Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 8 - How Can We Know if a Man Is 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 in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if they conflict with the Bible.


In chapter 5, the COGIW article tries to make a point that if any minister or lay member tries to take apostolic gifts to themselves, they are trying to steal them. But how is that possible? By apostolic gifts, it seems that the article is referring to the setting of doctrine. This would include learning new knowledge from the Bible, believing the Bible as the Bible interprets the Bible, and correcting mistakes. It may also imply, though the article does not mention this, that preaching the gospel to the world is an apostolic gift, and that those who are not apostles are restricted from preaching the gospel. I mention this gospel aspect because I have found no evidence in their website that the Church of God in Wales (COGIW), which published this article, does anything of significance to preach the gospel to the world.

But that raises a question. How can one know if he is an apostle? If he does not know, then according to the COGIW article, he should not do what an apostle does, such as set doctrine for the Church and preach the gospel to the world (Again, I did not find anything in the article about preaching the gospel, but I suspect that COGIW does not believe anyone but an apostle should preach the gospel to the world).

Read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography. It is an important part of Church of God history, and there are many good lessons in it.

Mr. Armstrong began both preaching the gospel to the world and introducing changes in doctrine to the Church before he was ordained as a minister. He did not think of himself as an apostle at that time. But he preached the gospel in public campaigns with the Church of God Seventh Day. He also submitted papers to COG7D, which both added new knowledge and corrected error. The paper he submitted on new knowledge showed that the English speaking nations were part of the lost ten tribes of Israel. He says in his autobiography that he submitted another paper correcting an error in COG7D teachings. He submitted these papers to test COG7D to see if they would change their teachings. They would not. Yet, notice, Mr. Armstrong did this from the beginning, before he was a minister and many years before he thought of himself as an apostle.

He learned the truth about the holy days and began to keep them even though COG7D would not keep them. Perhaps that was what the other paper was about.

The point is, he began to preach the gospel and to set doctrine for himself and his family and to suggest that doctrine to the Church of God, before he was ordained as a minister or thought of himself as an apostle.

Was he stealing apostolic gifts? He had no evidence that God counted him as an apostle at that time. He wasn't even ordained.

It was only years later, once the work had grown, after many years of preaching the gospel and teaching doctrine to the Church from the Bible, setting the doctrine that would be the official teaching of the Church of God, that he saw the fruits and concluded that he was an apostle.

In other words, the work of setting doctrine and preaching the gospel came BEFORE any recognition of being an apostle.

So how is one to know? If we are forbidden by scripture from preaching the gospel to the world or from setting doctrine from the Bible unless we know we are an apostle, but also we cannot know if one of us is an apostle unless we see from the fruits of that man that he is preaching the gospel and setting right doctrine from the Bible, we are stuck. We cannot do the work of an apostle until we have proven we are or have an apostle, but we cannot know a man is an apostle until he does the work of an apostle. So we can never do the work of God.

For if Mr. Armstrong believed the teachings of COGIW, he could never have done the work of an apostle. He would have said, "I cannot set doctrine. I cannot correct doctrinal errors in the Church of God. I cannot introduce new knowledge I have discovered in the Bible. If I try to do these things, I am trying to steal the gifts of an apostle and I make myself a false apostle." And if he felt he needed to be an apostle before he could preach the gospel to the world, he would have said, "I cannot preach the gospel. If I try to do that, I am trying to steal the gifts of an apostle and I make myself a false apostle."

Fortunately for us, Mr. Armstrong never believed the things the COGIW article teaches, nor did he believe that only an apostle can preach the gospel to the world, but rather Mr. Armstrong believed the Bible.

And the Bible does not back up the COGIW article.

The Bible does not teach that one has to be an apostle to preach the gospel to the world. In fact, after the Church of God was scattered after the martyrdom of Stephen, the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, but the scattered Church preached the gospel everywhere (Acts 7:59-60, 8:1-4).

Moreover, there is no prohibition in the Bible against anyone other than an apostle from setting doctrine in the Church according to the Bible, except that those who are under the authority of a living apostle must submit to that apostle and not create division.

When Mr. Armstrong was alive and we were under his authority, we were not to contradict him and create division by undermining that authority. But we could submit suggestions to Mr. Armstrong, even in matters of doctrine, and he did not forbid that. He was himself willing to be corrected, provided such correction was from the Bible.

But now that he is dead, we are no longer under his authority. Why?

The authority Mr. Armstrong had, came from the Bible. He strived to live by the Bible, every word of it. When he discovered in the Bible that he made a mistake in doctrine, he made the correction, whether that discovery of error came from his own studies or someone pointed the error out to him. He allowed others to correct him and share their ideas with him, even about doctrine.

There was a process involved. When someone found an error in his doctrine, they could point it out to him, and when he understood it he could make the correction for the whole Church. He described that process in his article I believe titled, "Should We Listen to Others?"

It was a living process of doctrinal correction and change that helped to ensure that the Church grew in knowledge from the Bible and made needed corrections to eliminate error over time.

That process does not end with the death of the apostle.

Mr. Armstrong is no longer alive to preach the gospel, but we are to carry on his work. He is no longer alive to make corrections and additions to his doctrines, and we are to carry on with that work also.

And we must always remember that we have a living apostle, Jesus Christ, and as apostle He has the authority to make changes to doctrine through the existing ministry of the Church (Hebrews 3:1).

There is also precedence in the Bible for the work of one man to be continued by another. In fact, this precedence is given in regards to a man many say is a type of Mr. Armstrong: Elijah.

Elijah was given a commission by God. "Then the Lord said to him: 'Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place' " (1 Kings 19:15-16).

So Elijah was to anoint three men: Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha.

But Elijah did not anoint Jehu directly.

After Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:9-12), Elisha directed an unnamed son of the prophets to anoint Jehu. "And Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets, and said to him, 'Get yourself ready, take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth Gilead. Now when you arrive at that place, look there for Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, and go in and make him rise up from among his associates, and take him to an inner room. Then take the flask of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, "Thus says the Lord: 'I have anointed you king over Israel.' " Then open the door and flee, and do not delay.' " (2 Kings 9:1-3). See also 2 Kings 9:4-10.

God commanded Elijah to anoint Jehu, yet it was Elisha and a son of the prophets under Elisha's authority who actually carried on that work after Elijah was gone.

Likewise, the Church of God is to carry on the work of Mr. Armstrong even after Mr. Armstrong is dead, and that includes the learning of new knowledge from the Bible, correcting errors, setting doctrine, and preaching the gospel to the world.

The doctrinal foundation of the Church of God is the Bible. Mr. Armstrong pointed us to the Bible as the foundation, and he helped us understand it. But we are to believe the Bible, not Mr. Armstrong, just as Mr. Armstrong said to his radio audience, don't believe me, don't believe any man, believe God, believe your Bible.

Canon in the Bible is closed. Mr. Armstrong did not add to the Bible. In that sense, he did not lay a foundation, but pointed us to a foundation that was already laid centuries ago. His word is not infallible as the Bible is, as Church of God history has shown. His errors should be corrected.


TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 7 - 2 Peter 1:20-21 and "Private Interpretation"

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 in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if they conflict with the Bible.

Chapter 5 of the COGIW article starts by asking if God has given us anything to promote unity. It is leading up to the conclusion that adherence and loyalty to Mr. Armstrong and his teachings, even above loyalty to the Bible, is the solution.

But the author of this article seems to forget that God Himself scattered the Church, and He did it by causing Mr. Armstrong to appoint Mr. Tkatch as the next pastor general. Moreover, God allowed Mr. Armstrong to tell us that we need to follow that next pastor general if we want to be in the kingdom of God, which was clearly wrong. It was a serious mistake in doctrine and teaching that Mr. Armstrong made, one that he never corrected to the end of his life, perhaps the most serious mistake he made, and God let him make that mistake.

At the time the tribulation begins, there will be two main categories of the Churches of God. At least one group will be Philadelphian in character and spirit, and Philadelphians will go to a place of safety after having used the open door Christ gives them to finish the preaching of the gospel to the world. The other category is Laodicean and any other non-Philadelphian groups. They will go through the tribulation, having failed to preach the gospel (because they did not have an open door because of their lukewarmness) - see Revelation chapters 2 and 3.

We know that Laodicea will exist because it is the last era of the Church of God. We know Philadelphia will exist because they will finish the work and go to a place of safety.

