Thursday, January 28, 2021

Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and Spiritual Healing

Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are coming soon.  Many of us are examining ourselves in preparation for those days so we observe Passover in a worthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).  It is not too soon to start examining ourselves.  One way to do this is to study significant passages in the Bible and meditate on how well we are living up to those instructions, such as the ten commandments in Exodus 20 and the sermon on the mount in Matthew chapters 5 through 7.

We have been taught that the shed blood of Jesus Christ pays the death penalty for sin so we can be forgiven and reconciled with God the Father.  Christ's death enables us to be given the gift of eternal life.  Without the payment Christ made of the death penalty for sin by dying in our place, all of us would die permanently without hope of the eternal life God wants to give us.  The Passover wine is a symbol of His shed blood, that is, His death.

But Christ did more than die for us.  He suffered for us.  His body was scourged and tortured.  And we have been taught that He suffered in the flesh so we can be physically healed of our sicknesses and infirmities (Isaiah 53:5-6).  The broken unleavened bread we eat at Passover is a symbol of Christ's broken body.  Part of the penalty of sin is suffering, and Christ suffered for us so we don't have to suffer in our sickness and diseases.

These teachings are true, and the Church of God has taught them for decades.  Mr. Armstrong taught these truths consistently.

But there is a third aspect of the matter of Christ paying the penalties for our sins I have not heard taught in the Church of God.  I don't say it has not been taught - maybe it has - but I have not heard or read it or come across it.

So whether this is completely new or not, I cannot know for sure.  But it seems so obvious to me I do not know how anyone in the Church of God can, or would want to, refute it.

We need to be reconciled to God the Father and forgiven by the blood, the death, of Jesus Christ so we do not have to die the second death.  Christ paid that penalty for us.  God can forgive us and give us eternal life so we can live with God forever.

We also need physical healing in this life and relief from the pain and suffering that comes from sickness and disease that comes from our physical sins against the laws of health, and Christ paid that penalty by suffering for us so we can be physically healed.

But, and here is the point I think should be obvious, but I have not heard it in the Church of God, we need to be spiritually healed.

Probably this has been taught and I have not heard it.  If you have heard the Church teach about our need for spiritual healing related to Passover, I would like it if you send me an email to author@ptgbook.org or enter a comment below, even anonymously if you wish.  

Christ's suffering enables us to be physically healed but also spiritually healed.

Christ paid ALL the penalties for human sin so we can be completely forgiven and healed spiritually and physically.

Here is the passage about healing that connects our healing with the suffering of Christ.

"He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:3-6).

Notice how these particular verses focus on the suffering of Christ, not just His death.  And it specifically says that by the stripes Christ endured we are healed.  And in verse 6 this passage talks about us like sheep going astray.

This passage directly connects the suffering of Christ (not just His death) with our sins in which we "go astray" and all go our own way.  Do we only go astray in the matter of health laws?  Is this what this is talking about?

Is this only about breaking the laws of health and being forgiven of our physical sins so we can be physically healed of our sicknesses and diseases?  Or is it talking about something more, something that goes beyond this physical life into eternity?

Sin causes perversion of mind.  Mr. Armstrong taught this and the Bible teaches it.  That is one of the penalties for sin.  When Adam and Eve sinned, something happened to their minds.  They were not the same.  When Lucifer sinned, his mind became perverted, twisted, evil.  His wisdom became corrupted.  Speaking of Lucifer who became Satan the devil, God says, "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor" (Ezekiel 28:17).

When Lucifer, who was perfect in his ways as originally created, turned to vanity, something happened to his mind.  His wisdom, his character became corrupted, twisted, perverted, and evil.  The more he sinned, the more evil and sinful he became.

Perversion of mind and character is one of the penalties of sin.

When we sin, sin becomes a habit of mind.  It becomes part of our character.  We acquire a sinful nature.  And that sinful nature causes us to sin more and more.

And that sinful nature leads to more sin which leads to mental as well as physical suffering.  It leads to guilt.  It leads to conflict.  It leads to divorce.  It leads to war and violence.  It leads to anger, frustration, and depression.  Sin robs us of the joy and happiness we could have.  It destroys unity.  It destroys friendship.  It destroys love.  It destroys the closeness we could have with God and other people.

Certainly physical sin - the breaking of the laws of health - can lead to the suffering that comes from sickness and disease.  But spiritual sin - lying, stealing, committing adultery, murder, idolatry, hatred, etc. - the breaking of the spiritual law of God, can lead to greater suffering for ourselves and others brought on by a sinful way of life.

Christ's suffering brought on by the breaking of His body through scourging and crucifixion paid the penalty of all of our suffering, both physical and spiritual, that comes as a result of sin, any kind of sin, physical or spiritual.  It enables us to be physically healed, yes, but also spiritually healed.

I wish I heard more in Church of God sermons about this.  But all I have heard is that Christ's sacrifice pays the death penalty so we can be given eternal life and live forever and pays the penalty of our physical sicknesses and diseases that come as a result of breaking health laws so we can be physically healed.

But consider what the consequences would be if we were given eternal life, spared the death penalty, but were not spiritually healed of our sinful nature.

We would continue to sin for all eternity.

If we carried our sinful nature and our tendency to sin into the kingdom of God, we would make ourselves and everyone in that kingdom miserable with our continuing sin.  It would be Lucifer and his demons all over again.  Eternal life would be a curse, not a reward.

But Christ paid the penalty for all our flaws and faults and sins - physical and spiritual both - so we can be healed of everything that causes suffering as a result of sin, not just in this physical life but for eternity in the kingdom of God.  He suffered for us so we don't have to continue to suffer as the result of any kind of sin, physical or spiritual.

How does God heal us spiritually?

By the power of the Holy Spirit.  By Jesus Christ living His life in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The sacrifice of Christ, both His death and His suffering, makes it possible for God to give us His Holy Spirit, which heals our character and gives us eternal life in the resurrection.

But this spiritual healing does not happen all at once in this physical life.  We have our part to play, and God is teaching us lessons for our good.  We have to struggle against sin and overcome, and this takes time.  But in the resurrection to eternal life, the process becomes complete.  We will not have the tendency to sin in the kingdom of God.  Sin and the suffering that comes from it will be abolished forever.

Dear reader, if I am wrong about this, show me from the Bible, or from Church of God history, or from sound logic.  Email me or enter a comment.

If I am right, how should we respond?

We should first of all appreciate even more the suffering Christ endured.  It is not just for physical healing but for spiritual healing so we can have a happy existence in the kingdom of God for eternity.  We should give thanks to God for the sacrifice of Christ so we can be spiritually healed.

We should also trust God to heal us spiritually.  Some may struggle and struggle against sin and be discouraged by many failures and setbacks.  But God will save us in the end.  Why?  Because Christ paid the penalty for our sins by His suffering.

Paul seems to affirm this in Romans chapter 7.  Read the whole chapter.  This is about our struggle against sin.  Then notice verse 24 and the first part of verse 25: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25).

In other words, God WILL save us from our sins and our sinful nature through Jesus Christ.  And Christ dwells in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We must never give up fighting against sin.

God will save us from our sins in every way because Christ suffered and died for this very purpose.  He is our Creator, and if he paid such a high price, we can be sure He will use that sacrifice to save us to the utmost.

Christ suffered so we can be freed from All the penalties of sin that bring suffering, and neither Christ nor the Father will minimize the suffering Christ endured.  And that should give us confidence in God, that He will give us the help we need, that the suffering of Christ will not be in vain for anyone.


This is not the first time I have posted about this.  Here is a listing of other posts in this blog on this subject:

Physical and Spiritual Healing, Monday, April 2, 2012.

Passover Symbols: What Part of the Sacrifice of Christ Makes Possible the Healing of Our Character? / Should You Partake of the Passover?, Saturday, March 23, 2013.

Spiritual Healing, Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Claiming the Title "Philadelphia" without an Open Door

A Church of God fellowship may want to claim the title, "Philadelphian".  But can such a fellowship do this with any credibility when they do not have an open door for preaching the gospel to the world?

How does God primarily open a door for preaching the gospel?  We live, in the United States, in a country of freedom of speech and economic prosperity, and these benefits are available to greater or lesser degree to all fellowships.  How does God open the door for one and not another?

God seems to give the open door to a fellowship by opening the minds of its leaders to see the need for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public.  He arouses zeal in that direction.  Then, armed with that zeal and understanding, the leader or leaders of a fellowship mobilize the resources they have in that direction.  God also gives the gift of wisdom so they know how to do it.

A group that lacks zeal for the gospel does not have an open door.

That zeal is a gift from God.  It is a way, in circumstances in which all groups have the freedom and money to preach the gospel, that God gives one an open door.  He arouses zeal in our hearts, and that zeal results in action.  But if a group is not preaching the gospel, God has not aroused zeal for the gospel in that group and its leadership.  Thus, little or no action.  No Philadelphian open door.

That zeal must be real, not just put on to make an impression with the members.  The proof of that zeal must be action, not words.  The proof of God's blessing and open door (only God knows the hearts of the leaders) will be that the action will be effective and will get results.  

Why has God not given to a group, which claims to be Philadelphian, an open door for preaching the gospel by arousing zeal for the gospel?

One reason God may not arouse zeal in a group may be that they do not fully practice the Philadelphian way of life that leads to the open door.  They are not willing to practice what we must preach to the public.  They may willing to strive to obey the commandments and overcome sin - and if so, give them credit for that.  But they may not be willing to believe the Bible more than COG tradition, and they may not be willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible.  

In my opinion, no such group can rightly claim to be Philadelphian.  They hold on to a list of doctrines, but they have departed from the way of life practiced by Mr. Armstrong.

If a group wants to be Philadelphian, let them be willing to learn new knowledge.  Let them teach their members that they should believe what they see in their own Bibles more than any COG tradition or teaching of Mr. Armstrong or any other COG leader.  Let them not ridicule or scorn members who send in doctrinal papers that suggest changes in doctrine or new knowledge, and let them not reject such papers without examination, as Church of God Seventh Day rejected Mr. Armstrong's papers when he was a lay member.

And then, let them demonstrate zeal for the gospel by going all out and spending about half of their income to deliver the message of God's truth to the nations, using the other half to feed the flock.

If a group does that, then their claim to be Philadelphian would have some credibility.


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Is It Only Massive Falling Away That We Need to Be Concerned About?

I have long made the point that we need to believe the Bible more than the ministry in all points of doctrine.  And all long-time members of the Church of God remember the example in our own history of the leadership appointed by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong to replace him after his death turning away from the truth on a massive scale.

Mr. Armstrong appointed Mr. Tkach as his successor, thinking that Mr. Tkach would be faithful to true doctrine in the Bible.  But after Mr. Armstrong died, Mr. Tkach began changing doctrine.  Not right away.  For about a year, as I remember, Mr. Tkach made no significant changes.  Then the changes started, small at first.  But from 1983 for about a decade that followed, the changes came more and more rapidly and were more and more severe.  After about ten years the changes were pretty much complete.  Those who wanted to stay faithful to the truth they learned from the Bible with the help and guidance of Mr. Armstrong were scattered.

There are leaders and ministers in the Church of God today who want their members to believe their interpretation of the Bible apart from what the members can see and understand from their own Bibles.  They see disagreement as a sign of unfaithfulness.  They teach that Christ is the head of the Church, and they teach or imply that this means that Christ will not allow His ministers to teach error.

And if some point out Mr. Tkach as an example of one that Christ allowed to make errors in the Church, these ministers will defend their position by saying that there is virtually no chance or indication that the current leadership and ministry will massively fall away from the truth as Mr. Tkach did.

But that misses the point.  I agree that the chances are very slim that the current leaders of the Church of God will make massive changes to doctrine, such as overturning the Sabbath and holy days, teaching that it is ok to eat unclean meat, etc.  But is it only massive falling away that we should be concerned about?  Should we be concerned over minor errors?

I do not say we should leave a fellowship over minor mistakes.  But we should not believe and follow minor mistakes.  That has to be a matter of principle.  Being faithful to believe what God says in the Bible must be a way of life.

If I see the leadership of a Church of God fellowship make a mistake in the doctrines he teaches, a mistake according to the Bible, my concern is not that this is a first step towards a massive falling away.  My concern is only that I want God to see that I believe Him more than the Church leadership and ministry.  God sees my heart.  I want Him to see that I am more loyal to Him than to man.  I do not want to believe the error no matter how small it is.  I want to believe God in the little things and the big things - all things.

If we are unfaithful in little things, we are likely to be unfaithful in big things, but if we are faithful in little things, we likely will be faithful in big things.  "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much" (Luke 16:10).  "Then came the first, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned ten minas.' And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities' " (Luke 19:16-17).  Sin, like leaven, can start small and grow big.

Besides, how can we be sure that a minister who compromises with the Bible in small things will not some day, if the opportunity comes, fall away in big things?  Mr. Tkach did not start with big changes - he started with small things.

We must develop right habits of thought, and those habits may start with small doctrines.  

