Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 4 - What Is the Foundation of the Church and Its Truth?

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post is a link to their website.

This series of posts explores the role of Herbert W. Armstrong, and the issue of correcting his doctrines according to the Bible.

The COGIW article tries to show that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle and his teachings should not be changed or questioned. Mr. Armstrong may have been an apostle, and I think he was, but that does not mean we should believe his teachings more than the Bible and fail to correct errors when we find them.


The COGIW article, in chapter 3, says that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the foundation of the Church, and the other apostles are the rest of the foundation to be aligned with the cornerstone, Jesus Christ. Then the rest of the Church is to be built on the foundation of the apostles and Christ and are to be aligned with that foundation.

The foundation, in this analogy as I understand it, is the doctrinal foundation of the Church.

To support this, the article quotes Ephesians 2:20: "...having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone...".

So we have a foundation for the Church made up of the apostles and prophets, Christ being the cornerstone of that foundation. The foundation of a building is used as an analogy to represent the doctrinal foundation of the Church.

But there is another analogy used in the Bible concerning the foundation. Paul wrote, "For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:9-11).

In this analogy, Paul does not count himself as part of the foundation, but rather a workman, and the foundation is Christ. In this analogy, Christ is not the cornerstone, but the whole foundation, all of it.

These two analogies complement each other if you look at the foundation as being the Bible. In the first analogy, the foundation is described as the apostles and prophets, because the apostles and prophets (not just apostles) wrote the Bible under God's inspiration. And because the Bible is the word of God, it is also described as Christ. The Bible is called the word of God, and Christ is also called the Word of God - that is one of His names (John 1:1, 14, Revelation 19:13).

Mr. Armstrong understood the equivalency between Christ and the Bible, both being the word of God. He said that Christ was the word of God in person and the Bible is the word of God in print.

There was a sign at Ambassador College that said, "THE WORD OF GOD IS THE FOUNDATION OF KNOWLEDGE". I don't think Mr. Armstrong had his own word in mind when he had that sign made. He was referring to the Bible.

Mr. Armstrong knew that the foundation is the Bible. He considered the Bible to be the foundation of knowledge, not himself or his own teaching. Paul said that in building God's spiritual temple, the Church, he could lay no other foundation but Christ. Both the Bible and Christ are called "the Word of God". Mr. Armstrong taught that the Bible is the word of God in print and Christ is the Word of God in person, the same word.

In Ephesians 2:20, that foundation is described as the foundation of the apostles and prophets because the Bible is composed of their writings, which God inspired as His word.

The real foundation for the truth of God and the doctrines of the Church of God today is the Bible, the only infallibly correct word of God.

The Bible is God speaking.

It is the foundation of the Bible that Mr. Armstrong's teachings must be aligned with. And because Mr. Armstrong was human and made mistakes, his teachings have not always aligned perfectly with the Bible. God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make mistakes, some serious mistakes.

Some have reported that Mr. Armstrong said, God has allowed me to make hundreds of mistakes, but never a mistake that would hurt God's work.

But can you say that about his statement to follow the next pastor general (Mr. Tkach) if we want to be in God's kingdom? He didn't qualify that with, as he follows the Bible, or as he follows Christ. It was phrased unconditionally. And it was wrong, as events that followed proved.

This was not only a mistake and a serious mistake, but it was a mistake that may have seriously hurt God's Church. How? Brethren who might have otherwise checked up more carefully in the Bible on the changes Mr. Tkach introduced instead may have just followed Mr. Tkach, assuming God must be leading him, just as Mr. Armstrong said. Mr. Armstrong's statement was horrible advice that may have spiritually harmed those who followed that advice.

Now, you can say, God allowed it for a purpose. God could have kept Mr. Armstrong from saying what he said, but God allowed it for the purpose of testing the Church and separating those who serve God from those who don't.

And that is true.

But in that case, those who passed the test are those who did not do what Mr. Armstrong said.

And perhaps a reason God allowed Mr. Armstrong to say this was to prove, once and for all to the whole Church of God, that we should NOT follow Mr. Armstrong's teachings more than the Bible, and we should NOT follow his mistakes, but rather correct those mistakes when we find them.

Mr. Armstrong's teachings are not the foundation of the Church of God and its truth and doctrines, or any part of that foundation. Mr. Armstrong's teachings rather point us to the true foundation, the Bible.

And as I write this it occurs to me that there is a comparison here with John the Baptist. We know that John was an Elijah to come to prepare the way for Christ's first coming. Assume that Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come to prepare the way for Christ's second coming and to restore all things. I think that is true. Now notice a comparison.

John did not point people to himself, but to Christ, the Word of God in person. "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry" (Matthew 3:11).

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?' " (Matthew 3:13-14).

"Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, 'I am not the Christ' " (John 1:19-20).

"And they asked him, saying, 'Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?' John answered them, saying, 'I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose' " (John 1:25-27).

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!' " (John 1:29).

"And they came to John and said to him, 'Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!' John answered and said, 'A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, "I am not the Christ," but, "I have been sent before Him." He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease' " (John 3:26-30).

In every way, John pointed to Christ, not himself. Christ was the Word of God in person, and John pointed people to Him.

In like manner, Mr. Armstrong pointed people to the Bible, the word of God in print, more than any minister. He told his radio audience, don't believe me, believe your Bible.

As John the Baptist pointed people to the Word of God in person, so Mr. Armstrong pointed people to the word of God in print, the same word.

It is the Bible, and Christ, that is the foundation of the truth, the Church, and its doctrines, not Mr. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong is not any part of that foundation, but rather Mr. Armstrong pointed us to the true foundation, Christ and the Bible.

Mr. Armstrong did not get his knowledge and truth from direct revelation as the apostles and prophets in the Bible did. He got his knowledge from the Bible. God directly revealed knowledge to Paul, who wrote his epistles, and Mr. Armstrong then got it from Paul's epistles. God directly revealed knowledge to Peter, and Peter wrote his epistles, and Mr. Armstrong then learned from Peter through Peter's epistles. Likewise, God revealed knowledge to James and John and Mr. Armstrong learned from their writings.

God revealed foundational knowledge to Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many others, and Mr. Armstrong received knowledge from their writings.

Mr. Armstrong did not lay the spiritual foundation for the Church. That foundation was already laid - it is the Bible. What Mr. Armstrong did was to point people to that foundation and help them understand it.

He restored knowledge, yes. But he did it by believing the Bible and teaching what he found there. The knowledge was in the Bible, but it had been lost through Satan's deceptions and misunderstandings. Mr. Armstrong believed the Bible more than his own opinions, and God helped him to understand the Bible and helped others understand it also.

TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 3 - Did John the Baptist Fulfill the Role of an Apostle?

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post is a link to their website.


The COGIW article tries to show that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle and his teachings should not be changed or questioned. I have no problem considering Mr. Armstrong to be an apostle, but I disagree with the idea that his teachings should not be changed or questioned even when the Bible shows they are in error.

The COGIW article, in chapter 2, tries to build a case that John the Baptist fulfilled an apostle-like role. The article presents two reasons. One, John the Baptist was "sent", which the article says is the very meaning of apostle. But a prophet is also sent, yet is not an apostle. Apostle and prophet are two different offices. Jesus Christ was both, but just because John the Baptist was sent does not mean his role was like that of an apostle. The prophets were also sent, but that does not make them apostles.

The second reason the COGIW article gave is the fact that Jesus said that John the Baptist was a prophet, and more than a prophet (Matthew 11:9-10). Since the only higher office in the Church than prophet is apostle, this suggests that "more than" a prophet indicates an apostle-like role.

But that phrase "more than a prophet" does not necessarily indicate that John the Baptist's role was that of an apostle. It could simply mean that John the Baptist was more than an ordinary prophet, that there was something special about him. That thing that was special was that he was fulfilling a prophesied role. Most prophets are not themselves prophesied about, but John was. This makes him more than an just an ordinary prophet.

Let's look at this passage.

"But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.' Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come" (Matthew 11:9-14).

Jesus did not say that John was more than a prophet because he was an apostle or fulfilled the role of an apostle. He said he was more than a prophet because he was the prophesied Elijah to come. That is a special role, a special office, a special honor. Look at the wording Christ used. "I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written..."

Look at that word "for", in "for this is he...". That word "for" indicates cause and effect. It indicates that what follows "for" is the reason for what precedes it. You could almost use the word "because". He was more than a prophet because it was written of him that God would send a messenger to prepare the way for Christ. Not because he was an apostle or fulfilled an apostle-like role.

