Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong came into contact with the Church of God Seventh Day around 1927 when he was first converted. His autobiography records his experiences with that Church. The Church of God Seventh Day, though it had faults, was the true Church of God and was spiritually descended from the first century Church of God. Mr. Armstrong later regarded it as representing the fifth era of the Church of God - Sardis - according the messages of Christ to the seven Churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
Mr. Armstrong began to fellowship with the Church of God Seventh Day, and for a time he worked within that organization. But eventually he went independent, not independent from God and Christ, but independent from the Church of God Seventh Day. He refused further salary from them - in effect, he resigned his employment with them. That is when he started the radio broadcast and magazine. The work that he started grew into the Worldwide Church of God. Most of us in the Church of God came from that background or the background of numerous groups that came out of Worldwide.
The Church of God Seventh Day never really accepted Mr. Armstrong and his teachings and his approach. He recorded in his autobiography the hostility most COG7D leaders showed towards him.
Today, most Church of God groups profess to honor the memory of Mr. Armstrong.
But how would the various Church of God groups react today if Mr. Armstrong, or someone like him, with a different name and appearance, but with the same spiritual values, came into the Church of God now?
If a man came into the Church with the same mind, attitude, and approach to the Bible that Mr. Armstrong had when he came into the Church of God Seventh Day, would we accept him or would we reject him as the Church of God Seventh Day leadership rejected him?
In other words, would the Church of God accept someone like Mr. Armstrong but with a different name and face?
I think not.
Mr. Armstrong put the Bible first. Most groups today put their leadership, ministry, and traditions first.
Mr. Armstrong sent in papers to COG7D headquarters. Most groups today belittle those who send in papers and reject papers without serious examination. COG7D rejected Mr. Armstrong's study on the identity of the lost tribes of Israel, and they rejected another paper correcting them on an error, probably the error of not keeping the holy days and the Feast of Tabernacles.
Mr. Armstrong had a zeal for preaching the gospel to the public, but most groups today do not have that zeal.
Mr. Armstrong taught the things he believed to COG7D members in sermons he preached and articles he wrote, and some of these contained new knowledge. But today's groups tend to condemn anyone with "new ideas", not because those ideas are wrong, necessarily.
In one of today's groups, I heard one minister say that in a class for sermonette speakers he told his class: I am not interested in your ideas. I heard another minister say, if God were to reveal knowledge to the Church of God today, he would not reveal it "through me" (the speaker) because that would be destructive of hierarchical government (implying, God would not reveal new truth to anyone but the top leadership).
So how would such men react if Herbert W. Armstrong came in the door and said, I have discovered something new in the Bible? Not Mr. Armstrong as the well-known and respected apostle, but as a lay member (as Mr. Armstrong was a lay member when he came to COG7D) with a different name and a different face, but the same spiritual gifts and the same spiritual attitude and approach to God and the Bible.
I think they would reject him just as the Church of God Seventh Day rejected Mr. Armstrong, only more quickly. They would not seriously and open-mindedly consider his ideas and research in the Bible. They would not allow him to teach. They would demand that his first allegiance be to their group, their leadership, and their ministry - not to the Bible itself.
Obviously, it is not wrong for the leadership and ministry of a Church of God fellowship to require new ideas and new doctrines to be cleared through the ministry before being taught to the brethren. And in examining new teachings, the leadership and ministry should compare them with the Bible with an open mind. That is the only way to protect the congregations from false teaching and heresy. Yet, the leadership and ministry should be responsive to new ideas and teaching that are really true according to the Bible.
But many Church of God groups have become completely unbalanced in this. They speak as if it is wrong for members to think they have discovered new knowledge in the Bible and to submit study papers to the ministry. They speak as if God would never reveal new knowledge to a member or a lower-ranked minister or local elder before revealing it to the top leadership. That is wrong, for that is exactly what God did with Mr. Armstrong.
Would most of the Church of God fellowships accept a younger Herbert W. Armstrong, with a different face and name but the same spiritual knowledge, character, and values, if he came among us today?
I think they would not accept him, but reject him. I think that is something to think about.
Mr. Armstrong had a Philadelphia spirit and attitude. And the Church of God today, in most of its groups and fellowships, is hostile to the Philadelphia spirit and attitude. And that is expected, since we are no longer in the Philadelphia era, but the Laodicean era. The predominant attitude of the Laodicean era is lukewarmness towards God, His word the Bible, and the message of the gospel.
And that Laodicean spirit and attitude will always be hostile to the Philadelphian spirit and attitude.
That is why most Church of God groups would not accept Herbert W. Armstrong if he came among us today.
Read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography.