Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 8 - How Can We Know if a Man Is an Apostle?

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if they conflict with the Bible.


In chapter 5, the COGIW article tries to make a point that if any minister or lay member tries to take apostolic gifts to themselves, they are trying to steal them. But how is that possible? By apostolic gifts, it seems that the article is referring to the setting of doctrine. This would include learning new knowledge from the Bible, believing the Bible as the Bible interprets the Bible, and correcting mistakes. It may also imply, though the article does not mention this, that preaching the gospel to the world is an apostolic gift, and that those who are not apostles are restricted from preaching the gospel. I mention this gospel aspect because I have found no evidence in their website that the Church of God in Wales (COGIW), which published this article, does anything of significance to preach the gospel to the world.

But that raises a question. How can one know if he is an apostle? If he does not know, then according to the COGIW article, he should not do what an apostle does, such as set doctrine for the Church and preach the gospel to the world (Again, I did not find anything in the article about preaching the gospel, but I suspect that COGIW does not believe anyone but an apostle should preach the gospel to the world).

Read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography. It is an important part of Church of God history, and there are many good lessons in it.

Mr. Armstrong began both preaching the gospel to the world and introducing changes in doctrine to the Church before he was ordained as a minister. He did not think of himself as an apostle at that time. But he preached the gospel in public campaigns with the Church of God Seventh Day. He also submitted papers to COG7D, which both added new knowledge and corrected error. The paper he submitted on new knowledge showed that the English speaking nations were part of the lost ten tribes of Israel. He says in his autobiography that he submitted another paper correcting an error in COG7D teachings. He submitted these papers to test COG7D to see if they would change their teachings. They would not. Yet, notice, Mr. Armstrong did this from the beginning, before he was a minister and many years before he thought of himself as an apostle.

He learned the truth about the holy days and began to keep them even though COG7D would not keep them. Perhaps that was what the other paper was about.

The point is, he began to preach the gospel and to set doctrine for himself and his family and to suggest that doctrine to the Church of God, before he was ordained as a minister or thought of himself as an apostle.

Was he stealing apostolic gifts? He had no evidence that God counted him as an apostle at that time. He wasn't even ordained.

It was only years later, once the work had grown, after many years of preaching the gospel and teaching doctrine to the Church from the Bible, setting the doctrine that would be the official teaching of the Church of God, that he saw the fruits and concluded that he was an apostle.

In other words, the work of setting doctrine and preaching the gospel came BEFORE any recognition of being an apostle.

So how is one to know? If we are forbidden by scripture from preaching the gospel to the world or from setting doctrine from the Bible unless we know we are an apostle, but also we cannot know if one of us is an apostle unless we see from the fruits of that man that he is preaching the gospel and setting right doctrine from the Bible, we are stuck. We cannot do the work of an apostle until we have proven we are or have an apostle, but we cannot know a man is an apostle until he does the work of an apostle. So we can never do the work of God.

For if Mr. Armstrong believed the teachings of COGIW, he could never have done the work of an apostle. He would have said, "I cannot set doctrine. I cannot correct doctrinal errors in the Church of God. I cannot introduce new knowledge I have discovered in the Bible. If I try to do these things, I am trying to steal the gifts of an apostle and I make myself a false apostle." And if he felt he needed to be an apostle before he could preach the gospel to the world, he would have said, "I cannot preach the gospel. If I try to do that, I am trying to steal the gifts of an apostle and I make myself a false apostle."

Fortunately for us, Mr. Armstrong never believed the things the COGIW article teaches, nor did he believe that only an apostle can preach the gospel to the world, but rather Mr. Armstrong believed the Bible.

And the Bible does not back up the COGIW article.

The Bible does not teach that one has to be an apostle to preach the gospel to the world. In fact, after the Church of God was scattered after the martyrdom of Stephen, the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, but the scattered Church preached the gospel everywhere (Acts 7:59-60, 8:1-4).

Moreover, there is no prohibition in the Bible against anyone other than an apostle from setting doctrine in the Church according to the Bible, except that those who are under the authority of a living apostle must submit to that apostle and not create division.

When Mr. Armstrong was alive and we were under his authority, we were not to contradict him and create division by undermining that authority. But we could submit suggestions to Mr. Armstrong, even in matters of doctrine, and he did not forbid that. He was himself willing to be corrected, provided such correction was from the Bible.

But now that he is dead, we are no longer under his authority. Why?

The authority Mr. Armstrong had, came from the Bible. He strived to live by the Bible, every word of it. When he discovered in the Bible that he made a mistake in doctrine, he made the correction, whether that discovery of error came from his own studies or someone pointed the error out to him. He allowed others to correct him and share their ideas with him, even about doctrine.

There was a process involved. When someone found an error in his doctrine, they could point it out to him, and when he understood it he could make the correction for the whole Church. He described that process in his article I believe titled, "Should We Listen to Others?"

It was a living process of doctrinal correction and change that helped to ensure that the Church grew in knowledge from the Bible and made needed corrections to eliminate error over time.

That process does not end with the death of the apostle.

Mr. Armstrong is no longer alive to preach the gospel, but we are to carry on his work. He is no longer alive to make corrections and additions to his doctrines, and we are to carry on with that work also.

And we must always remember that we have a living apostle, Jesus Christ, and as apostle He has the authority to make changes to doctrine through the existing ministry of the Church (Hebrews 3:1).

There is also precedence in the Bible for the work of one man to be continued by another. In fact, this precedence is given in regards to a man many say is a type of Mr. Armstrong: Elijah.

Elijah was given a commission by God. "Then the Lord said to him: 'Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place' " (1 Kings 19:15-16).

So Elijah was to anoint three men: Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha.

But Elijah did not anoint Jehu directly.

After Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:9-12), Elisha directed an unnamed son of the prophets to anoint Jehu. "And Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets, and said to him, 'Get yourself ready, take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth Gilead. Now when you arrive at that place, look there for Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, and go in and make him rise up from among his associates, and take him to an inner room. Then take the flask of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, "Thus says the Lord: 'I have anointed you king over Israel.' " Then open the door and flee, and do not delay.' " (2 Kings 9:1-3). See also 2 Kings 9:4-10.

God commanded Elijah to anoint Jehu, yet it was Elisha and a son of the prophets under Elisha's authority who actually carried on that work after Elijah was gone.

Likewise, the Church of God is to carry on the work of Mr. Armstrong even after Mr. Armstrong is dead, and that includes the learning of new knowledge from the Bible, correcting errors, setting doctrine, and preaching the gospel to the world.

The doctrinal foundation of the Church of God is the Bible. Mr. Armstrong pointed us to the Bible as the foundation, and he helped us understand it. But we are to believe the Bible, not Mr. Armstrong, just as Mr. Armstrong said to his radio audience, don't believe me, don't believe any man, believe God, believe your Bible.

Canon in the Bible is closed. Mr. Armstrong did not add to the Bible. In that sense, he did not lay a foundation, but pointed us to a foundation that was already laid centuries ago. His word is not infallible as the Bible is, as Church of God history has shown. His errors should be corrected.


TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 7 - 2 Peter 1:20-21 and "Private Interpretation"

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if they conflict with the Bible.

Chapter 5 of the COGIW article starts by asking if God has given us anything to promote unity. It is leading up to the conclusion that adherence and loyalty to Mr. Armstrong and his teachings, even above loyalty to the Bible, is the solution.

