Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What I Am Thankful For

This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day for giving thanks to God for the blessings He gives us. Not everyone in the United States celebrates Thanksgiving, and some who do celebrate it observe it in a wrong way, not giving thanks to God but just using the day as a day to enjoy the pleasures of this life: food, family, friends, and football.

But some in the United States observe Thanksgiving in a right attitude, giving thanks to God.

Probably most Church of God members in the United States observe Thanksgiving Day. It is optional for us, not commanded by God.

On this day I try to spend extra time in giving God thanks.

Here are some of the things I am thankful to God for.

I am thankful to God for His goodness. Mr. Armstrong talked about this. He said he was grateful that the greatest power in the universe, God, was a power for good, not evil. God is perfect in wisdom, power, righteousness, and love. All other benefits come from that. I am grateful for God's perfect, holy, righteous character.

I thank God for His creation, all of it: the angels, the physical universe with all the galaxies, stars, planets, and wonderful laws of nature, and of course, mankind. God's creative works are perfect.

I thank God for his plan to reproduce Himself in mankind. God offers us the wonderful gift of the opportunity to become members of His family forever, sharing rulership of this universe with Christ, and enjoying the happiness of eternal life in power and glory with God forever.

I give God thanks for Jesus Christ, for His sacrifice, suffering, and death to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind so we can be forgiven and saved, and for His saving work as savior, high priest, intercessor, advocate, teacher, head of the Church, and soon coming King over the earth. I thank God for the perfect example of Jesus Christ to teach us lessons of how we should love one another.

I thank God that He has provided a way, in the white throne judgment, for every human who has ever lived to have an opportunity to hear and understand the true gospel and be saved. No one will be left out of God's kingdom due to circumstances of birth in time and place. No one will be left out because Satan deceived them and they had no opportunity to understand and believe the truth. This shows God's love, justice, and mercy, and it is a great gift.

I am thankful to God that He has included in His plan for the salvation of mankind that there be a first fruits, a select group of called Christians in this age to be with Christ in the first resurrection, to rule the earth with Christ and help bring the rest of mankind to salvation.

I thank God for His word, the Bible, which instructs us in so many things. God's word is perfect. It is written by men, but inspired by God to be God's direct communication with every Christian. God's word cannot be broken and cannot fail. In the Bible, God gives us many promises. He gives us answers to the important questions of life. He guides us in detail to know His mind and how we should live. He teaches us the right way of life, the way that produces happiness in the long term. He shows us how to identify and embrace true doctrine and how to identify and reject false doctrine, even in detail. The Bible teaches us the true gospel from beginning to end.

I am thankful to God for the Church of God, that we may have fellowship with like-minded Christians, that we may be encouraged and instructed. I am thankful for God's ministry to instruct us and help us understand the Bible and for all their service and work.

I am thankful to God for the gift of His Holy Spirit to the Church to help us understand His word, the Bible, to help us understand spiritual knowledge, and to help us overcome and make progress in living God's way of life in spite of our evil, carnal nature.

I am grateful for the work God has done through Herbert W. Armstrong to build the Church of God in our time, to preach the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to millions, and to restore many lost truths and doctrines through the Bible, including the plan of God as illustrated by the weekly Sabbath and the annual holy days and festivals of God.

These are general things I thank God for.

But I also thank God for His many blessings for me personally.

I thank God for calling me personally to be part of the Church and the first fruits, opening my mind to understand His truth and the Bible. All of us in the Church have been given the precious gift of the truth in this age, perhaps each of us being only one out of about 100,000 people on the earth to know the truth at this time. That is an awesome gift and calling.

I thank God for allowing me to support His work at this time with my tithes and offerings, my prayers, and my service.

I am thankful to God for His patience and mercy towards me, to forgive my sins and keep working with me to develop His righteous character in me, to correct me and teach me lessons in spite of my faults and weaknesses and my carnal human nature.

I thank God for the health I still have. Although I have health problems common to old age, I can still see, hear, think, and move around, and I can still use my hands for work.

I thank God for a roof over my head and food to eat.

I am thankful to God for the family members I have, though they are not in the Church: sisters, nephews, and nieces.

Then there are many detailed, personal blessings I enjoy that I give God thanks for, too numerous and detailed to list here.

Some of us set goals to put in a certain amount of time in prayer. One way to fill that time is by giving God thanks for his many blessings and to praise God for His goodness and works.

The Psalms are full of praise and thanks to God, and if anyone in the Church feels it is hard for them to think of things to pray about, I suggest mixing prayer with the reading of the Psalms. Rid a bit in the book of Psalms, then pray a bit, then read a bit more, then pray a bit more.

Thanksgiving Day can be a blessing in our relationship with God, if we use it properly. We should give God thanks every day, but on this day, for those who observe Thanksgiving, we can make an extra effort to give God thanks for His many blessings.


Here are links to other Thanksgiving Day messages from past years in this blog:

"Thanksgiving", dated November 25, 2011, link:
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2011/11/thanksgiving.html

"The Greatest Gift", dated November 21, 2012, link:
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-greatest-gift.html

"Give God Thanks", dated November 27, 2013, link:
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2013/11/give-god-thanks.html

"Should We Attend Thanksgiving Dinner with our Unconverted Families?", dated November 11, 2014, link:
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2014/11/should-we-attend-thanksgiving-dinner.html

"Giving Praise and Thanks to God", dated November 25, 2015, link:
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2015/11/giving-praise-and-thanks-to-god.html

"The Habit of Thanksgiving", dated November 22, 2016, link:
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-habit-of-thanksgiving.html

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 14 - What Philadelphia Is to Hold Fast To

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if we think they conflict with the Bible.


In chapter 8, the COGIW article again compares the office of John the Baptist to the office of apostle because Christ said that John was "more than a prophet" (Matthew 11:7-10), and the only office greater than prophet is apostle (1 Corinthians 12:27-28). But being an apostle is not the only way a prophet can be "more than a prophet". John was more than a prophet because he had a special role to play.

Jesus Christ did not say that John was more than a prophet because he was an apostle, and Christ never calls John the Baptist an apostle. John was more than a prophet because he is the prophesied messenger to come to prepare the way for the Lord. In other words, he is more than an ordinary prophet because he had a specially important role.

As far as comparing John to Mr. Armstrong, the similarities are not exact. John was specifically called a prophet, and Mr. Armstrong specifically said that he was not a prophet. John the Baptist received direct revelation from God, not through the writings of other men, but direct by divine revelation (John 1:29-34). This never happened to Mr. Armstrong. He only received revelation through the pages of the Bible, through the writings of other men as they were inspired by God, the same way we can prove the truth from our own Bibles.

So there is no scriptural proof that John the Baptist was accounted as an apostle or equal to an apostle by God, and there is no proof that whoever comes after John as the Elijah to come will be like John in every respect.

Later in chapter eight, the COGIW article says that that which Philadelphia is to hold fast to (Revelation 3:11) must have come from the individual who was to restore all things (Mr. Armstrong).

That can be true provided we know what Philadelphia is to hold fast to. It is not a list of restored doctrines, A-Z. During much of the Philadelphia era of the Church, all those doctrines had not yet been restored, so how could the church at that time "hold fast" to what was a work in progress? In fact, the attitude of holding fast, that is, "no changes", when applied to a list of doctrines, can actually prevent new doctrines from being restored.

Nor is that which we are to hold fast to a loyalty to and following of Mr. Armstrong personally as the source of truth, because Mr. Armstrong said, don't believe me, believe your Bible. Mr. Armstrong did not set himself up as a source of truth but pointed people to the Bible as the source of truth.

So what are Philadelphians to hold fast to? Is it something that we received from God through Mr. Armstrong? Yes.

What we are to hold fast to is the understanding that we must put the Bible first as a source of truth and doctrine, not Church authority, not Mr. Armstrong, not any man, but the Bible - God speaking. That is the tradition we received from Mr. Armstrong and the source of all other restored doctrines.

What we are to hold fast to is simply what Mr. Armstrong said from the beginning. "Don't believe me, believe your Bible." That statement sums it up. It outweighs everything else.

In other words, part of what we are to hold fast to is NOT believing Mr. Armstrong.

If the COGIW article says, don't believe your Bible, believe Mr. Armstrong, believe Mystery of the Ages - that itself is an abandonment of the most important thing we are to hold fast to.

Another thing we received from Mr. Armstrong that we are to hold fast to is zeal for preaching the gospel to the world. Those who make no effort, or minimal effort, to preach to the general public the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning about the tribulation to come have not held fast to the zeal that was a tradition of the Church of God while Mr. Armstrong was alive.

Those two things must go together. You can't have one without the other. Why?

If you really get your teachings from the Bible, you will have zeal for the gospel, because the Bible very clearly teaches that the Church of God is to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning message.

And if you have zeal for the gospel, the only way you can convincingly preach the true gospel is to say to the public, as Mr. Armstrong did, don't believe us, believe God, believe your Bible.

What if you don't say that to the public? What if you say, "Believe us, because we have the truth. Believe us, because we are the servants of God. Believe Mr. Armstrong, because he was a true servant of God and the end-time Elijah"?

The public will say, "Why should we believe you? We have our own leaders, our own servants of God, our own traditions."

We can't even prove we are the servants of God or that Mr. Armstrong was a servant of God without using the Bible. In the minds of the public, only the Bible can have the authority to overturn what they have learned from their own ministers. We have to tell them to believe the Bible more than any man, church, or tradition, or our message will have no credibility.

But if we say, "Don't believe us, don't believe any man, believe God, believe what you see in your own Bible", then we better practice what we preach or we are hypocrites.

If we say that to the public, we have to practice what we preach, and we are not doing that if we believe Mr. Armstrong more than the Bible.

And if we say to our own members, believe Mr. Armstrong's teachings and do not make any changes or corrections, even from the Bible, then we are elevating Mr. Armstrong's teachings and authority above that of God Himself and His word, the Bible.

That makes us hypocrites, because we say one thing but practice something else. We have a double standard, one for ourselves and one for outsiders. But that is not God's way.

"One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you" (Exodus 12:49).

"You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 24:22).

"One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you" (Numbers 15:16).

"You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

Speaking of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus said, "For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" (Matthew 23:4). He also called them, "hypocrites" (Matthew 23:13-33). Seven times Christ called them hypocrites, and he also called them serpents and brood of vipers, and asked how they can escape the condemnation of hell.

We must not be like them, setting a double standard, an easy standard for ourselves (just believe your human leaders), and a hard standard for outsiders (Believe the Bible and reject the teachings of your leaders that do not agree. Give up your church, your friends, and even your family if necessary).

To follow the Bible, we have to preach the gospel to the world. To preach the gospel to the world effectively, we have to ask people to believe the Bible more than any man or tradition. But to say that without becoming hypocrites we have to practice the same thing and say the same thing to our members - believe the Bible first, more than Mr. Armstrong, more than our doctrinal traditions, more than any man, and more than the Church itself.

Mr. Armstrong said that to the public over the radio, and Mr. Armstrong practiced what he preached, believing the Bible over Church of God Seventh Day doctrines and traditions. Many of those who heard Mr. Armstrong and did what he said, proving everything in the Bible and believing what they saw in the Bible more than their traditions, became members of the Church of God, and the Church saw outstanding growth during that time in radio stations, in magazine circulation, in income, and in membership.

God blessed the Church with growth and effectiveness in preaching the gospel because He saw that many in the Church practiced the way of life that the Church was teaching the world - the way of believing the Bible more than man, any man, and more than the church, any church.

In other words, the Church of God was practicing what it preached. That is a recipe for success in preaching the gospel to the world.

That is what Philadelphia is to hold fast to!

If we believe Mr. Armstrong more than the Bible, that belief in Mr. Armstrong's teachings disqualifies us from preaching the true gospel to the world effectively. Mr. Armstrong said to his radio audience, don't believe me, believe your Bible. We must do the same.

God will surely test us on this, just as he tested Mr. Armstrong.

But if we pass the tests God gives us and choose to believe the Bible more than Mr. Armstrong's teachings, to believe and trust God rather than man, and are willing to make corrections and additions to Mr. Armstrong's doctrines as God, through the Bible, directs us, then God can bless our efforts to preach the gospel to the world as He blessed Mr. Armstrong's efforts, and the work will grow as it did before.

And the work has to grow, for there are hundreds of millions of people who need a warning about the tribulation to come and who need the encouragement of the true gospel to prepare them for the trials they will face ahead.


TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 13 - Can the Elijah-work Be Done by a Collective Church Group?

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if we think they conflict with the Bible.


There is one point in chapter 8 of the COGIW article I want to address. I covered some of this in my post in this series titled, "Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 8 - How Can We Know if a Man Is an Apostle?", dated August 17, 2017, link:
http://ptgbook.blogspot.com/2017/08/mr-armstrongs-role-part-8-how-can-we.html

The COGIW article, in chapter 8, says that the Elijah to come to prepare the way for Christ's second coming is only an individual, not linked to any other individual and not a collective Church of God group. The article says that there is no indication that this Elijah would be linked to anyone else, and that prophecy is not talking about a collective group to do the work of Elijah.

But that is not correct. When we look at the Bible and let the Bible interpret the Bible, we are to look at all relevant passages concerning the subject we are researching.

Since the death of Mr. Armstrong, there have been some that have de-emphasized his role as the Elijah to come and have said that the work of restoring all things is an Elijah-type work that can be done by the entire Church of God, not just an individual.

I do not agree with everything these people have said, and I strongly feel that Mr. Armstrong, as an individual, was the Elijah to come to restore all things and prepare the way for Christ's second coming, and his role in that should not be de-emphasized.

Nevertheless, contrary to the COGIW article, there is Bible evidence that the work of Elijah can include more than one individual - in fact, an entire supporting group - and that an Elijah-type work can continue after the original Elijah has completed his part of that work.

There is a principle of delegation in the Bible. When a leader delegates or authorizes his followers to do certain work, that work is attributed to both the leader and the ones under the leader who do the actual work.

Here are a couple of examples.

God the Father judges no one directly, but has committed all judgment to Christ. "For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." (John 5:22-23).

Yet, another Bible passage indicates that God the Father does judge us. "And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear" (1 Peter 1:17).

This is not a contradiction. God the Father judges. But He does it through Jesus Christ. The Father has delegated judgment to Christ, and Christ does the actual judging under the Father's authority. In the same way, the Father created all things through Jesus Christ.

The principle of delegation is made clear in this passage: "Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again to Galilee" (John 4:1-3).

Jesus did not do the physical work of baptizing. It was His disciples that did the actual baptizing. But the act of baptizing was attributed to Jesus because the disciples did it by His authority and direction. So it could be rightly said that Jesus baptized. He baptized by delegating the work of baptizing to his disciples.

How does this apply to Elijah?

The COGIW article says that there is no indication that the Elijah work is done by a group. But there is such an indication, if you look at what the Bible says about the first Elijah.

Anyone doing a Bible study about the Elijah to come should not just read the passages in the New Testament about John the Baptist and the prophecies in Malachi, but should also study the life of Elijah, the first Elijah.

After Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal and proved by a great miracle that the LORD was God (1 Kings 18:16-40), God commissioned Elijah to do three things: anoint Hazael as king over Syria, anoint Jehu as king over Israel, and anoint Elisha as prophet in Elijah's place (1 Kings 19:15-16).

Did Elijah do all three of these things directly, as an individual, while he was present and active as prophet? Or was some of this done by others after Elijah was taken away? Those who say that the Elijah work started by Mr. Armstrong cannot be continued as a group activity after his death need to ask this question.

The Bible gives the answer. After Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:9-15), Elisha, not Elijah, anointed Jehu king of Israel, and not even Elisha did it directly but delegated the actual anointing to an unnamed son of the prophets (2 Kings 9:1-10).

How did Elijah fulfill the commission God gave him of anointing Jehu king of Israel? By delegating the task to Elisha who succeeded Elijah

This illustrates both the principle of delegating the continuation of a work to a successor (as Elijah delegated the anointing of Jehu to Elisha, which Elisha did after Elijah was gone) and the principle of delegating a work to others in a group (Elijah delegated the actual work of anointing to a son of the prophets - remember there was a whole group of the sons of the prophets, like a Church of God fellowship today - see 1 Kings 18:3-13 and 2 Kings 2:1-18).

So, while Mr. Armstrong as an individual was the Elijah to come and restore all things and prepare the way for Christ's second coming, there is also a continuation of that work in the Church of God today. The Church of God is to do an Elijah-type work even while recognizing Mr. Armstrong's role as the individual Elijah to come who started the process of restoring all things and preparing the way for Christ. We continue his work as Elisha and the sons of the prophets continued the work of the first Elijah.


TO BE CONTINUED

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fall Holy Days and Feast, and Principles of Philadelphians

Is there a connection between the fall holy days and Feast of Tabernacles and the Church of God brethren that God describes in Revelation as Philadelphian in spirit, attitude, and character?

I think there is.

I will summarize the meaning of the fall holy days and Feast in the second half of this post, but first I want to explore a connection between the holy days and Feast and Philadelphians.


I have said before, that of all Mr. Armstrong's books and other writings, the most important for Church of God members is his autobiography. His book, Mystery of the Ages, is the best one-volume summary of all his major teachings, and his book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, may be the single best book for those outside the Church of God to read and be introduced to the truth of the Bible and the true gospel.

But Mr. Armstrong's autobiography reveals the thinking and background of Mr. Armstrong. It shows the basic principles by which he lived, which made it possible for God to use Mr. Armstrong to help reveal lost truth to the Church of God in our time. Mr. Armstrong was a Philadelphian in the way he lived. In his autobiography, he gets personal in the way he thinks and why he did what he did.

The autobiography is important for Church members because it shows how he dealt with problems in the Church, even as a lay member.

Mr. Armstrong was a Philadelphian. He was blessed with an open door, and he went through that door. His autobiography helps us identify the characteristics of a Philadelphian.

It is important for Philadelphians and those in the Church who are striving to be Philadelphians and develop the character that Christ praises in Revelation 3:7-13, to be able to identify some principles that Philadelphians must have.

I have read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, and I think I can identify three characteristics Philadelphians will have. These may not be the only three, but they can serve as visible yardsticks for measuring and examining ourselves. And while these principles are visible in Mr. Armstrong's life, they are also easily proven in the Bible to be right principles we should follow.

Two of these characteristics tie in with the holy days, principally how we know about the need to observe the holy days and feasts and how we know the meaning of these days.

First of all, Mr. Armstrong put the Bible first. He never let any man, even a minister in the true Church, interpret the Bible for him, but he learned to let the Bible interpret the Bible. This was his way of life from the beginning of his conversion.

He even tried to correct and teach new knowledge from the Bible to the Church of God Seventh Day while he was only a lay member.

He submitted a paper to COG7D on the identity of the lost tribes of Israel, showing from the Bible and from history that the English speaking people are descendents of Joseph and thus part of Israel. This was new knowledge, yet COG7D rejected it, not by contradicting it, but by mostly ignoring it. He also submitted a correction to their existing doctrines. Mr. Armstrong does not name this in his autobiography, but it is likely this correction was regarding the Church's obligation to observe the annual holy days and feasts of God. The reason I say this is that Mr. Armstrong later made clear in his writings and speaking that he and his family observed the holy days from the beginning, and that he learned of the need to keep the holy days at the same time he learned about the Sabbath, and this was before he was baptized. But COG7D rejected this also.

My point is that Mr. Armstrong did not submit to any authority of man, even to the leadership and ministry of the Church of God Seventh Day while Mr. Armstrong was only a lay member, newly baptized, when it came to reading and understanding the Bible. He never let any man tell him what the Bible meant. He believed what he saw in his own Bible and let the Bible interpret the Bible.

In other words, while still a lay member, not yet ordained as a minister, he believed what he saw for himself in the Bible more than he believed the ministers of the Church of God fellowship he was attending.

He believed the Bible more than the Church.

Later, when he did a work over the radio, he said to his listeners, don't believe me, don't believe any man, believe God, believe what you see in your own Bible. He preached that and he practiced that, and God blessed him with an open door.

It is important to God that we put our faith in Him, not in man, not in any man, not even a Church of God leader or minister.

Some today may say that this approach can lead to confusion in the Church of God, with every man deciding for himself what the Bible means and spreading his ideas to others. But that does not have to happen if the Church leadership simply teaches the members not to discuss their disagreements over doctrine with other members and not contradict the ministry in matters of doctrine. Members should be taught this principle, and if anyone violates this even after a warning, that person can be disfellowshipped, and if necessary, marked (Romans 16:17).

Instead, some ministers compete with God for the faith of the membership, telling the members to believe the Church, its leadership, and its ministry in matters of doctrine, even if the members see something different in the Bible. Thus, when a member sees something different in the Bible, he must choose to believe God or the Church, and some ministers teach him to believe the Church rather than God. That is wrong. It is idolatry. It is the making of a man, a minister, into an idol in the place of God. It is what many of the churches of this world do. And it is a reason why those churches have lost the truth.

Church of God leaders and ministers do have binding authority over the doctrines that the Church teaches (Ephesians 4:11-16). But they do not have authority to command the members to believe them more than what they see in their own Bibles, to believe the Church more than God (2 Corinthians 1:24). Ministers do not have dominion or rule over the faith of the members. How are these principles - the Church having authority over what is taught in the Church, but not having authority over what is believed by the members - reconciled?

Simply this, that if a member sees something in the Bible that seems to contradict what the Church teaches, he should refrain from discussing it with other members and contradicting the ministry, but meanwhile he should believe what he sees in the Bible. If appropriate and if there is opportunity, he may, if he feels it is important, discuss it privately and respectfully with the ministry. And it may be resolved there. But if not, he should continue to quietly believe God more than man, not spreading his ideas and causing division in the Church.

Mr. Armstrong, whom God blessed, always put the Bible first.

And it is because of this principle that Mr. Armstrong was able to see the need for keeping the holy days and feasts of God. If he had believed Church of God authority, he would not have kept the holy days. If he had not kept them, he would not have learned their meaning and through their meaning learned many truths about the plan of God and the true doctrines of the Bible.

Mr. Armstrong kept the holy days and feasts for years before he understood their meaning. He only believed and obeyed the God of the Bible. But when God saw his faith and obedience, faith and obedience towards God more than towards the Church, God blessed him and helped him understand, from the Bible, the meaning of the holy days and feasts. And through the understanding of the meaning of these days, Mr. Armstrong understood the true gospel with a depth he had not known before.

If you have ever read chapter 2 of my book, Preaching the Gospel, where I explain most of the doctrines of the Church of God, you will see how many of the basic doctrines of the Church can be organized according to the holy days and feasts. The doctrines of the Church are revealed in the holy days.

And it is because Mr. Armstrong believed the Bible more than the Church that we have this knowledge today.

Believing the Bible more than the Church ministry and leadership is a characteristic, I believe, of true Philadelphians.

A second characteristic of true Philadelphians is zeal for preaching the gospel to the world as a witness and a warning of the great tribulation to come as punishment upon Israel, including the English speaking people, if our nations do not repent of their sins. This also is illustrated in the life of Mr. Armstrong.

If you read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, you will see the zeal he had for preaching the gospel. I think that is evident. Doing God's work was his life.

It is necessary for Philadelphians to have zeal for the gospel, because it is the Philadelphians who have an open door for that purpose, and they must have the courage and zeal to go through it. In fact, their zeal is part of the open door. It is one of the things that separates Philadelphians from Laodiceans. Nearly all the COG groups have access to the same resources - freedom and prosperity - to preach the gospel to the public. But what causes one fellowship to be successful and another not is not resources, but zeal. Those ministers and members who have Philadelphian zeal for the gospel will find a way.

Preaching the gospel to the world and the warning of the tribulation to come is an act of love towards our neighbors. There is no substitute for it. Opening doors for strangers, giving aid to flood victims, and praying for Christ to come is no substitute for doing the hard work and making the financial sacrifices to get the warning message out to a world that desperately needs it. Setting a good example is not enough.

Our people need to hear the warning now while there is time for them to repent and escape the death and suffering to come. Even if they do not repent, they will remember the warning we give them, and they will know that God was merciful and fair to at least give them a warning. That will make their repentance in the tribulation easier and more likely. It will prepare them for the millennium, which is what the Feast of Tabernacles is about.

What are the fruits of Mr. Armstrong's zeal for the gospel? We have the truth. We would not have it if it were not for Mr. Armstrong's zeal to preach the gospel.

So the second characteristic of a Philadelphian is zeal and willingness to sacrifice for the preaching of the gospel and the warning to the public.

This second characteristic ties in with the first, for it is those who believe what God says in the Bible who have zeal for the gospel. Some who refuse to support the preaching of the gospel make various excuses: our example is sufficient, only Mr. Armstrong could preach the gospel, we must grow spiritually and get close to God before we can preach the gospel, etc. But those who believe God know that God commands the preaching of the gospel and the warning message to the world. The Bible shows the falseness of all these excuses, for those who are willing to believe what God says.

There is a third characteristic of Philadelphian Christians, and that is respect for and obedience to the principle of top-down governance in the Church of God, rather than voting.

This is a principle Mr. Armstrong always followed. And if you look closely at the history of the Church while Mr. Armstrong was alive, I think you will see that there were times when, if Mr. Armstrong relied on the voting of men, those men would have elected to cut back on the preaching of the gospel. Mr. Armstrong was able to move forward and deal with severe problems because he made the decisions, under Christ. And it was Mr. Armstrong, not a voting board, who had the faith and zeal to go through open doors to preach the gospel when it may have seemed, in human terms, to be impossible.

This also ties in with the first principle, putting the Bible first. Those who prefer voting have their reasons and excuses, but they do not hold up to the truth of the Bible. The Bible shows very clearly that God's government in the Church is governance from the top down, not by voting. I show, in chapter 8 of my book, the many scriptures that prove that godly government is from the top down.

In my opinion, those ministers who participate in a system of voting to elect leaders in the Church, or who submit to such leaders, have rejected the administrative leadership of Jesus Christ over the Church. They are making their own decisions, choosing their own leaders, not submitting to Jesus Christ.

Those are three main principles Philadelphian members of the Church of God live by:

1. Put the Bible first and believe the Bible more than the Church. By this we show God that our love, faith, and trust are towards Him more than towards man. But don't cause division by openly disagreeing with the Church in conversation with brethren.

2. Practice zeal and sacrifice for the gospel and the warning message about the coming tribulation. By this we show God that we love our neighbors as ourselves.

3. Believe, understand, and practice top-down governance in the Church as taught in the Bible. By this we show God that we trust Jesus Christ to appoint our leaders and make His choices known by their fruits.

Christ says to the Philadelphians: "Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown" (Revelation 3:11).

Much has been said in the Church about "holding fast". Many who use this verse apply it to the individual doctrines and details of doctrines that Mr. Armstrong taught us: the holy days, the plan of God, God reproducing himself in mankind, the identity of the lost tribes of Israel, the three resurrections, etc. But I think that misses the point.

Certainly these doctrines are important. But Mr. Armstrong practiced Philadelphian leadership before he knew all these doctrines. Learning these things was a process over time, and the Church was Philadelphian during the time it was learning these doctrines. Mr. Armstrong had some of these doctrines, but not all of them when he started a Philadelphia work in late 1933 and early 1934.

So in 1934, 1935, 1936, etc., how could Mr. Armstrong and the Philadelphian members of the Church supporting him have heeded this message and held fast to doctrines they did not yet have? In fact, if they had held fast to the body of doctrine they had at that time, they would have made no changes and probably no additions. They would not have learned new knowledge about the truth of God. They would not have learned that God is reproducing Himself in mankind. They would not have corrected the error about keeping Pentecost on Monday.

Then what are Philadelphians to hold fast to?

They are to hold fast to the principles they had from the beginning, the principles they had from the time God showed, by the good fruits of growth, that they are Philadelphians, that they have an open door. And it is those principles, the three I listed (Bible first, gospel, and top-down governance), that have helped to reveal all the other doctrines that came later. THAT is what we are to hold fast to. Not a list of doctrines.

For if we put the Bible first, the doctrinal correction and growth will come. God will see and reward our faith in Him and His word, the Bible, and will reveal knowledge to us. If we show zeal for the gospel, as the Bible teaches, God will see our willingness to love our neighbors as ourselves - our willingness to live the give way of life by sharing the truth God has given us - and God will bless us with more truth. And if we believe and practice what the Bible teaches about top-down governance, we will trust Jesus Christ to show us by the fruits (not the voting of men) those whom He has chosen to be our leaders, and we will submit to those leaders in the administrative decisions for the Church of God. And God can bless the leader or leaders He has chosen by helping those leaders understand truth from the Bible.

Understanding and holding fast to these principles that Mr. Armstrong practiced and that the Bible teaches will help Philadelphian members of the Church of God (and those who are striving to become Philadelphians in character and spirit) to be useful tools in God's hands and really finish the work of God.

So as we keep the coming holy days and Feast of Tabernacles, as we hear sermons and conversations about the meaning of these days, let's remember how the Church of God received this knowledge. We received this knowledge because Mr. Armstrong and his supporters and new members that came in from the radio broadcast believed the Bible first, practiced zeal for the preaching of the gospel to the world, and practiced and supported government in the Church from the top down. Let's think about these things in the coming holy days and Feast, and let's practice these principles as a way of life, because without them there would be no holy days or Feast of Tabernacles for us, and we would not have the knowledge that comes from observing and understanding these days.


Soon, we will be observing the fall holy days and the Feast of Tabernacles. It is a blessing to understand the meaning of these days, and we should reflect on that and give thanks to God for these days as we observe them. We should also spend some time reflecting on how we came to know about these days and their meaning, and that ties in with the three Philadelphian principles I described. Our knowledge of these days is a fruit, a direct result, of the principles I described.

This might also be a good time to read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography.

