Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Did Mr. Armstrong Make a Mistake in Telling the Church to Follow Mr. Tkach?

Did Mr. Armstrong make a mistake when he told the Church to follow the new pastor general, who was Mr. Tkach?

Yes.

Mr. Armstrong gave a sermon to the Church shortly before he died.  He was sick at the time, and he knew he might soon die.  This might have been his last sermon to the Church.

He talked about a number of things, but he also said that if he should die God would provide a new pastor general and we better follow that pastor general if we wanted to be in the kingdom of God.  He did not put any qualification on following the next pastor general.  He did not say, follow him as he follows Christ.  He did not say, follow him as he follows the Bible.  He just said we better follow him, period.  

He did not name Mr. Tkach in that sermon.  That came later, in a letter.

You can probably find that sermon in sites that publish Mr. Armstrong's material.  

There are some points to pay attention to.

Mr. Armstrong's statement to the Church that we must follow the next pastor general if we want to be in the kingdom of God was DOCTRINE.  Doctrine is simply teaching.  Teaching is doctrine no matter if it is given verbally in a sermon or in writing in an article or book.  If it is teaching, it is doctrine, period.  This statement about the next pastor general was something Mr. Armstrong taught the Church in his sermon.  It was doctrine.

Also, it was wrong.  If we followed the next pastor general, we would go into Protestantism.  We would fall away from the truth we had.  And many did follow Mr. Tkach and fall away from the truth.  Whether or not those people were deceived and influenced by Mr. Armstrong's wrong teaching on that, and to what extent they were influenced by him, I do not know.  But Mr. Armstrong's teaching certainly seemed to make it easier for members to fall away.

Mr. Armstrong could have said, follow the next pastor general as he follows Christ, or, as he follows the Bible.  But he didn't.  He didn't put any qualifications or conditions on it.  We were to follow the pastor general of the Church, period.  And that was obviously wrong doctrine, as the history of what happened after that shows.

It was something Mr. Armstrong never corrected to the end of his life.  Critics of learning new knowledge might say, if you point out his error of saying Pentecost was on a Monday, that he corrected his errors before he died and that the doctrines he taught at the end of his life should be held fast to and not changed.  But you cannot apply that to his statement about following Mr. Tkach.  He died in a matter of weeks or months after he made that statement.  He never corrected it.  It stands today as part of the body of doctrine he taught.

Also, it was harmful to anyone who believed, followed, and taught that doctrine.  God no doubt allowed Mr. Armstrong to make that mistake to test the members, but in this case, the only way to pass the test was to reject that doctrine.  You could not pass the test by believing Mr. Armstrong and following Mr. Tkach.  If you did that, you would fall away.  The way to pass the test was to recognize that Mr. Armstrong was wrong and not follow Mr. Tkach.  To believe Mr. Armstrong's teaching on this was to fail a test and reap the consequences, which in this case may include, for some members, going into the lake of fire.

So those who say we are not to change Mr. Armstrong's doctrines today, not correct any errors, not add any new knowledge to the things he taught in his lifetime, have a problem.  How can they reconcile their position with the fact that NONE OF THEM follows their own position?

None of them believe, obey, or teach Mr. Armstrong's instruction before he died to follow Mr. Tkach.  They can't!  If they did, they would have to abandon most of Mr. Armstrong's other doctrines as Mr. Tkach did.

Their whole position is self-contradictory.  How can they explain it?

No doubt, this is why Christ allowed Mr. Armstrong to make this serious mistake in doctrine at the end of his life, a mistake no Church of God member can deny.  God is showing us that we are NOT to hold fast to Mr. Armstrong's doctrines.  They are not trustworthy, of themselves, just because he taught them.  They are only trustworthy as proved in the Bible because God, the author of the Bible, is trustworthy, but not man.

I challenge any Church of God leader who holds the position that we should only stick to the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong and not change anything he taught or learn anything new from the Bible to answer this:  If we are to hold fast to the teachings of Mr. Armstrong, shouldn't we hold fast to his teaching that we should follow Mr. Tkach?  And if we don't do that, how can we hold fast to Mr. Armstrong's teaching?  

If you are a member attending a COG fellowship led by such a leader, do you have the guts, or the interest, to ask him this question?  And if you are afraid to ask it because you anticipate a hostile reaction, why attend with such a man?  Why support him if you can't ask him a question?

Remember, when Mr. Armstrong taught us to follow Mr. Tkach, it was at the end of his life.  How long had Mr. Armstrong been converted?  How much life experience did Mr. Armstrong have in learning from God's word, the Bible, and teaching it?  How many years did he have to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ?  How many trials did he face, and how many years did he have to build the character of Jesus Christ?

He was converted in 1927 I believe.  He died in 1986.  That makes 59 years of learning, living, and teaching God's way of life, being converted, having God's Holy Spirit dwelling in him.

If ever there was a time when he would be at the peak of his spiritual discernment, if there was ever a time when he was close to God, it would be at the end of that lifetime of accomplishment in God's service, a lifetime in which God used him to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning powerfully to the nations of Israel and the world.  Yet, it was at the end of that life when he made such a serious mistake, a mistake that may have hurt the chances for salvation for many members, and God allowed it.

