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