But the author of this article seems to forget that God Himself scattered the Church, and He did it by causing Mr. Armstrong to appoint Mr. Tkatch as the next pastor general. Moreover, God allowed Mr. Armstrong to tell us that we need to follow that next pastor general if we want to be in the kingdom of God, which was clearly wrong. It was a serious mistake in doctrine and teaching that Mr. Armstrong made, one that he never corrected to the end of his life, perhaps the most serious mistake he made, and God let him make that mistake.

At the time the tribulation begins, there will be two main categories of the Churches of God. At least one group will be Philadelphian in character and spirit, and Philadelphians will go to a place of safety after having used the open door Christ gives them to finish the preaching of the gospel to the world. The other category is Laodicean and any other non-Philadelphian groups. They will go through the tribulation, having failed to preach the gospel (because they did not have an open door because of their lukewarmness) - see Revelation chapters 2 and 3.

We know that Laodicea will exist because it is the last era of the Church of God. We know Philadelphia will exist because they will finish the work and go to a place of safety.

And there will not be unity between Laodiceans and Philadelphians before the tribulation. The era is predominantly Laodicean, so they will be large, Philadelphia will be small.

When Christ returns, there will be perfect unity among all those in the first resurrection. Laodiceans will have repented in the tribulation, probably most or all being martyred. They will have repented of their lukewarm attitude and will no longer be Laodicean (or else, if they haven't repented, they will not be in the first resurrection).

The COGIW article then states that the Church of God is to be subject to the word of God (the Bible), but that word is not revealed to us individually with each person interpreting the Bible as he chooses.

This is a misleading statement. It is true that we should not interpret the Bible as we please, according to our own opinions. But neither are we to let Mr. Armstrong or any man interpret the Bible for us. Rather, we are to do as Mr. Armstrong taught us by word and example: let the Bible interpret the Bible.

And the statement that the truth of the Bible is not revealed to us individually is absolutely wrong. God must open our minds, each one of us individually, to help us understand the Bible as we prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and check the scriptures to see if the things taught to us are true (Acts 17:11).

But we are NOT to let a man interpret the Bible for us, any man, even Mr. Armstrong. That is what the Catholics do, and we are not to be like them, as Mr. Armstrong stated himself in an article I believe titled, "Should We Listen to Others?". We must not treat Mr. Armstrong like a pope. He himself would not want that, and the Bible teaches against that.

The article then quotes 2 Peter 1:20-21 to support its position that we are not to privately interpret the Bible.

Let's look at this passage closely.

Here it is, first, in the New King James Version: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Now in the King James Version: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:20-21).

That is basically the same.

Now look at how the New International Version translates it: "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21).

This is different. The NKJV and the KJV use the term "private interpretation" without reference to whether the private interpretation applies to the reader of the Bible or the prophet who wrote the prophecy. But the NIV applies it, not to the reader of the Bible, but to the men who wrote the Bible. In other words, the prophecies of the Bible did not come from the private understanding of the prophets, but God inspired them to write what they wrote by the Holy Spirit.

Which is correct?

I believe the NIV in this case has it right. Why? Look again at verse 21 in the NKJV: "for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit".

The context is how the prophets made their prophecies. They did not write according to their own opinions, rather, the Holy Spirit moved them to write their prophecies. The origin of the prophecies of the Bible is God, not man or man's opinions, understandings, or interpretation of events. That is the whole point of this passage.

Look at the word "for" at the beginning of the verse. That indicates a cause and effect relationship between what follows the word "for" and what precedes it. There is a connection. What follows the word "for" (prophecy came from God) explains or gives a reason for what precedes it (no prophecy is private). In other words, the reason no prophecy is of private interpretation or understanding is that prophecy came from God and not by the will of man. This is speaking of the prophet and the source of his prophecy. No prophecy is of private interpretation or understanding of the prophet BECAUSE prophecy came as the prophet was moved by the Holy Spirit, not from his own opinions, not from his private interpretation of events.

This makes more sense than to say that verse 20 is talking about the private interpretation of the reader while verse 21 is talking about the how the prophet received the prophecy.

But even in terms of the private interpretation of the reader, as I pointed out, neither the reader of the Bible nor Mr. Armstrong should privately interpret the Bible but rather let the Bible interpret the Bible.

This passage does not say that God does not reveal His truth to us today by opening our minds individually to understand the Bible as we let the Bible interpret the Bible, believe what God says, and strive to obey what God says. God certainly does reveal His truth to us today. Mr. Armstrong was a link in that process. He pointed us to the Bible and helped us understand it. But we have our part to play - to prove the truth from the Bible so our faith is in God and not man - and as we do so God opens our minds to understand the Bible. That is how God reveals His truth to us individually.

We must let the Bible interpret the Bible, and we must believe and strive to obey what God says in the Bible. That is what Mr. Armstrong did and that what we must do also.

There is another passage to consider.

Did Mr. Armstrong have authority over our beliefs? Did he have authority to command us to believe something, to have faith in some point of doctrine? He did not claim that authority in his article, "Should We Listen to Others?". And Paul did not claim that authority over the faith and beliefs of the Corinthians.

"Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand" (2 Corinthians 1:24).

Paul clearly states to the Corinthians that he did not have "dominion" over their faith. "Dominion" means rule, and "faith" is what we believe. He did not claim authority over what the Corinthians believed. He taught them, yes. But part of their beliefs came from the Old Testament scriptures, the Bible that was available at that time, and Paul had no authority to command them to believe him more than the scriptures. Their faith had to be towards God and not man.

That is even more true today when we have the Bible complete and widely available and can use fulfilled prophecy to prove that the Bible is the inspired word of God.

The COGIW article states that if each person interpreted the Bible privately, it would lead to confusion.

But as I pointed out, we are not to interpret the Bible according to our opinions, but we are to let the Bible interpret the Bible and we are to believe what God says.

Still, there are times when sincere members of the Church of God may understand a passage in the Bible differently than the ministry and leadership of the Church. This is because understanding does not come all at once. It is a learning process, and we know things only in part right now (1 Corinthians 13:9). We must also grow in knowledge (2 Peter 3:18), and that growth takes time. God tests us and gives more understanding to those who believe and obey him (Psalm 111:10), and that testing takes time. Mr. Armstrong did not learn everything at one time, and neither do any of us.

So does that create confusion and division?

It can, but it doesn't have to. It depends on how the member handles his disagreement.

If he brings the matter to a minister with a humble and teachable mind and discusses the matter respectfully, and does not discuss the matter with other members, it need not lead to confusion or division. It is when a member takes his disagreement to others in the congregation that confusion and division occur.

The ministry has authority over the official doctrines that are taught to the members (Ephesians 4:11-16, Matthew 16:18-19). That is their job, and the members have to respect that. No member should undermine the authority the ministry has to teach the membership by contradicting the teaching of the ministry.

But our faith must be towards God, not the ministry. The Bible is God speaking to us directly. If we see something in the Bible that contradicts what a minister teaches us, we must believe God rather than man.

If we talk to a minister about our disagreement with a doctrine, we should let the minister explain, and we should listen with an open mind. Perhaps we have made an error and the issue can be resolved.