If God allowed him to make such a serious mistake at the end of his life, God could have allowed him to make a mistake in anything he taught any time in his life.  God does not want us to hold fast to and trust the teachings of any man or any church tradition.  He wants us to hold fast to and trust Him and His word, the Bible.  And that means believing and trusting what we can see and understand in our own Bibles.

Can we make mistakes in our reading of the Bible?  Can we misunderstand the Bible?

Of course!  We can make mistakes.  We can be wrong.  We should strive for the humility to admit this to ourselves, and we should always have an open mind to be corrected by the Bible.

But let ministers correct us in our doctrinal errors by the Bible, not by their own authority or traditions.  And let ministers and Church of God leaders also be willing to be corrected by the Bible and admit when they are wrong.

All of us, members and ministers and top Church of God leaders, must believe God more than man or tradition.  We have to put the Bible first.  We have to believe God's word unconditionally, if we are to be completely faithful.  We have to believe the Bible more than we believe Mr. Armstrong, or Mystery of the Ages, or any Church leader, minister, or tradition.  We have to believe what we can see and understand for ourselves in the Bible.

We can certainly make mistakes, and we should be humble and teachable and be willing to let the ministry show us our mistakes in the Bible (if the ministry is willing and able to do that).  But even there, after the ministry tries to show us we are wrong according to the Bible, we may not see it for ourselves.  If the ministry itself is wrong, if they misapply the scriptures, if they interpret the scriptures instead of letting the Bible interpret itself, we may see that they are wrong.

The bottom line is, God tests our faith in Him and His word.  Any time we see a contradiction between the Bible and what the Church of God or any of its fellowships teaches, we are faced with a choice, and God will judge us based on our choice.  We have to choose to believe God or man.  One must take precedence over the other.  Even if we are making a mistake, that does not change the nature of the choice.  Until we understand our mistake, we still have to choose between believing God or man.

Does this cause division?  No, it does not.  It only causes division if we talk about it with other members.  It is the promotion of our view with other members, in contradiction to the ministry, that causes division.  We do not have that right to contradict the ministry with other members.  God has given the teaching role to the ministry, and we have to show respect to the office God has given them.  But we can quietly believe God.  We can wait for Christ to correct the Church, even if we wait until He returns.

But we must obey God first and we must believe God first.  Both belief and obedience are ways of putting our trust and loyalty in God more than man.

Any man who says he leaves a group to obey God rather than man, but does not believe God's word more than the man, Herbert W. Armstrong, is not being consistent.  But he is inconsistent anyway in believing we should stick to Mr. Armstrong's teachings and not learn anything new, contrary to Mr. Armstrong's own way of life, and yet does not believe what Mr. Armstrong said about following Mr. Tkach.

God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make the mistake of telling us to follow Mr. Tkach.  I believe God did this for the very purpose of showing the ministry and membership that we should never believe any man or tradition more than God's word, the Bible.  You couldn't ask for a more powerful and compelling demonstration.

I have said before in this blog that God is unlikely to give us an open door for the gospel if we are not willing to learn new things from the Bible and believe the Bible more than our traditions, because this is what we ask the public to do, and we must do the same or we are hypocrites.  

How does Christ open the door for preaching the gospel?  In these days of freedom and prosperity, it is primarily by arousing zeal in the heart of a leader, and members, for preaching the gospel.  We have freedom and we have money, but we need zeal, or the work will not be done.  Some of that zeal is a voluntary choice, but it is also supplied by God.  And I do not think God will give that zeal to a leader who says he only wants to go by what Mr. Armstrong taught and not learn anything new, a leader that holds fast to a list of doctrines but not the way of life that Mr. Armstrong practiced and that made him a Philadelphian in God's sight.

So look at the Church of God landscape.  Look at a leader who says he will not learn anything new from God.  Look at a leader who says he believes Mr. Armstrong unconditionally, and will not consider that he should believe the Bible more than Mr. Armstrong.  Then look at his zeal for the gospel.  Chances are, his zeal is weak.  Why?  Because God does not arouse zeal for the gospel in his heart and mind.  Why?  Because God can't use him for the gospel.  He won't do what he has to ask others to do - learn new things and let the Bible overrule their traditions.  God is unlikely to use a hypocrite to do His work.

But how can you know a leader's zeal or lack of it?  Not by his words.  And we can't read his mind and heart.  Look at his actions.  Look at the fruits.  If many months go by and he has not started preaching the gospel, that is a strong signal that his heart is not in it, no matter what he says.  If he gives greater priority to teen camps, summer camps, winter weekends, and buying property for the Church - none of which is commanded by God - over preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning - which is strongly commanded by God - then how can his heart be in the gospel?

If he repents of his position of not learning from the Bible and not putting the Bible first over Mr. Armstrong's teachings, then perhaps Christ will give him an open door by arousing and inspiring zeal for the gospel in his heart and mind.  That zeal would then lead to right decisions.  But if he continues to reject knowledge, how can God help but not reject him from having an open door to do His work (Hosea 4:6)?

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Did Mr. Armstrong Make a Mistake in Naming Mr. Tkach as His Successor?

Did Mr. Armstrong make a mistake when he named Mr. Tkach as his successor?

No.

Mr. Tkach changed all the important doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught, and as a result, many fell away and the rest were scattered into many competing fellowships.  Why was this not a mistake?

It was God's will to scatter the Church at this time, to rebuke us and to test us.