The first of the fall holy days and feast days is the Day of Trumpets. It is an annual sabbath, a day of rest and assembly. It pictures a number of events prophesied to occur in the near future. It pictures the Day of the Lord, a tremendous time when God directly intervenes to punish the world for its sins. At the seventh trumpet, Christ will return to the earth to set up His kingdom, the Kingdom of God, and the saints of God, the faithful members of the Church of God, will be resurrected to immortal life if dead or changed to immortality if alive, and they will rise to meet Christ in the air.

Before the Day of the Lord will be the heavenly signs. The heavenly signs and the Day of the Lord are described in Isaiah 2:12-21, Isaiah 13:6-16, Ezekiel 30:1-3, Joel 1:15-18, Joel 2:1-11, Joel 2:30-32, Joel 3:14-16, Joel 3:18-20, Obadiah 15-16, Zephaniah 1:7-18, Zephaniah 2:1-3, Zechariah 14:1-5, Matthew 24:29-30, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10, Revelation 6:12-17, Revelation chapter 8, Revelation 11:15-19, Revelation chapters 15 and 16, and Revelation 19:11-21.

The resurrection of the Church is described in Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:50-56, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, and Revelation 20:4-6.

The meaning of the Day of Trumpets helps us understand that man does not have an immortal soul, for we need the resurrection from the dead. The scriptures that describe that resurrection show that we will be made immortal at that time, not that we have immortality already.

The next of the fall holy days is Atonement. Members of the Church of God rest and assemble for services on Atonement and fast on that day, refraining from food and water from sunset to sunset (Leviticus 23:26-32). Atonement represents the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christ paid the penalty for our share of guilt for our sins so we can be forgiven and saved. But Satan also has a responsibility for our sins because he deceives us and tempts us into sin. He will bear his own guilt for that.

After Christ returns, Satan will be bound and put away in a condition of restraint, so he will no longer be able to deceive and tempt mankind into sin. He will be released for a little while after the 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ and the saints, but during the millennium he will not be able to influence mankind. Atonement represents these events.

Here are some passages that describe these events: Leviticus chapter 16 and Revelation 20:1-3. Passages that describe Satan's character and role include Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:11-19, John 8:44, Luke 4:5-8, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Ephesians 2:1-3, and Revelation 12:7-9.

The next holy day is the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, a feast that lasts seven days. The first day is an annual holy day, a sabbath of rest and assembly. The entire seven day feast pictures the happiness and joy that will exist all over the earth during the 1,000 years that Christ and the resurrected saints rule the earth and Satan is put away.

Members of the Church of God save a second tithe all year to spend at the Feast. We travel to various locations where the Church has set up Feast sites and stay in temporary dwellings - hotels and motels - for the duration of the Feast. We attend services every day, but in the afternoons that are not sabbath days, we enjoy good food and drink and fellowship and enjoy the recreational opportunities the area has to offer. The sermons in services rehearse the scriptures that describe the joy of the millennium, and the speakers help the membership understand what the millennium will be like and what lessons the Feast has to teach us. All this helps us to picture the happiness of the millennium and the Kingdom of God and the richness of the reward that awaits us.

The Feast of Tabernacles pictures something else also. Because we stay in temporary dwellings, in hotels and motels, as the ancient Israelites stayed in booths made of leafy branches, we picture the temporariness of this life, of this journey towards the Kingdom of God. We are travelers in this age, and this age, this physical life, is not our permanent home - the Kingdom of God will be our permanent home.

There are many scriptures that describe the Feast of Tabernacles and what it represents. Here are some: Leviticus 23:33-43, Psalm 98:4-9, Isaiah 2:2-4, Isaiah 11:1-9, Isaiah 19:23-25, Isaiah 25:6-8, Isaiah 35:5-10, Jeremiah 30:8-10, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:24-30, Daniel 2:27-45, Daniel 7:13-14, Amos 9:13, Zechariah 2:10-11, Zechariah 8:20-22, Matthew 19:27-29, Luke 19:11-26, Revelation 20:4-6.

Immediately after the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles comes the Last Great Day (John 7:37-38), also called the eighth day of the feast. This is a holy day, an annual sabbath, a day of rest and assembly (Leviticus 23:33-36).

This day represents a time, immediately following the millennium, when all who have lived and died without having an opportunity to be called by God and drawn to Christ (John 6:44), including all who have never heard the true gospel because of circumstances of their birth and life, will be resurrected back to physical life and will have their first real opportunity to be saved. They will be judged for their sins, but will also learn about Christ's sacrifice, and they will have the opportunity to believe and repent and be saved. Here are some scriptures that describe that time: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Matthew 11:20-24, Revelation 20:11-15.


God has been very merciful to reveal His wonderful truth to us, for the vast majority of mankind is not able to know these things because Satan deceives them and God has not yet called them. We should be very thankful for our calling and the truth God has revealed to us. And we should be very thankful for Mr. Armstrong and the early members of the Church of God who supported Mr. Armstrong. We should be grateful that they lived by the principles that allowed God to use them to further the gospel and all of God's truth: loyalty to God's word the Bible, sacrificial zeal for spreading the message to those who need it, and submission to and support of God's government in the Church from the top down.

Let's think about these things and imitate those who have helped to make God's truth available to us by practicing these three principles that they lived by.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 12 - Recognizing the End-time Elijah

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if we think they conflict with the Bible.


In chapter 8, the COGIW article starts by saying that the Church must remain subject to the one specific apostle sent to them, which is the apostle from which that part of the Church of God learned the truth.

What is meant by "subject to"? Does that refer to administrative authority, that is, the making of decisions about church administration, ordination of elders, appointments, when and where to meet, the order of services, disfellowshipping those who are sinning openly, marking those who cause division, resolving disputes between brethren, distributing aid to the poor, and making decisions about official doctrine the Church teaches?

If that is what is meant, I agree. The Corinthian church needed to obey Paul in these matters, not Peter.

But after Paul is dead, these things pass on to new leaders. Paul, after he is dead, cannot ordain elders, decide disputes, disfellowship anyone, distribute aid to the poor, etc. Nor can he decide issues of doctrine that will be taught, except that some of his letters are part of the Bible and the Church of God must always follow the whole Bible.

But I do not think this is what the COGIW article meant. I think the article means that the congregations Paul supervised must remain loyal to all his teachings, whether canonized as part of the Bible or not, even if some of those teachings, not part of the Bible, contradict the Bible. And by saying this about apostles in general, the implication is that the same thing applies to Mr. Armstrong.

As I have shown in the preceding posts in this series, this is wrong reasoning and not according to the Bible.

Then the article claims that prophecy predicts that there will be a special end-time apostle to restore all things. But that also is incorrect. The Bible nowhere says that the Elijah to come, who will restore all things, will be an apostle. This supposition is based on the idea that John the Baptist was an apostle, but there is no proof of that in the Bible, as I have shown. John is called a prophet, not an apostle. And right here is a difference between John and Mr. Armstrong. John the Baptist was a prophet who received direct revelation from God (John 1:29-34). But Mr. Armstrong was not a prophet. He did not received direct revelation from God, only revelation from the Bible, God's word, which God helped him to understand as God helps all of us to understand (but with Mr. Armstrong God gave help in greater measure since he was the leader).

Chapter 8 of the COGIW article states that the end-time Elijah was to be an individual, not a collective church group. Yet, as I pointed out previously in this series, even the first Elijah did not do everything God commissioned him to do personally. Part of his work was delegated to Elisha, who performed it after Elijah was taken away, and even Elisha delegated part of it to an unnamed man who anointed Jehu king of Israel. So Mr. Armstrong being the Elijah to restore all things does not prevent us from continuing that work of restoration as Mr. Armstrong instructed us.

