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**Do you have history in the Worldwide Church of God? Are you still attending one of its offshoots? Do you see cracks in the doctrine and want more information, or do you not know why you're still there anymore? Is there a hole in your heart and just don't know why God isn't granting you the happiness you were promised would come through tithing and following a man? Do you find that no matter how hard you try you cannot live up to your own standards, and you feel like a failure? Do you find your pursuit of God to be based on fear?
Investigate with me the answers to these questions and more!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

By This All Will Know

As a member of the COGs, I believed that God had revealed certain knowledge to me. This is pretty much the case for all religions. But I felt God had specifically opened my mind to receive certain hidden and encoded knowledge which no man can naturally accept because God is not opening their minds to accept it at this time. It was this knowledge (gnosis) that we believed set us apart. The understanding of this special, secret knowledge is what made us unique and proved God is in us. I felt that I had won the universe's greatest lotto!

An unusual thing occurred to me one day while listening to a message about exactly what it is that God had revealed to the COGs which He had not revealed to anyone else. So many people have been trying to pin it down. It had never occurred to me that rarely would two people agree, nor would those things mentioned be unique to the COGs. So I asked, how on earth could special knowledge set us apart if we didn't even know exactly what that knowledge was? And how on earth could anything be specially revealed and make make us unique if other churches also knew?

In one of my last conversations with my former minister (who I love and respect even now), he mentioned to me that what we were right - meaning other religions had missed the mark. I replied, "That's not proof. EVERYONE thinks they're right. Or else they wouldn't be doing what they do." Can everyone be right? Of course not. Not when so many people believe so many things that are completely at odds. Who is right? I think all Christians would agree God is right. So the question becomes 'what does the God of the Bible have to say about this?' I would like to investigate what the Bible says that sets a person apart and what is real proof of the in-dwelling of the Spirit.

Let's look in to what the situation is. 
Truths had been hidden by God since the fall of Adam that needed to be revealed to mankind (I COR. 2: 7; EPH. 3: 9; COL. 1: 26). Jesus came with the task of doing that (MATT. 13: 10-17) This privilege was given mainly to the 12 Apostles, and they were commanded to go into all the world and spread this message (MARK 16: 15). They did not fail at that. 

God gives us now what He gave them then, and He did not give to either of us what He did not give to the other. The faith was delivered once, and for all time (JUDE 1: 3). All of those who claim God is giving them special knowledge that He did not give to the Apostles are certainly greatly suspect of being false prophets, hungry wolves, roaring lions, and deceivers. God has revealed these same truths continually from the time of the Apostles to those who reciprocate to His calling. If the gates of death will not prevail over His Church, then there was no time when that truth was not being made continually available to men. Specifically it says that those who believe Jesus is coming [continually coming; present tense] in the flesh, are of God (I JOHN 4: 2-3).

No man can find word one in the Bible of a predicted 1,900 year gap in God's work as Herbert Armstrong has claimed in his book 'Mystery of the Ages' (and indeed in many other places). Even so, there is certainly predicted by God to be those who do not receive the message. Take for example the prophecies of deceivers existing at the return of Christ. When Christ returns, He will call the Jews to Himself, so there will yet be Jews. And there is certainly predicted to be a time where there is a famine of the word. When that is, how long, who is involved, and other such questions cannot be answered with confidence because the details are not there. It could already be past for all we know.

I find it an odd thing that the Churches of God claim mankind lost God's truth in a 1,900 year famine and this is the time when God is re-revealing His truth in full again to a select group of mankind before the return of Christ. We know what is believed and taught in the COGs, and we know nothing in 1,900 years exactly matches it, so it is indeed unique (although not nearly as unique as people would like to believe), therefore it is reasoned God must have specially re-revealed it to HWA at this time. It's the only thing that makes sense to a faithful member. The alternative is to see the uniqueness as evidence of error. But if the vast majority of those things were not kept by what the COGs claim are their ancestor churches, then how can those things be that important to salvation?