We had become Laodicean.  Christ says to the Laodiceans, "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:16).  The scattering that occurred after the death of Mr. Armstrong was Christ vomiting us out of His mouth.  He still loves us, but He wants us to repent.  "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent" (Revelation 3:19).

The scattering of the Church of God after the death of Mr. Armstrong was intended by Christ to bring some of us to repentance.  But to bring about that scattering, Christ needed to appoint someone to replace Mr. Armstrong who would take the actions that would lead to the scattering.  Mr. Armstrong could not do it himself.  He would never deliberately scatter the Church.  But Mr. Tkach could do it by changing doctrine.  So Christ took Mr. Armstrong out of the way and appointed Mr. Tkach to replace him.

Christ appointed Mr. Tkach, not Mr. Armstrong.  Christ arranged events and inspired Mr. Armstrong to cause Mr. Armstrong to appoint Mr. Tkach.  In the letter Mr. Armstrong wrote to the Church naming Mr. Tkach as his successor, Mr. Armstrong plainly stated that it was Christ who was appointing Mr. Tkach, and he was right.  Christ knew what he was doing.  Christ did not just allow Mr. Armstrong to name Mr. Tkach as the next pastor general - He caused it.  He inspired Mr. Armstrong to know that it was Christ's will that he name Mr. Tkach his successor.

So it was not a mistake.

Mr. Armstrong no doubt made mistakes in some of his thinking.  He thought Mr. Tkach would be faithful to true doctrine from the Bible, the same body of doctrine that Mr. Armstrong taught.  Christ had a different reason.  Mr. Armstrong did the right thing for the wrong reason.  But what he did was not a mistake.

When Mr. Armstrong named Mr. Tkach as the next pastor general, he made the right decision but for the wrong reason.  His thinking that Mr. Tkach would be faithful to doctrine was a mistake.  But the appointment of Mr. Tkach was the right decision for a different reason, a reason Mr. Armstrong did not understand.

Jesus Christ made the decision to appoint Mr. Tkach, and that was the right decision.  Christ made that decision, knowing Mr. Tkach would change doctrine in a wrong way, because Christ wanted to scatter the Church of God because of its being Laodicean and lukewarm.  He did this for a good reason - to test the Church and to shake the Church up to help its members wake up and begin to take things seriously.  Too many members were just coasting.  They needed a hit on the side of the head to wake up.

Jesus Christ inspired Mr. Armstrong and led him to appoint Mr. Tkach.  That was not a mistake.  But Christ did not reveal the real reason to Mr. Armstrong, and Christ allowed Mr. Armstrong to choose Mr. Tkach using a wrong reasoning process, and that reasoning process was Mr. Armstrong's mistake.  Mr. Armstrong didn't know that Christ wanted to scatter the Church.  Frankly, it would have been difficult for Mr. Armstrong to deliberately name an unqualified man, but that was what Christ wanted at that time - a man unqualified to properly lead the Church in true doctrine.  This would cause the Church to be scattered.

So Christ allowed Mr. Armstrong to make a mistake in his reasoning process to name Mr. Tkach, thinking Mr. Tkach would be faithful, but Christ wanted Mr. Tkach for the opposite reason - He knew Mr. Tkach would be unfaithful in matters of doctrine.

We the members were lukewarm, and Christ gave us the kind of leader we deserved.

So Christ let Mr. Armstrong make a mistake in evaluating Mr. Tkach's qualifications and character.  Christ led Mr. Armstrong to name Mr. Tkach by letting Mr. Armstrong see Mr. Tkach's strong points - perhaps his hard work, courage, energy, obedience to Mr. Armstrong, etc. - but hiding from Mr. Armstrong an awareness of Mr. Tkach's flaws in understanding the Bible.

So Mr. Armstrong, in that sense, used wrong reasoning but arrived at the right decision for God's purposes.  He made a mistake in thinking Mr. Tkach would be faithful to true doctrine, but he made the right decision - the decision Christ wanted him to make - to appoint Mr. Tkach.

Here is an example that illustrates how Christ can let his ministers make "mistakes" that are not really mistakes.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Mr. Gerald Weston, presiding evangelist of Living Church of God (LCG), had scheduled a ministerial conference where ministers would gather from all over the world to meet.  Hotel space was rented.  With COVID-19 starting up, Mr. Weston had to make the decision about whether or not to cancel the conference.  After getting advice, he decided not to cancel.  He expected the conference to take place.  If he had cancelled, LCG would have lost money on hotel space it had booked because of penalties for late cancellation, or something like that.

But, as I understand it, a short time after that, the hotel cancelled, forcing the conference to be cancelled.  Here is the important thing.  Because the hotel cancelled, the Church saved money because the hotel did not charge a cancellation penalty.

Would you call Mr. Weston's decision to not cancel earlier a mistake?  He thought the conference would take place, so he didn't cancel the hotel reservation.  He was wrong about the conference taking place, but the decision to not cancel was the best decision because it gave time for the hotel to cancel, and because it was the hotel's decision, they charged the Church no penalty.  But if the Church made the decision to cancel a week earlier, the hotel would charge us a penalty.

Do you see what I am driving at?  Mr. Weston made the right decision for the wrong reason.  I don't call Mr. Weston's decision not to cancel the hotel reservation a mistake.  It was the very best decision that he could make.  By waiting for the hotel to cancel instead of LCG cancelling, LCG saved money.

