God’s church on earth today is His agency for the salvation of men. Its divine mission is to proclaim the good news of Christ to the whole world.
From the beginning of its existence to the very end of time, Christ’s servants who compose the church are the watchmen and guardians of truth. They have always given a testimony to the generation in which they lived. Zealous, courageous, spirit-filled warriors of righteousness, they brought a message of warning to those living in sin.
The pure, unadulterated doctrines of truth have always unfolded within the confines of the church. Error, on the other hand, always comes from the followers of Satan. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18.
The Rock of Ages, the sure, strong foundation that God’s people are built upon, is Jesus Christ—the Source of light. Our Redeemer Himself established and ordained the disciples for a worldwide commission. He Himself spoke the gracious words of life and hope to His first followers. They, in turn, animated by love, carried further the commands of God.
Ever since the early church was instructed in the divine principles, the people of the Most High have been vehicles in manifesting to men the love of the Father in heaven. How important it is, then, for us to understand the responsibilities and the saving truth of the first church!
The church’s purpose
The Lord has given the church the task of remaining faithful and upholding the banner of truth. Not one point of faith is to be weakened to accommodate the opinions of men. “Never, never seek to remove one landmark that the Lord has given His people. The truth stands firmly established on the eternal Rock—a foundation that storm and tempest can never move.” —Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 162.
One reason for the growth of many churches is their lowering of the high standards of the word of God. But teaching falsehoods, even if it is only one error, results in eternal destruction. There are many strong, delusive theories on the religious market that are available to the unregenerate and unwary. Teachings such as the secret rapture, communism as the antichrist, a millennium of peace on earth, once saved always saved, natural immortality of the soul, the false Sunday rest day, and we could go on and on, are widely accepted by the Christian churches. These errors, once accepted, prepare the mind for the last great deception, when Satan, impersonating Christ on earth, will pronounce a blessing on the false Sabbath.
Because God’s church teaches men the whole truth, it is very unpopular in the eyes of the world. Presenting a straight, decisive testimony that requires sacrifice and striving to enter the “narrow gate” causes it to be unacceptable to the majority of people. Too many want an easy ride to heaven, so they cling to the traditions and fables of men, which give a false hope of security. It takes moral courage, firmness, perseverance, and much prayer to step out on the unpopular side.
The gospel commission given in Matthew 28 is to “. . . teach all nations … to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19, 20. Great responsibility rests upon the servants of Jehovah to instruct whoever will hear in all, not merely a few, of the requirements for salvation.
At this point you may ask, “What are God’s requirements?” We read in Ecclesiastes12:13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” And Revelation 14:12 reiterates the same in the New Testament: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” In both of these texts taken from the Old and New Testaments we find that the keeping of the commandments of God is essential for Christian maturity and salvation. Merely knowing what the Ten Commandments are is not enough; it is necessary to keep them through Christ’s strength.
Having the Bible and the sacred writings but not putting them into practice is a grave error. It is even worse when a church upholds error or sanctions the wilful transgression of God’s divine precepts. By tolerating and condoning open sin, the church fails in its mission and becomes “a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” (Revelation 18:2.) God has drawn a clear line between falsehood and truth. It is up to the church to declare its position for truth, not an undecided, faltering standard.
The church’s guidelines
How thankful we should be that God’s guidelines are revealed to us through the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White, which harmonize perfectly. Let us study diligently, especially as the end approaches. The truth revealed in these writings is to be sacredly guarded by the church from being polluted by unbalanced minds. Truth dimmed or misinterpreted causes souls to be lost. The enemy tries to introduce ideas that have no semblance of truth but confuse and contradict the simple words of Jesus. God’s church has been entrusted with the basic tenets of faith and is “responsible for teaching the divine precepts faithfully. Not just anything that is pleasing to the unsanctified heart can be accepted as truth.
“Were men free to depart from the Lord’s requirements and to set up a standard of duty for themselves, there would be a variety of standards to suit different minds and the government would be taken out of the Lord’s hands. The will of man would be made supreme, and the high and holy will of God— His purpose of love toward His creatures—would be dishonored, disrespected.” Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 51, 52. “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. …” Matthew 5:19.
Over the centuries, Satan has been active in trying to undermine the strongholds and pillars of the pure gospel faith and place in its stead the commandments of men, rather than a “Thus saith the Lord.” Genuine Christianity will counteract his work by leading the people to Christ, not away from Him. It is appalling and frightening to see how much spiritual darkness exists in the nominal Christian churches today!
By searching the word of God we can come to a firm conviction and decision in regard to God’s true church on earth. The Spirit of God will lead us into all the truth. Satan succeeds in confusing the masses by establishing hundreds of organizations, all claiming to have the truth. Could all be right and claim the blessings of God? “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20. In keeping God’s moral law His true church is distinguished from all false religions.
May God help each of us to stand by faith with the few who honour His law, no matter what may be the cost. Rich blessings are in store for those who follow truth.