Dear Brethren and Friends,
I just got off the phone a few hours ago with a dedicated Church of God lady who had some questions. She and her husband have been meeting with another Church of God fellowship—and she really wanted to know how the Living Church of God is in any way “different.” I answered her questions and tried to help her focus on the most important issues. She seemed satisfied and promised to continue checking us out as I encouraged her to do.
Having just had this stimulating conversation, I am encouraged to share with all of you the three most important issues that we discussed. For many of you brethren are relatively “new” with the Living Church of God, and even a number of older brethren do sometimes become disoriented or forget the vital issues that make the Living Church of God truly different from other groups.
Remember, we all know that many “Church of God” groups, here and there, have part of the Truth and do part of the Work. They are not “evil”—nor are they to be sneered at or humiliated in any way. Yet the Eternal God indicates in Scripture—His inspired word—that He Himself does “make a difference” between people who are only partly correct or somewhat dedicated, and those of His true people who are totally dedicated and fully surrendered to do His will at all cost!
Remember the inspired account of our first parents, Adam and Eve. They did not partake of a tree of “total evil”—rather, they partook of the tree containing a mixture of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). As Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong explained to us many times, a cup of tea is normally a healthful beverage for most people. But if just “a little” cyanide is mixed in, this mixture will normally result in death! Most Church of God groups are filled with members who are basically sincere and “nice” people. But if they water down the teachings and practices of God’s Word, or if they refuse to go “all out” in doing the real Work of God—or in any manner do away with the biblical teaching and practice of the Government of God—then they had better become very concerned!
For those three issues are, in fact, the big three. Let us briefly discuss each one of these fundamental issues, for they are absolutely vital in helping determine where God’s true Church is today—the Church that Jesus Christ will primarily use to complete His Work, and whose people by virtue of their conduct are much more likely to be taken to the “Place of Safety.” Yes, both our eternal lives and our physical lives are involved in all of this!
First, it should be obvious that the true Church of God must overwhelmingly preach the full Truth of the Bible! I am sure that the vast majority of you brethren in the Living Church of God know that we really do this. Without this, no group can expect to have God’s full blessing! For our living Head and Savior stated: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’” (Luke 4:4).
The inspired Apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26–27). The clear implication of this statement is that Paul might well have been accountable if he had failed to preach anything less than the “whole counsel of God.” Yet we all know of various professing Church of God fellowships that try to “solve” problems by avoiding the issue entirely—like those that choose not to face the issue of the Laodicean era, and their relation to it, by claiming that “Church eras” do not even exist!
Many brethren, and even a number of ministers, in some of these groups have all kinds of ideas about the Trinity, the nature of God, the modern identity of the “Ten Lost Tribes” of Israel, the doctrine of divine healing and the importance of teaching and practicing the biblical form of Church government. Leaders in several groups seem eager to “dance” around these fundamental issues—to avoid clear answers, or even to deny the answers long taught by God’s Church and His word. The result of such spiritual neglect, and of their clever avoidance of these issues, is that their groups and the members become unsure about the nature of God, and about many other key issues that certainly are of importance to Almighty God!
Also, some of these groups cleverly “water down” the importance of preaching the full Gospel to “all the nations” and of giving a truly powerful “Ezekiel warning” to the modern descendants of ancient Israel before the Great Tribulation strikes!
Understandably, any Church of God group dominated by so many confused and lukewarm individuals will have far fewer truly committed members dedicating their whole hearts to doing the Work, and they will certainly tend to have far fewer divine healings.
Many scattered groups out there are primarily “inwardly focused.” They often seem satisfied to hold their quiet Sabbath meetings and befriend each other—all the while neglecting the more than six billion human beings on the earth, most of whom have never heard the true Gospel of Christ or understood the real meaning of life.
This brings us to the second big issue—our willingness to sacrifice ourselves and preach Christ’s powerful message to all the world. Perhaps without realizing it, people in “inwardly focused” groups are often very selfish! For they are unwilling to put themselves out to proclaim Christ’s message to every nation, every race and every part of the human family God has put here on this earth. Remember, Jesus Christ directly instructed His followers, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). He also commanded, “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” (Matthew 28:19– 20).
Notice that just after Jesus gave this command, He said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” He did not say, “Keep doing the Work until the Apostle Paul dies,” or “until Herbert Armstrong dies”—or any other such limitation! Jesus instructed His true followers to proclaim His message to all nations, and to teach them “all things” that He had commanded them. And He promised to be with us in doing this very thing to the end of the age! Dear friends and brethren, the end of this age is just ahead. And we are told to teach our peoples “all things” that Christ commanded. Why do so many Church of God groups water down these very clear instructions?
