Saturday, December 19, 2009

Church of God Governance

Since the death of Herbert W. Armstrong, the Church of God has been scattered and split into many fellowships. The largest of these is United Church of God, but though they are the largest, they are not the most effective in preaching the gospel to the public, and they suffer from internal strife and divisions.

One pastor of that Church asked a friend, "What are we doing wrong? What can we do to revitalize the Work?" That is a good question. But I think the right answer is hard to take.

UCG kept most of the doctrines taught by HWA, but changed the doctrine of hierarchical government and built a system of balloting by the ministry to elect a board to govern the Church. They may have done this because they saw no alternative. But there was an alternative, and there still is, even for UCG pastors today.

Some in UCG may think that the Bible does not teach government from the top down, but it does. Some may have observed the fruits of one-man rule from Mr. Tkach and concluded that a lesson to be learned is the dangers of top-down government, but there is an explanation for that too. But in any case, the fruits of what is happening in UCG show the disadvantages of democracy, and it shows that UCG governance is a democracy, not a "spirit-led consensus." If it were really a spirit-led consensus, it would be hard to explain why God's Spirit would lead most of the voting ministry to approve a move to Texas, then after money was spent for such a move, disapprove it. It should be apparent that the same kinds of divisiveness, factionalism, and politicking that exists in American politics and government exist in UCG governance. You cannot revitalize the work in that kind of environment.

The Bible teaches us not to weaken the office of those in authority over us by openly criticizing them among ourselves, thus tending to show that an alternative elders' forum should not be used to harshly criticize those in power. On the other hand, the Bible teaches us to seek counsel before making a decision, and this means that those who vote must engage in discussions about those in authority to know whether to vote for or against them, and if those discussions are honest there will sometimes be harsh criticism. You cannot follow both of these principles if you have governance by ballot.

Democracy cannot work if criticism is stiffled. Having a system where those under authority select who will be over them in authority virtually guarantees negative criticism of the type that some say exists in the alternative elders' forum.

The contradiction is not between the two biblical principles of respecting authority and seeking counsel before making a decision. The contradiction is between the principles of the Bible and government by voting in the Church.

By placing themselves under the authority of a body of 500 voting ministers, the leadership and ministry have rejected the authority of Christ over the adminstrative work of the Church. That is one of the real sources of the trouble in United Church of God.

What is the solution for UCG ministers today?

When Herbert Armstrong faced disagreement with the ruling powers in Church of God Seventh Day, he has the courage to refuse further salary and trust God for his livelihood, according to his autobiography. Few ministers have that kind of courage or faith today, it seems.

Some pastors in UCG may be afraid to be independent, that is, to pastor their congregations independent of an elected body and trust God to provide them with sufficient member tithes from their congregation, and to report hierarchically to Christ until Christ can make it known by the fruits who He has selected to lead the Church. But if the UCG pastors had done that from the beginning, from the time they left Worldwide, by now it would probably be known who has shown the fruits of wisdom, faith, love, and courage required to lead the Church, and who God has blessed with success in doing His work, and the different pastors could have gathered to that man.

The passage of time is showing, and I think will continue to show, that democracy in the Church of God does not work.

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Should Each Member Promote His Own Opinion?, Chapter 6

When and How to Judge, Chapter 5

A Brief History of the Scattering of the Church, Chapter 5

Government in the Church, Chapter 5

Following the Bible -- Pattern of Government, Chapter 6

Church Government, Chapter 7

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Does Jesus Christ HATE Christmas?

Does Jesus Christ HATE Christmas?

Does God hate Christmas? Do God the Father and Jesus Christ hate Christmas no matter how it is kept?

Here is a quote from a post someone made in one in a forum: "To put it plainly, based on what God says in the Bible, I think God and Christ HATE Christmas with a passion. Figuratively speaking, I think it makes them want to vomit!"

Is that true?

To millions of people, Christmas represents the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And the birth of Jesus was a wonderful event, and the angels announced it as tidings of great joy (Luke 2:8-14). To others who are more secular, Christmas may represent a time of eating, drinking, music, and the giving of presents. To children, it may represent the receiving of presents from Santa Claus.

What does Christmas represent to God?