But if not, wait for God to make the correction. Wait for God to open your mind to understand your mistake, or to open the minister's mind to understand his mistake. If necessary, wait till Christ's return. God is testing all of us. But in the meantime, don't create division by discussing your disagreement and promoting your idea with the membership. Teaching other members is the job of the ministry, not yours. If you teach members, teach within the established doctrines of the ministry. God will open the minds of the ministry and leadership when it is His time, and if they will not listen to God, God will judge them.

If the matter is of major importance, you may have to leave the fellowship you are in. It depends on the situation.

Believing the Bible individually, letting the Bible interpret the Bible and believing and obeying what God says, does not create confusion and division. Criticizing and contradicting the ministry does create division.

And if the leadership and ministry is so far off base in major doctrines and it is obvious they do not believe the Bible, it may be necessary for members to take a stand and leave the group. In that case, it is the leadership and ministry that is creating the confusion and division, not the members.

Members should not be afraid to take a stand and be willing to say, "If Mr. Armstrong says one thing and the Bible something else, I will believe the Bible, I will believe God". Members should not be afraid to openly say, "We need to preach the gospel to the world". These are absolutely foundational issues, and ministers who teach loyalty to Mr. Armstrong and his teachings more than to God and the Bible are themselves creating confusion and division. Likewise with ministers who say, "This is not the time to preach the gospel to the world, only an apostle can do that".

To say that if we find differences between Mr. Armstrong's teachings and the Bible we should believe the word of Hebert W. Armstrong more than the word of God, or that we should lie and continue to teach things we know are wrong, is heresy, according to everything the Church of God stands for. If we do that, we are making an idol out of Mr. Armstrong. We are breaking faith with God. That is a sin serious enough to cost us our salvation, if not repented of.

And if we delay repenting, God can take away from us the knowledge we have. We only know what we know because Mr. Armstrong was committed to believing the Bible more than man. God used a man who put the Bible first to point us to the Bible and help us understand it. He also taught that process when he said, don't believe me, believe your bible. But if we do not agree with that process, why should we have the knowledge that is the good fruit of that process?

We will reap what we sow. If we disbelieve God, He is likely to take from us the knowledge we have. He can remove His protection and let Satan deceive us.

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7).

The sin of not preaching the gospel to the world is also serious. It is a direct rejection of God's law of love that says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is direct disobedience to the command to hold back those stumbling to the slaughter (Proverbs 24:11-12). It is a violation of Jesus's command, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8).

Again, if we refuse to share with others the precious truth God has given us, why should we have the truth? Will not God take it away from us? We have that truth because others sacrificed so we could have it. Now that we have benefited from the sacrifices of others, if we refuse to do our part and also sacrifice so others can hear the truth, then we prove ourselves to be unworthy of the truth. We say to God, "I don't agree with the process of sacrificing to pass the truth on to others in the world". God can say, "Ok, then why should you benefit from a process you don't agree with? You only have the truth because others sacrificed for you. Why should I protect you from Satan's deceptions any longer?"

Some might say, only an apostle can preach the gospel.

That is total nonsense, according to the Bible and according to Church history.

"At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles....Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:1-4).

The Church was scattered. But the apostles remained in Jerusalem. But those who were scattered, not the apostles, preached the "word" - the gospel - everywhere.

So you do not have to be an apostle to preach the gospel.

Moreover, while Mr. Armstrong was alive he used various evangelists and ministers to preach the gospel to the world, and he intended the preaching of the gospel to continue after his death, as his letters show. At no time did Mr. Armstrong say, after my death, the preaching of the gospel is over, because only an apostle can preach the gospel. Rather, he made provision for the preaching of the gospel to continue on television with new TV presenters.

Read his autobiography. He was on fire to preach the gospel even before he was ordained as a minister, long before he thought of himself as an apostle.

Read chapters four and five in my book where I explain why the gospel still needs to be preached to the world and why the Church of God needs to be doing it.

Those who say we must not change or re-examine Mr. Armstrong's teachings are inconsistent if they left Worldwide while Mr. Tkach was pastor general. Why did they not stay with Mr. Tkach and follow him? Mr. Armstrong said they should. By leaving Worldwide, they directly disobeyed Mr. Armstrong's teaching. But now they say, we must not re-examine or question or change any of his other teachings, even if they are wrong, even if they contradict the Bible. That's lunacy.

They have succumbed to the temptation of idolatry, not to a physical image made of wood or stone, but to the memory and teachings of a physical man. They have put that man in place of God, and that is wrong.


TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 6 - Mr. Armstrong Built Walls of Doctrine on the Foundation of the Bible

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if they conflict with the Bible.

The article builds a chain of ideas that leads to that conclusion. Unfortunately, many links in the chain are wrong.

The article promotes that idea that John the Baptist was an apostle or did an apostle-like work. The article tries to base that on the statement that Jesus Christ made that John was a prophet and more than a prophet. Yet, as I pointed out earlier in this series, just because Christ said that John was more than a prophet does not make John an apostle. "More than a prophet" can simply mean he is more than an ordinary prophet because he is also the prophesied Elijah to prepare the way for the Lord. And as I showed in the first post in this series, the surest definition of an apostle is one who is sent by God and called an apostle by Christ, and Christ never called John the Baptist an apostle.

From there, the article makes the claim that the prophesied Elijah to come in our day to restore all things must be an apostle. That is not true. There is no prophecy in the Bible that says that the Elijah to come must be an apostle.

Then, the article tries to build a case that each apostle lays a doctrinal foundation that no other apostle can lay. This implies that there are different foundations laid by different apostles, each for a different part of the Church of God. So Paul laid a foundation for the Gentiles, and Peter laid a foundation for the Israelites, and Mr. Armstrong laid a foundation for the Church of God in our time. There is an implication that the foundation Paul laid for the Gentiles was different and not suitable for the Jews, and the foundation Peter laid for the Jews was different and not suitable for the Gentiles.

Likewise, there is the implication Mr. Armstrong laid a doctrinal foundation for the Church today that is different from the doctrinal foundation for the Gentiles that Paul laid and the foundation for the Jews that Peter laid.

But I showed in the last post that there is only ONE foundation. That foundation is the same for all the Church of God, anywhere, anytime. That foundation is Christ and the Bible. It is the word of God that is the foundation. As Mr. Armstrong taught, Christ is the Word of God in person and the Bible is the word of God in print, the same word.

Paul helped to lay that foundation for the Gentiles because there was a division of labor between him and Paul. Peter helped to lay that foundation for the Israelites. They also helped lay that foundation for us today with their epistles which have become part of the Bible. Also, the prophets helped to lay that foundation for us with their writings in the Bible, men such as Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many others.

It is the Bible that is the doctrinal foundation for the Church of God today. Mr. Armstrong recognized that and never elevated his writings above the Bible, but rather he himself submitted to the Bible and corrected his own writings when he found, in the Bible, that they were wrong.

In other words, the Bible itself is the foundation for everything Mr. Armstrong taught in his writings and speaking. And when Mr. Armstrong found that his teachings were not aligned with the Bible, he changed his own teachings to bring them into alignment with the Bible.

In the analogy of a building, the Bible is the foundation and Mr. Armstrong's teachings were the walls built upon that foundation. And when Mr. Armstrong saw that the walls he built were out of alignment with the foundation, the Bible, he changed the walls he was building to bring them into alignment with the foundation.

Mr. Armstrong did not build or lay a foundation, except in the sense that he pointed us to the true foundation, the Bible, and helped us to understand it. And Mr. Armstrong and his teachings were never the foundation.

If you want to apply the analogy of laying a foundation to the work Mr. Armstrong did, that is all right if you understand that he laid the foundation by pointing us towards that foundation, that is, the Bible. The foundation of the Bible was laid centuries ago. Mr. Armstrong pointed us to that foundation that was already laid.

The COGIW article, after teaching that each apostle lays a foundation for a particular part of the Church that the apostle is sent to, then says that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle sent to lay the foundation for the Church of God in our time, and no one should correct, re-examine, or change his teachings because no one else can lay a foundation for the Church in our time except the one apostle sent to this part of the Church of God.

Thus, I suppose according to the COGIW article, I should be more loyal to Mr. Armstrong's teachings and writings than to the teachings and writings of Peter, Paul, James, John, and all the apostles and prophets and writers of the Bible, and thus more loyal to Mr. Armstrong than to the God who inspired the Bible and made it His word.

Let's use the common sense God gave us. The Bible is God's word, perfect, free from error. It is God speaking to us directly. Mr. Armstrong's teachings are not necessarily free from error. God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make mistakes, some of which Mr. Armstrong corrected before he died and some of which he did not correct. Why would God want us to give priority to the writings of a man, which can contain error, over His own word, the word of God, which is perfect and infallibly free from error?

Faith includes believing God's word, as Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Romans 4:3, James 2:23, Genesis 15:4-6). But where is the faith of those who say they will believe a fallible man more than God?

"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes" (Psalm 118:8-9).

God makes a very clear distinction between trusting in God and trusting in man.

"Thus says the Lord: 'Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.
   "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit" (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

God pronounces a curse on anyone who puts their trust in man more than God. We must not trust Mr. Armstrong, who made mistakes, more than we trust the direct word of God, the Bible, which is free from mistakes and perfect.

The whole COGIW article builds on a word, "apostle". It puts meaning into the word that is not there, then it uses that word to say or imply things that are not true regarding Mr. Armstrong. It's whole theme is built only on a label. But if you simply look at Mr. Armstrong's life, look at the history of the Church, read the Bible, and read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, you will see that even Mr. Armstrong never regarded his writings as higher than that of the Bible for members of the Church in our time, nor does God intend for us to trust Mr. Armstrong's teachings more than the Bible.

In chapter 4, the COGIW article states that Malachi predicts that there would be one individual, who would be an apostle, sent to the Church in the end time, and that God, through this individual, would lay a foundation for this part of the Church, and that no one else would be used by God to lay the foundation for us.

But this is false for several reasons, as I have shown.

Malachi does not predict an apostle.

Malachi does not predict one who would lay a foundation. The foundation has already been laid, and Malachi is part of that foundation, and so are the other prophets and apostles in the Bible. The Bible is that foundation, founded on the writings of the prophets and the apostles, with Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

The idea that no one else besides Mr. Armstrong would lay the foundation for us is absolutely wrong. God has used Peter, Paul, James, John, Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many others to lay the foundation in the Bible. Mr. Armstrong only pointed us to these prophets and apostles. He himself only built upon the foundation laid by these men. If we use a building as an analogy, a true analogy would have Mr. Armstrong building the walls (his teachings) upon the foundation of the Bible.

Mr. Armstrong's role was to point us to the Bible and to help us understand the Bible. And because so much understanding had been lost, his teachings and writings have been very important in restoring lost truth and helping us understand the Bible. And if you want to say, in the analogy of a building, that he was laying a foundation, that is all right if you understand the right context for that statement, that the Bible must come first and override, as necessary, anything Mr. Armstrong taught that was in error.

I don't fault those who say that, in a sense, Mr. Armstrong laid a foundation. It depends on what they mean. If they mean that his teachings, though not necessarily perfect, help us understand the Bible, and that Mr. Armstrong restored a lot of foundational knowledge and doctrine from the Bible that had been lost - I have no problem with that. It is true. From the narrow view of the Church of God today and its body of doctrine it has inherited from the work of Herbert W. Armstrong, it is true, provided it does not put Mr. Armstrong's teachings above the Bible itself.

Some have said that this passage refers to Mr. Armstrong: "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you" (Zechariah 4:9).

Whether Zerubbabel was a type of Mr. Armstrong and this verse can be applied to him, I do not know. But I know that the ultimate foundation for all the truth we have is the Bible. Call Mr. Armstrong's teachings a foundation if you want to, but it was not the kind of perfect foundation that the Bible is.

You can use different analogies in different ways to describe the same thing. You can use the same analogy to describe different things. The problem with the COGIW article calling Mr. Armstrong's teachings a "foundation" is the context for its statement and the meaning it puts into it. From the COGIW point of view, Mr. Armstrong's "foundation" is perfect and must not be questioned. In this they are wrong.

Mr. Armstrong did not lay a foundation in the sense that the COGIW article describes it.

The COGIW article says that apostles are sent to lay foundations, and not to re-lay foundations already laid by other apostles. Yet, if Mr. Armstrong laid a foundation in the sense the COGIW article describes, since Mr. Armstrong based his teachings on the Bible, he was re-laying the foundation laid by Peter, Paul, James, John and the other apostles and prophets.

Mr. Armstrong established a tradition and a pattern for us, to look to the Bible for answers. That is why, in Church of God Sabbath services today, you will find members bringing their Bibles and ministers quoting scriptures to prove their points as they speak, and the members looking up the scriptures and reading them from their own Bibles.

Mr. Armstrong set an example. He learned doctrine from the Bible. He always believed the Bible more than the teaching of men, from the time before he was ordained a minister. Long before he thought of himself as an apostle, he put the Bible first, and he continued to believe the Bible after he thought of himself as an apostle. He spoke to his radio audience saying, don't believe me, don't believe any minister, believe God, believe your Bible. And he practiced what he preached.

He always was willing to learn new truth from the Bible, and he was willing to admit he was wrong and change his teachings to be corrected by the Bible. And in doing this, he set an example for us, that we should do likewise.

If we follow Mr. Armstrong as a teacher, then we should follow his example as he followed Christ. "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40).

In other words, a teacher teaches not only by word but by example.

Mr. Armstrong's teachings by word were not always perfect, but he set a right example when he corrected his own teachings to align more perfectly with the Bible. We should follow that example, letting the Bible correct our teaching.

Thus he established a tradition and a pattern of being willing to let the Bible correct his mistakes and teach him new knowledge, and we must do the same. Mr. Armstrong is no longer alive to correct his writings according to the Bible, but we should follow his example and correct our teachings according to the Bible.

The COGIW article states that those who come after a true apostle should not re-lay foundations and change doctrines laid by other apostles sent by Christ. Yet, the article says that Mr. Armstrong laid a foundation. And it is clear that Mr. Armstrong came after the apostles and the prophets who wrote the Bible. According to the article's analogy, Mr. Armstrong would be one who has "re-laid" the foundation laid in the Bible by Peter, Paul, James, John, Jude, the gospel writers, and the prophets. Yet, the article says, this should not be done.

Did Mr. Armstrong change doctrines laid as the foundation of the Bible by Peter, James, Paul, and John and the other writers of the Bible? No, not intentionally, but he could have made mistakes. He has made mistakes, as Church of God history has shown. And he does not have the authority to change doctrines laid down by the writers of the Bible. He corrected his mistakes when he discovered them, and we should do likewise.