But Mr. Weston wasn't trying to save money.  He thought the conference would take place.  He was wrong about that.  But Christ worked it out perfectly.

This is why some ministers have said that God makes even the Church's "mistakes" work out.  But I don't call those kinds of decisions "mistakes".  Some of the reasoning that leads to those decisions may be mistaken, but the decisions themselves are right in God's eyes.

One more example, this time an analogy, not real.

Suppose you are praying for a better job.  Or if you are single, you might be praying for a wife.  Then suppose you are taking a train, and there are many trains at the train station.  You get on the train, but after the train pulls out of the station you realize you got on the wrong train.  You figure you made a mistake, and from your point of view, it was a mistake, but not from Christ's point of view, because He caused you to get on the wrong train.  Why?  Because on that "wrong" train, you meet an old friend who has his own business, you have a conversation, and it leads to an offer for a better job, just what you prayed for.  Or, you meet your future wife, who is in the Church, on that train.  That "wrong" train was actually the right train for Christ to answer your prayers.  It was not a mistake from God's point of view.

Or, while riding on that "wrong" train, you pull out a Church booklet, a passenger notices the title and asks about it, a conversation takes place, and that passenger ends up coming into the Church.  It was the right train from God's point of view, but your thinking was in error when you got on it.

So Mr. Armstrong's decision to name Mr. Tkach as the next pastor general was not a mistake from God's point of view.  It was exactly what Christ wanted to happen in order to carry out what He said He would do in Revelation 3:16.


Monday, April 12, 2021

An Experiment in the Church of God for Our Learning

God teaches us by His word, the Bible.  He also teaches us by experience.

God is in the process of teaching the whole human race a lesson that God's way is better than Satan's way.  The seven-thousand year plan of God is designed to teach us that lesson.  We are living in the 6,000 years of man's self-rule under Satan's influence apart from God and His way of life.  Mankind is experiencing the suffering that results from Satan's way.  This will be followed by the 1,000 years of Christ's rule when God's way of life is practiced, and that will be a period of joy and happiness.  The contrast will be evident, and it will teach the human race a lesson, both for those who live in the millennium and for those who come up in the general resurrection - the white throne judgment period.

God also teaches us lessons in the Church today by the things we experience and by the experiences of others in the Church of God that we can observe.

There may be an "experiment" going on in the Church for that very purpose right now.  It is not an experiment for God to learn what will happen.  He knows what will happen.  It is an experiment, or a series of experiments, like the experiments students do in a high school chemistry class lab session.  It is a demonstration experiment to show students what the instructor already knows will happen.  It is for our learning.

The experiment can be the efforts of a COG fellowship - any fellowship, any group, not just one particular one - to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel apart from practicing Mr. Armstrong's way of life of believing the Bible more than tradition and being willing to learn new things from God's word.

So here is a scenario to consider.  This may apply to a particular group, or to several groups, but even if it doesn't apply to any group, it is worth thinking about.

A minister and a group of followers separate from a larger group that is preaching the gospel to the public.  They form a new group.  Nothing unusual here - it has happened many times in Church of God history.

The new group claims to be Philadelphian.  They say they want to preach the gospel.  They have not done it for a while since they started as a new fellowship several months ago or longer.  But they have been making plans and preparations.  Or, maybe they have actually started on a very tiny (one might say token) scale.  A number of their members are hot for the gospel, and the leader does not want to offend them, so he claims he is zealous for the gospel, and he will make some kind of effort, even if very small, just to appease those members.  Or, perhaps the leader really is zealous for the gospel and is sincerely working and preparing to preach it.

But the leader has taken a stand against the way of life practiced by Herbert W. Armstrong that made Mr. Armstrong a Philadelphian and allowed God to give him an open door for preaching the gospel.  Though this new COG leader holds fast to a list of doctrines (which Mr. Armstrong did not hold fast to during the time he was learning and researching those doctrines, a time when he had an open door for the gospel), he has departed from Mr. Armstrong's way of life.  He is not willing to believe the Bible more than any man, even any man in the Church of God, and any tradition, even the traditions of the Church of God, as Mr. Armstrong did.  Mr. Armstrong believed the Bible first, everyone and everything else second.  But this man puts Church tradition and the writings of Mr. Armstrong above what he can see for himself with his own understanding in the Bible.  He believes man more than God, in other words.  And he teaches that same practice to others.

Also, he is not willing to learn new things from God and from the Bible as Mr. Armstrong was.  He is not willing to learn what God is able to teach him.  He just wants to stick with what he already knows, like Church of God Seventh Day.  That is his comfort zone.  He is not willing to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).  

He also practices hypocrisy if he tells the public to believe God rather than man and learn new things from the Bible, since he is not willing to practice what he preaches to the public.  And yet, that is the only thing he can say to the public if he wants to preach the gospel effectively.  The public can only believe our message if they believe the Bible more than their traditions and if they are willing to learn new things.  So we have to say, don't believe us, don't believe any man or tradition - believe God, believe what you can see and understand for yourself in your Bible.  Yet, if the leader says that, he makes himself a hypocrite because he won't do it himself and he won't teach it to the Church of God membership, his own supporters.

In many respects, such a leader and those in his group who support his stance are like the Pharisees.  Christ condemned them for their hypocrisy.  They put burdens on the people that they were not willing to lift themselves (Matthew 23:1-4).  They asked others to do what they were not willing to do.  They followed their traditions more than the word of God (Matthew 15:1-9).  They were not willing to learn new things.