First, a bit of background. Ever wonder what an evergreen tree has to do with the birth of Jesus Christ, or why Christmas falls on December 25, close to the winter solstice (at one time, December 25 was thought to fall exactly on the Winter solstice)? If you look up the origin of the custom of Christmas in the encyclopedia, you will find that both the date and the customs come from paganism. The evergreen tree is a fertility symbol, and the winter solstice figured in sun worship because that is the date when the days would start getting longer. The mainstream Christian church adopted the pagan customs and day and converted them into a celebration of the birth of Christ as a method of trying to make conversion to Christianity easier for the masses who were already accustomed to observing that day as part of their pagan religion. That way, the masses could keep their tradition, but with a different meaning. Instead of worshipping the sun, the pagan day would be used to worship Christ. That was the human reasoning.

But what does God say?

"When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it" (Deuteronomy 12:29-32).

Notice that God commands His people NOT to imitate pagan customs in the way they worship God, but only to worship God as He commands we worship Him. "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it."

"Thus says the Lord: 'Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, For the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers So that it will not topple" (Jeremiah 10:2-4).

God directly commands His people NOT to do what men have done with Christmas - appropriate pagan customs into the worship of God. God has given Israel and the Church seven annual holy days and festivals, days to be kept yearly, but the majority of Americans do not keep those days. Instead, they keep days like Christmas, days invented by men, adapted from false, pagan religions, and kept generation after generation by tradition, a tradition contrary to the will and commands of God. We have become like the ancient Pharisees, whom Jesus condemned for their hypocrisy, breaking the law of God to keep our traditions. "He said to them, 'All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition' " (Mark 7:9). God does not accept that kind of worship. When we worship Christ that way, we worship Him in vain. "...This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:6-7). Jesus called those who do this HYPOCRITES (first part of verse 6).

We are hypocrites if we claim that Christ is our Lord, but do not strive to do what God says. "But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). We can call Christ our brother, ONLY if we do the will of the Father and obey God's word, the Bible. "But He answered and said to them, 'My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it' " (Luke 8:21). "But He answered and said to the one who told Him, 'Who is My mother and who are My brothers?' And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, 'Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother' " (Matthew 12:48-50).

What does Christmas represent to God the Father and Jesus Christ? It represents rebellion against God, because that is exactly what it is.

Do you think God accepts something just because you think your intentions are good? You think God is not concerned about the details of where Christmas originated?

Ancient King Saul thought he was doing the right thing when he offered sacrifices to God from the spoil he took from a mission God sent him on, spoil which God told him to destroy, not offer it as a sacrifice. God did not accept his sacrifice or his supposedly "good intention." God rejected him as king for not obeying exactly what God told him. "So Samuel said: 'Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king" (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Christmas also represents hypocrisy, the same kind of hypocrisy the Pharisees were guilty of when they broke God's commandments to keep their traditions. We are hypocrites if we claim to honor Christ by disobeying God's command in Deuteronomy 12:29-32.

"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17-20).

The quote from the forum post is from myself. I commented in a forum that God hates Christmas, because that is what I find in the Bible.

"But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46).

What is your answer?

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Traditional Christian Holidays, Chapter 2

Monday, October 26, 2009

New articles and book I have written

I have just completed and published two new articles and a new book. These are in the public domain and can be read online or downloaded free in .pdf format.

The True Gospel and the Ezekiel Warning is a full length book of seven chapters that shows how to prove that God inspired the Bible, what the true gospel really is, and what Bible prophecy predicts for the United States and the English-speaking nations of the world in the near future. It also discusses several matters of Bible doctrine in detail.

Here is a list of what is covered in each of seven chapters:

Chapter 1 - The United States and Britain in prophecy.
This chapter shows how to identify prophecies that pertain particularly to the English speaking people today. This chapter also gives proof that God exists and that He has inspired the Bible.

Chapter 2 - What is the True Gospel?
This chapter explains from the Bible what the true gospel is and how Bible teachings differ from mainstream, traditional Christian doctrines.

Chapter 3 - Is Observance of the Weekly Sabbath and Annual Feast Days Required?
What does the Bible really teach about the weekly Sabbath and annual holy days and feasts given in the Old Testament? Are these days only part of the Old Covenant and obsolete, or should they be kept today? This chapter explains the answer from the Bible.

