Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 3. The Unity of the Gospel
Unity--how people in a church can truly believe the same thing--is
important, because Jesus said that the only way the world can be
brought to believe in Him is when His followers "all may be one; ...
that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me" (John 17:21).
Something He calls "Thy truth" is the only thing that will unite them
Paul calls it "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:5, 14). The success or
failure of Christ's mission for the world therefore depends on that
"truth" bringing His people who profess to "keep the commandments of
God and the faith of Jesus" into one (Rev. 14:12). Is that "truth of
the gospel" so simple and clear that it appeals to honest hearts with
a similarly powerful logic?
Take the problem of Genesis 1: Christ and His apostles accepted that
"the truth of the gospel" required sincere, honest hearts to believe
that God created the earth in six literal days. People who insist they
are equally sincere understand the idea of six literal days to be
ancient mythology; science makes such belief naive, they say.
Take the problem of Jesus Himself: when He became incarnate, did He
"take" the sinless nature of the unfallen Adam, thus breaking the
genetic line of His descent from the real Adam? Or did He accept the
working of the great law of heredity and enter the stream of humanity
by taking our fallen, sinful nature yet living a sinless life? Here
again is disunity; the assumption is that unity is an impossibility.
Or is it?
Paul's plea for the church members in Corinth to "speak [teach] the
same thing, and that there be no divisions among you," that they "be
perfectly joined together in the same mind" is not idle talk (see 1
Cor. 1:10). This is God's ideal for His church, and a little known
prediction in an out-of-date book entitled Historical Sketches states
categorically that such blessed heart- and mind-unity will be realized
in the church before Jesus returns: "They will see eye to eye in all
matters of religious belief. They will speak [teach] the same things."
Why does disunion seem to flourish? And how can the church lighten the
earth with glory if it is in a divided state? And what can bring the
true unity that Christ prayed for?
There is a solution! If God is real and if His Bible is true, it
follows that God will bring His people into unity.
What today seems impossible, the Holy Spirit will accomplish. He
brought the disunited eleven apostles into unity before the Day of
Pentecost. They were "all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1).
That was "the former rain," and the "latter rain" is promised to be
even greater. But God cannot use force to accomplish it.
Ephesians gives us the solution, the key to finding true harmony: for
those "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of
doctrine" is the message of agape (Eph. 4:14, 15). Such a message
tells what Christ accomplished, the pure biblical truth of
justification by faith. Agape is a different kind of love that listens
to each other carefully so as not to misrepresent each other,
"endeavoring to keep the unity of the [Holy] Spirit in the bond of
peace" (vs. 3). No more misquoting each other so as to win an
The subject of 1888 holds for Seventh-day Adventists (and even some
non-Adventists!) the charm of an unsolved mystery. Until the full
truth is known as to the history and content of the message, the world
church can never be diverted from an earnest desire to know the facts.
The truth is so simple that even a child can grasp it: The Lord sent
the "beginning" of the latter rain in the 1888 message; it would have
led to the finishing of the work in that generation had it been
accepted; and the same enmity against God that led the Jews to reject
their Messiah led our brethren of a past generation to reject the
gracious light that God sent. This simple A-B-C truth will evoke a
response from Seventh-day Adventists the world around, and pave the
way for unity to prevail as the church prepares for her final
conflict. Dissension and strife melt away in the light of the 1888
Implicit in the 1888 message itself is the concept of loyalty to the
principles of church organization. This is because the message calls
for repentance and expresses firm confidence that the call will
eventually be heeded. Never does the message call for rebellion, or
for establishing a new organization or offshoot.
If we do not resist the Holy Spirit, He will bring us into a blessed
unity of heart and mind. As E. J. Waggoner wrote:
"Remember that there was no difference of opinion among the apostles
nor in the church as to what the gospel is. There were 'false
brethren,' it is true; but inasmuch as they were false, they were no
part of the church, the body of Christ, which is the truth. Many
professed Christians, sincere persons, suppose that it is almost a
matter of necessity that there be differences in the church. 'All
cannot see alike,' is the common statement. So they misread Ephesians
4:13 (KJV), making it seem that God has given us gifts 'till we all
come into the unity of the faith.' What the Word teaches is that 'in
the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,' we
all come 'unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the
fullness of Christ.' There is only 'one-faith' (vs. 5), the faith of
Jesus, as there is only one Lord." 
Christ has promised solemnly that if He is lifted up on His cross,
that is, if His agape is clearly proclaimed, He "will draw all peoples
to [Himself]," and that of course is perfect unity (John 12:32). If
the leadership of a church that is being fragmented receives the
precious message of Christ's righteousness, the miracle of unity is as
certain as day follows night.
Some day, somewhere, someone will understand the "everlasting gospel"
of Jesus Christ so clearly that "another angel" will come down from
heaven "having great power" and will "lighten the earth" with the
glory of that full-orbed truth. Multitudes who now sit in darkness
will see a great light and will come to it (Rev. 18:1-4; Matt. 4:16).
And it won't be only "some one" who understands; there will be many
who are in heartfelt union, around the world, of "every nation, and
kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6). No more theological
Those who will understand the gospel and be in union will receive "the
seal ... of our God in their foreheads" (Rev. 7:1-4). They will
graduate out of old covenant living into the bright sunlight of the
new. The old covenant will no longer produce "bondage" in them, but
they will "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us
free" (Gal. 5:1). They will overcome where ancient Israel stumbled and
fell. Instead of "crucifying Christ afresh and bringing Him to an open
shame" (Heb. 6:6), they will surrender self to be "crucified with Him"
But must this glorious triumph of the gospel await a future
generation? Are there some out there who long to see the victory come
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
 Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day
Adventists: Practical addresses delivered by Mrs. E. G. White to the
Swiss Conference and the European Missionary Council held at Basle in
September 1885; "Unity Among Laborers," p. 124.
 Ellet J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, a verse-by-verse study of
Galatians, p. 37, CFI ed. (2016).
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:
"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm