Friday, April 12, 2024

Passover 2024

Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are the beginning of the holy day year - the first of the annual festivals and holy days God ordained both for ancient Israel and for the Church of God today.

A holy day is an annual sabbath day.  No work is to be done on a holy day.  A festival day is not necessarily a holy day.  Passover day is a festival day, a feast day, but not a holy day.  Work may be done on Passover day.  Passover is to be observed after the beginning of Passover day, that is, just after sunset the night before.

The Days of Unleavened Bread are seven days in which all leaven is to be avoided and we are to eat unleavened bread on each of those seven days.  The first and last days of unleavened bread are holy days - annual sabbath days - in which no work is to be done and we are to assemble, as possible, for services.

These days are rich in meaning for the Church of God.

The Modern History of these Days in the Church of God

As we keep these days it would be good to take a moment to reflect on the history of the Church in modern times and our individual personal history of how we came to know about these days and their meaning.

The history of the modern keeping of these days for us begins with Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and is strongly tied to his keeping of the Sabbath.  Those of you who have read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography are probably familiar with the story, or much of it.  Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong were Sunday-keepers, though Mr. Armstrong was not very religious.  Mrs. Armstrong learned about the seventh-day Sabbath, and she accepted it and told Mr. Armstrong about it.  He did not accept it at first, but felt challenged to research the question in the Bible.  After research and much personal struggle, he also accepted the Sabbath.

But in his research he also learned about the annual feast and holy days.

He began to fellowship with the Church of God Seventh Day, which kept the Sabbath.  At that time, Mr. Armstrong was only a lay member of the Church, not an apostle or even a minister.  The Church of God Seventh day kept the Sabbath and Passover, and they understood the meaning of the both.  But, although they knew of the existence of the annual holy days, they did not keep them.  They did not think they were required.  It was not their tradition to observe them.

But Mr. Armstrong, in his research on the Sabbath, discovered that not only is the Church required to observe the weekly Sabbath but all the annual feast and holy days also.  So he and his family observed those days though the Church of God he fellowshipped with did not.  He followed the Bible more than Church tradition or authority.  He obeyed God rather than man (Acts 5:29).

At first, he did not know the meaning of the annual days, only that God commanded us to observe them.  So he observed them without knowing their meaning.  But after a number of years of obedience, God revealed to Mr. Armstrong the meaning of these days.  He revealed it, not through dreams or direct revelation or prophetic messages, but through the Bible and opening Mr. Armstrong's mind to understand what the Bible said on those subjects.  God helped Mr. Armstrong to understand the Bible because Mr. Armstrong obeyed God (Psalm 111:10).

Later, after Mr. Armstrong was ordained as a minister, God gave him an open door to take the truth to the world, but apart from the Church of God Seventh Day.  God gave Mr. Armstrong an open door (Revelation 3:7-8), but He did not give an open door to Church of God Seventh Day.

Why?  Church of God Seventh Day did not receive new truth.  They held fast to their traditions and were not willing to learn new knowledge from God and His word, the Bible.  They put the Church first and the Bible second.  Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong put the Bible first over the traditions of the Church.

God was not able to use the Church of God Seventh Day to go to the public and say, "Don't believe us, don't believe any man or tradition, believe God, believe your Bible", because they themselves did not practice that.  But Mr. Armstrong did practice that as a way of life and he could say that.  He practiced what he preached.  So God could use him and did.

God used Mr. Armstrong to raise up the Philadelphian era of the Church (Revelation 3:7-13).  That era was made up of many people who heard Mr. Armstrong on the radio say, don't believe me, believe God.  They checked up in their Bibles and found the truth.  They were willing to believe the truth they found in the Bible, new truth for them, more than any man, more than their churches, more than their traditions.

Since God opened Mr. Armstrong's mind to understand the meaning of the annual feast days and holy days in response to his obedience and willingness to learn new truth from the Bible, Mr. Armstrong shared that knowledge with the Philadelphian era of the Church God was raising up through him.

That is how we understand these days today.

That is a brief history of how we as a church understand these days.  But in addition, each of you has his or her own personal history of how you came to understand these days and their meaning.  Some of you may share that history in conversation during the Night to Be Much Observed.

What is the meaning of each of these spring days?

The Meaning of Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread

Passover represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven and saved.  The lamb that was killed in ancient Israel represents Christ.  Church of God Seventh Day understood this, and they kept the Passover.  

