Thursday, January 28, 2021

Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and Spiritual Healing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We would continue to sin for all eternity.

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

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

How does God heal us spiritually?

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

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

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

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

If I am right, how should we respond?

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

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

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

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

We must never give up fighting against sin.

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Healing, Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Claiming the Title "Philadelphia" without an Open Door

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will give an example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 25, 2021

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

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

No.  I learned them from the Bible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about other COG members?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Spiritual Kinship between Protestants and Those Who Deny Learning New Knowledge

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

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

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

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

Both groups miss the same point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Departing from Mr. Armstrong's Way of Life

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

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

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

Warnings about sin can be done in love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the problem that falsifies their whole approach.

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

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

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

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

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

Then picture the following scenario.

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

Would Mr. Armstrong agree with that?

He would not!

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

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

That was a way of life for Mr. Armstrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Differences Between Many COG Leaders Today and Herbert W. Armstrong

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

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

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

The most obvious difference is results.

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

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

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

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

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

What does God think about that hypocrisy?

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

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

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

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

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

Let none of us be hypocrites that way.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Mr. Armstrong Held Fast to a Way of Life

Since I have written the last post, "Philadelphians Are Not to Hold Fast to a List of Doctrines", I have thought of an alternative argument someone could make, and I want to address that.

In the message to Philadelphia, Christ says he is coming quickly and we are to hold fast to what we have.  Someone might say that the whole message to Philadelphia does not all apply at the same time.  The open door applied from the beginning of the Philadelphia era, and Christ says in the message, I have set before you an open door.  Notice the past tense.  Then, later in the message, Christ says, I am coming quickly, hold fast what you have.  Christ was not coming quickly in 1934, so this is like a time marker that sets it apart and indicates that the "holding fast" takes place after the open door, maybe many years after, and maybe after all the doctrines were restored.

Is that possible?

I suppose, just based on just the message to Philadelphia itself, it might be.  But that idea ignores something important.

It ignores the vast difference in importance between a list of doctrines and a way of life.  God is teaching us a way of life.

Catholics and Protestants believe man's soul is immortal.  We believe it is mortal.  Catholics and Protestants believe God is three persons.  We believe God is two persons.  Catholics and Protestants believe the day of rest when we should meet to worship God is Sunday.  We believe it is Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.  Catholics and Protestants keep Christmas and Easter.  We keep the holy days.

Catholic and Protestant children are taught their beliefs growing up.  Our children are taught what we believe growing up.

What have those differences to do with building godly character that we will carry into the kingdom of God?

It can mean a great deal, IF we believe what we believe because we believe what God says in the Bible.  And the test of that is when we see and read in the Bible God telling us something we didn't know before - do we believe God more than what we have been taught by man?  Do we believe God when it is hard to change?  THAT is a matter of character.  And that is what is important.  Not just the doctrines themselves.  The faith and trust in God to believe what He says unconditionally.  It is that faith in God's word that leads us to right doctrine.

The way of life of believing what God says even when it means changing the beliefs we have been taught is more important than any list of doctrines, because it involves character.  It is a matter of righteousness.  It is a matter of faith.

Just believing what your parents and church have taught you does not necessarily require faith in God.  And faith is one of the weightier matters of the law, according to Christ (Matthew 23:23).

Consider also that there is a direct contradiction between the way of life of accepting correction and believing new knowledge from God's word and the way of life of trusting in a fixed set of doctrines taught by man - any man, including Mr. Armstrong.

If you want to hold fast, you have to make a choice.  Do you want to hold fast to the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced, a way of life taught by God in the Bible, a way of life that enabled God to work with Mr. Armstrong and teach him new knowledge, or do you want to reject that way of life in favor of believing a fixed list of doctrines produced by that way of life?  Not that that way of life made those doctrines fixed and unchangeable.  But that way of life enabled those doctrines to be discovered.  But they are not fixed.  If there are mistakes in them, those mistakes can be corrected.  If there is more knowledge to be discovered in the Bible, we can add that knowledge to our doctrines.

That is the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced.

And the thing to remember, for those who think there are different time periods involved in the message to Philadelphia and that the instruction to hold fast comes after the open door and after those doctrines have been restored, is that Mr. Armstrong practiced the way of life of learning and teaching new knowledge to the end of his life.  There was no moment in the Philadelphia era when Mr. Armstrong stopped learning and said, "Ok, time for doctrine to be fixed in place - no more changes - because we have to hold fast to what we have".

Mr. Armstrong did "hold fast", but never to a list of doctrines.  To the end of his life he held fast to the principle of learning new things from the Bible.

I was in the Church of God during the last few years of Mr. Armstrong's life.  I remember a sermon he gave not long before he died.  He announced new knowledge.  I don't remember exactly what the point of new knowledge was.  It may have been the knowledge that the Church of God is the kingdom of God, in embryo.

I don't remember at the time I heard this that it seemed very new or dramatic.  I thought it was not a big thing.

But Mr. Armstrong announced it as if it was big, new knowledge.  He was dramatic about it.

What a contrast with many Church of God leaders today!

Even some Church of God leaders who make small doctrinal changes or additions try to minimize it.  They don't like to admit they are changing anything.  They call it a "clarification".  It is as if they are afraid of the criticism of some members who will criticize them for changing anything Mr. Armstrong taught.  They act like they are slightly embarrassed about or ashamed of learning anything new.

But not Mr. Armstrong!  He dramatically announced even a small change as "new knowledge", and he taught the brethren to be willing to accept new knowledge.  He made a contrast with the Church of God Seventh Day, criticizing them for not being willing to learn new things and being content with the knowledge they had.  They were not willing to learn anything new.  Mr. Armstrong wanted the Church to be willing to learn new things.

And this is the way of life he practiced to the end of his life.

So from the time the Philadelphia era started in 1934 with the open door given to Mr. Armstrong till he died in 1986, Mr. Armstrong never once held fast to a list of doctrines.  So if that was what Christ meant we should hold fast to, Mr. Armstrong never obeyed that command of Christ.  But I say, he did hold fast, not to a list of doctrines, but to a way of life, and that is exactly what Christ wanted him, and wants us, to hold fast to.

You have to make a choice.  Holding fast to a list of doctrines, not allowing any correction or additional new knowledge from the Bible, is in direct contradiction to the way of life Mr. Armstong held fast to that produced those doctines.

You can hold fast to one or the other but not both, because they directly contradict each other.

You can hold fast to a list of doctrines taught by Mr. Armstrong.  But if you do, you reject the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced.  He never held fast to any list of doctrines.

Or you can hold fast to Mr. Armstrong's way of life, a way of life of learning correction and new doctrinal truths from the Bible.  But if you do that, you cannot hold fast to a fixed set of doctrines.

You have to choose.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Philadelphians Are Not to Hold Fast to a List of Doctrines

Christ tells Philadelphia to hold fast to what they have.  "Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown" (Revelation 3:11).   There is something Philadelphians have that they are to hold fast to.  But what?

What is it that Philadelphians are to hold fast to?

Some say a list of doctrines.  But Mr. Armstrong was a Philadelphian before those doctrines were finished.  What did he hold fast to?  Mr. Armstrong had the open door promised to Philadelphia long before he had all of his 18 restored truths that people claim we are to hold fast to.  How could he hold fast to doctrines that he was still in the process of learning?  How could he hold fast to some doctrines he himself did not yet have?  Yet, it is to him and other Philadelphians that Christ says, "See, I have set before you an open door" (Revelation 3:8) and also, "Hold fast what you have" (Revelation 3:11).  Both statements are in the same message.  But when did that message apply to Mr. Armstrong?

Mr. Armstrong was given an open door in 1934.  So this message applied to him as of that time.  So as of 1934, Christ says to Mr. Armstrong, "Hold fast what you have".

But what did Mr. Armstrong have in 1934 that he was to hold fast to?

It could not be a list of restored doctrines.  He had a few restored doctrines at that time, such as the identity of the lost tribes of Israel and the truth that the Church of God was to keep the holy days.  But other truths, such as God reproducing Himself in mankind, he did not have at that time.  He was yet to restore much truth years after he was given an open door for preaching the gospel in 1934.  He was years in the process of restoring truth long after he was first given the open door and while that door remained open.

Yet in the same message in which Christ said He had given an open door to Mr. Armstrong, He told Mr. Armstrong to hold fast to what he had.  I repeat the question - what was Mr. Armstrong to hold fast to in 1934?

