Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 13 - Can the Elijah-work Be Done by a Collective Church Group?

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if we think they conflict with the Bible.

There is one point in chapter 8 of the COGIW article I want to address. I covered some of this in my post in this series titled, "Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 8 - How Can We Know if a Man Is an Apostle?", dated August 17, 2017, link:

The COGIW article, in chapter 8, says that the Elijah to come to prepare the way for Christ's second coming is only an individual, not linked to any other individual and not a collective Church of God group. The article says that there is no indication that this Elijah would be linked to anyone else, and that prophecy is not talking about a collective group to do the work of Elijah.

But that is not correct. When we look at the Bible and let the Bible interpret the Bible, we are to look at all relevant passages concerning the subject we are researching.

Since the death of Mr. Armstrong, there have been some that have de-emphasized his role as the Elijah to come and have said that the work of restoring all things is an Elijah-type work that can be done by the entire Church of God, not just an individual.

I do not agree with everything these people have said, and I strongly feel that Mr. Armstrong, as an individual, was the Elijah to come to restore all things and prepare the way for Christ's second coming, and his role in that should not be de-emphasized.

Nevertheless, contrary to the COGIW article, there is Bible evidence that the work of Elijah can include more than one individual - in fact, an entire supporting group - and that an Elijah-type work can continue after the original Elijah has completed his part of that work.

There is a principle of delegation in the Bible. When a leader delegates or authorizes his followers to do certain work, that work is attributed to both the leader and the ones under the leader who do the actual work.

Here are a couple of examples.

God the Father judges no one directly, but has committed all judgment to Christ. "For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." (John 5:22-23).

Yet, another Bible passage indicates that God the Father does judge us. "And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear" (1 Peter 1:17).

This is not a contradiction. God the Father judges. But He does it through Jesus Christ. The Father has delegated judgment to Christ, and Christ does the actual judging under the Father's authority. In the same way, the Father created all things through Jesus Christ.

The principle of delegation is made clear in this passage: "Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again to Galilee" (John 4:1-3).

Jesus did not do the physical work of baptizing. It was His disciples that did the actual baptizing. But the act of baptizing was attributed to Jesus because the disciples did it by His authority and direction. So it could be rightly said that Jesus baptized. He baptized by delegating the work of baptizing to his disciples.

How does this apply to Elijah?

The COGIW article says that there is no indication that the Elijah work is done by a group. But there is such an indication, if you look at what the Bible says about the first Elijah.

Anyone doing a Bible study about the Elijah to come should not just read the passages in the New Testament about John the Baptist and the prophecies in Malachi, but should also study the life of Elijah, the first Elijah.

After Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal and proved by a great miracle that the LORD was God (1 Kings 18:16-40), God commissioned Elijah to do three things: anoint Hazael as king over Syria, anoint Jehu as king over Israel, and anoint Elisha as prophet in Elijah's place (1 Kings 19:15-16).

Did Elijah do all three of these things directly, as an individual, while he was present and active as prophet? Or was some of this done by others after Elijah was taken away? Those who say that the Elijah work started by Mr. Armstrong cannot be continued as a group activity after his death need to ask this question.

The Bible gives the answer. After Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:9-15), Elisha, not Elijah, anointed Jehu king of Israel, and not even Elisha did it directly but delegated the actual anointing to an unnamed son of the prophets (2 Kings 9:1-10).

How did Elijah fulfill the commission God gave him of anointing Jehu king of Israel? By delegating the task to Elisha who succeeded Elijah

This illustrates both the principle of delegating the continuation of a work to a successor (as Elijah delegated the anointing of Jehu to Elisha, which Elisha did after Elijah was gone) and the principle of delegating a work to others in a group (Elijah delegated the actual work of anointing to a son of the prophets - remember there was a whole group of the sons of the prophets, like a Church of God fellowship today - see 1 Kings 18:3-13 and 2 Kings 2:1-18).

So, while Mr. Armstrong as an individual was the Elijah to come and restore all things and prepare the way for Christ's second coming, there is also a continuation of that work in the Church of God today. The Church of God is to do an Elijah-type work even while recognizing Mr. Armstrong's role as the individual Elijah to come who started the process of restoring all things and preparing the way for Christ. We continue his work as Elisha and the sons of the prophets continued the work of the first Elijah.