Chapter 8 of the COGIW article seems to stress the importance of knowing who the end-time Elijah to restore all things is.

There is a problem with that. The Bible itself does not say that it is important for us to know who the Elijah is.

I am not saying that the work of the Elijah to come is not important. It is vitally important. God would strike the earth with a curse if the Elijah to come did not turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. But the Bible does not indicate that it is important for us to know who he is. God knows who he is, and that is sufficient.

Even the end-time Elijah does not have to know his office and his identity as the end-time Elijah. Mr. Armstrong did not think of himself as the end-time Elijah in the beginning, even while he was restoring truth. But he did the work of Elijah whether he knew it or not. How? Simply by believing and obeying the Bible. He learned the truth about the need to keep the holy days from the Bible and began restoring that truth long before he thought of himself as the Elijah to come. In other words, there was a time when Mr. Armstrong did not think of himself as the end-time Elijah even while he was doing the work of the end-time Elijah, the work of restoring lost truth.

Does the Bible say that we must know who the end-time Elijah is?

Did Jesus teach the importance of knowing who the end-time Elijah is?

Jesus Christ never raised the subject!

Most New Testament scriptures referring to an Elijah after the first refer to John the Baptist. But it is from one passage that we know there is an end-time Elijah to come also.

Look at this passage. "And His disciples asked Him, saying, 'Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.' Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist" (Matthew 17:10-13).

We know from this passage that there is to be an end-time Elijah, that John the Baptist is not the only Elijah after the first. We know this because Jesus said that Elijah "is coming first" (present tense, but after John the Baptist was dead), and "will restore all things" - future tense.

But notice something else. Did Jesus say it was important to know who this Elijah will be? Jesus did not even raise the subject. His disciples raised the subject, asked Jesus, and Jesus answered them. That is all. Christ never talked about it in the sermon on the mount or the prophecies of Matthew chapters 24 and 25, or anyplace else. And why did the disciples ask the question? Because of the scribes.

Likewise, the priests and Levites asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah (John 1:19-24).

It was the Jewish religious authorities, the priests and the scribes, who were most concerned about this. They seemed to be very concerned about personal titles and offices. But Jesus never raised the subject. Evidently, what was important to the priests and scribes was not so important to Christ.

Where does Christ, or any of the New Testament writers, or even Old Testament writers, give specific instructions for knowing if a man is the end-time Elijah and stress the importance of knowing who he is? I find it nowhere in the Bible.

Why?

Because it is not important for us to know who he is. God knows who he is and the man himself knows what work he has to do, just as I showed with Mr. Armstrong. He knew what he had to do. He had to believe and obey the Bible, and he had to teach what he learned to the world. Whether he knew that this made him an end-time Elijah is irrelevant.

And his radio listeners did not have to know.

Why?

Because Mr. Armstrong taught from the Bible. He said, don't believe me, believe your Bible. So his radio listeners checked in the Bible and believed the Bible. That was sufficient. They did not have to know anything about the end-time Elijah.

That is why Jesus did not place importance on recognizing an end-time Elijah. He knew that the end-time Elijah would believe and teach from the Bible and that those who were called would believe the Bible.

While I am on this subject, I will also point out that the Bible does not stress importance of knowing who an apostle is in our time. The Bible does not even give a specific definition of an apostle. "One sent" is not a good definition, otherwise the mailman sent to deliver my mail would be an apostle. Even "one sent by God" is not a good definition because prophets are sent by God but are not apostles. Paul speaks of his miracles as "signs of an apostle", but Mr. Armstrong did not have public miracles to back his teachings, yet we regard him as an apostle. God does not provide in His word a checklist for determining who is or is not an apostle.

God could have given us these instructions. He does regarding prophets (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Deuteronomy 18:20-22). But not regarding apostles.

Why?

Because, regarding Mr. Armstrong, God knew Mr. Armstrong would teach from the Bible and that the Church would believe the Bible. It was never necessary that we recognize Mr. Armstrong as an apostle. He had administrative authority, under Christ, over the Church, and that did not depend on his apostleship.

At this end-time, false teachers will certainly arise. But our protection is not Mr. Armstrong and his writings. Our protection is God's word, the Bible.

Will false teachers twist scriptures and try to use the Bible deceitfully? Yes they will. But those who believe and obey God, those who let the Bible interpret the Bible as Mr. Armstrong taught us, will not be deceived.

God has a system in place for teaching and protecting the Church of God from deception in our time. We must study the Bible and not be slack about it. We must read the whole Bible regularly in order to live by every word of God. We must believe what we see in the Bible, yet be respectful of God's ordained ministry. And as we believe and obey the Bible, God opens our minds by His Spirit to understand more knowledge and to avoid deception.

This is the system Mr. Armstrong practiced and taught by his example and his word to his radio listeners. It is the system God teaches in His word, the Bible. It is a system based on faith in God and in Christ, not in man. There is no substitute for it.

But some try to substitute a different system than that which God has ordained. They do not want to have faith in an invisible God. They do not want to have faith in God's word, the Bible, because that requires them to do the hard work of Bible study and letting the Bible interpret the Bible. They want a shortcut. Some of them want an idol they can see with their eyes. They want to make a man in the Church an idol whom they can believe. But by making that man an idol and rejecting the Bible, they are overturning the basic principles that man lived by.

Those who say we must follow Mr. Armstrong's teachings unconditionally are overturning the system Mr. Armstrong himself followed and the Bible teaches. It is a different system, a system based on faith in a man, not God. This is not what Mr. Armstrong stood for. Whether they realize it or not, they are overturning Mr. Armstrong's most important teaching: believe and obey the Bible more than any man, let the Bible correct you, let God through the Bible teach you new knowledge, and obey the truth God teaches through His word the Bible.


This series will be continued after the Feast of Tabernacles.

TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 11 - The Spiritual Heritage of Herbert W. Armstrong

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if we believe they conflict with the Bible.


Chapter seven of the COGIW article addresses the issue of the authority of an apostle's teaching after he died. It uses the example of Peter.

Does the authority of Peter's teachings over us continue to this day? Yes, because all we know of Peter's teachings are his writings in the Bible, and the Bible is God's word to us, free from error. Therefore, Peter's epistles in the Bible carry authority over us. They are the word of God, and we must believe and obey Peter's epistles just as we do the whole Bible. And if there is a conflict between Peter's teachings and Mr. Armstrong's teachings, we must believe Peter's epistles more than Mr. Armstrong's writings.

The COGIW article says that the spiritual heritage of an apostle must be kept by the Church after the apostle's death. By this I think the article means that we must retain Mr. Armstrong's "spiritual heritage" after his death and make no changes to it. And by "spiritual heritage", I think it means his doctrines, all of them, in detail.

There are several things wrong with this.

First of all, the article never proves that there is any Bible instruction telling us to follow the teachings of a man in the Church, whether that man is an apostle or not, beyond his death, except when that man's teaching is part of the Bible. We must follow and believe and obey Peter's writings, not because he is a dead apostle, but because those writings are part of the Bible and therefore the word of God. The whole Bible is true, guaranteed free of error, and scripture cannot be broken (John 10:34). That includes Peter's writings, but not Mr. Armstrong's. Peter's writings are true and cannot be broken. Mr. Armstrong's writings can be broken. They are not scripture. They are not God's word direct to us. They can contain errors because they are not part of the Bible and Mr. Armstrong, being human, made mistakes.

Therefore we must always believe what we find in the Bible, whether that be the writings of Peter, Paul, or any other servant God used to produce the Bible, more than we believe Mr. Armstrong's teachings. If there is a conflict, we must correct Mr. Armstrong's errors.

