Sunday, July 21, 2013

If a Church of God Fellowship Gathers Church of God Members, Does this Make It Philadelphia?

In my previous post, I discussed whether the Church of God needs to become united for us to finish the work of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning as a witness. My conclusion was, no, unity in the entire, whole Church of God is NOT necessary for the Philadelphian portion of the Church of God to do a powerful work and finish the preaching of the gospel as a witness. Here is the post:
"Does the Church of God Need to Unite to Do a Powerful Work?", dated July 19, 2013, link:

In this post, I want to ask and answer the question, if a Church of God leader or fellowship gathers many other Church of God members and ministers, does that mean it is Philadelphia, or the whole Church of God, or the most faithful part of the whole Church of God?

There have been many splits since Worldwide broke up. There have not been many mergers. But what if there are mergers of Churches of God in the future? Would that mean that Church of God fellowships that merge are Philadelphian in character because they seek unity by merging? Would that mean that if some COG members or whole COG fellowships joined with a COG leader that God is bringing those members and ministers to the leader because of the leader's faithfulness?

There are a number of large and medium size Church of God fellowships, each having a single top leader or a form of governance in which the ministry selects the leadership. Dr. Roderick Meredith is leader of Living Church of God. Mr. Gerald Flurry is leader of Philadelphia Church of God. United Church of God and Church of God a Worldwide Association are governed by the ministry through balloting to select a leader, and that leader can change from time to time. Church of God an International Community is led by Mr. David Hulme. Church of the Great God is led by Mr. John Ritenbaugh. Restored Church of God is led by Mr. David Pack. Enduring Church of God is led by Mr. Charles Bryce.

Suppose two or three of these groups merge? Does that make them Philadelphia? Does that mean the leader is faithful in God's sight?

Suppose, for example, that Enduring Church of God and its leader Mr. Charles Bryce join with Restored Church of God and its leader Mr. Dave Pack. Or suppose one or several ministers from United Church of God or Church of God a Worldwide Association leave those organizations, taking some of their members with them, and join with Restored Church of God under Mr. Dave Pack. Perhaps some ministers in United Church of God are unhappy because they anticipate doctrinal changes in UCG. Or perhaps some ministers in Church of God a Worldwide Association are unhappy because that organization does not have the money to do a powerful work. Would that make Restored Church of God Philadelphia, just because it is growing, or just because members and ministers are going to them?

This is one example, the same question can be asked about any leader that pastors and members come to or any two or more groups that merge.

My answer is, no, not necessarily. Being Philadelphian has nothing to do with number of members or popularity among all the brethren and ministers in the whole Church of God. Being judged by God to be faithful has nothing to do with popularity or how many members or ministers come to a leader or group. God judges us by our character, by our attitudes of mind, which God knows, and we can judge individual Church of God leaders and their organizations by their fruits, including the fruit of right and faithful teaching.

This is the Laodicean era. I think this is obvious, or will become obvious, to just about everyone in the Church who has spiritual discernment. We are scattered. The major COG groups, many of them, compete with each other instead of cooperate with each other. Most COG groups do not have much of an open door as Christ promised to Philadelphia.

So it is logical that the biggest and most popular Church of God fellowships MAY be Laodicean, not definitely, but possibly. Size and popularity are not necessarily the characteristics to look for in a Philadelphia organization or a Philadelphia leader. Certainly God may gather many members to a Philadelphia leader, but it is just as likely that a Laodicean leader will gather many members and ministers, not because he is faithful, but because he tells people what they want to hear.

If you want to judge if a group is Philadelphian in character, you have to look to the fruits, and one of the most important fruits is right and balanced teaching. Read what the leader teaches. Is it accurate according to the Bible? Is it balanced?

Does the leader show the fruits of God's Spirit in his teaching, his speaking, and his writing? Is he overly critical of others, making false accusations, or accusations based on rumor and not facts? Does he twist the details of doctrines and events to make himself look good and everyone else bad? Satan is the author of false accusations and the inspiration of the spirit of accusation.

Has God given that leader an open door for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel? Is he doing an effective work, and can you PROVE he is doing an effective work? Does he make available the proof in terms of complete and verifiable information (audited magazine circulation, budget figures made public as audited by a respected accounting firm, average weekly attendance, number of baptisms of new people who never heard the truth before coming into contact with this leader's teaching via radio, television, print, or the Internet, etc.) Or does the leader keep such information secret or just make wild and extravagant claims that cannot be easily verified?