Perhaps in some ways John's work and ministry was similar to that of an apostle, but you can't prove it by these scriptures. And as I pointed out in my first post in this series, an apostle is one whom Christ calls or names an apostle, and in the Bible Christ does not call John the Baptist an apostle.

From here the COGIW article says that there is a prophesied apostle to appear at the end time.

No, that is not true. There is a prophecy that there will be an Elijah to come, after John the Baptist, presumably at the end time to prepare for Christ's second coming, who will restore all things. But nowhere have I found in the Bible any prophecy that this man will be an apostle.

The Elijah to come in our time to restore "all things" (and I think Mr. Armstrong was that man) does not necessarily have to be an apostle. I think Mr. Armstrong was probably an apostle in God's sight, but not because he was the Elijah to come.

Nowhere does the Bible say that the Elijah to come would be an apostle.

TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 2 - Mr. Armstrong Learned the Truth from the Bible

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post is a link to their website.


This COGIW article will try to show that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle. I have no problem with calling Mr. Armstrong an apostle. I personally think he was an apostle, though I cannot prove it with certainty. But in saying that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle, the COGIW article then furthermore says that we should not change or question his teachings. That is wrong.

The COGIW article consists of an introduction and twelve chapters.

In the summary at the end of the first chapter, the COGIW article says that God's truth is only available via revelation specifically given to an apostle through the power of the Holy Spirit. As I pointed out in my first post, this is not true. For example, the original twelve apostles received much of the truth of God directly from the mouth of Jesus Christ.

But if this is true, if God only reveals His truth today by direct revelation to an apostle, then Mr. Armstrong could not be that apostle.

Mr. Armstrong did not receive the truth of God by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit. He did not receive the truth of God by dreams, visions, voices, face-to-face communication with Christ or an angel, or by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit apart from the Bible. He received the truth of God the same way we can prove it is the truth of God - by the Bible.

Read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography. He received the truth of God by the Bible. Of course the Holy Spirit helped him to understand the Bible and the truth of God. But it came from the Bible. The same Holy Spirit helps those who are called to understand the Bible when they check up on Mr. Armstrong's teaching in the Bible.

In other words, the method by which we receive the truth of God is the same as with Mr. Armstrong, and it has nothing to do with being an apostle. We read the Bible. If God is calling us, he opens our minds by the power of His Spirit to understand the Bible, and that helps us escape Satan's deceptions. If we are not being called, God does not open our minds, and He allows Satan to continue to deceive us.

That process works in us the same whether one of us is an apostle or not. We learn the truth from the Bible.

Is there a difference between us and Mr. Armstrong in this? Yes. But the difference is in degree, not kind. Mr. Armstrong was to be the leader to help others find the truth in the Bible. So that he could be the leader, God gave him much more help to learn the truth from the Bible. Then Mr. Armstrong showed us how to find that truth in the Bible and said to us, don't believe me, believe your Bible. In saying this, he was preaching what he himself practiced. He never believed any man over the Bible.

Then God's Holy Spirit has to work in us the same way it worked in Mr. Armstrong so that when we check up on the scriptures as Mr. Armstrong showed us, we could also understand the scriptures correctly. Otherwise, we could not accept the truth from the Bible.

Now, some people may have disobeyed Mr. Armstrong's instruction to not believe him but to believe their Bible. They may have believed Mr. Armstrong without checking in the Bible. If so, it seems their faith is in man, not God. How much value does that have even if they believe true doctrines? In my opinion, not much, but God is the judge.

But those who followed Mr. Armstrong's instruction to not believe him but to believe the Bible and who have checked the Bible and believed what they saw, have put their faith in God, not man, and have received the same help of the Holy Spirit to understand the scriptures as Mr. Armstrong, but in lesser degree and at a slower pace.

But the COGIW statement does not stress the role of Bible study in how Mr. Armstrong, or those who learned with his help, learned the truth.

If you read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, you will see how he learned the truth from the Bible one point of doctrine at a time. It was not easy and it did not happen overnight. Mr. Armstrong had to work at it. But God helped him because he was willing to believe God. He was willing to believe the Bible.

Even so, the truth came slowly, and Mr. Armstrong made mistakes along the way. For example, he used to teach that Pentecost was on a Monday. Later, he corrected that mistake and taught it was on a Sunday.

God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make mistakes, even in doctrine. And while Mr. Armstrong corrected many mistakes, he did not correct all of them. For example, he never corrected his statement that we need to follow the next pastor general (Mr. Tkach) if we want to be in the Kingdom of God. He never qualified that statement with, "as he follows Christ" or "as he follows the Bible" (which is the same thing).

Nevertheless, even though God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make mistakes, God was able to use him to do a powerful work because he believed what God said in the Bible.

But Mr. Armstrong never received the truth of God by special direct revelation from God apart from the Bible. If such revelation coming through an apostle is the only way God gives His truth to us, then Mr. Armstrong was never an apostle. But COGIW is wrong - that is not the only way God reveals His truth to us. In fact, as far as I can see, that is not a way at all that God revealed His truth to us in our time. He revealed His truth through the Bible, which was written by both prophets and apostles, and whose writings in the Bible are the direct word of God and thus infallibly sure and correct.

One might say, "God revealed these things through apostles in the Bible, and they received these things by revelation".

That is true, but I do not think that is what the COGIW article is talking about. I think the article is implying that Mr. Armstrong received this truth by revelation apart from the Bible.

So here is the path by which the truth of God is transmitted to us and the Church of God in our time:

God revealed His truth to the prophets and apostles through direct revelation by various means including the direct spoken word. God made sure the writings of the prophets and apostles that were canonized as part of the Bible were free from error, since the Bible was to be God speaking to us directly.

Those teachings come to us by the Bible, and the Bible is therefore the direct word of God, infallibly correct and free from error.

Mr. Armstrong, with the help (not direct revelation apart from the Bible) of the Holy Spirit, understood the Bible, but that understanding came over time, not all at once. He then helped Church of God members find that same understanding and truth in the Bible, and God helped us in the Church to understand the Bible the same way He helped Mr. Armstrong understand the Bible, by the Holy Spirit, but not by direct revelation apart from the Bible.

So the chain is:
God ---> apostles and prophets ---> Bible ---> Mr. Armstrong and the Church of God today.

At every step of the way, God helped the process by His Holy Spirit. So God gave the truth to the apostles and prophets who wrote the Bible. God made sure the Bible was free from error. God helped Mr. Armstrong understand the Bible. And God helps us also to understand the Bible when we study the scriptures that Mr. Armstrong has shown us.

This is how the truth of God has come to us. Not by direct revelation to Mr. Armstrong through the Holy Spirit apart from the Bible, and then from Mr. Armstrong to us. But from the Bible to both Mr. Armstrong and us with Mr. Armstrong, as a teacher, helping us to find the answers in the Bible.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 1 - What Is an Apostle?

Some time ago someone corresponded with me and brought to my attention a Church of God fellowship and one of its publications about Mr. Armstrong. The name of the Church is Church of God in Wales. The name of the article is, "Just What is an APOSTLE?". Here is a link to their website. You can find the article in the "Articles" tab:
http://www.cogiw.org/

I have read their article. The main point the article tries to make is that we should never change any doctrines Mr. Armstrong gave to us or question if they may contain errors that need to be corrected. I believe that is wrong.

This post is the first in a series that will review the ideas in that article and show why some of those ideas are wrong.

This is an important subject. It has to do with faith, loyalty to God, and avoiding idolatry and heresy. It is vitally important for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.

The idea that we should never change Mr. Armstrong's doctrines is an idea that several fellowships have adopted to one degree or another. It is a false idea, but some brethren have been deceived by the arguments some have made in favor of it.

The basic theme of the COGIW article is that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle and an apostle's doctrines should never be questioned or changed.

In this first post in this series, I just want to review what the Bible says about apostles.


What is an apostle? How can we define the term?

The Greek seems to mean, "one sent", and this has been taught by the Church. An apostle is one sent. But that is not a good definition. The postman who delivers my mail is one sent. So you can qualify it as one sent by God. But the prophets were sent by God, and they are not apostles. Prophet and apostle are two different offices, not the same (Ephesians 4:11, 1 Corinthians 12:28). A man can hold both offices, as Jesus Christ did, being both prophet and apostle. But they are not the same office.

There is a definition that is definite, accurate, and safe, but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

"And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles" (Luke 6:13).

