For many years it has been felt that there was a great need of uniformity in the matter of receiving persons into the fellowship of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In the early days of our work, when all the leaders were able to keep in close touch with one another, it was not difficult, even without a definite outline of questions to be asked candidates, to maintain a certain degree of uniformity in the requirements that were made of prospective candidates for baptism and church membership.
But times and conditions have changed. Our work has extended not only throughout all sections of North America, but to all parts of the world. The number of ministers and local church elders has been multiplied manyfold. In some eight hundred languages and dialects, people are coming into the church. And workers recruited from these languages are endeavoring, often without sufficient guidance, to apply our church standards to those who request membership in our churches.
With a work thus spread throughout the earth, it is obviously impossible to maintain uniformity in applying our church standards when receiving new members, without some definite guide for our church leaders. Even in the great home bases like North America and Europe, it is found that there is an alarming lack of such uniformity in these matters. A minister or a local elder may feel that he should require candidates to promise adherence to this or that tenet, or practice, or objective, whereas others do not consider those special points as tests of fellowship, and they omit them from their examination of candidates.
This lack of uniformity, and the absence of any authoritative guide, have resulted in each church elder and minister setting up his own tests of fellowship. Thus the tests applied by one are different from those applied by another. One requires incoming members to promise full participation in church missionary activities such as Ingathering, Big Week, etc. Another prepares a set of questions that deal with minute details of what the new members shall eat, drink, and wear. Tests which the church has never set up are often applied by men who are not fully informed regarding established church standards.* Many points of Bible instruction on Christian experience, missionary activity, support of Christian education, etc., are to be taught prospective candidates, but obviously many of these matters do not constitute tests of fellowship that are to be applied to those who request baptism and membership.
There are many questions concerning present truth upon which all those contemplating baptism and church membership should be thoroughly instructed. Yet these matters should always remain on the basis of education, persuasion, and individual conscience. In other words, not all that we as a people believe and teach has been incorporated into what is known among us as tests of fellowship, which tests must be satisfactorily passed by those who apply for membership in our church.
Realizing the absolute need for an authoritative guide in this matter, the 1941 General Conference session provided for the appointment of a committee which was charged with the responsibility of preparing a baptismal covenant for general use by all those who may be called upon to examine candidates for baptism and church membership. This committee reported at the recent Autumn Council, and their report was adopted as follows :
Whereas, It is of the utmost importance to the future of our work that a uniform plan be followed in the matter of preparing and examining candidates for baptism and church membership,
We recommend, 1. That the following baptismal vow be adopted, and that all ministers and church elders be urged to carefully follow the same in examining those who apply for membership in the church.
2. That the attached Certificate of Baptism, and Summary of Fundamental Beliefs, be printed with the baptismal vow, and that a copy be filled out and furnished to all those who are accepted for baptism and church membership.
[The attractive certificate front page of the four-page leaflet appears on page 47, and is therefore omitted here.]
Summary of Fundamental Beliefs
1. The true and living God, the first person of the Godhead, is our heavenly Father, and by His Son, Christ Jesus, created all things. Matt. 28:18, 19 ; 1 Cor. 8 :5, 6; Eph. 3 :9 ; Jer. 10 :10-12 ; Heb. 1 :1-3 ; Acts 17 :22-29 ; Col. I :16-18.
2. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Godhead, and the eternal Son of God, is the only Saviour from sin; and man's salvation is by grace through faith in Him. Matt. 28 :18,19; John 3 :16 ; Micah 5 :2. Cf. Matt. 1 :21; 2:5, 6; Acts 4 :12 ; John 5:11, 12 ; Eph. I :9-15 ; 2 :4-8 ; Rom. 3:23-26.
3. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, is Christ's representative on earth, and leads sinners to repentance and to obedience of all God's requirements. Matt. 28:18, 19 ; John 14 :26 ; 15:26; 16 :7-15 ; Rom. 8 :1-10; Eph. 4:30.
