As Mr. Gerald Weston pointed out in a sermon recently published by Living Church of God (LCG), Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong often started his holy day sermons by asking the question, "Why are we here?".
On a holy day, why are we here? Why do we assemble for holy day services?
We are here because Mr. Armstrong believed the Bible more than the Church.
The Church of God Seventh Day did not keep the holy days.
Mr. Armstrong knew Christ was the head of the Church of God. But he never assumed that the Church of God leadership correctly followed Jesus Christ. Christ leads the Church through the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and circumstances, but Church of God ministers and leaders do not always follow where Jesus Christ leads. Mr. Armstrong never assumed that the doctrines of the true Church of God were all correct. He never assumed that the Church had the right interpretation of scripture. If he saw something in the Bible different from what the Church taught, he believed the Bible, not the Church. He believed God and His word more than men, even the leadership and ministry of the true Church of God.
So when he saw that the Bible taught that we should keep the holy days, he believed God, not the Church.
That is why we are here.
Monday, August 23, 2021
As Mr. Gerald Weston pointed out in a sermon recently published by Living Church of God (LCG), Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong often started his holy day sermons by asking the question, "Why are we here?".
Saturday, July 24, 2021
I recently heard an inspiring sermon on the Internet from a Church of God minister, and I want to share my reactions with my readers in the spirit of "iron sharpens iron". Some COG members, in different groups and scattered and some at home, may struggle from time to time with questions and issues of, "Who should I support?", and, "Where should I attend?". When COG members communicate with each other about common problems, we can sometimes help each other with ideas, ideas we can check independently with God's word. So here I will offer my ideas and thoughts. You can check what I say in your own Bible studies. I have also given a number of posts in my blog over the past year on the things I will speak about, and I go into more detail in those posts.
The sermon was about trusting God. It was given by the leading pastor of a small group that has existed for a short time compared with other Church of God groups.
This pastor is energetic, courageous, bold, hard-working, and intelligent, and he seems to be zealous for God's law and exercising faith in God's protection and blessings. He is a very inspiring and charismatic speaker. I enjoyed the sermon, and felt inspired by it. No doubt many members of this group, and those from other groups or scattered members who stay at home, were inspired by this sermon, or will be if they hear it in the future.
He and the members of his small group seem to have strong faith in God's protection.
And it seems that God has blessed this man and this small group in a way He has not blessed many other Church of God fellowships. Based on fruits, it seems that God is rewarding their faith and trust in Him.
God may be using this man and the small Church of God fellowship he pastors to teach the whole Church of God - all COG fellowships and scattered members who stay at home - a lesson about faith and trust in God. God responds to and rewards faith and trust in Him. He blesses those who are zealous to do His will, who keep His commandments, and who trust Him for their protection.
We can all learn a lesson in that.
And it may be that this is part of why Christ raised up this group, or allowed it to start and prosper. Christ may be using this group and its pastor to teach lessons to the whole Church of God - all the scattered members and fellowships - about the importance of trusting God in trials and being zealous to do His will.
And for that reason I have considered supporting this group and recommending them to others. But I can't.
There is a problem. That problem has not gone away. Regular readers of this blog probably know where I am going with this.
They are not preaching the gospel to the world or the Ezekiel warning to Israel, which God commands and is God's will. They are not getting a warning message out to the public, which the people need. Our nations need that warning, even if they do not heed it, so that when the punishment comes upon them, they will know that God was fair to give them a warning first, and seeing God's fairness and righteousness, to be able to trust God and repent and be teachable, those who survive, in the millennium. But if they don't hear a warning before they were punished, they will tend to blame God and say, "No one warned me - if God had warned me before He punished me, I would have heeded the warning and repented", It will be harder for them to trust God enough to repent and be converted. Some may lose their eternal lives because of this, if they can't see that God was fair to them.
And God is fair to warn. The Bible shows this. From the warning to Cain in Genesis to the warning at the end of the book of Revelation, GOD WARNS. Do a Bible study on this some time. You may end up reading the whole Bible.
But this small group and its leader - who gave such an inspiring sermon on the blessings of trusting God and having courage to obey Him - has not begun to warn our nations in God's name. The warning is God's message to the nations, not our message. We are the delivery service God has commissioned to deliver His warning message. We have received the message from God's hand, put it in our pocket. and sat on it without delivering it, many of us. That does not honor God and magnify His name.
Many members of this group have come out of one or more groups that are getting the warning message and the true gospel out to the nations. By departing from those groups and forming a group that does not preach the gospel and the warning to the public, they have hurt and diminished the work of God.
But maybe this group is getting ready to start a work, a powerful work that God will empower and bless, to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning about the tribulation to come to Israel. Maybe God will reward this group and its leader for their zeal and trust in Him by giving them the open door for preaching the gospel promised to Philadelphia, and maybe God will empower them and lead them to go through that open door with great power and awesome results!
This leader and group have, in works, denied the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced that enabled God to give Mr. Armstrong an open door for the gospel and the warning message.
In past posts I have expounded on this at length, and I encourage you to read those posts in this blog.
But if you have questions about this, read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, and ask, why did God give him and his early supporters an open door for preaching the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public?
Mr. Armstrong did not start the Church of God. He learned from and began to attend with the Church of God Seventh Day.
But God did not start a Philadelphia work with Church of God Seventh Day. He started it with Mr. Armstrong and the group he led, first called the "Radio Church of God" and later renamed "Worldwide Church of God". And God didn't start the Philadelphia era until Mr. Armstrong began to separate from Church of God Seventh Day.
There was an important difference between Church of God Seventh Day and Mr. Armstrong. They did not practice the same way of life exactly. That difference qualified Mr. Armstrong for the open door and helped make him a Philadelphian. That same difference disqualified Church of God Seventh Day from being used by God to preach a powerful message to the public.
That difference was simple. Mr. Armstrong was willing to believe God more than man.
He was willing to believe and follow what God says in the Bible more than he believed and followed any man, more than any minister or Church of God leader, more than any church organization, and more than any tradition. He was willing to change his traditions to follow God's word wherever it led him, even if it meant overturning previous Church of God teachings and traditions, and even if it meant adding new knowledge to what the Church of God already had.
He was also willing to correct his own errors when God corrected Him through the Bible.
He was willing to change.
And that is a vital difference. Church of God Seventh Day was not willing to correct its errors, not willing to change its traditions, and not willing to learn new knowledge. In short, they were not willing to change.
And like Church of God Seventh Day, like the Catholic Church, like the Protestant churches, the small group and its leader I mentioned who gave such an inspiring sermon on trusting God are not willing to change. They will not let the Bible correct them in doctrine. They will not learn new things from the Bible. Instead, they are committed, at least the leader, to sticking with the teachings of Mr. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong was willing to correct his own errors and learn new things from God, but it seems this leader is not. He will not correct Mr. Armstrong's errors and he will not correct his own, as I understand him from what he has publicly said. He seems not willing, so far, to learn anything new that Mr. Armstrong did not teach.
In this, he is showing more faith in Mr. Armstrong and his teachings than he shows towards God and His word, the Bible. And this means he is making an idol out of Mr. Armstrong. Why an idol? Because faith must always be towards God, not man. To have faith in a man, any man, is to give that man the faith that should belong only to God. Faith is a form of worship. To have faith in a man is to make an idol of that man.
That is not the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced.
How ironic! In publicly committing himself to believe everything Mr. Armstrong taught he is denying the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced. In words he shows love to Mr. Armstrong, but in works he denies him. Sound familiar? Many in the world do the same thing with Christ. They show praise towards Christ with their mouths but in works they deny Him. They will not live the way of life Christ practiced as an example.
Why was it important to God that the Philadelphia work be led by one (Mr. Armstrong) who was willing to believe the Bible more than man and was willing to be corrected by the Bible and learn new things from the Bible?
Because to preach to the public, we must ask them to do exactly the same thing. Whoever has an open door for preaching the gospel must ask the public to learn new things, to change their beliefs and traditions, and to believe the Bible more than any church or man or tradition. And whoever does that kind of preaching had better practice what they preach.
When you read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, look how many times God tested people on this. Loma Armstrong was tested. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was tested. Church of God Seventh Day was tested. A Sunday keeper who had the gift of healing, who taught Mr. Armstrong about healing, was tested. Radio listeners who heard Mr. Armstrong say, don't believe me, believe God, believe your Bible, were tested. And we are tested today.
Will God give the pastor of the small group I mentioned, who gave such an inspiring sermon on trusting God, an open door for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public?
So far, God has not. And as long as that man is publicly committed to believing Mr. Armstrong's writings and not being willing to believe the Bible first and correct Mr. Armstrong's mistakes or learn new knowledge from the Bible that Mr. Armstrong did not have, I don't think God will give that man an open door for the gospel.
Could I be mistaken in this?
I hope I am. I don't see how. But I hope I am wrong. I hope Christ gives that man an open door and he does a powerful work of preaching the gospel. If that happens, I won't easily understand it, but I will be glad for the sake of the gospel.
No one has emailed me or entered comments to show me where I am wrong in this. So if I am wrong, I don't know it. I don't think I am wrong.
Any Church of God leader or group that wants the open door promised to Philadelphia should be willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible and believe the Bible first over any Church of God teachings or traditions, and not try to "hold fast" to Mr. Armstrong's teachings, contrary to the way of life Mr. Armstrong himself practiced.
If we ask the public to be willing to learn new things, we must also be willing to learn new things. If we won't, I don't think God will give the open door to hypocrites.
Getting back to the speaker and group I mentioned at the beginning.
I don't see that willingness to practice the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced in that pastor or his followers and supporters.
And yet, he seems to have zeal for trusting God for protection, and God seems to have blessed him for that zeal. He gave a powerful sermon that we can learn from.
That man, and his group, may be useful in other ways for God's purposes. He has lessons he can teach the Church of God.
I am not against him.
But his group does not seem to be a home for Philadelphians. And I do not encourage Philadelphians in a group that has an open door for preaching the gospel, and is going through that door, to shift their support to a group that does not have an open door for the gospel and is not likely to have it in the future, unless they repent of making an idol of Mr. Armstrong and his teachings.
Look at the messages to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Christ teaches us to read all the messages and examine ourselves in the light of those messages. Even though we are in the Laodicean era, any message can apply to any individual among us. And Philadelphians are not the only church that receives only praise.
Look at the message to Smyrna. "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death' " (Revelation 2:8-11).
Smyrna is not Philadelphia. They are not promised an open door for the gospel. Yet, Christ has no criticism or them, but rather says they are rich, implying they are spiritually rich (since they are physically poor). He praises them and encourages them to continue.
I am not saying that any group today is Smyrna. But I bring this out to show you do not have to be Philadelphian to be spiritually rich. The promise of the open door is not for everyone. God can give one leader or one group a job and a different leader and a different group a different job.
What if God, in His wisdom, has raised up this leader and group, not for preaching the gospel, but to teach the lessons of zeal for God and trust in God in times of trial? And what if God has given a different job, the job of going through an open door for preaching the gospel, to a different leader and group where most of the Philadelphians already are?
There is great value in being a Philadelphian. A Philadelphian loves God and wants to magnify His name and reputation. He is intensely zealous for getting the message out that will show all creation for all eternity God's righteousness and fairness to warn before punishing. He also loves his neighbors as himself and is very concerned that they get a warning while there is time for them to repent and escape God's punishment. And like Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Armstrong's early supporters who heard him on the radio, a Philadelphian is willing to believe God more than any man or church or tradition and is willing to learn new things from God's word, just as he asks the public to do.
Though the group and their pastor who gave such an inspiring sermon I described in the beginning may do good works in many ways, they will not be, in my opinion, a suitable home for Philadelphians who have an open door for the gospel.
But if this man and his group are not Philadelphian, and if God is not with this man, why is God blessing him?
There is a myth in the Church of God, and that myth says that God only works through one man at a time. But the Bible does not teach that.
God worked through many prophets at the same time. He worked through Ezekiel and Jeremiah at about the same time. He worked through Nathan and David at the same time. He worked through several prophets in the time of Ezra. He worked through Peter and Paul at the same time.
God can work through one leader in our time to preach the gospel and one or more other leaders to serve other groups, or even the whole Church of God, in other ways.
God can teach the whole Church of God lessons about trust and zeal through this man while preaching the gospel through a different man and group. God can also use this man to serve the needs of those who are not Philadelphian but are in some other spiritual condition. God loves them too.
Will God condemn a man for making an idol of Mr. Armstrong?
None of us is perfect, and we all have faults to strive against. Look at the example of Gideon. After God used him in a powerful way, he became a ruler in Israel and made an idol and it became a snare to him. Yet, he is mentioned in the faith chapter in Hebrews, and it is therefore likely God forgave him.
In Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, there was a Sunday keeper, apparently unconverted, who had the gift of healing. He prayed for people to be healed, and God answered his prayers. God did not reject him just because he did not keep the Sabbath. And God used him to teach Mr. Armstrong about healing. But when God's time came, God tested this man by having Mr. Armstrong show him the truth about the Sabbath from the Bible. He rejected the Bible, stayed with his tradition, and failed the test. Then, God rejected him and no longer answered his prayers for healing. He lost the gift. But before this, for for a time, God was patient with his faults, answered his prayers, and used him in a powerful way to teach Mr. Armstrong.
I hope the speaker I mentioned in the beginning and his group enjoy success in whatever role God assigns to them. But unless that man repents of not being willing to learn new things from the Bible and not being willing to correct any mistakes of Mr. Armstrong, I do not think God will give him a wide-open door for preaching the gospel. So far, God hasn't.
If you have zeal for the gospel message and Ezekiel warning, and if you are willing to learn new things from the Bible and to believe the Bible more than your group leader or Mr. Armstrong or any Church of God tradition, and if you want to be counted by God as a Philadelphian and have the promised open door, I urge you to support a group that already has that open door, and don't move to a group that does not have the open door and disqualifies itself from having that open door.
There may be several groups that have an open door for the gospel, and for some the door is open wider than for others. I have said this before and I still say it - in my opinion, despite not being perfect, the fellowship that is right now doing the best job of going through an open door for preaching the gospel is Living Church of God.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Did Mr. Armstrong make a mistake when he told the Church to follow the new pastor general, who was Mr. Tkach?
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 when he named Mr. Tkach as his successor?
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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?
Thursday, January 28, 2021
Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are coming soon. Many of us are examining ourselves in preparation for those days so we observe Passover in a worthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). It is not too soon to start examining ourselves. One way to do this is to study significant passages in the Bible and meditate on how well we are living up to those instructions, such as the ten commandments in Exodus 20 and the sermon on the mount in Matthew chapters 5 through 7.
We have been taught that the shed blood of Jesus Christ pays the death penalty for sin so we can be forgiven and reconciled with God the Father. Christ's death enables us to be given the gift of eternal life. Without the payment Christ made of the death penalty for sin by dying in our place, all of us would die permanently without hope of the eternal life God wants to give us. The Passover wine is a symbol of His shed blood, that is, His death.
But Christ did more than die for us. He suffered for us. His body was scourged and tortured. And we have been taught that He suffered in the flesh so we can be physically healed of our sicknesses and infirmities (Isaiah 53:5-6). The broken unleavened bread we eat at Passover is a symbol of Christ's broken body. Part of the penalty of sin is suffering, and Christ suffered for us so we don't have to suffer in our sickness and diseases.
These teachings are true, and the Church of God has taught them for decades. Mr. Armstrong taught these truths consistently.
But there is a third aspect of the matter of Christ paying the penalties for our sins I have not heard taught in the Church of God. I don't say it has not been taught - maybe it has - but I have not heard or read it or come across it.
So whether this is completely new or not, I cannot know for sure. But it seems so obvious to me I do not know how anyone in the Church of God can, or would want to, refute it.
We need to be reconciled to God the Father and forgiven by the blood, the death, of Jesus Christ so we do not have to die the second death. Christ paid that penalty for us. God can forgive us and give us eternal life so we can live with God forever.
We also need physical healing in this life and relief from the pain and suffering that comes from sickness and disease that comes from our physical sins against the laws of health, and Christ paid that penalty by suffering for us so we can be physically healed.
But, and here is the point I think should be obvious, but I have not heard it in the Church of God, we need to be spiritually healed.
Probably this has been taught and I have not heard it. If you have heard the Church teach about our need for spiritual healing related to Passover, I would like it if you send me an email to email@example.com or enter a comment below, even anonymously if you wish.
Christ's suffering enables us to be physically healed but also spiritually healed.
Christ paid ALL the penalties for human sin so we can be completely forgiven and healed spiritually and physically.
Here is the passage about healing that connects our healing with the suffering of Christ.
"He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:3-6).