As far as errors go, they are not unique to any group. No one has the whole truth. Is the whole of what Christ gave not made available to us? Sure it is. However, we are human and have our own weaknesses to deal with. We have pride, prejudice, tradition, laziness, assumptions, conformity, complacency, stubbornness, respect of persons, fear, etc that distracts us from the whole of what Christ gave. Not to mention the revealed secrets were only partially revealed. (I COR. 13: 9-10) "For we know in part and we prophesy in part." It would appear that many groups have varying degrees of the revealed message. Is it then the possession of the 'whole truth' that sets a person apart? How can it be? The whole truth is not given. Nor would I believe a human being can accept the whole truth were it given. OK then, is what sets a person apart the acceptance of the whole of what Christ did reveal? How can it be? Even the COGs commonly say 'no one has the whole truth'. Who among the COGs would be so bold as to say you understand entirely what Christ was given to reveal? *chirping crickets* That settles that.

We've looked in to what it isn't. Any idea on what it is?

**I am going to post a LOT of Bible verses here, so please either follow along with a Bible, or follow along with Bible Gateway. Actually, I highly recommend downloading e-sword, the add-ons are fantastic.

Short answer: sanctification is by the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 THS. 2: 13). Even some in the Churches of God readily admit that "the truth" consists of who Jesus Christ is and what He is doing. So what is this truth?

It is Jesus who saves, and everyone that faithfully believes in the Son and acknowledges their belief to others will be saved (JOHN 6: 47; ROM. 10: 9-13; JOHN 3: 16-17; JOHN 10: 9, ACTS 4: 12; ACTS 16: 31; I THS. 5: 9); such faith comes by exposure to the word of God (ROM. 10: 14-16); it involves knowing He died and has risen (I COR. 15: 1-8); it involves God's grace through Christ (ACTS 15: 11; EPH. 2: 5, 8; TIT. 2: 11; 2 PET. 3: 15); along with that comes baptism (MARK 16: 16). Certainly there is more to being a Christian than this, like holding fast to the end, but we have to stop somewhere.

It IS a calling. 
(JOHN 6: 44-45) "44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me."

It doesn't say "will come to Herbert Armstrong", but to Christ. It doesn't say "will come to the Old Covenant", but to Christ, along with His gospel (ROM. 1: 6; EPH. 1: 13), and the New Covenant (JER. 31: 31; MATT. 26: 28). After hearing the word of truth, and believing in Christ Jesus, then a person is sealed with the Holy Spirit (EPH. 1: 13).

By the very nature of that, it is not in Herbert Armstrong  or any man (I COR. 1: 12; I COR. 3: 4), and not in the Old Covenant law. But the COGs counter "I need the law and holy days to understand what Christ is doing." I partly disagree with that. Take for example the sacrifices and offerings that we know pictured Christ. Do we need to do those things in order to understand them? No. But they indeed hold much value if we do look into them. 

The difference is in keeping the Old Covenant (more importantly, keeping it partially). Many in the COGs read Romans 8: 14 "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.", but they skip the next verse "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption". Do those who aspire to keep the Old Covenant understand this? Galatians 4: 21-31 clearly represents those who attempt to keep the Old Covenant laws as being in bondage, and those who attempt to keep the New Covenant as being sons. The COGs believe one of the signs of the Spirit working in a person's life is that they will keep the Old Covenant laws. I could not disagree more! I think one of the main failings of Armstrongism is that it gets tripped up with the Old Covenant.  (GAL 5: 8) "This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you."

