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 6 of the COGIW article talks about Paul's role as apostle to the Corinthians. Much of what the article says is true, regarding Paul. But not everything that applies to Paul and the New Testament apostles applies to Mr. Armstrong.
There are differences between the apostleship of Mr. Armstrong and that of the first century apostles as recorded in the Bible. Mr. Armstrong may well have been an apostle in God's sight, but he was not an apostle like Paul, or like Peter, James, John, and other apostles in the Bible. I think Mr. Armstrong himself recognized that.
Paul referred a couple of times to the signs of an apostle. Those were signs and "wonders", miracles and healings. They were a proof of his apostleship - evidence he could point to in order to prove that he was an apostle.
"For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient—in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ" (Romans 15:18-19).
"Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds (2 Corinthians 12:12).
Also, the book of Hebrews says, "For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" (Hebrews 2:2-4).
The book of Acts testifies in many places that the preaching of the apostles was accompanied by public miracles. "And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed" (Acts 5:12-16).
Mr. Armstrong did not have those signs. Yes, he anointed and prayed over those who were sick, and many were healed. But those were private healings, not public signs and wonders used to convince those who heard him that his message was from God. Mr. Armstrong did not have the kinds of miraculous signs that accompanied the preaching of Peter, Paul, and the other apostles in the Bible.
And that is significant.
In New Testament times, a primary way God communicated with the Church was through the teachings of the apostles. The scriptures of the Bible were also used, but in a limited way for three reasons: (1) The Bible was not complete. The New Testament was in the process of being written. (2) Even the Old Testament scriptures were not widely available to everyone. The printing press had not been invented, and scrolls of the Bible were copied by hand. They were rare and expensive. (3) The proof of the Bible - fulfilled prophecy - didn't exist at that time because it was too soon for the prophecies to be fulfilled. Thus, even if one had all the expensive scrolls of the Bible available at that time, he would not be able to prove that the Bible is God's word. He would not be able to see the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy that knowledge would increase and men would run to and fro at the time of the end (Daniel 12:4) - that fulfillment only occurred in our time now. Nor would he be able to prove the inspiration of the Bible by the fulfillment of the prophecies about Israel, that the sons of Joseph would become a great nation and a company of nations.
So God used the apostles to give the message. But just as we need the proof of the Bible today, which God has given us, so in the first century the people needed some proof that the message was from God. So God gave the proof in the form of signs and miracles at the hands of the apostles. That was the evidence, the proof, for the people at that time that the message the apostles delivered was from God, not man.
Mr. Armstrong never had those signs because today God communicates primarily through the Bible. In place of signs and wonders, we have the fulfillment of prophecy, which proves that the Bible is the word of God.
Mr. Armstrong's role was therefore different from that of the early apostles. He did not receive direct revelation from God apart from the Bible as Peter and Paul and the other early apostles did. Peter, Paul, and other apostles in New Testament times received direct instruction from God in various ways - by word of mouth from Jesus Christ Himself, by visions, by dreams, or by other direct means through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Then God backed up that instruction with public miracles to show the people that the apostles were speaking the word of God. And some of those apostles wrote parts of the New Testament, adding that instruction to what the Old Testament gives us to give us the complete Bible today.
But Mr. Armstrong did not work that way, or rather, God did not work that way through Mr. Armstrong. God works things differently today. God first tested Mr. Armstrong to see if he would believe the Bible more than any man (and God tests us the same way). After Mr. Armstrong passed that test, God used Mr. Armstrong to point the Church to the Bible and to help us understand the Bible. And God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make mistakes, perhaps to demonstrate to us that Mr. Armstrong was fallible and his writings and teachings were fallible, unlike the Bible, which is perfect and free from error.
And there is a contrast, isn't there? The Bible is error-free. Mr. Armstrong's teachings and writings are not error-free. He made mistakes with doctrine, including the doctrine of Pentecost being on a Monday. He corrected that doctrine, but he never corrected what was probably his last big error: teaching in a sermon that we should follow the next pastor general (Mr. Tkach) if we want to be in God's kingdom.
When God speaks to us directly, He provides proof that the message is from Him. With the first century apostles, God spoke directly through them, and he also gave the proof - signs and wonders - that He was speaking through the apostles.
Today, God speaks to us directly through His word, the Bible, and He gives us the proof of fulfilled prophecy that the Bible is His direct message to us.