Notice how these particular verses focus on the suffering of Christ, not just His death. And it specifically says that by the stripes Christ endured we are healed. And in verse 6 this passage talks about us like sheep going astray.
This passage directly connects the suffering of Christ (not just His death) with our sins in which we "go astray" and all go our own way. Do we only go astray in the matter of health laws? Is this what this is talking about?
Is this only about breaking the laws of health and being forgiven of our physical sins so we can be physically healed of our sicknesses and diseases? Or is it talking about something more, something that goes beyond this physical life into eternity?
Sin causes perversion of mind. Mr. Armstrong taught this and the Bible teaches it. That is one of the penalties for sin. When Adam and Eve sinned, something happened to their minds. They were not the same. When Lucifer sinned, his mind became perverted, twisted, evil. His wisdom became corrupted. Speaking of Lucifer who became Satan the devil, God says, "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor" (Ezekiel 28:17).
When Lucifer, who was perfect in his ways as originally created, turned to vanity, something happened to his mind. His wisdom, his character became corrupted, twisted, perverted, and evil. The more he sinned, the more evil and sinful he became.
Perversion of mind and character is one of the penalties of sin.
When we sin, sin becomes a habit of mind. It becomes part of our character. We acquire a sinful nature. And that sinful nature causes us to sin more and more.
And that sinful nature leads to more sin which leads to mental as well as physical suffering. It leads to guilt. It leads to conflict. It leads to divorce. It leads to war and violence. It leads to anger, frustration, and depression. Sin robs us of the joy and happiness we could have. It destroys unity. It destroys friendship. It destroys love. It destroys the closeness we could have with God and other people.
Certainly physical sin - the breaking of the laws of health - can lead to the suffering that comes from sickness and disease. But spiritual sin - lying, stealing, committing adultery, murder, idolatry, hatred, etc. - the breaking of the spiritual law of God, can lead to greater suffering for ourselves and others brought on by a sinful way of life.
Christ's suffering brought on by the breaking of His body through scourging and crucifixion paid the penalty of all of our suffering, both physical and spiritual, that comes as a result of sin, any kind of sin, physical or spiritual. It enables us to be physically healed, yes, but also spiritually healed.
I wish I heard more in Church of God sermons about this. But all I have heard is that Christ's sacrifice pays the death penalty so we can be given eternal life and live forever and pays the penalty of our physical sicknesses and diseases that come as a result of breaking health laws so we can be physically healed.
But consider what the consequences would be if we were given eternal life, spared the death penalty, but were not spiritually healed of our sinful nature.
We would continue to sin for all eternity.
If we carried our sinful nature and our tendency to sin into the kingdom of God, we would make ourselves and everyone in that kingdom miserable with our continuing sin. It would be Lucifer and his demons all over again. Eternal life would be a curse, not a reward.
But Christ paid the penalty for all our flaws and faults and sins - physical and spiritual both - so we can be healed of everything that causes suffering as a result of sin, not just in this physical life but for eternity in the kingdom of God. He suffered for us so we don't have to continue to suffer as the result of any kind of sin, physical or spiritual.
How does God heal us spiritually?
By the power of the Holy Spirit. By Jesus Christ living His life in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The sacrifice of Christ, both His death and His suffering, makes it possible for God to give us His Holy Spirit, which heals our character and gives us eternal life in the resurrection.
But this spiritual healing does not happen all at once in this physical life. We have our part to play, and God is teaching us lessons for our good. We have to struggle against sin and overcome, and this takes time. But in the resurrection to eternal life, the process becomes complete. We will not have the tendency to sin in the kingdom of God. Sin and the suffering that comes from it will be abolished forever.
Dear reader, if I am wrong about this, show me from the Bible, or from Church of God history, or from sound logic. Email me or enter a comment.
If I am right, how should we respond?
We should first of all appreciate even more the suffering Christ endured. It is not just for physical healing but for spiritual healing so we can have a happy existence in the kingdom of God for eternity. We should give thanks to God for the sacrifice of Christ so we can be spiritually healed.
We should also trust God to heal us spiritually. Some may struggle and struggle against sin and be discouraged by many failures and setbacks. But God will save us in the end. Why? Because Christ paid the penalty for our sins by His suffering.