Christ named twelve of His disciples, "apostles".

Therefore, an apostle is one sent whom Christ names "apostle". It is a title, a name, and an office given by Christ.

An apostle is one who is named or called an apostle by Christ. If Christ calls a man an apostle, He is an apostle. If Christ does not call a man an apostle, he is not an apostle.

That is a safe definition, but it leaves questions unanswered. We can know of a number of men in the Bible that are called apostle. But today we cannot eavesdrop on Jesus Christ and God the Father in heaven to hear whether they call any man in our time "apostle". We can try to discern by the fruits, comparing the fruits of a man in our time with the fruits of apostles in the first century, and that can give us clues.

At the end of the post, I have listed all the scriptures I found in a computer search containing the words "apostle" or "apostles" in the NKJV of the Bible.

Let's notice some significant characteristics of apostles in the Bible.

First of all, the office of apostle is the highest ranking office in the Church of God. "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues" (1 Corinthians 12:28). "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11).

It is Christ and God who make one an apostle, not man, at least in Paul's case and the principle suggests in every case. "Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)" (Galatians 1:1).

There are examples of God backing up the teaching of the apostles with public miracles, and Paul mentions miracles as "signs" of an apostle, implying that these miracles are to be expected to prove that an apostle is an apostle.

"Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles" (Acts 2:43).

"And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch....And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed" (Acts 5:12-16).

Now notice Paul referring to miracles, signs and wonders, as the signs of an apostle: "Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds" (2 Corinthians 12:12).

There is an implication here. When Paul refers to the miracles he performed as "signs of an apostle", he seems to be suggesting that these signs are expected of an apostle and help to identify who is an apostle. The whole context in this passage is that Paul is proving to his readers that he is an apostle.

The Bible does not say definitely that every apostle performs public miracles to back up his message. But that is an implication and a possibility.

At the time most of the first century apostles began their work, the Bible was not yet complete. The Old Testament was available to them, but the New Testament was being written by many of those very same apostles.

God gave His word to the people and the Church through the apostles. Where did the apostles receive their knowledge? To a certain extent, they learned from the Old Testament, for it was available to them and they could hear it read in the synagogues on the Sabbath. Paul was well versed in the Old Testament scriptures even before he became an apostle. But Jesus Christ taught the twelve apostles, and Paul, directly. Peter and the other eleven apostles learned from Jesus Christ's personal teaching by word of mouth for about three and a half years. Some of them may also have learned parts of God's truth through visions and dreams. Peter had a vision about the unclean animals prior to visiting Cornelius.

God revealed truth to the Church through the apostles. The word and teaching of the apostles was how God primarily taught the people. Not only was the Bible not complete, but it was not easily available to all the members and the common people in the first century.

Today, the Bible is complete, the printing press has made it readily available to everyone, and history has fulfilled Bible prophecies proving the Bible is the word of God. Thus, today, God communicates primarily and directly through the Bible, both to the ministry and leadership of the Church of God and to the members. He also communicates through the Bible to outsiders who are being called. Church ministers may go on television and speak to the public, but those who are called can check up directly in the Bible to see if the message they are hearing is true and is from God.

How can people today know that the Bible is God speaking? They can prove the inspiration of the Bible by fulfilled prophecy. The miracle of fulfilled prophecy is the proof of the Bible, the mark of authenticity that proves the Bible is what it says it is, the word of God.

But in the first century, the word of God came to the people by the word of the apostles. How could the people know the word of the apostles was the word of God? By the public healings, miracles, signs, and wonders performed by the apostles. That was the proof that their message was from God.

So just as God today backs up the Bible with the miracle of fulfilled prophecy so people can prove the Bible is the word of God, so in the first century God backed up the message of the apostles with public miracles, healings, signs and wonders so people could know the message was from God and that the word of the apostles was the word of God.

The COGIW article, "What Is an Apostle?", states in the summary of chapter 1 that the truth of God only comes by the revelation given to an apostle through the Holy Spirit. But that is not true. Most of the truth Peter, James, John, and the other apostles received came from the mouth of Jesus Christ who taught them personally for three and a half years. The Holy Spirit was with them and helped them understand, but the teaching was direct from the mouth of Jesus Christ while he was human on this earth.

Today, the truth of God comes from the Bible, which was written by prophets and apostles, and they received the truth of God in various ways: face-to-face (Moses and the twelve apostles), visions and dreams (Daniel and Peter), and spoken word (Samuel and Saul later named Paul). Many prophets and apostles may also have received direct revelation through the Holy Spirit inspiring the thoughts of their minds.

But, however God transmitted his message to them, we have their message as God's infallibly correct word in the Bible today. Men of God today, ministers of any rank, can help us understand the Bible, putting scriptures together to show us the logical conclusion, and God's Holy Spirit working with us and in us also helps us understand the Bible. But the truth comes from the Bible itself, and if a man in our age preaches a message from God, we must look to the Bible to see if that message is true.

Mr. Armstrong understood this principle when he told his radio listeners, don't believe me, don't believe any man, believe God, believe your Bible.

Mr. Armstrong never claimed that God revealed things to him apart from the Bible. He never claimed to be a prophet or to have received direct, prophetic revelation from God, apart from the Bible, in the form of dreams, visions, voices, or direct face-to-face communication with Christ or an angel.

TO BE CONTINUED


Here is a list of all the scriptures I found containing the words "apostle" or "apostles":
- Matthew 10:2 (names of the 12 apostles)
- Mark 3:13 (marginal notes says, "NU adds, 'whom He also named apostles' ")
- Mark 6:30 (the apostles told Jesus what they had done)
- Luke 6:12 (Jesus chose twelve disciples and named them apostles)
- Luke 9:10 (the apostles told Jesus what they had done)
- Luke 11:49 (God would send prophets and apostles, some of whom they would persecute and kill)
- Luke 17:5 (the apostles ask Christ to increase their faith)
- Luke 22:14 (the apostles sat with Christ at Passover)
- Luke 24:10 (the women told the apostles about the empty tomb)
- Acts 1:2 (Christ gave command to the apostles)
- Acts 1:26 (the lot fell on Matthias to be an apostle with the eleven, replacing Judas)
- Acts 2:37 (the crowd asked Peter and the apostles, what shall we do?)
- Acts 2:42 (the 3,000 that were added continued in the doctrine of the apostles)
- Acts 2:43 (signs and wonders were done through the apostles)
- Acts 4:33 (the apostles witnessed to the resurrection of Jesus)
- Acts 4:35 (those who had possessions sold them and laid the money at the apostles' feet)
- Acts 4:36 (Joses was named Barnabas by the apostles)
- Acts 4:37 (Barnabas sold his land and laid the money at the apostles' feet)
- Acts 5:2 (Ananias laid only part of the money he received for selling a possession at the apostles' feet)
- Acts 5:12 (by the hand of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people)
- Acts 5:18 (apostles put into prison)
- Acts 5:29 (Peter and the apostles say, we ought to obey God rather than man)
- Acts 5:34 (Pharisees put the apostles out of the room so they could talk privately)
- Acts 5:40 (apostles were beaten)
- Acts 6:6 (apostles laid hands on those to be made deacons)
- Acts 8:1 (all were scattered except the apostles)
- Acts 8:14 (the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria received the Word, and sent Peter and John to them)
- Acts 8:18 (Simon the sorcerer saw that when Peter and John laid hands on those who received the Word, they received the Holy Spirit, and he offered the apostles money to be able to do the same)
- Acts 9:27 (Barnabas brought Saul (Paul) to the apostles)
- Acts 11:1 (the apostles in Judea learned that the Gentiles received the word of God)
- Acts 14:4 (Part of the multitude sided with the apostles. Acts 14:3 says that signs and wonders were done by their hands. Acts 13:50 indicates this is referring to Paul and Barnabas.)
- Acts 14:14 (apostles Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes)
- Acts 15:2 (Paul and Barnabas and others sent to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about the question of circumcision)
- Acts 15:4 (Paul and Barnabas were received by the Church and the apostles and elders)
- Acts 15:6 (the apostles and elders came together to consider the matter of circumcision)
- Acts 15:22 (the apostles and elders with the whole church to send men to Antioch)
- Acts 15:23 (letter from apostles and elders and brethren)
- Acts 15:33 (after those sent stayed a while in Antioch, they returned to the apostles)
- Acts 16:4 (Paul and Timothy delivered the decrees determined by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem)
- Romans 11:13 (Paul is an apostle to the Gentiles)
- Romans 16:7 (Greet Andronicus and Junia who are of note among the apostles)
- 1 Corinthians 1:1 (Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ)
- 1 Corinthians 4:9 (Paul says, God has displayed us, the apostles, as a spectacle)
- 1 Corinthians 9:1 (Paul says, am I not an apostle?)
- 1 Corinthians 9:2 (Paul says, if I am not an apostle to others, I am doubtless an apostle to you, for your are the seal of my apostleship)
- 1 Corinthians 9:5 (Paul asks, do we have no right to take along a believing wife as the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?)
- 1 Corinthians 12:28 (God has appointed first apostles, then prophets...)
- 1 Corinthians 12:29 (Are all apostles? Are all prophets?)
- 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 (Christ was seen after His resurrection by Cephas, then by the twelve, then by James, then by all the apostles, then last of all by Paul)
- 1 Corinthians 15:9 (Paul says he is the least of the apostles and not worthy to be called an apostle because he persecuted the Church of God)
- 2 Corinthians 1:1 (Paul, an apostle)
- 2 Corinthians 8:23 (if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers (literally apostles, "sent ones" according marginal reference) of the churches)
- 2 Corinthians 11:5 (Paul does not consider himself to be inferior to the most eminent apostles)
- 2 Corinthians 11:13 (they are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ)
- 2 Corinthians 12:11 (Paul says, in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles)
- 2 Corinthians 12:12 (the signs of an apostle were accomplished with Paul in signs and wonders and mighty deeds)
- Galatians 1:1 (Paul, an apostle, not through man but through Christ and the Father)
- Galatians 1:16-17 (Paul did not immediately confer with flesh and blood or go to the apostles)
- Galatians 1:19 (Paul saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother)
- Ephesians 1:1 (Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God)
- Ephesians 2:20 (being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone)
- Ephesians 3:1-5 (the mystery revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets)
- Ephesians 4:11 (He gave some to be apostles, some prophets...)
- Colossians 1:1 (Paul, an apostle of Christ by the will of God)
- 1 Thessalonians 2:6 (we might have made demands as apostles of Christ)
- 1 Timothy 1:1 (Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the command of God and Christ)
- 1 Timothy 2:7 (Paul was appointed a preacher and an apostle)
- 2 Timothy 1:1 (Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God)
- 2 Timothy 1:11 (Paul was appointed a preacher, apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles)
- Titus 1:1 (Paul a bondservant of God and an apostle of Christ according to the faith of God's elect)
- Hebrews 3:1 (consider the Apostle and High Priest, Jesus Christ)
- 1 Peter 1:1 (Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ)
- 2 Peter 1:1 (Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ)
- 2 Peter 3:2 (be mindful of the words of the prophets and the commandment of us the apostles)
- Jude 17 (remember the words of the apostles)
- Revelation 2:2 (you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and found them liars)
- Revelation 18:20 (rejoice over her you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her)
- Revelation 21:14 (the wall of the city had twelve foundations and on them were the names of the twelve apostles)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What Pentecost Teaches about Church of God Organization and Authority


