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 we think they conflict with the Bible.
In chapter 8, the COGIW article starts by saying that the Church must remain subject to the one specific apostle sent to them, which is the apostle from which that part of the Church of God learned the truth.
What is meant by "subject to"? Does that refer to administrative authority, that is, the making of decisions about church administration, ordination of elders, appointments, when and where to meet, the order of services, disfellowshipping those who are sinning openly, marking those who cause division, resolving disputes between brethren, distributing aid to the poor, and making decisions about official doctrine the Church teaches?
If that is what is meant, I agree. The Corinthian church needed to obey Paul in these matters, not Peter.
But after Paul is dead, these things pass on to new leaders. Paul, after he is dead, cannot ordain elders, decide disputes, disfellowship anyone, distribute aid to the poor, etc. Nor can he decide issues of doctrine that will be taught, except that some of his letters are part of the Bible and the Church of God must always follow the whole Bible.
But I do not think this is what the COGIW article meant. I think the article means that the congregations Paul supervised must remain loyal to all his teachings, whether canonized as part of the Bible or not, even if some of those teachings, not part of the Bible, contradict the Bible. And by saying this about apostles in general, the implication is that the same thing applies to Mr. Armstrong.
As I have shown in the preceding posts in this series, this is wrong reasoning and not according to the Bible.
Then the article claims that prophecy predicts that there will be a special end-time apostle to restore all things. But that also is incorrect. The Bible nowhere says that the Elijah to come, who will restore all things, will be an apostle. This supposition is based on the idea that John the Baptist was an apostle, but there is no proof of that in the Bible, as I have shown. John is called a prophet, not an apostle. And right here is a difference between John and Mr. Armstrong. John the Baptist was a prophet who received direct revelation from God (John 1:29-34). But Mr. Armstrong was not a prophet. He did not received direct revelation from God, only revelation from the Bible, God's word, which God helped him to understand as God helps all of us to understand (but with Mr. Armstrong God gave help in greater measure since he was the leader).
Chapter 8 of the COGIW article states that the end-time Elijah was to be an individual, not a collective church group. Yet, as I pointed out previously in this series, even the first Elijah did not do everything God commissioned him to do personally. Part of his work was delegated to Elisha, who performed it after Elijah was taken away, and even Elisha delegated part of it to an unnamed man who anointed Jehu king of Israel. So Mr. Armstrong being the Elijah to restore all things does not prevent us from continuing that work of restoration as Mr. Armstrong instructed us.
Chapter 8 of the COGIW article seems to stress the importance of knowing who the end-time Elijah to restore all things is.
There is a problem with that. The Bible itself does not say that it is important for us to know who the Elijah is.
I am not saying that the work of the Elijah to come is not important. It is vitally important. God would strike the earth with a curse if the Elijah to come did not turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. But the Bible does not indicate that it is important for us to know who he is. God knows who he is, and that is sufficient.
Even the end-time Elijah does not have to know his office and his identity as the end-time Elijah. Mr. Armstrong did not think of himself as the end-time Elijah in the beginning, even while he was restoring truth. But he did the work of Elijah whether he knew it or not. How? Simply by believing and obeying the Bible. He learned the truth about the need to keep the holy days from the Bible and began restoring that truth long before he thought of himself as the Elijah to come. In other words, there was a time when Mr. Armstrong did not think of himself as the end-time Elijah even while he was doing the work of the end-time Elijah, the work of restoring lost truth.
Does the Bible say that we must know who the end-time Elijah is?
Did Jesus teach the importance of knowing who the end-time Elijah is?
Jesus Christ never raised the subject!
Most New Testament scriptures referring to an Elijah after the first refer to John the Baptist. But it is from one passage that we know there is an end-time Elijah to come also.
Look at this passage. "And His disciples asked Him, saying, 'Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.' Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist" (Matthew 17:10-13).
We know from this passage that there is to be an end-time Elijah, that John the Baptist is not the only Elijah after the first. We know this because Jesus said that Elijah "is coming first" (present tense, but after John the Baptist was dead), and "will restore all things" - future tense.
