SALVATION UNLIMITED    by Edward Heppenstall


10
ONE
FAITHó
ONE MISSION


THE CHRISTIAN mission is the mission of Jesus Christ. It is identified with our Lordís purpose in coming into the world:

There is one body and one Spirit, as there is also one hope held out in Godís call to you; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Eph. 4:4-6, N.E.B.).

Christí s mission was unique, incomparable to anything seen or communicated in the world before or since. It involved all members of the Godhead for the redemption of sinners. The honor of God throughout the universe was at stake. The final eradication of sin and the reign of righteousness depended upon the life and work of Jesus Christ.

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19: 10).

I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world (John 12:46, 47).

The object of Godís redeeming love is the world (see John 3:16). The whole world is ruined and lost by sin and death. This problem has not been resolved by the golden ages of human greatness. The saving power of the everlasting gospel transcends all human effort and human organization. Christ is the supreme saving dynamic from God. The gospel is not to be interpreted as social improvement, however important that may appear to men. Godís supreme action in and through His Son. Jesus Christ, does not permit us to shift the gospel emphasis to human improvement.

But Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that is Godís own proof of his love towards us. And so, since we have now been justified by Christís sacrificial death, we shall all the more certainly be saved through him from final retribution. For if, when we were Godís enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. But that is not all: we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus, through whom we have now been granted reconciliation (Rom. 5:8-11, N.E.B.).

The central feature of Christianity is the redemption of man through the righteousness of Christ and His sacrificial death, appropriated and received by faith. The most persistent and disturbing truth regarding the natural man is that he stands hopelessly lost as a condemned sinner before God, unless some message and some power from beyond himself come to his rescue.

The Mission Assigned

Christ has commissioned His church with the message to win men to Him, to acknowledge Him as the worldís Saviour and Lord. After His resurrection and before His final departure from the world, Christ commissioned His disciples to take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

Jesus then came up and spoke to them. He said: "Full authority in heaven and on earth has been committed to me. Go forth therefore and make all nations my disciples; baptize men everywhere in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. And be assured, I am with YOU always, to the end of time" (Matt. 28:18-20, N.E.B.).

The disciples clearly understood their divine mission to the world. They were the chosen instruments to carry the message of redemption to all men and to win the world for Christ. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon them for the specific purpose of empowering them to take the gospel to all the world. Nothing else was to claim their attention. With this in mind Christ proclaimed His followers to be the "salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:13, 14). A vast harvest of redeemed persons would result, bringing about the kingdom of God.

Thus all Christians share in the obligation and the power of Christís mission. The church is a living body through which Christ lives and works. No other organized body of men can make this claim. Any interpretation of the Christian faith that finds in social, civil, and national improvement the fulfillment of Godís purpose does injustice to the gospel and leaves man in a lost condition. Manís salvation and recovery are bound up with the gospel. God does not make the best efforts of men the instruments of His grace and love for man. The gospel commission is Christ-centered, not man-centered. To enlist people in social work is not necessarily to enlist them for Christ. It is possible to do successful social and civic work and yet leave men alienated from God.

What then is the relation of the gospel commission to the problems of society and of mankind? Of all peoples, Christians should have the greatest compassion for all men, manifested in works of unselfish sacrifice, social and health service. No Christian can remain indifferent to the injustice done to the peoples of the world. The churchís witness to the saving power of the gospel is not incompatible with the removal of the evils of society. The gospel is relevant to every human situation. Christ died for the world. The church must not retreat from it. But the church is not to be satisfied with temporal solutions. What is crucial is the supernatural power to change individuals. The church must recognize its priorities.

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:31-33).

The social gospel has much to commend it to popular favor. It affects a high degree of respectability. It possesses social and moral influence. Wherever man rules with justice and compassion, great benefits accrue to man. We accept with gratitude all the efforts of men to rule the nations well. We have a deep appreciation for earnest people, moved by compassion for the masses of suffering and oppressed humanity, who devote their lives that men may be lifted to a better plane of living on the earth.