We must believe what we believe because we see it for ourselves in the Bible.  When we see a difference in doctrine between what the Church and its leadership and ministry teach and what we see in the Bible, we must at that point make a choice: believe God or believe man.  If we make the wrong choice in a small doctrine, we are developing a bad habit and we are more likely to make a wrong choice in a big doctrine.  Besides that, God sees that we are not completely loyal to Him if we believe ministers more than we believe God.

If the doctrine is a small matter, would I leave a fellowship over it?  Of course not.  Would I discuss it with the brethren in the fellowship I attend?  Absolutely not, for I could not honestly discuss it without contradicting the ministry of the fellowship I attend.  Would I discuss it respectfully and privately with the ministry or the leadership?  Maybe.  I could if I wanted to, but I might not.  If it is a small matter, it probably would not be necessary.  I will wait, if necessary, for Christ to return and set all matters straight.  I am not perfect and I do not expect ministers to be perfect.  In the age to come, those who are in the first resurrection will be made perfect, but in this life we are not yet perfect.  

I will give an example.

A while back, the leadership of a fellowship taught that the marriage supper will take place at God's throne in heaven.  This seems to be a change, or a "clarification", over what I was taught in the past I think, that the marriage supper will not take place in heaven.

I am inclined to agree with the new teaching.  I think the marriage supper will probably take place in heaven.  Maybe I can't prove it definitely because I haven't studied it in detail and I am not sure there is enough Bible evidence to prove the case one way or another with one hundred percent certainty.

But suppose I did not agree.  Suppose I found something in the Bible that made me completely certain that the marriage supper will not be at God's throne in heaven.  I would believe what I see in the Bible more than the ministry.  I would not discuss it with the brethren.  But would I bring it to the ministry and discuss it with them?

Probably not.  Why?  It is a small matter.  It isn't important to me.  It doesn't affect how I live my life.  When Christ comes, He will take us to the marriage supper.  We only need to follow where He takes us (Revelation 14:4).  I probably would not take up my time or the time of the Church to make an issue of it.

In any case, it is not an issue with me because I think the Church is probably right about it.  But I use it as an example of a minor doctrine.

But my way of thinking is firm.  I believe God, His word the Bible, more than the Church and its ministry.  I believe God in the little things and the big things, both.  I don't know how to believe God in the big things but believe man in the little things.  It is one way or the other, a way of thinking, a way of life.

In that regard, I teach and practice the same way of life and thinking that Mr. Armstrong practiced.  But many leaders of fellowships and ministers do not.

Monday, January 25, 2021

I Did NOT Learn the Doctrines I Believe from the Church of God!

Where did I learn the doctrines I believe?  From the Church of God?  Or from Mr. Armstrong?

No.  I learned them from the Bible.

Did the Church of God help me?  Emphatically, yes.  Did Mr. Armstrong help me learn the truth of the Bible?  Absolutely, yes.  I couldn't have found the truths I found in the Bible without the help God provided through Mr. Armstrong and the Church of God.

But I didn't know the truth until I saw the truth in the Bible.

I read the true doctrines in Church of God literature, and I heard them in the preaching of Mr. Armstrong on radio.  But until I learned these doctrines from the Bible, they were just theory.  I didn't believe any of them till I found them in the Bible.

Mr. Armstrong and the Church helped me find them in the Bible.  But I only believed the Bible, not the Church.

That is why I say I didn't learn the truth and the true doctrines of God from the Church.  You can't say you learn something if you don't believe it.

I learned about the true doctrines from the Church of God.  I also learned about the doctrines of the Catholic Church and some of the doctrines of various protestant churches, the Jewish religion, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Muslim religion, and even the views of agnostics and atheists.  I learned about these things even when I did not agree with them.  But that does not mean I learned any of these doctrines were true from the teachings of these groups.  I did not learn that the doctrines of the Church of God were true from reading and listening to those doctrines from the Church of God.  I only really learned those doctrines, that is, learned that they are true, from the Bible.

What about other COG members?

No doubt some do learn what they learn from the Church, not the Bible.  They just assumed and believed that those doctrines were true when they learned them from the Church.  But that form of learning was not taught by Mr. Armstrong when he said, don't believe me, believe your Bible.

Perhaps more and more COG members are falling away from the thinking and the way of life that are our roots as a church.

Our roots are a tradition of looking to the Bible for all truth, not the Church of God.  That is the way of life Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong practiced.  That is the way of life Mr. Armstrong taught to his radio listeners and Plain Truth subscribers.

But it is a way of life many or most leaders of Church of God groups today have departed from.  They teach their members to believe the Church and its ministry more than the Bible.

