Sunday, May 3, 2015

What Is Wrong with Preaching the Gospel Only by Example?

In discussing doctrinal issues in the Church of God, matters about which we do not all agree, I have to strive for a balance. I do not want to be too harsh and critical towards those who take doctrinal positions that seem contrary to the Bible, yet I want to discuss what the Bible actually teaches, and I want to do it with power and maximum effectiveness if the issue is important. I am sure I do not always find the right balance perfectly, and sometimes I have to learn by my mistakes.

But always my motivation is to help someone who is in error see their error, or if I am in error perhaps encourage others to show me my error, from the Bible. If you and I disagree, I want you to learn from me or I want to learn from you. If we are both honest with the Bible, perhaps one of us can show the other his mistake, and if we are both wrong, maybe by discussing the issue we can each learn something from the other. Also, my motivation is to protect Church of God members from accepting doctrinal teachings of others that are contrary to the Bible. I try to do this by describing the error and refuting it from scripture, from Church of God history, and from logic.

I know of nothing in scripture that is against this kind of honest reasoning together about doctrine and scripture. There are certainly scriptures that say we should not judge each other harshly, but there are also scriptures that teach that we should take a stand for the truth and warn those who are in error.

I always encourage members to avoid contradicting their pastors and Church of God leaders and ministers in conversation with other members within the congregation and fellowship they attend. Within each COG fellowship, the ministry of that fellowship has the authority to establish doctrine that will be officially taught within that fellowship, and members of that fellowship should not undermine the authority of their ministry from within the organization by criticizing and contradicting within.

But in the whole Church of God, all fellowships included, there is no human authority to establish official doctrine for all the whole Church of God. The Church of God is divided into conflicting organizations. We do not all agree, and the leaders of each fellowship do not recognize the authority of the leaders of any other fellowship over them. And between Church of God fellowships and organizations, there are major and serious doctrinal disagreements.

And in this environment, each Church of God member must choose which fellowship, if any, to support and attend with. To make such a choice, which God has given each member the responsibility for making, a member must exercise judgment. It may not be the member's intention to pass judgment on the character of individuals, but he must at least pass judgment on where God wills that he attend and who God wills he support, and to do this the member must strive to understand, according to scripture, which COG fellowships and ministers are teaching and practicing the truth of the Bible most accurately and faithfully.

Thus, members from different fellowships may discuss major issues in various ways in the spirit of "iron sharpens iron" (Proverbs 27:17), to help find the truth. These discussions can sometimes take place on the Internet in blogs and forums and via email between members scattered all over the world.

It is in that spirit that I want to discuss an error I have heard talked about from time to time. I am not trying to attack individuals or particular groups, but I want to refute the error itself. It is a serious error, one that can affect our salvation and the salvation of others not yet in the Church of God.

This error is a very dangerous error, in my opinion. It involves a major Church of God doctrine. This error needs to be refuted and resisted strongly. Some members and ministers seem to hold to this error and promote it in the Church of God. I will describe the error and show why it is wrong from the Bible, but without naming individuals or organizations that may promote it.

I am going to describe a Church of God fellowship, a "group" or "organization" that calls itself "Church of God" or some variation of that name. I am going to describe their position on the issue of preaching the gospel. Maybe this describes one specific group, or maybe it describes several groups. Or maybe it describes no existing group - it can be hypothetical - but it can be a warning for the future, for such a group may come into being even if it does not exist today. I will paraphrase their position, speaking in the first person. This position, or major parts of it, seems to be held by at least some individuals. You decide if any groups you know of may be teaching this error.

