Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pentecost Helps Us Understand What the True Church Is

When speaking about the Church of God, the term "church" can mean different things depending on the context.

Sometimes "church" can mean an organized fellowship. Each has a unique name, usually made of the phrase "Church of God", plus some descriptive qualifier to set it apart from other organized fellowships that also call themselves "Church of God". So you have "Living Church of God", "United Church of God", "Church of God, a Worldwide Association", etc. Often, each organization is also incorporated, so the name of the fellowship is also the name of a corporation, as in the preceding three examples.

So in that context, "church" can mean a particular organized fellowship among many other organized fellowships, not the whole Church of God.

But "church" can also mean the spiritual body of Christ, the whole collective body of those who have God's Holy Spirit dwelling in their minds. When used in this context, there is only one true Church of God.

It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the mind of a man or woman that makes that person a true Christian in God's sight and a member of God's one true Church. "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" (Romans 8:9-11).

Pentecost reminds us of this. The Feast of Pentecost represents the gift of God's Holy Spirit and the actual start of the New Testament Church of God, for it was on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples who first made up the Church.

"If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:15-18).

"If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:23-26).

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7).

"And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, 'which,' He said, 'you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now' " (Acts 1:4-5).

"When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:1-4).

"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14).

Mr. Armstrong correctly taught that the true Church of God is not an organization but the collective body of those who have God's Holy Spirit dwelling in their minds. As I remember it, he used the example on the radio of a congregation of 100 people, 99 of whom have the Holy Spirit and are therefore converted and one does not. In that case, the 99 are truly members of the Church of God while the one not converted is not, though he attends the same congregation with the 99 who are converted. Or, you might have 99 who are not converted and one who is converted because he has the Holy Spirit. In that case, the one is a member of the Church while the 99 are not.

It is the Holy Spirit that begets us to immortal, spirit life making us sons and daughters of God (2 Corinthians 6:18).

It is the body of Christ, the collective body of those who have God's Holy Spirit dwelling in their minds, that Jesus Christ is the head of. "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23). "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18).

That body of Christ is certainly organized, as Mr. Armstrong taught, but it is not necessarily restricted to one fellowship. It is organized because Christ is the head and He has placed different persons in different positions (Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 Corinthians 12:27-28).

Does Christ, as head of the Church, supervise and lead each member individually and directly, or does He lead the members through the apostles, evangelists, and ordained ministry? It can be either, depending on the kind of decisions being made, and sometimes neither.

In matters of personal salvation, our relationship with God, our faith, and our obedience to God's law, Christ leads each converted Christian directly - minister or lay member, man or woman - it doesn't matter. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). The ministry does not stand between us and God in matters of faith. "Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand" (2 Corinthians 1:24). Each of us is being judged individually by Christ. It is in this context that we must sometimes obey God rather than man when there is a conflict, even if that man is a minister or leader in the Church of God (Acts 5:29).

But in the decisions regarding the organized work of the Church such as determining official doctrine to teach, preaching the gospel to the world, feeding the flock, administering aid to the poor in the Church, resolving disputes between brethren, etc., Christ primarily leads us through the human leadership and ordained ministry He has established in the Church.

And in matters of family decisions, such as child discipline, Christ leads the wife, not through the ministry, nor primarily directly, but through the husband, who is the head of the family. "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5:22-24).

I wrote about this in more detail in my book, Preaching the Gospel. Please read the section, "Organization of the Church and Limitations on the Authority of the Ministry", in chapter eight, "Government in the Church of God". I provide diagrams I am not reproducing here. Link:

It is important to keep in mind how the word "church" is used, because if we are not careful, the distinction between the whole Church of God and a particular fellowship can become blurred in our minds. There is a difference, for example, between leaving a Church of God fellowship and leaving the whole Church of God, that is, abandoning the truth and losing the Holy Spirit. When you hear or read a minister say, "don't leave the Church", is he talking about the particular fellowship the minister is in or the whole Church of God? You have to keep the distinction in mind even if the minister doesn't make the distinction clear in his speaking or writing. Most ministers do not mind if you leave a different fellowship to become part of the fellowship the minister represents, but he usually doesn't want members of his own fellowship to leave to go to a different Church of God fellowship.

In our obedience to God, Christ leads each of us individually, and Christ leads us primarily through the Bible and through the Holy Spirit helping us understand the Bible and how to apply it to the choices and decisions we have to make.

Here are links to other posts on this subject in this blog:

"The 501(c)(3) Issue", published February 4, 2013, link:

"Should a Church of God Fellowship Be Incorporated?", published July 3, 2011, link:

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

Organization of the Church and Limitations on the Authority of the Ministry, Chapter 8

How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7

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

The Source of Our Beliefs, Chapter 6

Faith, Chapter 6

Can We Make an Idol out of a Man or Church?, Chapter 6


Anonymous said...


You wrote: "...The Feast of Pentecost represents the gift of God's Holy Spirit and the actual start of the New Testament Church of God, for it was on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples who first made up the Church..."

I believe there is another way to look at Pentecost, which pictures a completion, a finishing, not a beginning, of God's Church, of the sealing of all those Firstfruits to become part of God's Church.