Chapter 4 - The Name of God
Is God's name "Jehovah"? Is "God" a name or a title only? Is Jesus Christ God and has He existed forever, or was He created? Is God more than one person? Is it correct to use "Lord" as God's name? These are some of the questions that will be answered in this chapter from the Bible.

Chapter 5 - How to Know a Prophet
Seventh Day Adventists regard Helen White as a prophet. Mormons believe Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is inspired by God. Bible prophecy predicts both true and false prophets to appear between now and the return of Christ. It is important to know therefore how to tell if a man is a true prophet of God, or not. This short chapter covers the basics of the signs of a true prophet and what to look for in evaluating if a man or woman is a true prophet of God.

Chapter 6 - The Theory of Evolution and the Creation of Species.
This chapter shows that the physical evidence in fossils and genetics is entirely consistent with a literal understanding of Genesis. It also proves that evolution is a faith and that the scientific method itself prevents science from proving that evolution occurred. It also shows from the Bible how God views our materialistic society, a society that is dominated more and more atheistic evolution.

Chapter 7 - The Ezekiel Warning
The Ezekiel warning is a warning of punishment upon the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and other nations for our sins. This chapter shows where to find that warning in the Bible, what our sins are, and what the punishment will be like.

I have also published a new site on the Creation of Species. This article discusses the evolution vs. creation controversy and suggests a new way the Bible account in Genesis may be reconciled with the physical evidence of fossils and genetics.

The United States and the World in Bible Prophecy is a article dedicated entirely to showing what Bible prophecy predicts for the United States and the world in the years just ahead.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Global Warming and Prophecy

There is a great emphasis on global warming in the news, in politics, and in the media at large. It is certainly a biblical principle that mankind should care for the environment (Genesis 2:15, Genesis 1:27-28, Revelation 11:17-18). Yet this current emphasis on global warming can obscure a more important issue and a greater danger to the United States and other nations.

It seems that every time there is any kind of weather disaster, whether it be a hurricane, drought, flooding, tornadoes, extreme heat, or extreme cold, there are many who try to tie this to global warming. People are being conditioned to blame every weather disaster on man's pumping of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

Yet the Bible does predict disasters to come, including weather disasters, but not necessarily due to global warming. The disasters that are coming are punishments for our sins, such as murder, adultery, idolatry, stealing, lying, Sabbath breaking, and every other violation of the Ten Commandments.

And this is the issue that the emphasis on global warming obscures.

The United States is declining in morality at a breathtaking pace. Americans only fifty years ago would be shocked to see what our society has become today. Abortions since Roe vs. Wade total in the tens of millions. Immorality is commonplace. Lying is expected. Few people keep God's Sabbath. People have made an idol out of pleasure, and that idol is one they serve more than God. Few people take the time to seriously seek God by studying the Bible to know His will. There is injustice and oppression of the poor.

The Bible shows that God does intervene to protect or punish His people. There are rewards for obedience and punishments for disobedience. This is shown by the history of Israel and God's promises of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 11:13-15, 26-28, Deuteronomy 28:1-14, 15-67). Notice especially Deuteronomy 28:23-24: "And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. The Lord will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed."

Drought and weather disasters are among the ways God punishes His people for their sins. And these things are written as examples for our learning (1 Corinthians 10:6).

Yet some of the very people who are most zealous about the cause of global warming are very lax when it comes to upholding moral standards and obedience to the Ten Commandments of God who is able to bless us with good weather or withhold that blessing to punish us for our sins.

If we do not repent as a nation and if our sins continue, a time will come when God will punish us for our sins with drought so serious that it can bring about food shortages and even famine.

Yet the public is being conditioned to blame weather disasters on global warming, not on our sins such as abortion and the open disrespect for God in the media and entertainment industry.

We are dependent on God for good weather but we are also dependent on His protection in an increasingly dangerous world.

I have studied the history of World War II, and I am convinced there were many times when God intervened to help the United States and the British nations to survive and win the war. Had we lost that war it is unlikely we would have the freedom of religion we have today.

But our morality has declined, and we are not using our freedoms responsibly. We are being more and more anti-God in our culture. And unless we turn around as a nation, God will not continue to protect us from our enemies indefinitely.