Does he teach and practice government from the top down? Has he ALWAYS practiced government from the top down, or if he has rebelled against top-down government in the past, siding with boards or councils that vote against a top-down leader that has raised up an organization (while in that organization), has he repented and publicly admitted that he did wrong? Or does he justify what he did by pointing to alleged errors in doctrine, which, even if errors, are minor in importance? It is entirely fair for us to look at the track record of any leader who claims to be more faithful than other leaders.

If a man has served for years under a top-down leader, then sided with a board that voted that leader out, I would have doubts about that man's commitment to top-down government in the Church of God. It might seem that he only agrees with top-down government if he is at the top of that government.

If a leader of a group goes astray, voting him out of office is not the biblical way of dealing with him, and those who side with those who vote against him are not following the Bible. King Saul went astray, but David did not rise up in rebellion against him, but waited on God, and in the meantime David fled from Saul but did not lift his hand against Saul or support those who did.

Is the leader committed to believing the Bible more than Mr. Armstrong, more than the traditions of the Church of God, more than his own opinions? Is the leader willing to change doctrine, even to change Mr. Armstrong's doctrines, when he is corrected by the Bible? Is he willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible? Or does he claim that Mr. Armstrong's doctrines cannot be changed because he is the Elijah to come and restore all things, and God's apostle, and God only puts doctrine into the Church through the apostle?

Does he understand the difference between what is important and what is not important? Does he follow the Bible in this? Or does he make things important that the Bible does not make important, and minimize things the Bible says are important?

Beware of those who accuse others for teaching that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 applies to a future worldwide deception. As I have pointed out, this verse refers to one or both of two possible events: a falling away from the truth in the Church of God or a worldwide deception by the false prophet and the beast. WE ALREADY KNOW ABOUT THOSE TWO EVENTS FROM THE BIBLE AND FROM HISTORY. Everyone agrees that there was a falling way in the Church in the first and second century and in our time after Mr. Armstrong died. We all agree that we must be spiritually alert to avoid falling away in the future. And we all agree that a worldwide religious deception is coming. So there is no disagreement about the substance of those events and prophecies. We know what has happened in the Church. We know we need to be spiritually close to God to avoid falling away in the future. And we know what is coming - a great worldwide deception. So where is the disagreement? Only about which of these events a particular verse is referring to. To accuse others over this is truly making a molehill into a mountain.

See my post "Is the Falling Away Doctrine a Critical Issue?", dated February 10, 2013, link:

A leader who does this does not seem to be showing good spiritual fruit, but seems to be trying to gain a following after himself by stirring up strife where there need be no strife.

A clue is what he says about doctrine coming into the Church through an apostle. Another clue is what he says about the Elijah to restore all things.

Some leaders try to make a big deal about Mr. Armstrong being the Elijah to come. They use this to say, in effect, since the Elijah to come is to restore all things, and since Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come, Mr. Armstrong restored all things and we should not change any of Mr. Armstrong's doctrines. These leaders often say that knowing Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come is vitally important. Some leaders make a big deal about saying that doctrine is only put into the Church through an apostle. But both of these teachings show a wrong emphasis, and are misleading.

Does the Bible teach the importance of knowing who the Elijah is? ABSOLUTELY NOT! There is not a single verse or combination of verses that indicates that it is important for Church of God members to know who the Elijah to come is. God knows who the Elijah is and He makes sure the Elijah does his job. We do not have to know. If we want to speculate and say, Mr. Armstrong was probably the Elijah to restore all things, that is fine. Personally, I think it was Mr. Armstrong. But whether you or I know this for sure is not important, and it should NEVER be used as an excuse for failing to be corrected by the Bible and changing Mr. Armstrong's teachings, if necessary.

The whole emphasis some put on Mr. Armstrong being the Elijah to come is based on the Elijah to come restoring "all things". Yet, the ONLY teaching about Elijah restoring anything comes from Jesus Christ, and Christ NEVER RAISED THE SUBJECT OF ELIJAH! He never said it was important to know who the Elijah is. The only time Christ talked about Elijah was in answer to questions, and those questions seemed to always originate from carnal scribes, Pharisees, and Jewish religious leaders who seemed to be obsessed with personalities and titles. When the disciples asked about Elijah, it was because of something the scribes said. So Jesus answered their questions, but He never Himself raised the issue or said it was important (Matthew 17:10-12, see also John 1:19-25).

Mr. Armstrong himself may not have thought of himself as Elijah during the most productive time of the Philadelphia era when the Church was growing in numbers, in power, and in doctrinal truth most rapidly. Yet, not knowing he was Elijah did not prevent him from doing an Elijah work.

So beware when a leader tells you it is important that you know that Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come, because such a leader is trying to make something important that the Bible does not make important.

