Monday, August 30, 2010

Is United Church of God Serious about the Gospel?

I want United Church of God to be successful in preaching the gospel to the world. I do not want them to be a little bit successful. I want them to be very successful.

Right now, God has given a small amount of success in preaching the gospel to several groups, but United Church of God would have a very long way to go to match the accomplishments of Herbert W. Armstrong even in the 1960's. Yet even Mr. Armstrong only reached a small portion of Israel with the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning. That means UCG has a long way to go to even reach a small portion as Mr. Armstrong did. There are about 400 or 500 million Israelites that need to be warned about their sins and the tribulation to come if they do not repent.

It should be obvious that God has not greatly blessed and empowered any Church of God fellowship to do more than make a tiny dent in the work that needs to be done. God is not going to bless and empower those who are half-hearted, or are zealous in word but not zealous in mind and in deed. It should be apparent that we need to change. There are faults in us that need to be corrected before God will fully empower us to preach the gospel with the power and effectiveness that is needed.

I have often heard various leaders of Church of God fellowships call for church-wide fasts, and they give reasons for the fast, things we should be beseeching God for. But never have I heard a leader of a fellowship ask the brethren to fast so that God would show that fellowship collectively and the leader himself in particular what they are doing wrong. Never have I heard a leader say, "Fast and pray that God will show me what I am doing wrong and why God is not blessing us more. There is some fault in us but I don't know what it is, and it may be in me. We need to beseech God that He will show us what is wrong with us, what is wrong in our fellowship, and what is wrong in me as human leader, so I can change, so we can change and be fully in sync with God so He can bless us and empower us to finish His work of preaching the gospel to the world as a witness and the Ezekiel warning to all Israel." I have never heard anything like that, but maybe that is what is needed.

We cannot succeed in really finishing the work of warning Israel unless our foundation is rock solid. And part of that foundation is that we must practice what we preach. I do not think God will greatly empower a group that is preaching one thing but doing another.

How can United Church of God preach to the world the good news that Christ will come and abolish democracies and voting and politics if UCG shows by its behavior that it does not really think that is good news? If UCG thought it was good news, they would practice the way of life that Christ will teach the whole world when He returns. We are suppose to be living that way of life now, as a model and an example, and preaching the same way of life we are living. We are supposed to be a demonstration that God's way works. UCG wants to preach to the world that it is good news, but their actions show that they think it is bad news. How can God fully bless UCG in its efforts to preach the gospel if they are setting such a bad example of God's way of life?

What will UCG ministers say in the millennium, if they make it into God's kingdom and are in the first resurrection, to populations of people who want to vote and elect their leaders? Will they teach them that democracy, the selection of leaders from the voting of those under the authority of the leaders, is not God's way, that it bears bad fruit, that we should trust Christ to appoint the leadership from above? Then will the people say, but you didn't do that in the Church? If you practiced voting, why can't we?

We must not be like the Pharisees, whom Christ called hypocrites, who did not practice what they preached (Matthew 23:1-4).

Some say, there is no commandment in the Bible against voting in the Church of God.

Yes there is.

How was the first century Church of God governed? How were positions of leadership, at all levels, filled? Was it by appointment from above or by election by balloting from below? If you had no experience with the Church of God in our time, if you were reading the Bible for the first time with no preconceptions, and you did a Bible study of Church of God governance in the original New Testament Church of God, what would you conclude? You would have no choice but to conclude that men were appointed to positions of authority from above. That is what every example shows. That was the practice and the tradition of that Church.

God commands through Paul that we keep the traditions of the original first century Church of God. "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). "But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us" (2 Thessalonians 3:6). "Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you" (1 Corinthians 11:2). In effect, since we can know from the examples in the New Testament that the first century Church of God practiced governance by appointment from above, not by balloting, this is equivalent to a command against balloting as a form of governance in the Church of God. We are commanded to follow the traditions of the Church of God that existed during the time Paul wrote his epistles, and that tradition did not include voting.

God also commands that we live by every word of God, and the Bible teaches that the examples are for our teaching as well as the direct commandments (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3, 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11, Hebrews 4:11, James 5:10, 1 Peter 2:21, 2 Peter 2:6, Jude 7). The examples in the Bible show a pattern that God wants to follow. It shows government by appointment from above, not by balloting. God never chooses someone by balloting of the people for leadership in His Church.

God shows us right patterns so we can follow those patterns (Exodus 25:40, Exodus 26:30, Acts 7:44, 1 Timothy 1:16). We are to pattern our behavior according to the pattern God shows us. "Then Jesus answered and said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner' " (John 5:19).

I sincerely hope that United Church of God will be successful in preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, and I have no doubt they will at least have some small measure of success, and that is better than nothing. But I want the Church of God to succeed powerfully, completely, and that will not happen until our foundation is right.

God commands that we live by every word of God, and that includes not only the command to follow the traditions Paul spoke of, which does not include balloting, but to also live by the examples in the Bible which were written for our learning. If we preach to the public that they should live by every word of God, we must do the same.

We have to practice what we preach so God will bless the preaching and make it successful.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Why the Gospel Must Still Be Preached to the World, Chapter 4

Government in the Church, Chapter 5

Is the Church Commissioned to Preach the Gospel to the World?, Chapter 5

Practicing What We Preach, Chapter 6

Following the Bible -- Pattern of Government, Chapter 6

Church Government, Chapter 7

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