The Old Covenant is profitable only to those who keep it in its entirety (GAL. 5: 3; JAS. 2: 10). Keeping the laws of Moses is NOT necessary in order to be saved (ACTS 15: 1-2; 2 TIM. 1: 9; TIT. 3: 5). To say such a thing means it is no longer by grace. And not just no longer by grace, but to say so means one has fallen from grace (GAL. 5: 4). The Old Covenant is the Ten Commandments (EXO. 34: 28). And the Ten Commandments are NOT Spirit and they are NOT life, they are quite the opposite (2 COR. 3: 6-7). It is not by anything that we do that we are saved. God is not looking for us to have our own righteousness, which is from the law (PHP. 3: 9). It must be His righteousness (JOHN 6: 63). It MUST be by faith, and cannot be by the Old Covenant law (ROM. 3: 21; ROM. 4: 13; ROM. 9: 30-31; GAL. 2: 16). 

(GAL. 2: 21) "for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." 

Am I saying the Old Testament is useless? Certainly not (2 TIM. 3: 15; I PET. 1: 10)! They are two parts of one book, and both very good for us to read and know (2 TIM. 3: 16-17; I COR. 10: 11). 

We've looked at what it is. Now, is there anything, any indicator, which may help us know who is being saved?

Yes. That indicator is our conduct (PHP. 1: 27-28; PHP 2: 12-13; HEB. 5: 9). I do not say that you must have works of faith and righteousness and therefore you will be saved. I say that if you have heard the truth, believed, and received the Spirit, then by that Spirit in you there will be works of faith and righteousness. It can be no other way. Works do not produce salvation, but they are evidence of it (JAS. 2: 17-18). Do not confuse "works" with "law"; they most certainly are not the same! We've already discussed the works of law. These are the works of faith James is talking about here. James is talking about the result of the faith, hope, and love inside you, through which you fulfill the whole law if you do these things (ROM. 13: 8-10; GAL. 5: 14; JAS 2: 8). Just as you will know a false prophet by his fruits (MATT. 7: 16, 20), those who have God's Spirit will be known by their fruits (MATT. 21: 43; PHP. 1: 11; JAS. 3: 17)

So it is not just in what you know. It is not in what man you follow. It's not in what law you keep, or Sabbath, or Holy Day. It's not in your flesh at all - but it is entirely about God and Christ (I COR. 12: 6; I COR. 15: 28; EPH. 1: 22-23; EPH. 4: 15-16; COL. 1: 18). These things are straight from the Bible and true, and need no speculation.

But if you really want a summation of the entire matter, here it is:
(JOHN 13: 35) By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. 


Anonymous said...

Interesting article. I find it very interesting that although HWA claimed to write the book "Mystery of the Ages," he, in fact, had several who claimed to contribute material to that book, which Gerald Flurry has stated should be canonized.
His own son,Ted Armstrong, claimed in his booklet "The Origin and History of the Church of God International," that his dad plagarized material for the book from him, as does Bernard Kelly.
Aaron Dean states that he edited the book early on, and Herman Hoeh is said to have edited the book again after HWA's death, to give it a more Protestant look for the Tkach leadership(from "In Transition" by John Robinson)

Bill said...

"But the COGs counter "I need the law and holy days to understand what Christ is doing." I partly disagree with that."

Yep... the ol' "you need to understand the plan of God" argument.

How much of the "plan of God" did Cornelius know, and how much of it was revealed to him by Peter prior to his conversion? Zip, zero, nada, zilch. Just another ACOG red herring designed to get one's focus off of the true gospel.

Of course there is a plan of God afoot. His plan is about saving mankind through Christ, and all the holy days that supposedly focused on events through time actually focus on what Christ was, has been, and will be doing.

Bill Hohmann

xHWA said...

How much of the plan of God did the Etheopian Eunich know? All he was taught was about Jesus.

Russell Miller said...

I think anyone who says that they have all the truth and everyone else is deceived deserves to be cast out as a nutter and ridiculed to the end of their days.

xHWA said...

I understand your frustration, Russell.

I would take the tact that those people are deceived, don't realize it, and need to be restored with a spirit of gentleness - lest we fall into the trap ourselves (GAL. 6: 1). Not forgetting with what judgment we judge we will be judged, and with what measure we measure we will be measured (MATT. 7: 2).