And there will not be unity between Laodiceans and Philadelphians before the tribulation. The era is predominantly Laodicean, so they will be large, Philadelphia will be small.

When Christ returns, there will be perfect unity among all those in the first resurrection. Laodiceans will have repented in the tribulation, probably most or all being martyred. They will have repented of their lukewarm attitude and will no longer be Laodicean (or else, if they haven't repented, they will not be in the first resurrection).

The COGIW article then states that the Church of God is to be subject to the word of God (the Bible), but that word is not revealed to us individually with each person interpreting the Bible as he chooses.

This is a misleading statement. It is true that we should not interpret the Bible as we please, according to our own opinions. But neither are we to let Mr. Armstrong or any man interpret the Bible for us. Rather, we are to do as Mr. Armstrong taught us by word and example: let the Bible interpret the Bible.

And the statement that the truth of the Bible is not revealed to us individually is absolutely wrong. God must open our minds, each one of us individually, to help us understand the Bible as we prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and check the scriptures to see if the things taught to us are true (Acts 17:11).

But we are NOT to let a man interpret the Bible for us, any man, even Mr. Armstrong. That is what the Catholics do, and we are not to be like them, as Mr. Armstrong stated himself in an article I believe titled, "Should We Listen to Others?". We must not treat Mr. Armstrong like a pope. He himself would not want that, and the Bible teaches against that.

The article then quotes 2 Peter 1:20-21 to support its position that we are not to privately interpret the Bible.

Let's look at this passage closely.

Here it is, first, in the New King James Version: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Now in the King James Version: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:20-21).

That is basically the same.

Now look at how the New International Version translates it: "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21).

This is different. The NKJV and the KJV use the term "private interpretation" without reference to whether the private interpretation applies to the reader of the Bible or the prophet who wrote the prophecy. But the NIV applies it, not to the reader of the Bible, but to the men who wrote the Bible. In other words, the prophecies of the Bible did not come from the private understanding of the prophets, but God inspired them to write what they wrote by the Holy Spirit.

Which is correct?

I believe the NIV in this case has it right. Why? Look again at verse 21 in the NKJV: "for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit".

The context is how the prophets made their prophecies. They did not write according to their own opinions, rather, the Holy Spirit moved them to write their prophecies. The origin of the prophecies of the Bible is God, not man or man's opinions, understandings, or interpretation of events. That is the whole point of this passage.

Look at the word "for" at the beginning of the verse. That indicates a cause and effect relationship between what follows the word "for" and what precedes it. There is a connection. What follows the word "for" (prophecy came from God) explains or gives a reason for what precedes it (no prophecy is private). In other words, the reason no prophecy is of private interpretation or understanding is that prophecy came from God and not by the will of man. This is speaking of the prophet and the source of his prophecy. No prophecy is of private interpretation or understanding of the prophet BECAUSE prophecy came as the prophet was moved by the Holy Spirit, not from his own opinions, not from his private interpretation of events.

This makes more sense than to say that verse 20 is talking about the private interpretation of the reader while verse 21 is talking about the how the prophet received the prophecy.

But even in terms of the private interpretation of the reader, as I pointed out, neither the reader of the Bible nor Mr. Armstrong should privately interpret the Bible but rather let the Bible interpret the Bible.

This passage does not say that God does not reveal His truth to us today by opening our minds individually to understand the Bible as we let the Bible interpret the Bible, believe what God says, and strive to obey what God says. God certainly does reveal His truth to us today. Mr. Armstrong was a link in that process. He pointed us to the Bible and helped us understand it. But we have our part to play - to prove the truth from the Bible so our faith is in God and not man - and as we do so God opens our minds to understand the Bible. That is how God reveals His truth to us individually.

We must let the Bible interpret the Bible, and we must believe and strive to obey what God says in the Bible. That is what Mr. Armstrong did and that what we must do also.

There is another passage to consider.

Did Mr. Armstrong have authority over our beliefs? Did he have authority to command us to believe something, to have faith in some point of doctrine? He did not claim that authority in his article, "Should We Listen to Others?". And Paul did not claim that authority over the faith and beliefs of the Corinthians.

"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 clearly states to the Corinthians that he did not have "dominion" over their faith. "Dominion" means rule, and "faith" is what we believe. He did not claim authority over what the Corinthians believed. He taught them, yes. But part of their beliefs came from the Old Testament scriptures, the Bible that was available at that time, and Paul had no authority to command them to believe him more than the scriptures. Their faith had to be towards God and not man.