But notice something else. Did Jesus say it was important to know who this Elijah will be? Jesus did not even raise the subject. His disciples raised the subject, asked Jesus, and Jesus answered them. That is all. Christ never talked about it in the sermon on the mount or the prophecies of Matthew chapters 24 and 25, or anyplace else. And why did the disciples ask the question? Because of the scribes.
Likewise, the priests and Levites asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah (John 1:19-24).
It was the Jewish religious authorities, the priests and the scribes, who were most concerned about this. They seemed to be very concerned about personal titles and offices. But Jesus never raised the subject. Evidently, what was important to the priests and scribes was not so important to Christ.
Where does Christ, or any of the New Testament writers, or even Old Testament writers, give specific instructions for knowing if a man is the end-time Elijah and stress the importance of knowing who he is? I find it nowhere in the Bible.
Because it is not important for us to know who he is. God knows who he is and the man himself knows what work he has to do, just as I showed with Mr. Armstrong. He knew what he had to do. He had to believe and obey the Bible, and he had to teach what he learned to the world. Whether he knew that this made him an end-time Elijah is irrelevant.
And his radio listeners did not have to know.
Because Mr. Armstrong taught from the Bible. He said, don't believe me, believe your Bible. So his radio listeners checked in the Bible and believed the Bible. That was sufficient. They did not have to know anything about the end-time Elijah.
That is why Jesus did not place importance on recognizing an end-time Elijah. He knew that the end-time Elijah would believe and teach from the Bible and that those who were called would believe the Bible.
While I am on this subject, I will also point out that the Bible does not stress importance of knowing who an apostle is in our time. The Bible does not even give a specific definition of an apostle. "One sent" is not a good definition, otherwise the mailman sent to deliver my mail would be an apostle. Even "one sent by God" is not a good definition because prophets are sent by God but are not apostles. Paul speaks of his miracles as "signs of an apostle", but Mr. Armstrong did not have public miracles to back his teachings, yet we regard him as an apostle. God does not provide in His word a checklist for determining who is or is not an apostle.
God could have given us these instructions. He does regarding prophets (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Deuteronomy 18:20-22). But not regarding apostles.
Because, regarding Mr. Armstrong, God knew Mr. Armstrong would teach from the Bible and that the Church would believe the Bible. It was never necessary that we recognize Mr. Armstrong as an apostle. He had administrative authority, under Christ, over the Church, and that did not depend on his apostleship.
At this end-time, false teachers will certainly arise. But our protection is not Mr. Armstrong and his writings. Our protection is God's word, the Bible.
Will false teachers twist scriptures and try to use the Bible deceitfully? Yes they will. But those who believe and obey God, those who let the Bible interpret the Bible as Mr. Armstrong taught us, will not be deceived.
God has a system in place for teaching and protecting the Church of God from deception in our time. We must study the Bible and not be slack about it. We must read the whole Bible regularly in order to live by every word of God. We must believe what we see in the Bible, yet be respectful of God's ordained ministry. And as we believe and obey the Bible, God opens our minds by His Spirit to understand more knowledge and to avoid deception.
This is the system Mr. Armstrong practiced and taught by his example and his word to his radio listeners. It is the system God teaches in His word, the Bible. It is a system based on faith in God and in Christ, not in man. There is no substitute for it.
But some try to substitute a different system than that which God has ordained. They do not want to have faith in an invisible God. They do not want to have faith in God's word, the Bible, because that requires them to do the hard work of Bible study and letting the Bible interpret the Bible. They want a shortcut. Some of them want an idol they can see with their eyes. They want to make a man in the Church an idol whom they can believe. But by making that man an idol and rejecting the Bible, they are overturning the basic principles that man lived by.
Those who say we must follow Mr. Armstrong's teachings unconditionally are overturning the system Mr. Armstrong himself followed and the Bible teaches. It is a different system, a system based on faith in a man, not God. This is not what Mr. Armstrong stood for. Whether they realize it or not, they are overturning Mr. Armstrong's most important teaching: believe and obey the Bible more than any man, let the Bible correct you, let God through the Bible teach you new knowledge, and obey the truth God teaches through His word the Bible.
This series will be continued after the Feast of Tabernacles.
TO BE CONTINUED