This coming Sunday is Pentecost.

Pentecost represents the beginning of the New Testament Church of God. The Church is the collective body of Christians, all those who have God's Holy Spirit dwelling in them (Romans 8:9). It was on Pentecost that the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples (Acts 2:1-4).

But we also know that the Church of God is a small body compared with the world (Luke 12:32, Matthew 7:13-14).

God is calling only a few in this six thousand year age of man. Pentecost is only the first fruits, the early harvest of souls. The main harvests will be in the millennium and the white throne judgment periods.

It is those represented by the early harvest, by Pentecost, who will be in the first resurrection and will rule the nations with Christ in the millennium (John 6:43-44, 65, 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Revelation 20:4-6).

Thus there will be hierarchy. Christ will not rule and teach every man and woman directly and alone in the millennium. He could. He is God and has all power. But he will use the saints, those in the Church who make it into the kingdom of God, to help Him rule. Some of us will rule a city, some several cities (Revelation 2:26-27, 3:21, Luke 19:16-19).

And there will be organization and hierarchy. Not all of us will report directly to Christ alone, but some of the saints will be over some other saints.

David will be king over all Israel (Jeremiah 30:7-9). But the apostles will be over the tribes of Israel, one apostle over each of the twelve tribes (Matthew 19:28). This means that David will be supervising the apostles in the teaching and ruling of Israel. Thus you have a hierarchical organization such as described in Exodus 18:13-26.

Pentecost teaches first fruits, and first fruits indicates a system of authority and organization in the kingdom of God. Everyone will not be equal in authority, but some will have more authority and others less. All will be under authority, and some will be over others in authority.

Thus there is organization, first in Israel, second in the Church, and third in the kingdom of God.

And part of the reason for that organization in the Church now is to teach us lessons of how to live and serve in an organized way in the kingdom of God. We are being prepared for God's kingdom. We are to respect government and organization in the Church to show God we will do the same in His kingdom.

Anyone in the Church who says, "I will never accept the authority of any man over me, but only God", only shows he has not yet learned a lesson he needs to learn to be prepared for the kingdom of God. For if he refuses to accept government as God teaches in the Bible now, how can God trust him to cooperate and accept government in the kingdom of God?

Mr. Armstrong taught that the Church of God is not an organization, but it is organized. In other words, there is organization within the Church of God.

And this organization is ordained by God (1 Corinthians 12:27-28).

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Moreover, God commands that we respect that organization and the offices He has ordained. This was true in Old Testament times as well as in New Testament times.

"Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel" (Deuteronomy 17:12). See also Numbers 16:1-35 and Numbers 12:1-10).

"He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
   'And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven' " (Matthew 16:15-19).

"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
   "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:15-28).

"Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct" (Hebrews 13:7).

"Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).

"And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves." (1 Thessalonians 5:12).

"He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me" (Luke 10:16).

But there has to be a balance. We should respect the ministry and government in the Church, but we should put God first and not make idols out of our ministers. Most ministers in the Church of God would agree with this, I think.

And finding that right balance is a problem for some. Failure to find a right balance has been the source of many controversies and splits.

It is important to know where that balance lies.

The authority of the leadership and ministry has limits, and ministers and members need to know what those limits are. God's authority is not limited, but the minister's authority is. A minister does not have the authority to order you to break God's commandments, for example, by lying.

God defines the job of the ministry in Ephesians 4:11-16 as I quoted above.

Christ established the binding and loosening authority of the apostles, and by extension the ministry appointed by the apostles, in Matthew 16:15-19 and Matthew 18:15-28 which I quoted above.

What does this binding authority include?

It includes authority to bind and loosen in regards to the work of the ministry for which they are appointed, as listed in Ephesians 4:11-16 which I have already quoted. In other words, they have the authority they need to do their jobs. It is not just in regards to resolving disputes. It includes authority over the official teaching of the Church of God, so there is no confusion.

The binding and loosening authority includes resolving disputes between brethren (Matthew 18:15-28).

It includes authority over the doctrines and teachings of the Church, "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting" (Ephesians 4:13-14).

"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10).

"Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them" (Romans 16:17).

For those who say that the binding authority of the Church leadership only includes resolving disputes between brethren, I suggest they read Acts 15, which shows an example of how the apostles had the authority to make a binding decision about what the Church would teach and require concerning physical circumcision. This shows that the ministry has authority over what doctrines will be officially taught in the Church.

The binding authority of the ministry includes authority to disfellowship or mark those who cause division or sin openly. I already quoted Romans regarding the marking of those who cause division over Church of God doctrine. See also Titus 3:10, which says, "Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition". Also, notice how Paul used his authority to disfellowship one who was sinning in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. "For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 5:3-5).

It includes authority to appoint others to offices (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9).

In short, the binding and loosening authority of the leadership and ministry of the Church includes authority over those things that relate to the organized work of the Church.

Yet, that authority should be loving authority, not harsh authority (Matthew 20:25-28, 2 Corinthians 13:10).

What does it NOT include?

The authority of the ministry does not include authority to order anyone to break God's law. If there is a conflict between what God commands us in the Bible and what a minister commands us, we must obey God first. "But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: 'We ought to obey God rather than men' " (Acts 5:29).

Also, the authority of the ministry does not include authority over what the members believe, that is, their 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).

In other words, faith - what we believe - like obedience to the law of God, is a matter between us and God personally. Just as we must obey God first, so we must also believe God first.