I think most of you brethren know that we in the Living Church of God spend just about 45 percent of our income—or more, depending on how you calculate it—on preaching the Gospel to “all the nations”! Most of us are willing to sacrifice in order to do this. We may not have quite as much money to rent the most comfortable halls, or to provide the biggest social events, summer camps and other activities. But our hearts are joined together in “reaching out” in love and helping this entire world become aware of the real God and of His purpose.
Because of this shared commitment, supported by the fervent prayers of thousands of loyal and dedicated members, we are grateful that God is blessing this Work with thousands of responses to our television programs every single week! In fact, the responses over the last year or so have averaged over 4,000 a week—and are occasionally exceeding 6,000 responses each week here in North America. Our Sabbath attendance over the last 12 to 18 months has been growing at the rate of about ten percent! So, we are very grateful for what Christ is doing, and for the growing impact we are having on the world as a whole. This is a vital “sign” that we are true “Philadelphians” and are teaching the true message of Jesus Christ to the whole world with all of our hearts.
The third key issue that clearly signals where God’s true Church exists is the matter of Church government. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong—who taught nearly all of us the Truth in the first place—said again and again, “Understanding and practicing correct Church government is the whole thing!” Many of you older brethren will remember him making statements similar to this quite a number of times.
Why did he say this so often?
He emphasized this point because true Christians are now in training to become those kings and priests who will assist Jesus Christ in the coming Government of God on this earth. Remember how the Apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthian brethren, instructing them: “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:1–3).
How can we possibly expect to become “kings” and “priests” in Christ’s coming Government if we fail utterly to teach and to practice the very kind of hierarchal government that God will expect us to administer within a very few years from now in Christ’s Kingdom?
Remember, brethren, that the book of Revelation describes how Christ has “redeemed” us through His blood from every nation, and has “made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9–10). At the very beginning of the book, John writes that Christ “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (Revelation 1:6).
So, we can understand why Paul, in the above-cited passage from 1 Corinthians, was urging the brethren to learn proper judgment and rulership by practicing it in the Church of God! For, as Paul said, we may even be called upon to “judge angels.”
Frankly, I feel very sorry for the pitiful state of so many of our “separated brethren” who somehow hope to be kings and priests in a few years, yet refuse now to practice the very form of government that the true saints will be called upon to teach and to practice in Christ’s Kingdom! A number of such individuals, as leaders in their various groups, have insisted that “Christ led us” to form some type of “democratic” government, following the secular pattern—including voting, politicking, posturing and positioning for support from each other and the brethren. What will Christ tell these men when the Judgment comes? I would certainly not want to be in their shoes!
No! Christ never leads us to do something that is totally contrary to His entire teaching from one end of the Bible to the other! Nowhere does He endorse “democratic” Church government! Sadly, when people veer off-track on such a basic issue as this, it is often because they lack faith that Christ really is alive and is in active charge of His Church!
Yes, after Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, the whole corporate structure of the Worldwide Church of God was turned away from true Christianity, by the mistakes and the plans of the leadership at that time. But, as the saying goes, “You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!” When a group of misguided men goes against God’s instructions, you do not “solve” the problem by going against His instructions yourself! Yes, Jesus Christ Himself allowed some terrible decisions to be made in His Church for a few years, to test people at that time. But that was never an excuse to try to go directly contrary to God’s instructions and examples of proper Church government!
Remember the example of God’s prophet Samuel? God describes how, “when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel” (1 Samuel 8:1). Yet his sons turned aside, took bribes, perverted justice and took advantage of the people. God allowed this to happen—even in His human kingdom of Israel with a faithful man in charge over all.
How should the problem have been “solved”? Should the people have tried to get rid of God’s inspired form of government where He showed by the “fruits” that Samuel was His servant and put in that office? Should they have tried to turn aside and introduce a “different” form of government?
No! They should have prayed to God, as Samuel did— and He would have straightened things out in His time! But the people lost faith in God’s guidance, and desired to set up an entirely different form of government. God allowed this, but He did not bless it in that situation, “And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them’” (v. 7).
From that time on, dear brethren, we see that the Israelites did not have the full blessing of God—which they could have had if they had trusted Him. Instead, they trusted in themselves and turned aside to a human form of government. This was not pleasing to God then. And it is not pleasing to God now!
So, may God help all of us to understand the vital importance of recognizing the “Church of God” group that really is teaching the “whole counsel” of God; that is actually doing the Work of God in a right and loving manner and that is practicing the biblical form of Church government—the very form that all of us will soon be called upon to teach and practice in the Kingdom of God!
Some people will try to tell you that, in the malaise of various Church of God fellowships, we are “all the same.” Be sure to respond to them: “Absolutely not!” For, as discussed above, there are at least three vital differences between the Living Church of God and other groups. These differences are important to Almighty God. And they will certainly make a difference in the kind of reward you and I will be given for all eternity in Christ’s soon-coming World Government—the glorious Kingdom of God.
With Christian love,