The COGIW article states that to avoid deception we have to be firmly rooted to the foundation God laid in our lives.

But what is that foundation we must be firmly rooted to in order to resist deception? It is not Mystery of the Ages or any of Mr. Armstrong's other writings or teachings. It is the word of God, the Bible.


TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 5 - How Some Use Mr. Armstrong to Divide the Church of God

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post is a link to their website.

Mr. Armstrong believed himself to be an apostle, and I agree. But the Bible is God speaking to us directly, and we must believe and obey what God says in the Bible over Mr. Armstrong's teachings. If we see a difference between what Mr. Armstrong said and what the Bible says, we must study the issue thoroughly, as Mr. Armstrong did when he corrected his own errors and set an example for us, and if Mr. Armstrong was wrong, we need to correct the error. Also, if God teaches us new things in the Bible that Mr. Armstrong did not know, we need to add those things to the doctrines of the Church.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never change the teachings of an apostle and therefore we should never change or question Mr. Armstrong's teachings.


The COGIW article, in chapter 4, quotes Romans 15:18-20, which says, "For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient—in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation".

The COGIW article quotes this passage to try to make the point that Paul was required to preach the gospel and lay the foundation in virgin territory, not where another apostle has laid a foundation.

Before I comment on that, I want to briefly focus on something else in this passage, something that the COGIW article did not immediately address. Paul mentions that his work was accompanied by mighty signs and wonders. Paul here is referring to the public miracles God used to back up Paul's message. Paul talks about this elsewhere, in 2 Corinthians 12:12, saying "Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds".

Notice that in this passage in 2 Corinthians 12:12, Paul not only repeats what was said in Romans, that his teaching was accompanied by and backed up by God with miracles ("signs and wonders"), but that these were "signs of an apostle".

So, public miracles were a sign from God that Paul was an apostle. It proved that he was an apostle.

Keep that in mind, for I will talk about that more later in this series.

Now, back to the point that the COGIW article tries to make with Romans 15:18-20.

The COGIW article is trying to say that Paul was required to preach where no other apostle had preached before.

But that is not what the scripture says. It says, Paul made it his aim not to preach where others have preached before. Notice again: "And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation" (Romans 15:20). This is a goal Paul set for himself. The scripture does not say that God forbade him to preach where another had preached.

There is another matter where Paul set goals for himself beyond what God required.

"My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we have no right to eat and drink?....Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? Who ever goes to war at his own expense?....If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ....the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void....What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge....Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you" (1 Corinthians 9:3-23).

Paul had the right to live from the tithes and offerings of the members, but he did not use this right, rather, he supported himself by working. God did not require this of him, but he did it voluntarily.

Likewise, Romans 15:18-20 does not prove that God required Paul to only preach where no other apostle had preached, or that no apostle build where another apostle has laid a foundation. This may simply be a voluntary decision and judgment call on Paul's part. Perhaps he felt he was better qualified than other apostles to endure the hardship of preaching where no one had preached before, raising up congregations from scratch without a local group to support him.

But I think the COGIW article is trying to plant the idea that each apostle has a domain that other apostles must stay clear of, as if each apostle's message might be slightly different for the territory or people that apostle has authority over. But that is false.

There is one message, one truth, one gospel, and one foundation. The message one apostle preaches is (or should be) identical to the message another apostle preaches. Christ is the head of the whole Church of God, and He inspires and leads all His apostles to teach the same truth, not different "truths". Perhaps not every servant of God fully submits to Christ, and thus different servants may have different mistakes in their teaching. That is not true for the canonized writings of the apostles, for God made sure that everything in the Bible is free from error (that is why the Bible says, scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35) and God cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18) ).

There is only one foundation. Different apostles may lay that foundation, but there are not different foundations - the foundation is the same regardless of the name of the laborer who lays it.

That foundation is the word of God: Christ, who is the Word of God in person, and the Bible, which is the word of God in print.

Paul said, "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

Paul said, no other foundation can anyone lay than Christ.

There is only one foundation, and any apostle who labors to lay a foundation must lay that same foundation - Christ - the same foundation any other apostle must lay.

The Bible was not complete and widely available in Paul's day as it is today. In Paul's day, the foundation was the truth he and the other apostles received from Christ, the Word of God in person (John 1:1, 14, Revelation 19:13). Today the foundation is the truth we receive from the word of God in print, the Bible, the same word and the same truth. Christ did not give a different truth in person to the apostles than God gives us in the Bible today.

That is why Mr. Armstrong had a sign at Ambassador College that said, "THE WORD OF GOD IS THE FOUNDATION OF KNOWLEDGE".

There is a unity in God's work. It is all one work, one truth, one message, not different messages.

The idea that when it comes to doctrine, there is a special loyalty between one apostle and his congregations that is not shared by other apostles - that a congregation should somehow believe and follow one apostle more than another - is wrong. There is division of labor to make the work of God more efficient - to make sure all territories were covered and so Paul was not bumping into Peter and James and John in their work - and the apostles had different groups over which they had authority. But the truth of God, the doctrines, had to be the same.

"Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul,' or 'I am of Apollos,' or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).

"For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another, 'I am of Apollos,' are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building" (1 Corinthians 3:4-9).

There is a oneness, a unity in God's work, in spite of our scattered condition. Some are more submissive to God than others, and some work more effectively than others, but from Christ's point of view, it is all God's work. There are not to be different apostles preaching different messages.

"For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors" (John 4:37-38).

"Now John answered Him, saying, 'Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.' But Jesus said, 'Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side' " (Mark 9:38-40).

I quoted Paul in two passages speaking of those who say, "I am of Apollos", and "I am of Paul". If you read the surrounding context, which I did not quote, you will see that this was a source of division because of the carnality of those who professed personal loyalty towards one apostle or minister over another.

Likewise, those who say, "I am of Mr. Armstrong", meaning they are more loyal to the teachings of Mr. Armstrong in Mystery of the Ages and other of his writings and sermons than they are to what apostles Peter, Paul, James, and John wrote in the Bible, cause division.

How?

If I see something in the Bible that contradicts what Mr. Armstrong taught, I must believe the Bible. Why? The Bible is God speaking, and my faith must be towards God, not man. Also, the Bible is perfectly accurate and free from error, but Mr. Armstrong's writings can contain errors. So if Peter wrote one thing in the Bible and Mr. Armstrong wrote something contrary to Peter in Mystery of the Ages, who am I to believe, Mr. Armstrong or Peter?

I will believe Peter.

Why should I believe Peter over Mr. Armstrong? Am I giving preference, loyalty, to one apostle over another, as Paul condemns?

No, not at all. The only writings I know from Peter are his epistles in the Bible, and because they are part of the Bible, they are free from error and perfectly true. Not so with Mystery of the Ages. Mr. Armstrong himself acknowledged that Mystery of the Ages is not scripture.

I have to believe the Bible. To disbelieve the Bible is to disbelieve God, and I must not break faith with God. My faith is in God, not a man. I do not want to end up in the lake of fire because of an attitude of unbelief towards God and what He says in the Bible.

But that puts me at odds with Church of God in Wales. Because, apparently they would choose to believe what Mr. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages over what Peter wrote in the Bible, over the actual infallibly true word of God, God Himself speaking.