But God never gave proof that He spoke directly through Mr. Armstrong. Rather, by allowing Mr. Armstrong to make mistakes in doctrine, even a major mistake, God has dramatically demonstrated to us that He, God, was not speaking through Mr. Armstrong directly. Instead, God used an indirect approach to teaching us through Mr. Armstrong. He used Mr. Armstrong to point us to the Bible, and he used Mr. Armstrong to help us understand the Bible. It was an indirect approach because Mr. Armstrong only pointed us to the Bible for God's message, and it is the Bible that is the word of God, direct to each of us personally.
In the days of the New Testament apostles, God spoke directly through the apostles, and the word the apostles spoke was the word of God.
Today, the word of God comes to us direct through the Bible, not through Herbert W. Armstrong.
If God wanted us to believe the teachings of Mr. Armstrong without checking in the Bible to see if those teachings are true, He could have backed up Mr. Armstrong with dramatic and public signs, wonders, miracles, and healings. He did not.
There were healings, yes, but not signs that were associated with preaching the gospel. Those healings were not known outside small groups of members in the Church. But the miracles worked by the New Testament apostles were specifically associated with the preaching of the gospel. Not so with Mr. Armstrong.
Was Mr. Armstrong an apostle? That is up to God. When Christ returns, He will tell us if He and the Father named Mr. Armstrong an apostle and counted him as such. In my opinion, yes, Mr. Armstrong was an apostle, not to teach us directly by divine revelation from God, but to point us to the Bible. But because of that difference from the New Testament apostles, he is in a different category. His teachings are not to be regarded as the direct word of God like the teachings of Peter, Paul, James, and John. He didn't write any part of the Bible, the true foundation for the doctrines of the Church. Rather, Mr. Armstrong points us to the teachings of Peter, Paul, James, and John, plus all the other writers of the Bible.
The truth was not revealed to Mr. Armstrong as it was revealed to Peter, Paul, James, and John. Those first century apostles learned from Jesus Christ in person or by direct revelation from God. Mr. Armstrong learned from the Bible, from the writings of Peter, Paul, James, John, and many others.
Mr. Armstrong didn't write the Bible, or any part of it. God did not back up his teachings with public miracles. And he himself followed the Bible more than any man and taught his radio listeners to do likewise.
Mystery of the Ages does not carry the same authority for us as the epistles of Paul to the Corinthians and all the rest of the Bible.
That is a difference the COGIW article does not recognize.
Yes, God used Mr. Armstrong to do a great work. Yes, God used Mr. Armstrong to reach millions with the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning. Yes, God used Mr. Armstrong to restore much truth that was lost.
But that does not make Mr. Armstrong an apostle like the New Testament apostles, who received knowledge by direct revelation from God apart from the Bible. That does not make Mr. Armstrong an apostle who performed great signs and wonders to accompany his teaching. And that does not make Mr. Armstrong an apostle whose writings are infallibly correct and trustworthy, free from error, as the writings we have from the New Testament apostles in the Bible are.
The COGIW article makes a big point that Paul was an apostle to the Corinthians, that Paul laid a doctrinal foundation for the Corinthians, and that no man should try to build upon that foundation contrary to that foundation - not aligned with the foundation Paul had laid.
But the COGIW article neglects to mention that Paul not only laid a foundation for the Corinthians - in doing so he also laid a foundation for us, because we have his letters to the Corinthians in the Bible. The things Paul wrote in his letters are as much for us today as they were for the Corinthians in the first century.
And all of us, Mr. Armstrong included, have to align the walls of doctrine we build upon the foundation that Paul laid. Paul did not lay the entire foundation for us. The rest of the foundation was also laid for us by other Bible writers, apostles, and prophets: Peter, James, John, Matthew, Luke, Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many others. They all helped lay the foundation of the Bible - each had his part to do - and we are to align with them, not Mr. Armstrong.
Paul wrote, "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" (1 Corinthians 3:10).
Was that warning only for the Corinthians? Is it not for us also? For as the Corinthians had to be in alignment with Paul's teachings, equally so we must be in alignment with Paul's teachings. For the letter to the Corinthians was not just Paul's message to the Corinthians, but God's message to the Corinthians and to us.
So if we see anything in Paul's letter to the Corinthians that contradicts Mystery of the Ages or any of Mr. Armstrong's other teachings, we must believe God, believe the Bible, believe Paul's letter to the Corinthians, and make corrections to the teachings of Mr. Armstrong. If he were alive, he would do the same.
We must be in alignment with the foundation laid by Paul and all the other writers of the Bible just as much as the Corinthians had to be in alignment. Mr. Armstrong taught us by word and example how to align with the Bible, not how to align with himself.
TO BE CONTINUED