Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What Pentecost Teaches about Church of God Organization and Authority

This coming Sunday is Pentecost.

Pentecost represents the beginning of the New Testament Church of God. The Church is the collective body of Christians, all those who have God's Holy Spirit dwelling in them (Romans 8:9). It was on Pentecost that the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples (Acts 2:1-4).

But we also know that the Church of God is a small body compared with the world (Luke 12:32, Matthew 7:13-14).

God is calling only a few in this six thousand year age of man. Pentecost is only the first fruits, the early harvest of souls. The main harvests will be in the millennium and the white throne judgment periods.

It is those represented by the early harvest, by Pentecost, who will be in the first resurrection and will rule the nations with Christ in the millennium (John 6:43-44, 65, 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Revelation 20:4-6).

Thus there will be hierarchy. Christ will not rule and teach every man and woman directly and alone in the millennium. He could. He is God and has all power. But he will use the saints, those in the Church who make it into the kingdom of God, to help Him rule. Some of us will rule a city, some several cities (Revelation 2:26-27, 3:21, Luke 19:16-19).

And there will be organization and hierarchy. Not all of us will report directly to Christ alone, but some of the saints will be over some other saints.

David will be king over all Israel (Jeremiah 30:7-9). But the apostles will be over the tribes of Israel, one apostle over each of the twelve tribes (Matthew 19:28). This means that David will be supervising the apostles in the teaching and ruling of Israel. Thus you have a hierarchical organization such as described in Exodus 18:13-26.

Pentecost teaches first fruits, and first fruits indicates a system of authority and organization in the kingdom of God. Everyone will not be equal in authority, but some will have more authority and others less. All will be under authority, and some will be over others in authority.

Thus there is organization, first in Israel, second in the Church, and third in the kingdom of God.

And part of the reason for that organization in the Church now is to teach us lessons of how to live and serve in an organized way in the kingdom of God. We are being prepared for God's kingdom. We are to respect government and organization in the Church to show God we will do the same in His kingdom.

Anyone in the Church who says, "I will never accept the authority of any man over me, but only God", only shows he has not yet learned a lesson he needs to learn to be prepared for the kingdom of God. For if he refuses to accept government as God teaches in the Bible now, how can God trust him to cooperate and accept government in the kingdom of God?

Mr. Armstrong taught that the Church of God is not an organization, but it is organized. In other words, there is organization within the Church of God.

And this organization is ordained by God (1 Corinthians 12:27-28).

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Moreover, God commands that we respect that organization and the offices He has ordained. This was true in Old Testament times as well as in New Testament times.

"Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel" (Deuteronomy 17:12). See also Numbers 16:1-35 and Numbers 12:1-10).

"He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
   'And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven' " (Matthew 16:15-19).

"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
   "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:15-28).

"Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct" (Hebrews 13:7).

"Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).

"And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves." (1 Thessalonians 5:12).

"He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me" (Luke 10:16).

But there has to be a balance. We should respect the ministry and government in the Church, but we should put God first and not make idols out of our ministers. Most ministers in the Church of God would agree with this, I think.

And finding that right balance is a problem for some. Failure to find a right balance has been the source of many controversies and splits.

It is important to know where that balance lies.

The authority of the leadership and ministry has limits, and ministers and members need to know what those limits are. God's authority is not limited, but the minister's authority is. A minister does not have the authority to order you to break God's commandments, for example, by lying.

God defines the job of the ministry in Ephesians 4:11-16 as I quoted above.

Christ established the binding and loosening authority of the apostles, and by extension the ministry appointed by the apostles, in Matthew 16:15-19 and Matthew 18:15-28 which I quoted above.

What does this binding authority include?

It includes authority to bind and loosen in regards to the work of the ministry for which they are appointed, as listed in Ephesians 4:11-16 which I have already quoted. In other words, they have the authority they need to do their jobs. It is not just in regards to resolving disputes. It includes authority over the official teaching of the Church of God, so there is no confusion.

The binding and loosening authority includes resolving disputes between brethren (Matthew 18:15-28).

It includes authority over the doctrines and teachings of the Church, "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting" (Ephesians 4:13-14).

"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10).

"Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them" (Romans 16:17).

For those who say that the binding authority of the Church leadership only includes resolving disputes between brethren, I suggest they read Acts 15, which shows an example of how the apostles had the authority to make a binding decision about what the Church would teach and require concerning physical circumcision. This shows that the ministry has authority over what doctrines will be officially taught in the Church.

The binding authority of the ministry includes authority to disfellowship or mark those who cause division or sin openly. I already quoted Romans regarding the marking of those who cause division over Church of God doctrine. See also Titus 3:10, which says, "Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition". Also, notice how Paul used his authority to disfellowship one who was sinning in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. "For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 5:3-5).

It includes authority to appoint others to offices (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9).

In short, the binding and loosening authority of the leadership and ministry of the Church includes authority over those things that relate to the organized work of the Church.

Yet, that authority should be loving authority, not harsh authority (Matthew 20:25-28, 2 Corinthians 13:10).

What does it NOT include?

The authority of the ministry does not include authority to order anyone to break God's law. If there is a conflict between what God commands us in the Bible and what a minister commands us, we must obey God first. "But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: 'We ought to obey God rather than men' " (Acts 5:29).

Also, the authority of the ministry does not include authority over what the members believe, that is, their faith. "Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand" (2 Corinthians 1:24).

In other words, faith - what we believe - like obedience to the law of God, is a matter between us and God personally. Just as we must obey God first, so we must also believe God first.

So just as a minister does not have the authority to command you to break God's law, neither does he have the authority to command you to believe what he says regarding doctrine contrary to what you see in your own Bible. You must believe God's word, the Bible, first and the Church second.

Obviously, both the minister and us are human and can make mistakes. So if the doctrine you disagree about is important, you have the option to take it to the minister in private and look to the Bible to know what is true. The minister may show you your mistake, or you may show the minister his mistake. But also, it is possible that after discussion you and the minister will still disagree. Why?

Learning is a process. It can take time. Also, we need God's help to understand the Bible, and God may allow us to make mistakes for a while. Why? Perhaps to test us to see how we get along when we do not agree. So God may open your mind to understand a truth from the Bible he has not opened the minister's mind to understand right now. Why? To test you and the minister - how will you two get along?

So what do you do? Talk about it with other brethren? No, you should not contradict the minister's teaching in conversation with other brethren. Why? God did not give you the job of teaching and determining what will be taught as doctrine of the Church - God gave the ministry that authority - remember the scriptures I quoted and referenced. The ministry has authority over the doctrines the Church teaches. It is rebellion to go against that authority, undermine the teachings of the ministry, and contradict them in conversation with the brethren.

If it is something small, let God correct it directly in His time. If it is something large, if you cannot live peaceably in the Church while the Church practices a major error (like abolishing the Sabbath or using images in worship), then you may have to leave the fellowship you are in, just as many of us had to leave Worldwide when it went into major error on many important doctrines.

All the above I think is basic, and many brethren understand these things and have a right balance, and many ministers have a right balance also.

This is the only way I know of to reconcile the demands of God's law to put God first and not make idols out of the ministry, and also respect and obey the ministry when it does not conflict with God's law.

Ministers are to be an example for the flock (1 Timothy 4:12, 1 Peter 5:1-3), and we are to follow them as they follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Yet, no minister and no man is perfect. If a minister makes a mistake, that is no reason to totally go against him or abandon him. We do not follow his mistake, but we continue to respect and support him as long as he is overall following Christ and serving as a minister. Remember, David did not go against Saul even though Saul had many sins (1 Samuel 26:10-11).

But there are trouble makers, divisive, rebellious men, both in various COG fellowships and on the Internet, who use their opinions about small details of doctrines to create division in large COG organizations that are trying, and succeeding to one degree or another, in preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.

These divisive men usually have a small following of weak and deceived people, foolish people who do not know their Bibles or God's law. They read what these divisive men write or they listen to what they say, and they are deceived.

Some of these divisive men can seem so reasonable, till you get into a serious discussion of their doctrines. Then, when you show them from the Bible that they are wrong, they say, "There is no point is discussing this further, I don't want to waste my time with you", or words to that effect. They then delete your comments from their blog so their readers do not see the proof from the Bible that they are wrong.

Do they accept correction from the Bible? Do they show an open mind as they demand from others? They do not. Rather than welcome discussion and correction in the spirit of "iron sharpens iron", they react with anger and rejection towards those who try to show them their error. But this is predicted in the Bible, showing the difference between the wise and the foolish. The wise accept, even welcome, correction, but the unwise reject both the correction and the one who corrects them.

"He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, and he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning" (Proverbs 9:7-9).

"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1).

These divisive men harden their hearts against correction from the Bible, and their readers, foolish as they are, do not dig deep to prove these things for themselves.

Some or all of these divisive men behave like total hypocrites. Like the Pharisees, whom Christ called "hypocrites" (Matthew 15:7, 16:2-3, 23:13-29), they are inconsistent in their teachings and behavior. They make a show of following the Bible, they insist you read their writings with an open mind, but their own minds are closed. They pick and choose what scriptures to use to support their position, but when you answer them with other scriptures on the subject, scriptures they have ignored, they end the discussion. They can't answer, but they won't admit even the possibility they may be wrong.

I say they behave like hypocrites because they make a show of following every word of God, but they won't actually do it. They show their readers their own writings, but exclude the comments of others that show from the Bible they are wrong. Their readers only get one side, not both sides. Their readers see the false side, but not the true side of the issue.

I have had this kind of experience several times on the Internet. I will give one example. I once found the blog of a man who grew up in the Church of God, but is not part of the Church now. He published a book that tries to teach that spanking as a form of child discipline is wrong. He invited others to read his book and discuss it with him. So I did.

I pointed out errors in his book and in his blog.

In one of his posts, not related to child rearing, he said that ancient Israel coming of out Egypt was not about 600,000 men plus women and children, but far less, because (he said) the way they counted a census was to include all past generations, even those dead. So you could, for example, have 200,000 men alive, but when you added all those who had died generation after generation all the way past to Jacob, you would come up with 600,000.

This sounded ridiculous to me, but I checked it out anyway, and I looked for and found proof in the Bible that it was wrong. The account of the first census is in Numbers 1:1-54. The total count of the Israelite males, from 20 years and above, able to go to war (verse 3), not including the Levites, was 603,550 (verse 46). This census was taken in the second year after they came out of Egypt (verse 2). But I found where there was a second census after Israel wandered 40 years in the wilderness, and it was slightly smaller. That census is described in Numbers 26:1-65. The total is given in verse 51: 601,730. The number had decreased. That could not have been the case if each generation's numbers, including those dead, were added to the total - the number would always go up, never down.

So I showed this man his error by submitting a comment in his blog for that post.

Did he admit the error? No. He ignored it for a time, then deleted my comment along with other comments I submitted regarding the Bible's teaching on child discipline.

As far as I know, he still teaches his error on the census.

This man could not admit he was wrong no matter how clearly the Bible proved he is wrong, not even in the tiniest matter.

This is typical of many divisive bloggers on the Internet. They paint themselves as believing the Bible, but they actually reject anything in the Bible they don't agree with. And their readers only get their side of the picture, and being weak, they are deceived. They contribute their tithes and offerings to these men and do not realize how far off the mark they are.

Probably, their pride, vanity, conceit, and egotism won't allow these divisive men to admit they have made mistakes or even admit to themselves the possibility they could be wrong, that they could have misunderstood the scriptures. Apparently their wisdom has been corrupted by their pride and vanity, as with Satan (Ezekiel 28:17). They have lost their common sense. Their minds have become twisted. And by refusing to believe all that God says in the Bible, by refusing to live by every word of God, they disqualify themselves from God giving them help to understand. They begin to lose more and more knowledge of God's truth, and God lets them lose it, because they don't believe Him.

"The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; So what wisdom do they have?" (Jeremiah 8:9).

God lets them display their own foolishness on the Internet. They mock themselves and don't even know it. They openly shame themselves and should be embarrassed by what they say, but they don't have the wisdom for that. So God displays them as fools and as bad examples for the rest of the Church of God to learn from, as object lessons, so we don't follow their bad example and reap the consequences.

So they have their pet theories about minor details of doctrines, which in many cases (probably most or all cases, but I haven't studied "every wind of doctrine" to say with certainty) are plain wrong according to the Bible, then they use these things to create as much division and disrespect in the major Church of God fellowships as they can. And weak people are deceived.

They are tools in the hand of Satan and probably don't know it. Satan uses these deceitful men to hurt the work of God.

God gave His basic law through Moses and in other writings in the Bible. God did not spell out every detail of how His law was to be obeyed. So God gave authority to the leaders of His people to make decisions concerning the details of how to obey His law. This is part of God's plan to train His people for His kingdom where everyone will obey hierarchical government. Respect for government in the Church is both training and test.

These details are judgment calls to be made by those in authority, and they are to be made according to God's word, the Bible, but also according to the circumstances of the times and places where the judgments must be made. In the Old Testament, you had priests and judges to make the decisions. In the New Testament you have the apostles and ministry to make the decisions. So, for example, Ezra and Nehemiah might make one judgment call for their circumstances, the first century apostles might make a different judgment call based on their circumstances, and Mr. Armstrong, Dr. Meredith, or Mr. Weston might make a different judgment call based on our circumstances today.

Yet divisive men without authority will make their own judgment calls and try push them on the members of various fellowships who may read their blogs. And some of these men, while they may not use details of doctrines to divide, may divide the Church of God even on foundational principles, such as using the Bible as a source of truth and actively preaching the gospel to the world. At least one whole fellowship downplays the Bible and refuses to preach the gospel.

And in doing this, they impede and discourage members of many larger fellowships from going all out to enthusiastically and zealously support the preaching of the gospel to the world. They create unnecessary division. They weaken the hands of those who are doing God's work.

These divisive men have made themselves enemies of the gospel, enemies of the Church, and enemies of God. Their teachings are spiritual poison. Some of them preach a message of repentance, but it is a false repentance.

They apparently are deceived, and they spread the deceit they believe. They deceive others, whether they realize it or not.

And all of this assumes that they sincerely believe what they say. There is another possibility, that they know they are lying and do so strictly for money. But only God can judge their hearts that way - I cannot. I can only observe the fruits, which are bad.

In some ways, they may be like those described in 2 Peter 2:1-22 and Jude.

"But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed" (2 Peter 2:1-2).

"then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
   "But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption" (2 Peter 2:9-12).

"These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" (2 Peter 2:17).

"Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!' But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves" (Jude 8-10).

"These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
   "Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, 'Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.'
   "These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage" (Jude 12-16).

"These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit" (Jude 19).

I don't say that every one of these divisive men have all the sins included in Jude and 2 Peter chapter 2. But there is a lot here that seems to fit.

They pick off the weak and the foolish and lead them astray.

But those who are strong to live by every word of the Bible will not be deceived by them.

There is still time for these dividers to repent. There is time. I hope they do repent, not just for their sake but because some of them have zeal and talent that can be useful for God's work if they do repent. But all the time in the world will not help them if they are not willing to repent. And only God knows if they are willing or can be made willing.

Pentecost reminds us and teaches us about organization in the Church of God, because Pentecost reminds us that some of mankind are chosen to be first fruits, and that shows that all mankind will NOT be at the same level of authority in the kingdom of God - there will be hierarchy and organization, and thus there must be now in the Church.

We must always have a right balance in our understanding of the authority of the ministry. We must respect that authority, but we must also know its limits.

And we must be on guard against mockers and dividers who weaken the hands of those who do God's work.

Here is a link to a post in this blog on a subject related to this post:

"False Repentance Movement in the Church of God", dated March 28, 2014, link:

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel: 
Government in the Church, Chapter 5


Sunday, May 21, 2017

How Roderick C. Meredith Has Benefited God's Work

Dr. Meredith has been a major figure in doing the end-time work of God of preaching the gospel to the world, of delivering God's Ezekiel warning message to Israel about the great tribulation to come, of making disciples of all nations, and of feeding the flock.

He has stood for several basic principles that are important for God's work. One, he has had zeal for the gospel. After leaving Worldwide, he was zealous to renew the preaching of the true gospel to the world and to start a broadcast. I am typing some of this from memory, and I don't recall the details perfectly (I will let others fill those in), but he started a work around December 1992. He started Sabbath services with only about 20 or fewer people on the first Sabbath. That was the beginning of Global Church of God. Within about 6-8 weeks he was broadcasting a program to preach the gospel to the world, I think on radio.

He remained firm on the importance of preaching the gospel to the world, and as he continued to do so, it became clear that he was not just trying to orient his program towards those in the Church, but towards those outside the Church of God, the people of the world, as Mr. Armstrong did.

Later, he resisted pressure to cut back on the gospel. In 1998, Larry Salyer and Raymond McNair led a movement to gain control of Global Church of God corporation, a corporation set up by Dr. Meredith to handle the business aspects of the Church. They fired Dr. Meredith over various differences, and one of those differences seemed to be the preaching of the gospel to the world. Dr. Meredith wanted to continue to spend money on the gospel at about the current rate, those against him seemed to want to cut back.

Mr. Salyer and Mr. McNair may have thought that most of the Church would back them. But most of the Church stayed with Dr. Meredith, and Dr. Meredith reorganized and formed a corporation with the name "Living Church of God". I think he preferred the name "Church of the Living God", but that name was not available.

About 75-80% of the ministry and members stayed with Dr. Meredith. They lost the assets held by Global, including, not only office supplies and equipment, but bank accounts, contracts, and copyrights. Living Church of God had to rebuild from scratch, rewriting all the literature, but with most of the ministry and tithe-paying members supporting Dr. Meredith, progress was swift.

Another important principle Dr. Meredith stood for was government from the top down in the Church, not government by the voting of men. He remained faithful to this principle to the very end of his life. This is an important principle taught very clearly in the Bible, as I have shown in chapter 8 of my book, Preaching the Gospel.

He also had a balanced approach to the memory and legacy of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. He remained faithful to the major doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught, and he showed respect for Mr. Armstrong. He knew Mr. Armstrong well and worked closely with him, more closely than most evangelists. In a sense, he was one of four young men who worked closely with Mr. Armstrong in the early days of Ambassador College, the others being Dick Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong, and Herman Hoeh. He outlived all of them and became an important leader to continue God's work after the breakup of Worldwide Church of God after Mr. Armstrong died and Mr. Joseph Tkach changed many of the important doctrines of Mr. Armstrong.

But as much as Dr. Meredith respected and loved Mr. Armstrong, he never made an idol out of him.

This is a ditch some have fallen into - they regard Mr. Armstrong's teachings as sacred, and for them his word and his teachings in Mystery of the Ages are almost on par, or actually equal in authority in their minds, to the Bible itself. Thus they refused to change any doctrines, even small ones, that Mr. Armstrong taught. They refused to believe the Bible first. They refused to be corrected by God in the Bible. They refused to grow in grace and knowledge as the Bible commands. In this, they have actually gone against one of the most important doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught by word and especially by his example: Don't believe me, believe your Bible, believe God. Mr. Armstrong knew he could make mistakes and that his teaching was not infallible. He corrected his own mistakes, changing his own doctrines as needed. And the proof that he was human and could make mistakes in his teaching was when he taught the brethren, in one of his last sermons before he died, that we should follow the next pastor general (Mr. Joseph Tkach) if we want to make it into God's kingdom. But those who make an idol out of Mr. Armstrong and his teachings do not care about the evidence in the history of the Church or in the Bible that show that we should not idolize the teaching of any man, even an important leader in the Church.

Dr. Meredith never fell into that trap. He loved and respected and honored Mr. Armstrong, and he maintained his major doctrines, but he never made an idol out of him, and he was willing to re-examine some of Mr. Armstrong's judgments and details of doctrines when he felt he had Bible evidence that he should do so.

Because of Dr. Meredith's faithfulness in preaching the gospel to the world with zeal, practicing top down governance in the Church, and putting the Bible first over the traditions of Mr. Armstrong, the Churches he raised up, first Global, then Living, because a home and safe haven for many Philadelphian Christians.

I have said before, Living Church of God does a better job of preaching the gospel and feeding the flock in a balanced way than any other fellowship. God has given LCG an open door for preaching the gospel, and I believe it is for the sake of the Philadelphians that are in LCG that God has provided that open door.

I believe that the majority of Philadelphian members of the whole Church of God have gathered, over the years, into Living Church of God.

There is a great work ahead, and I am hopeful that before the great tribulation begins and the two witness begin their special work, God will use those members of the Church who are Philadelphian in spirit and character as described in the messages to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 to really finish the work and get a powerful warning message out to about 500 million people in the nations that are descended from all the tribes of Israel.

Here are links to related posts in this blog:

"Dr. Roderick Meredith Illness", dated February 19, 2017, link:

"Dr. Roderick C. Meredith Has Died", dated May 19, 2017, link:

Friday, May 19, 2017

Dr. Roderick C. Meredith Has Died

LCG has announced that Presiding Evangelist of Living Church of God, Roderick C. Meredith, has died of cancer Thursday night, May 18, 2017.

Here is a link to that announcement:

Mr. Gerald Weston has previously been named as successor to Dr. Meredith, and will become the new Presiding Evangelist and Chairman of the Board. He has already been serving as President of Living Church of God and will continue in that office also.

Mr. Weston now becomes the highest human authority in Living Church of God, as Dr. Meredith was.

Dr. Meredith has been a strong leader in LCG. He knew and worked closely with Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong since the earliest years of Ambassador College. He also knew and worked with Mr. Armstrong's two sons, Mr. Dick Armstrong and Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong, and also Dr. Herman Hoeh. Those three men, along with Dr. Meredith, seemed to be pillars in the Church, working under Mr. Herbert Armstrong's supervision and direction, starting during the 1950s.

Dr. Meredith held a variety of positions in Radio Church of God, later renamed Worldwide Church of God. He wrote many of the articles for the Plain Truth magazine. He wrote the original Ten Commandments booklet. He taught Bible classes at Ambassador College. He did baptizing tours. He supervised congregations.

After the death of Herbert W. Armstrong, Worldwide began to reverse the doctrines that Mr. Armstrong had taught. Dr. Meredith was forced to leave, and of those ministers who left Worldwide and started new groups, Dr. Meredith was, as far as I know, the first to start broadcasting the true gospel in a program oriented towards the public, not just members of the Church of God still in Worldwide.

He raised up the Global Church of God. After several years of growth both in the Church and in the work of preaching the gospel to the world, certain men on the Global board of directors, apparently led by Mr. Larry Salyer and Mr. Raymond McNair, using the power and authority of the board, overthrew Dr. Meredith's authority and fired him from his position, even though Dr. Meredith started Global in the first place.

This was in November 1998.

About 75-80% of the ministers and members of Global remained loyal to Dr. Meredith, and Dr. Meredith was able to reorganize with a new corporation and Church name, as Living Church of God. In the United States, Global later went bankrupt, as I recall.

But Living Church of God grew both in members and in doing God's work of preaching the gospel.

Larry Salyer first went with United Church of God (UCG), and later went with Church of God a Worldwide Association (COGWA).

Dr. Meredith has been a strong force in Living Church of God for preaching the gospel and practicing top-down governance as taught in the Bible. One of his strengths has executive leadership and management. He knows how to run an organization. God has blessed LCG under Dr. Meredith's leadership.

Dr. Meredith has often said that he is not perfect, and that is true of him and all the top leaders of the various Church of God fellowships that have existed since the breakup of Worldwide. Yet, in my opinion, he has been the most effective of all the top leaders of groups in preaching the gospel to the world, of giving the Ezekiel warning to Israel, and of growing the Church and the whole work of God.

He has also remained faithful to the overall body of doctrine that Mr. Armstrong taught, such as the doctrines Mr. Armstrong named in a sermon before his death as having been restored to the Church through the work of Mr. Armstrong, which later became known as the eighteen doctrines.

I know that since the time Dr. Meredith first started out reviving the work of God after leaving Worldwide, many outside of Global and Living expected him to proclaim himself as an apostle. But while others have claimed higher offices than evangelist, claiming the office of prophet or apostle, Dr. Meredith never did. In this he was wise.

To me, titles claimed are less important than results achieved and fruits shown. If a man has the authority over certain things, he has the authority, regardless of the title by which he is known among men.

Some men who claim to be prophets or apostles may be only evangelists, and a man who only claims to be an evangelist may be counted by God as an apostle. It is God who judges these things, not man.

I will miss Dr. Meredith.

Now the full authority and responsibility for directing and supervising Living Church of God, under Jesus Christ, falls upon the shoulders of Mr. Gerald Weston.