So right there you have the kind of division Paul talked about, and condemned, with COGIW saying, we are of Mr. Armstrong, and I saying, I am of Peter, Paul, James, John, and all the prophets and apostles who wrote the Bible, because the Bible is the foundation for all the truth I have.

So I am divided from COGIW, and COGIW is divided from me, because I am committed to believing God and they apparently are not. Their commitment to believe, their faith, seems to be towards Mr. Armstrong more than God.

When they use the analogy of the foundation of a building, they misapply it.

Mr. Armstrong is not the foundation. Nor did he lay the foundation. The foundation is the Bible, and it was laid by the prophets and apostles who wrote the Bible and by God who inspired them.

The Bible is the foundation that has already been laid. Mr. Armstrong pointed us to that foundation in a special way, and he helped us understand it.

So in the analogy of a building, Mr. Armstrong's writings are like the walls that are built upon the foundation. The Bible is the foundation, and Mystery of the Ages is one of the walls built upon that foundation. Mr. Armstrong pointed us to the foundation, then he built upon it. He did not lay the foundation.

But as Paul says, "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it" (1 Corinthians 3:10).

We have to take heed how we build doctrinally upon the foundation of the Bible. If the walls are out of alignment with the foundation, we have to correct the walls. Mr. Armstrong corrected his own mistakes as time permitted and as God gave him the wisdom to see his mistakes, and in doing this he set an example for us. But it seems COGIW does not want to continue in his example. Why? Because they confuse the foundation with the walls of the building.

Mr. Armstrong's teachings are walls, not the foundation. The Bible is the foundation. That is the word of God Mr. Armstrong was referring to when he had a sign at Ambassador College, "THE WORD OF GOD IS THE FOUNDATION OF KNOWLEDGE". That sign does not refer to Mr. Armstrong's writings, but to the Bible.

There is also a misconception that apostles only lay foundations, not walls.

Look at this passage: "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it" (1 Corinthians 3:5-10).

Paul uses two analogies here. He first gives the analogy of a plant when he says that he planted and Apollos watered. Then he uses the analogy of a building, saying he laid the foundation and another builds on it. But if Paul is in both analogies, as one who lays a foundation and as one who plants, that shows that he is the one that starts a work in a particular area. He starts a congregation, and others, such as Apollos, then continue and support what Paul started. In the first analogy, he mentions Apollos by name as one who continues and helps to grow what Paul started, and in the second analogy Paul simply says that "another" builds on the foundation he laid. But he could have said, "Apollos builds", for the two analogies are describing the same thing. Apollos is simply an example.

But notice that he is not making a big difference between him and Apollos, as if Paul were an apostle and Apollos was not.

Paul said, "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?" He uses the word "minister" to describe him and Apollos. That is correct of course, because "minister" covers a multitude of ranks including apostle. Minister is a very general term, apostle is more specific.

But he talks about Apollos and himself as if they are equal. This implies that Apollos may have been an apostle. In any case, Paul does not speak as if his rank of apostle makes him somehow superior to Apollos. Paul's office of apostleship over Apollos is not treated as a issue. For the point Paul is trying to make, they are two ministers, period.

Also look at these passages: "Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul,' or 'I am of Apollos,' or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ' " (1 Corinthians 1:12). Apollos is mentioned with Paul, Cephas (Peter), and Christ. Paul, Peter, and Christ are all apostles (Hebrews 3:1). Does this not imply that Apollos was an apostle too?

"Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s" (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). Again, Apollos is mentioned with Paul and Peter (Cephas).

If Apollos was an apostle, and these verses imply that he was, then he built on the foundation, or "watered" in one of the analogies Paul used, that Paul had laid. He did not start congregations in new areas - Paul did that - but Apollos helped those congregations to grow. And if Apollos was an apostle, then this shows that an apostle does not just help lay the foundation, but also builds upon a foundation.

Paul did more than start congregations. He laid a foundation by helping to write the Bible. He took the truth God gave him by direct revelation and taught it to his congregations and also wrote epistles containing that truth in the Bible. He laid the foundation, Christ, for the congregations he started and he laid part of the foundation, the Bible, for the Church of God today. And the foundation is one - one message, one gospel - the same truth for all of us.

The idea that each apostle has a territory or group he is sent to, and the people in that group need to have a special loyalty to believe their apostle over the teachings of other apostles, is wrong and divisive in the Church of God.

It is also divisive, and idolatry, and heresy, to say that we are to believe Mr. Armstrong's teachings over that of the apostles in the Bible and all the prophets and men of God who wrote the Bible under God's inspiration.

The COGIW article states that Paul was sent to lay foundations specifically for the Gentiles.

What? Are the Gentiles to follow a different truth, a different foundation (or part of the foundation) than the Jewish Christians? If the Gentiles have a different foundation than the Jews, what need was there for Acts 15?

But Paul did not teach that there are different categories of Christians, Jews and Gentiles, each requiring a different apostle to lay a different foundation. "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him" (Romans 10:12).

"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13).

"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" (Galatians 3:28).

"where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all" (Colossians 3:11).

Yet, Paul was sent to the uncircumcised and Peter to the circumcised. "But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised" (Galatians 2:7-9).

Why was Paul sent to one area and Peter to another? Was it because they preached different messages, different versions of the truth, laying different foundations that were special for each area, and that those two messages should not be mixed? No, there is only one truth. It was a simple division of labor. To use an analogy from a business corporation, it is as if you have a sales staff divided into several regions with a sales manager in charge of each region, but they all sell the same product exactly. Such division of labor makes sure every territory is covered and eliminates duplication of effort.

It is also plain that there was a mixture of teaching from both Peter and Paul. The book of Hebrews, written for the Jews, shows characteristics of Paul's writing, and Peter spoke of the writings of Paul as if his readers were familiar with Paul's writings (2 Peter 3:15-16).

The foundation for the truth we possess is the Bible itself, the word of God in print. It is also Christ, the Word of God in person, the same word. Mr. Armstrong taught this. He often stated that Christ and the Bible are equivalent, saying that Christ is the Word of God in person and the Bible the word of God in print. Some of the members of Church of God in Wales may remember Mr. Armstrong saying this.

Mr. Armstrong also taught that the word of God is the foundation of knowledge. The sign he had at Ambassador College used that exact word, "foundation". He never said that Mystery of the Ages or any of his other writings or teachings or speaking was the foundation or any part of it.

Rather, Mr. Armstrong built UPON the foundation, when it came to doctrine. When he made a mistake in doctrine, he was willing to be corrected by the Bible. In doing this, he set an example. And he gave precedence to the Bible over his own word and teaching when he told his radio listeners, don't believe me, believe God, believe your Bible.


TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 4 - What Is the Foundation of the Church and Its Truth?

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post is a link to their website.

This series of posts explores the role of Herbert W. Armstrong, and the issue of correcting his doctrines according to the Bible.

The COGIW article tries to show that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle and his teachings should not be changed or questioned. Mr. Armstrong may have been an apostle, and I think he was, but that does not mean we should believe his teachings more than the Bible and fail to correct errors when we find them.


The COGIW article, in chapter 3, says that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the foundation of the Church, and the other apostles are the rest of the foundation to be aligned with the cornerstone, Jesus Christ. Then the rest of the Church is to be built on the foundation of the apostles and Christ and are to be aligned with that foundation.

The foundation, in this analogy as I understand it, is the doctrinal foundation of the Church.