Such a group would say this:

"We need to set the example of God's way of life so that we are very different, and then people will attracted to it. They will be attracted to our example. That is the most powerful way we can preach the gospel. We have been spiritually complacent in the past, but now we are seeking a spiritual renewal and zeal for God's way of life. God is leading us in a different direction, away from complacency. What we have been doing in the past, including preaching the gospel to the world through TV and magazines, has not been working - it has not brought the peace and unity that should be the result of God's way of life.
"Our obedience to the Bible is fundamental to the preaching of the gospel.  Before we preach the gospel to the world through mass communication, we must learn to do it by example, because that is the primary way we preach the gospel.  We are not against preaching the gospel through mass communication (but we don't do it, we just say we are not against it), but we must first learn to set the right example or our mass communication efforts will mean nothing - it will produce no good fruit.  If we just set the right example, we will have a great impact on the world around us, even without using mass communication.  If we are not living God's way of life personally, preaching the gospel by mass communication means nothing.  Preaching the gospel is only effective when people see by our example that God's way of life works.
"We must not fall into the trap of feeling justified because we are preaching the gospel to the world, but are not living it.
"We should not be judging each other based on our personal interpretation of the Bible. We should not each read the Bible and be convinced of our position and judge others who disagree with us as being wrong. That is the way the Pharisees were.

"God is not leading us to preach the gospel through mass communication at this time. We must not try to get ahead of what God is doing through us. We should take the long-term view (in other words, we will not preach the gospel through mass communication for a long time). We must trust God and follow the direction He is leading us. We must know that God is in charge. We must not have disputes over questionable matters in the Bible (such as whether we should preach the gospel to the world).

"People are not brought to a knowledge of God's truth by great books, booklets, articles, radio or TV programs, or by public Bible lectures. They are persuaded by our good examples that they see in the Church."

I don't want to be overly critical, nor do I want to come across as mean-spirited. Groups that concentrate on feeding the flock and getting the bride ready and are sincerely striving to set a good example for the world by living God's way of life can have some good qualities. Sometimes their sermons can have many good things in them that are beneficial and spiritually profitable. But there is an error here that must be addressed. It can affect many people, and it is a dangerous error. If not corrected, it can do damage both inside and outside the Church. There are a number of aspects of this error which I will discuss in this post.

But is it right for me to judge and correct? Am I violating the spirit of Romans 14:4? Should I restrain myself from discussing the Bible doctrine of preaching the gospel so that I do not judge others?

We should not judge each other as individuals in matters that are not our business. If I am going to hire someone, I might judge his character to make the decision. But if I do not have a good reason to judge the character of someone, I should not judge him or her.

But I am not trying to judge anyone individually here. I am discussing Bible doctrine, namely, the doctrine of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. Where each minister and member stands on this is a matter primarily between him and God, though there are times when some of us have decisions to make that require judgment, and there may be a time to talk about individuals. But that is not the case here. I am not pointing a finger, but I want to warn about an error in doctrine.

So what is the error?

The error is thinking that the Bible allows, in its teaching, for the preaching the gospel to the world by proclamation, through mass communication in other words, to be POSTPONED until the Church learns to preach the gospel by example. The error is thinking that we should concentrate on our personal example and living God's way of life for a period of time BEFORE we preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world by radio, TV, magazines, booklets, Internet advertising, and public Bible lectures.

In fact, the Bible teaches that we should ALWAYS do BOTH at the same time.

But does not God teach that we should get the beam out of our own eye before trying to get the speck out of someone else's eye (Matthew 7:1-5)? Yes He does. We should give priority to getting the sin out of our own lives more than judging our brethren. But here is the question. Does that principle apply to preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God and the Ezekiel warning about the great tribulation to the public? When Christ taught the "beam in the eye" principle, did He intend that to apply to the question I am discussing here: should we postpone preaching the gospel through public proclamation until we do a better job of living God's way of life in our relationships with each other?

In this question as in all important doctrinal questions, we should let the Bible answer. We should let the Bible interpret the Bible. Does the Bible show, by instruction or by example, whether the beam-in-the-eye principle applies to preaching the gospel?

Yes, the Bible shows the answer to this question by examples, at least two, and there may be more. Moreover, the Bible shows by instruction that we must announce the good news of the Kingdom of God and give the warning message in any case, whether we have a beam in our eye or not.