The Church of God certainly has a teaching role.  The Church and its leadership and ministry should help members to understand the Bible and to find answers in the Bible.

But in learning something, there is a point where belief kicks in.  You can learn about a theory, an idea, or someone's opinion without agreeing with it or believing it.  But you really learn it when you come to believe it - when you are sure it is true.  And with a Christian who puts his faith in God more than man and who has committed himself to believing what God says in the Bible, that point of belief comes when he sees it for himself, with his own understanding and faith, in the Bible.

I had read the Plain Truth magazine and the literature of the Worldwide Church of God for years before I proved any of it.  I knew all about their doctrines.  They sounded plausible, they even sounded good and wonderful, but I wasn't sure they were true.  Then I proved the Bible was the word of God, and I saw these doctrines for myself in the Bible.  I proved the doctrines in the Bible.  Now I knew they were right.  That is when I really learned.

That is why I say I did not learn the doctrines I believe from the Church.  I learned them from the Bible.

And I don't think I am the only member who learned this way.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Spiritual Kinship between Protestants and Those Who Deny Learning New Knowledge

Mr. Armstrong practiced a way of life of striving to keep the commandments of God, of believing God more than man or tradition, and of learning new things as God taught him from the Bible.  But some in the Church of God deny that way of life.  They say we are to stop believing God first and, instead, believe the Church, our Church traditions, our leaders and ministers, and the writings and teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong.  They also say we are to stop learning new things from God.  People who want to learn from God have "itching ears", they say.

I am not an expert in the Protestant religions, but I have often heard that many of them say that we do not have to keep God's commandments because Jesus Christ kept them for us.

I see a spiritual kinship between these two groups - between Protestants who say we don't have to live as Christ lived and Church of God members who say we don't have to be willing to learn new knowledge.

One says, we don't have to keep the commandments because Christ kept them for us.  The other says, we don't have to learn new things from the Bible because Mr. Armstrong did that for us.

Both groups miss the same point.

Jesus Christ practiced a way of life, a way of keeping God's commandments.  We are to practice the same way of life He did, not a different way of life - we are to keep the commandments of God as Christ did.  He set the example we are to follow.

"For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13:15).

"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master" (Matthew 10:24-25).

"A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40).

Likewise, Mr. Armstrong practiced a way of life.  That way included faith in God and His word, the Bible, more than faith in any church, any tradition, any minister, or any church leader.  It also included willingness to learn any new knowledge God taught him in the Bible.  That is the right way of life, and the fruits show it.  We are to practice that same way of life, the way of life Mr. Armstrong taught by his word and by his example.  We are to practice the same way of life He did, not a different way of life - we are to believe and learn new things from the Bible.  He set the example we are to follow.

But some may say, we don't have to believe the Bible that way because Mr. Armstrong did it for us.

Does that not sound similar to what some Protestants may say, we don't have to keep the commandments of God because Christ did it for us?

In both cases, they abandon a way of life taught by the example of the one they supposedly honor.  

What is more important, a list of true doctrines, or the way of life that produced those true doctrines?


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Departing from Mr. Armstrong's Way of Life

History repeats itself in the Church of God.  Many COG groups in the past have taken the position of not being willing to change or add to any doctrines taught by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong.  But these groups are not consistent.  The position they take is self-contradictory.

Someone might say, "Why be critical?  Let's all love one another and be positive."

But is God critical in the Bible?  Are the prophecies in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the minor prophets only on happy subjects?  Or does God sometimes sternly warn and correct and command us also to warn?  What about the curses in Deuteronomy?

Warnings about sin can be done in love.

Someone who loves you can warn you.  Warnings are not always a sign of contention and animosity.

I am trying to continue to post about general principles, letting the reader judge if these things apply to any particular group.  And COG readers have a right to judge those things they must judge in order to make the decisions God has given them the responsibility for making.  COG members must sometimes decide whether to support a group or not, and those members are right to research and discuss their decisions and seek counsel, provided they do not create dissent and division within the group they attend.  The Internet is not a single fellowship.  It is a forum that crosses all group boundaries.  Those who are not trying to decide where to attend - those who are content where they are - do not have to go to the Internet to research all the groups and to consider arguments for different points of view.  I have never advocated members criticizing their own leadership and ministers in conversation with brethren of their own fellowship at Sabbath services.

But the Internet is different.  It is a place where those who have serious concerns can discuss their concerns and share advice and counsel without disturbing the peace and unity of members in their own fellowship.