A second thing is that the spiritual heritage that Mr. Armstrong left us is not primarily a list of detailed doctrines of the Church of God. The true spiritual heritage he left us is a tradition and way of life that believes and obeys the Bible more than all else. It is the spiritual heritage of putting the Bible first. It is the spiritual heritage Mr. Armstrong lived when he corrected Church of God Seventh Day, from the Bible, on the subject of keeping the holy days, before he was ordained as a minister. It was the spiritual heritage he lived when he taught Church of God Seventh Day, from the Bible, new knowledge about the end-time identity of the lost tribes of Israel, again, before he was even a minister much less an apostle in his own eyes or the eyes of anyone else. Perhaps he was doing the work of an apostle in those days in God's sight, but no one recognized him as an apostle including himself. That came much later.

Later, Mr. Armstrong continued to live by that spiritual heritage and passed it on to his radio listeners when he said, don't believe me, believe your Bible.

It was that spiritual heritage, the tradition of letting the Bible correct us, letting the Bible teach us new knowledge, and believing the Bible more than any church or any man, that resulted in all the doctrines and details of doctrines that Mr. Armstrong helped us understand from the Bible.

The third thing wrong with the idea that we can never change the doctrines and details of doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught, even after his death, is that Mr. Armstrong taught and practiced a process of correcting error and learning new knowledge from the Bible. That is a part of the spiritual heritage he passed on to us. But that process was never intended to be stopped or interrupted by his death.

While Mr. Armstrong was alive, he was able himself to make corrections to his own doctrines and to add new knowledge from the Bible. These corrections could be suggested to him by other ministers or members, and he was alive to examine the issue and make a decision. He did this with Pentecost.

But now that he is dead, does that process stop? I don't believe he ever intended that, for if he did, he could easily have said, after I die don't let anyone change my doctrines. If you, the reader, know of any letter or sermon in which he said that, let me know in the comments. The process that Mr. Armstrong practiced and taught the Church of God of learning new knowledge from the Bible and correcting error must continue, even after the death of Mr. Armstrong. That is the spiritual heritage that must continue.

Moreover, we have a living apostle, today. That apostle is Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:1), and Christ has the authority to make changes to Mr. Armstrong's doctrines by His word, the Bible, and by help and inspiration upon the existing leaders of the Church to understand the Bible and see the need for correction.

There is another part of the spiritual heritage left to us by Mr. Armstrong, and that is zeal for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. That spiritual heritage must also continue, but I will write more about that later in this series.


TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 10 - "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1)

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if they conflict with the Bible.


In chapter 6, the COGIW article makes a point about the passage where Paul says, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1, KJV). According to the COGIW article, some have used this passage as an excuse to not follow an apostle sent to them by interpreting this verse to mean that we only follow the apostle to the degree that this apostle follows Christ. The article says that this cannot be the right interpretation because the Corinthians only knew of Christ through the apostle sent to them, Paul.

But let's examine this passage and related passages in more detail, letting the Bible interpret the Bible.

1 Corinthians 4:16 says, "Therefore I urge you, imitate me". The NIV also uses the word "imitate". The King James Version says, "be ye followers of me". There is no qualification in this verse.

But 1 Corinthians 11:1 may add a qualification. "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ". I say may add a qualification, because it is unclear in the English whether Paul meant, imitate me because I imitate Christ, or, imitate me to the extent and degree I imitate Christ. If he meant the second, that we are to imitate him only to the extent that he imitates Christ, then that is a qualification and a limitation on how we imitate Paul.

The Greek word translated "imitate" or "be followers" is the same in both passages, mimetes, Strong's number 3402, meaning imitator.

The COGIW article says that this cannot mean that the Corinthians were to imitate Paul only to the extent they saw him imitate Christ because they only knew about Christ from Paul. I do not agree. Yes, Paul brought them into contact with and knowledge of Christ. But their whole knowledge of Christ did not just come from Paul. They had access to the Old Testament prophecies about Christ. Even though not every person has the whole Old Testament, or even parts of it, they did have some access, just as the Bereans did, checking up in the scriptures to see if the things Paul said were true (Acts 17:10-11). They also no doubt had travelers from other congregations supervised by other apostles, such as Peter and the others. There was interaction and communication and fellowship between the various parts of the Church of God.

Paul was not their only contact. Peter refers to the writings of Paul in 2 Peter 3:15, saying, "and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation - as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you". Notice that Peter is writing this epistle, but he is addressing those who read Paul's epistles also, because he says, "Paul...has written to you". And many believe that Paul wrote Hebrews, which was clearly written to the Jews, not the congregations Paul was an apostle to.

So the Church of God as a whole was reading epistles from more than one apostle, in addition to having some access to the Old Testament prophecies and teaching about Christ.

Besides all that, the gospel accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were being written, and as they were written, they were reproduced and distributed to the whole Church of God.

So the Corinthians had plenty of opportunity to learn about Christ other than what Paul told them. And Paul was not requiring them to follow him in doctrine if he did not follow Christ.

This is even more true for the time after Paul was dead. The distribution of the gospel accounts and the epistles of Peter, James, John, and Jude increased over time, and would have reached maximum distribution after Paul was dead. Then those who read about Christ from the Old Testament and the New Testament being distributed to them could compare that with what they remembered of Paul's spoken word and his epistles that were not canonized, and if Paul erred in following Christ in doctrine, the members were to NOT follow Paul in those instances since he was not following Christ.

Why do I mention the time when Paul was dead? Because the COGIW article is comparing Paul with Mr. Armstrong, and Mr. Armstrong is dead. In other words, if you want to make Mr. Armstrong like Paul, we are in that period that compares with the period for the early Church in the first few decades after Paul had died. And during that time, the New Testament was made complete, and the members had opportunity to learn about Christ and Christ's doctrine from many other apostles and writers other than Paul.

But there is another more important reason why the COGIW argument is wrong, that Paul could not mean that the Corinthians were to follow him only to the extent he followed Christ because they only knew about Christ through Paul.

Paul was not just writing to the Corinthians. He was writing to us, whether he realized it or not. For it is God who is the real author of the Bible and every book that has been canonized and made part of the Bible.

It is God who speaks to us today through the writings of Paul, and it is God who inspired the words that Paul penned, "as I also imitate Christ".

Local context can be important, but there is always a universal context, the context of God speaking to us today. Paul was not just writing to the Corinthians. He was writing to us, because God made this letter a part of His word, the Bible, and God speaks to us directly through the Bible. The Bible is God speaking. It reveals the mind of God.

Paul's writings that were canonized as part of the Bible were not just for the Corinthians. Nor were they just for the congregations Paul had raised up. They were for the whole Church of God, past, present, and future. That means they are for us today. And today, Paul says to us, be followers of me as I follow Christ. And that sets the pattern of how we should view Mr. Armstrong. We are to follow him as he followed Christ! And that means, to the extent and degree he followed Christ. We do not follow him in instances of doctrine or behavior where he might not have followed Christ. And being human, he made mistakes.

It is not just Mr. Armstrong who has been our apostle. Paul is our apostle too. So is Peter, so is James, so is John. We know of their teaching from the things they wrote in the Bible. They are dead, but so is Mr. Armstrong.

It seems to me that the COGIW article tries to elevate the teachings of Mr. Armstrong above that of Paul, Peter, James, John, and all the writers of the Bible. But why? They are all dead, equally dead. In fact, the writings of the early apostles must be elevated above the writings of Mr. Armstrong because the only writings we have of those apostles are part of the Bible, and the Bible is free from error but Mr. Armstrong's teachings are not free from error.

