Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let's Not Focus on Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong - Part 1

We should love and respect Mr. Armstrong and we should appreciate the good that God has done through him, and we can still learn from his writings and recorded sermons. But our primary focus should be on Jesus Christ and on God's word, the Bible, not on Mr. Armstrong.

It has been more than 26 years since the death of Mr. Armstrong. Probably most, not all, current members of the Church of God remember him, either because they were in the Church when he was alive or because they have listened to his sermons and read his books, articles, and letters even long after his death. I hope most members' memories are fond ones. We should certainly respect and appreciate him in a right balance.

But our primary faith must be in God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible. We should be focused on the work God wants us to be doing today, both the spiritual work of overcoming our sins and the work of preaching God's truth to the world. We should let God tell us, through His word, the Bible, what His will for us is. And we should ask for and rely on Him for help to understand the Bible through the power of His Holy Spirit in proportion to our commitment and effort to believe and obey Him. We should also acknowledge before Him that by our human power alone, without God's help, we cannot escape Satan's deceptions and correctly understand the Bible. Knowing this, we should give Him heartfelt thanks for the understanding of the Bible He has given us.

It is God's will to work out His purpose in this age of building the Church, preparing the bride, and preaching the gospel and a warning to the world through fallible human beings. Mr. Armstrong was a tool God used for that purpose, just as God uses every member of the Church to one degree or another.

There are two problems in the way some of us think about Mr. Armstrong and his role in the Church, and some members struggle with one or the other of these problems. They are opposite problems, two ditches to avoid on either side of the road, or if we are already in a ditch, to work our way out of and back on to the road.

One extreme tends to make an idol out of Mr. Armstrong and his writings. People in this ditch tend to treat Mystery of the Ages as infallible, free from error, almost on the same level as the Bible (or on a higher level in some cases, though they won't admit it even to themselves). They tend to justify and prove doctrine by Mr. Armstrong's writing rather than the Bible and are offended if you say or imply that Mr. Armstrong could be wrong about doctrine.

The other ditch is to become overly concerned about what is perceived as Mr. Armstrong's faults. Some people's faith is shaken to a degree because they hear or read that Mr. Armstrong had this problem or that problem.

Of course, there are many who openly criticize and show disrespect towards Mr. Armstrong, making accusations, which they cannot prove. I am not talking about those people, many of whom are probably not converted anyway. I am not talking about people who seem to show by their fruits that they are more inspired by Satan than the Holy Spirit.

"then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord. But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption" (2 Peter 2:9-12).

"Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!' But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves" (Jude 8-10). "These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage." (Jude 16).

I am not talking about the contemptuous and rebellious individuals Peter and Jude are talking about.

I am talking about sincere people, converted or called by God, who want to show respect, but are deeply troubled by accusations they have heard about Mr. Armstrong, to the point even that some of them may feel that their faith in God's truth is threatened.

We all need to realize that we need to put our faith in God and the Bible, not any man, not even Mr. Armstrong. We should follow Mr. Armstrong's admonition, which is based on scripture, when he said, "Don't believe me, believe God, believe your Bible." If we haven't proved the truth from the Bible, we need to do so. And if we haven't proven the inspiration of the Bible by fulfilled prophecy, we need to do that first.

Our faith must be in God and in God's word, the Bible. If it is, our faith will not be shaken by accusations we have heard about Mr. Armstrong's character, nor will it be shaken if we found he has made mistakes in his teachings.

We must also not make an idol out of Mr. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong made mistakes, and he has admitted he has made mistakes. Mystery of the Ages is not infallible. The Bible is. If we read in Mr. Armstrong's writings one thing, and we see something else in the Bible, then God is testing us to see who we trust more, God or man. We must believe God. We must believe the Bible more than Mr. Armstrong, even when that means acknowledging that Mr. Armstrong could be wrong in Mystery of the Ages or any of his other publications.

There is ample proof in the Bible that the servants of God can make mistakes.

To be continued...

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:


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