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.  

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