7. CORPORATE EVANGELISM AND WITNESSING
Our laborious exhortations to become a “witnessing church” have wearied us. Endless commands to “do” something are transcended by a simple divine invitation to “see” something.
To understand what is involved in Christ’s call to repentance (Rev. 3:19) we must consider Paul’s brilliant metaphor of the church as a “body.” We sustain a corporate relationship to one another and to Christ Himself as our Head. Although this idea is foreign to much of our Western thinking, it is essential to the Bible concepts.
In fact, the word “corporate” is a good Bible word. “As the body is one and has many members, . . . so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12).
There is a corporate unity of the “one body” (1 Cor. 12:13); a corporate diversity of its various “members” (verses 15-18); a corporate need felt by all (“the eye cannot say to the hand; ‘I have no need of you,’” verses 21, 22); a corporate balance of the various members (verses 23, 24); a corporate “care,” they feel for each other and for the head (verse 25); and corporate suffering and rejoicing which all members share together (verse 26).
How beautifully our human body illustrates this divinely inspired relationship! If on a sharp rock, my whole body feels the pain and sympathizes with the injured member. The leg shares the guilt of projecting the poor toe against the sharp stone; the other leg wishes it had taken more of the weight so as to lessen the injury; the eye wishes it had been more observant to see the danger; the hands cooperate by rubbing the wounded toe to bring comfort; the whole body halts in order to care for its suffering member, and in perfect cohesion and unity seeks relief.
Sin is a corporate disease of the human race, the latter represented in Scripture as “one man” infected by it, for “in Adam all die.” “So death passed upon all men,” a corporate relationship, as malaria affects the whole body (Rom. 5:12, 18, 19; 1 Cor. 15:22). Strictly speaking, apart from Christ no human is better than another; all have sinned, “all alike have sinned” (Romans 3:23, NEB).
As Seventh-day Adventists, we share another example of corporate guilt in a special way for a very special sin. Not that we are personally guilty, but we are the spiritual “children” of our forefathers who in a notable sense repeated the sin of the ancient Jews. This corporate guilt causes the latter rain to be withheld from us as surely as the Jews’ impenitence keeps the blessings of the Messiah’s ministry from them.
“We” rejected the “most precious message” that the Lord sent to us and which in a special way represented Him. What our forefathers really said was similar to what the ancient Jews said, “The responsibility for delaying the coming of the Lord be on us and on our children!” (Matt. 27:25). In fact, Ellen White has said that “we” had far greater light than they did.
“The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world” (Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1575).
“Men professing godliness have despised Christ in the person of His messengers. Like the Jews, they reject God’s message” (Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1651).
We may claim that we are not repeating that sin of our forefathers; but what means the constant effort to suppress and discourage people understanding the actual message of 1888, and keep it from them?
To pray for the latter rain is good. But is there something we are leaving out? We have been earnestly praying for it for a hundred years, as the Jews have been praying for the coming of their Messiah for thousands of years. Would it not be a better plan for us to repent of rejecting “the beginning” of that same blessing which the Lord sent us a century ago, and to demonstrate our repentance by recovering the message which we lost? (1SM 234, 235).
Is our Lord’s call to repent as serious a matter as this? (Rev. 3:19). Does decade after decade of spiritual drought roll by because His call has not been seriously considered? If He calls for repentance, there must be some way that we can respond.
It seems difficult for us to acknowledge our need of the imputed righteousness of Christ 100%; surely we have something good in us: But Scripture is emphatic: “In me, (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18). Apart from the grace of Christ, the sin that another human has committed I could commit “had there been opportunity.” The righteousness of Christ cannot be an adjunct to our own good works, a slight push to get us over the top; our righteousness is all of Christ or it is nothing. Apart from the grace of a Saviour, the sins of the whole world are my sins.
The principle of corporate guilt recognizes this truth by defining the reality of our need as members of one common human race. In a larger sense than we may have realized we also share our common responsibility, a corporate guilt as “members of the body of Christ.” We have failed our Head. If we rightly understand our relationship, we can see how the sins of others are really our own as well, except for the grace of Christ.
John Wesley said of a drunk lying in the gutter, “There but for the grace of Christ am I.” Suppose I had been born on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, had a prostitute for a mother and an alcoholic criminal for a father and had never been inside a church or heard a sermon; what could I be today? How can I truly help another soul unless I sense this corporate relationship I sustain to him?
When the church learns to appreciate what this is, Christ’s love will course through its veins and transform it into the most effective soul-winning “body” history has ever seen.
This is because such repentance alone can enable one to love his neighbor as himself, not in the sense of excusing or palliating his sin in that we know we could be as guilty as he, but because such repentance includes an effective cleansing from the defilement of the sin itself. Such love for one’s neighbor goes far beyond a sentimental sympathy; it becomes an effective cooperation with Christ in reaching the heart with redemptive power. The Head at last finds members of the body prepared to be His effective agents.—Robert J. Wieland.
 “Those who wait for the Bridegroom’s coming are to say to the people, ‘Behold your God.’ The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them.” COL 415-418.