Those who engage in Internet discussions who see inconsistencies or problems in certain doctrines or policies of groups have the right to discuss those problems with those who must make the decisions to join or support a group, or not.

"As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend" (Proverbs 27:17).

"Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name. 'They shall be Mine,' Says the Lord of hosts, 'On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.' Then you shall again discern Between the righteous and the wicked, Between one who serves God And one who does not serve Him" (Malachi 3:16-18).

"He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning" (Proverbs 9:7-9).

"Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, 'Surely we did not know this,' Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?" (Proverbs 24:11-12).

"Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs 11:14).

"Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established" (Proverbs 15:22).

"For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, And in a multitude of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs 24:6).

Some may say, we should not seek new truth.  We should teach what we have been taught by Mr. Armstrong and others and not teach our own understanding of scriptures.

The problem with this is, they are trashing Herbert W. Armstrong's whole way of life.

They are teaching a way of life Mr. Armstrong never followed.  They want to stick to a detailed list of Mr. Armstrong's doctrines, but they depart from the way of life he lived as an example.  The contrary way of life they teach can make them and those who follow them enemies of the gospel and murderers in God's sight.

There are two principles involved here, two sides actually of the same coin.  One, they teach that we should believe and teach what has been taught to us from other men and what we have learned from other men.  Two, they teach that we should not learn new knowledge from the Bible.  We should not have our own understanding of the Bible that is different from what men have taught us.

They don't put it in those terms, but that is what they are saying.  Stick to the basic doctrines of Mr. Armstrong, and don't correct any errors, don't change anything, don't add anything.

They call this, "holding fast", and claim they are following the instructions Christ gives to Philadelphia in Revelation 3.  They claim the title of Philadelphia and want to hold fast to the eighteen truths Mr. Armstrong restored and other truths - the whole body of doctrine - Mr. Armstrong restored and taught.

But to do this, they throw out, depart from, and reject the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced.  They like to claim the authority of Mr. Armstrong, but they do not do as he did.  They don't follow his example.  They are like false Christians who call Christ "Lord" but do not do the things He said (Luke 6:46).

They are like the Pharisees who strain out a knat and swallow a camel.  They pay undue attention to details of the doctrines of Mr. Armstrong, but they neglect the weightier matters of Mr. Armstrong's way of life.  To see this, you only have to read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography and see how different he was, all his life, from the way proposed by those who claim they are not changing his doctrines.

They say to those who might want to correct them, "Don't be critical, be nice, be friendly, remember, Satan is the accuser of the brethren, don't be like him, don't accuse us".

But Jude, Peter, and Paul were not gentle with those who were enemies of the gospel.

Here is the problem that falsifies their whole approach.

They say, let's only believe the doctrines that were taught to us (by men, is the intent) and not have our own understanding of scripture.  Let's not add to what we have been taught by faithful men in the Church.

But Mr. Armstrong himself never lived that way.  He was always willing to learn and teach new knowledge from the Bible.  He sought new truth.  He never limited himself to what he was taught by men in the Church of God.  He learned from the Bible directly.  And yes, he did have his own understanding of the scripture apart from what the Church of God taught him.

You might say, but that's different.  Mr. Armstrong was an apostle.  

No, he was not always an apostle when he practiced that way of life.  He practiced that way of life from the beginning, as a newly baptized lay member, not even ordained as an elder.  He practiced that way of life of believing God and the Bible more than any man or church and of seeking new truth and new knowledge from the Bible and teaching it when he found it, and he practiced that way of life, his whole life, and never expressed regret for living that way of life as a lay member before he became an apostle.

Read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography if you haven't read it for a long time.  Read the life story of the man whose doctrines some are not willing to change or add to.

Then picture the following scenario.

Mr. Armstrong has recently been baptized.  He is a new lay member of the Church of God.  He is sitting in a Church of God Seventh Day congregation in 1927 or 1928 listening to a sermon by a minister of that church.  And that minister preaches, "Don't have your own understanding of the Bible.  Believe what you have been taught by us ministers.  Believe what you have learned from the true Church of God.  Believe what has been passed on through the centuries from the original apostles who got it from Christ.  Don't change doctrine.  Don't have your own ideas.  Don't seek new truth.  Don't add to what we know.  We have the truth.  Hold on to it.  Cling to it.  Don't try to change it.  Remember, Christ is the head of the church.  The doctrines we teach are the doctrines Christ leads us to teach.  Have faith in Christ.  Have faith in Christ that we ministers are teaching you the truth."

