What Do Seventh-day Adventists Believe About Unity in Christ?

Seventh-day Adventists believe in biblical unity—the idea of believers in Jesus being united by the truth of the Bible and the common goal of representing God and His love to the world.

This unity doesn’t mean uniformity or loss of identity and individuality.

Rather, it involves believers fitting together like puzzle pieces to serve a greater purpose.

This post will cover:

Unity in Christ is one of the Adventist fundamental beliefs, which reads:

“The church is one body with many members, called from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us.

We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation.

Through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures we share the same faith and hope, and reach out in one witness to all.

This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as His children.”

Let’s begin by looking at the two elements that place everyone on equal footing before God.

What is the basis for the unity of believers in Jesus Christ?

A woman looking at the Cross and considering Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for her

Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

Two key factors form the basis for the unity of believers: (1) our creation by God and (2) the death of Jesus Christ, a central tenet of the Christian faith. These two establish our equal value because we’ve been created by God and saved by His blood.

Jesus’ sacrifice for each of us puts us on level ground—regardless of race, nationality, color, gender, wealth, or status.

Jesus’ sacrifice was meant for all of us, despite our sinful nature. He has redeemed us from facing the natural consequence of sin—death:

“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, NKJV).

And though we chose selfishness over selflessness in the Garden of Eden, God never intended for us to live that way. He created us all to be like him:

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27, NKJV).

Paul also said:

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (Acts 17:26, NKJV).

We are all part of one race—the human race. Being created in God’s image makes us equally valuable in His eyes!

And He intended us to be unified.

But when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the Garden of Eden, sin and selfishness became our reflexive response. It’s easy for us to think negatively about others. Or argue with the people in our lives.

We all struggle with this together. But ultimately, the factor that unifies us all is that we are children of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ.

But Jesus came to heal us from our sin sickness and free us from its deadly power:

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9, NKJV).

Notice it says He chose to taste death for everyone.

Jesus Christ died for the poor and the rich. He died for the religious and the unbelieving. He died for your neighbor down the street and for you.

Christ did not die for one group of people; He died for everyone—for everyone who has ever lived or who will ever live.

No one is left out.

And when we accept that death for us, we join with those who have done the same—becoming adopted as children of God into His family (Romans 8:15).

What are the keys to living out unity in Christ?

A man being baptized into the body of Christ

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

We live out the unity of Christ when we accept Him and join with other believers in living out God’s mission for our lives—of sharing His love and the truth of His character with the world. This kind of unity is based on God’s Word and is possible through the work of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:4–6).

Scripture only makes one great distinction in humanity—whether or not one accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior:

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26–29, NKJV).

What does “one in Christ Jesus” mean?

It is a unity that comes through receiving the gift of salvation from our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8–13). In Him, our differences form a unified picture of the love of Jesus rather than divide us.

We have a commonality that distinguishes us from the rest of the world while uniting us in Christ and the Word of God. When we accept Christ as our Savior, we become a whole unit, working together to share the love of God (Matthew 28:18–20).

But this doesn’t mean we become robots or clones of one another. It means we’ve joined a team of like-minded believers who are using their skills, talents, experiences, and cultures to spread the gospel to the whole world.

And the power behind it all?

The Holy Spirit.

“The Holy Spirit is the moving force behind church unity. Through Him, all believers are led to the church.”1

But rather than creating uniformity, the Holy Spirit uses each individual’s talents and gifts to create a beautiful and diverse unity.

In his writings, Paul uses the metaphor of the human body to express this idea:

“For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ.

 

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all given one Spirit to drink. Indeed, the body is not one part but many” (1 Corinthians 12:12–14, CSB).

The idea is that just as hands, eyes, or feet can’t keep the whole body running without each other, so the church also needs different people with different gifts to keep it functioning properly.

Each person fulfills an essential task; no one is useless. And all together, we are part of the body of Christ.

And in this way, we can represent the character of the Godhead. The retired Adventist pastor Pete Harper emphasizes this point:

“In the Godhead we discover perfect and infinite unity, and what exists in the Godhead God desires to see in Christ’s church. It can be a fraction only, humanly tender and susceptible to wounding, but it must be the same kind. Just as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit honor one another, so must we. In our individual focus of worship and service toward the Godhead, we are to find the sacrificial self-denying unity of the Body of Christ—and nowhere else.”2

You may be wondering, If this is God’s ideal, why is there so much disunity in Christianity? We’ll answer that question next.

