NEITHER pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they may all 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 17:20, 21).
These words in Christ's prayer constitute His appeal to the Father for Himself, for His disciples with whom He had been so closely associated, and for His people to the end of time.
Here Jesus states very clearly and emphatically the purpose for which He came into the world, the object of His public ministry and His atoning sacrifice. He makes it known that in purpose, though not in act, He had finished the work that the Father had given Him to do. A very few hours stood between Him and the cross upon which He was to expiate the sins of the world. Therefore He could say, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4).
This prayer of our blessed Lord is an all-inclusive prayer. It included not only intercession for His immediate disciples but for all His people, including us, whom the Father had given Him. Before Christ came into the world He had received authority from the Father to be the mediator for the whole human race. For He "lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him" (John 17:1, 2).
Christ was about to leave this world, and He knew the dangers to which His disciples would be exposed. The work that He had done was to be carried on by His followers, and so He prays to the Father for them. He prays that their joy may not decrease as they approach the time of His departure.
He, the Son of God, had come to this world clothed in the garb of humanity and had shared in all the experiences of mankind. He knew the frailties of the human flesh and He prayed that His people, though living in the world, might be kept from taking on the evil ways of the world. He "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).
We read from the pen of inspiration that "the only-begotten Son of God took upon Him the nature of man, and established His cross between earth and heaven. Through the cross, man was drawn to God, and God to man. Justice moved from its high and awful position, and the heavenly hosts, the armies of holiness, drew near to the cross, bowing with reverence; for at the cross justice was satisfied. Through the cross the sinner was drawn from the stronghold of sin, from the confederacy of evil, and at every approach to the cross his heart relents and in penitence he cries, 'It was my sins that crucified the Son of God.' At the cross he leaves his sins, and through the grace of Christ his character is transformed. The Redeemer raises the sinner from the dust, and places him under the guidancy of the Holy Spirit."— Signs of the Times, June 5, 1893. The sinner becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus and must recognize that he now lives and works under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In one sentence Jesus in His prayer expressed to His Father all that He hoped to accomplish by His atoning sacrifice. Not alone that they may be saved, but "that they all may be one." The purpose of this oneness was that the world may believe that Christ, the One equal with the Father, had been sent into the world to rescue fallen man and to give him "the example of a sinless life."—The Desire of Ages, p. 49.
The servant of the Lord says, "God designs that His people shall be a unit, that they shall see eye to eye and be of the same mind and of the same judgment. This cannot be accomplished without a clear, pointed, living testimony in the church. The prayer of Christ was that His disciples might be one as He was one with His Father."—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 361.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13, 27, the church is represented as a body with Christ as its head, and all the different individuals are members. Jesus petitioned the Father that "the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me" (John 17:22, 23).
Such a union brings all men together in Christ because they have each been renovated by the Holy Spirit and have had created within them a new heart and a new nature. The regenerating power of God provides man with a new heart that will produce in him a new way of life.
The object of the church is to make the saving knowledge of Christ known to all men. The effect of the power of the gospel is to be seen in the lives of the members of the body of Christ. When one becomes a follower of Christ he immediately sets out to learn the new technique of living, the oneness that is to exist in the family of God. The converted man enters into a new quality of living, for now he is not merely to live for Christ but to proclaim the gospel of Christ's kingdom to all the peoples of the world. He is a new creature in Christ Jesus.
He is no longer circumscribed by his earthborn family ties, or the racial idiosyncrasies with which he was born, but he has been born again, and now with the kingdom of God within him he knows no barriers of race, class, or color. He is now a member of God's family, which is made up of born-again men and women gathered together out of all the races of earth.
A message to God's people states that "all who would receive Christ by faith were united to Him by a tie closer than that of human kinship."—The Desire of Ages, p. 325. Again the servant of the Lord says, "The children of God, the world over, are one great brotherhood."—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 52. "We are one great brotherhood, and the welfare of our fellow men should be our great interest. We have not one moment to lose. If we have been careless in this matter, it is high time we were now in earnest to redeem the time, lest the blood of souls be found on our garments. As children of God, none of us are excused from taking a part in the great work of Christ in the salvation of our fellow men."—Ibid., p. 209.
In Gospel Workers, page 331, we read: "In the human brotherhood it takes all kinds of talents to make a perfect whole; and the church of Christ is composed of men and women of varied talents, and of all ranks and all classes. God never designed that the pride of men should dissolve that which His own wisdom had ordained,—the combination of all classes of minds, of all the varied talents that make a complete whole. There should be no depreciating of any part of God's great work, whether the agencies are high or lowly. All have their part to act in diffusing light in different degrees."
Man's relationship with God can never be divorced from his relationship with his fellow man. This principle is found in all the teachings of the Bible. The Royal Standard of God's great government in heaven and on earth is based on man's loyalty to God and his love for his fellow man. This principle is enunciated in the Ten Commandments. In 1 John 4:21 we read: "And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also."
Jesus identified Himself with the human race when He made His first advent into the world. We are told that "with His human arm, Christ encircled the race, while with His divine arm, He grasped the throne of the Infinite, uniting finite man with the infinite God. He bridged the gulf that sin had made, and connected earth with heaven. In His human nature He maintained the purity of His divine character." —Ellen G. White in The Youth's Instructor, June 2, 1898.
God still loves the world and Christ still intercedes for mankind. It is that same divine principle of love for God and for our fellow man that God longs to implant in the human heart. Christ appealed to the Father "that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26).
It is this divine love principle that expels hatred, ignorance, and the estrangement that may exist among mankind. It is this that enthrones Christ in the heart and life and draws from the Father the same affection and care that He cherishes for His well-beloved Son. It is the love of God that binds His people together as a unit, that all men may know that Christ was sent into the world to bridge the gulf that sin had made between man and God.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has come to the most challenging hour in the history of the human race. The discordant elements in the world have produced a wave of distrust, of fear, and even of hate among the masses of earth's population.
The church of Jesus Christ must hold high the banner of love and of togetherness in these times of disaffection, of disintegration, and of pulling apart. God's people in these days must "press together" toward the completion of a world task.
The church is made up of all races and classes with varied opinions and human desires, but the church does not operate on the opinions of men, but after the order of God. In all things we yield to Him who is the author and finisher of our faith.
This is no time for the exhibition of human prejudices, nor of faultfinding and criticizing because of any weaknesses that there may be in the church.
We are to get on with the work of soul-saving. Anyone who is not in the soul-saving business is not engaged in the work of God. We must all work together to build up the church of God, not segregate ourselves into little groups and do or say anything that would tend to destroy the influence of the church. We must desist from operating any program that tells the world we are not a unit, that we do not possess the oneness for which Christ prayed that His people should have. Neither should anyone have cause to point us out as being a people who are unskilled in manifesting the love of God, or unschooled in the meaning of the Fatherhood of God or the brotherhood of man.
I do not urge the leaders of the church to cater to my feelings or opinions simply because I represent another race, but I do call upon all to do the right thing because the right thing is the Christian thing to do. Now is the time to examine our former attitudes and methods to see if they harmonize with the changing times in which we now live.
The servant of the Lord says, " 'It is the very essence of all right faith ... to do the right thing at the right time.'"—Life Sketches, p. 380.
Today I speak not only for myself, but for the leaders of the Regional work, both of the administrative group and of the working force in general. We, together with God's leaders of every clime, have a deep sense of gratitude in our hearts that the Father has given us into the hands of His Son, and in times like these we are exceedingly happy to be Seventh-day Advent-ists.
I have been working with our membership for a long time, and I can truthfully say that the rank and file of our members are loyal to this cause and their grave concern above every other interest is in being ready for the coming of Jesus.
As defective as the church may be, our people know that God has founded it, He is the Pilot who will guide her safely into the harbor.