But social salvation is a rather meaningless term, for there is no real salvation by such means. Human improvement on any level is but a side issue to the paramount one. It may answer for social growth, but it has no adequate conception of the sinfulness of sin, the lost condition of men, and what it takes to be saved. Human endeavor to establish a millennium of peace and prosperity fails to understand and deal with manís basic problem: his sin and consequent separation from God.

There is danger in thinking that the root of manís problems is not in manís sinful nature, but in his poor environment; that given a the application of the increased skill and wisdom of men, a new world order may be established. The bearing of this question upon the work of the church is crucial. The inevitable tendency of any theory and practiceósocial, political, or internationalóthat places man at the center of his world must end with the rejection of Christ.

To believe that sinful man will triumph over his selfishness and reach a millennium of peace has no Bible support whatsoever. The very facts of world conditions and trends are contrary to that belief. The spirit of evil is becoming dominant throughout the world. Christ compared our day to the days prior to the destruction of the world by the Flood.

"Heaven and earth will pass away; my words will never pass away. . . . As things were in Noahís days, so will they be when the Son of Man comes. In the days before the flood they ate and drank and married, until the day that Noah went into the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away. That is how it will be when the Son of Man comes (Matt. 24:35-39, N.E.B.).

Our Lord treated all earthly matters, public and political, from a spiritual viewpoint. He was not entangled in them, though He was aware of them. He came to bring and establish the kingdom of God. The fundamental element in Christianity is the love of God for individual sinners. This lies at the basis of all divine activity for man. On this alone depends the good of society and of the individual. Christ belongs to all time. Amid a world tottering to its ruin, His message offers the one way of redemption and ultimate triumph. The church is not interested in either white or black supremacy, but in Christ supremacy. We seek the enthronement of Christ on earth and not the rule of man. Until sin and self are uprooted and Christ placed at the center of life, there is no way to make better men and women.

It is possible to join an organization for the improvement of working and living conditions and still remain outside of Christ. Within the organized groups of both social and civil efforts there is a clear delusion as to the nature of the change taking place. Such efforts cannot change man any more than "the Ethiopian [can] change his skin or the leopard his spots" (Jer. 13:23). The social gospel presents a false perspective. Group pressure interests men in social adjustments rather than in heart righteousness, in outward conformity rather than in an inner change, in temporal betterment rather than eternal wellbeing. It is preoccupied with the benefits of this life and forgetful of oneís eternal destiny. Its objectives are good, but it asserts the autonomy of man, which is consequently followed by independence from God. No basic changes can take place until the sinner returns home to his heavenly Father.

The spiritual problems of men are of first consequence. Each man needs above all personally to be reconciled to God. To condemn the learned and devoted efforts of men to improve world conditions would be wrong. We believe in the sincerity and concern of many who seek a better world. The question is not to deny the temporal value of such efforts, but to question the outcomeówhether they leave men in their sins. The Bible declares that world civilization cannot be saved. Only individuals can.

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:22, 23).

The God of heaven [shall] set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever (Dan. 2:44).

The Mission Completed

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.... Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:6, 7, 12).

The final gospel message to the world summons the remnant church to a mighty spiritual conflict, but not to a doubtful one. The time for the triumph of the everlasting gospel is near. The church of God anticipates and proclaims the triumph of the coming Son of God. From His priestly throne in the heavenly sanctuary Christ administers redemption and judgment. He directs the affairs and movements of His church to a final consummation, to certain and eternal victory.

Over against our High Priest and King there stands the prince of darkness. He is called the prince of this world. He also has a kingdom and agents through which he rules with demonic power over his subjects. Scripture declares that the great enemy of Christ and of His church is combining his forces for a last assault upon Godís truth and Godís people.

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 12:17).

In these last days God has not left Himself without a witness. Two things are said of Godís remnant church: She keeps the commandments of God and has the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Central to the divine mission of the remnant church are the great truths of the Word of God. They include the following: the personal Being and nature of God, the Creation of this world, the nature of man, his Fall and depravity, the nature of Christ the God-man, the Bible as the Word of God, the nature and work of the Holy Spirit, righteousness by faith alone, the law of God and the obedience of faith, the mortality of man, and the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

The remnant churchís view of the future of the world in terms of the imminent return of Christ is of incalculable importance to the way its members order their lives and the mission of the church itself. What right has any church to assume that its mission is to proclaim Godís last message to the world? The day of commitment to the whole truth of Godís Word is here. With the spread of religious revivals and claims of encounters with the supernatural, how are religious people to know what is true and what is false?

The people of God are directed to the Scriptures as their safeguard against the influence of false teachers and the delusive power of spirits of darkness. Satan employs every possible device to prevent men from obtaining a knowledge of the Bible; for its plain utterances reveal his deceptions. At every revival of Godís work the prince of evil is aroused to more intense activity; he is now putting forth his utmost efforts for a final struggle against Christ and His followers. The last great delusion is soon to open before us. . . . So closely will the counterfeit resemble the true that it will be impossible to distinguish between them except by the Holy Scriptures. By their testimony every statement and every miracle must be tested. . . . None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict.óThe Great Controversy, pp. 593, 594.

To get men to use the name of Jesus Christ without obedience to the Word of God is reason for distrust. Confusion is greatest where there is an "easy-believism" without a sound Biblical content. The remnant church calls on men to go the whole way with Christ, to welcome whatever God says in His Word and be obedient to it. The spiritual solvent of religious revivals is not in the use of the name "Jesus" apart from the claims of Godís Word. Let not the use of the name "Jesus" outrun the claims of the Word of God.

At recurring periods in the history of the church there have been religious revivals, all involving a return to Jesus Christ. The question of belief in the Scriptures and commitment to the truth of God is far more complicated today. For many, the gospel has become crystallized in one simple response: "Believe in Jesus." Certainly we would not wish to criticize this response as opposed to the gospel of Christ. The first impulse is to approve and acclaim all manifestation of the Spirit and appeals to the person of Jesus. But we are reminded of Christís caution in Matthew 7: 21-23 that men may call on Jesus without being obedient to His Word, that when men do this and are careless about obedience to the faith once given to the saints Christ rejects their claim to discipleship.

When we consider modern religious revivals whose only requisite is their claim to an encounter with the spirit world, we turn to the Word of God as the only true test and safeguard.

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).

The faith of the remnant church is in the guidance and control of the Holy Spirit through an intelligent understanding of the Word of God. We insist that Christians must be trained to think clearly on the Word and on their responsibility to it before they join any church. All who profess to follow Christ must be instructed in the revealed truth of God in Scripture.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).

With the present emphasis by the remnant church upon obeying the commandments, men may assert that we are moving from Christ as the pivot of the faith. But this is not so. There is no incompatibility between calling upon Jesus and obeying the Word of God. To follow Christ all the way means to find no fault with any part of the Scriptures. There is no disagreement between eternal salvation by faith in Christ and obedience to His commandments. Men need to be on guard against the superficial and faithless interpretations of what Godís Word requires. There is sure guidance only by the Holy Spirit through the Word. We commend to all men that which is attainable by the power of the Holy Spirit, a life of righteousness and obedience to Christ and to His commandments and dedication to the service of God.

The danger with much of modern religious revival is that manís apostasy from the teachings and commandments of Godís Word is hidden under this use of and appeal to Jesus. Christ is not experienced in the life by just using His name. Faith is not an affair of sentimentalism. Christ is not known by imagination and ecstasy. Religion without a clear understanding of and obedience to the truth of the Bible stands in peril of satanic delusion. To shout the name "Jesus" without obedience to His teachings and His commandments is a denial of the faith.

