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.