But this leader and many of his followers do not believe what Christ said when he said, "Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old" (Matthew 13:52).

But still this leader wants, or claims to want, the open door promised to Philadelphians (Revelation 3:7-8).

Will Christ give that man a wide-open door for the gospel?

That is the experiment.

Will Christ overlook his hypocrisy?  Will Christ give him an open door to preach to the public that they should believe what they see in their own Bibles with their own eyes and understanding more than their churches, ministers, and traditions, even though the man and the group that preaches this is unwilling to practice it?  Will Christ give him an open door to tell the public to learn new things when this man is unwilling to learn new things?

Or can this man force the door open if Christ has closed it to him?  Hopefully, he must know he cannot force open a door Christ has closed (Revelation 3:7-8).

Or, perhaps, for the sake of a few faithful members of his group who are willing to believe the Bible more than man and learn new knowledge, Christ may give that man a door that is only slightly open.  So this man and the group that he pastors may do a very small work towards the public.  A token result for a token effort.  But enough for the man to claim to his group that he is preaching the gospel to the world.  Yet, though God may open the door a little for the sake of those few in the group who are willing to believe the Bible more than the Church and learn new things, God may desire that those few members learn a lesson and return to a group that is preaching the gospel effectively - or in some cases, start a new group.

It is not wrong, for the sake of God's work, to leave one group to start a new, more faithful group, if that is necessary to be totally faithful to God and if it is God's will.  Mr. Armstrong did it when he left the employment of Church of God Seventh Day.  Dr. Meredith and others did it when they left Worldwide.

But back to the hypothetical group I have been discussing that claims to want to preach to the public but won't learn new things as they must ask the public to do.  They may do a very small work.  Then will come various excuses for the smallness of the work. "Now is not God's time for a large work", they might say.  They may never publish financial statements to the whole Church of God membership, for if they do, it would become obvious that they are spending far less on the preaching of the gospel than on other things, and their hearts are not in it.

This is the experiment for any group that finds itself in this situation as I described.  The lessons are not for that group only, but for the whole Church of God that observes the history of such a group.  

Will God give any COG group a wide-open door for the gospel if that group is not willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible and believe the Bible more than the Church and also teach the same way of life, the way Mr. Armstrong practiced, to their members?

If there is such a group, let's see what the results will be.  

We may be able to see some results already.

Let's all watch and see what happens.

If it is in the heart of a leader of a COG fellowship to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, it should not take a long time to see the fruits.  If many months go by after he starts a fellowship and he has not yet shown a zeal for preaching the gospel, his heart is probably not in it.  If he gives greater priority to summer camps, youth camps, winter weekends, and buying permanent property for his group than he gives for warning our nations to repent as God commands, his heart probably is not in the work of God.

How does God give an open door for preaching the gospel?  One way is to arouse zeal in the heart of the leader to do such a work.  If Christ closes the door for that man, He will not arouse zeal in that man's heart.  And his zeal, or lack of it, will be known by his actions, by his fruits, not just his words.

By their fruits you will know them (Matthew 7:15-20). 

Look at the timing.  When the Church of God started on the day of Pentecost, they immediately, the same day, started preaching to the public and about 3,000 people were added to the Church (Acts 2:1-41).  When Mr. Armstrong left the employment of the Church of God Seventh Day to do an independent work, within a few months, maybe about six, he was on radio.  When Dr. Meredith left Worldwide and started Global, within about six weeks he was on radio.

So if many months go by after a fellowship starts and they are not preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world, the hearts of the leader and most of his supporters are probably not in that part of God's work.  They are content to just feed the flock, fellowship with each other, and leave the world alone.

Let us see what happens.  God may be teaching us something.

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Sixth Commandment and the Days of Unleavened Bread

During the days of unleavened bread we avoid leavening to learn the lesson of putting sin out of our lives, and we eat unleavened bread to learn the lesson of putting the righteousness of Christ into our lives.  We focus on examining our lives to find and root out sin.  As part of that self-examination, both for Passover and during the days of unleavened bread, we may review the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21), the sermon on the mount (Matthew chapters 5 through 7 and Luke 6:20-49), and other scriptures that teach us about obeying God's law in the letter and the spirit.

One of the ten commandments says, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13).  Spiritual applications of this include the principles that we must not be angry with our brother without a cause (Matthew 5:21-22), we must love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 5:43-48, 22:39-40), and we must forgive others who sin against us (Matthew 6:14-15).  These princples are timeless and apply to all of us in the Church of God at all times and in all eras.

But there is a particular application of the sixth commandment that applies especially to the Church of God in our time when we are close to the end of the age.

In order not to be guilty of murder, we must warn our neighbors about the coming tribulation that will come upon them if they don't repent of their sins.

This warning to us to warn our neighbors is the message of the Ezekiel warning given in Ezekiel 3:16-21.  Ezekiel 3:20 says that the blood of the people will be on the heads of the "watchman" if we do not warn them.  "When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand" (Ezekiel 3:18).  Also, "Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand" (Ezekiel 3:20).

What does God mean when He says He will require the blood of the people "at the watchman's hand"?  It means there will be blood guilt on the watchman's head if he doesn't give the warning.  It means God will count the watchman as a murderer if the watchman doesn't warn.