What is important about Elijah? Only that God knows who he is and that God makes sure he does what he needs to do. Even the Elijah to come does not have to know he is Elijah.

Also, beware of those who emphasize that all doctrine comes into the Church through an apostle. Why do they say that? What is their motivation, or what is the point they are trying to make? And do they have a biblical basis for the point they are making?

This is not just a trivial or incidental statement in the minds of those who say this. They have a reason for saying it. Usually it is one of two things, maybe both. They may be using this to say that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle and no one else is today, so we should not change his doctrines or introduce new doctrine because none of us are apostles. Or, the leader may claim the title himself and say, I am an apostle, and I can put doctrine into the Church, but no one else can.

What these people forget is that we have at least one living apostle in the Church, besides the leader who claims the title, and that apostle can put doctrine into the Church. When Mr. Armstrong was alive, we had two living apostles.

Jesus Christ is our living apostle (Hebrews 3:1), and Christ can put doctrine into the Church, through the Bible, and is not limited by human leaders who claim the title of apostle over other Church of God leaders, but cannot prove they hold the office in God's sight.

Besides, if only human apostles on earth can make doctrinal changes, based on the Bible, but others cannot, then we would have to know EXACTLY and CERTAINLY who is an apostle and who is not. But the Bible gives no clear definition of an apostle. We know it is the highest office in the Church. We know who the apostles are in the Bible, because they are called apostles. But we do not have enough information from the Bible to say with certainty, "Mr. David Pack is an apostle, but Mr. Roderick Meredith is not", or "Mr. David Hulme is an apostle, but Mr. John Ritenbaugh is not". These men are leaders of Church of God fellowships, and God knows if they are apostles or evangelists.

What a man claims for himself means nothing. It is how God sees it that counts.

Even Mr. Armstrong did not know he was an apostle before 1952, but that didn't stop him from doing the work God wanted him to do. Nor did Mr. Armstrong ever say, in 1927 or 1934, "Well, I am not an apostle, and only an apostle can change doctrine, so I better just accept the doctrines of the Church of God Seventh Day whether they agree with the Bible or not." What was Mr. Armstrong's example? From the time of his conversion, he ALWAYS believed the Bible more than any man or Church, even before he was ordained as a minister. That was EXACTLY why God could use him.

Philadelphia is to hold fast (Revelation 3:11). What should Philadelphia hold fast to? What was it that Mr. Armstrong held fast to, the one thing that made it possible for him to raise up the Philadelphia era of the Church of God (or rather, Christ raised it up using Mr. Armstrong as a tool)? What quality or attribute of mind or character did Mr. Armstrong have, which enabled God to use him the way He did? Mr. Armstrong was committed to believing and teaching the BIBLE more than the traditions of any man or church, even the Church of God. He was always ready to learn new doctrines and receive correction from the Bible. If there is one thing we must hold fast to, it is that. We must believe the Bible.

I will tell you what I think will be a good clue as to who a Philadelphian pastor, evangelist, or apostle is. When you hear an ordained minister in the Church of God or a leader of a Church of God fellowship tell his members, "DON'T believe me, believe what you read in your Bible", and if he shows he means it, that would be a man to watch as a potential leader of a Philadelphia remnant Church of God that will finally finish the work of preaching the gospel and then go to a place of safety.

But don't expect the majority in the Church of God to follow such a man, nor for such a man to be popular, because this is the Laodicean era, and the majority of members in the whole Church of God are NOT Philadelphian in character, nor will most of them be before the end.

I for one would try to follow and support such a man as long as I see him following the Bible faithfully and bearing good fruit. That would be part of my effort to become a Philadelphian Christian, though I personally fall short in many other ways.


Anonymous said...

One thing is clear to me that many of these splinter groups are being led by false prophets as it was Foretold by the apostle Saul.

I also think that these same groups are in danger of being part of that remnant that is persecuted by satan as foretold in the book of Revealation. said...

You mean the apostle Paul, not "Saul", right?

Personally, I never refer to Church of God fellowships or organizations as "splinters". It sounds too much like what Mr. Pack might say.

There are not "many" Church of God fellowships that are led by anyone claiming to be a prophet, just a very few. Most Church of God fellowships are led by men who only claim to be evangelists or pastors, not prophets. I always hesitate to call someone a "false prophet" if he doesn't claim to be a prophet at all. I might think of a man as a false teacher if his doctrines are seriously wrong, and I usually don't even think of a COG leader as a false teacher overall if he is teaching mostly true doctrine but only has a few mistakes.

Those are my thoughts, for what they are worth.