Friday, January 6, 2017

Relations between Philadelphians and Laodiceans, and the Future of God's Work

Some see the need for the Church of God to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel with greater power than we are doing now. The Church is preaching the gospel to the public, but not as effectively and as extensively as we need to be doing. Our growth is too slow to reach the majority of the people at the rate we are going before the tribulation begins.

What is the solution? How can we do God's end-time work with greater power and effectiveness?

Some may think, "We cannot preach the gospel with power because we are divided into many scattered groups and fellowships. We need to come together and have unity - then we will successfully preach the gospel with greater power."

Unity is fine, provided you don't pay a price of compromise with God's law and way of life to achieve that unity.

But unfortunately, in this Laodicean era, most groups are not Philadelphian. And it is only the Philadelphians who are promised an open door for preaching the gospel (Revelation 3:7-8). See my post titled "Philadelphia's Open Door - Does It Apply to Individual Members?", dated September 17, 2014, for evidence that the open door refers to preaching the gospel. Here is a link:

Philadelphians should never try to increase their power to preach the gospel by combining with Laodiceans IF such combination requires compromising with God's way of life and the teaching of the Bible.

If no compromise is required, fine. We can cooperate. We can share copyrights. We can share TV studio facilities. We can pray for each other. We can share information and advice.

But Philadelphians who follow the Bible teaching of recognizing and submitting to top-down governance by those God has appointed and made known by the fruits should never compromise with God's government by placing any part of their work or the tithes and offerings God has entrusted to them under the authority of someone chosen by the voting of men.

"But we need to unite and come together to preach the gospel with power. We need the added resources that Laodiceans can contribute, and thus we need to combine with them", some might say.

No, we don't. We don't need man's help to preach the gospel, we need God's help.

"So he answered and said to me: 'This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the Lord of hosts' " (Zechariah 4:6).

Remember the lesson of Gideon's army. God did more with Gideon's 300 men than the original 32,000 could have done by their human power alone (Judges 7:1-8).

And Laodiceans have little more than human power to contribute to preaching the gospel to the world, for God does not promise them an open door.

This is what Christ says to Laodicea: "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:16).

But to Philadelphia, Christ says: "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name" (Revelation 3:8).

Philadelphians need to remain separate from Laodiceans, not combine with them.

If Laodiceans come to Philadelphians and submit to the top-down governance that Philadelphians have and are willing to learn from Philadelphians, fine. That may be a first step towards the repentance Christ commands Laodiceans to practice (Revelation 3:19).

And if Laodiceans want to remain separate, yet cooperate with Philadelphians, as I said before, there may be ways to cooperate with them without compromising with God's law. But we should never combine and be unequally yoked with them. We should never be with unrepentant Laodiceans in or under the same corporate, legal structure, while they practice governance by the voting of men - not in any way.

If Laodiceans want to come to Philadelphians, submit to top-down governance, and be taught by Philadelphians, fine. Let them come to us. And that may happen to a degree if God shakes up the Churches of God through trials.

But we should not go to them and compromise with their ways (Jeremiah 15:19).

"Therefore 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you' " (2 Corinthians 6:17).

"Thus says the Lord: 'Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit' " (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

We should never trust men, even Church of God ministers, to select a top leader by voting, but should trust in God to choose our leaders and make His choice known by the fruits. This is the pattern in the Bible.

Just as true Philadelphians should trust in God to choose our leaders, not trusting in the judgment and voting of man, so we should trust in God, not man, to give us the resources and ability and open doors to preach the gospel to the world.

Here is a link to an additional post in this blog that is related to this subject:

"Does the Church of God Need to Unite to Do a Powerful Work?", dated July 19, 2013, link:

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



Anonymous said...

Warm regards to the author;

I have three simple questions, generated from parts of your article:

(1) What is the criteria you use to determine a person is of Philadelphian?
(2) Applying the above, how do you determine a person is of Laodicea?
(3) What scriptures do you use to determine they are separate churches?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your question.

Only God can judge the hearts to know for certain if a particular man or woman is Philadelphian, Laodicean, or any other category of the seven churches of Revelation.