Francis A. Schaeffer, in his book Escape From Reason, has put it this way:

I have come to the point where, when I hear the word "Jesus"ówhich means so much to me because of the Person of the historic Jesus and His workóI listen carefully because I have with sorrow become more afraid of the word "Jesus" than almost any other word in the modern world. The word is used as a contentless banner, and our generation is invited to follow it. But there is no rational, scriptural content by which to test it, and thus the word is being used to teach the very opposite things from those which Jesus taught. . .

We have come then to this fearsome place where the word "Jesus" has become the enemy of the Person Jesus, and the enemy of what Jesus taught. We must fear this contentless banner of the word "Jesus," not because we do not love Jesus, but because we do love Him. FRANCIS A. SCHAEFER, Escape From Reason (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1971), p. 78.

We live in an age in which self-indulgence, reckless extravagance, and dishonest principles pervade large communities and organizations. Our world mission must continue in spite of economic crises. Those living in darkness still need the light of the gospel of Christ. The Christian mission is not a negative thing, our personal escape from eternal damnation. The most important thing is not what we are saved from but what we are redeemed for. Redemption in Christ is never an escape from life. We are saved from sin in order to live for Christ.

In the matter of communication and financial ability we appear to have outstripped our communication of Christ. Trained, promoted, pressed, and urged in money-raising projects we have acquired a facility for contacting people, which brings in large sums of money. Both the church and the ministry are good at getting people to canvass for financial contributions. We know how to ask for funds. Do we know equally well how to press for souls?

Stewardship is a way of life, not for moneyís sake, not by external compulsion, but by inward principle. The means to fulfill our divinely given mission to the world must flow freely and more generously. Stewardship is not a practice forced on the unwilling, but a living faith and a way of life. Every Christian is a steward of God for all he is and has. Stewardship takes in all of life.

For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us (2 Tim. 1:12-14).

"The Spirit of Prophecy"

The remnant of the seed of the church is said not only to keep the commandments, but also to have "the testimony of Jesus," which "testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 12:17; 19:10). Both of these are part of our mission.

The testimony of Jesus is that which Jesus Himself bore. It is also the truth that He taught and mediated through His apostles and prophets. The apostle John was the divinely commissioned prophet to whom God showed the visions of Revelation. In the presence of God he heard in words clear and loud the command to write in a book that which had been shown and spoken to him and to make all this known to the seven designated churches in Asia Minor.

To the remnant church, Laodicea, Christ addressed Himself as the "faithful and true witness" (chap. 3:14). Consequently, any witness or testimony from Jesus through a prophet bears great significance. The Laodicean church has such a testimony from Jesus through Ellen G. White. The prophet or messenger is the agent who communicates the message or the word of truth. This testimony is not the witness of the messengerís own Christian experience, but what Christ gives to the church through that messenger about Himself and His Word. Hence this testimony is invariably and closely connected with what is known as the Word of God.

The churchís responsibility is to adhere faithfully to that testimony from Jesus Christ. The messenger is not at the focal point at all. Christ and his message are of supreme importance. The writings of Ellen White are for the disclosure of Godís will and purpose to the remnant church. There can be no idolizing of man or woman. The Word of God to the remnant church has divine authority. That fact gives the Word certainty and power. And because the message given through Ellen G. White is Christís own testimony, we accept it.

This is not an unreasonable or false claim. The Bible writers were men chosen of God to mediate Godís messages and truths to men. The writings of Ellen White call men back to the Bible and to the will of God. Unfortunately, in our professedly enlightened age, men often consider themselves too wise to turn from themselves to receive a message from God. But one has to make a choice. Ellen Whiteís messages from God were given for this last age of the world. These messages have enlightening power, convicting power, and judging power.