First of all, the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning is commanded by God. He doesn't give us the option to decide if we should do it or not. We have to do it. To fail to do it is itself disobedience. In effect, it is God who is doing the correcting, and we are just the mailman delivering the message from God. Nor are we judging individuals, but we are sharing what we know with the public, and each individual who hears our message can judge himself, and that is between him and God.

Both the good news of the gospel and the warning about the tribulation to come include more than just correction, that is, telling someone he has a fault. The gospel means "good news", and it is the good news of God's coming kingdom and of salvation through Jesus Christ that enables us to enter that kingdom. Announcing good news of a coming happy event, that God will send Jesus Christ to establish peace, justice, and happiness over the earth, is more than just telling your brother, "let me get the speck out of your eye". Nor is sharing the information God has given us about the great tribulation and why it is coming and how to escape just telling your brother, "let me get the speck out of your eye".

Would you fail to wake up and warn your neighbor at night that his house is on fire because you think you may have a beam in your eye, that is, a major character flaw? I don't think so. If you love your neighbor, you would wake him up and tell him. You would share the information you have, that his house is on fire, information that for him can be a matter of life or death. Likewise, if you saw a road hazard at night you might put up a flare to warn other drivers to slow down. Again, that is sharing information. Not to do so would be wrong because you would not be loving your neighbor as yourself.

These principles are direct commands from God, and they are not overturned by the beam-in-the-eye principle: "And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:31). "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12). "Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter" (Proverbs 24:11).

When God gives a warning in the Bible, and commands us to deliver the warning to the nations, He is the one removing the speck or beam from our listeners' and readers' eyes, not us. And God has no beam in His eye that prevents Him from seeing clearly to correct others. We are just the mailman, the one who delivers the message. The message is from God.

"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul" (Ezekiel 3:17-21).

But there are examples in the Bible that leave no doubt that delivering a message from God as He commands or preaching the gospel to the public overrides the beam-in-the-eye principle. I do not mean that these examples contradict the beam-in-the-eye principle. I mean that these examples show that Christ never intended the beam-in-the-eye teaching to apply to situations where one is commanded by God to preach the gospel or deliver a warning. The context of the beam-in-the-eye lesson is different. The context is not preaching the gospel to the world as God commands us in the Bible, nor delivering a warning to Israel as God commands us, but using our own initiative to judge another individual's character and tell him his personal fault. That is what we are not to do until we get the beam out of our own eyes. But preaching a warning message or the gospel to the general public through mass communication, where each person who receives our message can examine himself between himself and God and judge himself if he is at fault is NOT the context of Christ's teaching not to try to remove the speck in our brother's eye till we first remove the beam from our own eye.

Jonah was a man with serious character flaws. He ran from God because he did not want to obey God (read Jonah chapters 1 through 4). You might think he was all right because he repented of that, but he still had serious character flaws because he disagreed with God's mercy towards Nineveh. Later, he became angry with God. This man certainly had a beam in his eye, maybe several beams in his eyes, yet in spite of his faults, God used him to deliver the warning message to Nineveh. And guess what? The message bore good fruit. Nineveh repented. Now, if God does not want someone with a beam in his eye to preach a warning message, why did He send Jonah to warn Nineveh? It was God who warned Nineveh, and Jonah was just the delivery boy. Jonah did not have to be perfect. Nor do we in the Church have to be perfect before we preach the message God has given us to preach to the world. It's God's message - we just deliver it as God commands us.

Here is another example, maybe more powerful and direct. If anyone had beams in his eye, it would be Judas. He was a thief who stole from the money box (John 12:4-6). He betrayed Christ (Mark 14:10-11, John 13:21-30). He would have been better off if he had never been born (Matthew 26:23-25). In the end, he committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-5).

Yet Jesus sent him out to preach the gospel. Along with the other apostles, he was sent out to preach the gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons (Matthew 10:1-10). Now, if Jesus intended His beam-in-the-eye lesson to apply to preaching the gospel, how in the world could He have sent Judas?

