Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Lesson of 1 Kings 13

Do Church of God ministers ever lie about the scriptures? And if they do, and you believe the lie, could you be guilty of sin?

If you read something in the Bible, understand it, and believe it, but then you hear a minister in the Church of God, your pastor for example, contradict it, interpret the meaning of the scripture differently than its intended meaning, and you believe him, are you guilty?

Should we trust our ministers that when they speak in God's name, they are speaking the truth? Should we trust that God is guiding what they say? Should we trust that God would not allow the minister to teach wrongly?

The story in 1 Kings chapter 13 could be called the tale of two prophets.

   "And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the LORD, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, 'O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: "Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you." ' And he gave a sign the same day, saying, 'This is the sign which the LORD has spoken: Surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out.'
   So it came to pass when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, who cried out against the altar in Bethel, that he stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, 'Arrest him!' Then his hand, which he stretched out toward him, withered, so that he could not pull it back to himself. The altar also was split apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD. Then the king answered and said to the man of God, 'Please entreat the favor of the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.'
   So the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored to him, and became as before. Then the king said to the man of God, 'Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.'
   But the man of God said to the king, 'If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place. For so it was commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, "You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came." ' So he went another way and did not return by the way he came to Bethel" (1 Kings 13:1-10).

   "Now an old prophet dwelt in Bethel, and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; they also told their father the words which he had spoken to the king. And their father said to them, 'Which way did he go?' For his sons had seen which way the man of God went who came from Judah. Then he said to his sons, 'Saddle the donkey for me.' So they saddled the donkey for him; and he rode on it, and went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak. Then he said to him, 'Are you the man of God who came from Judah?'
   And he said, 'I am.'
   Then he said to him, 'Come home with me and eat bread.'
   And he said, 'I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place. For I have been told by the word of the LORD, "You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came." '
   He said to him, 'I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, "Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water." ' (He was lying to him.)
   So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.
   Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back; And he cried out to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, 'Thus says the LORD: "Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD, and have not kept the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you, but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which the LORD said to you, 'Eat no bread and drink no water,' your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers." '
   So it was, after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, the prophet whom he had brought back. When he was gone, a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his corpse was thrown on the road, and the donkey stood by it. The lion also stood by the corpse. And there, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown on the road, and the lion standing by the corpse. Then they went and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.
   Now when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard it, he said, 'It is the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the LORD. Therefore the LORD has delivered him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke to him.' And he spoke to his sons, saying, 'Saddle the donkey for me.' So they saddled it. Then he went and found his corpse thrown on the road, and the donkey and the lion standing by the corpse. The lion had not eaten the corpse nor torn the donkey. And the prophet took up the corpse of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back. So the old prophet came to the city to mourn, and to bury him. Then he laid the corpse in his own tomb; and they mourned over him, saying, 'Alas, my brother!' So it was, after he had buried him, that he spoke to his sons, saying, 'When I am dead, then bury me in the tomb where the man of God is buried; Lay my bones beside his bones. For the saying which he cried out by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel, and against all the shrines on the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, will surely come to pass.' " (1 Kings 13:11-32).

The first prophet was probably sincere in thinking that the second prophet was telling the truth, that God spoke to him and told him to bring him to his house to eat. He trusted him. That was his mistake, and he paid for it with his life. God did not let him off the hook because he was sincere. The fact that he trusted the other prophet to tell him the truth in the name of the Lord was no excuse in God's sight. God gave him a command, he disobeyed it, he was guilty, and God killed him, period. It also didn't get him off the hook that he delivered the message to the king of Israel that God commanded him to deliver.

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

"let God be true but every man a liar" (Romans 3:4).

A lesson from this is, we must trust and obey God and God's word, the Bible, more than ministers in the Church of God. We should love and respect ministers in the Church. Love, yes. Respect, yes. Obedience when it does not conflict with obedience to God, yes. But trust, no. Trust, and faith, must be towards God alone.

Mr. Armstrong was right when he told his radio and television listeners and Plain Truth readers, "Don't believe me, believe your Bible."


Anonymous said...

I read an interesting statement recently, one that I was not familiar with. It reads along the line of "I can teach you but I can't make you learn it".