As leaders we are not unmindful of the fact that there have been, and still are, some discouraging conditions that face us, but instead of spending time rehearsing the evils of the past and brooding over the unlovely things of the present, we are rejoicing over the wonderful progress that this church has made in human relations, and we look forward to the future with renewed hope and confidence.
Forty-three years ago, when there were but 3,500 members in the North American Negro Department, the General Conference in session chose a Negro to head the department. He became a member of the General Conference Executive Committee. Today there are six men of color who are members of the General Conference Committee, four of whom are working at the headquarters here in Takoma Park. That is progress.
Here at the General Conference headquarters, Dr. Natelkka Burrell, a specialist in elementary education, is working under the direction of the Department of Education, assisting in the preparation of elementary textbooks for all the elementary school children of the church. Is not this progress?
In some of our conferences the church schools and academies have been integrated, and all of our colleges except two are accepting colored students without causing them any embarrassment. I see the day approaching when the world will no longer say that the only segregated schools in this city or that city are the ones operated by Seventh-day Adventists.
To my knowledge there is one colored teacher in an integrated church school and two at the present time are on the teaching staffs in two of our integrated colleges.
Elder E. E. Cleveland has been invited to workers' meetings in practically every local conference in North America, and in both the North and the South he has conducted evangelistic workshops. He is invited to these meetings because of the excellent help he can give the workers. In each of the two unions in the South and Southwest there have been held and will be held union-wide workers' meetings and youth congresses. At one such congress a white church chose one of their colored members as a delegate. That is real progress.
Several of our colored ministers have been invited to preach to our white congregations, and our white pastors are always welcome to our Regional church pulpits.
Some of us have been invited as guest speakers at white camp meetings. God has blessed in this association. Last summer it was my privilege to spend a weekend at the Minnesota camp meeting, and we had a wonderful time.
This morning if I were speaking by the calendar, and not according to the clock, I could go on and on in telling of the progress that has been made in this denomination toward demonstrating the oneness that is rapidly developing in this world church. I could tell you of the wonderful growth that is being made by our Regional conferences, into which hundreds of souls are being brought to Christ yearly. These conferences are magnificently fulfilling the purpose for which they were organized. God was in the plan of their organization and He is leading His workmen. Since their organization there has been a better and closer working relationship between all classes than ever before. There is now a real feeling of belonging.
We believe that the Seventh-day Advent-ist Church is coming more and more under the pressure of God's love. Satan is counterattacking with all his might, but the people of God are becoming so closely-united in finishing God's program that the casualties of the enemy of souls are very few.
While we know that a revival and a reformation is the great need of the church we do not expect the leaders of this church to do for human beings that which God alone by the influence of the Holy Spirit can do.
We believe that the recommendations on human relations that have been passed by this council will mean much toward bringing about greater unity among the members of this denomination. They know that somewhere, sometime there is to be an upper room experience. They know that sometime, somewhere, the power of the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon God's church in more copious showers than ever before.
It was when the disciples in the upper room were of one accord and in one place that the Holy Spirit came upon them and they went forth to proclaim the gospel with greater power.
We know that the signs of the times tell us that the coming of Christ is near, even at the door. There must not be allowed to come in among us any divisions from any part of the world field. Thank God today we are not divided; all one body are we.
May we all go from this great council so deeply immersed in the love of God, that we shall all see eye to eye and shall all speak the same thing, that the world may take note that "God, who is rich in mercy . . . hath quickened us together with Christ, . . . and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-6).
We believe in the ultimate triumph of the gospel. We believe that God has entrusted this people with the work of reconciliation, and that God is gathering out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people a new nation that will honor and obey Him and the world will know that we are one. We believe that in these times, when the climate of the world has changed, that the Advent people will demonstrate to the world that we are all bound together by the cords of God's love. Then the petition of Christ will be answered: "That they all may be one; . . . that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." "Even so have I also sent them into the world."