I talk about this topic in more detail in chapters one and three of my book Preaching the Gospel (see link in right panel of this blog).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Should the Church Observe God's Annual Feasts and Holy Days?


God ordained seven annual festivals and seven annual holy days, or sabbath days, in the Old Testament. Should God's Church observe those days today?

This post will explore this issue and try to answer the question of whether the Church should observe the annual feasts of God.

I will assume that the reader understands that the seventh-day Sabbath is still in effect for the Church. This is very easily proved, and I will not take the space to prove it here. This paper explores the issue of the annual holy days, sabbaths, and feasts given by God to Moses in the Old Testament and whether those days should be observed by the Church today. For there are many people who accept and observe the weekly Sabbath who do not observe the annual holy days.

Before going further, I want to thank everyone who has contributed ideas, information, and questions on this or related topics in my blog or via email. I have been helped by all those who agree with me on this issue, those who disagree with me, and those who have asked questions.


I will not start with Paul's epistles in doing this Bible study. Peter warns that there are things in Paul's writings that are hard to understand, and a principle I follow is letting clear scriptures interpret unclear and difficult scriptures. I have found no scriptures in Paul's writings that definitely and specifically discuss the holy days by name, either individually ("Pentecost", "Day of Trumpets", etc.) or as a group ("the feasts of the Lord") in the context of whether we should keep them or not. Every passage from Paul used by those who oppose holy day observance is a general reference to "law" or to "days" without being specific as to whether we should or should not observe God's ordained feasts. I will cover some of those passages later.

But I will start with the teaching of Jesus Christ in the gospel according to Matthew.

Jesus said that till heaven and earth pass away and all things are fulfilled in the law and the prophets (the "law" in this case is a common reference to the books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy, and the "prophets" includes the books that make up the major and minor prophets, Isaiah through Malachi), nothing would pass from the law (Matthew 5:17-18). When will this be? When the prophecy in Isaiah 65:17 is fulfilled and the old heavens and earth have passed away and there is a new heaven and earth - see also Revelation 21:1. This has not yet been fulfilled.

This shows that we need to be very cautious about assuming that anything in the law has been abolished without strong scriptural evidence that it has been abolished. The law commands observance of God's annual feasts and holy days (sabbaths) in Leviticus 23. God's feasts and holy days continue unless we can clearly prove from the New Testament that God has ended them for the Church.


Some people think that these annual days must end because they are shadows of Christ, and to keep a shadow is to deny Christ. These people often quote Colossians 2:16-17 in this regard. But Paul is not saying that all shadows are obsolete. He is simply pointing out that the reality of what a shadow represents is always more important than the shadow. This passage used the Greek word skia, Strong’s Concordance number 4639, translated "shadow". It means shadow, the image of something made on a background from a source of light. What Paul mean by a shadow? It is a representation of something, such as a ritual, a ceremony, or a symbol. It is a physical act whose value lies in what it represents.

Animal sacrifices are a shadow of the sacrifice of Christ, and they have ended for the Church. But not all shadows have ended. The New Testament itself ordains rituals, ceremonies, and symbols that are shadows of something else.

A ritual, ceremony, symbol, or "shadow" can point backwards to remind us of what has been fulfilled or can point forward to teach us about something that is yet to be fulfilled.

The New Testament ordains ceremonies, rituals, and symbols, which are shadows. The New Testament symbols of bread and wine representing the body and blood of Christ, baptism, the laying on of hands for the receiving of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:2, Acts 8:16-17), foot washing (John 13:3-17), and the anointing of the sick with oil (James 5:14-15) are all examples of New Testament rituals, ceremonies, and symbols which are shadows of things.

Why does God use shadows? To teach us and to remind us of things.

A shadow is not wrong, nor do all shadows end when they are fulfilled. If you want to know if a shadow ends, you have to look to the scriptures to see if that particular shadow or ritual has ended. For example, there are clear scriptures that show that physical circumcision is no longer required for the Church. There is no such scripture saying that holy days have ended.

God's seven annual feasts and holy days are indeed shadows, because each one of these seven represents or is an image of a greater reality. Each one represents something different. Some have been fulfilled and some have not yet been fulfilled, but they all continue. Those which have been fulfilled remind us of what has been fulfilled and those which have not been fulfilled teach us about what is to come.