In my view of that statement, one side implication is the difference between memorizing, swallowing someone else's ideas hook, line and sinker. Becoming no better than a parrot. Compared to researching what is said and trying to comprehend it in the context of what other knowledge is already 100% certain.


MTCOGSM said...

@author= "If you read something in the Bible, understand it, and believe it, but then you hear a minister in the Church of God, your pastor for example, contradict it, interpret the meaning of the scripture differently than its intended meaning, and you believe him, are you guilty?"

Yes--because you have left off following God and began to follow a man. We are told to prove all things and hold fast that which is good. we are also told to test the spirits to see if they are from God or not.
I had an experience several years ago with a minster in the LCG organization over partiality. this particular minister admitted he was showing partiality but told me he did not believe it was a sin, contrary to scriptural truth. to cover himself (He thought) he even gave a bible study and taught the congregation that even God show partiality sometimes--further contradicting scripture. That man has been persecuting me ever since I exposed his decietfulness--but many of those people who heard this bought into his lies and also became guilty of his sins. (1Tim.5:19-22)
The Editor said...

Hi Editor,

You said that you "exposed" this man's deceitfulness. I am curious about that. Exactly how did you do this? What did you say, and to whom?

MTCOGSM said...

Author, that was initially done in a personal and private manner and conversing about this with the local minister at the time, with Biblical proof handy. I refused to support him in what clearly seemed to be a partiality situation and he became angry over it. Our discussions revealed he did not believe certain scriptures mean what they say, and disagreed with what I had pointed out is in the Bible on partiality. This prompted him to do a Bible study only a few days later (on the Sabbath with me in the congregation)at which time he twisted scripture and made it look like God does sometimes show partiality, decieve his own flock and contradicting scripture. He had made it clear to some we were having this discussion over partiality, so several in the congregation knew he was talking about me. He had accused me of spreading this around among the brethren--but it was the opposite and he is the one who did that.
I will not give his name, because he is still being used by LCG. I took the matter to the regional director when I learned this man was trying to find a reason to disfellowship me. The regional director examined it and took it higher up, but nothing was done. The minister had come up with a "reasonable explanation" why he had done what he did, but never changed his position on this point of Biblical truth.
I have a bible study on my website ( about this issue, to help others become more aware of what the Bible has to say about partiality.
Editor said...

Ok, thanks for the details.

MTCOGSM said...

@Author--you are welcome--but now let me ask you a question, if I may.
How far do brethren take Eph.5:11-13 or do you feel (as some have expressed) that the brethren have no authority to do anything? Just be quite and wait on God to correct any problem with the ministry. what do you say or think on this?
Editor said...

This is an important topic, and my answer may be long and I may have to break it up into multiple comments (Blogger has a size limit on comments).

I don't claim to have a perfect understanding of Ephesians 5:11-13. Part of the context seems to be given in Ephesians 5:3-10. Verse 8 refers to the Ephesians as once being in darkness, but now are in the light. Verses 3-5 refer to fornication, course jesting, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking, and idolatry. Verse 6 refers to God's wrath on the sons of disobedience because of these things. Verse 7 is a warning not to partake of these things with those who do. Putting this altogether, it seems as if Paul is telling the Ephesians not to go back to the ways of this world we came out of or spend a lot of time socializing with the people of this world who do these things, and under no circumstance go along with the people of the world in these things.

These verses remind me of 1 Peter 4:3-4, where Peter says that those in the world that we used to do these wrong things with think we are strange because we no longer do them after being converted, and they speak against us.

Rather than fellowship with the world in these things, or go along with them, we should stand up for what is right and be a witness that these things are wrong. Individually, we do this primarily by our example, but we also bear witness by our explanations as to why we do not do these things anymore (1 Peter 3:15-17). "Hey, a whole bunch of us are going to that topless joint on the corner and have some drinks. Want to come with?" Do we say, "No, I am kind of tired tonight, maybe next time." Or do we say, "No, I don't go to places like that anymore." "Why not?" "Because I believe what God says in the Bible and He says that kind of thing is wrong."

I don't say this is the only application of Ephesians 5:11-13, but it is the most immediate example given in the context that precedes it.