Would Mr. Armstrong agree with that?

He would not!

Mr. Armstrong was always, from the beginning of his conversion, committed to believing God and His word the Bible more than any church, minister, leader, or tradition.  He always believed God more than man.  He didn't have to be an apostle to do that.  That was his way of life before he was an apostle or even thought of himself as an apostle, or even a minister.

And as part of that same way of life, he always sought new knowledge from the Bible.  He sought to learn from God and His word.  He sought out new knowledge, and he taught that new knowledge when he learned it from the Bible.

That was a way of life for Mr. Armstrong.

And it was a way of life that enabled God to give him a wide open door for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to Israel and the world.

And it is that very way of life that some reject when they claim to "hold fast" to his teachings without learning anything new.  They hold fast to a list of doctrines, but they don't hold fast to Mr. Armstrong's way of life that produced those doctrines.

Actually, these people have nothing to hold fast to.  The instruction to hold fast is given to Philadelphians.  These people show by their fruits they are not Philadelphian.  The instruction to hold fast is not given to them.

If Mr. Armstrong followed the teachings of these people, there never would have been any restored doctrine, he would never have had an open door for preaching the gospel, and most of us would not be here.

And as I have made clear, the approach of not changing doctrine is one that disqualifies any person or group from the open door promised to Philadelphians because they are not practicing what they must preach to the public.

I don't say they won't preach the gospel in some small way.  They should try, anyway.  And they may serve the spiritual needs of some people in the Church.  But not Philadelphians.  Philadelphians will not be attracted to the message of these people.  Philadelphians will hold fast to the way of life practiced by Mr. Armstrong, the way of life of believing the Bible more than man and being willing to learn new things from God's word - a way of life consistent with what we must preach to the public - "don't believe us, believe the Bible, and learn new things from the Bible you have not learned from your traditional churches".

Those Philadelphians will have an open door, and as long as they are Philadelphians in spirit and character, God will not take away that open door by sending them to a group that has no open door and is not preaching the gospel effectively.

I said earlier that following the idea of not believing the Bible more than the Church and not seeking new knowledge from the Bible can cause us to become murderers in God's sight.  God says in Ezekiel chapter 3 that if we do not warn the wicked, which means getting the gospel and warning message out to our nations, their blood will be on our heads, which is another way of calling us murderers.  And the philosophy of no doctrinal change can disqualify us from getting that message out.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Differences Between Many COG Leaders Today and Herbert W. Armstrong

Most COG members and ministers agree with the doctrine that the seven churches of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 represent successive eras in the history of the true Church of God.  And most would agree that Herbert W. Armstrong was leader during the Philadelphia era of the Church, an era when the Church of God had a wide-open door for preaching the gospel.  Mr. Armstrong was a true Philadelphian.

Yet, while many COG leaders today like to claim the title of Philadelphia for themselves and the groups they lead, many of those do not practice the way of life of Mr. Armstrong.  They practice and teach a different way of life.  And, as you would expect, they get a different result.

Those two things - a way of life and results of that way of life, show the difference between some leaders today that claim to be Philadelphian and Mr. Armstrong, who most agree was a Philadelphian.

The most obvious difference is results.

The results in doing God's work that Mr. Armstrong obtained and the results the Church of God obtains today are vastly different.  No one can deny that.  They can make excuses.  They can offer explanations why results are different.  But they cannot deny the difference.

God did a powerful work through Mr. Armstrong, more powerful than any work any COG organization has done since.  The Plain Truth magazine had a circulation in the multiple millions.  The TV broadcast was one of the largest on TV.  We had three college campuses, and Mr. Armstrong visited leaders all over the world.  No Church of God fellowship has come close to reaching as many people with the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning.  Yet many still claim to be Philadelphian as Mr. Armstrong was Philadelphian.  But the fruits are different.

And their way of life is different, many of them, from the way of life and thinking of Mr. Armstrong, in two respects, which I have discussed in previous posts.  Many of them are not willing to learn new knowledge, to obey God's command to grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18), as Mr. Armstrong did.  He restored many truths, yes.  But one reason God was able to use him to restore truth is that he was willing to learn new truth - to learn what God wanted to teach him.  That willingness to learn from God seems to be missing from many COG groups and leaders today.