Russell Miller said...

But you just did it yourself.

xHWA said...

I wouldn't agree that I was ridiculing someone to the end of their days, now.

It's one thing to disagree, or even to strongly disagree like I did in some parts of my post, and another thing to mock and scorn someone - especially to the end of their days. I did not intend what I said as mockery, but as a warning to people who see that pattern in their leadership.

I'm not attempting to claim I'm above mocking someone. I tend to that, it's one of my weak spots, and have to work hard not to.

Russell Miller said...

No, I meant that you're believing you have all the truth and judging people who don't. You're just doing it in a much more polite way than certain others I won't mention.

xHWA said...

I would also disagree with that too. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

If you read the posts I put here, I try to make it abundantly clear that I do not have all the truth but I am seeking a better, more accurate relationship with God than I ever had before. I have never claimed to have all the truth. Contrast that with people who indeed claim to have God speaking through them and their word should be canonized and that they are this or that prophesied savior.

What do I claim to have is a better grasp on a few specific areas of the Bible. I don't even say I have a definite grasp on that area yet. But I have enough to talk about it and show the contrast.

I came from a group that I had faith in and learned from those people who do claim to have the truth. I thought what I believed came straight from the Bible. It was a shock to my system to find out that certain things that are taught as truth are absolutely not true. Layers of speculation and misinterpretation hid the plain meanings of the verses. So I am here using the words of the Bible to show the contrast between what the plain words of the book say and what I once believed.

So, if you put yourself in my shoes for a minute and think of what a massive change this is to me, you would understand that more things than not are up in the air for me right now. And in no way do I claim to have all the truth.

xHWA said...

One more thing...

About the judgment, I do not feel there is anything wrong at all with making a moral distinction between right and wrong, correct and incorrect, and making that plain. If that's what you mean by "judge" then, absolutely I do that and I'm unapologetic for it and I'm going to go right on doing that. I firmly believe in moral absolutes.

If by "judge" you mean condemn, then that I want to avoid, and if you would point out where I condemn anyone, then I'll see what I can do to rectify that.
I don't even condemn Ron Weinland. On the contrary, I pray for him to repent.

Byker Bob said...

I was thinking about this very subject just the other day. Basically, there are certain people who are impacting my life right now, and I was considering whether to occasionally help them, financially.

I reasoned, "But should I be helping them if they either don't have the full truth, or are openly teaching what I (in my infinite wisdom---not!) have determined is error?" And then I remembered that I did support WCG financially for years. I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were not only teaching error, they were teaching downright toxic error that seriously messed up peoples'

The next leap in logic was that I realized that the USA has been the chief vehicle, at least for the past several hundred years, by which Christianity has been spread around the globe. Christians are actively seeking out impoverished and hopeless people in third world countries, and are providing them with food, medical care, and clothing. They are teaching these people the types of values which have made the USA the great nation that it is and has always been. In other words, they are planting seeds of success in the minds of those being helped, whose lands often have abundant natural resources greater than what we enjoy here, only they simply lack the principled manner of harvesting them that Christian living has brought to us!

Finally, I asked myself, "Why were we taught that WCG was the only true church?" The answer is, you can look at all of the selfish behavior, elitism, and even racism that this doctrine caused, and know the answer. We were taught this because it locked in all the tithes and offerings to one single source, a source that kept them internally, only to be shared by a hierarchy of insiders. Buy a homeless non-COG member a hamburger? No way! If you have money to do that, you should add it to your building fund contribution that you are sending to Pasadena! Pray for, or stop to help the victims of a horrible traffic accident you have just seen on the way home from sabbath services? Surely you jest! Those people are not having their chance now! Let God sort them out in the GWT Judgement! Contribute to victim funds for 9/11, the tsunami, or Katrina? Heck no! Those are the people whom God is punishing! If you have surplus, it belongs to Pasadena!