Can it apply in the Church to false doctrine? Yes, I think so, but I think it has to be balanced with another principle. said...

There is government and authority in the Church that resides in the offices of the ministry. We are to respect and uphold those offices without compromising with sin.

God has given the ministry in each Church of God organization or fellowship the primary authority for teaching doctrine to members of that fellowship. Also, we are to all speak the same thing, as much as possible, and avoid division (1 Corinthians 1:10). I say, "as much as possible", because we should never lie or voice agreement with something that is false. But we don't have to voice everything we think. Sometimes, two sincere people may simply disagree about the meaning of scripture because we are human and we make mistakes. If I am one of those people and my pastor is the other, and we cannot agree, if it is a minor thing, I am not going to go to the brethren and contradict our pastor. I will simply avoid discussing that particular doctrine, neither bearing false witness by voicing agreement with the pastor's teaching which I regard as mistaken, nor openly contradicting him.

For example, suppose I disagree with the pastor about who the 144,000 are. Maybe the pastor and I discuss it, and after discussion we still do not agree. Maybe I even think the pastor is deliberately being dishonest with scripture. This is not a fundamental doctrine of the Church. I am not going to make an issue of it with the brethren. I will be happy to discuss it with the pastor or someone higher up in the organization. I might write up my views and send it to headquarters. But I won't discuss it with the brethren. I will not tell other people, "our pastor is wrong about the 144,000" or "this is who the 144,000 are and here are the scriptures that prove it", knowing what I am saying contradicts the teaching of the pastor or headquarters. Instead, I will never raise the subject with other members. And if someone asks me, "who are the 144,000", I will suggest they ask the pastor who can tell them the official teaching of the Church about that.

Yet, Ephesians 5:11-13 does say we are to expose the works of darkness, and in principle this can apply to doctrine. Also Jude 3-4 exhorts us to earnestly contend for the faith, and we are not even to greet those who bring a false gospel according to 2 John 10-11. said...

The way I would apply this is that if the doctrine is major, fundamental to the truth of the gospel, I will stand up for it even with other brethren, and I would also leave any fellowship that taught false doctrine in a fundamental, important, you could say "foundational", matter. This would certainly NOT include things like meaning of the 144,000, whether we can eat in restaurants on the Sabbath, new moons, birthdays, makeup, whether Mr. Armstrong was the prophesied Elijah to come, could Iran be the king of the south, is watching football, or boxing, wrong because it is violent, etc. I am mentioning these things as examples of some things that seem to be controversial in the Church with some. None of these things are foundational to the gospel. That doesn't mean they have no importance at all, but simply that one can be mistaken in one of these doctrines and still be a Christian. In any of these things, if I disagreed with my pastor, I might discuss it with him in private or write to headquarters, but I would not discuss it with the brethren and thus undermine the pastor's authority to teach in the eyes of the members. I would probably not leave a fellowship because of one of these issues alone, although if the organization was wrong about some of these things and would not correct its mistake, that might be a factor, along with other factors, that could influence my decision to attend elsewhere.

The thing is, I do not want to be found guilty by God of causing other members to find it more difficult to esteem and respect the office of minister, as they are commanded to do (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). I do not want to undermine a pastor's authority or credibility, while I am in his congregation, even if he is wrong about something. God gave him the job to teach his congregation, not me.

But if the matter is so important that it is foundational or vital to the gospel or to the Christian way of life, that is different. Then, Jude 3-4 and Ephesians 5:11-13 come into play.


Here are some false doctrines I would probably stand up against and leave a fellowship over:

- We do not have to keep the Sabbath or holy days.

- The Bible is not always true and we have to look to the church for truth more than the Bible.

- We must trust the ministry to interpret the Bible for us.

- Mr. Armstrong's writings are infallible and always true.

- We no longer have to preach the gospel to the world.

- Christ governs His Church through the voting of men.

- God is a trinity.

- Man has an immortal soul.

- The Sabbath was changed to Sunday.

- We do not have to keep the ten commandments.

- The Church does not have to be called, "Church of God", but can have a different name with a different meaning (like "Seventh Day Adventist").

- The United States and British nations are not part of Israel.

- There is no seven thousand year plan of God. said...