That is even more true today when we have the Bible complete and widely available and can use fulfilled prophecy to prove that the Bible is the inspired word of God.

The COGIW article states that if each person interpreted the Bible privately, it would lead to confusion.

But as I pointed out, we are not to interpret the Bible according to our opinions, but we are to let the Bible interpret the Bible and we are to believe what God says.

Still, there are times when sincere members of the Church of God may understand a passage in the Bible differently than the ministry and leadership of the Church. This is because understanding does not come all at once. It is a learning process, and we know things only in part right now (1 Corinthians 13:9). We must also grow in knowledge (2 Peter 3:18), and that growth takes time. God tests us and gives more understanding to those who believe and obey him (Psalm 111:10), and that testing takes time. Mr. Armstrong did not learn everything at one time, and neither do any of us.

So does that create confusion and division?

It can, but it doesn't have to. It depends on how the member handles his disagreement.

If he brings the matter to a minister with a humble and teachable mind and discusses the matter respectfully, and does not discuss the matter with other members, it need not lead to confusion or division. It is when a member takes his disagreement to others in the congregation that confusion and division occur.

The ministry has authority over the official doctrines that are taught to the members (Ephesians 4:11-16, Matthew 16:18-19). That is their job, and the members have to respect that. No member should undermine the authority the ministry has to teach the membership by contradicting the teaching of the ministry.

But our faith must be towards God, not the ministry. The Bible is God speaking to us directly. If we see something in the Bible that contradicts what a minister teaches us, we must believe God rather than man.

If we talk to a minister about our disagreement with a doctrine, we should let the minister explain, and we should listen with an open mind. Perhaps we have made an error and the issue can be resolved.

But if not, wait for God to make the correction. Wait for God to open your mind to understand your mistake, or to open the minister's mind to understand his mistake. If necessary, wait till Christ's return. God is testing all of us. But in the meantime, don't create division by discussing your disagreement and promoting your idea with the membership. Teaching other members is the job of the ministry, not yours. If you teach members, teach within the established doctrines of the ministry. God will open the minds of the ministry and leadership when it is His time, and if they will not listen to God, God will judge them.

If the matter is of major importance, you may have to leave the fellowship you are in. It depends on the situation.

Believing the Bible individually, letting the Bible interpret the Bible and believing and obeying what God says, does not create confusion and division. Criticizing and contradicting the ministry does create division.

And if the leadership and ministry is so far off base in major doctrines and it is obvious they do not believe the Bible, it may be necessary for members to take a stand and leave the group. In that case, it is the leadership and ministry that is creating the confusion and division, not the members.

Members should not be afraid to take a stand and be willing to say, "If Mr. Armstrong says one thing and the Bible something else, I will believe the Bible, I will believe God". Members should not be afraid to openly say, "We need to preach the gospel to the world". These are absolutely foundational issues, and ministers who teach loyalty to Mr. Armstrong and his teachings more than to God and the Bible are themselves creating confusion and division. Likewise with ministers who say, "This is not the time to preach the gospel to the world, only an apostle can do that".

To say that if we find differences between Mr. Armstrong's teachings and the Bible we should believe the word of Hebert W. Armstrong more than the word of God, or that we should lie and continue to teach things we know are wrong, is heresy, according to everything the Church of God stands for. If we do that, we are making an idol out of Mr. Armstrong. We are breaking faith with God. That is a sin serious enough to cost us our salvation, if not repented of.

And if we delay repenting, God can take away from us the knowledge we have. We only know what we know because Mr. Armstrong was committed to believing the Bible more than man. God used a man who put the Bible first to point us to the Bible and help us understand it. He also taught that process when he said, don't believe me, believe your bible. But if we do not agree with that process, why should we have the knowledge that is the good fruit of that process?

We will reap what we sow. If we disbelieve God, He is likely to take from us the knowledge we have. He can remove His protection and let Satan deceive us.

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7).

The sin of not preaching the gospel to the world is also serious. It is a direct rejection of God's law of love that says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is direct disobedience to the command to hold back those stumbling to the slaughter (Proverbs 24:11-12). It is a violation of Jesus's command, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8).

