Does it matter why we obey God's commandments? Can we obey for wrong reasons, for selfish reasons, for vanity, pride, and conceit? For example, did the Pharisees pray and fast for wrong reasons, to be seen by men? Can one make generous donations to a good cause for wrong and selfish reasons? (Matthew 6:1-5, 16)
In the Old Testament, God said that Israel fasted "for strife" (Isaiah 58:4), and God did not accept their fast.
So, yes, we can do right things for wrong motives and reasons. God cares about our heart.
Likewise, can we believe the truth for the wrong reasons? Can we believe the truth because we trust and believe men, but not God?
One man, call him John, believes God. Another man, call him Jim, does not believe God, but he believes and trusts men, even John. So John learns the truth from God, because he believes and trusts God, and then, wanting to share the truth with others, teaches it to Jim.
Jim, because he has a close relationship with John (father, brother, close friend, etc.), trusts and believes John, so he also learns the truth. But his reason for believing the truth is different from John's reason for believing.
John's faith is in God, but Jim's faith is in John, not in God. He believes the truth only as long as John is a dominant influence in his life. Jim can reap certain benefits from the truth, because we reap what we sow. But his faith is not in God. Jim doesn't really have a relationship with God, though outwardly it seems he does.
Which one has eternal life?
It matters why we believe because it matters who we believe. It is not just a matter of what we believe.
Mr. Armstrong believed God. Others who believed God joined with Mr. Armstrong and did a work. But others who did NOT believe God, but believed Mr. Armstrong, also joined with him in the Worldwide Church of God.
So you had two categories, two groups within Worldwide, both believing the same doctrines, but one group believed God and one group believed man. The beliefs were the same, but the reason for belief was different.
From the outside it was hard to tell them apart. Both groups believed and behaved the same. But when the dominant influence of Mr. Armstrong was taken away, all those who believed the truth only because they believed Mr. Armstrong (not because they believed God and proved doctrine from the Bible) left the truth, right?
No, I think not.
Many did. Not all.
There are people in the scattered Church of God today, whether part of a fellowship or "stay at home", who believe the truth for the wrong reason. Their belief and trust are not in God and the Bible. Their belief and trust are in their traditions, in their families, in the Church, their pastors, and even in Mr. Armstrong and his writings, even now after his death.
God knows who are His.
God will not play second fiddle to anyone.
God commands that we love Him more than father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, and even our own selves (Luke 14:25-26, Deuteronomy 13:6-10).
If you never really proved the truth from the Bible, you better do it, and you better follows what Christ teaches you in the Bible wherever He leads you (Revelation 14:4-5).
If you are a minister, you need to teach the brethren under your care to prove what is true and to believe the Bible more than mother, father, husband, wife, or even you, their pastor.
Unless you want to compete with God for the loyalty and faith of the members.
Some pastors may be afraid that if they teach their members to believe the Bible more than their pastors, those members may reach independent conclusions, even wrong conclusions. Yes, that is possible.
But there is a difference between someone who believes and trusts the Bible but makes an honest mistake and someone who only believes the truth because of circumstances and really doesn't trust the Bible.
That difference is attitude towards God.
If someone, because he makes a sincere mistake, misunderstands something in the Bible, even after the minister explains it, that does not mean the member has a bad attitude, necessarily. God does not require that he believe his pastor or any man. "Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand" (2 Corinthians 1:24). What God requires is that he respect the office of minister and not create division.
If he has a right attitude, he will not promote or discuss his different view of scripture with other brethren but will recognize that God has given you, the pastor, greater authority to teach the congregation, and he will not interfere with your teaching.
As pastor, as a shepherd over part of Christ's flock, your primary job is to help the brethren in their relationship with God, not their relationship with you. You should earnestly desire that the brethren love God more than they love you, or their father, or mother, husband, wife, the other brethren in the congregation, or even their own selves.
You should strive to have the discernment, praying for wisdom about it if necessary, to see if a member is believing the Church and the ministry about doctrine more than God and the Bible, and if so, to strive to teach that member to put his faith in God's word, the Bible, more than the Church and the ministry.
When was the last time you gave a sermon about how members should handle doctrinal disagreements? Can you even give such a sermon? What would you say?
What principles could Mr. Armstrong have taught the Church in 1985 that would have prepared them for the changes Mr. Tkach would make?
Some ministers might say that Mr. Armstrong should have told the Church to believe Mr. Tkach if he made small adjustments to doctrine, but not big changes. But that cannot be right. The principles of God's word teach us to be faithful in small things as well as great things. "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much" (Luke 16:10).
We must be careful to live by every word of God.
Are we to direct our faith towards the ministry in small matters, then switch gears and have faith in God if a big change comes along?
Small decisions are the training ground for big decisions. If we trust God's word, the Bible, more than the teaching of men in small doctrines, we will also trust God and the Bible in big doctrines.
Brethren need to believe the Bible, but respect the ministry, and not interfere with the minister's teaching by criticizing that teaching with other brethren and creating division. If the minister makes a mistake in doctrine, a member who realizes it should keep quiet about it in most cases, or address it with the minister alone, or report it to headquarters if necessary, but not gossip about it with the members.
And if the error is so great that the minister is teaching a different gospel than that which the Bible teaches, then that is probably the cue for the member to leave that group. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11). "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8). "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (2 John 10-11).
By the way, I did not notice this until I proofread this post, but did not Paul set a good example when he warned the members not to even believe him, Paul, if he preached a false gospel? Notice how, in Galatians 1:8 he says, "if WE...preach any other gospel...". He didn't even exclude himself from the curse. In saying "we", he was, in effect, teaching the members NOT to believe him, Paul, or any man more than God.