Now these are just examples. I could list more if I thought about it more.

Most of us were in Worldwide when Mr. Tkach changed doctrines, and many stood up for the truth by leaving that organization. We exposed their errors by our example and by our words, either words we spoke personally and directly to others, or teaching of faithful fellowships and organizations we supported with our tithes and offerings that teach the truth.

Now, here is the big question. Where does one draw the line between a major matter and a small matter?

That is something each person must decide, and we better be careful how we decide, because God will judge us. I recommend a healthy dose of Bible study, prayer, and meditation, and fasting if necessary, when we have to make a difficult decision.

So if I was in a congregation, and the pastor said in a sermon, the United States is not part of Israel, and later a member asked me, "Do you think the United States is part of Israel", I would (or should) take a stand and say, "Yes, I know because I have proved it." Or if the minister said we should believe ministers as much as the Bible, if a member asked me, I would (or should) say, "I made a commitment before baptism to believe the Bible, and if the Bible says one thing and the minister says something else, I will believe the Bible, not the minister." Then, if the pastor shows me the door for contradicting him, so be it. Probably I would find the door without his help anyway.

Where to draw the line might vary from one person to another. The bottom line is, it has to do with primary loyalty being to God, not to man, and this it a matter of mental attitude. I might overlook something you cannot overlook in the teaching of a Church of God, and vice-versa. God is judging us by our hearts. For you, a particular doctrine might be a loyalty issue between you and God, and God might put that into your mind, but for me, with different circumstances, that issue might not be a loyalty issue between me and God. God might test me another way.

Here is example of what I mean from my own history in the Church of God.

I didn't leave Worldwide until 1996. I stayed with Worldwide even after the January 1995 videos announcing:

1) We do not have to keep the Sabbath.

2) We do not have to keep the holy days.

3) We do not have to tithe.

4) We can eat pork.

I stayed more than a year after that and I did not openly contradict those teachings.

What!, you say. What were you thinking?, you say. said...

I had proved the Sabbath, the holy days, tithing, and clean and unclean meats years previously before I came into the Church, pretty thoroughly, I might add, doing much more than reading Mr. Armstrong's books and booklets and articles. So why did I stay in Worldwide one minute past those videos? Shouldn't I have left that organization immediately?

Well, whether I stayed in Worldwide wasn't a loyalty issue between me and God at that time. For others it was, and they were right to leave immediately.

I kept an open mind on those doctrines. I said, ok, maybe I overlooked something the first time I proved these things. I could have made a mistake. My loyalty was to the Bible, not a list of doctrines. So I said, maybe we don't have to keep the Sabbath and holy days. Maybe we don't have to tithe. Maybe it is ok to eat pork. So I went to the Bible. I changed nothing in my behavior while I was studying this, that is, I continued to keep the Sabbath and holy days, I continued to tithe, I continued to avoid unclean meat. But I studied with an open mind. I studied everything Mr. Tkach (Jr. or Sr.) and Mr. Feazell wrote or said about those issues. I studied the old booklets and articles Mr. Armstrong and others wrote. Most of all, I studied the Bible. And after a few months, I proved, a second time, but more thoroughly and from different angles, that the old doctrines were true and the changes were wrong.

So then I left Worldwide, right?


I still stayed in Worldwide. Why? I hoped that God would correct the situation from within. I hoped that God would bring Mr. Tkach to see his error and change or that God would cause Mr. Tkach to be replaced, in Worldwide, with a new leader that would correct the mistakes.

Did I make a mistake by staying in Worldwide until 1996? Absolutely. Would I do things differently today based on more experience and knowledge? Absolutely. But did I sin against God by staying in Worldwide so long? Was I disloyal to God? No, I don't think so. I kept the Sabbath, holy days, tithing, and dietary laws through all this. I believed the Bible. I trusted God. I remained loyal to Him in all this. I just didn't know where things were headed and what God's will was for me.