To support this, the article quotes Ephesians 2:20: "...having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone...".

So we have a foundation for the Church made up of the apostles and prophets, Christ being the cornerstone of that foundation. The foundation of a building is used as an analogy to represent the doctrinal foundation of the Church.

But there is another analogy used in the Bible concerning the foundation. Paul wrote, "For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:9-11).

In this analogy, Paul does not count himself as part of the foundation, but rather a workman, and the foundation is Christ. In this analogy, Christ is not the cornerstone, but the whole foundation, all of it.

These two analogies complement each other if you look at the foundation as being the Bible. In the first analogy, the foundation is described as the apostles and prophets, because the apostles and prophets (not just apostles) wrote the Bible under God's inspiration. And because the Bible is the word of God, it is also described as Christ. The Bible is called the word of God, and Christ is also called the Word of God - that is one of His names (John 1:1, 14, Revelation 19:13).

Mr. Armstrong understood the equivalency between Christ and the Bible, both being the word of God. He said that Christ was the word of God in person and the Bible is the word of God in print.

There was a sign at Ambassador College that said, "THE WORD OF GOD IS THE FOUNDATION OF KNOWLEDGE". I don't think Mr. Armstrong had his own word in mind when he had that sign made. He was referring to the Bible.

Mr. Armstrong knew that the foundation is the Bible. He considered the Bible to be the foundation of knowledge, not himself or his own teaching. Paul said that in building God's spiritual temple, the Church, he could lay no other foundation but Christ. Both the Bible and Christ are called "the Word of God". Mr. Armstrong taught that the Bible is the word of God in print and Christ is the Word of God in person, the same word.

In Ephesians 2:20, that foundation is described as the foundation of the apostles and prophets because the Bible is composed of their writings, which God inspired as His word.

The real foundation for the truth of God and the doctrines of the Church of God today is the Bible, the only infallibly correct word of God.

The Bible is God speaking.

It is the foundation of the Bible that Mr. Armstrong's teachings must be aligned with. And because Mr. Armstrong was human and made mistakes, his teachings have not always aligned perfectly with the Bible. God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make mistakes, some serious mistakes.

Some have reported that Mr. Armstrong said, God has allowed me to make hundreds of mistakes, but never a mistake that would hurt God's work.

But can you say that about his statement to follow the next pastor general (Mr. Tkach) if we want to be in God's kingdom? He didn't qualify that with, as he follows the Bible, or as he follows Christ. It was phrased unconditionally. And it was wrong, as events that followed proved.

This was not only a mistake and a serious mistake, but it was a mistake that may have seriously hurt God's Church. How? Brethren who might have otherwise checked up more carefully in the Bible on the changes Mr. Tkach introduced instead may have just followed Mr. Tkach, assuming God must be leading him, just as Mr. Armstrong said. Mr. Armstrong's statement was horrible advice that may have spiritually harmed those who followed that advice.

Now, you can say, God allowed it for a purpose. God could have kept Mr. Armstrong from saying what he said, but God allowed it for the purpose of testing the Church and separating those who serve God from those who don't.

And that is true.

But in that case, those who passed the test are those who did not do what Mr. Armstrong said.

And perhaps a reason God allowed Mr. Armstrong to say this was to prove, once and for all to the whole Church of God, that we should NOT follow Mr. Armstrong's teachings more than the Bible, and we should NOT follow his mistakes, but rather correct those mistakes when we find them.

Mr. Armstrong's teachings are not the foundation of the Church of God and its truth and doctrines, or any part of that foundation. Mr. Armstrong's teachings rather point us to the true foundation, the Bible.

And as I write this it occurs to me that there is a comparison here with John the Baptist. We know that John was an Elijah to come to prepare the way for Christ's first coming. Assume that Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come to prepare the way for Christ's second coming and to restore all things. I think that is true. Now notice a comparison.

John did not point people to himself, but to Christ, the Word of God in person. "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry" (Matthew 3:11).

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?' " (Matthew 3:13-14).

"Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, 'I am not the Christ' " (John 1:19-20).

"And they asked him, saying, 'Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?' John answered them, saying, 'I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose' " (John 1:25-27).

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!' " (John 1:29).

"And they came to John and said to him, 'Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!' John answered and said, 'A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, "I am not the Christ," but, "I have been sent before Him." He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease' " (John 3:26-30).

In every way, John pointed to Christ, not himself. Christ was the Word of God in person, and John pointed people to Him.

In like manner, Mr. Armstrong pointed people to the Bible, the word of God in print, more than any minister. He told his radio audience, don't believe me, believe your Bible.

As John the Baptist pointed people to the Word of God in person, so Mr. Armstrong pointed people to the word of God in print, the same word.

It is the Bible, and Christ, that is the foundation of the truth, the Church, and its doctrines, not Mr. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong is not any part of that foundation, but rather Mr. Armstrong pointed us to the true foundation, Christ and the Bible.

Mr. Armstrong did not get his knowledge and truth from direct revelation as the apostles and prophets in the Bible did. He got his knowledge from the Bible. God directly revealed knowledge to Paul, who wrote his epistles, and Mr. Armstrong then got it from Paul's epistles. God directly revealed knowledge to Peter, and Peter wrote his epistles, and Mr. Armstrong then learned from Peter through Peter's epistles. Likewise, God revealed knowledge to James and John and Mr. Armstrong learned from their writings.

God revealed foundational knowledge to Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many others, and Mr. Armstrong received knowledge from their writings.

Mr. Armstrong did not lay the spiritual foundation for the Church. That foundation was already laid - it is the Bible. What Mr. Armstrong did was to point people to that foundation and help them understand it.

He restored knowledge, yes. But he did it by believing the Bible and teaching what he found there. The knowledge was in the Bible, but it had been lost through Satan's deceptions and misunderstandings. Mr. Armstrong believed the Bible more than his own opinions, and God helped him to understand the Bible and helped others understand it also.

TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 3 - Did John the Baptist Fulfill the Role of an Apostle?

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post is a link to their website.


The COGIW article tries to show that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle and his teachings should not be changed or questioned. I have no problem considering Mr. Armstrong to be an apostle, but I disagree with the idea that his teachings should not be changed or questioned even when the Bible shows they are in error.

The COGIW article, in chapter 2, tries to build a case that John the Baptist fulfilled an apostle-like role. The article presents two reasons. One, John the Baptist was "sent", which the article says is the very meaning of apostle. But a prophet is also sent, yet is not an apostle. Apostle and prophet are two different offices. Jesus Christ was both, but just because John the Baptist was sent does not mean his role was like that of an apostle. The prophets were also sent, but that does not make them apostles.

The second reason the COGIW article gave is the fact that Jesus said that John the Baptist was a prophet, and more than a prophet (Matthew 11:9-10). Since the only higher office in the Church than prophet is apostle, this suggests that "more than" a prophet indicates an apostle-like role.

But that phrase "more than a prophet" does not necessarily indicate that John the Baptist's role was that of an apostle. It could simply mean that John the Baptist was more than an ordinary prophet, that there was something special about him. That thing that was special was that he was fulfilling a prophesied role. Most prophets are not themselves prophesied about, but John was. This makes him more than an just an ordinary prophet.

Let's look at this passage.

"But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.' Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come" (Matthew 11:9-14).