I think there are certain characteristics of Philadelphians in the way they think. They have a zeal for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public, and this zeal is motivated by a love for their neighbors. That zeal motivates them to find a way to support an organization, even an imperfect one, that is preaching the gospel and warning message effectively. This zeal is actually part of the open door Christ promises (Revelation 3:7). In this day of relative freedom and prosperity that enables the gospel to be preached, it is zeal that makes the difference, that opens the door for Philadelphians but not Laodiceans. Laodiceans have the money and freedom and talent to preach the gospel, but they lack the zeal - that is how the door is closed for them. Philadelphians have the zeal that opens the door for them.

I think Philadelphians are submissive to the Bible more than Laodiceans, and thus they understand the importance of top-down governance. They will look to a human leader who has shown by his fruits that God has chosen him as leader and is blessing him and using him to do God's work. They will not look to a group that selects its leaders by the voting of men, thus rejecting the administrative leadership of Jesus Christ, saying to Jesus Christ in effect, "We do not want to know whom You have chosen - we will make our own choice".

And being submissive to the Bible, Philadelphians will believe what God says in the Bible more than any minister or COG tradition. They will examine changes in doctrine with an open mind, looking to the Bible to confirm or disprove the change, and thus they are willing to accept changes to Mr. Armstrong's doctrines if those changes are supported by God's word, the Bible.

And because they believe the Bible more than ministers, if a minister or leader teaches a doctrine that contradicts what the Philadelphian Christian can see for himself in the Bible, they will not automatically believe the minister's interpretation of the Bible but will let the Bible interpret the Bible, and they will believe the Bible. Yet, having respect for God's government in the Church, they will not stir up division or discuss the doctrine with other members, but will respectfully and quietly wait for Christ to correct the doctrine from the top down.

A Laodicean is one who is satisfied he is on the right track spiritually, yet is lukewarm and not aware of his own flaws (Revelation 3:15-17).

If Philadelphians and Laodiceans are in the same COG organization, I think God blesses that organization with an open door for preaching the gospel for the sake of the Philadelphians within it, even if those Philadelphians are a minority compared to the Laodiceans. Probably, the door will be open in proportion to the percentage of Philadelphians in that group. If a group is mostly Philadelphian, the door will be open wide. If a group has only a few Philadelphians, the door will be open, but not wide, only open a little.

The scriptures I use to determine that Philadelphians and Laodiceans were separate churches and are separate spiritual conditions today are Revelation 3:7-22 which describes them separately. Yet, today they can exist in the same organization, Philadelphians and Laodiceans sitting side-by-side in the same fellowship.

Anonymous said...

I have read the author's explanation to the questions.
the answer given to this question seems to be inadequate, perhaps even misleading--no offence intended. (3) What scriptures do you use to determine they are separate churches?
From my personal perspective and understanding of several passages; they are not separate churches but the same church in separate cities and with different attributes or characteristics. what am I seeing wrongly? does Christ have "separate churches"
Anony # 2 said...

I am not sure I understand what you mean. Part of the problem that may lead to misunderstanding is that the word "church" can mean different things in different contexts. So if I have misunderstood you, please be patient.

The term "church" can mean the whole Church of God, that is, the collective body of all Christians having God's Holy Spirit. It can also mean a local congregation - as you say, "the same church in separate cities". "Church" can be used in other ways also - I won't try to list every meaning.

The simplest way to answer your question, and if you mean something different you will have to be more specific in your question, is to say that Jesus Christ describes the seven churches of Revelation as separate churches. He names them individually, calling one, "the church of Ephesus", and calling another one, "the church in Smyrna", etc. Now, Christ speaks of them as separate or distinct churches. The church of Ephesus is not the church in Smyrna. This shows that He is talking about them as separate congregations, as you have described, "the same church in separate cities".

So the scriptures I use to show that "the church in Philadelphia" is a separate and distinct church from "the church of the Laodiceans" is simply Christ's reference to each of them and his description of each of them as a separate church. Specifically, the verses are Revelation 3:7 and Revelation 3:14.

So the shortest and simplest way to answer your question, "What scriptures do you use to determine they are separate churches?", is simply, "The scriptures I use are Revelation 3:7 and Revelation 3:14".

If that doesn't answer your question, then I may have misunderstood you and you will need to help me understand you.