So just as a minister does not have the authority to command you to break God's law, neither does he have the authority to command you to believe what he says regarding doctrine contrary to what you see in your own Bible. You must believe God's word, the Bible, first and the Church second.

Obviously, both the minister and us are human and can make mistakes. So if the doctrine you disagree about is important, you have the option to take it to the minister in private and look to the Bible to know what is true. The minister may show you your mistake, or you may show the minister his mistake. But also, it is possible that after discussion you and the minister will still disagree. Why?

Learning is a process. It can take time. Also, we need God's help to understand the Bible, and God may allow us to make mistakes for a while. Why? Perhaps to test us to see how we get along when we do not agree. So God may open your mind to understand a truth from the Bible he has not opened the minister's mind to understand right now. Why? To test you and the minister - how will you two get along?

So what do you do? Talk about it with other brethren? No, you should not contradict the minister's teaching in conversation with other brethren. Why? God did not give you the job of teaching and determining what will be taught as doctrine of the Church - God gave the ministry that authority - remember the scriptures I quoted and referenced. The ministry has authority over the doctrines the Church teaches. It is rebellion to go against that authority, undermine the teachings of the ministry, and contradict them in conversation with the brethren.

If it is something small, let God correct it directly in His time. If it is something large, if you cannot live peaceably in the Church while the Church practices a major error (like abolishing the Sabbath or using images in worship), then you may have to leave the fellowship you are in, just as many of us had to leave Worldwide when it went into major error on many important doctrines.

All the above I think is basic, and many brethren understand these things and have a right balance, and many ministers have a right balance also.

This is the only way I know of to reconcile the demands of God's law to put God first and not make idols out of the ministry, and also respect and obey the ministry when it does not conflict with God's law.

Ministers are to be an example for the flock (1 Timothy 4:12, 1 Peter 5:1-3), and we are to follow them as they follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Yet, no minister and no man is perfect. If a minister makes a mistake, that is no reason to totally go against him or abandon him. We do not follow his mistake, but we continue to respect and support him as long as he is overall following Christ and serving as a minister. Remember, David did not go against Saul even though Saul had many sins (1 Samuel 26:10-11).


But there are trouble makers, divisive, rebellious men, both in various COG fellowships and on the Internet, who use their opinions about small details of doctrines to create division in large COG organizations that are trying, and succeeding to one degree or another, in preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.

These divisive men usually have a small following of weak and deceived people, foolish people who do not know their Bibles or God's law. They read what these divisive men write or they listen to what they say, and they are deceived.

Some of these divisive men can seem so reasonable, till you get into a serious discussion of their doctrines. Then, when you show them from the Bible that they are wrong, they say, "There is no point is discussing this further, I don't want to waste my time with you", or words to that effect. They then delete your comments from their blog so their readers do not see the proof from the Bible that they are wrong.

Do they accept correction from the Bible? Do they show an open mind as they demand from others? They do not. Rather than welcome discussion and correction in the spirit of "iron sharpens iron", they react with anger and rejection towards those who try to show them their error. But this is predicted in the Bible, showing the difference between the wise and the foolish. The wise accept, even welcome, correction, but the unwise reject both the correction and the one who corrects them.

"He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, and he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning" (Proverbs 9:7-9).

"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1).

These divisive men harden their hearts against correction from the Bible, and their readers, foolish as they are, do not dig deep to prove these things for themselves.

Some or all of these divisive men behave like total hypocrites. Like the Pharisees, whom Christ called "hypocrites" (Matthew 15:7, 16:2-3, 23:13-29), they are inconsistent in their teachings and behavior. They make a show of following the Bible, they insist you read their writings with an open mind, but their own minds are closed. They pick and choose what scriptures to use to support their position, but when you answer them with other scriptures on the subject, scriptures they have ignored, they end the discussion. They can't answer, but they won't admit even the possibility they may be wrong.

I say they behave like hypocrites because they make a show of following every word of God, but they won't actually do it. They show their readers their own writings, but exclude the comments of others that show from the Bible they are wrong. Their readers only get one side, not both sides. Their readers see the false side, but not the true side of the issue.

I have had this kind of experience several times on the Internet. I will give one example. I once found the blog of a man who grew up in the Church of God, but is not part of the Church now. He published a book that tries to teach that spanking as a form of child discipline is wrong. He invited others to read his book and discuss it with him. So I did.

I pointed out errors in his book and in his blog.

In one of his posts, not related to child rearing, he said that ancient Israel coming of out Egypt was not about 600,000 men plus women and children, but far less, because (he said) the way they counted a census was to include all past generations, even those dead. So you could, for example, have 200,000 men alive, but when you added all those who had died generation after generation all the way past to Jacob, you would come up with 600,000.

This sounded ridiculous to me, but I checked it out anyway, and I looked for and found proof in the Bible that it was wrong. The account of the first census is in Numbers 1:1-54. The total count of the Israelite males, from 20 years and above, able to go to war (verse 3), not including the Levites, was 603,550 (verse 46). This census was taken in the second year after they came out of Egypt (verse 2). But I found where there was a second census after Israel wandered 40 years in the wilderness, and it was slightly smaller. That census is described in Numbers 26:1-65. The total is given in verse 51: 601,730. The number had decreased. That could not have been the case if each generation's numbers, including those dead, were added to the total - the number would always go up, never down.

So I showed this man his error by submitting a comment in his blog for that post.

Did he admit the error? No. He ignored it for a time, then deleted my comment along with other comments I submitted regarding the Bible's teaching on child discipline.

As far as I know, he still teaches his error on the census.

This man could not admit he was wrong no matter how clearly the Bible proved he is wrong, not even in the tiniest matter.

This is typical of many divisive bloggers on the Internet. They paint themselves as believing the Bible, but they actually reject anything in the Bible they don't agree with. And their readers only get their side of the picture, and being weak, they are deceived. They contribute their tithes and offerings to these men and do not realize how far off the mark they are.

Probably, their pride, vanity, conceit, and egotism won't allow these divisive men to admit they have made mistakes or even admit to themselves the possibility they could be wrong, that they could have misunderstood the scriptures. Apparently their wisdom has been corrupted by their pride and vanity, as with Satan (Ezekiel 28:17). They have lost their common sense. Their minds have become twisted. And by refusing to believe all that God says in the Bible, by refusing to live by every word of God, they disqualify themselves from God giving them help to understand. They begin to lose more and more knowledge of God's truth, and God lets them lose it, because they don't believe Him.

"The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; So what wisdom do they have?" (Jeremiah 8:9).

God lets them display their own foolishness on the Internet. They mock themselves and don't even know it. They openly shame themselves and should be embarrassed by what they say, but they don't have the wisdom for that. So God displays them as fools and as bad examples for the rest of the Church of God to learn from, as object lessons, so we don't follow their bad example and reap the consequences.

So they have their pet theories about minor details of doctrines, which in many cases (probably most or all cases, but I haven't studied "every wind of doctrine" to say with certainty) are plain wrong according to the Bible, then they use these things to create as much division and disrespect in the major Church of God fellowships as they can. And weak people are deceived.

They are tools in the hand of Satan and probably don't know it. Satan uses these deceitful men to hurt the work of God.

God gave His basic law through Moses and in other writings in the Bible. God did not spell out every detail of how His law was to be obeyed. So God gave authority to the leaders of His people to make decisions concerning the details of how to obey His law. This is part of God's plan to train His people for His kingdom where everyone will obey hierarchical government. Respect for government in the Church is both training and test.

These details are judgment calls to be made by those in authority, and they are to be made according to God's word, the Bible, but also according to the circumstances of the times and places where the judgments must be made. In the Old Testament, you had priests and judges to make the decisions. In the New Testament you have the apostles and ministry to make the decisions. So, for example, Ezra and Nehemiah might make one judgment call for their circumstances, the first century apostles might make a different judgment call based on their circumstances, and Mr. Armstrong, Dr. Meredith, or Mr. Weston might make a different judgment call based on our circumstances today.

Yet divisive men without authority will make their own judgment calls and try push them on the members of various fellowships who may read their blogs. And some of these men, while they may not use details of doctrines to divide, may divide the Church of God even on foundational principles, such as using the Bible as a source of truth and actively preaching the gospel to the world. At least one whole fellowship downplays the Bible and refuses to preach the gospel.

And in doing this, they impede and discourage members of many larger fellowships from going all out to enthusiastically and zealously support the preaching of the gospel to the world. They create unnecessary division. They weaken the hands of those who are doing God's work.