And Mr. Armstrong always believed God - the Bible - more than any man, minister, leader, fellowship, or tradition.  That way of thinking, as a way of life, is a way Mr. Armstrong practiced, but a way that seems missing from the practices and teachings of many COG ministers today.  They want you to believe them, the ministers, in their interpretation of the Bible more than you believe the Bible itself.

The way of life Mr. Armstrong actually practiced while a lay member of the Church of God is a way that is scorned and ridiculed and rejected by many ministers and COG leaders today.  They heap scorn on members who would dare to believe what they see in their own Bibles - who would dare to believe God more than them the ministry - and send in study papers about new things they learned from God's word.  But that is exactly what Mr. Armstrong did while a lay member attending with the Church of God Seventh Day.  That church, a church Mr. Armstrong later described as dead, rejected Mr. Armstrong's suggestions, just as many COG leaders and organizations reject papers sent in to them suggesting new understanding or correction to doctrine.  Of course, most of the suggestions they receive are probably not accurate, but some could be, and these COG leaders reject the very idea of members sending in suggestions.

What does God think about that hypocrisy?

Then they have the nerve to say to the public, don't believe us, don't believe any man, believe God - believe your Bible - while they say to their members, don't believe what you see in the Bible and understand for yourself, believe us, believe Mr. Armstrong, believe our traditions, because we have the true interpretation of the Bible and Christ is the head of the Church (but never mind if we don't follow where Christ leads - try not to even think about that - that will get you all mixed up).  They say, have faith in God that Christ will lead the Church, but also, have equal faith in men - in human beings - that we human ministers will follow where Christ leads.  Because it does no good to have faith in Christ without also having faith in men - in ministers.  Have faith in Christ, but have faith in us, your ministers, also, they say.

So you have two differences between many COG ministers today who claim to be Philadelphian and Mr. Armstrong who really was a Philadelphian.  One, they show different fruits.  Two, they practice and teach different ways of life and different ways of thinking about how to know true doctrine.

I say, these are connected.  They have different fruits because they practive a different way of life.  It is because of the hypocrisy of many ministers today in telling the public to learn new things from the Bible and to believe the Bible more than their churches, while they practice and teach the opposite way to their members, that they do not bear the same fruits.

The biggest requirement for preaching the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to Israel and the world is the blessing of an open door from God, and we better not be hypocrites in God's sight if we want Him to give us that open door.

And we increase our hypocrisy if we claim to be Philadelphian without that open door.

Let none of us be hypocrites that way.  

We know what a Philadelphian looks like.  Herbert W. Armstrong is our example of that, whatever his other faults.  He had zeal for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public.  He had zeal for believing the Bible more than the Church of God, its ministry, its leadership, and its traditions.  He had zeal for letting God teach him new things from the Bible.  

Let us not claim the title of Philadelphia if we are not willing to likewise do the works of a Philadelphian.  Let us not claim that title if we are not willing to believe God more than the Church, as Philadelphians must do.  Let us not claim that title if we are not willing to let God teach us new things from His word.  Let us not claim that title if we do not have the zeal for the preaching of the gospel that Mr. Armstrong had.

When a new group forms, if the leader is Philadelphian, how long will it take for that leader and group to start preaching the gospel to the public?  Ten years?  A year?  Six months?

When the Church of God started on Pentecost, that very day Peter preached the gospel to the crowds and about 3,000 people were added to the Church.

When Mr. Armstrong left the employment of the Church of God Seventh Day, refusing further salary as he relates in his autobiography, not long afterwards, a few months (definitely less than a year), he started a work of preaching the gospel over radio and publishing the Plain Truth magazine.

When Roderick C. Meredith raised up Global Church of God, within about 6 to 8 weeks he started a work of preaching to the public on TV or radio.

No COG leader today who raises up a new organization should claim the title of Philadelphia if he has not preached the gospel to the world fairly soon after he started a new group, if he has stated that he does not want to learn new knowledge from the Bible but wants to avoid "speculation" and just stick to the things we know and have proved, and if he teaches that we should believe what is passed down in the Church as tradition, human to human, as from Mr. Armstrong, more than what each member sees with his own eyes and his own understanding in the Bible.  

There may be a place for such a leader in the Church of God.  Not all the Church is going to be Philadelphian in this last era.  A non-Philadelphian can still feed the flock and serve the spiritual needs of non-Philadelphians.  But let such a man not play the hypocrite and claim to be what he is not.

And let not true Philadelphians, if they are currently supporting a group that is preaching the gospel to the world, switch their financial support to a group that is not Philadelphian in works and spirit and is not preaching the gospel to the world.