Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pentecost is Unique

Pentecost is unique among the holy days God's Church observes because it is also recognized and observed by traditional mainstream Christian churches. They do not understand the full meaning of the day, but they recognize it as a day to be kept by the church. They usually do not do much special on that day, but it is a Sunday, so for those who rest and assemble for services on Sunday it would also be a day of rest and assembly. Probably the main thing that would make this Sunday different for most Sunday church-goers is that they would hear some kind of sermon about the meaning of the day. That meaning would no doubt focus on the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, but they would not understand the meaning of first fruits.

Pentecost therefore is a point of commonality between the Church of God and traditional mainstream churches.

The full meaning of Pentecost, if mainstream churches understood and taught it, would open up many important points of truth that most churches do not have. It would answer some questions that have plagued the churches - questions they cannot adequately answer, such as why are so few saved in this age, and what is the fate of the billions who never heard the name of Christ because of circumstances of birth over which they never had any control.

The truth that the Church is only the first fruits, as shown by the association of the Church being started and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost with the early spring harvest in the Old Testament, directly leads to an answer to the question, what happens to those who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel in this life. That question must bother many in traditional, mainstream Christianity, especially those who have loved ones who have died without ever becoming Christian. The full meaning of Pentecost provides that answer.

On the Church of God front, things are relatively quiet right now. That is probably good after the turmoil so many have gone through. There is not a lot of news concerning UCG, COGWA, or the other COGs, not in comparison with the nine-month period July 2010 through March 2011. It is good, especially during season of the spring and summer holy days, for members to be able to focus most of their spiritual energy on drawing closer to God and learning the lessons that God wants us to learn through the holy days.

There are issues and events that can come up in the future, maybe sometime after Pentecost. I watch for three possible developments.

COGWA has not yet come up with a permanent form of organization and governance. At some point, that will be decided and announced. They may publish a document on what the Bible says about government in the Church, as UCG did. UCG published their document long after they had already set up their governance. COGWA may publish such a document at the same time that they propose their permanent form of governance. It would make sense that a Bible study on the topic be done BEFORE making the decisions on governance, not afterwards. The decision on governance could be announced when the Bible study on government is published, with the understanding that the decision was based on the conclusions of the study.

Another issue concerning COGWA is the employment of ministers who were employed by UCG before leaving UCG to go to COGWA. There may be several ministers who were paid full-time salaries in UCG but who have not been hired by COGWA but are serving in COGWA as ministers. They are not being paid because funds are not yet available. If that is the case, this may become an issue. Ministers who work full time in the ministry should be paid for their work in the ministry. "Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14). If a minister previously paid in UCG is serving full time but unpaid in COGWA, that minister may have financial needs not being met. In that case, in may be that some members who are aware of that need will offer that minister part of their tithes and offerings. It would remain to be seen how COGWA leadership reacts to that, because tithes and offerings paid to ministers directly from members, not through COGWA, would reduce the tithes and offerings coming into COGWA as an organization.

If COGWA tries to prevent the direct contributions of members to their ministers who are in need, then there could be ministers who feel forced to leave COGWA to organize independently.

Finally, it remains to be seen where UCG goes from here. There has been widespread speculation during the split that the leaders in control of UCG want to liberalize doctrine. Up until now, they have not had the power to do this. Now they have the power. If these speculations are true, I expect doctrinal changes and liberalization to occur, but slowly, gradually. But with a year or two at the most, changes would be evident, IF the leaders really want to change doctrine. If doctrine remains the same for the next couple of years, then I think the leaders never really did want to change doctrine in the first place.

I am working on a series of posts on the subject of governance in the Church, which I plan to start to publish in the near future.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

A Brief History of the Scattering of the Church, Chapter 5

Government in the Church, Chapter 5

Following the Bible -- Pattern of Government, Chapter 6

Church Government, Chapter 7

How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7

Pentecost - the Gift of the Holy Spirit, Chapter 2

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