Has God made the Church of God and its members a watchman for our Israelite nations and the world in our time to warn them about their sins and the coming great tribulation to punish them if they do not repent?  Yes.

How has God made us the watchman, and how can we know this?

God has given us knowledge of the need for a warning, plus the opportunity to warn, plus the knowledge that He wants us to warn.  He has done this by revealing to us the identity of the tribes of Israel in the modern nations of this world and by revealing to us the truth that the great tribulation will soon come in our time.  He has done this by commanding us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39-40) and to do to others as we would want them to do to us (Matthew 7:12).  He has also specifically commanded us to hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.  "Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter" (Proverbs 24:11).  The only we can deliver and "hold back" this sinning world is to warn.  

Finally, He has given us the passages in Ezekiel that help to show us our responsibility and the seriousness of our calling to this job.

These things, in combination, make us the Ezekiel watchman.

How do we fulfill our responsibility so that God does not count us as being guilty of murder?

The most obvious way is to support with our tithes and offerings a Church of God fellowship that is getting the warning message out and the true gospel to the people of Israel and the world.

Making sure we are doing this is part of obedience to the sixth commandment and part of putting sin out of our lives.  And that should be part of our focus during the days of unleavened bread.

Friday, March 19, 2021

More Scriptural Support for Spiritual Healing

This is the fourth in a series of posts on spiritual healing made possible by the suffering of Christ as the result of His broken body, represented by the broken unleavened bread we take at Passover.

I never planned to make this subject into a long series of posts.   But I keep finding more passages in the Bible that support this apparent truth.  In reading the Bible for self-examination in preparation for Passover, I found this passage in the New Testament.

"For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 'Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth'; Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness - By whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Peter 2:19-25).

Notice these points in the above passage.

1.  Christ suffered for us (verse 21).  This helps set the context, which is Christ suffering to pay the penalty for our sins.

2.  He bore our sins in His body (verse 24).  This refers to His suffering, not just His shed blood.  It is Passover wine that represents His shed blood, that is, His death.  But it is unleavened bread that represents His broken body and His suffering.

3.  Why did He suffer the pains of a broken body?  Verse 24 continues, "that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness".  He suffered a broken body, represented by the broken unleavened bread we eat at Passover, so we can die to sins and live for righteousness, or in other words, stop sinning.  Passover unleavened bread represents the suffering Christ endured so we can have the power to stop sinning and overcome our sins.  This power comes by the Holy Spirit.  But we are able to receive it because Christ suffered for us.

4.  This process is called "healing" in verse 24, "by whose stripes you were healed".  Is this talking about physical healing (removing diseases and effects of injuries to the physical body), or spiritual healing (healing of our sinful nature and character so we can have the righteous character of God).  Up to now, the context has been entirely spiritual - dying to sin and living for righteousness.  There has been no mention of physical sickness.  This seems to suggest that the healing referred to is spiritual healing - given power to die to sin and live for righteousness.  And as I have pointed out, verse 24 specifically states that Christ suffered so we could overcome our sins - die to sin and live for righteousness.  As I stated in previous posts, sin - spiritual sin - causes suffering just as surely as physical sin, the violation of the laws of health, causes disease.  That is one of the penalties of sin - suffering that comes as a result of sin.  Christ suffered to pay that penalty so we can be spiritually healed by the Holy Spirit and made so we no longer sin and so we can begin to live for righteousness.

But has the context here changed in the last part of verse 24?  Has it shifted to physical healing?

5.  Notice verse 25.  This is all because we have gone astray from God.  This is not just talking about physical violations of the laws of health.  This is a general statement about sin and includes spiritual sin - any sin.  This continues the context of the beginning of this passage, which is not talking about physical healing of our diseases.

6.  Verse 24 says Christ bore our sins in His body on the cross.  This statement that He "bore" our sins seems to refer to His suffering, not just His death.  He suffered to bear our sins in His body.  But what kind of sins?  Just physical sins, violations of health laws like eating pork or not wearing a seat belt?  Or spiritual sins also?  Notice the rest of the verse which tells us what kind of sins Peter is talking about.  We are to die to sins and live for righteousness.  Here, sin is contrasted with righteousness.  This is not talking about physical sin, but spiritual sin - the violation of the letter or spirit of the two great commandments and the ten commandments - the transgression of God's spiritual law.

This whole passage connects the concept of turning from sin and living for righteousness - developing God's holy righteous character by the power of God's Holy Spirit - with the term "healing".  We are healed by Christ's stripes, the beading He endured and the suffering He endured both from the sourging and from hanging on the cross, and that healing includes spiritual healing.

Why is this important?, some might ask.

I might also ask, why is the understanding that Christ's body was broken for our physical healing important?  Is that important?  Yes, but why?

God wants us to understand that physical sickness comes as a result of broken health laws, what Mr. Armstrong and the Church of God have called physical sin.  He wants us to know that Christ suffered so we can be physically healed of our sicknesses.  He wants us to know this so we can appreciate Christ's love and the Father's love for us that Christ was willing to suffer so we can be physically healed.  He wants us to give thanks for it.

