coming will also become more real, and will bind our hearts closer together.

The truth of Jesus' coming is called in the word of God the "blessed hope." It is, indeed, just such a hope. It is this hope that has brought out and established the Seventh-day Adventist Church throughout the world. The development of such a movement is in itself a fulfillment of prophecy, for the gospel mes­sage was to be proclaimed "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." Rev. 14:6. How wonderfully this scripture has been fulfilled in the preaching of this message. Today we have believers and churches in many lands. If we could hold one universal gather­ing of all our believers throughout the earth, there would thus be brought together repre­sentatives of the principal languages of the world, and of many more languages spoken by a smaller number of people. Such a gather­ing would include representatives of every race of people on earth. Such indeed is the world­wide extent to which the gospel message has been proclaimed today. It is an inspiring thing to know that the believers of this mes­sage are found in every part of the world.

We all have racial and national character­istics and customs. We do not lose our love for homeland or country because of our acceptance of the gospel message of salvation. The principles of this message, received into the heart and lived out in the life, make every believer a better citizen of his homeland, a more honorable subject of his king or ruler. It is the duty of every Christian to pray for his rulers.

It is the studied purpose of the enemy of our souls to bring into our hearts, and cause us to act out, the principles of selfishness and dis­cord and separation. He seeks to destroy the unity that Jesus prayed should exist among His followers, when He besought the Father, "That 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." John 17:21. The witness that the world needs today in order to believe that Jesus was sent to save sinners is that His followers should be a united body. Even though in the world discord and disunity may exist everywhere, even though nations may be separated, even though their interests should clash, even in the midst of violence and con­fusion, the followers of Jesus will love one another and will preserve their unity, regard­less of race or language. We fully expect that in this world, conditions will become more serious. Our opportunities to mingle with our brethren of other countries and languages will be more restricted, but nevertheless every be­liever should maintain in his heart and in the practice of his life the highest regard for the principles of unity.

We are sending this personal appeal to all our believers throughout the world to empha­size the need of 'renewed and fuller expression of unity. As a united body of believers, we must keep step as we advance in the work of God. If we are truly converted to God, we will all work to maintain the spirit of unity. We will not allow our pride of opinion, place, or country, to separate us from our fellow believers in all other parts of the world. When the principles of heaven are received into the life of every believer, all can, without dis­loyalty to native country, maintain peace, good will, and the spirit of unity.

Through the messenger of the Lord there have come to us words of counsel regarding the spirit of unity that should exist among us.

"The union between Christ and His people is to be living, true, and unfailing, resembling the union that exists between the Father and the Son. This union is the fruit of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. All true children of God will reveal to the world their union with Christ and with their brethren. Those in whose hearts Christ abides will bear the fruit of brotherly love. They will realize that as members of God's family they are pledged to culti­vate, cherish, and perpetuate Christian love and fel­lowship, in spirit, words, and action.

"To be children of God, members of the royal family, means more than many suppose. Those who are accounted by God as His children will reveal Christlike love for one another. They will live and work for one object,—the proper representation of Christ to the world. By their love and unity they will show to the world that they bear the divine credentials. By the nobility of love and self-denial, they will show those around them that they are true followers of the Saviour. 'By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another. . . .

"The Spirit of Christ never leads those of the same faith to separate into distinct, independent parties. When such a separation takes place, an im­pression exactly opposite from that which Christ prayed, is given to the world."—General Conference Bulletin, Vol. III, No 7, pp. 154-156 (1900).

The "blessed hope" creates a precious fel­lowship and unity that all the clashing ele­ments of this world cannot destroy. We con­fidently believe that this appeal to all our believers throughout the world will meet a hearty response from every one. Let us culti­vate and cherish this bond of unity, and thus fulfill the prayer of Christ "that they all may be one."

Praying that God's rich blessings may be upon you, and may abide with you all, I re­main, with Christian greetings,

Your fellow servant,

J. L. McElhany.

The Unity of the Advent Movement

As God "hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth," and as the Scriptures admonish the people of God, "Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, for­bearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," for there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all," that through Christ we all "have access by one Spirit unto the Father," and "are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone ;" and,

Remembering the words of the Lord Jesus as He prayed to His Father on behalf of His followers that "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 ;" and,

Being conscious that the days in which we live are solemn and portentous, and that as Satan sees the end approaching, he is working with increasing wrath in an attempt to confuse the people of God, it behooves the advent leaders and church members the world around—united in the blessed hope of the third angel's message—so to press together in co­operative planning and unselfish service as to present to the world an unbroken front.

(1938 Autumn Council Action)

As representatives of the advent movement in Autumn Council, assembled in Battle Creek, Michi­gan, we therefore consecrate our lives afresh in join hands service and unanimously and earnestly hands and hearts in a spirit of unity with our faithful workers and church members throughout the world. At no time in the history of humanity has there been so great a need for harmony and cooperation among God's professed people, as in this closing momentous hour. To this end,

We recommend, 1. That a suitable statement on maintaining the unity of the advent movement be addressed by the president of the General Conference to the advent believers in all the world.

2. That from time to time special articles dealing with the world-wide aspects of the advent message be prepared by workers of the General, division, union, and local conferences, for publication in our church papers throughout the world field.

3. That the editors of the various church papers be given opportunity of attending editors' councils, as may be arranged, where consideration shall be given to more effective education of church members through the medium of our publications in main­taining the unity of our world-wide work.

4. That the controlling committees of conferences and institutions send promising workers, as they may be able to arrange, to the Theological Seminary for one or more terms of study.

5. That the importance of unity and the great principles which underlie it be emphasized by our union and local conference and mission representa­tives as they visit churches and attend district meet­ings from time to time.

6. That our missionaries and workers who labor in or visit countries other than their homelands endeavor by all means to lead our believers to a fuller understanding of the world-wide scope and unity of the advent movement, and that with this in view, such workers exercise particular care in making reference to their homelands, so as to avoid comparisons which might in any way harm the true spirit of fellowship and brotherhood.

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J. L.  McElhany

February 1939

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