Again, if we refuse to share with others the precious truth God has given us, why should we have the truth? Will not God take it away from us? We have that truth because others sacrificed so we could have it. Now that we have benefited from the sacrifices of others, if we refuse to do our part and also sacrifice so others can hear the truth, then we prove ourselves to be unworthy of the truth. We say to God, "I don't agree with the process of sacrificing to pass the truth on to others in the world". God can say, "Ok, then why should you benefit from a process you don't agree with? You only have the truth because others sacrificed for you. Why should I protect you from Satan's deceptions any longer?"

Some might say, only an apostle can preach the gospel.

That is total nonsense, according to the Bible and according to Church history.

"At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles....Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:1-4).

The Church was scattered. But the apostles remained in Jerusalem. But those who were scattered, not the apostles, preached the "word" - the gospel - everywhere.

So you do not have to be an apostle to preach the gospel.

Moreover, while Mr. Armstrong was alive he used various evangelists and ministers to preach the gospel to the world, and he intended the preaching of the gospel to continue after his death, as his letters show. At no time did Mr. Armstrong say, after my death, the preaching of the gospel is over, because only an apostle can preach the gospel. Rather, he made provision for the preaching of the gospel to continue on television with new TV presenters.

Read his autobiography. He was on fire to preach the gospel even before he was ordained as a minister, long before he thought of himself as an apostle.

Read chapters four and five in my book where I explain why the gospel still needs to be preached to the world and why the Church of God needs to be doing it.

Those who say we must not change or re-examine Mr. Armstrong's teachings are inconsistent if they left Worldwide while Mr. Tkach was pastor general. Why did they not stay with Mr. Tkach and follow him? Mr. Armstrong said they should. By leaving Worldwide, they directly disobeyed Mr. Armstrong's teaching. But now they say, we must not re-examine or question or change any of his other teachings, even if they are wrong, even if they contradict the Bible. That's lunacy.

They have succumbed to the temptation of idolatry, not to a physical image made of wood or stone, but to the memory and teachings of a physical man. They have put that man in place of God, and that is wrong.


TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 6 - Mr. Armstrong Built Walls of Doctrine on the Foundation of 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 in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if they conflict with the Bible.

The article builds a chain of ideas that leads to that conclusion. Unfortunately, many links in the chain are wrong.

The article promotes that idea that John the Baptist was an apostle or did an apostle-like work. The article tries to base that on the statement that Jesus Christ made that John was a prophet and more than a prophet. Yet, as I pointed out earlier in this series, just because Christ said that John was more than a prophet does not make John an apostle. "More than a prophet" can simply mean he is more than an ordinary prophet because he is also the prophesied Elijah to prepare the way for the Lord. And as I showed in the first post in this series, the surest definition of an apostle is one who is sent by God and called an apostle by Christ, and Christ never called John the Baptist an apostle.

From there, the article makes the claim that the prophesied Elijah to come in our day to restore all things must be an apostle. That is not true. There is no prophecy in the Bible that says that the Elijah to come must be an apostle.

Then, the article tries to build a case that each apostle lays a doctrinal foundation that no other apostle can lay. This implies that there are different foundations laid by different apostles, each for a different part of the Church of God. So Paul laid a foundation for the Gentiles, and Peter laid a foundation for the Israelites, and Mr. Armstrong laid a foundation for the Church of God in our time. There is an implication that the foundation Paul laid for the Gentiles was different and not suitable for the Jews, and the foundation Peter laid for the Jews was different and not suitable for the Gentiles.

Likewise, there is the implication Mr. Armstrong laid a doctrinal foundation for the Church today that is different from the doctrinal foundation for the Gentiles that Paul laid and the foundation for the Jews that Peter laid.

But I showed in the last post that there is only ONE foundation. That foundation is the same for all the Church of God, anywhere, anytime. That foundation is Christ and the Bible. It is the word of God that is the foundation. As Mr. Armstrong taught, Christ is the Word of God in person and the Bible is the word of God in print, the same word.

Paul helped to lay that foundation for the Gentiles because there was a division of labor between him and Paul. Peter helped to lay that foundation for the Israelites. They also helped lay that foundation for us today with their epistles which have become part of the Bible. Also, the prophets helped to lay that foundation for us with their writings in the Bible, men such as Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many others.

