What is it that the COGs say sets them apart? Well, which one of the COGs do you mean?
I have sent an email off to the following organizations: United Church of God, Philadelphia Church of God, Living Church of God, Restored Church of God, Church of the Great God, and Church of God Fellowship. I asked them the following questions: "What thing or things sets the Churches of God apart? What unique knowledge, specifically, do we possess and teach that only we possess and teach?"
Here are the responses I received:
The Restored Church of God sent me this:
"To answer your question—and it certainly is a fair question—the true Church of God can be identified by certain earmarks:
1. It carries on the Work of preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God to all nations (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10) and warning modern Israel of the difficult times that lie ahead (Eze. 3:17-21; 33:1-7; Isa. 58:1). This narrows the field down to about four or five organizations and at least two of these now preach a corrupted gospel (II Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-9).
2. The true Church continues in the governmental structure outlined in the New Testament (Eph. 4:11-12, II Cor. 12:28). This excludes at least two more of the groups above.
3. Since the true Church is called the “pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15), it continues in—holds fast to (Rev. 3:11)—all of the true, scriptural doctrines that were restored to the Church in the twentieth century (Matt. 17:11). This narrows the field down to only one—The Restored Church of God. This can be easily proved by comparing our doctrines with those of any of the groups mentioned above—or any group, period.
4. Finally, RCG is the only organization that actively teaches (through hundreds of pieces of literature, as well as hundreds of broadcasts and sermons) and practices all of the truths mentioned in point three. We are also the only group that provides the tools necessary to thoroughly research and prove our doctrinal positions, in both hardcopy and electronic form. We do not ask you to accept this on our statement alone but to prove (1 Thes.5:21) the truth through diligent study.
To some, this may seem “too simple.” But we must ask ourselves: Would God expect each of his people to spend the rest of the age as “detectives”—responsible for investigating the “pedigree,” of hundreds of tiny groups. Also, would Christ somehow lead separate “twin,” “triplet,” or any other manner of multiple organizations? No. Christ is not divided (I Cor. 1:13).
We have no statement of beliefs; our statement of beliefs is our literature. Our literature is what makes us unique and our vast array of literature explains in exact detail the doctrines we teach. We invite you to study and draw your own conclusions." --end quote
NOT A WORD about Jesus Christ. I copied and pasted these responses from their email to this page. Go ahead, search this page for the name 'Jesus'. You won't find it but in my comments. You will find the title "Christ" one time - but not until later on. You will see the word "God". I would call it a name, but I wonder who these people are referring to when they speak it. I get the distinct impression they have set themselves up as gods.
From the Church of the Great God, I received this:
"The Holy Spirit (the mind of God) dwelling in us sets the Church apart because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50-53); only that which is spirit. God is in the process of saving us through the renewing of the Holy Spirit within us (Titus 3:4-7). We (the Church) are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).
It's not necessarily a matter of unique knowledge. It 's a matter of obeying and living God's Truth.
(2 John 1-6)" --end quote
NOT A WORD about Jesus Christ. Not a mention of the author and pioneer of faith. Not a passing credit to the Head over all things to His Church. I like what they had to say about it not being a matter of unique knowledge. But you just try to disagree with the leadership and you'll see what they feel about their knowledge then!
From the Church of God - Fellowship, I received this:
"This is a basic list of the differences between the COG-Fellowship and the "world's" Christian churches:
1. The recognition of both the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God
2. The understanding that man can become God
3. The understanding of what God is
4. The understanding of what man is
5. The recognition there is a spirit in man (not an immortal soul)
6. The understanding that only those called by God can be converted now
7. The understanding that God has a plan of salvation for all mankind (The Great White Throne Judgment)
8. The identity of modern Israel
9. The recognition of the Sabbath as the day of worship
10. The understanding of the annual Holy Days and their description of the plan of God for the salvation of mankind" --end quote
NOT A WORD about what Jesus did. All law. All about what we can do. All about unique knowledge.
In responding more thoroughly, they defined salvation as, "Salvation is being married to Christ" (That makes them the one group to mention the title "Christ". Good for them!) They explain this will not happen if we do not change and conform to the character of Christ [humility, love, charity, etc.], which is only possible through the Holy Spirit. I applaud this statement with much gusto! It is true. Of course they also add in a heavy dose of 10 Commandment keeping as a requirement for being accepted by Christ.
...About the keeping of the law, I once wrote to the COG-Fellowship and asked:
"I want to know what you mean by "law". Or more specifically, I want to know what you think the Apostles meant by "law".
In one part of your Galatians 2:11-3:18 message, you said something like "Romans 3: 20 and Galatians 2: 16 read 'the works of the law', but that is incorrect, it should read 'works of law'." You follow it up by saying something like "now we can see how Paul isn't talking about God's Law, but the Jewish added laws." So, law=Talmud.
Later you explain that when James says "works" he means law. So, works = law.
Later, you show how law=10 Commandments.
Now, I know from years in the church that when we say "law" we do not just mean 10 Commandments, we also mean tithing, meats laws, etc. So we really mean the whole caboodle.
That's 4 different things!!