I believe that Dr. Meredith made a wise choice, with the advice and counsel of many top leaders in LCG, in naming Mr. Weston to succeed him. Only God knows the hearts of men, and Mr. Weston's character and fruits will only become fully known by the results of his leadership of LCG over time. But Mr. Weston seems well qualified in ability and experience to direct and manage LCG under Jesus Christ. He has a balance of experience in both pastoring and supervising the pastoring of congregations and in preaching the gospel through TV.

I desire and pray that God will protect, bless, inspire, and empower Mr. Weston to do God's work according to God's will.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Does God Change What He Requires of Us?

God says, "For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob." (Malachi 3:6).

What does God mean when He says He does not change? Does He mean He never changes the details of what He requires of us? Does it mean He never changes His law?

No, as I will show in this post. For example, Hebrews says, "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law" (Hebrews 7:12).

When God says He does not change, in Malachi 3:6, it is in the context of not destroying Jacob.

What does not change is God's eternal character - His love, His justice, and His basic way of life.

God also keeps His promises. He does not make a promise, then change His mind.

Yet even there, God allows and warns us that He can change even what He says He will do to us or for us.

"Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.
     "Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 'O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?' says the Lord. 'Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it" (Jeremiah 18:2-10).

The above is well illustrated with Nineveh in the days of Jonah. Jonah gave God's message to Nineveh, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (Jonah 3:4). Yet, God saw that the Ninevites humbled themselves and repented, so God RELENTED of the punishment He planned to inflict in them and did not do it (Jonah 3:10).

There are many examples in the Bible of God changing what He does and the details of what He requires of us.

God required Israel to sacrifice animals, but He does not require animal sacrifices today. That is a change in a physical detail of what God requires.

God required physical circumcision of ancient Israel, but does not require physical circumcision today. That is a change in detail of what God requires.

God required the eating of a lamb at Passover in the past, but today He requires unleavened bread and wine as symbols of Christ's sacrifice. That is a change in detail of what God requires.

Swearing was allowed in Old Testament time, but not today (Genesis 24:2-9, Genesis 50:4-6, 1 Kings 1:13, Psalm 15:4, Psalm 63:11, Deuteronomy 6:13, Matthew 5:33-37, James 5:12).

God has changed His law. "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law" (Hebrews 7:12).

Even in the Old Testament, God changed what He required of Israel. When Israel took Jericho, they were required to kill all the people and the animals, except for Rahab and her family (Joshua 6:16-21). But after the Achan incident (Joshua 7:1-26), God allowed Israel to take the livestock of the next city they conquered (Joshua 8:1-2).

Also, the prophet Ezekiel was told by God to cook his food using human waste as fuel for the fire (Ezekiel 4:9-13). Yet, Ezekiel had a conscience problem with eating food cooked with human waste, and he spoke to God about it, and God changed His requirements to accommodate Ezekiel's sensitive conscience (there is a lesson in that too - see 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 and Romans 14:14-22 and read the surrounding context) and allowed him to use cow dung as fuel (Ezekiel 4:14-15).

Why is this an issue?

There are some who may cause division in the Church by latching on to some detail of Old Testament law, interpreting it to apply a certain way in our society, and demanding we must follow it today. And a reason why we must do this, they may say, is that God does not change what he requires of us, so any detail of any law, commandment, statute, or judgment that God required of ancient Israel God also requires of the Church of God today.

But as I have shown, this is false. God does change the details of what He requires according to the timing of His plan and according to changing circumstances.

Those who argue otherwise to support their pet prohibitions have misapplied the verse that says that God does not change.

How then are we to know what has changed and what the details are of what God requires of us today?

We can sometimes know by the Bible itself. For example, we know by the New Testament that the Old Testament requirement for physical circumcision is not now required.

But when it comes to details of God's law, not everything is always spelled out in the Bible. Sometimes judgment calls have to be made.

God has given the leadership and ministry of the Church of God the authority to bind and loose. "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19).

What does this binding and loosening authority include? Does it include doctrine? Does it include authority over the beliefs of the members?

It does not include authority to command members to believe certain doctrines or the minister's interpretation of the Bible. Here is the proof text that authority over the beliefs and faith of the members is not included as something the ministry can bind or loosen. "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 here clearly states that he did NOT have authority or dominion over the faith of the members and what they believe.

But this binding and loosening authority does include authority over what is officially taught as doctrine in the Church. That is one of the reasons God has placed the ministry in various offices and why God has established organization, so there is not the confusion of every man teaching something different to the brethren.

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Notice that one of the reasons God has set ministers in the Church was for the purpose of avoiding confusion in doctrine, including the details of what God requires of us today, details which may be different from what God required of ancient Israel. For if there were no control or authority over what is taught and spoken, with every man teaching what he thinks is right, you would have confusion. But God has established an ordained ministry with binding authority to prevent that very confusion, "that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine".

Now, if a man sees something in the Bible that he thinks is contrary to what the ministry teaches, he can take it to the ministry in private, respectfully, and discuss it with an open mind. It is not wrong for a member to correct a minister in private and in an attitude of respect, humbly and willing to be taught. Correction, in that sense, is not always from the top down, as some have said - see the example of Naaman the Syrian and how his servants corrected him respectfully, how Naaman heeded the corrected and God blessed this example with a miracle (2 Kings 5:1-14).

Then, if he is right, he may persuade the minster or the top leader, and the correction can be made for the whole Church. But if he is wrong, the minister may show him his error.

But is is possible for two sincere men, the minister and the member, to discuss it and still not agree? Yes. None of us is perfect. We all have different backgrounds. We are human and make mistakes. None of us knows the truth of God perfectly. As Paul said, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part" (1 Corinthians 13:9).

We see in Acts 15 an example of a dispute within the Church involving circumcision. This was a question of what God requires. Both sides felt strongly about the issue, before it was resolved. This shows there can be disagreements between sincere members of the Church. And in this case it was not resolved by everyone agreeing on what the scriptures meant, but by the authoritative decision by Peter and James. Everyone then submitted to this decision, knowing the authority from God that backed up the decision.

Certainly as we grow in the Church we should understand the scriptures more and more accurately. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).

But this takes time, and every man, minister or not, grows at a different pace.

If the ministry is wrong about a particular point of doctrine and is not persuaded by a member who tries to correct them, then Christ will correct them in His time, either before or after the resurrection. And the member who disagrees should be patient and wait for Christ to correct the problem, and in the meantime he should continue to believe what he sees in the Bible.