Do you want to follow Mr. Armstrong, not just to the extent and degree he followed Christ, but follow Mr. Armstrong's teachings unconditionally because he followed Christ?

Then go back to Grace Communion International, or whatever Worldwide under the Tkaches changed the name of that organization to. Mr. Armstrong told us to follow Mr. Tkach. Then do it, if you want to follow Mr. Armstrong's every teaching unconditionally. Don't call yourself Church of God. You are doing away with the most important thing Mr. Armstrong taught, and rightly taught: Don't believe me, believe God, believe your Bible. He taught that by word, and he taught that by his example, an example he began to practice before he was ordained as a minister much less thought of himself as an apostle. But you want to throw that away.

There are some who claim to follow Mr. Armstrong, but do not do what he says. That reminds me of Christ's statement, "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Many in traditional churches of this world call Jesus Christ, "Lord". They praise His person. They use His name and profess to worship Him. But they don't do what He says. Isn't that how we are towards Mr. Armstrong if we praise his person and claim to follow him, but don't do what he says?

He said, don't believe me, believe the Bible. He said this many times, over and over. He also personally lived by this saying. He believed the Bible more than any man, even when he was an unordained lay member of the Church of God.

We should do what he said in this case because it is also what the Bible teaches.

He also said, shortly before his death, that if he died God would provide a new pastor general (who was Mr. Tkach though Mr. Armstrong had not named him yet), and we should follow that man if we want to be in the Kingdom of God. He said that one time, near the end of his life. He never qualified that, "as that pastor general follows Christ", or, "as that pastor general follows the Bible". He should have qualified his statement that way, but he didn't.

We should not do what Mr. Armstrong said in this case because it is contrary to the Bible. We were right to leave Mr. Tkach and not follow him when we saw that he was not following Christ and the Bible.

But any man who left Mr. Tkach at that time and today says we must not change Mr. Armstrong's teachings is being inconsistent, is he not? For if we have no right to change Mr. Armstrong's teaching in Mystery of the Ages, what right do we have to change his teaching about following Mr. Tkach unconditionally?

In the verses I quoted about "imitate me" or "be followers of me", there are two ways we can follow someone. We can follow their teachings, or we can follow their example, or both. The word, "follow", in the English, can mean either or both. The word, "imitate" seems to imply following the example of someone, imitating their example, their actions, their way of life, more than teachings and doctrine. Paul may not have been primarily talking about doctrine. He may have been primarily talking about his personal example and his way of life - his love, his service, his work, his diligence, his zeal, and his willingness to sacrifice and suffer for the sake of the gospel.

The context immediately surrounding 1 Corinthians 4:16, where Paul says, "imitate me", suggests that Paul might not be talking primarily about doctrine but a way of life, for the whole passage speaks of Paul's suffering, service, and way of life.

"For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
   "I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church" (1 Corinthians 4:9-17).

I do not say that Paul definitely was not including doctrine in how he wanted to be followed or imitated, only that the passage suggests emphasis on the example part, what we would call, "Christian living".

What about the second passage, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1)? The two verses just prior to this say, "Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved" (1 Corinthians 10:32-33). That again suggests to me that the context of "imitate me" is Paul's example of love and Christian living, that is, obedience to God's holy law of love, not what some may call doctrine. It is doctrine, yes, but it is the kind of doctrine one can teach by example. Paul seems to be saying, follow my example of pleasing all men, not seeking personal profit, but the profit of many that they may be saved. It is an example of an unselfish life, of loving our neighbors as ourselves, and Christ also taught this by His example. These things are not in dispute.

There is one more passage I want to quote that uses that same word, "imitate", and is translated from the same Greek word used in the other passages.

"And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Hebrews 6:11-12).

I quote this verse, which may have been written by Paul, but is inspired by God in any case, to show that it is not just Paul, or Mr. Armstrong, that we are to imitate, but a whole category of people who through faith and patience inherit the promises. We are to look to the good examples of others, in other words. And the Bible is full of such good examples.

Paul's statement to the Corinthians to imitate him is not a proof text that we should follow Mr. Armstrong's teachings because he is our apostle as Paul was the Corinthian's apostle. In fact, God, through Paul, is speaking to us today, that we should follow the good example of Paul as he followed the good example of Christ. And God, in the book of Hebrews, tells us to follow all the good examples of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. That can include Mr. Armstrong, but it is not limited to him.

How is Mr. Armstrong, now that he is dead, our apostle more than Paul is our apostle, Peter is our apostle, James and John are our apostles? They are dead too.

One might say, Mr. Armstrong is our apostle because it was through him that we learned the truth. But there is a whole generation of Church of God members that have not learned the truth from Mr. Armstrong because they came into the Church of God after his death. They learned the truth from other men who have been preaching the gospel on TV and in print since Mr. Armstrong died, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith being one example. Some of these members may learn the truth from TV broadcasts and booklets, comparing our teachings with the Bible, and finding out that the Church of God has the truth, then come into the Church without ever hearing of Mr. Armstrong or reading what he has written. Is Mr. Armstrong "their" apostle in some special sense? In what way? And how can Mr. Armstrong be "their" apostle more than Paul, Peter, James, and John?

And if Mr. Armstrong is not their apostle, because they did not learn the truth from him, yet they sit next to older members who did learn from Mr. Armstrong, does that mean that in one congregation you have two categories of members, those who must believe what Mr. Armstrong taught because they learned the truth from him and he is therefore their apostle, and those who do not have to believe Mr. Armstrong because they did not learn the truth from him but learned from others and therefore he is not their apostle?

That would be ridiculous. You do not have two categories of members sitting in one congregation, each category obligated to believe a different set of teachings.

God does not teach loyalty to a man, even an apostle, more than to the God of the Bible. God, through Paul, condemns that sort of thinking: "Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul,' or 'I am of Apollos,' or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).

Today, one might say, "I am of Mr. Armstrong". But that would be wrong.

"For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another, 'I am of Apollos,' are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase" (1 Corinthians 3:4-7).

Mr. Armstrong was a worker in God's service, as the first century apostles were, and each of the first century apostles ministered to the churches of God at that time and minister to us today through their writings in the Bible, and each, along with Mr. Armstrong, will receive his own reward in the Kingdom of God.

Mr. Armstrong labored in God's service as the first century apostles did who wrote parts of the Bible, and I do not count Mr. Armstrong's work, diligence, sacrifice, and faith as less than the other apostles. Only God can judge that. Nor is the importance of the work God did through him in any way less than the importance of the work God did through the first century apostles.

But there is this difference, and we must be aware of it and keep it in mind as Mr. Armstrong did. The only writings we have from the first century apostles are their writings in the Bible. The Bible is the direct word of God to us, infallibly correct and free from error. None of Mr. Armstrong's writings are part of the Bible, and none of them are infallibly correct. Any of Mr. Armstrong's teachings can contain error. Therefore, to know if they are true, we must compare them with the Bible.

The Bible is God speaking to us personally and directly. The Bible is the word of God. Mr. Armstrong's writings are not the direct word of God. That puts the Bible above Mr. Armstrong's teachings. We know from the history of the Church while Mr. Armstrong was alive and shortly after his death, that he made mistakes in teaching and doctrine, not all of which he corrected. Therefore, the only way to know if Mr. Armstrong was correct in a particular doctrine is to check in the Bible, to "prove all things", and believe those things we can prove in the Bible. And if any doctrine or teaching of Mr. Armstrong is contrary to the Bible, that doctrine should be corrected in the Church of God.

We must always let the Bible correct our doctrines. That is the way of life Mr. Armstrong taught and practiced, and that is God's teaching in His word, the Bible.


TO BE CONTINUED