The bread and wine we take at Passover represent the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ.  The wine represents the blood of Christ and his death, and His death paid the death penalty for our sins so we do not have to permanently die in the lake of fire and cease to exist forever.  The unleavened bread we take at Passover represents the broken body of Christ and His suffering, and His suffering pays the penalty of suffering we incur by our sins so we do not have to continue to suffer - it enables us to be healed both spiritually and physically of our spiritual and physical ailments.

I do not know how much Church of God Seventh Day understood about physical healing, but Mr. Armstrong understood it and taught it to the Church.

Days begin and end at sunset.  We observe Passover shortly after sunset when Passover day begins.  We drink the wine and eat unleavened bread in remembrance of Christ's sacrifice for us, and we meditate on the love of Christ and God the Father for us.  We also wash each other's feet, in accordance with the example God gives us in the Bible (John 13:1-15), and this represents the humble services we should give to one another.

Following Passover, we observe seven days of unleavened bread.  Prior to this, we are to get all leavening and leavened products out of our house, and this includes cleaning our dwelling space of bread crumbs.  The principle forms of leavening are yeast, baking soda, and baking powder, but there may be others.

For seven days we avoid eating leavened bread or anything containing leavening.  We also make sure we eat some unleavened bread each day.

Leavened bread and leavening represent sin during this time (because leavening puffs up).  When we are diligent to avoid leavening during these days, we are reminded of the diligence with which we should put sin out of our lives.  Unleavened bread represents the righteousness of Christ, which we are to put into our lives.

On the first and last days of unleavened bread we assemble for services.  The first and last days of unleavened bread are also holy days and we cannot work on those days.

The overall meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread is putting sin out of our lives and the righteousness of Christ into our lives.  He is our perfect teacher and example.

At the beginning of the Days of Unleavened Bread we keep the Night to Be Much Observed.  This commemorates ancient Israel leaving Egypt.  Egypt represents sin, and Israel coming out of Egypt represents our coming out of sin.  Israel did not come out of Egypt the same night the death angel killed the firstborn of the Egyptians - they came out the following night.  God commands this night be observed (Exodus 12:41-42) but does not say how to observe it.  The Church has made the judgment to observe it with a special meal in groups with the brethren.

Spiritual and Physical Healing

In past posts I have addressed the subject of spiritual healing.

The Bible plainly states that by Christ's stripes, the beating He took, 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).  My question is, does this refer to physical healing, spiritual healing, or both?  I think the answer is, both.

This may take some thought.

Mr. Armstrong taught, and emphasized, physical healing.  But I know of no statement by Mr. Armstrong that excludes spiritual healing.  Mr. Armstrong had a style of teaching that placed emphasis on those things his readers and listeners did not know.  Most people did not know about physical healing, so Mr. Armstrong placed emphasis on this, even to the point of not teaching much, or anything, about spiritual healing.

Yet, I think it likely that Mr. Armstrong, if he were asked, would have acknowledged that spiritual healing is included.  Perhaps he even said this in the presence of some long-time members still alive today.  Perhaps someone might remember.

Does the Bible use the term "heal" in reference to spiritual healing?  Yes.  "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from him" (Hosea 14:4).  Backsliding refers to spiritual sin, not physical sin, so the Bible can and does use the term "heal" in reference to our spiritual sins and flaws.

Consider the logic of using "healing" in reference to physical and spiritual problems.  They are the same.  The same logic that applies to the doctrine of physical healing applies also to spiritual healing.

Let's start with the need for healing.  It is obvious that we have a need for physical healing when we are physically sick or injured or disabled.  But we have a need for spiritual healing as well.  We have human nature.  Our character needs to be cleaned up.  We need God to shape our character to become like Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, which only God can give.

Consider our fate if God only saved us from the death penalty of being burned up in the lake of fire and gave us eternal life, but did nothing to change our sinful nature and character.  The shed blood of Jesus Christ, His death in other words, pays the penalty of death so we can live forever.  But if our sinful character and nature remained the same, we would continue to sin for eternity and bring misery on ourselves and others forever.  We could be healed physically, we could be saved from death, but continue to be plagued by our sinful nature.

When we sin physically against our bodies,  by breaking the laws of physical health, by smoking for example or by eating unhealthy foods, we incur a penalty of physical illness or injury.  Jesus Christ paid the penalty for that by suffering in our place.  By his stripes - the beating he suffered - we are healed.  He suffered in our place so we do not have to continue to suffer.  Thus, our physical healing is made possible.  Our physical healing is the result of God forgiving our physical sins of violating the laws of health.  This is what Mr. Armstrong taught us and emphasized.  The Bible also teaches us this.

When we sin spiritually, we incur the death penalty.  "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).  Is this the only penalty for spiritual sin?  No.  This is what many people miss.  There are at least two penalties for spiritual sin.

When we sin, we incur the death penalty.  But also something happens to our minds.  Our character becomes corrupted.  We begin to acquire a sinful nature, the habit of sin.  And sin brings suffering.  It robs us of happiness.  This is a penalty for spiritual sin as much as death is a penalty for spiritual sin, as much as physical sickness is a penalty for broken health laws.

It might help us to understand when we consider the penalty that Lucifer and the demons have paid and are paying for their sins.  Death, the cessation of existence, does not apply to them.  Angels cannot die.  What is the penalty for sin that Satan and his demons pay?

Mr. Armstrong stated that their penalty is loss of opportunity, and that is certainly true.  But it is more than that.  Satan and the demons are not happy.  They are miserable.

Sin brings misery and suffering.  It brings conflict, war, destruction, and pain.  It brings loss of happiness.

When a wife receives notice from the police that her husband has been murdered, her suffering is mental and it is real.  When a couple goes through a divorce, the suffering is real though it may be only mental, and it is the result of sin.

And sin causes us to develop a sinful nature.  Sin becomes a habit.  Part of our sinful nature comes from Satan's influence, temptations, and broadcasting (Ephesians 2:2), but part comes from our choice to sin and what that choice does to our character.

When Lucifer sinned, something happened to his mind.  It was corrupted.  He developed an evil nature.  He sinned more and more, and that sin brought misery to himself and others.  When he embraced thoughts of vanity, his wisdom became corrupted.  "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor" (Ezekiel 28:17).

When Adam sinned, something happened to his mind also.  He too began to develop a sinful nature.  The Church has taught this.

And a sinful nature causes sin, and sin causes suffering.  It causes death too, but also suffering.

An evil nature that tends to sin, and the suffering that results from sin, are a penalty of human sin as much as death itself.

The shed blood of Jesus Christ, represented by Passover wine, represents Christ paying the death penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven and not have to die and cease to exist in the lake of fire.  The suffering He endured in the form of beating, represented by broken unleavened bread at Passover services, paid the penalty for our physical violations of the laws of health so we don't have to continue to suffer from sickness.

But just as Christ's suffering paid the penalty of suffering from sickness and injury so we can be physically healed, so his suffering paid the penalty of suffering from the spiritual effects of spiritual sin that comes from our sinful nature so we do not have to suffer eternally from sin and the consequences of sin.  In the kingdom of God we will not be fighting, destroying, and making ourselves and everyone around us miserable, because we will be spiritually healed and will no longer have a sinful nature.

The suffering of Christ, represented by the broken bread at Passover service, makes possible both our physical healing (removing the suffering of sickness) and our spiritual healing (removing the suffering brought on by sin).  The suffering of Christ makes possible our physical and spiritual healing so we don't have to continue to suffer.  Christ suffered in our place, paying the penalty of suffering so we don't have to continue to suffer, whether that suffering comes from physical sin or spiritual sin.

Mr. Armstrong said in his autobiography that his repentance was the bitterest pill he ever had to swallow, but it was the only medicine that brought real healing.  I am not quoting, because I am paraphrasing from memory.  But I do remember he used the term healing.  So even Mr. Armstrong understood that the word healing can apply to spiritual problems, and that is the context in which I am writing here.

How should we respond to this?

We should acknowledge to ourselves and to God that we are spiritually sick, that we need spiritual healing, that we need our character healed and we need God to give us His perfect, righteous, holy character, that we need to be made like Christ, and that Christ by his suffering paid the penalty of our suffering that results from both spiritual and physical sin.  We need to thank God and Christ for their sacrifice that enables us to be spiritually healed so we don't have to suffer for eternity from sin and from a sinful nature.

Self-Examination in Preparation for Passover

Prior to Passover, we should examine ourselves, looking at our spiritual condition (1 Corinthians 11:26-32).  The purpose here is not to determine if we are worthy to keep the Passover - none of us are worthy in that sense.  The purpose is to be able to keep Passover in a worthy manner.

Here are some scriptural passages I look to to examine myself, and these might be helpful to others.

Love God with all your being, the first great commandment (Deuteronomy 6:5, 11:1, Matthew 22:36-38, Mark 12:29-30, Luke 10:25-28).

Love your neighbor as yourself, the second great commandment (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:16-19, Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28, Romans 13:8-10, Galations 5:14, James 2:8-13, Luke 10:30-37).

The three weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23).

The ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:5-22).

The sermon on the mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7, Luke 6:20-49, 11:1-13, 12:1-53, 13:23-30).

The love chapter (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

The messages to the seven churches of Revelation (Revelation chapters 2 and 3).

Bring every thought into obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).

Whatever is good, think on that (Philippians 4:8).

Be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2).

Support the work of warning Israel of the tribulation to come (Ezekiel 3:17-21, Ezekiel 33:1-20, Proverbs 24:11-12).

Trust in God (Proverbs 3:5-6, Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Trust not in man (Psalm 146:3-4, Jeremiah 17:5-6).

Overcome Satan with prayer, fasting, the sacrifice of Christ, and our work of testimony (Leviticus 23:27-32, Leviticus 16:20-34, Revelation 20:1-3. Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13, Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:17-29, Revelation 12:11).

Violence in entertainment (Isaiah 33:14-16).

Humility (Luke 18:9-14, James 4:5-10).

Practice mercy and truth (Proverbs 16:6).

God's word sets a high standard, but eternal life is worth it.  I myself struggle with many of the points above, and not always successfully.  I fall short many times, but I am determined to keep trying in this life till I die or Christ comes.

When we examine ourselves, we do not have to focus only on the negatives of our sins and faults.  We can also consider our good points, and we can consider that God looks at not only our works but also our faith (James 2:24, Galatians 3:24-29, John 7:38, John 11:25).

For those who struggle with sin, parts of the seventh and eighth chapters of Romans can be encouraging because they show that Paul also struggled to overcome his human nature (Romans 7:4-25, 8:1-17).

Abraham was justified by faith, and God encourages us to look to Abraham's example (Romans 4:3, James 2:23, Genesis 15:6, Isaiah 51:1-2).

I also encourage everyone, in their self-examination, to consider the things I wrote in my last two posts.  We need to glorify God and obey Him by putting Him first in our beliefs and faith, believing what God says in the Bible more than men in the Church, if they differ, and not making idols out of the Church or its leaders.  But also do not cause division by criticizing or contradicting the ministry and leadership.

I hope and pray that everyone has a successful and spiritually profitable Passover, Night to Be Much Observed, and Days of Unleavened Bread.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Believe God More than Man

Faith is a form of worship towards God.  So is absolute trust in God.  We can trust human beings only to a limited degree, but we should trust God 100%.  Only God does not make mistakes.  Only God cannot lie.  Only God cannot sin.

I know of no scripture that teaches us faith towards man, any man, even a man in the Church.  In fairness, there is a verse that teaches faith in God's prophets, but the context indicates it is referring to prophecies those prophets deliver from God, and the primary application of this would be that we believe the writings of God's prophets, that is, the Bible (2 Chronicles 20:20).

Faith in God, believing what God says, is also a matter of the law, for it is one of the three weightier matters of the law, along with justice and mercy (Matthew 23:23).  My understanding of this is that lack of faith, disbelief towards God, is a violation of God's law, and since sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4), unbelief is sin.  To disbelieve what God says in the Bible is therefore sin, and since the Days of Unleavened Bread remind us to put sin out of our lives, and since we are to examine ourselves before Passover (1 Corinthians 11:28, 2 Corinthians 13:5), our faith is something we should think about when we examine ourselves.  Do we believe what God says?  Specifically, for the purposes of this post, do we believe God more than man, even more than men in the Church?

Ancient Israel which came out of Egypt was unable to enter the promised land because of unbelief, and their unbelief is equated with disobedience (Hebrews 3:12-19).

We can be tested on this anytime we read something in the Bible that seems to contradict, or add to, what the Church of God, its ministers, its leadership, its traditions, and Mr. Armstrong himself teach.  Of course, in most cases we may be misunderstanding something, and a minister can explain it to us.  We find out that the Church is not wrong.  We learn from the Church.

But not always.  It can be that even after discussion and study, we still see something different in the Bible than what the Church teaches.  We may still be wrong but not see it.  God gives understanding to each of us individually in various amounts and on various topics.  But we have to make our choice based on what we know, not on what we don't know.