4. Through Christ, believers receive forgiveness of sins which are forsaken and confessed, and for which, as far as lies in their power, restitution is made. Eph. i :7; Col. I 14, 15; i John 1 7-9 Isa. 55:6, 7; Eze. 33:15 ; Matt. 5 :23, 24; 6:14, 15.
5. The Bible is God's inspired word, and is the full, sufficient, and only basic rule of faith and practice. 2 Tim. 3 :15-17 ; 2 Peter r :19-21 ; Ps. 119 ;9, 11, 105, 130; I Thess. 2:13 ; Isa. 8 :20 ; Jer. 15 :16 ; Heb, 4:12.
6. All who enter the kingdom of heaven must experience conversion, or the new birth, through which man receives a new heart and becomes a new creature. Matt. 18 :3; John 3 :3; 2 Cor. 5 :17 ; Eze. 36:26, 27; Heb. 8 :10-12 ; 1 Peter 1:23 ; 22.
7. Christ dwells in the regenerate heart, writing upon it the principles of God's law, leading the believer to delight to obey its precepts, and imparting power for such obedience. 2 Cor. 6 :16 ; Ps. 40 :8 ; Heb. 8:I0-I2 John 14 :15 ; Col. 1 :27 ; 3 :16 ; Gal. 2 :20 ; Eph. 3:14-21.
8. Upon His ascension, Christ began His ministry as High Priest in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, which sanctuary is the antitype of the earthly tabernacle of the former dispensation. As in the type, a work of investigative judgment began as Christ entered the second phase of His ministry, in the most holy place, foreshadowed in the eartlfly service by the Day of Atonement. This work of the investigative judgment in the heavenly sanctuary began in 1844, at the close of the 2300 years, and will end with the close of probation. Heb. 4 : 4 ; 8 :1, 2; Lev. 16 :21- 29; Heb. 9 :23, 24; Dan. 8 :14 ; 9 :24-27 ; Rev. 14:6, 7; 22:11.
9. The second coming of Christ is the hope of the church, the climax of the gospel, and the goal of the plan of redemption, when Jesus will come literally, personally, and visibly, with all His holy angels. Many signs of the times testify that His coming is at hand. And the almost complete fulfillment of all the various lines of prophecy indicate that "He is near, even at the doors." John 14:1-3; Titus 2 :11-14 ; Heb. 9 :28 ; Acts 1:9-11; Rev. 1:7 ; Matt. 25 :31 ; Luke 9 :26 ; 21 :25-33; Matt, 24:14, 36-39, 33 (margin).
10. The righteous dead will be raised to life at Christ's second advent.Together with the righteous living, they will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and will go with Him to heaven, there to spend the r,000 years known as the millennium. Rev. 1 :18 ; John 5 :25, 28, 29; Hosea 13:14 ;1 Cor. 15 :51-55 ; 1 Thess. 4 :13-18 ; John 11:24, 25; 141-3 ; Rev. 20:6, 4, 5; Isa. 25:8, 9.
11. The wicked who are living at the time of Christ's second advent will be slain by the brightness of His coming. These, with the wicked dead of all ages, will await the second resurrection, at the close of the 1,000 years. 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 2 :8 ; Jude 14, 15; Rev. 20:5, 12, 15; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24 :15 ; Isa. 24:21, 22.
12. At the end of the 1,000 years, the following events will take place : (a) Christ and the righteous will descend from heaven, within the Holy City, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21 :20) ; (6) the wicked dead will be resurrected for final judgment (Rev. 20:11, 12); (c) the wicked will receive the final wages of sin when fire comes down from God out of heaven to consume them (Rev. 20:7-10, 14, 15) ; and (d) this fire, which destroys the works of sin, will purify the earth. 2 Peter 3 :10-14 ; Mal. 4: I, 3; Rev. 20:8, 4.
13. The earth, cleansed by fire and renewed by the power of God, will become the eternal home of the redeemed. 2 Peter 3 :9-13 ; Isa. 65 :17-25; 35 :1-10; 45 :18; Matt. 5 :5 ; Mal. 4 :1-3 ; Prov. II :31.