And the other apostles had problems too. James and John wanted to call down fire to burn up a village (Luke 9:51-56). They argued about who would be the greatest (Luke 22:24-27). They abandoned Jesus when He was arrested, most of them (Matthew 26:47-56). Peter denied Christ (Matthew 26:69-75). They had plenty of faults, plenty of carnality. Yet Jesus sent them to preach the gospel, even before they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and were converted.

What was Paul's attitude towards those who preached the gospel yet had carnal, competitive attitudes, who did NOT set a right example in relationships? Believe it or not, he rejoiced that the gospel was preached even by carnal men! Read it for yourself. "Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice" (Philippians 1:15-18). Why did Paul rejoice? He was not concerned about the character of those who preached but the benefit towards those who heard the preaching and glory towards God that God's message be preached.

Even in the history of the Church of God in our time, we can probably think of examples of individuals God has used to preach the gospel, yet they had personal faults and did not set a good example. God used many men, taught and trained by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, working under Mr. Armstrong's authority, to help preach the gospel, men like Dick Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong, Herman Hoeh, and many others too numerous to mention. Many of them have set very good examples and have been faithful, but all of them? Were there none that set bad examples? Yet, I think some Church of God members will tell you that God called them into the truth through the preaching of a man who did not set a perfect example even in the Church.

Yet, it is important that we get the beams out of our eyes, that we repent of sin and put sin out of our lives, that we learn to improve our relations with each other and to love each other as Christ loved us. And that certainly affects our preaching of the gospel. The more we practice living God's way of life, the more effective our preaching of the gospel to the world through mass communication will be because God will hear our prayers (1 John 3:22, 1 Peter 3:7) and will bless our efforts.

The problem is, we have no authority to set aside or postpone obedience to God's commandments to deliver His message to the nations and instead decide for ourselves that we will wait until we make more spiritual progress in our relationships within the Church. We must do both at the same time. We must obey God in everything, including preaching the gospel to the nations and giving the Ezekiel warning. We must preach the gospel by mass communication (which is the only way to reach the millions who need the message) at the same time as we improve our relations with each other. Then, as we improve our relations with each other, God will see our progress and will bless our efforts to preach the gospel with more and more power. But we must start to do both simultaneously because both are commanded by God.

To try to draw closer to God without preaching the gospel and warning to the nations through mass communication is futile. Why? Because we are choosing to disobey God. Is that a way to get close to Him? We are trying to achieve a closeness with God and a unity and peace among ourselves our own way, contrary to God's commands. That is what the world does. That is what traditional, mainstream churches do. They ignore God's commands about pagan holidays, using images in worship, the weekly Sabbath and annual holy days, etc., and they think they can draw close to God by doing what is right in their own eyes, but not by submitting to the Bible.

That is what we do if we try to improve our relationship with God while not preaching the gospel to the world through mass communication.

But what is wrong with preaching the gospel just by our personal example alone? Isn't that the most powerful way to preach the gospel?

No, it is not. Why? Because you can't reach enough people that way. How many people are watching your example or even the examples of everyone in the Church of God close enough to come to know God's truth? Hundreds of millions? No way. How about tens of millions? No. Even millions? No. Perhaps a few tens of thousands. Yet, hundreds of millions will go through the great tribulation, and they need a warning before the tribulation begins.

Look at the example of Jesus Christ. Did He preach the gospel only by His personal example? You can't get a more perfect example than His. How many people learned about the good news of the Kingdom of God just by His example? He lived without sin for about 30 years before beginning a public work, and there is not the slightest hint in the gospel accounts that anyone came to know the truth of God from him before He began to publicly preach to the crowds. In fact, the people who know Him best, who had the closest look at His personal example, rejected Him. "When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, 'Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?' So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.' Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:54-58).

"So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read....So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, 'Is this not Joseph’s son?' He said to them, 'You will surely say this proverb to Me, "Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country." ' Then He said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country'....So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way" (Luke 4:16, 22-24, 28-30).

"His brothers therefore said to Him, 'Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.' For even His brothers did not believe in Him" (John 7:3-5).

So much for Jesus Christ preaching the gospel by personal example only. Those who saw His example most closely were NOT led to the truth of the gospel by only His example. And unlike our example in the best of times, Jesus's example was perfect at all times.