But then some things came up that for me were a test of loyalty to God that made me realize that I HAD to leave Worldwide, and quick. I don't remember the exact sequence. One was an article in the Worldwide News openly disrespectful, on a very personal level, to Mr. Armstrong. Another was the realization that Worldwide was teaching that truth comes to the Church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit APART from the Bible. And a third was a deeper understanding of and conviction by the scripture that says we are not to greet someone who brings false doctrine and a false gospel coupled with the realization that Worldwide was now teaching a false gospel. That did it for me. Out I went and never looked back.

In other words, I was slow to understand God's will about staying in or leaving Worldwide, but I learned from the Bible, I believed God's word, and once His will was clear in this matter, I obeyed it. said...

Everybody has their own story and experience to tell, and one person's experience differs from another's. I only use mine as an example to show how God can use doctrine to test our loyalty in different ways. He opens our minds to understand the scriptures we need to understand when we need to understand them. The important thing is that we pass the test God gives us.

My point here is that what might be a foundational doctrine to me might be a small doctrine to you, and what might seem small to me, might seem big to you. Each of us must pass the loyalty test that God gives us, and God can use a different scripture or set of scriptures to test your loyalty than He uses to test my loyalty to Him.

From your answer it seems that you handled you disagreement with your pastor over the partiality issue primarily between you and your pastor and between you and those over the pastor in authority rather than openly criticizing the ministry with the other brethren. And all the time you believed what God says in the Bible more than the ministry, yet without causing unnecessary division in the congregation, and with this I agree and think you handled it correctly.

But what I think, based on limited information, doesn't count. It is God who judges you and me, and He judges our hearts, which He knows better than we know our own hearts. He knows if we are really honest with the scriptures better than we know ourselves.

MTCOGSM said...

Author, I have read all of your comments and thank you for them. (don't see it the same on all--but thats fine.)
I do have another question that was sparked by this:
"Here are some false doctrines I would probably stand up against and leave a fellowship over:
- There is no seven thousand year plan of God."

If the plan of God is a "seven thousand year" plan, then what about the "8th day" and how does that fit a 7000 year plan? the judgement (8th day)comes after 7000 years are finished, does it not? JUST SOMETHING TO PONDER, but if you have an answer, feel free to give it.


Anonymous said...

Author, that was a worthwhile read. Thanks for sharing.

Norbert said...

I don't have a good answer over the eighth day and the 7,000 year plan of God. The Church has taught that the white throne judgement, represented by the Last Great Day, the "eighth day", will, perhaps, be 100 years, based on Isaiah 65:20. But in that case, the whole plan for salvation is really about 7,100 years. But it can still be called a 7,000 year plan which will include everything up to but not including the white throne judgement, which would be an additional 100 years after the 7,000 years. During the 7,000 years, all mankind that will be born will have been born and God's demonstration experiment to teach mankind the lesson, that God's way is best, showing the results of Satan's way for six thousand years and comparing with God's way for one thousand years, will be completed. Then, in the white throne judgment, the vast majority of mankind can look at the previous 7,000 years, evaluate the results of Satan's way and God's way, and make an informed decision on which way of life they want to live.

The term "7,000 year plan of God" does not appear in the Bible. It is a term coined by the Church. It is based on various scriptures put together, including the passage in one of Peter's epistles that one day is as a thousand years to God, the passage in Revelation about Christ reigning a thousand years, the seven day week and the Sabbath, and the age of Adam when he died after God told him, in the day you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will die. It is also based on Bible chronology compared with world conditions now that we are near the end of 6,000 years of human history. So maybe we should call it a 7,100 year plan if we include the white throne judgment in it. But even then, it would be approximately 7,000 years, so the term "7,000 year plan of God" is not a bad name for this doctrine.

I actually hesitated about including this doctrine in my list of examples of what I regard as foundational. But for me it is foundational because it is one of the proofs of the Bible. Everything I believe in regards to doctrine has to be based primarily on the Bible, on the word of God, but only because I know God inspired the Bible. The only way I can prove that is by fulfilled prophecy. One of those prophecies that prove God inspired the Bible is the fulfillment, in our time, of the prophecy in Daniel that knowledge would increase and men would run to and fro, indicating an explosion in knowledge and transportation near the end of the 6,000 years, which has actually occurred. This helps to prove to me that God inspired the Bible (because I do not think it is a coincidence), and in turn God's inspiration of the Bible is the foundation for everything else I believe.