It is the Bible that is the doctrinal foundation for the Church of God today. Mr. Armstrong recognized that and never elevated his writings above the Bible, but rather he himself submitted to the Bible and corrected his own writings when he found, in the Bible, that they were wrong.

In other words, the Bible itself is the foundation for everything Mr. Armstrong taught in his writings and speaking. And when Mr. Armstrong found that his teachings were not aligned with the Bible, he changed his own teachings to bring them into alignment with the Bible.

In the analogy of a building, the Bible is the foundation and Mr. Armstrong's teachings were the walls built upon that foundation. And when Mr. Armstrong saw that the walls he built were out of alignment with the foundation, the Bible, he changed the walls he was building to bring them into alignment with the foundation.

Mr. Armstrong did not build or lay a foundation, except in the sense that he pointed us to the true foundation, the Bible, and helped us to understand it. And Mr. Armstrong and his teachings were never the foundation.

If you want to apply the analogy of laying a foundation to the work Mr. Armstrong did, that is all right if you understand that he laid the foundation by pointing us towards that foundation, that is, the Bible. The foundation of the Bible was laid centuries ago. Mr. Armstrong pointed us to that foundation that was already laid.

The COGIW article, after teaching that each apostle lays a foundation for a particular part of the Church that the apostle is sent to, then says that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle sent to lay the foundation for the Church of God in our time, and no one should correct, re-examine, or change his teachings because no one else can lay a foundation for the Church in our time except the one apostle sent to this part of the Church of God.

Thus, I suppose according to the COGIW article, I should be more loyal to Mr. Armstrong's teachings and writings than to the teachings and writings of Peter, Paul, James, John, and all the apostles and prophets and writers of the Bible, and thus more loyal to Mr. Armstrong than to the God who inspired the Bible and made it His word.

Let's use the common sense God gave us. The Bible is God's word, perfect, free from error. It is God speaking to us directly. Mr. Armstrong's teachings are not necessarily free from error. God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make mistakes, some of which Mr. Armstrong corrected before he died and some of which he did not correct. Why would God want us to give priority to the writings of a man, which can contain error, over His own word, the word of God, which is perfect and infallibly free from error?

Faith includes believing God's word, as Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Romans 4:3, James 2:23, Genesis 15:4-6). But where is the faith of those who say they will believe a fallible man more than God?

"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes" (Psalm 118:8-9).

God makes a very clear distinction between trusting in God and trusting in man.

"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).

God pronounces a curse on anyone who puts their trust in man more than God. We must not trust Mr. Armstrong, who made mistakes, more than we trust the direct word of God, the Bible, which is free from mistakes and perfect.

The whole COGIW article builds on a word, "apostle". It puts meaning into the word that is not there, then it uses that word to say or imply things that are not true regarding Mr. Armstrong. It's whole theme is built only on a label. But if you simply look at Mr. Armstrong's life, look at the history of the Church, read the Bible, and read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, you will see that even Mr. Armstrong never regarded his writings as higher than that of the Bible for members of the Church in our time, nor does God intend for us to trust Mr. Armstrong's teachings more than the Bible.

In chapter 4, the COGIW article states that Malachi predicts that there would be one individual, who would be an apostle, sent to the Church in the end time, and that God, through this individual, would lay a foundation for this part of the Church, and that no one else would be used by God to lay the foundation for us.

But this is false for several reasons, as I have shown.

Malachi does not predict an apostle.

Malachi does not predict one who would lay a foundation. The foundation has already been laid, and Malachi is part of that foundation, and so are the other prophets and apostles in the Bible. The Bible is that foundation, founded on the writings of the prophets and the apostles, with Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

The idea that no one else besides Mr. Armstrong would lay the foundation for us is absolutely wrong. God has used Peter, Paul, James, John, Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many others to lay the foundation in the Bible. Mr. Armstrong only pointed us to these prophets and apostles. He himself only built upon the foundation laid by these men. If we use a building as an analogy, a true analogy would have Mr. Armstrong building the walls (his teachings) upon the foundation of the Bible.

Mr. Armstrong's role was to point us to the Bible and to help us understand the Bible. And because so much understanding had been lost, his teachings and writings have been very important in restoring lost truth and helping us understand the Bible. And if you want to say, in the analogy of a building, that he was laying a foundation, that is all right if you understand the right context for that statement, that the Bible must come first and override, as necessary, anything Mr. Armstrong taught that was in error.