Suppose Mr. Armstrong preached the gospel only by his personal example. If he did that, he never would have gone on radio or published a magazine, and we would not have the truth today. Those who say that preaching the gospel by personal example is the most effective way of preaching the gospel seem to have forgotten their roots. Would Revelation 3:3 apply here?

How many would Paul have reached if he only preached the gospel by his personal example and did not go to different towns and cities and preach publicly to the crowds?

And consider how the Church of God grew during the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s. Did people come into the Church because of the personal examples of members in their local congregations? Not often. In the early years, there were few local congregations. Ministers would go on baptizing tours across the United States, baptizing those who were ready, even in the absence of local congregations for them to attend. Newly baptized members had to wait until there were enough members in an area to start a local congregation. They didn't see any examples, good or bad. So how did they believe? They heard Mr. Armstrong on radio and he said, "Don't believe me, believe your Bible", and they believed their Bibles.

Actually, any Church of God fellowship that does not preach the gospel by mass communication is setting a terrible example for their children, for other Church of God groups, for each other, and for visitors whether those visitors be members from other groups or prospective members. For what will a prospective member think, if he visits services because of the example of a member he knows, and finds out that we know the tribulation is coming but we are not getting a message out to the nations and we are not preaching the gospel to the world with mass communication? Will he not conclude we are self-centered and have no love for our neighbors? Will he not ask, "Why aren't you preaching the gospel? Why aren't you warning the world to repent? Why do you not have a TV program or a magazine for the public?" And what will the answer be? That we don't have enough money? Tell him that while you spending money for a nice restaurant meal with him after the Sabbath at a nice restaurant. We are one of the richest countries in the world. We certainly do not lack money for preaching the gospel by mass media.

And what will our own children think when they hear us say that we should obey the Bible, but they see we are not obeying the Bible in the matter of preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning? Will they not conclude that their mother, their father, and their minister are just hypocrites, picking and choosing to obey those things in the Bible that are convenient and ignoring the rest? Or just as bad, twisting scriptures to suit our own desires? Or might our children, as they grow up to an age of reason, conclude that the ministers in their "parent's church" are just feeding their own bellies, keeping the full tithe of the members for their salaries and not spending any of it on preaching the gospel via mass media so they can personally have more money?

Most of the world never sees our example, nor can they see it. Time and distance prevent this. Only mass communication can reach hundreds of millions. And it is hundreds of millions who need our message, not just a few thousand who are "lucky" enough to know a Church member.

The preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning is not just for bringing people into the Church. It is for preparing them for what is coming in the near future. Thus, it is important for everyone, all the hundreds of millions who will suffer, not just the few that God is calling to salvation in this age right now. God wants all Israel (the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) to hear a warning as a witness (Matthew 24:14, Ezekiel 2:5, Ezekiel 3:10). The people need to know that God has warned them before the tribulation begins so they know they have no excuse. They can't blame God and say, "No one warned me these things were wrong, so it's not my fault". They need to be warned as a witness so they can accept responsibility for ignoring the warning. We can't let them have the excuse, "I didn't know better - I never had a chance". Not hearing a warning would be bad for them and bad for God's plan to set up Israel as a model nation for the world to follow in the millennium. That is harder if the people have a bad attitude thinking God was unfair because He never got a warning to them. That can even hurt their chances for salvation. It can make it harder for them to trust God.

We are fools if we think God's plan only centers around us and the small circle of family members and friends who see our personal example.

Moreover, failure to preach the gospel to the world automatically divides and separates brethren because it separates those who want to obey God by preaching the gospel to all Israel and to the world from those who do not.

Should we judge each other based on what we read in the Bible? If it is a matter of making a decision we have a responsibility for making, we have to make certain judgments. We all have to judge which Church of God fellowship to support or attend, if we are able to support and attend anywhere. And our judgment better be based on what we see in the Bible.