These divisive men have made themselves enemies of the gospel, enemies of the Church, and enemies of God. Their teachings are spiritual poison. Some of them preach a message of repentance, but it is a false repentance.

They apparently are deceived, and they spread the deceit they believe. They deceive others, whether they realize it or not.

And all of this assumes that they sincerely believe what they say. There is another possibility, that they know they are lying and do so strictly for money. But only God can judge their hearts that way - I cannot. I can only observe the fruits, which are bad.

In some ways, they may be like those described in 2 Peter 2:1-22 and Jude.

"But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed" (2 Peter 2:1-2).

"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).

"These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" (2 Peter 2:17).

"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 spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
   "Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, 'Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.'
   "These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage" (Jude 12-16).

"These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit" (Jude 19).

I don't say that every one of these divisive men have all the sins included in Jude and 2 Peter chapter 2. But there is a lot here that seems to fit.

They pick off the weak and the foolish and lead them astray.

But those who are strong to live by every word of the Bible will not be deceived by them.

There is still time for these dividers to repent. There is time. I hope they do repent, not just for their sake but because some of them have zeal and talent that can be useful for God's work if they do repent. But all the time in the world will not help them if they are not willing to repent. And only God knows if they are willing or can be made willing.

Pentecost reminds us and teaches us about organization in the Church of God, because Pentecost reminds us that some of mankind are chosen to be first fruits, and that shows that all mankind will NOT be at the same level of authority in the kingdom of God - there will be hierarchy and organization, and thus there must be now in the Church.

We must always have a right balance in our understanding of the authority of the ministry. We must respect that authority, but we must also know its limits.

And we must be on guard against mockers and dividers who weaken the hands of those who do God's work.


Here is a link to a post in this blog on a subject related to this post:

"False Repentance Movement in the Church of God", dated March 28, 2014, link:
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2014/03/false-repentance-movement-in-church-of.html


Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel: 
 
Government in the Church, Chapter 5

CHAPTER 8 - GOVERNMENT IN THE CHURCH OF GOD

Sunday, May 21, 2017

How Roderick C. Meredith Has Benefited God's Work

Dr. Meredith has been a major figure in doing the end-time work of God of preaching the gospel to the world, of delivering God's Ezekiel warning message to Israel about the great tribulation to come, of making disciples of all nations, and of feeding the flock.

He has stood for several basic principles that are important for God's work. One, he has had zeal for the gospel. After leaving Worldwide, he was zealous to renew the preaching of the true gospel to the world and to start a broadcast. I am typing some of this from memory, and I don't recall the details perfectly (I will let others fill those in), but he started a work around December 1992. He started Sabbath services with only about 20 or fewer people on the first Sabbath. That was the beginning of Global Church of God. Within about 6-8 weeks he was broadcasting a program to preach the gospel to the world, I think on radio.

He remained firm on the importance of preaching the gospel to the world, and as he continued to do so, it became clear that he was not just trying to orient his program towards those in the Church, but towards those outside the Church of God, the people of the world, as Mr. Armstrong did.

Later, he resisted pressure to cut back on the gospel. In 1998, Larry Salyer and Raymond McNair led a movement to gain control of Global Church of God corporation, a corporation set up by Dr. Meredith to handle the business aspects of the Church. They fired Dr. Meredith over various differences, and one of those differences seemed to be the preaching of the gospel to the world. Dr. Meredith wanted to continue to spend money on the gospel at about the current rate, those against him seemed to want to cut back.

Mr. Salyer and Mr. McNair may have thought that most of the Church would back them. But most of the Church stayed with Dr. Meredith, and Dr. Meredith reorganized and formed a corporation with the name "Living Church of God". I think he preferred the name "Church of the Living God", but that name was not available.

About 75-80% of the ministry and members stayed with Dr. Meredith. They lost the assets held by Global, including, not only office supplies and equipment, but bank accounts, contracts, and copyrights. Living Church of God had to rebuild from scratch, rewriting all the literature, but with most of the ministry and tithe-paying members supporting Dr. Meredith, progress was swift.

Another important principle Dr. Meredith stood for was government from the top down in the Church, not government by the voting of men. He remained faithful to this principle to the very end of his life. This is an important principle taught very clearly in the Bible, as I have shown in chapter 8 of my book, Preaching the Gospel.

He also had a balanced approach to the memory and legacy of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. He remained faithful to the major doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught, and he showed respect for Mr. Armstrong. He knew Mr. Armstrong well and worked closely with him, more closely than most evangelists. In a sense, he was one of four young men who worked closely with Mr. Armstrong in the early days of Ambassador College, the others being Dick Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong, and Herman Hoeh. He outlived all of them and became an important leader to continue God's work after the breakup of Worldwide Church of God after Mr. Armstrong died and Mr. Joseph Tkach changed many of the important doctrines of Mr. Armstrong.

But as much as Dr. Meredith respected and loved Mr. Armstrong, he never made an idol out of him.

This is a ditch some have fallen into - they regard Mr. Armstrong's teachings as sacred, and for them his word and his teachings in Mystery of the Ages are almost on par, or actually equal in authority in their minds, to the Bible itself. Thus they refused to change any doctrines, even small ones, that Mr. Armstrong taught. They refused to believe the Bible first. They refused to be corrected by God in the Bible. They refused to grow in grace and knowledge as the Bible commands. In this, they have actually gone against one of the most important doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught by word and especially by his example: Don't believe me, believe your Bible, believe God. Mr. Armstrong knew he could make mistakes and that his teaching was not infallible. He corrected his own mistakes, changing his own doctrines as needed. And the proof that he was human and could make mistakes in his teaching was when he taught the brethren, in one of his last sermons before he died, that we should follow the next pastor general (Mr. Joseph Tkach) if we want to make it into God's kingdom. But those who make an idol out of Mr. Armstrong and his teachings do not care about the evidence in the history of the Church or in the Bible that show that we should not idolize the teaching of any man, even an important leader in the Church.

Dr. Meredith never fell into that trap. He loved and respected and honored Mr. Armstrong, and he maintained his major doctrines, but he never made an idol out of him, and he was willing to re-examine some of Mr. Armstrong's judgments and details of doctrines when he felt he had Bible evidence that he should do so.

Because of Dr. Meredith's faithfulness in preaching the gospel to the world with zeal, practicing top down governance in the Church, and putting the Bible first over the traditions of Mr. Armstrong, the Churches he raised up, first Global, then Living, because a home and safe haven for many Philadelphian Christians.

I have said before, Living Church of God does a better job of preaching the gospel and feeding the flock in a balanced way than any other fellowship. God has given LCG an open door for preaching the gospel, and I believe it is for the sake of the Philadelphians that are in LCG that God has provided that open door.

I believe that the majority of Philadelphian members of the whole Church of God have gathered, over the years, into Living Church of God.

There is a great work ahead, and I am hopeful that before the great tribulation begins and the two witness begin their special work, God will use those members of the Church who are Philadelphian in spirit and character as described in the messages to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 to really finish the work and get a powerful warning message out to about 500 million people in the nations that are descended from all the tribes of Israel.


Here are links to related posts in this blog:

"Dr. Roderick Meredith Illness", dated February 19, 2017, link:
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2017/02/dr-roderick-meredith-illness.html

"Dr. Roderick C. Meredith Has Died", dated May 19, 2017, link:
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2017/05/dr-roderick-c-meredith-has-died.html

Friday, May 19, 2017

Dr. Roderick C. Meredith Has Died

LCG has announced that Presiding Evangelist of Living Church of God, Roderick C. Meredith, has died of cancer Thursday night, May 18, 2017.

Here is a link to that announcement:
http://www.lcg.org/memoriam_rmeredith.shtml

Mr. Gerald Weston has previously been named as successor to Dr. Meredith, and will become the new Presiding Evangelist and Chairman of the Board. He has already been serving as President of Living Church of God and will continue in that office also.

Mr. Weston now becomes the highest human authority in Living Church of God, as Dr. Meredith was.

Dr. Meredith has been a strong leader in LCG. He knew and worked closely with Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong since the earliest years of Ambassador College. He also knew and worked with Mr. Armstrong's two sons, Mr. Dick Armstrong and Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong, and also Dr. Herman Hoeh. Those three men, along with Dr. Meredith, seemed to be pillars in the Church, working under Mr. Herbert Armstrong's supervision and direction, starting during the 1950s.