I don't fault those who say that, in a sense, Mr. Armstrong laid a foundation. It depends on what they mean. If they mean that his teachings, though not necessarily perfect, help us understand the Bible, and that Mr. Armstrong restored a lot of foundational knowledge and doctrine from the Bible that had been lost - I have no problem with that. It is true. From the narrow view of the Church of God today and its body of doctrine it has inherited from the work of Herbert W. Armstrong, it is true, provided it does not put Mr. Armstrong's teachings above the Bible itself.

Some have said that this passage refers to Mr. Armstrong: "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you" (Zechariah 4:9).

Whether Zerubbabel was a type of Mr. Armstrong and this verse can be applied to him, I do not know. But I know that the ultimate foundation for all the truth we have is the Bible. Call Mr. Armstrong's teachings a foundation if you want to, but it was not the kind of perfect foundation that the Bible is.

You can use different analogies in different ways to describe the same thing. You can use the same analogy to describe different things. The problem with the COGIW article calling Mr. Armstrong's teachings a "foundation" is the context for its statement and the meaning it puts into it. From the COGIW point of view, Mr. Armstrong's "foundation" is perfect and must not be questioned. In this they are wrong.

Mr. Armstrong did not lay a foundation in the sense that the COGIW article describes it.

The COGIW article says that apostles are sent to lay foundations, and not to re-lay foundations already laid by other apostles. Yet, if Mr. Armstrong laid a foundation in the sense the COGIW article describes, since Mr. Armstrong based his teachings on the Bible, he was re-laying the foundation laid by Peter, Paul, James, John and the other apostles and prophets.

Mr. Armstrong established a tradition and a pattern for us, to look to the Bible for answers. That is why, in Church of God Sabbath services today, you will find members bringing their Bibles and ministers quoting scriptures to prove their points as they speak, and the members looking up the scriptures and reading them from their own Bibles.

Mr. Armstrong set an example. He learned doctrine from the Bible. He always believed the Bible more than the teaching of men, from the time before he was ordained a minister. Long before he thought of himself as an apostle, he put the Bible first, and he continued to believe the Bible after he thought of himself as an apostle. He spoke to his radio audience saying, don't believe me, don't believe any minister, believe God, believe your Bible. And he practiced what he preached.

He always was willing to learn new truth from the Bible, and he was willing to admit he was wrong and change his teachings to be corrected by the Bible. And in doing this, he set an example for us, that we should do likewise.

If we follow Mr. Armstrong as a teacher, then we should follow his example as he followed Christ. "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40).

In other words, a teacher teaches not only by word but by example.

Mr. Armstrong's teachings by word were not always perfect, but he set a right example when he corrected his own teachings to align more perfectly with the Bible. We should follow that example, letting the Bible correct our teaching.

Thus he established a tradition and a pattern of being willing to let the Bible correct his mistakes and teach him new knowledge, and we must do the same. Mr. Armstrong is no longer alive to correct his writings according to the Bible, but we should follow his example and correct our teachings according to the Bible.

The COGIW article states that those who come after a true apostle should not re-lay foundations and change doctrines laid by other apostles sent by Christ. Yet, the article says that Mr. Armstrong laid a foundation. And it is clear that Mr. Armstrong came after the apostles and the prophets who wrote the Bible. According to the article's analogy, Mr. Armstrong would be one who has "re-laid" the foundation laid in the Bible by Peter, Paul, James, John, Jude, the gospel writers, and the prophets. Yet, the article says, this should not be done.

Did Mr. Armstrong change doctrines laid as the foundation of the Bible by Peter, James, Paul, and John and the other writers of the Bible? No, not intentionally, but he could have made mistakes. He has made mistakes, as Church of God history has shown. And he does not have the authority to change doctrines laid down by the writers of the Bible. He corrected his mistakes when he discovered them, and we should do likewise.

The COGIW article states that to avoid deception we have to be firmly rooted to the foundation God laid in our lives.

But what is that foundation we must be firmly rooted to in order to resist deception? It is not Mystery of the Ages or any of Mr. Armstrong's other writings or teachings. It is the word of God, the Bible.


TO BE CONTINUED