14. The seventh day of the week is the eternal sign of Christ's power as Creator and Redeemer, and is therefore the Lord's day, or the Christian Sabbath, constituting the seal of the living God. It should be observed from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. Gen. 2 :1-3 ; Ex. 20 :8-II ; John 1 :1-3, 14; Eze. 20:12, 20; Mark 2 :27, 28; Isa. 58 :13 ; Luke 4 :16 ; 23 :54-56 ; 24 ; Acts 17 :2 ; Heb. 4 :9-it ; Isa. 66:22, 23; Lev. 23 :32. Cf. Mark I :21-32; Ex. 16 :23-31.
15. The tithe is holy unto the Lord, and is God's provision for the support of His ministry. Free-will offerings are also a part of God's plan for the support of His work throughout the world. Lev. 27 :30-32 ; Mal. 3 :8-12; Num 18 :20-28; Matt 23 :23 ; Prov. 3:9, to; I Cor. 9:13, 14; 2 Cor. 9 :6,7; Ps. 96 :8.
16. Immortality comes only through the gospel, and is bestowed as a gift from God at Christ's second coming. 1 Cor, 15 :21, 22, 51-55; Ps. 146 :3, 4; Ecel. 9 :5, 6, to ; 1 Tim. 6:15, 16; 2 Tim. :10 ; John 5 :II, 12.
17. The condition of man in death is one of unconsciousness. All men, good and evil alike, remain in the grave from death to the resurrection. Eccl. 9:5, 6; Ps. 146 :3, 4; 115 :17; Job 14:10-12, 21, 22; 17:13; John 11:11-14; I Thess. 4 :13 ; John 5 :28, 29.
18. The Christian is called unto sanctification, and his life should be characterized by carefulness in deportment, and modesty and simplicity in dress. Thess. 4:3, 7; 523 ; 3 :13 ; I Peter 2 :21 ; 3:15, 3-5; Isa. 3 :16-24 ; I cor. 10:31 ; I Tim. 2:9, 10.
19. The Christian should recognize his body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore he should honor God by caring for his body, abstaining from such things as alcoholic beverages, tobacco in all its forms, and from all unclean foods. 1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 6:19, 20; 9:25; 10:31; 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 5:17-21; 6:7, 8; i Peter 2:9-12; 1 Cor. 10:1-11; Lev. 11:1-8.
20. The church is to come behind in no spiritual gift, and the presence of the gift of the Spirit of prophecy is to be one of the identifying marks of the remnant church. Seventh-day Adventists recognize its manifestation in the work of Ellen G. White. 1 Cor. 12 :I-28 ; Eph. 5 :11-16 ; 1 Cor. 1 :4-18 ; Rev. 12 :17 ; 19:10; Amos 3 :7 ; Hosea 12:10, 13.
21. The Bible teaches a definite church organization. The members of this organization are under sacred obligation to be subject thereunto, loyally to support it, and to share in its maintenance. They are admonished not to forsake the assembling of themselves together. Matt. 16 :16-18; Eph. 2 :19-22 ; I :10-23 ; I Cor. 14:33, 40; Titus 1 :5-9 ; Matt. 18 :15-18 ; 1 Cor. 12 :12-28 ; 16 :1-3 ; Heb. 10 :25 ; Acts 4 :32-35 ; 6:1-7.
22. Baptism by immersion typifies the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and openly expresses faith in His saving grace, and the renunciation of sin and the world, and is recognized as a condition of entrance into church membership. Matt. 28 :19 ; 3:13-17; Acts 2:38, 41-47; 8 :35-39 ; 16:32, 33; 22 :16 ; Rom. 6 :11 ; Gal. 3 :27 ; Col. 3 :1-3.
23. The ordinance of the Lord's supper commemorates the Saviour's death ; and participation by members of the body is essential to Christian growth and fellowship. It is to be preceded by the ordinance of foot washing as a preparation for this solemn service. Matt. 26 :26-292. 1 Cor. II :23-26; John 6:48-56; 13 :1-17 ; 1 Cor. 11: 27-30.