But he should not teach his fellow brethren in contradiction to the ministry - that is rebellion because he was not given that authority. The ministry has authority over teaching, not every member. Contradicting the ministry undermines the authority of the ministry in the eyes of the brethren, and this is contrary to God's intent.

God's desire is that there be peace in the Church, but you can't have that with every member deciding for himself what to say and teach regarding doctrine. That is chaos.

"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10).

The Bible clearly shows that God does change the details of what He requires of us from time to time, and God has given authority to His ministry to make binding judgment calls on those details. Those who disagree may follow their conscience in their behavior, doing the best they can to obey the Bible, and believing what the Bible says, but if they take it upon themselves to spread their disagreements in the congregation, they are rebelling against the ministry and against the God who gave authority to that ministry.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Jews Do Not Keep Passover

There may be a tendency among a few Church of God brethren to feel a sense of doctrinal kinship with Jews more than with Catholics and Protestants because of certain shared doctrines we have with the Jews, such as avoiding unclean meat and observing the annual holy days.

Yet, beyond the obvious error of the Jews in not accepting Jesus as the Messiah, we need to be aware that we do not have more in common with the Jews in matters of religious doctrine than with traditional Christianity. For just as traditional churches follow their traditions more than the Bible, so do the Jews.

This was true in the days of Jesus, and it was one of the sources of conflict between Him and the Pharisees. The Jews, led by the Pharisees, were keeping their own religious traditions apart from the word of God just like many traditional churches today.

This is made apparent by several New Testament accounts. Examples of where the Jews went astray in their traditions include making the Sabbath into a burden by adding many unnecessary restrictions, letting people not honor their fathers and their mothers by dedicating money to the temple that should have supported their parents, and making rules regarding the washing of hands before eating. Those examples were probably just the tip of the iceberg of wrong traditions, beliefs, and practices, but they illustrate the problem.

"Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 'Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.' He answered and said to them, 'Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, "Honor your father and your mother"; and, "He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death." But you say, "Whoever says to his father or mother, 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God' — then he need not honor his father or mother." Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" ' " (Matthew 15:1-9).

From the time of Moses till the time of Christ, the Jews corrupted their doctrinal traditions. And the corruption of their traditions continues to this time.

Take snapshots of Israel and the Jews in time: the time of Moses and Joshua, the time of Jesus Christ, and today. God gave instructions to Moses, and Moses faithfully recorded what God told him in the first five books of the Bible. During the rule of Moses and Joshua, Israel was correct in its doctrines and traditions.

By the time of Christ, the Pharisees and Jewish leaders had turned away from the teachings of Moses in many respects. They rejected the Bible and substituted their own man-made rules and traditions. And this is also true for the Jews of today.

That is why the Jews keep what they call "Passover" one day later than the Church of God. The Church of God keeps the true Passover on the correct night, the night portion of the 14th day of the first month, because we follow the Bible, and we understand the correct meaning. The Jews do not keep Passover on the correct night, nor do they understand the meaning.

In fact, the Jews do not keep Passover at all, though they call their dinner on the evening portion of the 15th day, "Passover". But it is not Passover.

Two significant events happened to Israel at the time of Moses when they were in Egypt. Those two events occurred on separate, consecutive nights.

These two events are commemorated by two observances that God commands, again on two separate nights, one after the other.

Each of those observances represents one of the two events that occurred in the time of Moses. Two events - two commanded observances.

Each of the two observances therefore represents one and only one of the two events.

In addition, each of the two observances represents something important in New Testament Christianity.

The event on the 14th day is the passing over the houses of the Israelites with the blood on the doorposts by God when He killed the firstborn of Egypt, thus sparing the firstborn of Israel. This is the true Passover. For New Testament Christians, this represents the sacrifice of Christ to pay the penalty of our sins, thus making forgiveness of sins possible. God commands that this be observed every year. We observe it, the Jews do not.

The event on the 15th day is Israel beginning their journey out of Egypt. God also commands a yearly observance to remember this event. This is called the Night to Be Much Observed, and it is the beginning of the seven days of unleavened bread. The Church of God observes this event with the added understanding that it represents coming out of sin, since Egypt represents sin. This is the day the Jews observe with the Old Testament understanding that it represents coming out of Egypt, but without the New Testament understanding that it represents coming out of sin. But they call it "Passover".

Ask a Jew what Passover represents, and he may likely tell you, "coming out of Egypt".

Of course, the Jews know about the slaying of the lamb, the death of the Egyptians' firstborn, and God sparing the families of Israel with the lamb's blood on the doorposts. But in their minds, the important thing is coming out of Egyptian slavery, and the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians is just one more plague to motivate Pharaoh to let Israel go.

It may be that this error contributed to the Jews' rejection of Jesus as the Christ. For if they kept the true Passover on the correct night, it would have been easier for them to come to a correct understanding of the role of Christ as a sacrifice. There are Old Testament scriptures that describe one as bearing the sins of the nation, and the Jews would have had a better chance of putting those scriptures together with Passover to gain an understanding.

But somewhere along the line, between the time of Moses and the time of Christ, the Jews stopped following the Bible and started trusting in their own understanding. They may have had reasons that seemed logical to them. But they went off track and have never returned to a correct observance and understanding.

That is why the Jews keep what they call "Passover" one day later than the Church of God. They have stopped keeping Passover. They keep the Night to Be Much Observed only, and they call it "Passover".

There is a lesson for us that we must remain diligent to believe and follow what God tells us in the Bible, which the Jews failed to do.

The Jews acknowledge the slaying of the lamb and the death of the firstborn of Egypt. But in their observance, they try to combine that with the leaving of Egypt, as if it happened in one night, as some of them may believe.

But anyone with common sense who reads the Old Testament account can know that it is totally impossible for the lamb to be slain, its blood splattered on the doorposts, the firstborn of the Egyptians to be slain at midnight, the Israelites to remain in their homes till morning, the Israelites to assemble and organize in orderly ranks, and to walk out of Egypt all in one night.

In trying to combine these observances, Jews tend to lose sight of the meaning and importance of Passover. Instead, they concentrate on the meaning of leaving Egypt.

But this confuses the issue for traditional Christians of this world who look at the observance of the Jews and think the Jews are celebrating Passover. For while the Jews lose focus on the true Passover, traditional Christians of this world lose focus on coming out of Egypt.

For as Jews do not understand the sacrifice of Christ, likewise many traditional Christians do not understand the need to come out of sin.