The test of truth is her witness to the Word of God, for it was not to some mystical inward experience. Invariably her appeal is to the objective content of Bible truth and doctrine or a revealed message from God Himself. Nowhere does Ellen White surrender the objective Biblical authority in favor of spirit phenomena. Her messages from God are communicated in a clear, intelligent, coherent voice. Spiritually, her writings are not measured in terms of psychical phenomena. Her witness to Christ and to the truth of the Bible is never swallowed up in a process of mystical sounds and ecstasy.

She declares in clear tones the soon coming of the Lord. We should not leave her messages unexplored. Her testimony centers in the redemptive work of Christ and His righteousness. Her words are possessed of remarkable rational and emotional maturity. The impact of her own consecrated personality is felt by the reader who seeks to hear the voice of God and to learn His will.

Ellen White presents the larger view of the issues in the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Boldly and directly, yet lovingly, she appeals to men and women to follow Christ and obey His commandments. She proclaims the gospel to the present-day situation. She has not shunned to declare all the counsel of God. This prophetic note no one should doubt. She speaks and writes with the spiritual conviction that the success of the mission and the message of the church is founded on the truth of the Holy Scriptures. Thus she calls men back to God and to His Word.

"The Hour of Godís Judgment Has Come" (Rev. 14:7, N.E.B.).

Judgment is one of the keynotes of this final message to the world. The remnant church does not believe that the kingdom of God will come by the efforts and programs of men, but by a judgment from God Himself that decides the destiny of all men. The urgency of the message that brings all men to the judgment seat of God in our time is rarely given its proper place in most of the preaching of the gospel. The time of the end climaxes with a divine judgment in the heavenly sanctuary. The setting of the three angelsí messages begins with the assembling of the high court of heaven at a fixed period of time that ends with the return of Christ. This judgment will lead to the triumph of the saints and the reign of God.

Christ gave an explicit warning in His parable of the ten virgins, five of whom were wise and five foolish (see Matt. 25:1-13). This parable describes the judgment of the entire church. The lamps symbolize those who profess the Christian faith and the churches to which they belong. The oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The flame in the lamps points to the genuine Christian experience produced by the power of the Holy Spirit. The central emphasis of the parable is the necessity for having an adequate supply of the Holy Spirit in the life that will carry us through to the judgment and the coming of Christ.

The five foolish virgins took oil in their lamps, but only enough to last for a short time. The supply of oil failed at the critical moment and prevented them from securing from Christ a judgment in their favor and an entrance into the kingdom of God. No scripture speaks to us more clearly as to the folly of believing once saved always saved, with the false assurance that because one started out on the Christian way, he can glide the rest of the way safely into the kingdom of heaven.

This parable applies to the age immediately preceding the second coming of Christ. The five foolish virgins who ran out of oil are in the same class as the man in Christís parable of the wedding feast who accepted the kingís invitation to the banquet and went in among the guests. Because this man did not have on the wedding garment provided by the king, symbolizing the righteousness of Christ, he was cast out.

Two things are clearly set forth in these parables: the absolute necessity of trusting in and experiencing Christís righteousness and the necessity of being filled with the Holy Spirit. We are being judged now. Every hour that passes bears witness before God to what we are. We ourselves are putting in the evidence day after day. The Judge is already sitting. It is this fact that gives solemnity and dignity to life. Christ has made full provision and ministers continually the power of an endless life.

This sinful world has almost run its course. Christ will soon appear with catastrophic suddenness. The "elements shall melt with fervent heat" (2 Peter 3:10-14). Conditions will get worse and worse until the conflict of nations will threaten the world (see 2 Tim. 3:1-5).

The purpose of Godís final message goes far beyond social and economic utopia. The only solution for the agonies of men is the rule of Christ upon the earth. The only hope is that Christ will quickly assert His sovereign rule by His personal, bodily return as King of kings and Lord of lords. Ultimately Christ will build a new earth upon the ruins of the old.

Let us discharge this divine commission with heaven-born, Spirit-born passion. Then we may be assured that the remnant church will, despite all opposition, march on from victory to victory. For it is ever true: "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:37).

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