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.


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