Jesus did not say that John was more than a prophet because he was an apostle or fulfilled the role of an apostle. He said he was more than a prophet because he was the prophesied Elijah to come. That is a special role, a special office, a special honor. Look at the wording Christ used. "I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written..."

Look at that word "for", in "for this is he...". That word "for" indicates cause and effect. It indicates that what follows "for" is the reason for what precedes it. You could almost use the word "because". He was more than a prophet because it was written of him that God would send a messenger to prepare the way for Christ. Not because he was an apostle or fulfilled an apostle-like role.

Perhaps in some ways John's work and ministry was similar to that of an apostle, but you can't prove it by these scriptures. And as I pointed out in my first post in this series, an apostle is one whom Christ calls or names an apostle, and in the Bible Christ does not call John the Baptist an apostle.

From here the COGIW article says that there is a prophesied apostle to appear at the end time.

No, that is not true. There is a prophecy that there will be an Elijah to come, after John the Baptist, presumably at the end time to prepare for Christ's second coming, who will restore all things. But nowhere have I found in the Bible any prophecy that this man will be an apostle.

The Elijah to come in our time to restore "all things" (and I think Mr. Armstrong was that man) does not necessarily have to be an apostle. I think Mr. Armstrong was probably an apostle in God's sight, but not because he was the Elijah to come.

Nowhere does the Bible say that the Elijah to come would be an apostle.

TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 2 - Mr. Armstrong Learned the Truth from the Bible

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post is a link to their website.


This COGIW article will try to show that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle. I have no problem with calling Mr. Armstrong an apostle. I personally think he was an apostle, though I cannot prove it with certainty. But in saying that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle, the COGIW article then furthermore says that we should not change or question his teachings. That is wrong.

The COGIW article consists of an introduction and twelve chapters.

In the summary at the end of the first chapter, the COGIW article says that God's truth is only available via revelation specifically given to an apostle through the power of the Holy Spirit. As I pointed out in my first post, this is not true. For example, the original twelve apostles received much of the truth of God directly from the mouth of Jesus Christ.

But if this is true, if God only reveals His truth today by direct revelation to an apostle, then Mr. Armstrong could not be that apostle.

Mr. Armstrong did not receive the truth of God by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit. He did not receive the truth of God by dreams, visions, voices, face-to-face communication with Christ or an angel, or by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit apart from the Bible. He received the truth of God the same way we can prove it is the truth of God - by the Bible.

Read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography. He received the truth of God by the Bible. Of course the Holy Spirit helped him to understand the Bible and the truth of God. But it came from the Bible. The same Holy Spirit helps those who are called to understand the Bible when they check up on Mr. Armstrong's teaching in the Bible.

In other words, the method by which we receive the truth of God is the same as with Mr. Armstrong, and it has nothing to do with being an apostle. We read the Bible. If God is calling us, he opens our minds by the power of His Spirit to understand the Bible, and that helps us escape Satan's deceptions. If we are not being called, God does not open our minds, and He allows Satan to continue to deceive us.

That process works in us the same whether one of us is an apostle or not. We learn the truth from the Bible.

Is there a difference between us and Mr. Armstrong in this? Yes. But the difference is in degree, not kind. Mr. Armstrong was to be the leader to help others find the truth in the Bible. So that he could be the leader, God gave him much more help to learn the truth from the Bible. Then Mr. Armstrong showed us how to find that truth in the Bible and said to us, don't believe me, believe your Bible. In saying this, he was preaching what he himself practiced. He never believed any man over the Bible.

Then God's Holy Spirit has to work in us the same way it worked in Mr. Armstrong so that when we check up on the scriptures as Mr. Armstrong showed us, we could also understand the scriptures correctly. Otherwise, we could not accept the truth from the Bible.

Now, some people may have disobeyed Mr. Armstrong's instruction to not believe him but to believe their Bible. They may have believed Mr. Armstrong without checking in the Bible. If so, it seems their faith is in man, not God. How much value does that have even if they believe true doctrines? In my opinion, not much, but God is the judge.

But those who followed Mr. Armstrong's instruction to not believe him but to believe the Bible and who have checked the Bible and believed what they saw, have put their faith in God, not man, and have received the same help of the Holy Spirit to understand the scriptures as Mr. Armstrong, but in lesser degree and at a slower pace.

But the COGIW statement does not stress the role of Bible study in how Mr. Armstrong, or those who learned with his help, learned the truth.

If you read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, you will see how he learned the truth from the Bible one point of doctrine at a time. It was not easy and it did not happen overnight. Mr. Armstrong had to work at it. But God helped him because he was willing to believe God. He was willing to believe the Bible.

Even so, the truth came slowly, and Mr. Armstrong made mistakes along the way. For example, he used to teach that Pentecost was on a Monday. Later, he corrected that mistake and taught it was on a Sunday.

God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make mistakes, even in doctrine. And while Mr. Armstrong corrected many mistakes, he did not correct all of them. For example, he never corrected his statement that we need to follow the next pastor general (Mr. Tkach) if we want to be in the Kingdom of God. He never qualified that statement with, "as he follows Christ" or "as he follows the Bible" (which is the same thing).

Nevertheless, even though God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make mistakes, God was able to use him to do a powerful work because he believed what God said in the Bible.

But Mr. Armstrong never received the truth of God by special direct revelation from God apart from the Bible. If such revelation coming through an apostle is the only way God gives His truth to us, then Mr. Armstrong was never an apostle. But COGIW is wrong - that is not the only way God reveals His truth to us. In fact, as far as I can see, that is not a way at all that God revealed His truth to us in our time. He revealed His truth through the Bible, which was written by both prophets and apostles, and whose writings in the Bible are the direct word of God and thus infallibly sure and correct.

One might say, "God revealed these things through apostles in the Bible, and they received these things by revelation".

That is true, but I do not think that is what the COGIW article is talking about. I think the article is implying that Mr. Armstrong received this truth by revelation apart from the Bible.

So here is the path by which the truth of God is transmitted to us and the Church of God in our time:

God revealed His truth to the prophets and apostles through direct revelation by various means including the direct spoken word. God made sure the writings of the prophets and apostles that were canonized as part of the Bible were free from error, since the Bible was to be God speaking to us directly.

Those teachings come to us by the Bible, and the Bible is therefore the direct word of God, infallibly correct and free from error.

Mr. Armstrong, with the help (not direct revelation apart from the Bible) of the Holy Spirit, understood the Bible, but that understanding came over time, not all at once. He then helped Church of God members find that same understanding and truth in the Bible, and God helped us in the Church to understand the Bible the same way He helped Mr. Armstrong understand the Bible, by the Holy Spirit, but not by direct revelation apart from the Bible.

So the chain is:
God ---> apostles and prophets ---> Bible ---> Mr. Armstrong and the Church of God today.

At every step of the way, God helped the process by His Holy Spirit. So God gave the truth to the apostles and prophets who wrote the Bible. God made sure the Bible was free from error. God helped Mr. Armstrong understand the Bible. And God helps us also to understand the Bible when we study the scriptures that Mr. Armstrong has shown us.

This is how the truth of God has come to us. Not by direct revelation to Mr. Armstrong through the Holy Spirit apart from the Bible, and then from Mr. Armstrong to us. But from the Bible to both Mr. Armstrong and us with Mr. Armstrong, as a teacher, helping us to find the answers in the Bible.