Certainly we should not "make mountains into molehills" or "major in the minors". We should not have hostile arguments and judge each other personally over minor, questionable doctrines in the Bible. But there is nothing minor about the gospel issue. It is a major, foundational doctrine of the Bible. We are to preach the gospel to the world, and not just by personal example only. And there is nothing questionable about it. It is as clear a doctrine as just about any other major doctrine in the Bible. It is as clear, as definite, and perhaps as important as the Sabbath.

And if we do have disagreements over scripture, we should be able to discuss our disagreements and try to find the answer, as the Church did in Acts 15.

If you think I am wrong about preaching the gospel, feel free to email me or to enter comments in this or other posts in my blog. We can discuss this logically, letting the Bible interpret the Bible. That is what we are supposed to do.

But no one so far has shown me from the Bible that I am wrong about this. And I am obligated by my commitment before baptism to believe God's word, the Bible, more than any church, more than any minister, more than any man, more than any tradition, and more than my own opinion.

God leads His Church. God the Father leads Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is head of the whole Church of God, including every converted member having God's Holy Spirit regardless of which fellowship he or she attends. Jesus Christ can lead us through the Holy Spirit and through the ministry, but also He leads us by God's word, the Bible. And He does not force us to follow. He leads us, but we must choose to follow.

And any teaching of a minister, or any sense of being led by a spiritual influence in our minds, must be consistent with the Bible if it is of God. If it goes contrary to the Bible, it is error and not from God.

The Bible therefore must be the final authority for resolving disputes between COG groups in matters of doctrine that we are to believe.

Mr. Armstrong's zeal, and the zeal of thousands of his supporters in the Church in the early years, for preaching the gospel by radio, magazines, books and booklets, public Bible lectures, and TV has produced spectacular results. The disunity and division that exists in the Church today was not the result of our zeal for the gospel, but has other causes (our lukewarmness in the things of God, including being lukewarm about preaching the gospel, to name just one cause).

Just because a group says, "God is not leading us to preach the gospel by mass communication", does not make it true. God may very well be leading the whole Church to preach the gospel by mass communication, but most of the Church of God chooses to disobey God and not follow where He leads. To the degree that God leads through the Bible, He is certainly leading the Church to preach the gospel by mass communication, and groups that say, "God is not leading us to preach the gospel to the public", are really saying, "We will not follow God to preach the gospel to the public - we refuse to follow where God in the Bible leads us".

Certainly we should not feel justified with God if we are just preaching the gospel to the world but not living it. We must do both, and we must do both at the same time. We must live the gospel and preach the gospel to the world, to the nations, in the only way we can reach the masses: by mass communication.

What about judging others as being wrong because they do not agree with our understanding of the scripture?

We should not judge any doctrinal position as wrong just because it contradicts our personal opinions and traditions. If our beliefs and our knowledge of God's truth is only based on our opinions and traditions, then of course we should not judge others who disagree as being wrong. But if we let the Bible interpret the Bible and base our beliefs and knowledge on what the Bible actually says, then we better judge other doctrines as being wrong if they contradict the Bible. Otherwise, we can never say that a false doctrine is wrong, and thus we can never be sure that our doctrines and beliefs are right.

If we never judged those who disagree with what we have proved in the Bible as being wrong, we would have to say that those who keep Sunday and pagan holidays instead of the Sabbath and holy days might be right. We would have to say, those who advocate "marriage" between a man and a man or between a woman and a woman might be right. We would have to say, those who advocate for abortion might be right. We would have to say, those who believe and teach the trinity and the immortal soul might be right.

We have to go by the Bible, or we become hypocrites at many levels. And the Bible is clear: we are commanded to preach the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world by the most effective means possible for reaching the masses, which in our society means mass communication, and to do it even while we are seeking a better relationship with God and with each other. We are NOT to wait for a period of time before doing so while we "get closer to God" (by disobeying Him?).

There is one more aspect of this, one more contradiction in ministers teaching their congregations that they must get the beams out of their eyes before preaching the gospel to the world.