Dr. Meredith held a variety of positions in Radio Church of God, later renamed Worldwide Church of God. He wrote many of the articles for the Plain Truth magazine. He wrote the original Ten Commandments booklet. He taught Bible classes at Ambassador College. He did baptizing tours. He supervised congregations.

After the death of Herbert W. Armstrong, Worldwide began to reverse the doctrines that Mr. Armstrong had taught. Dr. Meredith was forced to leave, and of those ministers who left Worldwide and started new groups, Dr. Meredith was, as far as I know, the first to start broadcasting the true gospel in a program oriented towards the public, not just members of the Church of God still in Worldwide.

He raised up the Global Church of God. After several years of growth both in the Church and in the work of preaching the gospel to the world, certain men on the Global board of directors, apparently led by Mr. Larry Salyer and Mr. Raymond McNair, using the power and authority of the board, overthrew Dr. Meredith's authority and fired him from his position, even though Dr. Meredith started Global in the first place.

This was in November 1998.

About 75-80% of the ministers and members of Global remained loyal to Dr. Meredith, and Dr. Meredith was able to reorganize with a new corporation and Church name, as Living Church of God. In the United States, Global later went bankrupt, as I recall.

But Living Church of God grew both in members and in doing God's work of preaching the gospel.

Larry Salyer first went with United Church of God (UCG), and later went with Church of God a Worldwide Association (COGWA).

Dr. Meredith has been a strong force in Living Church of God for preaching the gospel and practicing top-down governance as taught in the Bible. One of his strengths has executive leadership and management. He knows how to run an organization. God has blessed LCG under Dr. Meredith's leadership.

Dr. Meredith has often said that he is not perfect, and that is true of him and all the top leaders of the various Church of God fellowships that have existed since the breakup of Worldwide. Yet, in my opinion, he has been the most effective of all the top leaders of groups in preaching the gospel to the world, of giving the Ezekiel warning to Israel, and of growing the Church and the whole work of God.

He has also remained faithful to the overall body of doctrine that Mr. Armstrong taught, such as the doctrines Mr. Armstrong named in a sermon before his death as having been restored to the Church through the work of Mr. Armstrong, which later became known as the eighteen doctrines.

I know that since the time Dr. Meredith first started out reviving the work of God after leaving Worldwide, many outside of Global and Living expected him to proclaim himself as an apostle. But while others have claimed higher offices than evangelist, claiming the office of prophet or apostle, Dr. Meredith never did. In this he was wise.

To me, titles claimed are less important than results achieved and fruits shown. If a man has the authority over certain things, he has the authority, regardless of the title by which he is known among men.

Some men who claim to be prophets or apostles may be only evangelists, and a man who only claims to be an evangelist may be counted by God as an apostle. It is God who judges these things, not man.

I will miss Dr. Meredith.

Now the full authority and responsibility for directing and supervising Living Church of God, under Jesus Christ, falls upon the shoulders of Mr. Gerald Weston.

I believe that Dr. Meredith made a wise choice, with the advice and counsel of many top leaders in LCG, in naming Mr. Weston to succeed him. Only God knows the hearts of men, and Mr. Weston's character and fruits will only become fully known by the results of his leadership of LCG over time. But Mr. Weston seems well qualified in ability and experience to direct and manage LCG under Jesus Christ. He has a balance of experience in both pastoring and supervising the pastoring of congregations and in preaching the gospel through TV.

I desire and pray that God will protect, bless, inspire, and empower Mr. Weston to do God's work according to God's will.


Friday, May 12, 2017

Does God Change What He Requires of Us?

God says, "For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob." (Malachi 3:6).

What does God mean when He says He does not change? Does He mean He never changes the details of what He requires of us? Does it mean He never changes His law?

No, as I will show in this post. For example, Hebrews says, "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law" (Hebrews 7:12).

When God says He does not change, in Malachi 3:6, it is in the context of not destroying Jacob.

What does not change is God's eternal character - His love, His justice, and His basic way of life.

God also keeps His promises. He does not make a promise, then change His mind.

Yet even there, God allows and warns us that He can change even what He says He will do to us or for us.

"Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.
     "Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 'O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?' says the Lord. 'Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it" (Jeremiah 18:2-10).

The above is well illustrated with Nineveh in the days of Jonah. Jonah gave God's message to Nineveh, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (Jonah 3:4). Yet, God saw that the Ninevites humbled themselves and repented, so God RELENTED of the punishment He planned to inflict in them and did not do it (Jonah 3:10).

There are many examples in the Bible of God changing what He does and the details of what He requires of us.

God required Israel to sacrifice animals, but He does not require animal sacrifices today. That is a change in a physical detail of what God requires.

God required physical circumcision of ancient Israel, but does not require physical circumcision today. That is a change in detail of what God requires.

God required the eating of a lamb at Passover in the past, but today He requires unleavened bread and wine as symbols of Christ's sacrifice. That is a change in detail of what God requires.

Swearing was allowed in Old Testament time, but not today (Genesis 24:2-9, Genesis 50:4-6, 1 Kings 1:13, Psalm 15:4, Psalm 63:11, Deuteronomy 6:13, Matthew 5:33-37, James 5:12).

God has changed His law. "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law" (Hebrews 7:12).

Even in the Old Testament, God changed what He required of Israel. When Israel took Jericho, they were required to kill all the people and the animals, except for Rahab and her family (Joshua 6:16-21). But after the Achan incident (Joshua 7:1-26), God allowed Israel to take the livestock of the next city they conquered (Joshua 8:1-2).

Also, the prophet Ezekiel was told by God to cook his food using human waste as fuel for the fire (Ezekiel 4:9-13). Yet, Ezekiel had a conscience problem with eating food cooked with human waste, and he spoke to God about it, and God changed His requirements to accommodate Ezekiel's sensitive conscience (there is a lesson in that too - see 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 and Romans 14:14-22 and read the surrounding context) and allowed him to use cow dung as fuel (Ezekiel 4:14-15).

Why is this an issue?

There are some who may cause division in the Church by latching on to some detail of Old Testament law, interpreting it to apply a certain way in our society, and demanding we must follow it today. And a reason why we must do this, they may say, is that God does not change what he requires of us, so any detail of any law, commandment, statute, or judgment that God required of ancient Israel God also requires of the Church of God today.

But as I have shown, this is false. God does change the details of what He requires according to the timing of His plan and according to changing circumstances.

Those who argue otherwise to support their pet prohibitions have misapplied the verse that says that God does not change.

How then are we to know what has changed and what the details are of what God requires of us today?

We can sometimes know by the Bible itself. For example, we know by the New Testament that the Old Testament requirement for physical circumcision is not now required.

But when it comes to details of God's law, not everything is always spelled out in the Bible. Sometimes judgment calls have to be made.

God has given the leadership and ministry of the Church of God the authority to bind and loose. "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19).

What does this binding and loosening authority include? Does it include doctrine? Does it include authority over the beliefs of the members?

It does not include authority to command members to believe certain doctrines or the minister's interpretation of the Bible. Here is the proof text that authority over the beliefs and faith of the members is not included as something the ministry can bind or loosen. "Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand" (2 Corinthians 1:24). Paul here clearly states that he did NOT have authority or dominion over the faith of the members and what they believe.

But this binding and loosening authority does include authority over what is officially taught as doctrine in the Church. That is one of the reasons God has placed the ministry in various offices and why God has established organization, so there is not the confusion of every man teaching something different to the brethren.

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Notice that one of the reasons God has set ministers in the Church was for the purpose of avoiding confusion in doctrine, including the details of what God requires of us today, details which may be different from what God required of ancient Israel. For if there were no control or authority over what is taught and spoken, with every man teaching what he thinks is right, you would have confusion. But God has established an ordained ministry with binding authority to prevent that very confusion, "that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine".

Now, if a man sees something in the Bible that he thinks is contrary to what the ministry teaches, he can take it to the ministry in private, respectfully, and discuss it with an open mind. It is not wrong for a member to correct a minister in private and in an attitude of respect, humbly and willing to be taught. Correction, in that sense, is not always from the top down, as some have said - see the example of Naaman the Syrian and how his servants corrected him respectfully, how Naaman heeded the corrected and God blessed this example with a miracle (2 Kings 5:1-14).

Then, if he is right, he may persuade the minster or the top leader, and the correction can be made for the whole Church. But if he is wrong, the minister may show him his error.

But is is possible for two sincere men, the minister and the member, to discuss it and still not agree? Yes. None of us is perfect. We all have different backgrounds. We are human and make mistakes. None of us knows the truth of God perfectly. As Paul said, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part" (1 Corinthians 13:9).