Likewise, I believe God and Christ want us to understand that Christ suffered so we can also be spiritually healed.  God wants us to understand that sin - the violation of the spiritual law of God - leads to suffering and to more sin - a sinful nature.  That sinful nature leads to more sin and more suffering in an endless cycle of sin and suffering.  The suffering that comes from sin is a penalty of sin, just as death is a penalty of sin.  Christ shed blood pays the death penalty for our sins so we don't have to die the second death, but the suffering He endured in the scourging and on the cross - His broken body represented by the Passover unleavened bread - pays the penalty of suffering our sins bring so we can be spiritually healed.  We can be healed of our sinful nature that leads to suffering and more sin and more suffering.  We can overcome our sinful nature by the power of God's Holy Spirit.  We can stop sinning and no longer have to suffer because of ongoing sins.  We can develop and build God's holy, righteous character which leads to happiness and joy.  We can do these things by the power of the Holy Spirit.  But the gift of the Holy Spirit is made possible by the suffering of Christ which pays the penalty for our sins.  Otherwise, the penalty of sin and suffering would remain upon us and we would have no hope.

I believe God wants us to understand these things and appreciate the gift of God and the suffering Christ endured to make that gift possible.

When we ask God in prayer for His Holy Spirit and for more power to overcome our sins, we should also give Him thanks for the suffering of Christ that makes it possible.

That is why it is important to understand that the suffering of Christ enables our spiritual healing and not just our physical healing.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Can the Concept of Healing Be Connected with Spiritual Growth?

This is the third post in a series, after the last two posts, about the sacrifice of Christ making possible our spiritual healing as well as our physical healing.  By spiritual healing I mean overcoming sin and our sinful nature, putting sin out of our lives, and building God's holy, righteous character in our lives with the help and power of God's Holy Spirit.

Here is a passage that connects the suffering Christ endured with our healing:  "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 53:5-6).

But does the word "healed" refer only to physical healing, or does it include spiritual healing also?  I say it includes spiritual healing also.  It includes BOTH physical and spiritual healing.  By Christ's stripes we are SPIRITUALLY healed as well as physically healed.

Yet, I have heard and read little or nothing in the Church of God's messages about the stripes and beating Christ endured enabling our spiritual healing.  Why is this neglected?

I have tried to think about anything I have heard in the Church that connects the concept of healing with spiritual overcoming.  I do recall something given in a sermon I think that was given over the Internet.  If I recall correctly, the speaker was Mr. Brian Orchard of Church of God the Father's Call (COGFC).  I am not 100% sure who the speaker was.  This was a few years ago.

I don't think the subject matter was Passover.  I don't remember the main subject of the message.  But the speaker mentioned about physical healing saying that God will always heal us physically unless by withholding the physical healing He can accomplish a greater healing.  I don't remember the exact words.

But what was the "greater healing"?  The speaker didn't say, but I understood it, and I think most people would understand it, as some kind of spiritual healing, that is, a kind of character development or learning of a character lesson.

So if I understood it correctly, this was a statement that referred to character development, what I call in this post "spiritual healing", as "healing".  So I am not the only one in the Church of God who understands character building - overcoming sin - as a "healing" of our character.

But the concept of the suffering of Christ - the beating He endured - enabling our spiritual healing is one that seems to be sadly neglected in the teaching of the Church of God.

Don't we fully appreciate Christ's sacrifice in this regard?  Can't we publicly acknowledge that He suffered so we can be empowered to overcome sin?

I'll bet some of the the Protestants acknowledge this and give God thanks for it.  But we in the Church of God don't.  Not openly, anyway, though some members may give God thanks for this privately.

This is something the top leaders of Church of God fellowships should consider.
 

Monday, March 8, 2021

The Connection between Physical Healing and Spiritual Healing

In my last post I pointed out that Christ's sacrifice pays the penalty for our sins so we can be healed physically and spiritually.

Mr. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God have taught, and the Church still teaches, that the beating and physical suffering Christ endured paid the penalty for our physical sins - our breaking of the laws of health - so we can be physically healed in this life of our physical diseases and injuries.  This teaching is true.

But I believe it is equally true, and there is evidence in the Bible, that the beating and suffering Christ endured pays the penalty for our spiritual sins also so we can be spiritually healed of our evil nature and character.  Yet, I do not recall ever hearing this in the Church of God.  Perhaps some ministers have preached about this, but I haven't heard it.  What I seem to be hearing is that the healing that Christ's sacrifice makes possible is physical healing only - not spiritual healing, not healing of our sick and sinful character.

Yet, we need to be healed spiritually as well as physically.  Our character needs to be healed so we no longer have a sinful nature.

Why?

When we sin (and we all have sinned), we bring the death penalty upon ourselves.  That death is the second death.  Christ died to pay the death penalty for us so we can be forgiven and given eternal life.  It is Christ's shed blood - his death - that reconciles us to God, removing the penalty of the second death.  That part of Christ's sacrifice is represented by the wine we take at Passover, which represents His shed blood.

The unleavened bread represents Christ's broken body - the suffering he endured by being beaten and scourged.  That pays the penalty of suffering for our violations of laws of health that result in sickness and disease, what the Church has labeled "physical sin".  Christ paid the penalty of suffering for our violations of the laws of health so we do not have to continue to suffer with our physical diseases.

But we need to be healed spiritually also, and Christ's suffering pays the penalty of suffering for our spiritual sins.