Yet the annual sabbath days are more than a shadow. They are commanded days of rest and assembly that provide opportunities for drawing closer to God in prayer, Bible study, and assembling for instruction and fellowship. God wants us to spend time with Him on these days just as on the weekly Sabbath.

Likewise the weekly seventh-day Sabbath is also a shadow of something to come. It is a symbol of the coming 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ after 6,000 years of mankind ruling himself. But it is more than a shadow, because we use that time to draw closer to God.


If a shadow does not necessarily end when it is fulfilled, why do we not offer animal sacrifices?

We do not offer animal sacrifices because only the priesthood of Aaron is authorized to offer the sacrifices and do priestly duties (1 Samuel 13:7-14, 2 Chronicles 26:16-210. It would be a sin for anyone else to do it. The Church is not represented by the priesthood of Aaron, but by the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

The priesthood of Aaron was a national priesthood and was strictly limited to the Old Covenant. It required a national system of the twelve tribes, each with its own farmland, supporting the tribe of Levi with their tithes, and the tribe of Levi supporting the priesthood of Aaron. When the priests offered animal sacrifices for the annual feasts and holy days, they did it on behalf of the nation. The Church of God is not a nation. We are an assembly of Christians living among the nations of this world. The rules of the Levitical priesthood do not apply to the Church. Likewise we do not stone people for murder, return to our inherited land every 50 years, etc. Those were national laws for the nation of Israel. Those things associated with the priesthood of Aaron do not continue today for the Church.

But the annual holy days are not limited to the priesthood of Aaron. The common people from all the tribes did not offer holy day sacrifices - only the priests did that - but the people rested and assembled for services just as they did on the weekly sabbath, and just as the Church does today.


Although the law has not been abolished, it has been changed (Hebrews 7:12-14). This passage in Hebrews shows that the priesthood of Aaron has been replaced by the priesthood of Jesus Christ for the Church. The fact that the law has been CHANGED shows that it has not been abolished, because you do not change something if you abolish it.

Also, this passage give a guiding principle as to what changes and why. The law was changed out of NECESSITY. It is those things that must change out of necessity that are changed. There is no such necessity to change the law of the holy days, except that animal sacrifices are no longer offered.

It is clear in the New Testament that physical circumcision is not required for the Church. This is an example of how God makes it very clear that something is no longer required. Paul mentions circumcision very clearly and specifically by name (Acts 15:1, 24, Romans 2:25-29, Romans 4:9-12, 1 Corinthians 7:17-19, Galatians 5:1-2, 11, Galatians 6:11-15, Colossians 3:11) and says clearly that it is not required. There is nothing like that in the New Testament about the holy days and feasts saying we should not keep them, referring either to the general term "feasts of the Lord" or specific feasts such as "the Feast of Trumpets" or "the Feast of Pentecost".

Why is circumcision no longer required? Circumcision was given to Abraham, but in the time of Moses it came to represent being a citizen of the nation of Israel. When a Gentile wanted to become a citizen of Israel, he was circumcised (Exodus 12:48-49). Likewise, in the time of Paul, a Gentile could become a Jew and thus a citizen of the nation of Israel by being circumcised. By so doing, he could be represented by the priesthood of Aaron, which was a national priesthood, and come into all the rules and regulations taught by that priesthood (Matthew 23:1-4, Matthew 15:1-3) as well as the promises made to the nation of Israel under the terms of the Old Covenant. But that is not necessary for the Church because we are under the terms of the New Covenant and are represented by the priesthood of Jesus Christ.


God sometimes shows the importance of something by the context in which He commands or teaches it. Thus, the importance of the weekly Sabbath is shown by the fact that God included it in the Ten Commandments along with commands to have no other gods besides God, to avoid using images in worship, to honor our father and mother, to avoid adultery, murder, stealing, etc. But God also shows the importance of the annual feasts and sabbaths by listing them with the weekly Sabbath in Leviticus 23. This puts the annual feasts in the same category as the weekly Sabbath.

Zechariah 14:16-19 shows that the Feast of Tabernacles will be kept after Christ returns.