Who do we believe more, God or the Church?

God sometimes tests us on this.  He tested Loma Armstrong.  He tested Herbert W. Armstrong.  He tested Church of God Seventh Day.  He tested a Sunday-keeping man who had a gift of healing who taught Mr. Armstrong about healing.

Guess who passed the test and who failed.  Who believed God more than man and who believed man more than God?

Read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography.  Again I say, read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography.

It started with Loma Armstrong.  Someone pointed out to her the passages in the Bible that indicate we are to keep the seventh-day Sabbath.  She believed what God said more than the traditional churches she was always a part of, more than the ministers and men in the churches, more than her traditions.  She passed the test.

She took the new truth she had discovered to Mr. Armstrong.  At first, he did not accept it, but he had a willingness to believe the Bible and he studied the issue.  Eventually, he also believed God more than man, more than the churches, more than tradition.  He believed what he saw in the Bible.  He therefore also passed the test.  He had faith in God.  He began to keep the Sabbath.

In his autobiography, Mr. Armstrong described a man who kept Sunday, but had a gift of healing, and Mr. Armstrong learned about healing from this man.  Later, Mr. Armstrong taught this man, from the Bible, about the Sabbath.  But this man did not accept what the Bible said.  He clung to his traditions and to his faith in men in the churches.  In effect, he disbelieved God in order to keep his traditions and his faith in what he regarded as holy men of God in the traditional churches who kept Sunday.  He failed the test.

Results were immediate.  He lost the gift of healing.  God no longer answered his prayers.  He rejected God and God rejected him.

God used Mr. Armstrong to test Church of God Seventh Day on the issues of the identity of the lost tribes of Israel and, I believe, on the need to keep the annual holy days.  The leadership of that church, and most of its members, also failed the test.  They did not believe God regarding the identity of Israel and the keeping of the holy days.

The result?  God could not use that church to do the Philadelphian work.  He did not give that church an open door for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning.  He gave that open door to Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong.  They led the Philadelphia work because they were willing to believe what God said.

When Mr. Armstrong began to preach on radio, he told his listeners, in effect, don't believe me, don't believe any minister, believe God, believe what you see for yourself in your own Bible.  He had the right to say this, more than Church of God Seventh Day.  Why?  Because he had done what he told others to do.  He practiced what he preached.  God had tested him, and he proved to God that he was willing to believe God more than man, even under difficult circumstances.

Sometimes we must pass the same test.

Not only did Church of God Seventh Day and the Sunday-keeping man who taught Mr. Armstrong about healing fail the test of believing God, they made idols out of their ministers, churches, and traditions, for they had faith in them more than in God, putting them first before God.

God must come first, and anything we place before God in importance becomes an idol for us.

Likewise today.

Last post I talked about those who make an idol of Mr. Armstrong by not being willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible that Mr. Armstrong did not teach.  But there are leaders and ministers today who make idols of themselves, not Mr. Armstrong, by teaching the members to believe their interpretation of the Bible rather than letting the Bible interpret itself.

Their reasoning goes like this.  Christ is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23).  Christ, through the Holy Spirit, leads the leadership and ministry of the Church of God to correctly understand the Bible and doctrine.  Christ has appointed men to offices in the Church of God to keep unity and protect the membership from false doctrines (Ephesians 4:11-14).  We are all to speak the same thing (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Therefore, according to their reasoning, because Christ leads the ministry in their interpretation of the Bible, their interpretation is correct, and we should believe the interpretation and doctrines of the ministers more than what we think we see in the Bible for ourselves.  If we think we see something the Church does not, we must assume we are making a mistake, and we should believe what the Church teaches.  We should trust Christ to lead His Church.

That can sound good on the surface, but it leaves out the truth that ministers do not always follow Christ, even in the true Church of God, even among those God works with.

The Sunday-keeping man, whom God worked with by answering his prayers for healing, did not follow Christ regarding the Sabbath.  The Church of God Seventh Day, which Mr. Armstrong identified as Sardis, was part of the true Church of God, but their leadership and ministry (most, anyway) did not follow Christ regarding the identity of Israel and the need to keep the holy days.

Ministers and leaders of Church of God fellowships are human.  They can and do make mistakes.  They can and do sin.  Christ does not always force them to submit to His word regarding doctrine.

