I don't have a lot to add to yesterday's post, but I noticed something in Bob Thiel's COGwriter site that I thought was noteworthy, plus I have had a few additional thoughts I want to add that I did not include yesterday.
At the bottom of his December 29, 2012 post entitled , "The Philadelphia remnant: it is really all about love", is a series of links to related articles in Dr. Thiel's website. That is routine. What is interesting is the last link in the list: "Continuing Church of God The most faithful of the COGs to the word of God."
Here is a link to that post:
Now, is that to be the full name of the new church? Or is the part that starts "The most faithful..." just Bob Thiel's description? Only the "Continuing Church of God" is a link, so the rest must be a description. But what is it based on? Is it based on CCOG's track record of faithfulness since last Friday afternoon?
On what basis can anyone say that a church that has hardly begun, is really not much more than an intention in the mind of one person, and was not even started in any sense at all until as recently as about 48 hours ago, is the MOST FAITHFUL of all the Churches of God to the Word of God?
Where is the track record? Even Abraham had to be tested before Christ said, "now I know that you fear God" (Genesis 22:12). This test came YEARS after Abraham had started following and obeying God, and the implication was that this final test was needed before Christ was absolutely sure of Abraham's total faithfulness.
But after a track record of two days, Continuing Church of God (CCOG) is already more faithful than every other Church of God organization. They are not yet organized. They have not had their own Sabbath services yet, not even one meeting, not even one sermon as far as anyone knows. They have no publications for the public to preach the gospel other than books that talk about pagan prophecies, and these are not given away free but sold in bookstores. No budget, as far as anyone knows. No work of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, none that is effective. God has not blessed them with any open door. As far as anyone knows, they have no members other than Dr. Thiel himself.
But somehow, miraculously it seems, "they" have proved themselves the "most faithful".
In just two days!
Watch out! This is a very fast church!
I would like to know what basis Bob Thiel uses to evaluate a church's faithfulness to the Bible and how he figures CCOG is the most faithful of all the Churches of God.
Or does he simply mean that he, Robert Thiel, is the most faithful?
How does he know no other Church of God is more faithful than he is? Does he know every Church of God? There may be hundreds. Grant you, some are only living room churches of God, but even those groups likely have more members than Bob Thiel's group. Even if he knew all of them (which is impossible because they do not all have websites), how can he be up-to-date, not just up to date but up to the minute? Because, to be fair, since Bob Thiel's "group" (if it is that), is only two days old, you must count other COGs only two days old in the comparison. But how can you since you do not even know who is right now starting a group? So you can have a small Church of God made up of a handful of members which just started five days ago, which may have more members, greater zeal, more love, more faithfulness to the Bible than Dr. Thiel's group, but no one, including Bob Thiel, knows about them because they haven't started a website yet. Yet Bob Thiel knows that no such group exists! If this is true, then he must be a prophet indeed.
And even if it is true that CCOG is the most faithful of all Churches of God, does Dr. Thiel need to say it? Is this not boasting? What is the point? Does the Bible say we should compare ourselves with ourselves (2 Corinthians 10:12)? In effect, Bob Thiel is saying to all the Churches of God and all the brethren, "We are more faithful to God's Word than you." And the irony is that this is at the bottom of a post about love.
"love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
Describing his new group as the most faithful COG after only two days, if nothing else, shows a lack of wisdom on Bob Thiel's part.
Bob Thiel is right to teach the importance of love. He should not describe his group as the most faithful until it proves its faithfulness with a track record of faithfulness over time. Two days is not enough. Even over time, if CCOG proves its faithfulness, it is better to let the fruits speak for themselves. Claiming to be more faithful than others is not wise - it offends unnecessarily. We should wait for God to praise us, and we should not praise ourselves.
Now, apart from the above, even before I saw Dr. Thiel's claim that CCOG is the most faithful of all the Churches of God, I had the idea for posting about what criteria Dr. Thiel uses to evaluate if a COG is Philadelphian.
For years Bob Thiel has been saying that LCG is the Philadelphia Church. He has been saying this right up to last Friday. Until then, his website had been full of posts and articles claiming that Living Church of God is Philadelphia.
But now he says that for a year or so he has wondered if LCG has lost the Philadelphia "mantle", and now he is certain that LCG lost the Philadelphia mantle in 2011 or 2012 (what is a "mantle" anyway - I should look that up). But that means two things: Bob Thiel has been teaching that LCG is Philadelphia even for a year during which he himself was not sure if it was Philadelphia. How can he honestly teach something if he is not sure it is true? Also, this means that now Bob Thiel thinks that LCG has not been Philadelphia for about a year during which Dr. Thiel was teaching that it is. Even apart from the honesty thing, this shows that Dr. Thiel was in error.
This is even more serious because it seems that the main reason Dr. Thiel gives for leaving LCG is that it is not Philadelphia. I am all in favor of every Christian striving to trust, believe, obey, and please God in everything and pray to be accounted worthy to escape the tribulation to come. I am all in favor of Christians being zealous to go through any open door that God provides and to support those who preach the gospel most effectively. In that sense, I think striving to have the characteristics that Christ praises in His message to Philadelphia is a worthy goal. In that sense, we should all strive to be Philadelphians wherever we may attend. And for some people, leaving a group that is not effective in preaching the gospel or is not faithful to the Bible in order to attend and fully support a group that is faithful may be a viable option and a good choice. But you don't have to leave a group that is not Philadelphia in order to be a Philadelphian.