What strange and horrible fruit for a so-called Christian organization to be bearing! That type of activity certainly doesn't resemble anything from the early apostolic era. And, remember, we were taught that we were part of the church era which manifested itself through "brotherly love"! Who is your neighbor, or brother? According to Jesus, anyone who has need. Jesus did not teach that if a man asks for your cloak, you give him that and your coat only if he is a member of "God's True Church".

If you look around, and watch TBN, you'll see that since the voice of Armstrongism has been divided and confused into a bunch of meaningless little splinter groups, the stones have literally been raised up. If you tune into Dr. David Jeremiah, you'll hear messages preached from Daniel about the four major empires in the history of the world, and the prophecies for the end time. If you tune into Dr. Perry Stone, you'll learn about the Jewish aspects of Christianity, the sabbath and holydays. If you tune into Dr. Charles Stanley, you'll get a terrific overview of the principles of Christian living. And, this stuff is going all around the world, to virtually every country. If WCG ever had a mantle, that mantle has been taken away and given to others, and these "others" are doing a much more effective job spreading not only elements of the ACOG gospel, but the truth about the role and meaning of Jesus Christ, transformation of the heart, and salvation.

So, it appears that old school WCG has either been spewed from the mouth of God into ever shrinking splinters, Laodecean style, or is practically stillborn, the main characteristic of Sardis.


xHWA said...

Biker Bob, that was wonderful. Thanks for sharing! I would love to see more comments like this. What I really liked is that it comes straight from your experience and from your heart. I feel honored that you chose to share some of your personal walk at my blog.

I never mentioned it, but on the day I left my splinter group, I handed in a check out of my own free will. At least no one can say I left on account of money. I love those people and I want them to see the New Covenant, but until God (and only God) decides it's time for them, I want them to be able to meet together and support each other. I thought it was the right thing to do. But they are mostly an older group and not very evangelistic. I was confident the donation would stay local.

I agree with you that it's probably not a good idea to monetarily support the WCG splinters. (Sounds pretty contradictory after what I just said, I know.) "downright toxic error" is unfortunately a good descriptor; "what strange and horrible fruit" indeed! I found the challenge was separating my love for the people and my distaste for the error of Armstrong to which they hold (or rather by which they are held).
I'm researching a new post about the way the COGs feel they are the 'one true church', it goes along with this post about what the Bible says. I think it should be interesting.

I wish you weren't dead on correct about your ending paragraphs, but you are. If anyone who reads this has any faith in God, pray for the success of Jesus Christ.

Russell Miller said...

I have no faith in God. But even I would like to see the principles that are attributed to the Jesus figure put into practice in everyday life. The world would be a much better place.

Jesus' teachings are not bad teachings. But no one follows them. Not even his followers. Especially not his followers.

xHWA said...

Unfortunately, Russell, I think you've found something we mostly agree on.

No one is perfect. I do my fair share of not following Jesus as well as I know I should. What really irks me is when someone claims to be Christian but flaunts their anti-Christianity. For example, dragging a gay man behind a truck, or hanging blacks, or murdering heretics. Those people who do those things aren't remotely Christian. Yet they go round claiming to be Jesus' greatest supporters. Those are examples of the worst kind of hypocrisy. Reminds me of Matthew 3: 7-8.

Sin is sin, when it boils down to it. I hope Christianity takes the opportunity to repent and bear those fruits worthy of repentance.

Anonymous said...

"Those people who do those things aren't remotely Christian."

That's the thing, though; those who do those things are often the most vocal about just how Christian they really are.

I would like to quote the Apocryphon of James, if I may:

Become haters of hypocrisy and evil thought. For it is thought which gives birth to hypocrisy, but hypocrisy is far from the truth.

To me, hypocrisy is the ONLY "sin". It leads to all others. IMO.