As Mr. Armstrong used to ask: "Why are we here?" Every so often, it is good to review our goals and purposes in God's Church—and in the Work that He has called us to do.
First of all, it is obvious that God has called us to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and the "name" of Jesus Christ. In Mark 1:14–15, we read: "Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.'" In Matthew 24:14, Jesus tells us: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."
After His resurrection, Jesus commanded His disciples: "And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned'" (Mark 16:15–16). And in Matthew 28:19–20, Jesus instructed His followers: "'Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen." Note that even to the "end of the age" Jesus' disciples were to preach and teach "all things" which Christ had commanded them during His earthly ministry—not some new "gospel of grace" supposedly introduced later by the Apostle Paul.
Then, we find in the book of Acts that Jesus continued to directly guide His Church and inspire its preaching. So when Philip went to Samaria to preach the Gospel, God's inspired word tells us: "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized" (Acts 8:12). Near the end of Paul's ministry, the Bible tells us: "Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him" (Acts 28:30–31).
Thus, God's word makes it clear that the good news of God's coming Kingdom was a basic part of the Gospel—along with the "name" or "the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:31). Throughout the Bible, the term "name" refers to the office, the authority, personality and even character of an individual. As The New Unger's Bible Dictionary explains "The name in Heb. is sometimes used to signify the collected attributes or characteristics of the object named. This is particularly the case with the divine name (Exodus 34:5–6). Our Lord says, 'I manifested Thy name,' etc. (John 17:6), where name embraces the whole divine nature revealed by the Son."
Our commission is to preach the powerful message of God's soon-coming government on this earth and describe its laws, its administration and how one should prepare to be part of this coming Government. Then, we need to make clear in our teaching the kind of Christ-like character God wants to develop within us through His Spirit. Putting two scriptures together, all true Christians must grow in "grace and knowledge" (2 Peter 3:18) "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). In every way we can, we need to help our brethren and new converts alike to capture and to build on these principles.
Next, since all true Christians are to understand and to live by every word of God, we must preach especially the end-time prophecies of the Bible and also give the vital "Ezekiel warning" to the peoples of the Israelitish nations. In Revelation 1:3, God tells us: "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near."
When we understand the Israelitish origin of the American and British-descended peoples, we would be derelict in our duty if we did not heartfeltly warn them of the coming Great Tribulation which will strike primarily at these peoples. God, in fact, warns us of this responsibility: "But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand" (Ezekiel 33:6).
As you brethren know, we are doing all we can to warn our peoples through the television messages devoted to this "Ezekiel warning," through articles in Tomorrow's World magazine and through our powerful booklet, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy. We are holding Public Bible Lectures to give our subscribers a deeper understanding of what we teach. Later, if God opens the door and guides us to do this, we may expand these campaigns across America and our British descended nations, as the prophesied punishments begin to occur and more people become eager to come to such meetings and to listen with open minds.
Then God's word tells us to "feed" the Church of God and strengthen it in every possible way. After His resurrection, Jesus told Peter: "Feed My sheep" and repeated this admonition three times (John 21:15–17). And the Apostle Paul commanded Timothy: "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Timothy 4:2–4).
In all of this we must try to help everyone we can—both within and without the true Church—to at least grasp the concept that true Christians are to "live by every word of God"— and that Christ is to literally live His life within us through the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20). A vital part of this mission is that we are to be examples and "lights" to the world (Matthew 5:14–16). As the "church of the living God, the pillar and ground [or "bulwark"] of the Truth" (1 Timothy 3:15), we, dear brethren, should set the example to the world—and to all professing Christians—of the way of life which Jesus taught!
In our personal lives, in our zealous work and productivity, in being closely bonded to our wives and families— and in a constant spirit of giving, serving and helping others— we should set a sterling example of what Christ really stands for! This is an awesome responsibility for each one of us and is, in fact, part of our commission.
By our own examples, we should set the standard of self-control, wisdom and judgment, of faith and courage and—most of all—of genuine love and outflowing concern. We should show others by our conduct that we do love God and put Him and His commandments above all else in everything we think, say and do.
Finally, as adjuncts to these vital Christian imperatives, I have tried to stress in recent years three more important concepts we should all incorporate into our lives. First is the concept of Servant Leadership. This powerful, biblically based principle is simply learning to think through and put in action the many scriptures that tell us to "serve" one another. This concept informs us that even one in a high position or office is to use that office to serve—not to "get," not to exalt the self or domineer, but to do all he can to sincerely and humbly use his time, strength and talents to serve everyone with whom he deals. As Jesus said: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25–28).
I hope that by now you have all read our vital booklet, Restoring Apostolic Christianity. I pray that all of you will inculcate the principles in this booklet into your own thinking and in explaining the Truth to others. For it is extremely important, brethren, that we do not let the world at large or Satan's ministers "box us in" with picky arguments about individual points such as the Sabbath, Holy Days or unclean meats. We must all come to understand that these are not "separated" issues that someone just put together in a disjointed manner. Rather, these basic doctrines and other important truths are all clearly derived from the original Church of God under the personal direction of the living Jesus Christ.
If we are to be effective servants of Christ, we must learn to explain these doctrines as part of the entire pattern of true first-century Christianity. For that is exactly what they are. And, as our booklet explains, both the inspired New Testament and countless references in early Church history show that we are following in the footsteps of Christ and the Jerusalem Church of God—the true Church of God under the immediate direction of the original Apostles.
Finally, you have undoubtedly heard some of our sermons emphasizing the absolutely vital need for us to build an "atmosphere of faith" within God's Church. We know that we are living in the most mechanized, industrialized and probably the most hedonistic civilization in human history. We are surrounded by "things" mankind has made. And our minds are bombarded with the worldly messages pumped into our homes via television, radio, the printing press and now the computer. Nearly all of this can be faith-destroying—if we allow it to be so.
Therefore, we tend to have less faith in the invisible God, and fewer healings and miracles than in times past. As Jesus prophetically asked: "when the Son of man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).
To counter this spiritual stagnation and retrogression, we need to purposefully do all we can to rekindle the kind of faith exhibited by the early Christians. We need to deeply study the word of God and "feed" on Christ (John 6:57). For faith comes by hearing "the word of God" (Romans 10:17). We need to pray for faith! In the end, it is God who will put within us the needed faith if we truly seek this from Him. Indeed, faith is one of the "gifts" of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4–9).
Yet, throughout the Bible, God gives us example after example showing that we should cry out to Him for our physical and spiritual needs— even as Jesus Christ did when He needed extra faith and strength in order to be our Savior and High Priest. The inspired book of Hebrews describes Jesus, "who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear" (Hebrews 5:7).
As the end of this present age swiftly approaches, I am sure that all of us desire that the powerful "signs" Jesus spoke of in Mark 16:17–18 would follow us today, more frequently and more powerfully: "And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
If we seek God with all our hearts and cry out to Him for the living faith that I have described, then I know we will see an outpouring of these "signs"! Then—even though most are not called to repentance now, vast numbers of people all over the earth will begin to "know" that there is a real God. And they will also begin to realize through whom He is working. So let us each do our part to seek God with absolute fervency and ask Him to put within us, individually and collectively, the powerful faith we need to truly be His ambassadors and effectively complete His Work at the end of this age!
Dear brethren, I hope that all of you will "catch the vision" and join with us in fulfilling this sevenfold commission. Of course, it could be worded or structured differently, but these key elements of Christ's commission to His Church—as outlined above—can be broken down into seven parts:
- Preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and the true name of Jesus Christ.
- Preach the end-time prophecies and the Ezekiel warning to the Israelitish peoples.
- Feed the flock and build all our members to the stature of Jesus Christ as best we can.
- Be examples to the Church of God, and to the world, of Christ's way of life.
- Learn and practice Servant Leadership in all our dealings with others.
- Restore Apostolic Christianity and all that this implies.
- Build an atmosphere of radiant faith within God's Church.
Again, "Why are we here? What is God's Work and our commission all about?" I hope that the above explanation will help and inspire all of us to understand why we exist and what we ought to be doing as the Living Church of God. Let us then move ahead on all fronts and honor God and our Savior Jesus Christ as we zealously fulfill these vital elements of the Great Commission.
Please study, meditate and pray about these points and ask God to help you build them into your daily lives, so that this Work of God may go forward with zeal and power as never before!