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.

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