There is evidence in the New Testament that Paul kept the holy days and instructed his Gentile congregations to keep them. In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, Paul wrote, "let us keep the feast". This seems to be in the context of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for it is here that God inspired Paul to teach what the Days of Unleavened Bread represent. Some object saying that "keeping the feast" here is figurative and it means living in Christ. But Christ is nowhere referred to in the Bible as "keeping a feast", and the contrast Paul paints is not between keeping the feast physically or spiritually as he would if this were a controversy. He is talking about literally keeping a feast, a feast his congregation already knew about and was keeping. He is showing them that they need to fulfill the spiritual meaning of the feast even as they kept it physically.

Acts 18:21 shows Paul telling those in Ephesus that he intended to keep a coming feast in Jerusalem. Some object saying that the words "I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem" is missing from some manuscripts. But the following word "but" is not missing, and it seems to me that it would make no sense for that word to be there except as a connecting word between two clauses. And if this clause is in some manuscripts but not others, then it was either added or removed. The Jews had no custody of the Christian scriptures. The Church of God would not change the Bible. The only groups that might try to change the original writings and had the power to do it are the large groups such as those that became the Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, and neither of these would have the motive to add this in support of Old Testament holy days. But they would have the motive to remove it.

These seven annual feasts and holy days have important symbolic meaning, meaning that ancient Israel never understood. They did not understand, for example, that Passover represented the future sacrifice of Christ. They did not understand that Pentecost represents the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church so that we are a kind of firstfruits of God's salvation. God gives rituals and shadows as a tool to teach. Common sense indicates that God would want us, who understand the meaning of these days, to keep them, even more than ancient Israel who did not understand what they meant.


Some say that only the law written on tables of stone continues (the Ten Commandments) and not other law not written on stone. But Jesus said that the two great commandments are to love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40), and these commandments are greater than the Ten Commandments because all the law and the prophets hang on them, including the Ten Commandments. Yet those two great commandments are not written on stone.

Some object to the holy days because there is no record of them in Genesis. But there is no record of any of the Ten Commandments being given as instructions from God in Genesis, yet the Ten Commandments continue. Silence in Genesis proves nothing.

Some say that because sacrifices were offered on the holy days that this means the holy days do not continue. But sacrifices were also offered on the weekly Sabbath, so the offering of sacrifices on a day does not mean the day is abolished when the sacrifices end.

Some point out Old Testament scriptures and prophecies where God seems to speak against feasts that Israel was keeping. These can refer to pagan feasts that Israel was keeping instead of God's feasts, or it could refer to Israel keeping the feasts with a wrong attitude or mixing God's feasts with sinful practices ("I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting" - Isaiah 1:13). Here are some scriptures some use:

Hosea 2:11 and 5:5-7 - This is referring to a prophesied punishment for sins. Israel and/or Judah would suffer the punishment of no longer being able to keep the annual days they were keeping. This is not necessarily God's rejection of the holy days, but His rejection of Israel who was sinning and was about to go into punishment and captivity. But also, these days are not even necessarily God's holy days. Jeroboam rejected God's ordained feasts days and set up different days, and the northern kingdom of Israel probably never returned to God's true feast days (1 Kings 12:25-33).

Isaiah 1:13-14 - God is rejecting Israel because of their sins. Verse 13 and verse 15 explain. They may have been keeping God's holy days, but their lives were full of sin and God could not endure their hypocrisy of appearing before Him in their sacred meetings while their hands were full of blood.

Amos 5:21 - This is a message to the northern kingdom of Israel (Amos 1:1). Jeroboam rejected God's ordained days and practices and started his own, in some cases on different days, and with different priests and with idols (1 Kings 12:25-330. If you read the history of the different kings of the northern kingdom of Israel, not one was righteous in God's sight, so it is unlikely that Israel ever returned to keeping God's true feasts and holy days as God ordained. They were no longer God's feasts but the feasts of men.

Some may feel that the holy days are not required because they are not commanded in the New Testament. But the weekly Sabbath is also not commanded in the New Testament, yet it continues. Silence in the New Testament does not changed what God has commanded in the Old Testament.