God's Church began with one member and its first member was Jesus Christ, who has preeminence. As its first member, the Head of God's Church, it occurred on the day He was baptized and sealed by God's Spirit, which remained on Him from that day forward. That is pictured by that Wave Sheaf. He was accepted by the Father.

John 1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and REMAIING ON him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

John 6:27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father SEALED.

Although Christ was murdered and in the grave for 3 days and 3 nights, the grave did not prevail against God's Church, b/c Christ came back after those 3 days beings resurrected to life by God the Father.

On Pentecost more members were ADDED to God's Church when that Spirit was poured out. I suppose you may say the Ephesian era began on Pentecost, but God's Church began with Christ, the Head. The Head came first. God tells us it will be completed.

One counts 50 and the harvest of firstfruits is completed. Pentecost, Feast of Firstfruits, shows that God's Church will one day be completed.

As an aside, 7 weeks, 7 Sabbaths represents the 7 eras to be completed. 7X7 = 49 and +1 =50. The Church will be composed of Christ, First of the Firstfruits, plus the 7 eras (rest of the Firstfruits). God will complete it.

Like Christ, who set the example, the remaining Firstfruits will be baptized and sealed by God's Spirit.

2 Cor 1:21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;

:22 Who hath also SEALED us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.


MTCOGSM said...

You seem to have left out all of the Old T. faithful, listed in Heb.11, which are also part of the firstfruits. the two wave loaves (Lev.23:17) represent the first fruits, both Old & New T. The seven eras of the NT COG are only part of the first fruits--not all. is this not correct?

Anonymous said...

MTCOGSM replied with Anonymous by writing:

"You seem to have left out all of the Old T. faithful, listed in Heb.11, which are also part of the firstfruits. the two wave loaves (Lev.23:17) represent the first fruits, both Old & New T. The seven eras of the NT COG are only part of the first fruits--not all. is this not correct?"
MTCOGSM, here are some additional things for your consideration:

Christ was the first human being to be begotten by God and sealed as a Firstfruit by God's Spirit, which was not available to others until years after Christ was baptized:

John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was NOT YET GIVEN; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

God's Spirit directed OT people to do God's will, but none were begotten and sealed as Firstfruits: Christ was the First One.

Take Isaiah for one example. Isaiah knew he would come up in a resurrection with the people he lived amongst:

"Thy dead men SHALL LIVE, TOGETHER WITH MY dead body SHALL THEY ARISE. AWAKE and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." Isaiah 26:19

Isaiah will come up in the second resurrection...same resurrection where Job will come up in flesh (remember?).

Those OT individuals you have in mind must wait for something to happen before they are resurrected:

"And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:" Hebrews 11:39

Faith is a fruit of God, not something of Abraham, of Noah, of any human being. God controls it ad gives it out by measure (Romans 12:3, 6), by proportion, to accomplish His will. In the OT God's Spirit came and went with individuals to accomplish God's will. You may read the examples of Saul, Samson, David, etc. David was not always a "man after God's own heart" all of the time. Sometimes his heart was after other things that were evil. None of them were begotten. God had to bring that FIRST One, His Son, along first: Christ. God took care of the Groom. Next is the Bride. Later comes the "children."

The promise spoken of went first to Christ and God's Spirit REMAINED with Him for the rest of His life; same applies to each Firstfruit. God showed us Christ's example for a reason.


Anonymous said...

MTCOGSM, here is a little more "food for thought" in continuation of what was just written:

So, what are the OT individuals waiting for before they receive the promise? What must first happen before they live again?

Hebrews 11:40 "God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect."

Who is that "us" spoken of there? It's God's Church, members of God's Church, spiritually begotten/sealed Firstfruits! Pentecost shows that God will complete, finish, the harvesting of the rest of the Firstfruits.

We know the first resurrection is the better resurrection, but that second one isn't shabby or something to turn one's nose up at. God is working a perfect Plan of Salvation, but He must do it His way...not our way or according to our theories, or whatever. It's all going to be so good!

God is still dealing with His 144,000 Firstfruits (Romans 8:29-30). The last one is yet to be sealed, but it's a done deal; God has His timing.

"These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb." Revelation 14:4

God is working it:

"For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth." Psalm 74:12

And those prophets had to come before the Apostles came along. Why? They are part of a foundation, but Christ is the chief Cornerstone. God has made no mistakes. He just keeps working His Plan. Them OT people, without God's Spirit, working in their lives would never have done what they did.

God is smart, and when it comes to His Firstfruits we have this:

Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

At this time it is only the sealed Firstfruits, who are being conformed to the image of His Son. That was not the case for those in the OT.

God's Spirit will be poured out on all of them later after they awake in the second resurrection, which is all pictured by God's seventh annual Festival: the Eight Day, which is the Great Harvest.

Christ, the Wave Sheaf, that First Firstfruit, was harvested first. It's all one harvest! Then along comes the rest of the Firstfruits, which is to be followed by that Great Harvest.

God works decently and in order, and it will be each man/woman in his/her own order...