Not only were doctrines to be restored incomplete in 1934, if Mr. Armstrong thought this passage meant he was to hold fast to the doctrines he had - not changing anything in other words - it could have inhibited him from learning new knowledge and restoring the doctrines that remained to be restored.

What was Christ telling Mr. Armstrong to hold fast to when Christ spoke to Mr. Armstrong through the Bible in 1934, 1938, 1940, 1945?  Did Christ speak to Mr. Armstrong through the verses of Revelation 3:7-13 from 1934 to 1945 and shortly later?  Yes, if Mr. Armstrong was a Philadelphian during those years.  Was he?

Yes, because he had the open door promised to Philadelphia.

So during those early years of the Philadelphia era of God's Church, Christ, through the Bible, told Mr. Armstrong to hold fast to what he had.  "Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown" (Revelation 3:11).

In other words, the command to hold fast does not seem to come later than the promised open door.  They are part of the same message, so I would expect they would apply at the same time.  It is probably because of something Mr. Armstrong had, which he was told to hold fast to, that Christ gave him an open door.

So Mr. Armstrong had something, something Christ valued, and because of it Christ gave Mr. Armstrong an open door.  Christ then, in the message to Philadelphia, tells Mr. Armstrong that He has given him the open door and tells him to hold fast to what he had.

And the same thing applied to those coming into the Church during the Philadelphian years - true Philadelphians - who came into the Church in the latter 1930s, the 1940s, the 1950s, etc., who, together with Mr. Armstrong as part of the Philadelphia era of the Church, had an open door for preaching the gospel.  They came into the Church and had an open door during the years when the restored truths were in the process of being restored.  So it could not have been a list of doctrines they were to hold fast to because those doctrines were not yet complete.  

What Mr. Armstrong, as a Philadelphian with an open door, had that he was to hold fast to, and his Philadelphian supporters with him, was the same thing that Philadelphians have today that they are to hold fast to.

What was that?

It could not have been a list of restored doctrines or even the whole body of doctrine that he taught, which was not complete before the 1950s.  It was something they had from the time the Philadelphian work started with an open door from 1934 on.

What Mr. Armstrong had, what he held fast to, what Philadelphians have today that they are to hold fast to, is a WAY OF LIFE.

Not a list of doctrines.  A way of life.

A way of life that caused those doctrines to be discovered.

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

The doctrines are the good fruits of that way of life, but it is the way of life that produced those good fruits that we are to hold fast to if we want to be Philadelphian and have an open door for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.

For evidence, you can look at those COGs today that try to hold fast only to a list of doctrines and see if they have a wide-open door for preaching the gospel to the world as Mr. Armstrong had.  They do not.  Holding fast to a list of doctrines does not make anyone a Philadelphian.  It won't give us an open door.

Do not Laodiceans have the same doctrines?  For the most part, not in every case, but generally they have the same overall body of doctrine from Mr. Armstrong that Philadelphians have.  They have more truth today than Mr. Armstrong had in 1934.  So that cannot be the thing that Philadelphians have, that makes them unique, that they are commanded to hold fast to.

It is a way of life that makes a Philadelphian.  It is a way of life that produces true doctrines.  The true doctrines, true doctrinal knowledge, and true doctrinal learning are the fruits or the evidence of a Philadelphian way of life, but it is not that way of life itself.  There are plenty of COG members today, and ministers, that hold fast to Mr. Armstrong's doctrines but not his way of life.  They are not Philadelphian.  They do not have the open door Mr. Armstrong had.

Those who hold fast to a detailed list of doctrines, thinking that  makes them Philadelphian, but rejecting the Philadelphian way of life, are like the Pharisees who practiced a list of do's and dont's, thinking that made them righteous in God's sight, but rejecting the way of life of loving God and loving their neighbors that God taught.

What is that way of life that Mr. Armstrong practiced?  It is a way of life that many who would like to claim the title of Philadelphian do not practice.  They do not hold fast to that way of life.

They have abandoned it.

They have not abandoned the doctrines that have come from that way of life.  But they have not held fast to the way of life that produced those doctrines.  They have abandoned the way of life that Mr. Armstrong practiced.

They use Mr. Armstrong's name, but they do not practice the way of life that Mr. Armstrong practiced, the way of life that made him a Philadelphian, the way of life he had that he held fast to in obedience to the command of Christ to Philadelphians.  They are like traditional so-called Christians who call Christ "Lord" and use His name but do not do what He said or live as He lived.

What is that way of life?

Just what I have been saying in my past posts in this blog.  The way of life is the way of practicing what we preach to the public.  It is the way of striving to obey God's commandments, of learning new knowledge from the Bible, and of believing God and what we see in the Bible for ourselves more than any man, minister, leadership, Church fellowship, or Church tradition.  It is the way of putting God first.

This is what Mr. Armstrong did.

There is irony here.  For the very mental act of committing to believing, unconditionally, any list of doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught or any other COG leader has taught, makes one NOT a Philadelphian and disqualifies him or her from the promised open door.

Our commitment must be to God's word, the Bible, not to a list of doctrines and not to any COG leader or ministry or tradition.  

Mr. Armstrong himself changed his own doctrines when he saw in the Bible that he was wrong.

I, personally, do not know of any major doctrine Mr. Armstrong taught that is wrong according to the Bible or according to history, facts, and true logic.  Small details, maybe.  But major doctrines, no.  I do not question or doubt any of the doctrines identified in any list of eighteen restored doctrines of Mr. Armstrong.  I see evidence for myself, in the Bible, that these doctrines are true.

But what if sometime in the future I notice something in the Bible that contradicts one of those major doctrines, something I never noticed or understood before?

My commitment is to God's word.  I would believe the Bible even if I had to give up my belief in one of the eighteen major restored points of doctrine that Mr. Armstrong gave us.  This is what Mr. Armstrong himself would do.  That is the way of life he practiced.

I do not expect that to happen.  I think Mr. Armstrong's major doctrines are correct.  I don't think I will have to make that choice.  But I am willing to give up any point of doctrine to believe what God says to us directly in His word, the Bible.

And I am willing to learn new things from God I never knew before in addition to the truths Mr. Armstrong restored personally.

That is what Philadelphians are to hold fast to if they are to have an open door.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

It Is a Serious Thing to Reject God's Word!

If God shows you something in His word, the Bible, and opens your mind to understand it, He is speaking to you.  And if the thing he shows you contradicts what you have believed before, you may have a problem.  You have to make a choice - believe your traditions and maybe your ministry and fellowship, or believe God.  Maybe it will be easy.  But not always.  It might be hard, especially for a minister, to admit he has been wrong in what he has believed and taught and to begin to teach some new truth God has shown him, if he is the leader, or to at least refrain from now on from teaching error if he is employed by a Church of God fellowship and forbidden to openly teach the full truth.

It thus becomes a test from God.  Will you believe what God says, or will you reject the Word of God in favor of your existing beliefs?

It can be a very serious thing to reject the word of God.  There are warnings about that, from the Bible and from Church history.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Hosea 4:6).

To king Saul of Israel, Samuel said, "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king" (1 Samuel 15:23).

"The wise men are ashamed, They are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; So what wisdom do they have?" (Jeremiah 8:9).

We criticize the people of the world for rejecting the word of God, yet at the same time some of us do the same.  What must God think of that?

If we knowingly teach to the brethren what God shows us in His word is false, we are lying to God's people.  We are lying to God's Holy Spirit which dwells in the minds of the brethren.  The seriousness of that is shown in Acts 5:1-11.  Ananias lied to Peter, and Peter had God's Holy Spirit.  By lying to Peter, he lied to the Holy Spirit that was in Peter, and by lying to the Holy Spirit he lied to God.  God struck him dead for it, and his wife who participated in his lie.   

And if we lie to others, we open ourselves to deception.

God says, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7).

If we sow deception, God may allow us to reap deception.  If we lie to others, God may allow us to be deceived by others.  That is a dangerous thing considering the worldwide deception that is coming.

Consider the life of Jacob.  Jacob lied to his father to obtain a blessing, and if you look at his life after that, God allowed him to be the victim of the lies of others.  Laban lied to Jacob, and later Jacob's sons lied to him about Joseph.  Jacob suffered needlessly thinking that Joseph was dead.  He sowed a lie, and he reaped being deceived.

There is an example in Church history, in the life of Mr. Armstrong as related in his autobiography, of how God dealt with someone who rejected His word.

There was a man who had the gift of healing.  He was a Sunday keeper, but God answered his prayers for the healing of others.  Mr. Armstrong learned about God's promises of healing from this man.  But Mr. Armstrong shared with the man the knowledge from God's word that the seventh day Sabbath, not Sunday, is the day God wants us to rest on and observe.  

The man had a decision to make.  He chose to reject God's word.

God took from him the gift of healing.  He no longer answered his prayers.

We must not reject God's word lest God reject us.

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Foundation for God's Word

In the last two posts I talked about the way that God primarily communicates with us today regarding doctrine.  In Bible times, God communicated with His people primarily through miracle-working servants - prophets and apostles.  Today, He primarily communicates with us through the Bible, which today is complete, widely available, and able to be proved to be the word of God through the miracle of fulfilled prophecy.  I talked about how and why this change was made.

I have one more thing to add.

God laid the foundation for using the Bible as His primary means of communication with us in the Bible itself - in the writings of the prophets and apostles.

God has emphasized several times that the Bible is His word and is infallibly true.

The Bible claims God as its author.  "Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure' " (Isaiah 46:9-10).

God declares His word is true and sure.

"Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him" (Proverbs 30:5).

" 'For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,' Says the Lord. 'But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word' " (Isaiah 66:2).

When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He answered every temptation with a quotation from scripture (Matthew 4:1-10, Luke 4:1-12).

Many events took place in the New Testament for the very purpose of fulfilling Bible prophecy.  Here is a list from the book of Matthew alone: Matthew 1:22-23, 2:14-15, 17-18, 23, 4:13-16, 8:16-17, 12:16-21, 13:34-35, 21:4-5, 27:9-10, 27:35.

In at least one case, Jesus Christ took actions for the very purpose of fulfilling prophecy - Jesus was concerned that prophecy be fulfilled and made choices to make sure that prophecy was fulfilled (Matthew 26:51-54).

Paul affirmed that scripture is inspired by God and is the word of God.  "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Peter likewise affirms this, "knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation [or origin], for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Paul reasoned with his listeners using the scriptures.  "Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, 'This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ' " (Acts 17:2-3).

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Perhaps the strongest affirmation of the truth of the Bible is this: "Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your law, "I said, 'You are gods' "? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken)... ' " (John 10:34-35).

With that background, showing that Bible scripture is true and is the word of God, God gives this example of how some in the New Testament used Bible scripture to determine the truth, not just the words of the apostles.  "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men" (Acts 17:11-12).

We are also told, "Test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Not everyone had access to the books of the Bible in the first century, and the Bible was not complete.  Nevertheless, God gives us these statements and examples to lay a foundation for our time when most of God's communication to us is through the Bible, not miracle-working prophets and apostles.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Why Does God Communicate With Us Primarily Through the Bible Today Instead of Through Miracle-Working Apostles?

In my last post I explained that God today communicates with His people differently than in the first century.  In Bible times, God communicated primarily through miracle-working prophets and apostles.  Today He communicates with us primarily through the Bible.  God has changed the pattern of how He communicates His truth to us, and He used Herbert W. Armstrong as a tool to change that pattern and make the new pattern known to us.

He still uses miracles to confirm the truth of His message - to show that it is from Him.  But in Bible times he used human servants - prophets and apostles - to work public miracles and to deliver God's truth to the people in person.  Today, He uses the miracle of fulfilled prophecy in the Bible, which was not available in Bible times for three reasons: the Bible was not complete, the Bible was not widely available to everyone, and the prophecies in the Bible had not yet been fulfilled.

Why has God changed the pattern to use the Bible instead of individual servants to communicate with us?

There is a very practical reason why God has changed the pattern.

Personal messages from miracle-working servants would not serve God's purposes right now as well as the Bible does.

There will come a time when the two witnesses perform public miracles.  And there may come a time when God provides prophets to the Church to give us particular messages, such as going to a place of safety and other matters.  But right now, it appears God does not use miracle-working servants to communicate with the Church or the world.  He uses the Bible.

There is a reason why God primarily uses the Bible, not human servants, to communicate truth to us.

Suppose, in this day of a world population of seven billion or more and a population of the United States - just one tribe of Israel - of about 330 million people, God sent human servants working miracles.  How many people could they reach?  Not many.  Even using the Internet and modern communications, people would simply not believe it.  The Satan-dominated news media would not report it.  And if you published in a blog or website that your aunt was miraculously healed of cancer by a minister in the Church of God, who outside the Church would believe you?  

In Bible times, Paul and the other apostles worked with small numbers of people who were eye witnesses or who could personally talk with eye witnesses of the miracles the apostles performed.  The population of the earth was much smaller, and God was not trying to reach everyone anyway.  Why?  He had no reason to reach more people than were being called, and He only calls a few.  Those people could be reached personally by the apostles.

But today, God has a reason to reach everyone in the tribes of Israel with the gospel and warning message, regardless of whether or not He is calling them.  Why?  Because we are living in a time when the tribulation is almost upon us.  Everyone needs a warning so they know God is fair to warn them and give them time to repent before punishing them.

Just using the United States as an example, you can't reach 330 million people with a message from miracle-working prophets and apostles.  You can't reach that many people personally.  You can only deliver the message via mass media, but the people won't believe - nor should they.  Would you believe a website from a man that says he can perform miracles?

You need a different way to verify and prove the message is true.

So God has caused the Bible to be freely available and widespread.  All Americans, for example, can acquire a Bible and look up answers.  And God can prove the fulfillment of prophecy by history that is also freely available.  So all that remains for a preaching ministry to do is point people to the Bible and to the proof that the Bible is inspired.  You need some kind of mass media to do this, but people don't have to believe you - they don't have to take your word for it - that there are any miracles to prove the message.  People can prove it for themselves from their own Bible and from historical facts that are freely available.

That is why God has changed the way He communicates today.  He needs to reach multiple millions with a warning message that has credibility, and He can't do that with one or a few miracle-working servants.  So He uses the Bible.

And our job is to point people to answers and proofs in the Bible.  Then they can check up for themselves and find the proof and know the message is from God, if they are willing.  And if they are not willing, they will at least remember that God was fair to warn them, but they didn't heed or take the trouble to check it out.  They can know that God was fair, and they can repent during the tribulation and be ready for conversion in the millennium.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

How God Teaches Us Knowledge Today

One who thinks that we should believe ministers more than the Bible and not learn directly from the Bible ourselves may want to emphasize the examples in the Bible that show how God's truth and knowledge are passed to us from individual people, who received it from other people and from God.  One might say that this is still the pattern for today, and thus we should believe what was passed to us by Mr. Armstrong and not what we see for ourselves, our "own understanding" of scripture as they put it, in the Bible.  But that is wrong.

The pattern has been broken.  God has changed it.  How?

In Bible times, those who taught the Church, the prophets and the apostles, performed public miracles.  In the case of the New Testament Church of God, all teachings came from miracle-working apostles.  Anyone could know that the apostles were from God because of the evidence of the miracles.

God gave supernatural evidence to back up the message of His servants.

Even Nicodemus knew Christ was a teacher from God because of His miracles (John 3:1-2).

That pattern has been broken.  Even the healings from Mr. Armstrong were not the kind of public miracles that enabled anyone to know that his message was from God.

God has changed the pattern.  He has given us a different pattern of how to know the truth to replace the pattern of miracle-working servants teaching us God's message directly from God.  He used Mr. Armstrong to do it.

God still gives supernatural evidence to back up His message, but of a different kind.

Mr. Armstrong taught that new pattern.  It is simple.  Today, unlike the early days of the first century Church of God, we have the Bible complete.  It was not complete most of the time in the first century Church of God.  The New Testament was in the process of being written.

Also, today, the Bible is widespread and readily available to anyone who wants to read and study it.  In Bible times, not only was the Bible incomplete, but it was rare and expensive.  Some individuals had access to a few books of the Bible, each of which would be a scroll, but very few people had all the books that were even written at that time.

And finally, we have the proof of fulfilled prophecy to prove that the Bible is inspired by God and is God's word.  That was not true in the first century because those prophecies were not yet fulfilled.  But now, any objective person can prove that the Bible is God speaking.  In effect, fulfilled prophecy is the miracle that proves that the teaching of the Bible is from God just as miracles of the apostles were the proof their teaching was from God.  Fulfilled prophecy in the Bible is the supernatural evidence God gives people today so they can know the message is from God.

For that reason, there has been a change in the way God communicates with us.  He no longer does it directly through human servants whom He backs up with miracle-working power.  Instead, He gives us proof that He speaks through the Bible, and He makes the Bible easily available to everyone.

So comparisons of how Mr. Armstrong taught us with how the first century apostles taught the Church are not valid for showing that God works the same way today.  They worked public miracles to prove their message, Mr. Armstrong did not.

Instead, Mr. Armstrong pointed us to the Bible, saying, don't believe me, believe your Bible, believe God.

That is a change and a difference.

That is the new pattern.

And for that reason, we should believe what we see for ourselves in the Bible more than we believe Mr. Armstrong's teaching or any man's teaching in the Church of God.  The ministry has the job of helping us see the truth in the Bible.  That is their role.  They can help in various ways.  They can point out scriptures on a subject we may have overlooked, for example.  But they must show us so we can see the answer ourselves in the Bible.  That is God's way, today.

Even Mr. Armstrong followed the new pattern.  He did not learn God's truth passed from another person to him.  He learned it direct from God in the Bible.  Others may have helped him find the truth in the Bible, Loma Armstrong for example, as ministers should help us find answers in the Bible today.  But he didn't believe any new truth until he saw it for himself with his own understanding in the Bible.

The Bible interprets the Bible.  Clear passages help to explain difficult passages.  We should never let the Church and the ministry "interpret" the Bible for us.  Our faith must be in God and His word direct.  Faith in man, even Church of God ministers, even Mr. Armstrong, is a form of idolatry.

Members who are Philadelphian in character and spiritual condition should always believe what they see in the Bible for themselves more than their ministry, and should always be willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible, if they want a wide-open door for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.  And we need that wide-open door if we do not want the blood of the people to be on our heads (Ezekiel 3:16-21) and if we want to glorify God's name and reputation for fairness and help more of Israel be saved.

And Philadelphians should never move their tithes and offerings and support from a group with an open door to a group that has no open door.

Here is a list of other posts in this blog on the subject of God communicating with us through the Bible today as contrasted with communicating through miracle-working apostles and prophets in Bible times:  

Friday, August 14, 2015:
Why Does God Communicate to Us through the Bible Today, More than through Miracle-working Apostles and Prophets as He Did in the First Century and Before?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018:
Principle of Knowing God's Revelation - How Can One Know the Truth? / How to Preach the Gospel More Effectively

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Elijah (Again)

This is the third post in a series about Elijah.

This will be a short post.  This will also be more personal.

Repetition is a form of emphasis.  And some people, I think, still don't "get it".

There is a controversy in the Churches of God about whether the Church can rightly change or add to the doctrines of Herbert W. Armstrong.  Some, such as I, say yes, and some say no based on the belief that Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come and restore all things, and since he has restored all things there is nothing left to change or add.

This controversy is with many fellowships, not just one or two.  It has been going on for a long time.

As with any controversy over doctrine - and this is a major doctrinal question - we should settle it by the Bible.

Some in the Church, even some ministers, have grown up in the Church.  They never had the experience of having to reject their family traditions to follow God's word.  They never really experienced looking to the Bible for answers in the same way as someone who had to give up their religious traditions and in some cases even give up their families in order to obey the Bible.  Following a list of Church of God doctrines was easy for them.  They were not really tested before they were baptized the same way as those who did not grow up in the Church.  They had it easy in that way, so far.

Maybe some of them are being tested now.

If we want to know what God thinks about this controversy concerning Mr. Armstrong's role as the Elijah to come and restore all things, we need to look at what God says about Elijah himself - the first Elijah.

You say that Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come.  Fine.  I have no quarrel with that.  You say it was his work, from God, to restore all things, meaning doctrine.  Fine.  I have no problem with that.

But the question is, does his work, which he started (or God started through him if you want to word it that way), continue after he is gone, or did it stop when he was removed by death from the Church?

Does his work continue today?  If it does, then we are to continue his work of restoring all things, even today.

What does God say in His word?

God says that the work of Elijah continued after Elijah was removed from the scene.  It was continued by those who were supervised and no doubt trained by Elijah and followed him.

You can read the details in my last two posts.  The work God gave Elijah included anointing Jehu king over Israel.  This was done by others, probably trained and definitely led and supervised by Elijah, but only after Elijah was gone.  This shows that the work of Elijah that he starts continues after he is gone.  This is a principle from God, which applies to Mr. Armstrong, the Elijah of our time, as well as to the first Elijah.  I am convinced it is for the purpose of teaching this principle, so we can know that we should continue Mr. Armstrong's work of restoring doctrine, that God put this example in the Bible and gave us the details we need.

Did Elijah's work of anointing Jehu continue after he was gone?


Does Mr. Armstrong's Elijah work of restoring doctrine continue today after he is gone?  


If someone can't see this, is he really following the God of the Bible?

I have doubts.

Is he following where Christ leads?

I don't think so.  Christ leads through the Bible.  If a man rejects what God says in the Bible, he is rejecting the leadership of Jesus Christ.

Maybe he doesn't understand these particular passages.  Maybe he is blinded to their meaning.  Maybe he needs more time for God to work with him and open his mind.  

If a man grew up in the Church, learned his religious values and doctrines from his parents as most people in this world learn their religious traditions, has never had to choose between the Bible and those traditions, has had it "easy" in that sense, and is now not willing to admit error and change his view to believe God's word because he is afraid or unwilling to admit he was wrong and change - this may be a time when he has to exercise courage and faith to obey God.

It can take courage to hike one hundred miles on a difficult trail, to stand up for what you believe and be fired and have to go out on your own, and even to refrain from wearing a face mask to stick with your convictions.

But it can also take spiritual courage to admit to yourself and to God that you have been wrong in what you have believed and taught and to change and be corrected by the Bible.  That is the kind of courage Mr. Armstrong had.

If a man is only willing to follow the traditions his parents raised him in, but is not willing to change to follow the Bible, is he really converted?

A man may be a workaholic and be filled with energy to build an organization.  He may be a great speaker and have the kind of personal charisma and people skills that win supporters and followers.  He may be faithful to the religious traditions he was raised in and taught by his parents.

So what?

Many unconverted people in the world today (and in history) have exactly those qualities.  Some are fired by their employer for standing up for what they believe.  Some face physical challenges and dangers in the outdoors.  Some scorn face masks.  Some are workaholics and are filled with energy.  Some are good speakers and have pleasing personalities, the kind that win the support and loyalty of their followers.  Some faithfully follow their family traditions.

A man may be willing to practice a minority religion.  Does that make him converted?

No.  Look at the Jehovah's Witnesses.  Look at the Jews.

He may keep the seventh day Sabbath.  Does that make him converted?  No.  Look at the Seventh Day Adventists.  They do not keep the holy days.  But neither did the Church of God Seventh Day or much of the true Church of God in the last several centuries before Mr. Armstrong.

Why would a man who rejects God's word, including what God teaches us about Elijah's work continuing after he is gone, imagine that he is converted and has God's Holy Spirit dwelling in him?

The answer is easy.  Millions of Catholics and Protestants do the same thing.  Such a man might not know this, having been raised in the Church of God.  He might not know how those Catholics and Protestants who are zealous and religious and fervent think they have God's Spirit within them, how they fervently pray and trust in God all day.

If a man or woman in the Church of God is not willing to make difficult changes when confronted with and corrected by God's word, the Bible, what evidence is there that he or she is converted at all?  Such a person needs to ask himself or herself this question, especially as we approach self-examination time for Passover.  This would be a good question for many Church of God members to meditate on in preparing for Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

You think you have God's Spirit leading you?  You sense it somehow?  You say you feel God's presence in your mind and life?  You say you see the evidence of God's answers to your prayers?  So do many Catholics.  So do many Protestants.  You follow the traditions of your parents?  So do Catholics and Protestants.  You are willing to be part of a minority religion, out of step with people of the world around you?  So are Jehovah's Witnesses.  So are Jews.  So are people of many religions who are minorities in certain regions of this world, surrounded by people of different faith, often persecuted.

But are you willing to change what you believe to be corrected by God's word?  When have you ever faced that test?  Loma Armstrong faced it.  Herbert W. Armstrong faced it.  Thousands of Mr. Armstrong's radio listeners in the 1930's, 1940's, 1950's, and 1960's faced it.  Dr. Roderick Meredith faced it.  But you grew up in the Church.  When have you ever faced that test?

Maybe you're facing it now.

If you are facing it, pass the test.  Have the faith and humility and courage to believe God, admit to yourself and to God that you have been wrong in your beliefs, and change.

If you trust God, believe what He says.  Believe what He says about Elijah.  He won't lie to you.  Put Him first.