Yet both are necessary. We need the sacrifice of Christ, represented by Passover on the 14th day, and we also need to do our part to repent and put sin out of our lives, represented by the Night to Be Much Observed and all seven of the days of unleavened bread.

In overcoming sin, we need to rely and trust in God's help, but we also have to do our part to strive with all our strength to get rid of sin.

The fact that the Jews combine Passover and the Night to Be Much Observed into one night helps to confuse the issue for traditional Christian churches. For if these were kept separate, it might be easier for some traditional Christians to understand the separate meaning of unleavened bread.

And if they understood that, they would know of three Old Testament festivals with New Testament meaning: Passover, the days of unleavened bread, and Pentecost. And some then might ask, "If the first three Old Testament festivals have meaning for Christians, maybe the other four also have meaning". And if they ever understood the meaning of all seven festivals, some of them might ask, "Why don't we keep them?"

Satan has deceived the world, including Jews and members of traditional churches, and only by God's calling and help can anyone escape that deception and learn the truth of God and respond to it. Mixing Passover and unleavened bread in the traditions of the Jews is one way Satan accomplishes his deception.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Passover -- the Sacrifice of Christ, Chapter 2

The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance, Chapter 2

Monday, April 10, 2017

Passover and Night to Be Much Observed

If you look at a calendar you buy in a store or look up "Passover" on the Internet, you may find that the Jews start Passover on the evening of Monday, April 10, and that they keep Passover Day on Tuesday, April 11 this year. Yet the Church of God observes Passover one day earlier than the Jews, starting the evening of Sunday, April 9 (last night) with Passover day being today, Monday, April 10, 2017. Then, tonight we observe the Night to Be Much Observed and tomorrow, Tuesday, we observe the First Day of Unleavened Bread.

We observe Passover on the 14th day of the first month as God commands (Exodus 12:5-13, Leviticus 23:5). We also observe the Night to Be Much Observed and the First Day of Unleavened Bread on the 15th day of the month (Exodus 12:41-42, Leviticus 23:6-7).

The Passover and the Night to Be Much Observed are kept on two separate nights and represent two different things.

But the Jews don't know that.

It is my understanding that the Jews in Jesus's day also observed what they called "Passover" on the 15th day of the month, as Jews today do.

For the Jews, Passover represents being set free from Egyptian bondage. But they observe no day that represents the sacrifice of Christ and forgiveness of sins.

I do not know the line of reasoning the Jews use to not observe Passover on the 14th day but to observe only the 15th day and call it "Passover".

But it is fitting that they do not observe Passover on the 14th, because observing Passover on the 14th represents the sacrifice of Christ, and they do not accept Christ as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for their sins.

In regard to Old Testament events, Passover represents God sparing - passing over - the houses of the Israelites so that their firstborn did not die as the firstborn of the Egyptians died that night around midnight. This happened during the night portion of the 14th day. The night to be observed represents Israel coming out of Egypt during the next night, the night portion of the 15th day.

There is no way that the eating of the lamb, the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians around midnight, and the leaving of Egypt by the Israelites in orderly ranks could have occurred in one night.

In terms of spiritual meaning for the Church of God, Passover represents the sacrifice of Christ and the forgiveness of sins made possible by that sacrifice. The Night to Be Observed and the Days of Unleavened Bread represent our coming out of spiritual Egypt - coming out of sin.

Last night we remembered the sacrifice of Christ and how that sacrifice enables us to be forgiven our sins because Christ suffered and died to pay the penalty for our sins.

Tonight we observe the Night to Be Much Observed, and that starts the seven day observance of the Days of Unleavened Bread.

God has not provided instructions on exactly how to observe this night. Mr. Armstrong made a judgment that we should keep it by having a special meal with other Church members, and so we do.

Some scattered members may have to observe this night alone, just as some may have to observe Passover alone at home. But even one person alone, if he is not able to keep it with others, can observe it by having a special meal to mark the occasion.

This is a time for appreciating God's calling, for reviewing how we were called into the truth, and for meditating on our need for repentance and putting sin out of our lives.

Passover represents what Christ did for us so we can be saved. It is a powerful lesson of love. We need to appreciate and accept Christ's sacrifice on our behalf, and we need to recognize that without that sacrifice we could not be saved. Our own efforts are not sufficient.

But we have our part to do, and that is represented by the seven days of unleavened bread. We are to repent of our sins and sinful nature and put sin out of our lives. To help teach this lesson, God has given us the symbol of leavening and leavened bread to represent sin and the symbol of unleavened bread to represent the righteousness of Christ, which we are to practice.

Jesus Christ set a perfect example for us to follow, as recorded in God's word, the Bible, and we are to follow His example. Christ also lives His life in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

During the Night to Be Much Observed, let us rejoice in our calling, and during all the days of unleavened bread let us recommit ourselves to being diligent to put sin our of our lives.

Here are links to other posts on this topic:

"Passover and the Example of Christ", dated April 20, 2016, link:

"Tonight Is the Night to Be Much Observed", dated April 22, 2016, link:

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Passover -- the Sacrifice of Christ, Chapter 2

The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance, Chapter 2

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Preparation for Passover - Believing in God's Love

As we approach Passover, we examine ourselves and we meditate on the sacrifice of Christ.

We do this to observe Passover in a worthy manner.

"Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

Notice, we are to examine ourselves and we are to judge ourselves so Christ does not have to judge us and give us corrective punishment for our sins. We are to look at our faults and set our minds to repent and overcome them. But even if we fail to do this and God punishes us, it is for our ultimate good so that we are not condemned with the world.

One way we examine ourselves is by reviewing those parts of the Bible that will show us our faults. Examples include the ten commandments and the sermon on the mount, but there are many more.

And also, we should review the scriptures about Christ's sacrifice, both the prophecies in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah 52:13-15, 53:1-12, and the actual fulfillment of those prophecies in the New Testament, such as all the passages concerning the sacrifice of Christ in the gospel accounts. It is especially good to review Christ's words in John chapters 13 through 17.

There is one point of self-examination that directly relates to the sacrifice of Christ.

Many of us - when we go through trials, when our prayers are not answered for a long time, when we struggle against sinful habits and cry out to God for help to overcome, yet may feel we can't overcome even after praying for help - may be tempted to doubt God's love for us. We may not doubt God's love for the world and for the Church, yet we may have doubts about God's love for us personally.