If we find something in the Bible different from the fellowship we attend, we should believe what we see in the Bible but without causing division.  Keep it between you and God.  You may discuss it with the ministry in private or write to the Church, but do not discuss it or promote it with members.

Don't make an idol out of the Church, its leadership, or its ministry.  Put God first, trust Him and His word, and believe and put your faith in God.  

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Can You Disrespect and Show Contempt towards Someone, Yet Worship and Make an Idol of the Same Person at the Same Time?

Can a person make an idol out of something or someone, actually worship that idol and teach others to do so, and at the same time show contempt for their object of worship?  Is that possible?

I think, yes.  I may have witnessed it.

I heard a sermon that rebuked those who sent in study papers on suggested new doctrines or corrections to existing doctrines, based on the Bible, to the headquarters of the fellowship the speaker was part of.  Apparently, it is official policy in this fellowship to never change, correct, question, or add to the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong and his writings.  Any suggestion that there is an error in Mystery of the Ages or any of the traditional doctrines of the Church that have come from Mr. Armstrong, or that new doctrine from the Bible should be added, is immediately and automatically rejected without further consideration.  This seems to be the policy of that fellowship and the one who was speaking.

I suppose some think that by holding fast to the doctrines of Mr. Armstrong, they are obeying Christ's command to Philadelphians to hold fast to what they have.  "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write....See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name....Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown" (Revelation 3:7-11).  They don't seem to notice that in the same message to Philadelphia, Christ says He has given Philadelphia an open door (to preach the gospel).  I say the open door is a door for preaching the gospel because that is how the metaphor of an open door is used in the Bible, as I have found with a Bible study, which I documented in this blog.  But this fellowship has no open door, not really, though they make a token effort to preach the gospel.  As far as I know, their efforts have borne no good fruit (Matthew 7:15-20).  

They have no open door.  So why do they think they are Philadelphians?  And why do they think the command to "hold fast" is addressed to them?  There is no evidence that they have anything they should hold fast to.

Mr. Armstrong himself never claimed to be infallible.  He admitted he made errors, and he corrected his errors in doctrine, by the Bible, when he found them, as he did with Pentecost being on a Monday.  He was also always willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible, knowledge that the Church of God Seventh Day did not have, even when he was just a lay member attending that fellowship.

In fact, late in life he sometimes, in sermons to the Church membership, apparently criticized Church of God Seventh Day for being unwilling to admit and correct error and learn new things from the Bible.

So how is a member to respond when he sees something in the Bible that seems to contradict Mr. Armstrong's teachings or adds new knowledge that Mr. Armstrong did not have?

Obviously, there is a process available to the member to ask questions of a minister, to have a teachable mind, to be willing to be corrected if he is making a mistake, etc.

But that does not always clear things up.  Sometimes, even after further discussion and study with an open mind, the problem remains.  The Bible seems to teach something Mr. Armstrong did not teach.  How can that happen?  If there is an error in Mr. Armstrong's teaching, then he simply made a mistake in doctrine, as he did with Pentecost, and he died before he could discover and correct the mistake.  If it is new knowledge from the Bible, Mr. Armstrong did not discover it before he died.

But going back to the question, how should the member respond?  Should he believe what he sees in the Bible, or should he believe the Church, its ministry, and the teachings of Mr. Armstrong?  He has to make a choice.

The Bible is God speaking.  Mystery of the Ages is Mr. Armstrong speaking.  The member should believe God.  He should believe the Bible, not a man.

Faith must be towards God.  Faith is an act of worship, and we must always have faith in God and His word more than in man.  To believe man more than God is unfaithfulness towards God.  It is idolatry.  If we have more faith in men and their teachings than in God and his word, we are putting men before the true God.  We are not putting God first.  We are making an idol of a man or a religious tradition or a church.  This is what the world does.  That is why there are so many false religions and false churches in the world.

Did Mr. Armstrong receive an open door?  Yes.  When?  1934.  Did he hold fast to a list of doctrines at that time?  No.  Many of the doctrines the Church believes today were doctrines Mr. Armstrong did not discover until long after 1934.  He was in the process of discovering, learning, and teaching new doctrines, correcting mistakes in doctrine, NOT holding fast to old doctrines.  But he must have held fast to something.  What did he hold fast to?

He held fast to a way of life.  It was a way of life that Philadelphians today should also hold fast to.  It was a way of life that directly resulted in the doctrines he later discovered and we have today.

It was a way of life that put God first.  It was a way of life that included believing and trusting in God and His word the Bible more than in man and man's teaching, even teaching in the true Church of God.

One who practices that way of life today will believe the Bible more than Mystery of the Ages.  And as a result, he may discover errors in the teachings of Mr. Armstrong or new knowledge from the Bible that Mr. Armstrong never had.

Some may say that, since Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come to restore all things, he must have restored everything before he died, so no corrections or new knowledge is possible today.  Everything is complete and correct.

But people who say that are not following the Bible.  They do not live by every word of God.  For they have not learned what God says about the first Elijah.

Why do people who attach such importance to Mr. Armstrong being the Elijah to come not take the time to study the life and work of the first Elijah, even to learn what it teaches us about the role of Mr. Armstrong as the Elijah to restore all things?  Laziness?  Hypocrisy?  An attitude of, "Well, I know what is true and I don't care what the Bible says."  Mr. Armstrong never had that attitude, which is why God could use him and give him an open door.

Please, STUDY the life and work of Elijah.  The Bible teaches that the work of Elijah can continue after he himself is gone.  It is continued by his successor or successors.  That is the lesson.  And that means that the Elijah work of restoring all things should continue today.  Mr. Armstrong's work of correcting and discovering new doctrine should continue today.  And, no doubt, it does continue in those who believe the Bible more than man, more than the Church, more than their traditions.  They are discovering new things.  But the leaders and the ministry of the whole Church of God, most of them, are not learning new things, because many of them believe their traditions more than God.  Like the Catholics.  Like the Protestants.  Like the Pharisees (Matthew 15:1-9).

Mr. Armstrong started the process of learning new knowledge from the Bible.  That is how he restores all things.  He learned that process from God and he lived it - it was his way of life.  He taught it to others when he said on radio, "Don't believe me, don't believe any man, believe God, believe your Bible."  He taught it when he said, let the Bible interpret the Bible.  He taught it by his example as well as by direct teaching.

The Bible itself teaches it.

We should live by every word of God (Matthew 4:3-4).  We should trust God more than man (Jeremiah 17:5-8).  We should not follow our traditions when they differ from God's word, as the Pharisees did (Matthew 15:1-9).  God cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18).  Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35).  Faith - believing God's word - is one of the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23).  Abraham believed God, and his faith in God's word was accounted as righteousness (Genesis 15:3-6, Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6), but Israel in the wilderness could not enter the promised land because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:16-19).

We must believe the Bible more than the teachings of any man.

When we discover new knowledge, and teach it, we are continuing the process Mr. Armstrong started.  That work, that Elijah work of restoring all things, is attributed to Mr. Armstrong as the one who restored all things, because he started that work, he completed most of it, and he taught it to the Church, and we are to continue it today.  That we continue Mr. Armstrong's work of restoring all things does not diminish his role - rather it honors and increases it.

Mr. Armstrong has restored knowledge and continues to do so today through those who have learned from him that we should believe what God says in the Bible, not our traditions.

What is it about the life of the first Elijah that teaches us that the work of the Elijah in our time continues after he himself is gone?  Simply this: that is exactly what happened with the first Elijah.

God gave Elijah a job - anoint Jehu king of Israel (1 Kings 19:13-17).  But Elijah did not do it directly himself.  He must have delegated the job to Elisha, because after Elijah was gone from the scene, Elisha did it, and even Elisha did not do it directly but sent an unnamed man to do it (2 Kings 9:1-13).

But do Church of God leaders and ministers even care what the Bible says?

This has a direct effect on the Church's ability to warn our nations.

Someone said, you can't teach something you haven't lived.  He said this in reference to our teaching role in the millennium, saying we have to live the right way of life now if we are to be able to teach it in the millennium.  But I say that principle also applies to our role today - we have to live the way of life we preach to the public.  I have often said in this blog, we have to practice what we preach.

Mr. Armstrong preached, don't believe me, don't believe any religious leader, believe God, believe your Bible.

Did he practice that?  His autobiography, and his life, shows that he did.  God could use him because he practiced what he preached.  God gave him an open door.

But God has not given that same open door to Church of God leaders today because they do not practice what they preach.  They do not practice the way of life the Bible teaches and Mr. Armstrong taught by his example.

It is a way of life that Philadelphians are to hold fast to, the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced, a way of life that includes believing the Bible more than our traditions or Mystery of the Ages.

But those who refuse to learn new knowledge do not have that way of life, so they can't hold fast to it - they do not have it to hold on to.  They have nothing to hold fast to.  That command is not for them.  It is for Philadelphians.  It is only for Philadelphians, some of whom may want to share what they learn by sending in study papers, as Mr. Armstrong did (read his autobiography and see if he sent in study papers to Church of God Seventh Day when he first began to attend as a lay member, not a minister or apostle).

The Church of God has a job to warn Israel and the world (Proverbs 24:11, Ezekiel 3:17).  If we don't do it, God will require the blood of the people at our hand (Ezekiel 3:18-21).  That means we have to get a message out to about 500 million people.

Some say, the two witnesses will do it.  No, it will be too late.  They receive power at the beginning of the tribulation (Revelation 11:1-3).  That doesn't give those we warn the time to research these things (Acts 17:10-12) and repent and turn to God.  The tribulation will have already started.  What a cruel joke to only warn someone when it is too late for them to heed the warning and escape.

We especially need to warn those who follow false religious traditions, like Christmas and Sunday, that they need to change.  These are not atheists.  Some of them are very religious, zealous for God but without knowledge.  They think they are pleasing God.

And if no one warns them, when they are stuck in the tribulation, will they not think, why didn't God get a warning to me?  No one told me I was wrong.  God isn't fair.  I had no chance.

Will that not make their trust in God and their repentance more difficult?  Will they not tend to blame God for being unfair?  Our failure to get a warning message out does not glorify God's name.

In my book, Preaching the Gospel (see upper right link), I use research about the Holocaust to prove my point, especially what is shown in the book, The Faith and Doubt of Holocaust Survivors.  The suffering of Holocaust survivors and the deaths of their loved ones did not necessarily draw them closer to God, rather, many lost the faith in God that they had.  They never had a warning.  They thought God was unfair, or they convinced themselves that He doesn't exist.

We must get the warning message out.

But we can't do it while playing the hypocrite of preaching to the public, don't believe us, believe God, yet saying to our own members, don't send in study papers, don't try to change doctrine, believe us, believe Mr. Armstrong, believe Mystery of the Ages, we are not going to change doctrine, but the public needs to change their doctrines according to the Bible.

If we do that, we are telling the public to do what we are unwilling to do ourselves.  We want the public to learn new things from the Bible, but we are no longer willing to do that ourselves.  We have abandoned the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced to the end.  God will not bless that.  He will not give us an open door for hypocrisy.

It is a bit ridiculous to expect to go to the place of safety when we have no open door to show that we are Philadelphians.  Only Philadelphians are promised protection.  And I don't think we will have an open door while we refuse to change doctrine, while we refuse to grow in the knowledge of God (Hosea 4:6).

How can one make an idol out of Mr. Armstrong while showing contempt towards him?  You can make an idol out of him by practicing and teaching the way of life of believing him more than the Bible.  But at the same time, you can show contempt towards him by criticizing the way of life he practiced, the way of believing God more than man, the way of correcting doctrinal errors, the way of learning new knowledge from the Bible.  Even the way of sending in study papers.

When you criticize those who send in study papers, you are criticizing Mr. Armstrong, for he sent in study papers.

You show contempt for the one you have made your idol.  I guess that is fitting, in an ironic sort of way.  Also, shameful and disgusting.

Some will say, believing the Bible more than Church tradition causes division.  No it does not.  What causes division is members openly criticizing or contradicting the Church in conversation with other members, as I have written about before in this blog.  If you discover new knowledge in the Bible, believe God, but do it quietly.  Keep it between you and God and don't talk about it with other members.  You can discuss it respectfully with the ministry or send in study papers if you wish, but don't promote it or talk about it with the members.  Let the Church and ministry decide when and how to teach the members.  That is their God-given role, not yours.  You do not have the authority.  Maybe the leadership abuses their authority, but let God correct them, not you.  That is the lesson of government.  Respect the ministry.  Even if they do wrong, respect the office.  Wait for God to judge and correct.  Pray about it.  Wait on God.

But believe what you see in the Bible.

There is little in this post I have not taught before in this blog, sometimes in much greater detail than I have done in this post.  If you have questions about this material, email me, or post a comment for this post, or read some of my past posts which may answer your question.  And if you submit a comment or send an email, please be patient with me because sometimes I am slow to respond - but I will respond if I can.