Paul seems to affirm this in Romans chapter 7. Read the whole chapter. This is about our struggle against sin. Then notice verse 24 and the first part of verse 25: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25).
In other words, God WILL save us from our sins and our sinful nature through Jesus Christ. And Christ dwells in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We must never give up fighting against sin.
God will save us from our sins in every way because Christ suffered and died for this very purpose. He is our Creator, and if he paid such a high price, we can be sure He will use that sacrifice to save us to the utmost.
Christ suffered so we can be freed from All the penalties of sin that bring suffering, and neither Christ nor the Father will minimize the suffering Christ endured. And that should give us confidence in God, that He will give us the help we need, that the suffering of Christ will not be in vain for anyone.
This is not the first time I have posted about this. Here is a listing of other posts in this blog on this subject:
Physical and Spiritual Healing, Monday, April 2, 2012.
Passover Symbols: What Part of the Sacrifice of Christ Makes Possible the Healing of Our Character? / Should You Partake of the Passover?, Saturday, March 23, 2013.
Spiritual Healing, Wednesday, April 1, 2020.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
A Church of God fellowship may want to claim the title, "Philadelphian". But can such a fellowship do this with any credibility when they do not have an open door for preaching the gospel to the world?
How does God primarily open a door for preaching the gospel? We live, in the United States, in a country of freedom of speech and economic prosperity, and these benefits are available to greater or lesser degree to all fellowships. How does God open the door for one and not another?
God seems to give the open door to a fellowship by opening the minds of its leaders to see the need for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public. He arouses zeal in that direction. Then, armed with that zeal and understanding, the leader or leaders of a fellowship mobilize the resources they have in that direction. God also gives the gift of wisdom so they know how to do it.
A group that lacks zeal for the gospel does not have an open door.
That zeal is a gift from God. It is a way, in circumstances in which all groups have the freedom and money to preach the gospel, that God gives one an open door. He arouses zeal in our hearts, and that zeal results in action. But if a group is not preaching the gospel, God has not aroused zeal for the gospel in that group and its leadership. Thus, little or no action. No Philadelphian open door.
That zeal must be real, not just put on to make an impression with the members. The proof of that zeal must be action, not words. The proof of God's blessing and open door (only God knows the hearts of the leaders) will be that the action will be effective and will get results.
Why has God not given to a group, which claims to be Philadelphian, an open door for preaching the gospel by arousing zeal for the gospel?
One reason God may not arouse zeal in a group may be that they do not fully practice the Philadelphian way of life that leads to the open door. They are not willing to practice what we must preach to the public. They may willing to strive to obey the commandments and overcome sin - and if so, give them credit for that. But they may not be willing to believe the Bible more than COG tradition, and they may not be willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible.
In my opinion, no such group can rightly claim to be Philadelphian. They hold on to a list of doctrines, but they have departed from the way of life practiced by Mr. Armstrong.
If a group wants to be Philadelphian, let them be willing to learn new knowledge. Let them teach their members that they should believe what they see in their own Bibles more than any COG tradition or teaching of Mr. Armstrong or any other COG leader. Let them not ridicule or scorn members who send in doctrinal papers that suggest changes in doctrine or new knowledge, and let them not reject such papers without examination, as Church of God Seventh Day rejected Mr. Armstrong's papers when he was a lay member.
And then, let them demonstrate zeal for the gospel by going all out and spending about half of their income to deliver the message of God's truth to the nations, using the other half to feed the flock.
If a group does that, then their claim to be Philadelphian would have some credibility.
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
I have long made the point that we need to believe the Bible more than the ministry in all points of doctrine. And all long-time members of the Church of God remember the example in our own history of the leadership appointed by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong to replace him after his death turning away from the truth on a massive scale.
Mr. Armstrong appointed Mr. Tkach as his successor, thinking that Mr. Tkach would be faithful to true doctrine in the Bible. But after Mr. Armstrong died, Mr. Tkach began changing doctrine. Not right away. For about a year, as I remember, Mr. Tkach made no significant changes. Then the changes started, small at first. But from 1983 for about a decade that followed, the changes came more and more rapidly and were more and more severe. After about ten years the changes were pretty much complete. Those who wanted to stay faithful to the truth they learned from the Bible with the help and guidance of Mr. Armstrong were scattered.
