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Written by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
What is the purpose of church standards?
Church standards answer an important question: How should Christians live? Most of the Bible’s content is about how we should live—how we should relate to God, other humans, and nature. The Christian church has always taught the value and need of biblical standards, and the Adventist Church has continued this biblical tradition. When Adventists state that the Bible is our only creed, we mean that whatever the Bible says about the Christian life should be accepted and put into practice. We have identified a number of biblical standards that those who join or have joined the church are expected to exhibit in their Christian lives. By this we demonstrate that we have accepted Christ as our Savior and Lord.
1. Church Standards and the Gospel: Although we should not equate biblical standards for the Christian life with the gospel, they do not play down the gospel. They presuppose the gospel and have it as their center. In other words, church standards should contribute to the unfolding of the meaning of the cross and its implications for the lives of believers. They are our response to God’s love for us revealed on the cross of Christ. God did not leave it up to us to decide how Christians should live. He informed us about the impact of Christ’s work on our daily life through the example of Jesus, the Scripture, and the guidance of the Spirit. When put into practice, church standards reveal the work the Holy Spirit is doing in us.
2. Content of the Standards: Biblical standards deal with all aspects of our lives. Spiritual Life: Our spiritual life is strengthened and grows through prayer, Bible study, the proclamation of the gospel, attendance at church services, and Sabbath observance.
Moral Life: God is interested in our moral purity and in our commitment to a holy life. Therefore, what we watch, read, listen to, and think about is important. Consequently, we willingly submit to His will as revealed in the Ten Commandments and, above all, in the life of Jesus.
Physical Life: Since God is interested in our bodies and their proper function, the practice of good health principles is important. The way we dress and adorn ourselves is significant in what it reveals about our values. We practice modesty, simplicity, and purity in the way we dress and adorn our bodies.
Social Life: God is interested in how we interact with others on a daily basis. This applies to the family (husband and wife, children and parents), to the church family, and to society at large.
Material or Financial Resources: God is interested in blessing us and in guiding us concerning the proper use of our financial resources in order to help us overcome our natural selfishness. Consequently we apply biblical principles of stewardship to the way we manage what we have and to the use of natural resources.
3. Collective and Personal Standards: In order for the world church to work together toward a common goal, it has to agree not only on its doctrines and mission but also on standards of life required from its members. Those standards, accepted by the totality of the community of faith, are the minimum, not the maximum, of what is expected. They are based on biblical passages or on biblical principles (for example, not smoking, as well as the nonuse of drugs, is based on health principles found in the Bible). Such connection with the Bible makes them authoritative for the world community of believers.
Some individual or personal standards are not necessarily promoted or required by the world church. In such cases the believer should not try to impose them on others. They are simply individual decisions (for instance, whether or not to eat eggs or cheese, or to have a TV at home). Individuals should be careful not to develop an attitude of superiority and religious pride.
Whatever we do should be done to the glory of our Lord, who is our Creator and Redeemer.