There is a reason why we should get the beam out of our own eye before trying to remove the speck from our brother's eye. The reason is discernment. Until we remove the beam from our own eye, we do not have the spiritual discernment to see clearly to remove the speck from our brother's eye. We might go to a brother in the Church and try to tell him what we think is his "sin", but he may not be sinning at all. We may not have all the facts. Our interpretation of the situation may be clouded by our own pride and vanity until we get the beam out of our own eye.

But is that the situation with preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning? Do we lack the spiritual discernment to know that God is going to send Jesus Christ to this earth to establish the Kingdom of God to bring peace and happiness to all the earth? Do we lack the spiritual discernment, because we have a beam in our eye, to know that Christ will make the spiritual law of God summarized by the ten commandments the law over all mankind on the earth? Do we lack the spiritual discernment to know that the great tribulation is coming upon all Israel as punishment for our individual and national sins and that repentance is the only way of escape? So maybe if we get the beam out of our eye we will see clearly to know that Christ is not coming back to the earth, men do not have to obey the ten commandments, and there will be no great tribulation?

Whatever beams we have in our eyes, we do not lack the spiritual discernment to know that these coming events are real, that the truth of God is real, and that the doctrines we have proved in the Bible are true. And that is the message God commands us to preach to the world as powerfully as we are able, and that means making the financial sacrifices in our daily and personal lives to support a work of mass communication to deliver the truth God has given us for that purpose.

Then there is also the issue of the ministers having a beam in their eyes. For the preaching of the gospel to the world, just like feeding the flock, is the direct work of the ministry. The members support both the preaching of the gospel and the feeding of the flock with their tithes and prayers, but it is the ministry that directly does both. It is the ministry that must have clear spiritual discernment to be effective. Now, suppose the ministers have beams in their eyes that they think prevent them from preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world. Does that not also disqualify them from feeding the flock?

So does a minister say, "I cannot preach the gospel to the world or give the Ezekiel warning to the world because I have a beam in my eye." But if that minister is so spiritually blinded that he cannot see the sins of the world to warn the world, how can he teach the Church? How can he see clearly to correct the membership regarding their sins if he cannot see clearly to correct the world regarding its sins?

For which are greater, the sins of the world or the sins in the Church? If you cannot see the sins in the world, which are great and obvious, how can you see the sins in the Church?

Yet, what minister has ever said, "We ministers cannot preach the gospel because of the beams in our eyes, and we cannot feed the flock with spiritual instruction on the Sabbath for the same reason. So we ministers will not provide Sabbath services until we get the beams out of our eyes, and since we will be neither preaching the gospel nor feeding the flock in the meantime, we do not need your tithes"?

Here are links to posts in this blog on subjects related to this post:

"Does It Matter Which Fellowship We Attend and Support?", dated March 31, 2013, link:

"To Be Effective in Giving a Warning, We Have to Overcome Even When It Is Hard", dated September 3, 2013, link:

" 'Beam in the Eye', and Preaching the Gospel to the World", dated January 14, 2014, link:

"Decision Time for Ex-COGaic Ministers and Brethren - Where Will they Stand?", dated January 17, 2014, link:

"Has God Made the Church an 'Ezekiel Watchman' for Israel?", dated February 13, 2014, link:

"What Good Does It Do to Preach the Gospel If We Do Not Live It?", dated February 22, 2014, link:

"Heart-to-heart to Mr. Brian Orchard and Ministers of COGFC", dated February 24, 2014, link:

"What Is the Church of God's Greatest Sin?", dated February 27, 2014, link:

"False Repentance Movement in the Church of God", dated March 28, 2014, link:

"Do Our Choices Really Affect the Preaching of the Gospel?", dated May 16, 2014, link:

"Pentecost Is a Memorial of Preaching the Gospel", dated June 12, 2014, link:

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




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is some precedent for individual congregations to lead a quiet life and mind their own business. 1 Thess 4:9-12.

The issue I see in the hypothetical is whether the "we" is just referring to themselves or do they expect that of every other CoG? If it's the latter than such an outlook contains it's own set of problems.