Being a Philadelphian in God's sight is a spiritual condition. In has little directly to do with what organization you attend. Now, it is natural for those Christians God sees as Philadelphian in character to want to attend and support whatever organization is most faithful to God and the Bible, but that is not what makes one a Philadelphian. It is God's judgment call, and He looks at the heart. Philadelphians are those who have a little strength, have kept Christ's word, and have not denied His name (Revelation 3:8), and those who have kept Christ's command to persevere (verse 10). It is because of these characteristics that God gives Philadelphians an open door to preaching the gospel and will protect them from the tribulation to come. Organizational affiliation is secondary.
For example, you might have a member attending UCG or COGWA whose spiritual condition is Philadelphian in God's sight, according to God's judgment. Now, does that person have an open door to preaching the gospel? Yes, Christ promises that person an open door. How? Maybe not through UCG or COGWA directly, if those organizations are not effectively preaching the gospel. But if that person prays that the gospel be preached as a witness, God can answer that person's prayers, if not through the efforts of UCG or COGWA, then through some other organization that is preaching the gospel effectively.
So that person is effectively supporting the gospel because God is answering his or her prayers for the gospel. Prayers count. "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). Why does God answer that person's prayers? Because God judges that person as having a little strength, has kept Christ's word, and has not denied Christ's name, thus a Philadelphian in God's sight.
Yet, in a group that is preaching the gospel effectively, and I will use LCG as an example because I think they are doing a pretty good job of that compared with many other COGs, you might have someone praying for the gospel who is not keeping Christ's word and does deny His name. Will God answer his or her prayers the same way? No. The open door promise, including answering prayers for the gospel, is to those who are faithful, not those who attend an organization.
So a man may attend COGWA, which as an organization does very little right now to preach the gospel (mostly because they don't have enough money), but in God's eyes that man has a little strength, keeps God's word, and does not deny Christ's name - that man has an open door to preaching the gospel. God will answer that man's prayers for the gospel, and that is how he contributes to the gospel, that is how he goes through the open door. Yet God will not answer the prayers of the unfaithful man in LCG. But how does God answer the first man's prayers if COGWA doesn't have enough money to preach the gospel? God answers his prayers through the work of LCG. Because the man is not praying just for "his" church. He is praying for God's work, and God can answer that prayer by the works of another group.
God doesn't see the divisions in the Church of God as men see them. To God, it is all one Church and God's work is one work with many departments.
So a member in COGWA (or UCG or some other group) may be more Philadelphian and may have an open door to having his prayers answered for the gospel that many members in LCG do not have because they are not really Philadelphian in character and spiritual condition.
So God may prosper the TV broadcast and public Bible lectures in LCG to help get the gospel message out, not just in answer to prayers of LCG members, but the prayers of COGWA members, UCG members, and any member anywhere who has the faithfulness of a Philadelphian.
I received an email about a year ago and corresponded with a woman who was a prospective member just starting to attend the Church of God. She found my online book, Preaching the Gospel, and was reading it, and she thanked me for it and said she was learning from it. At the same time, she was starting to attend with United Church of God and was being instructed by a UCG minister. I do not know what she found first, my site or UCG, but she seemed to be learning from both at the same time. We corresponded a bit.
I thanked her for her email, I encouraged her, and I told her I was glad she had a minister in the Church of God to instruct her personally. I was careful to say not one word of criticism of UCG and its governance or anything against the UCG ministry. God, in calling her, led her to UCG, and a new prospective member does not need to know all the controversies in the Church of God, controversies that occur because of division among ministers, which should not be, but is. In time, God may lead her where He wants her to go, and if He does, He does not need my help. If she wants to correspond with me some day about governance or which group is effective in preaching the gospel, I will be happy to answer her questions.
After a while, she emailed me to say she was baptized, and I rejoiced in that.
I guess I went off on a tangent there, so I will get back to my main point.
Bob Thiel needs to answer some questions for those who read his blog. He seems to be saying that he felt obligated to leave LCG because he feels LCG lost their Philadelphia "mantle". If that is the case, being Philadelphian or not must be very important to Bob Thiel. So he should answer some questions about this without beating around the bush. If being part or not being part of an organization that is Philadelphian is important enough to Dr. Thiel that he would leave LCG over it, then it is important enough for him to explain it more thoroughly.
What is a "Philadelphia mantle" EXACTLY?
Is being a Philadelphian mainly a matter of what organization you attend, or is it a spiritual condition?
Can you have members who are Philadelphian in God's sight attending a fellowship in which the majority of the members are NOT Philadelphian, and if so, is that member obligated to quit, and why?
On what basis have you judged for the last many years that LCG is Philadelphia? Why has that changed? Has LCG changed or has your criteria changed?
If LCG lost its "Philadelphia mantle", how and why does that make it "necessary" that you leave LCG and start your own group? Can't you be a faithful Philadelphian in LCG even if 51% in that group are not? Isn't God going to judge you and me as individuals?
Are you a prophet, yes or no?
Is it because you believe you are a prophet that you quit LCG and started your own group?
On what basis do you judge yourself or the group you started as the most faithful to the Bible of all the Churches of God?
Even if you think that, why do you have to say it? Why compare yourself with other groups and say, "I am more faithful". Doesn't humility teach us to not praise ourselves but wait for the praise that comes from God? Doesn't wisdom teach us that this kind of comparison offends unnecessarily and that it is better for the fruits of what we do to praise us over time?
"Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:15-20). If Christ says we are to know true or false prophets, or good trees from bad trees in the general sense, by fruits, then members of the Church of God must judge by fruits, and that takes time. How can you claim to be more faithful than other Churches of God when there has not been time for Continuing Church of God to show any fruits so members can judge by fruits as God commands?
Do you believe that CCOG, as young as it is, has the "Philadelphia mantle", and if so, by what criteria do you judge this?