We see in Acts 15 an example of a dispute within the Church involving circumcision. This was a question of what God requires. Both sides felt strongly about the issue, before it was resolved. This shows there can be disagreements between sincere members of the Church. And in this case it was not resolved by everyone agreeing on what the scriptures meant, but by the authoritative decision by Peter and James. Everyone then submitted to this decision, knowing the authority from God that backed up the decision.

Certainly as we grow in the Church we should understand the scriptures more and more accurately. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).

But this takes time, and every man, minister or not, grows at a different pace.

If the ministry is wrong about a particular point of doctrine and is not persuaded by a member who tries to correct them, then Christ will correct them in His time, either before or after the resurrection. And the member who disagrees should be patient and wait for Christ to correct the problem, and in the meantime he should continue to believe what he sees in the Bible.

But he should not teach his fellow brethren in contradiction to the ministry - that is rebellion because he was not given that authority. The ministry has authority over teaching, not every member. Contradicting the ministry undermines the authority of the ministry in the eyes of the brethren, and this is contrary to God's intent.

God's desire is that there be peace in the Church, but you can't have that with every member deciding for himself what to say and teach regarding doctrine. That is chaos.

"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10).

The Bible clearly shows that God does change the details of what He requires of us from time to time, and God has given authority to His ministry to make binding judgment calls on those details. Those who disagree may follow their conscience in their behavior, doing the best they can to obey the Bible, and believing what the Bible says, but if they take it upon themselves to spread their disagreements in the congregation, they are rebelling against the ministry and against the God who gave authority to that ministry.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Jews Do Not Keep Passover

There may be a tendency among a few Church of God brethren to feel a sense of doctrinal kinship with Jews more than with Catholics and Protestants because of certain shared doctrines we have with the Jews, such as avoiding unclean meat and observing the annual holy days.

Yet, beyond the obvious error of the Jews in not accepting Jesus as the Messiah, we need to be aware that we do not have more in common with the Jews in matters of religious doctrine than with traditional Christianity. For just as traditional churches follow their traditions more than the Bible, so do the Jews.

This was true in the days of Jesus, and it was one of the sources of conflict between Him and the Pharisees. The Jews, led by the Pharisees, were keeping their own religious traditions apart from the word of God just like many traditional churches today.

This is made apparent by several New Testament accounts. Examples of where the Jews went astray in their traditions include making the Sabbath into a burden by adding many unnecessary restrictions, letting people not honor their fathers and their mothers by dedicating money to the temple that should have supported their parents, and making rules regarding the washing of hands before eating. Those examples were probably just the tip of the iceberg of wrong traditions, beliefs, and practices, but they illustrate the problem.

"Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 'Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.' He answered and said to them, 'Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, "Honor your father and your mother"; and, "He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death." But you say, "Whoever says to his father or mother, 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God' — then he need not honor his father or mother." Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" ' " (Matthew 15:1-9).

From the time of Moses till the time of Christ, the Jews corrupted their doctrinal traditions. And the corruption of their traditions continues to this time.

Take snapshots of Israel and the Jews in time: the time of Moses and Joshua, the time of Jesus Christ, and today. God gave instructions to Moses, and Moses faithfully recorded what God told him in the first five books of the Bible. During the rule of Moses and Joshua, Israel was correct in its doctrines and traditions.

By the time of Christ, the Pharisees and Jewish leaders had turned away from the teachings of Moses in many respects. They rejected the Bible and substituted their own man-made rules and traditions. And this is also true for the Jews of today.

That is why the Jews keep what they call "Passover" one day later than the Church of God. The Church of God keeps the true Passover on the correct night, the night portion of the 14th day of the first month, because we follow the Bible, and we understand the correct meaning. The Jews do not keep Passover on the correct night, nor do they understand the meaning.

In fact, the Jews do not keep Passover at all, though they call their dinner on the evening portion of the 15th day, "Passover". But it is not Passover.

Two significant events happened to Israel at the time of Moses when they were in Egypt. Those two events occurred on separate, consecutive nights.

These two events are commemorated by two observances that God commands, again on two separate nights, one after the other.

Each of those observances represents one of the two events that occurred in the time of Moses. Two events - two commanded observances.

Each of the two observances therefore represents one and only one of the two events.

In addition, each of the two observances represents something important in New Testament Christianity.

The event on the 14th day is the passing over the houses of the Israelites with the blood on the doorposts by God when He killed the firstborn of Egypt, thus sparing the firstborn of Israel. This is the true Passover. For New Testament Christians, this represents the sacrifice of Christ to pay the penalty of our sins, thus making forgiveness of sins possible. God commands that this be observed every year. We observe it, the Jews do not.

The event on the 15th day is Israel beginning their journey out of Egypt. God also commands a yearly observance to remember this event. This is called the Night to Be Much Observed, and it is the beginning of the seven days of unleavened bread. The Church of God observes this event with the added understanding that it represents coming out of sin, since Egypt represents sin. This is the day the Jews observe with the Old Testament understanding that it represents coming out of Egypt, but without the New Testament understanding that it represents coming out of sin. But they call it "Passover".

Ask a Jew what Passover represents, and he may likely tell you, "coming out of Egypt".

Of course, the Jews know about the slaying of the lamb, the death of the Egyptians' firstborn, and God sparing the families of Israel with the lamb's blood on the doorposts. But in their minds, the important thing is coming out of Egyptian slavery, and the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians is just one more plague to motivate Pharaoh to let Israel go.

It may be that this error contributed to the Jews' rejection of Jesus as the Christ. For if they kept the true Passover on the correct night, it would have been easier for them to come to a correct understanding of the role of Christ as a sacrifice. There are Old Testament scriptures that describe one as bearing the sins of the nation, and the Jews would have had a better chance of putting those scriptures together with Passover to gain an understanding.

But somewhere along the line, between the time of Moses and the time of Christ, the Jews stopped following the Bible and started trusting in their own understanding. They may have had reasons that seemed logical to them. But they went off track and have never returned to a correct observance and understanding.

That is why the Jews keep what they call "Passover" one day later than the Church of God. They have stopped keeping Passover. They keep the Night to Be Much Observed only, and they call it "Passover".

There is a lesson for us that we must remain diligent to believe and follow what God tells us in the Bible, which the Jews failed to do.

The Jews acknowledge the slaying of the lamb and the death of the firstborn of Egypt. But in their observance, they try to combine that with the leaving of Egypt, as if it happened in one night, as some of them may believe.

But anyone with common sense who reads the Old Testament account can know that it is totally impossible for the lamb to be slain, its blood splattered on the doorposts, the firstborn of the Egyptians to be slain at midnight, the Israelites to remain in their homes till morning, the Israelites to assemble and organize in orderly ranks, and to walk out of Egypt all in one night.

In trying to combine these observances, Jews tend to lose sight of the meaning and importance of Passover. Instead, they concentrate on the meaning of leaving Egypt.

But this confuses the issue for traditional Christians of this world who look at the observance of the Jews and think the Jews are celebrating Passover. For while the Jews lose focus on the true Passover, traditional Christians of this world lose focus on coming out of Egypt.

For as Jews do not understand the sacrifice of Christ, likewise many traditional Christians do not understand the need to come out of sin.

Yet both are necessary. We need the sacrifice of Christ, represented by Passover on the 14th day, and we also need to do our part to repent and put sin out of our lives, represented by the Night to Be Much Observed and all seven of the days of unleavened bread.

In overcoming sin, we need to rely and trust in God's help, but we also have to do our part to strive with all our strength to get rid of sin.

The fact that the Jews combine Passover and the Night to Be Much Observed into one night helps to confuse the issue for traditional Christian churches. For if these were kept separate, it might be easier for some traditional Christians to understand the separate meaning of unleavened bread.

And if they understood that, they would know of three Old Testament festivals with New Testament meaning: Passover, the days of unleavened bread, and Pentecost. And some then might ask, "If the first three Old Testament festivals have meaning for Christians, maybe the other four also have meaning". And if they ever understood the meaning of all seven festivals, some of them might ask, "Why don't we keep them?"

Satan has deceived the world, including Jews and members of traditional churches, and only by God's calling and help can anyone escape that deception and learn the truth of God and respond to it. Mixing Passover and unleavened bread in the traditions of the Jews is one way Satan accomplishes his deception.


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

Passover -- the Sacrifice of Christ, Chapter 2

The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance, Chapter 2