Some may think, "Yes, Christ was sacrificed for the world and for the Church, but that doesn't necessarily apply to me personally".

And yet, the Bible is full of instruction to show us that God loves all mankind, including each one of us individually, and wants as many as possible to make it into His kingdom.

Christ knows and understands our problems. He knows what it is like to have His prayer unanswered (or the answer is, no) (Matthew 26:39-42). He knows what it is like to feel abandoned by God (Matthew 27:46).

Yet God tells us, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

For those who struggle against sin, seemingly unable to overcome, God gives us encouragement through the apostle Paul who also struggled with sin (Romans 7:14-25).

But though God gives us many scriptures and passages of encouragement, to show us that He loves each one of us, and many promises to help us, the requirement of faith still applies. We must believe God's promises. We must believe that God loves us.

And that is where self-examination and reviewing the sacrifice of Christ overlap. That sacrifice, above all, demonstrates God's love for us. But if we doubt that love we are failing to believe God and sinning by doubting His promises to love us and save us. And if we have fallen into that sin, we need to repent and begin to believe and trust God that He loves us and will go all out to save us, EVERY ONE OF US. And we discover that sin through self-examination.

Is God's love for us unconditional?

Yes, there is an aspect of God's love that is unconditional. God is not willing that any be lost, but only those who reject God's salvation will be lost. That shows the unconditional aspect of God's love. God will try, right to the end, to save all of us. If we are lost in the end, it will not be due to God not trying, not going all out, to save each and every one of us.

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

" 'For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,' says the Lord God. 'Therefore turn and live!' " (Ezekiel 18:32).

"Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?' " (Ezekiel 33:11).

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:8-10).

There are many more such scriptures, and those who read the Bible regularly, all of it, will find them.

Is all of God's love unconditional? Well, there seems to be an aspect of God's love that is conditional. Notice this passage. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him...If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (John 14:21-23).

Here, a special love from God the Father and Jesus Christ is promised towards those who love Christ and demonstrate that love by keeping His commandments. That is a condition. "If anyone loves Me...My Father will love Him."

But the love God has for all mankind and everyone in the Church of God, to go all out to save them, is truly unconditional. It is God's desire that everyone eventually fulfill the condition described in John 14:21-23 so they can be fully loved by God, and God will work with us to bring us to that point.

When God calls us, He brings us to Christ. It is then Christ's job, and the Father's job, to save us. And Christ glorifies the Father by working to the end to save each and every one of us, no exceptions. Concerning His disciples, Jesus said to the Father, "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12).

"Jesus answered, 'I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,' that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, 'Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none' " (John 18:8-9).

God has given Christ a certain number of people on this earth to save in this age, those who are called. Your name, and mine, are on that list. God the Father tells Jesus Christ, "Here they are, those who are called - save them." Do you think Jesus Christ will not go all out to save every single one who is called, every person, you and me included, that is on that list? Of course He will. He wants to please the Father. Every single person who is saved glorifies the Father and Christ. It is not just Christ's love for you and me that motivates Him to save us, but also His love for the Father. You can bet your life He'll go all out for every one of us.

There is no greater witness to the love the Father has for all of us than the sacrifice of Christ. The Father will not cheapen that sacrifice by not applying it to every human being who is willing to repent, and God helps us even to repent. And Jesus Christ will not disrespect the Father by failing to go all out to save every single one of us.

God will work with us to help us repent and develop His righteous character. Our human nature wants to resist, and if we are weak it can take a long time, and we may go through a lot of unnecessary suffering and have a smaller reward in God's kingdom. And if we continue to resist, we can lose out, not because of God giving up on us, but because by our choices we refuse God's salvation. But if we do our part, God will save us. He may have to put us through severe and prolonged trials to teach us lessons, but as long as we do not give up on God and as long as we keep doing our part to strive to overcome, God will not give up on us.

"This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day" (John 6:39).

There is an abundance of proof in the Bible that God loves each one of us, every individual, and will go all out to help us "make it", as we say.

But we are being tested, not only in our obedience, but in our faith to believe God's promises and to believe His word that He loves us and will work to save us.

We have to trust God and believe in His promises.

Faith, believing God's word, is one of the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). In other words, believing and trusting God is part of God's law and way of life. If we refuse or resist believing and trusting God, we sin, for sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). We need to repent of that sin.

So in our self-examination, we need to examine ourselves by the Bible and judge ourselves if we have been doubting God's love for us. And if we have doubted God's word, we need to repent and believe in God's love, not just His love for others or the world or the Church in general, but for each one of us individually. And that belief in God's love should be a prod for us to give God thanks and to go all out to overcome our sins and live by every word of God.

And whenever we examine ourselves, which we do with special emphasis before Passover (but we should also do to a degree all during the year), we should do so by the Bible, letting the Bible correct us.

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Here are links to other posts in this blog on the subjects of Passover, self-examination, physical and spiritual healing, the sacrifice of Christ, God's love for us, and other related subjects:

"What the Sacrifice of Christ Teaches Us", dated April 1, 2012, link:

"Physical and Spiritual Healing", dated April 2, 2012, link:

"God Expresses His Love Towards Us by the Secrets He Reveals to Us", dated September 28, 2012, link:

"Why Did Christ Have to Suffer and Die?", dated March 21, 2013, link:

"Passover Symbols: What Part of the Sacrifice of Christ Makes Possible the Healing of Our Character? / Should You Partake of the Passover?", dated March 23, 2013, link:

"We Should Judge Our Own Decisions, Not the Guilt of Others", dated August 10, 2013, link:

"Passover", dated April 11, 2014, link:

"Observance and Meaning of Passover", dated April 1, 2015, link:

"Unbelief Is Sin, and We Must Put It Out of Our Lives", dated April 8, 2015, link:

"God's Love for Us", dated July 17, 2015, link:

"Christ's Love for the Church", dated July 27, 2015, link:

"Have Faith in God's Love", dated August 20, 2015, link:

"Easter and Passover - Differences in Motivation", dated April 1, 2016, link:

"Self-Examination, and the Three Weightier Matters of the Law", dated April 18, 2016, link:

"Passover and the Example of Christ", dated April 20, 2016, link:

"Preparation for Passover, and Satan's Big Lie to the Church of God", dated March 22, 2017, link:

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Passover -- the Sacrifice of Christ, Chapter 2