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.