23. In the Christian life there is complete separation from worldly practices, such as card playing, theatergoing, dancing, etc., which tend to deaden and destroy the spiritual life. 2 Cor. 6 :15-18 ; 1 John 2 :15-17 ; James 4 :4 ; 2 Tim. 2 :19-22 ; Eph. 5 :8-11;Col. 3:5-10.
24. Through the study of the Word, God speaks to us, imparting light and strength, and through prayer the soul is united with God. These are Heaven's ordained means for obtaining victory in the conflict with sin, and for the development of Christian character. Ps. 19 :130 ; 19:7, 8; John 6 :63; 17 :17 ; 1 Peter 2 :2 ; 1 Thess. 5:17 ; Luke 18:1 ; Ps. 55 :17 ; Isa. 50 :4.
25. Every church member is under sacred command from Jesus to use his talents in personal soul-winning work in helping to give the gospel to all the world. When this work is finished, Jesus will come. Matt. 28 :18-20; 25 :14-29 ; Rev. 22 :17 ; Isa. 43 :10-12 ; 2 CM 5 :17-20 ; Rom. 10:13-15 ; Matt. 24:14.
26. In accordance with God's uniform dealing with mankind, warning them of coming events which will vitally affect their destiny, He has sent forth a proclamation of the approaching return of Christ. This preparatory message is symbolized by the three angels' messages of Revelation 14 ; and meets its fulfillment in the great second advent movement today. This has brought forth the remnant, or Seventh-day Adventist Church, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Amos 3 :7; Matt. 24:29-34 ; Rev. 14 :6-10 ; Zeph. 3 :13 ; Micah 4 :7, 8 ; Rev. 14 :12 ; Isa. 26 :2 ; Rev. 22:14.
Note.—The following questions should be answered in the affirmative before the church by candidates for baptism.
I. Do you believe in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit ?
2. Do you accept the death of Jesus Christ, on Calvary, as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of men, and believe that through faith in His shed blood men are saved from sin and its penalty ?
3. Renouncing the world and its sinful ways, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, and do you believe that God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven your sins, and given you a new heart?
4. Do you accept by faith the righteousness of Christ, recognizing Him as your Intercessor in the heavenly sanctuary, and do you claim His promise to strengthen you by His indwelling Spirit, so that you may receive power to do His will?
5. Do you believe the Bible to be God's inspired word, and that it constitutes the only rule of faith and practice for the Christian?
6. Do you accept the ten commandments as still binding upon Christians;and is it your purpose, by the power of the indwelling Christ, to keep this law, including the fourth commandment, which requires the observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath of the Lord.
7. Knowing and understanding the fundamental Bible principles as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is it your purpose, by God's grace, to order your life in harmony with these principles?
8. Is the soon coming of Jesus "a blessed hope' in your heart, and is it your settled determination to prepare to meet Him in peace, as well as to help, others to get ready for His coming?
9. Do you believe in church organization, and is it your purpose to support the church by your personal effort, means, and influence?
10. Do you accept the New Testament teaching of baptism by immersion, and do you desire to be so baptized as a public expression of your faith in the forgiveness of your sins and of acceptance with Christ?
11. Do you believe that the Seventh-day Adventist Church constitutes the remnant church, and do you desire to be accepted into its membership ?
Note.—After the candidates have satisfactorily answered the foregoing questions, the church body should be asked to vote their acceptance into the church, subject to baptism, which ordinance should not be unduly delayed, and this should, be followed by the right hand of fellowship and a few words of welcome.
The General Conference has arranged for the printing of this baptismal vow, together with the summary of our faith and a baptismal certificate, in convenient form with perforated stubs, for record purposes. These will soon become available to all the field. It is sincerely hoped that this outline will be strictly followed by all our ministers and church elders throughout the world, and that thus uniformity may be obtained in the matter of receiving new members into our churches.
* The action concerning individual church standards, passed at the General Conference session in San Francisco on June 14, 1941, together with the covering statement by the chairman of the committee will
appear in the March Ministry.