Likewise Acts 15 does not mention the holy days, but it also does not mention the weekly Sabbath, clean and unclean meats, etc. Acts 15 was an administrative decision on Church policy concerning what would be taught and commanded the Gentile members of the Church at that time, and is not intended to be an all-inclusive description of God's law.

Galatians 4:21-31, 5:1-4 - The Galatians had an attitude problem, some of them. Verse 4 of chapter 5 is the key. They wanted to be circumcised because they thought it was necessary and they thought they could be justified by law keeping rather than through faith in the sacrifice of Christ.

Ephesians 2:14-17 - Paul is not specific about what He is calling the "enmity", the "law of commandments contained in ordinances" as it is translated. There is absolutely no mention of the feasts of the Lord or annual sabbaths. In fact, by calling the "law of commandments contained in ordinances" the "enmity", this rules out that he could be talking about God's holy days, because there is nothing about those days that constitutes enmity of any kind.

Colossians 2:13-14 - "the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us" cannot refer to the holy days and feasts of God. I have kept them for about 25 years and I know from experience what a blessing they are and that they are not against me any more than the weekly Sabbath is against me. Probably Paul is referring the requirement of the death penalty for our sins, which was nailed to the cross.

Colossians 2:16-23 - Verse 16 seems to be saying, do not let any man judge you in how you keep the feasts and sabbaths. In the phrase "the body is of Christ" (KJV), the word "is" is not in the original Greek. The phrase is, "the body of Christ". So this could mean, it is the body of Christ, the Church, which is to judge these matters, not any man. There is also in verses 20-23 a rebuke of those who practice the commandments and doctrines of men. This cannot refer to the holy days which were given by God.


Why are there not more explicit instruction in the New Testament showing us that we should keep the annual feasts and holy days of God, and how to keep them?

There are some things God wants us to seek and dig out of His Word and prove our zeal in doing this. He does not always cram His truth down our throats.

How does the Church know where to keep the feasts and holy days and how to keep them?

Just as God gave the priesthood of Aaron authority, so God has given the ministry of the Church binding authority to make certain decisions (Matthew 16:18-19). The ministry of the Church has the authority to make decisions, guided by God, in where these days should be observed and format of services and how they are to be observed for the members of the Church that they pastor.

In some cases a Christian may not be able to attend with a group that observes these days. In that case I would recommend that a Christian rest on the holy days and keep the days on his own with the wisdom and guidance God gives through the Bible and the Holy Spirit until such time as God provides the opportunity to attend with a Church that keeps these days. But it is better to keep these days with a church that keeps them whenever possible.

Some Christians have been wrongly taught for years that to keep God's holy days means to deny Christ, and these Christians may have a conscience problem with keeping these days. We should certainly pay attention to our conscience in matters that are optional as far as God's word is concerned (Romans 14:22-23), so for example if I feel guilty eating meat, I should not eat meat. But there is no commandment of God that I eat meat. In matters where God's will is clear in the Bible, God's word must override our conscience (Matthew 4:4)., 2/26/09

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why Is the Bible Sometimes Hard to Understand?

Why is the Bible sometimes hard to understand when it comes to certain doctrinal matters? Or to put it another way, why do sincere people sometimes disagree about what the Bible says in certain basic doctrines? Why isn't the Bible so plain and clear in everything it teaches that there is no room for misunderstanding or disagreement about what it says?

Different churches and individuals believe different things, yet each claims to follow the Bible. Some Christians observe Sunday, some observe the seventh day of the week as Sabbath, and some observe no day at all. Some think the Ten Commandments are done away and some think they are still in force. Some think it is ok to use images and pictures of God and Christ as an aid to worship and some believe that is wrong. Beliefs about prophecy and the events described in Revelation vary widely. This is one reason there are so many churches. There are many churches because there are many beliefs. Some things are believed by all Christian churches. I am sure every church claiming to be Christian believes, correctly, that Jesus Christ died for our sins. But there are many points of difference in doctrine between Catholics, Baptists, Church of God members, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. - all claiming to be Christian yet interpreting the Bible differently on many subjects.

The force of tradition can be an influence. It is hard for someone to overcome wrong traditions they were raised in when they read the Bible. Yet even among those who are willing to give up their tradition, there is wide disagreement about what the Bible says.