Sin - spiritual sin - sins of hatred, contention, lying, rebellion against authority, selfishness, greed, lust, etc. - results in suffering.  And if God spared us from the second death and gave us eternal life in His kingdom, but did nothing to heal and change our character, we would go on sinning for eternity bringing misery upon ourselves and others.

God has to clean up our character - heal us spiritually - before he can give us eternal life.  Otherwise, eternal life would be a curse, not a blessing.

There are three penalties for spiritual and physical sins, and the sacrifice of Christ must pay the penalties for all three.

One, there is the spiritual penalty of eternal death, the second death.  Christ paid that penalty by dying in our place.  His death was the result of His shed blood and is represented by the Passover wine.  Because Christ died in our place, we can be forgiven and God can give us eternal life.

Two, there is the spiritual penalty of damaged character, what we call human nature, and the suffering that comes as a result of spiritual sin.  When we sin, we damage our character.  Sin leads to more sin.  We acquire a sinful character, and the more we sin, the more we have a tendency to sin.  Sin becomes a habit of mind and spirit.  That leads to more sin, and that sin leads to suffering, both for ourselves and those around us.

When Lucifer first sinned, something happened to his mind.  It became twisted, evil.  He became Satan the Devil, the enemy of God.

God says of Lucifer, now become Satan: "You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you" (Ezekiel 28:15).  And then, "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor" (Ezekiel 28:17).  Notice, Lucifer corrupted his wisdom because of his vanity over his beauty and splendor.  His wisdom, his mind, became corrupted, twisted, evil.

Adam's mind also changed because of his sin.  His sin of eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had a spiritual effect on him.  His sin affected his mind.  He began to acquire what we call human nature, which is really Satan's nature.  His mind and spiritual condition were affected, and he developed a sinful nature - a mind and nature that had a tendency to sin.

Sin is a habit, and the more we sin the more we have a tendency to sin.

Our minds need to be healed of this damage to our character.  This healing occurs through the power of God's Holy Spirit.  God, with our cooperation and effort, builds His holy, righteous character in us.  That is a spiritual healing, but it can occur only because Christ paid the penalty for us.

Three, there is a physical penalty for the physical sin of the violation of the laws of health - sickness and disease.  Christ's suffering pays the penalty for our physical sins so we can be physically healed.

Is there evidence in the Bible for a connection between physical healing and spiritual healing?  In other words, is there any evidence that "healing" in the Bible refers to spiritual healing as well as physical healing?

Last post I pointed out a possible connection.

"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 53:5-6).

This is a passage we are familiar with, and it establishes the principle that by Christ's stripes we are healed.  This is often used to teach the doctrine of physical healing.  But notice the context, because right after that, it says that we all like sheep have gone astray and turned, everyone, to his own way.

How have we gone astray?  How have we turned to our own way?  Just by eating pork?  By not wearing a seat belt?  By smoking?

Is this just talking about physical sin, the violations of the laws of health?

Have we not also gone astray by lying, lusting, coveting, breaking the Sabbath, worshipping idols, stealing, etc.?  Have we not gone astray by our spiritual sins?

Notice this applies to everyone.  Has everyone violated the laws of health?  Maybe not, but everyone has sinned spiritually.

The context of going astray in a general sense, including spiritual and not just physical sins, with the statement that by Christ's stripes we are healed, helps to establish a connection between spiritual sins and healing - spiritual healing.

But here is another connection I did not include in my last post.  I just noticed it a few hours ago.

"And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, 'Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?' When Jesus heard that, He said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance' " (Matthew 9:11-13).

In this passage, Christ connects the concept of sickness with being a sinner in need of repentance.  It is an analogy.  He is comparing the state of being a sinner with being physically sick.  But it is not just an analogy.  In a spiritual sense, those who are sinners in need of repentance are spiritually sick.  They need spiritual healing.  Christ's broken body represented by the symbol of unleavened bread and the suffering Christ endured pays the penalty of our suffering for our spiritual sins and enables us to be spiritually healed.

Has this been taught in the Church of God in modern times?  I hope so.  Probably it has, by someone.  But not much, I think.

This Passover season many ministers and speakers in the Church will be speaking about the Passover symbols and what they represent.  Articles will be written and published (or already have been), sermons and sermonettes will be given, Bible studies will be given, etc.  There will be speaking at Passover services itself, either in person or recorded.  I wonder how many speakers and writers will mention the aspect of Christ's broken body enabling our physical healing, yet totally ignore and say nothing about our need for spiritual healing.  Yet, the spiritual healing is more important than our physical healing.  Physical healing is for this life.  Spiritual healing is for eternity.

I have heard one speaker, who is an advocate for the teachings of Mr. Armstrong, give a message in which he covers a lot of material about Passover, yet not only said nothing about spiritual healing, but did not even say anything about physical healing, which Mr. Armstrong I believe taught.  Maybe he is trying to avoid controversy.  Maybe he is not ready to take a stand one way or another.

I think someone should take a stand on this.  Study the Bible about this.  If I am right, teach it.  If I am wrong, show me.  But don't ignore the question.  Ministers will probably have to deal with this sooner or later.  It isn't going to go away.

I don't say that ministers should contradict their leaders and cause division over this.  That is a judgment call any minister must make - is it important enough?  But at least the top leaders of COG groups, who only answer to Christ, should carefully consider this and teach what they see is right in the Bible, and not just remain silent.

No doubt some members may ask their ministers questions about this.  If you are a minister, how will you reply?