What about divisions that arise among Christian groups?

Division was never God’s intention. But Satan has worked hard to cause conflict among believers throughout history.

The first division began in heaven when Satan—previously a beautiful angel named Lucifer—decided to exalt himself above God (Isaiah 14:12–14).

Through his deceptions, he convinced one-third of the angels to join him in his rebellion (Revelation 12:3–4; 1:20).

And he was also successful in causing division among humans when he introduced sin to this earth. Almost as soon as Adam and Eve had sinned, they began blaming each other (Genesis 3:12).

And unfortunately, disagreement has crept into Christian churches also. Today, thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, of various organizations claim to be Christian.

And not only is Christianity divided, but much of modern European history—from the 1500s to the 1700s—was based on various Christians warring against each other.

And this is Christian unity?

But first, remember the reality of the great controversy between good and evil .

The devil hates Christianity and the followers of Jesus, and he seeks to destroy them (Revelation 12:17).

“Be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV).

And what better way to seek to destroy than to divide?

Even while the first apostles were still alive, disunity and disruption arose within the early Christian church.

For instance, the apostle Paul had to address conflict caused by false doctrine. In one of his letters in the New Testament, he wrote to a group of believers:

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6–7, NKJV).

He had to deal with Jewish prejudice toward Gentiles (non-Jews), which is why he wrote:

“Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and proclaimed the gospel ahead of time to Abraham, saying, all the nations will be blessed through you” (Galatians 3:8, CSB, emphasis added).

Looking into the future, Paul also warned that there would be a great “falling away” in the church (2 Thessalonians 2:3). This would be a time of controversy within Christianity because of false teachings.

In the last days of earth’s history, Satan will try harder than ever to destroy the church (Revelation 12:17).

By knowing and understanding this struggle of division we all face, we can be more equipped to challenge it and stand united in Christ.

And we can be assured that Satan will never be fully successful because Jesus promised that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against” His church (Matthew 16:18, NKJV).

What does unity look like in the Adventist Church?

A photo montage of people, representing the worldwide body of Christians

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Adventists are joined together in a special way by their shared beliefs and shared mission.

Though Adventists have many beliefs in common with other Christians, some of our beliefs are different. These beliefs include the Sabbath, the controversy between Christ and Satan, the state of the dead, Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, and the fate of the lost.

These are teachings unique to the Adventist Church. The unity around them has shaped us from the beginning of our history.

And while we don’t believe in compromising clear truths of the Bible, we do embrace our diversity when it comes to areas of life that aren’t clear biblical issues.

Diversity in culture, language, ethnicity, and economic status—to name a few.

We have more than 21 million members in roughly 213 countries, meaning we have a mixture of many different nationalities, languages, and cultures. And yet, despite these differences in the Adventist Church, we are a unified structure.

What is the result of unity?

Unity allows God’s people to come together with Jesus as their foundation and pursue the joint mission of preaching the everlasting gospel (Matthew 28:16–20; Revelation 14:6–12).

This has been the case from the beginning of the Christian church. As the apostles prayed together in harmony, God poured out His Holy Spirit on them (Acts 1:14; 2:1–4).

Unified with one another and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they wholeheartedly shared the gospel.

Similarly today, the mission of sharing the gospel compels Adventists to minister to the needs of a fallen, hurting, and broken world. We’ve done so through churches, schools, hospitals, medical clinics, publishing houses, and other institutions worldwide.

As a result, we’ve been able to experience a small taste of what Jesus prayed for:

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one” (John 17:20–22, NKJV).

Though the unity of all who believe in Jesus has not yet been realized, the unity that Jesus talked about here has propelled Adventists to reach out globally.

We want as many as possible to learn the truth about a God of love.

Want to know more about how we share this truth?  

  1. Seventh-day Adventists Believe (Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists), p. 202. []
  2. Harper, Pete, “God’s Anointing for Unity”, Ministry, April 2006.  []

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