Today in the United States is Thanksgiving, a national holiday for giving thanks to God. At this time of year, many in God's Church keep Thanksgiving and spend extra time thinking about God's blessing and giving God thanks in prayer.
Among many things we give God thanks for, I think it is appropriate that we give thanks for Herbert W. Armstrong and the great body of truth God has revealed to us through him.
We are very blessed in that regard. Not only do we have the truth and traditions God gave us through Mr. Armstrong, but we have a great body of literature from him and from the Church under his leadership available on the Internet, which we can continuously review for encouragement and for a reminder of the things we believe in common because of him.
Some of the key pieces of literature of Mr. Armstrong that are my favorites are, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, The Incredible Human Potential, Mystery of the Ages, and The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong. Right now, I am part way through reading The Incredible Human Potential, which I have read many times.
I am thankful that God gave us Mr. Armstrong as a powerful man of God to lead the Philadelphia era of the Church and to teach us many truths. Mr. Armstrong was not perfect. He made mistakes, and he corrected many of his own mistakes, and he would still correct his mistakes if he were alive today. But the vast majority of his teachings were right on target, and very important. The way God prepared Mr. Armstrong for this service was amazing. Mrs. Armstrong was an important partner and helpmate to Mr. Armstrong in this work.
Mr. Armstrong set a wonderful example for us in practicing what he preached and putting God first, and so did Loma Armstrong. When you read his autobiography, you will see that he always put God first in believing and obeying God more than man.
Loma did this first. She learned about the Sabbath from a Church of God member, and she was convinced, not by what people said, but by what God said in His Word, the Bible. Though she was a religious person, she was immediately willing to give up her traditions and what she had been taught by various ministers all her life in order to believe God directly - to believe what she saw in the Bible.
Mr. Armstrong at first resisted, but after a lot of research he too made the choice to believe God more than man. No doubt, God inspired both him and Mrs. Armstrong to make these right choices. I believe God inspired them by His Holy Spirit which was with them but not yet in them, and this was part of the way God called them. We should give thanks to God that He did so.
I think that individual members reading Mr. Armstrong's literature on a regular basis can help bring and maintain unity in the Church, since we are reviewing the things we hold in common.
When you read the autobiography, you will notice that Mr. Armstrong went to God's Word, the Bible, rather than man, for truth. He did not let any man interpret the Bible for him. He let the Bible interpret the Bible, as he taught us. Did he make mistakes in understanding the Bible? Yes, but as I said, he was willing always to correct his mistakes when he found them. Did he refer to and use the writings of men in his research? Yes, but as a source of ideas and reference, not as final authority. He had an open mind. He learned from others. But for final proof, he went to the Bible.
That is why he was able to say to the public, don't believe me, don't believe any man, believe God, believe the Bible. He could say this without hypocrisy because that is exactly how he personally lived. That is a beautiful thing. And God was able to use him to do a great work.
People, coming into the Church of God as it was growing, had to believe the Bible more than their churches, their traditions, their ministers, and even their own opinions. And God required that the person who challenged them to do this do the same. Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong qualified.
It is noteworthy that this is not something Mr. Armstrong did only when he was an ordained minister or when he became an apostle or became aware that he was an apostle. He did this always. He always put the Bible first over the teaching of ministers or over tradition. He was that way when he was being called, before baptism, a "prospective member" as we say. He was that way as a newly baptized lay member. He continued this way after he was ordained.
For that we can be grateful, for it is because of this that God was able to do a great work through him, and it was because of this great work that many of us, or our parents or grandparents, were called into God's truth.
Let us give God thanks for Mr. Armstrong (and Loma too) and let us appreciate the body of literature God has provided for us from Mr. Armstrong's time.
Thursday, November 24, 2022
Today in the United States is Thanksgiving, a national holiday for giving thanks to God. At this time of year, many in God's Church keep Thanksgiving and spend extra time thinking about God's blessing and giving God thanks in prayer.
Friday, June 24, 2022
Today it was announced that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe vs. Wade.
This is welcome news. Roe vs. Wade has always been a bad decision both legally and morally. The overturning of Roe vs. Wade has been long overdue.
Now states can ban or restrict abortion. Some already do, and many more may now do so.
Also, Congress has the power to ban or restrict abortion for the whole country, if it chooses to do so and if it can get past a presidential veto.
There is much that can be said about this, about abortion, about Roe vs. Wade and its reversal, about what the Bible says about abortion, and about God's judgment.
But I want to just point out one thing.
The responsibility, and guilt, for allowing abortion will now fall more directly and completely on the heads of the people, on the heads of the voting public.
God is teaching us lessons, and the great tribulation to come will be a lesson for the United States and other Israelite nations.
Up until now, in judgment, the people could say, "Abortion is not our fault. The Supreme Court, which we have not elected and whose justices we cannot remove, has forced us to allow abortion".
That will no longer be true. This decision does not end the issue and the controversy. It simply moves it from the courts to the legislatures. It will be an immediate issue in the state legislatures. Some states will outlaw abortion and some states will not. Women who want an abortion who live in states that prohibit it can make a trip to a state that allows it to have their abortion.
But the issue, in years ahead, can also be decided for the whole country by the Congress and the President. The United States Congress can pass a law banning abortion and the President can sign it, and if that happens, abortion will be banned in the entire country.
Or, and this may be overlooked but is important, the Congress and President can pass a law that FORBIDS STATES FROM BANNING ABORTION. Federal law overrides state law. Congress and the President, in the future, can pass a law that has the same effect as Roe vs. Wade - it will make abortion available in all states - not because of the force of the Constitution but because of the force of federal law over state law.
Here is the difference. With Roe vs. Wade in effect, the ordinary voting public can blame abortion on the Supreme Court, over which voters have no direct power to install or remove justices. They can say to God, in effect, "This is not our fault - we didn't pick these justices who force abortion on us". But now, this issue is under the control of the voting public. They elect liberal or conservative senators and members of the House of Representatives. They elect liberal or conservative presidents who sign or veto bills.
Right now, it is unlikely there will be a federal law banning or allowing abortions. The House of Representatives and the presidency are controlled by different parties. The House would never pass a bill requiring the states to allow abortion, and the President would veto any bill that banned abortion.
But this will be a hot election issue in the future.
If the American people want to stop abortion, they can elect conservative members of Congress and a conservative president who will pass a law banning abortion in all fifty states. But if the American people want to allow abortions in all fifty states, they can elect liberal members of Congress and a liberal president who will pass a law legalizing abortion in all fifty states, and that federal law will override state law.
I do not think the Supreme Court would overturn a federal law legalizing abortion. I could be wrong, but the basis of this would be different than Roe vs. Wade and would not be so easy to overturn.
So the whole issue will be more directly in the hands of the people than ever before.
And if the people - the voting public - decide to legalize abortion nationwide - look out! The blood of the innocent children killed will be more directly on the heads of the people than ever before.
We are being made ripe for punishment.
God is teaching us lessons, and He is allowing Satan to set us up for the great tribulation in a way such that our national guilt will be very obvious to the people who must go through the great tribulation.
As a nation, if we allow abortion to continue, we will not be able to say to God, or to ourselves, "The Supreme Court made us do it".
When the great tribulation begins, God wants the nation to know that it is guilty and that God is just and fair to punish us for our national sins. National sins bring national punishment, and we are being set up for it.
God is taking away our excuses.
It is possible that in the 2024 election, abortion will be a hot issue, and the majority of the voting public will be in favor of abortion and will elect a liberal Congress and liberal president, and that Congress and president will pass a law, maybe in 2025, legalizing abortion in all fifty states. Our nation will be more guilty than before and without excuse.
Thursday, June 9, 2022
We just celebratedd Pentecost, and as with all the feasts and holy days, God uses it to teach us lessons.
Pentecost teaches us about the starting of the New Testament church and the gift of the Holy Spirit. It teaches us the lesson of first fruits, that the Church of God is a small, early spiritual harvest compared to the greater harvest to come after the return of Jesus Christ to rule the earth.
But Pentecost is also a reminder of the work of the Church in preaching the gospel. One of the first things Peter and the other apostles did after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit was to preach the gospel to the crowd, and about 3,000 people were added to the Church that same day (Acts 2:1-41).
God's way of life is the give way of life. God teaches us the give way of life to prepare us for eternity in His kingdom as His children. He teaches the give way of life through His law, through the example of Jesus Christ, through His word, the whole Bible, through His Holy Spirit working in us, through the Church and the instruction of the ministry, and through circumstances. We learn not only by instruction, but by doing. We learn to give and love our neighbors by practicing the give way of life.
God is doing a work in the Church and the world to prepare for His kingdom, and He gives us the opportunity to participate in that work. That is one way we learn by practicing the give way of life. There are many parts to God's work, and God gives different gifts and opportunities to different members in the Church. All of us can participate in God's work through our prayers. Most can contribute tithes and offerings. Some have the opportunity to help feed the flock through sermons and sermonettes. Some serve the needs of other members. Some are able to write articles for the Church or for the work of the gospel. Some are pastors and can serve by speakng, counseling, and baptizing.
God can use each of us in a small way or a large way. But however God uses us, all credit goes to Him. He provides the gifts we need to do any kind of work, and He provides the opportunities.
No matter what kind of gifts or opportunities God gives us, and no matter how greatly He may use us in His work, we must never become vain, proud, and puffed up about the work we do.
If God uses any of us in a powerful way, that does not mean we are righteous!
If God uses a person in a powerful way, can that person still lose out on salvation?
Doing a powerful work, doing God's work, does not guarantee a place in His kingdom if we do not develop God's holy righteous character - if we do not really practice the way of faith and love.
Consider this passage, which I will quote at length, though most readers are probably familiar with it. "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.' Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You? Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:31-46).
Note that those who were rejected because they did not really put love towards their neighbors into practice protested that they did great works in Christ's name. But their works did not save them.
God gave gifts to many Old Testament Israelites in the wilderness after they came out of Egypt. Notice these examples.
"See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you" (Exodus 31:2-6). God inspired and used these men to build the tabernacle.
" 'I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now - if I have found favor in Your sight - and do not let me see my wretchedness!' So the Lord said to Moses: 'Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone" (Numbers 11:14-17). Later, these seventy men prophesied (Numbers 11:25).
But though God gave spiritual and mental gifts to these men, gifts of skill and ability, then used them to do a work, God did not bring them into the promised land. They died in the wilderness. God only brought Joshua and Caleb into the promised land because of their faithfulness (Numbers 14:29-30).
"But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness" (1 Corinthians 10:5). Who does that include? It includes Bezalel and Aholiab and other gifted artisans who built the tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 31:2-6). It includes the many whose spirit God stirred up to contribute to and do the work of the tabernacle (Exodus 35:4-35, 36:1-7). It included the seventy elders who prophesied (Numbers 11:25). God used them to do the work, but in the end they were not faithful, and God was not pleased with them. They died in the wilderness.
Look at Solomon. God loved him (2 Samuel 12:24-25). God gave him wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-14). God used him to build the temple and to write books of the Bible (much or most of Proverbs, all of Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes). Yet, Solomon did not remain faithful "Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David" (1 Kings 11:6).
Consider king Saul. God selected him and used him, yet he was not faithful and God later rejected him (1 Samuel 9:15-17, 1 Samuel 10:1, 23-24, 1 Samuel 15:10-34, 1 Samuel 16:1).
Joab fought battles for king David and helped David in a number of ways (2 Samuel 12:26-30), but he was a murderer and was executed for his crimes (1 Kings 2:5-6, 28-35).
Or consider Judas. He was one of the original twelve apostles. He served Christ and God. He went out along with the other apostles, and healed the sick, cast out demons, and preached the gospel (Matthew 10:1-15). He probably baptized (John 4:1-3).
Did God not perform miracles by the hand of Judas? Judas must have been as successful in doing God's work, in general, as the other apostles, for when Jesus said that one of the twelve would betray Him, the other apostles did not know who He was talking about (John 13:21-30).
Here was a man who served Christ by helping to do the work, probably performing miracles and helping to bring the truth to others, yet Christ said he would have been better off if he had never been born (Matthew 26:23-25)!
If God gives any of us the gifts and opportunities to do a powerful work, let us not become puffed up in pride and vanity, thinking the work we do makes us righteous. We have to make sure our hearts are really right with God. And we have to be humble, giving all credit to God for any good work He does through us.
Sunday, April 3, 2022
Passover Self-Examination, CGA Preaching the Gospel, Fasting to Overcome Bad Habits, and the Ukraine
See comment for added scripture.
Hi, it's me.
I'm not dead, yet.
It has been a long time since I posted to this blog, and I want to update on a few things.
Before taking Passover, we should examine ourselves. Self-examination is part of preparing ourselves to take Passover in a worthy manner.
"Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep" (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).
One way we can examine ourselves is by comparing ourselves with the standards of the Bible. "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. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:12-13).
Here are passages in the Bible I have found useful in examining myself.
The ten commandments are listed in 2 places, Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
The sermon on the mount is in 2 places, Matthew chapters 5-7, and Luke chapter 6.
Christ's messages to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are also good to review. Regardless of what era we are in, any individual can fall into any one, or more, of these seven categories - that is why Christ says let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches - all of them.
Also, 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, is a good passage to review for self examination.
CHURCH OF GOD ASSEMBLY (CGA) STARTS TO PREACH THE GOSPEL AND THE EZEKIEL WARNING TO THE PUBLIC
Mr. Sheldon Monson, pastor of Church of God Assembly (CGA), announced at Sabbath services April 2 the start of a CGA effort to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public. CGA will run radio ads on station WSM AM 650 Nashville. The radio ads are one minute in length and are narrated and mostly written by Mr. Kevin Lee. I believe the ads point to a new website CGA has set up for the public. The website address is themillennium.org. This website links to the CGA website which links to literature the reader can download from the HWA library.
This radio station is 50,000 watts and can reach 38 states at night. It is a clear-channel radio station, one that Mr. Armstrong once used. I think that clear-channel means that no other station uses the same frequency at the same time. This means that it is easier to hear this station from far away, especially at night.
You can also check out the website WSMonline.com to try to listen to the radio station over the Internet.
CGA has signed a one-year contract with the station. They plan to run ads 20 times a week for the next 4 weeks to start.
You can also download WSM Mobile App for you mobile device to listen to the station.
The ads and websites are set up for four booklets or topics so far, and the goal is to add two more each month, so in a year about 24 booklets will be set up to be advertised.
Mr. Monson and Mr. Fritts plan to record videos, about 20-30 minutes in length. These will be posted on one of the websites and later may be made available as podcasts.
I am glad CGA is now starting to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public. I hope and am praying that they will be successful.
In the past I have expressed concern that God will not give a wide-open door for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to CGA if CGA is not willing to follow the example of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong of learning new knowledge and correcting past mistakes and if CGA is not willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible and believe the Bible more than their own traditions just as they are asking members of the public to do. I am still concerned about that.
But it may be, that for the sake of some members of CGA who are truly zealous for the gospel and are willing to learn new things from the Bible and believe the Bible more than COG traditions, that God will give CGA a door that is open, perhaps only a little, for preaching to the public.
Every little bit helps.
And if I am completely wrong, and God gives CGA a huge wide-open door, I will be glad for the sake of the gospel, whether I understand the reasons or not. I will be glad to be wrong if it means the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning goes forward and prospers.
One thing I have appreciated about Living Church of God is that they publish public information from auditing by an accounting firm of their finances once a year. From those statements, anyone can see how much LCG is spending on preaching to the public vs. feeding the flock. This is useful for anyone whose heart is in the gospel and the work to evaluate LCG to see how well they are working to get a message out to the public, so individuals can decide whether or not to support LCG.
I realize that CGA is still getting organized, but I hope that at some time in the future CGA will in some way publish similar information, such as total income for a year, how much is spent on feeding the flock (total of minister salaries, hall rentals, travel expenses, etc.), how much overhead, and how much on the gospel (websites and hosting, radio ad expenses, etc.).
USING PRAYER AND FASTING AS A TOOL FOR OVERCOMING BAD HABITS
The Church of God has long advised the use of prayer and fasting for overcoming sin and drawing closer to God. There is scriptural support for this.
There is no direct statement I have found in the Bible that says that you can overcome Satan with fasting. But consider these passages.
"And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 'Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.' Then Jesus answered and said, 'O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.' And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, 'Why could we not cast it out?' So Jesus said to them, 'Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting' " (Matthew 17:14). See also Mark 9:17-29.
Also, Jesus, before being tempted by Satan fasted for forty days. After and while fasting, He overcame Satan and all Satan's temptations. After that He began preaching the gospel. See Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-15, and Luke 4:1-15.
This fits with the parable of the strong man. "Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house" (Matthew 12:29). See also Mark 3:27 and Luke 11:21-22. Satan is ruler and deceiver of this world. He is a strong man. To plunder his house, that is, successfully preach the message of God's truth to Satan's world, we must first bind the strong man and then we can plunder his house. In a figurative sense, this is what Christ did when He conquered Satan in the temptation in the wilderness. He overcame Satan by resisting every temptation Satan threw at him. Then Christ could plunder Satan's house by preaching the gospel. But notice that fasting was one way Christ prepared Himself to conquer and overcome Satan.
Christ has fully overcome Satan. But we also should follow the example of Christ in using fasting as a tool for overcoming Satan.
Finally, notice that on the Day of Atonement, when we fast, Satan is bound for a thousand years - see Leviticus 16:7-29, Leviticus 23:27, Numbers 29:7, Revelation 20:1-3.
The Bible therefore associates fasting and prayer with overcoming Satan. We overcome Satan both to overcome our bad habits and to be successful in preaching God's truth to the world.
But some members may have had the experience of fasting to overcome a problem, yet find that fasting has not helped them. Things not only do not improve, but may get worse. They are tempted to conclude that fasting does not work.
But we are to walk by faith, not by sight. "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Where do you place your trust for the decisions you make and the things you do, in personal experience and observation or in faith, trust, and belief in God's word, the Bible?
We should believe God's word more than our experiences and observations.
God sometimes tests us, and He may test our faith in His word by not giving us the help we want and expect right away. But we are to continue to believe God. God's word teaches that fasting is a way to overcome, and we should believe God's word, trusting Him that He is telling us the truth, and stick with it until we get the results. If God is testing our faith, we need to make sure we pass the test.
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). Fasting is a way of diligently seeking God. He will reward us though He may test us for a while.
I do not have a lot to say about the war between Russia and the Ukraine. Some things are obvious to those in the Church of God who understand prophecy and the doctrines of the Church. By invading the Ukraine, Russia is giving Germany and all western Europe a motivation to develop a strong military for their defense.
I do not know how the war will turn out. Putin could be overthrown by others in Russia who see this as a mistake. Putin may push ahead and force a victory by superior military force. He may use poison gas or nuclear weapons.
Russia can be hurt by American-led economic sanctions, but by applying those sanctions the United States can hurt its own dollar. You can use a weapon against an enemy, but in the process you wear out or use up or damage your weapon. There is a price to pay.
Sanctions do not just hurt Russia. They economically hurt countries that impose the sanctions. Not every country is willing to pay that price, and those that do not will find ways other than the dollar to trade with Russia. If you are a country not so committed to supporting the western powers against Russia, and there are many such countries, would you rather use dollars to pay a higher price for a commodity from another country or use some other medium of exchange to buy that commodity from Russia at a lower price, thus saving money and helping your own economy? Some countries will use a different medium of exchange to trade with Russia, and the effect of this will be to weaken the dollar.
So the long-term effect of this war may be to motivate Europe to build a strong, united military and to contribute to the eventual downfall of the dollar. And if the dollar fails, there will be great inflation in the United States, especially with anything traded internationally.
Everybody, have a great Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Don't forget to clean or throw out your toaster.
Sunday, January 16, 2022
We are coming close to Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, and preparations are beginning. Members may begin to prepare by making plans and by examining themselves spiritually (1 Corinthians 11:27-32, 2 Corinthians 13:5). Scheduled sermon and sermonette speakers and those who conduct Passover services are making plans on what to say in their messages.
We are taught that by Christ's stripes we are healed. "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6).
The stripes refer to the beating Christ took before He was crucified. He suffered so we can be healed.
In the old days of Worldwide Church of God while Mr. Armstrong was alive, the Church emphasized that Christ's suffering paid the penalty for our physical sins - our violations of the laws of health - so we can be physically healed. This was emphasized so much that I do not remember ever hearing or reading of the spiritual application of that, that we are also healed spiritually. I do not remember the words "heal" or "healing" ever being applied to our spiritual condition - our character - but only to physical diseases and disabilities.
There is nothing wrong with placing emphasis on certain things to drive home lessons. Physical healing has not been a doctrine of many traditional churches we came out of, so it needed emphasized teaching.
But spiritual healing is important, and today it should not be neglected. To be silent on this may be an affirmation that Christ's suffering did not include paying the spiritual price of our sins so our character can be healed.
I have posted about this before for those who want to look up past posts to research this.
Does the Bible ever use the concept of "healing" or "sickness" to refer to spiritual matters, or only to physical diseases?
"Jesus answered and said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32). Here Christ directly compares physical sickness with the spiritual need for repentence.
In the Old Testament, God prophesied concerning Israel: "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from him" (Hosea 14:4). Here, God applies the concept of healing to a spiritual matter - backsliding. The same Hebrew word for "heal" is used here as is used in Isaiah 53:5 that says that by Christ's stripes we are healed.
So in the Bible, healing does not just refer to physical healing. It refers to spiritual healing also. In the Church of God, we may call that character building, but it refers to the process of turning from sin and becoming like God and putting on the righteousness of Christ by the power of God's Holy Spirit. It includes getting rid of bad habits and building good habits and learning to live by every word of God as a way of life.
So the passage in Isaiah that refers to being healed by the stripes Jesus Christ suffered includes both physical and spiritual healing.
Does the Church of God acknowledge this? Or do we deny the role of Christ and His suffering in making possible our spiritual healing?
The Church and its speakers can teach about the healing taught in Isaiah several ways. A speaker or writer can simply say that Christ's suffering enables our healing without mentioning spiritual or physical healing. Or, a speaker or writer can refer to "physical healing" and not include spiritual healing. Or, he can refer to both physical and spiritual healing. I believe that last way is the best and most accurate way to teach the meaning of Isaiah 53:5.
Among the Churches of God, this seems to vary. I know of one group that seems to deny the role of Christ's suffering in enabling our spiritual healing by saying that we are healed physically by His stripes, but saying nothing about being spiritually healed. Another group simply says we are healed without specifying if we are healed physically or spiritually or both. Yet another group does say we are healed spiritually and physically. I have not checked all the groups.
If the Church denies the importance of Christ's suffering to pay the penalty of our sins so we can be spiritually healed, what does Christ think about that? He endured the suffering so we can be healed both spiritually and physically. He was motivated by love to do this for us. If we knowingly deny his role in suffering so we can be spiritually healed, because of fear of men or because of unwillingness to believe what God says, what does Christ think about that? If we do not acknowledge the importance of the suffering He endured in making possible our spiritual healing, are we not denying Christ and showing a lack of appreciation for what He has done for us?
Christ was willing to suffer so we can be spiritually healed. Are we unwilling to acknowledge and appreciate that?
"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33). This is a broad principle. It can include many things. There is more than one way to deny Christ.
The Church of God and each of us individually are being tested on many matters. This might be one of them.
And how hard of a test is this, anyway? How hard would it be for the Churches of God to simply acknowledge that Christ's stripes make possible both our spiritual and physical healing? Is this a big deal? We still keep the doctrine of physical healing. Is it heresy to say we are also healed spiritually by the stripes of Christ just because Mr. Armstrong didn't include that in Mystery of the Ages?