So, I ask you... how can there be so many aspects contained in this one word "law", and how on earth is the Bible reading Joe Idiot like me supposed to keep all this straight? How do I know when it means Talmud, and when it means 10 Commandments and when it means all law? Because it says none of those - it just says "law". To be honest, it seems a bit like picking and choosing to me. I can completely understand why the Protestants have a hard time.
[No offense to Protestants intended. I was writing in the COG fashion, and speaking tongue-in-cheek.]
Also, this thought just popped into my head as I was about to click 'send'. If "the works of the law" means God's law, why doesn't "works of law" mean all law? The wording seems to me, in the incorrect version, to be narrow and focused, but in the corrected reading to be all inclusive. In pointing out this mistranslation, isn't it just making it easier for the Protestants to say we're crackpots who write our own Bibles? I mean, now we're picking and choosing what "works of law" means, arbitrarily, aren't we?
Which brings another point to my mind. If we're talking Talmud here, decades after Jesus died, why didn't anyone seem to get the point that while Jesus was alive He taught against the Talmud? You pointed out that in Acts 10 Peter was quoting it. You show in Galatians and then again in Romans how it seems to be an issue; Peter, James, and even Barnabas were carried away by it. We always say "if Peter didn't know about meats laws being gone in Acts 10, then Jesus must not have taught it." But clearly Jesus taught against the Talmud and 30 years later His own Apostles are regarding it."
Here is the response I received (in part):
"Rather than trying at this time to address your frustrations with what is meant by "law" or "the law", I would prefer you listen again to GAL 2:11-3:18 and then listen to the upcoming section (GAL 3:19-4:20) next Sabbath. There is further explanation in the next section that should help answer several of your questions.
The important point to remember throughout the central part of this letter is that Paul, in trying to clarify the difference between the covenant God made with Abraham and the covenant He made with Israel at Mt. Sinai, refers to the covenant with Abraham as "THE PROMISE" and the covenant with Israel as "THE LAW". If you can keep that in mind while listening and reading the material, you will see how the other references to "law" fit in." --end quote
You should know by now if you read this blog that I understand "THE PROMISE" God gave to Abraham and his seed as having been passed down to us through Christ. We now inherit that same promise through Christ since we are one with Him, body and blood. The memorial of the bread and wine symbolize that very thing. The spiritual Church is His body, and He the Head of that body.
This is important to understand since the COG-F defines "salvation" as "marriage to Christ". That is not a direct Biblical statement I can find anywhere. I believe the saved will be the bride of Christ, but I don't think this is a great definition of 'salvation'. But I can certainly use that same line of thinking then and say "salvation is sonship to and inheritance from God." (Not that I mean to say that actually, just as a point of argument.) And this promise is in no way related to the covenant with Israel, of which the 10 Commandments is a major part. The law cannot undo that promise (GAL. 3: 17). Our inheritance is of the promise, not the law, or else it wouldn't be by promise (ROM. 4: 13-14; GAL. 3: 18). It is that promise that makes the inheritance sure, or the only sure thing would be our failure to achieve it!
My point being, they keep mentioning the 10 Commandments when the 10 Commandments have nothing to do with the promise that comes by faith.
As for the Living Church of God:
From them I received 2 booklets: 'What Is A True Christian?' and 'Satan's Counterfeit Christianity'.
These booklets dealt mostly with Alexander Hyslop's theories, were based upon the identity of modern Israel (British Israelism... which is dead-to-rights bogus), and a concentration on what we can do to retain salvation through legalism. Barely a mention of Jesus Christ. No mention of His saving sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world.
There were a few things I agreed with wholeheartedly! They actually say clearly that we cannot earn salvation - it is a gift. I applaud that! However, from there they go immediately downhill. The booklets were so useless it was startling.
From the Philadelphia Church of God, I received this:
That's right. I got no response whatsoever. That makes it among the best response of the bunch in my eyes.
Perhaps they refuse to speak to me after I gave a somewhat critical sermonette about Gerald Flurry a few years ago when he declared his faithful followers were forbidden to even speak to their own families outside of his cult. I noticed my subscription to the Key of David stopped coming about that time. They haven't responded to me at all since.
NAH! They wouldn't pay any heed to what I say. But it's a fun thought to amuse myself with.
From the United Church of God, I received this:
Tied for #1 with Philadelphia. But I'm a little curious as to why they didn't respond. It's not characteristic of them. I intend to try again and add that here as an addendum.
One thing I would have you notice as you consider these things is the infighting among Armstrong's splinter groups. They bite and devour one another (GAL. 5: 15). The Restored Church of God actively pitted itself against the others in their response to me. The other groups had no mention of each other. They all want to be THE true church. Of these groups, the COG-Fellowship and the CGG do the best job at saying they don't believe they are the only true church, but once you get behind the curtain, both groups have their internal opinions that they are.
Also, I've highlighted the fact that none of these groups emphasize Jesus Christ. They all emphasize who they are, not who Christ is. To be fair, I asked them to emphasize who they are. I can't quite get after them for answering the question as I asked it. But I honestly expected to hear MUCH more info about Christ and what He did. All I got is what their organizations of men are and what they (or I through my own effort) can do for me. Thanks, but no thanks.
Now, I've told you what I've found, but I've given you very little about what I think you should do about it. Pray! That's one thing. And feel free to discuss.