God inspired the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). This can be proven by fulfilled prophecy. God cannot lie, so the Bible is true (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). God's word, the Bible, can be trusted (Psalm 119:160, John 17:17). Yet not everything in the Bible is clear and easy to understand. Some things that Paul wrote, for example, are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:14-16).

Yet this is the way that God inspired the Bible to be written. God did not have to do it that way. He could have inspired Paul to write more clearly. God could have made the Bible so clear, plain, and easy to understand that there would be no room for disagreement. Instead, He allowed much of the Bible relating to doctrine to be hard to understand, and as a result, men are able to twist the scriptures (2 Peter 3:14-16).

Why did God allow the Bible, which is His word, to be written that way? Why did God not make the Bible more clear on every subject?

Since the sin of Adam, the world as a whole has been cut off from a right relationship with God (Genesis chapter 3). During the last 6,000 years, Satan has been the invisible ruler of this world (Luke 4:5-7, John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11, Ephesians 2:2). Satan deceives the whole world, and God allows Satan to do his work of deception at this time (Revelation 12:9). But when Christ returns, Satan will be put away and Christ will rule the earth for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-6). This is part of God's 7,000 year plan. Mankind will be able to compare the result of Satan's way of life for 6,000 years and God's way of life for 1,000 years and will see by the results that God's way is better.

But we are still in the 6,000 year period. Christ has not returned yet, and Satan is still ruling and deceiving this society. Satan is the predominant spiritual influence in this world, this society, this civilization right now, not God. Yet God is calling a few now to come out of this world, to be converted, and to be part of the first resurrection to sit with Christ on His throne when He returns (Matthew 7:13-14, Revelation 20:5-6).

God has the power to prevent Satan from doing his work of deception. God is more powerful than Satan, and Satan can only do what God allows him to do (Job 1:12, 2:6). But it is God's will that Satan be able to deceive mankind at this time. It is God's will that Satan be the ruler of this world, to do his work of deception, so that mankind as a whole follows Satan's way of life for 6,000 years and writes the lesson of suffering and destruction in human history during this age of man. Then mankind will be able to compare the suffering and warfare of this age when men are living Satan's way of life with the happiness and peace that will exist under the rule of Jesus Christ when mankind will live God's way of life.

It has been God's will that the Bible be widely distributed in our time. It is the world's all time best seller and has been translated into just about every language. It is easily available in most large bookstores. This facilitates the calling and instruction of Christians all over the world from every background. Yet, God has not inspired the Bible to be written so that it is so clear and easy to understand that Satan cannot deceive people about it. God does allow Satan to deceive the majority in this world, even in matters of religious doctrine and even in matters of Bible interpretation.

So the Bible is written in such a way that it is easy for people to twist scriptures if they are trying to use the Bible to justify what they want to believe or already believe.

I have heard someone say that you can prove anything with the Bible, and in a sense, there is some truth in that. A person can use the Bible to argue his position, and he can usually find scriptures to support his beliefs, whatever those beliefs are. But not honestly.

I think there is a principle of doctrinal and spiritual perception here. If you are trying to understand truth from the Bible with an open mind, God is likely to help you understand if you have a willingness to accept and obey it. But I think God has structured His word such that if a person is trying to put his own meaning into the text, he will be able to find a way. In other words, if he really wants to believe something, and that is more important than accepting the truth with an open mind, if he is trying to find a way to reconcile what he wants to believe with the Bible, God will allow him to do it. He will find scriptures he can twist to fit what he wants to believe. And he probably won't even realize he is doing this. I think God has structured the Bible that way and has given Satan that kind of deceptive power.

But if God is calling you to His truth, and you earnestly want to understand and believe what God is really saying in the Bible, God can help you to understand what He is saying and will free you from Satan's deceptions, perhaps one point at a time. Then each point of truth becomes a test. If you are willing to believe and strive to obey what God shows you, then God will continue to help you understand more, one point at a time.

God doesn't cram His truth down our throats. We have to want it with a sincere mind and zealously seek it. We have to realize that it is precious, like a rare pearl, and be willing to make sacrifices to obtain it. We have to want to know the truth more than we want to keep our beliefs. We should strive to learn to trust God more than ourselves.