There are leaders and ministers in the Church of God today who want their members to believe their interpretation of the Bible apart from what the members can see and understand from their own Bibles. They see disagreement as a sign of unfaithfulness. They teach that Christ is the head of the Church, and they teach or imply that this means that Christ will not allow His ministers to teach error.
And if some point out Mr. Tkach as an example of one that Christ allowed to make errors in the Church, these ministers will defend their position by saying that there is virtually no chance or indication that the current leadership and ministry will massively fall away from the truth as Mr. Tkach did.
But that misses the point. I agree that the chances are very slim that the current leaders of the Church of God will make massive changes to doctrine, such as overturning the Sabbath and holy days, teaching that it is ok to eat unclean meat, etc. But is it only massive falling away that we should be concerned about? Should we be concerned over minor errors?
I do not say we should leave a fellowship over minor mistakes. But we should not believe and follow minor mistakes. That has to be a matter of principle. Being faithful to believe what God says in the Bible must be a way of life.
If I see the leadership of a Church of God fellowship make a mistake in the doctrines he teaches, a mistake according to the Bible, my concern is not that this is a first step towards a massive falling away. My concern is only that I want God to see that I believe Him more than the Church leadership and ministry. God sees my heart. I want Him to see that I am more loyal to Him than to man. I do not want to believe the error no matter how small it is. I want to believe God in the little things and the big things - all things.
If we are unfaithful in little things, we are likely to be unfaithful in big things, but if we are faithful in little things, we likely will be faithful in big things. "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much" (Luke 16:10). "Then came the first, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned ten minas.' And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities' " (Luke 19:16-17). Sin, like leaven, can start small and grow big.
Besides, how can we be sure that a minister who compromises with the Bible in small things will not some day, if the opportunity comes, fall away in big things? Mr. Tkach did not start with big changes - he started with small things.
We must develop right habits of thought, and those habits may start with small doctrines.
We must believe what we believe because we see it for ourselves in the Bible. When we see a difference in doctrine between what the Church and its leadership and ministry teach and what we see in the Bible, we must at that point make a choice: believe God or believe man. If we make the wrong choice in a small doctrine, we are developing a bad habit and we are more likely to make a wrong choice in a big doctrine. Besides that, God sees that we are not completely loyal to Him if we believe ministers more than we believe God.
If the doctrine is a small matter, would I leave a fellowship over it? Of course not. Would I discuss it with the brethren in the fellowship I attend? Absolutely not, for I could not honestly discuss it without contradicting the ministry of the fellowship I attend. Would I discuss it respectfully and privately with the ministry or the leadership? Maybe. I could if I wanted to, but I might not. If it is a small matter, it probably would not be necessary. I will wait, if necessary, for Christ to return and set all matters straight. I am not perfect and I do not expect ministers to be perfect. In the age to come, those who are in the first resurrection will be made perfect, but in this life we are not yet perfect.
I will give an example.
A while back, the leadership of a fellowship taught that the marriage supper will take place at God's throne in heaven. This seems to be a change, or a "clarification", over what I was taught in the past I think, that the marriage supper will not take place in heaven.
I am inclined to agree with the new teaching. I think the marriage supper will probably take place in heaven. Maybe I can't prove it definitely because I haven't studied it in detail and I am not sure there is enough Bible evidence to prove the case one way or another with one hundred percent certainty.
But suppose I did not agree. Suppose I found something in the Bible that made me completely certain that the marriage supper will not be at God's throne in heaven. I would believe what I see in the Bible more than the ministry. I would not discuss it with the brethren. But would I bring it to the ministry and discuss it with them?
Probably not. Why? It is a small matter. It isn't important to me. It doesn't affect how I live my life. When Christ comes, He will take us to the marriage supper. We only need to follow where He takes us (Revelation 14:4). I probably would not take up my time or the time of the Church to make an issue of it.
In any case, it is not an issue with me because I think the Church is probably right about it. But I use it as an example of a minor doctrine.
But my way of thinking is firm. I believe God, His word the Bible, more than the Church and its ministry. I believe God in the little things and the big things, both. I don't know how to believe God in the big things but believe man in the little things. It is one way or the other, a way of thinking, a way of life.
In that regard, I teach and practice the same way of life and thinking that Mr. Armstrong practiced. But many leaders of fellowships and ministers do not.