Servants' News

Mar/Apr 2002

Yet Another Answer to Hierarchical Leader Letter*

from “F.G.”, a Living Church of God Minister

Sydney Brown, of Georgetown, Guyana, sent this response that he received from a “representative of the Living Church of God”. There was not time before going to press to write to Mr. Brown to find out the identity of “F.G.”. Even though I thought I was done printing responses, this letter covers a lot of questions not answered elsewhere. It primarily challenges Servants’ News statements made in the Sept/Oct 2001 issue. F.G.’s letter consisted of quotes of my material labeled “F.G. quotes N.E.” and then his own comments labeled “F.G. Comments”. I will follow up each of his sections with my standard “Response” paragraph (for a copy of the original Hierarchical Leader Letter, see any of the previous 3 issues). — NSE

 

F.G. Quotes N.E.: If Christ has shown me truth through the Bible that is contrary to the teachings of Herbert Armstrong, then I must follow it and teach it, even if it requires going through Herbert Armstrong’s writing line by line and showing where it is inconsistent or contrary to Scripture.

You speak of submitting to “those whom He puts over us”. How do I know whether God has put Joe Tkach, Rod Meredith, David Hulme, the UCG general conference or some other men “over me”? If I try to evaluate all of their teaching and see who has the most truth, am not I deciding, rather than God or them?

F.G. Comments: I would like to ask the same question: How do I know whether God has put N.E. “over me”—to teach me? What is the fruit born by him? Is His work a continuation of what Jesus started? Who did he take over from, and when did this transition occur? By whose authority does he condemn a man who for over fifty (50) years has shown by his fruits that he was a true Minister of God?

 

N.E. Response: With me the issue is simple: I do not claim to be “over” anyone, so you do not have to ask the question. Anyone can look at the Scriptures and history that I present, verify them to whatever extent they desire, and whatever conclusions God leads them to. If one wants to know the fruit I have born, one could try contacting many of the brethren in the Local Servants’ Directory. Many have learned to conduct services and Bible studies, or have found congregations to attend and/or started evangelism outreaches through my efforts. I do not even know who all of them are because I have reached wide audiences and do not teach them to be loyal to me, but to Christ. I have also taught and baptized some new people myself. I believe this is a continuation of the work that Jesus and the Apostles did—but that many others are also doing that work now. Christ manages His whole work, not me or some other man.

Who did I “take over from”. Nobody. Who did Apollos “take over from”? Who did Isaiah “take over from”? Who was Paul’s or John’s successor? The doctrine of “succession of ordination” is from the Catholic Church, not from the Bible. Christ can appoint anyone to do anything at any time. God has not promised to use a succession of human leaders since King David. I started working on my own studies and writing in a major way on November 28, 1994.

Mr. Armstrong appears to have great works and many good fruits if one reads only the publications over which he had control. If one reads other writings about him, a less-fruitful picture emerges. Unfortunately, many CoG brethren “answer the matter before they hear it” and dismiss anything written against HWA as untrue—without looking for any facts. I do not condemn HWA—Christ will judge him in perfect righteousness, but I and everyone else must decide whether they will accept his word over what they can understand in the Bible for themselves.

 

F.G. Quotes N.E.: I agree that Dr. Meredith has a personally clean reputation and has worked diligently all of his life to “do the Work” as he understands it. I stopped working for Dr. Meredith because I was not free to openly talk about the things that I was studying in the Bible—I was supposed to represent the headquarters’ view.

F.G. Comments: Did Jesus encourage/allow any of His disciples to preach a different Gospel? Did the Apostle Paul encourage/allow the members and Ministers under him to preach any other doctrines?

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 (Matt 28:19–20)

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine (1Tim 1:3).

 

N.E. Response: Paul and the other Apostles were trained directly by Christ for three years. They knew what they knew was truth. Mr. Armstrong said that his knowledge came from a six-month night-and-day study in a library. Studying like this is good, but the same books he used are available to you and me. Mr. Meredith attributes his knowledge to diligently learning from Mr. Armstrong. Neither claimed to be taught directly from Christ as the Apostles had. Mr. Armstrong changed doctrines when other “high-ranking” ministers who studied independently came to him (though the average member was put out when he openly studied something different than official teaching).

I was on Mr. Meredith’s doctrinal committee and we discussed different doctrines. I hope you realize that was not a sin. Paul asked for unity among believers, but also realized that it would not happen: “For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1Cor 11:18–19). I can find no biblical reason for applying the scriptural authority of Christ and His Apostles to any church leader (including myself), today. God has given us His Spirit and the Scriptures, but not given us any teachers who speak face-to-face with Christ. If He does send someone like that, I will be quite ready to listen and obey.

 

F.G. Quotes N.E.: I was later disfellowshipped from the Global Church of God because unnamed people had read my writing How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans? and left the GCG because of it. My difficulty with Mr. Meredith is that after all the years of “training” that you mention, and after claiming to be the head of the church that Christ is using, he is not able to openly answer doctrinal questions as Christ and His Apostles did. He may say that he does not have enough time, but there are probably hundreds of people who have left the GCG and LCG over the issues in my writings.

F.G. Comments: What is the purpose of disfellowshipment?

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!… Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1Cor 1:5).

If the man in question was to do as N.E. did, then he would have started his own Organization. Would God have endorsed his new Organization? Could it be that N.E. had less than the proper attitude towards his disfellowshipment?

 

N.E. Response: This man was disfellowshipped, not because of a doctrinal teaching, but because of a sin that everybody knew about. The Corinthians were told to put him out openly “when you are gathered together” (v 4.). I was put out with no brethren present for a reason that was not explained to me. If my teaching was a sin, should not the leaders be desirous of explaining the exact nature of the sin so I could “repent of it”? I believe I had found a number of significant mistranslations in the KJV and other Bibles that CoG brethren needed to understand in order to obey God, but the GCG was not interested in either teaching this truth or proving it wrong. The Bible states it is possible for a leader to cast true brethren out of the church for the wrong reason (3Jo 9–10).

 

F.G. Quotes N.E.: Would not it be worth a day or two to prepare and record an open debate so that his members could see both sides of the issue and know that he was right? Of course, I believe that the Bible does not support his view and that the real reason most of the Church of God leaders will not answer doctrinal questions in an open forum is because they know they would have a lot of trouble. But I suppose they learned that well from Herbert Armstrong—he stopped answering open questions in the 1960s. It is much easier to look like one has the answer to everything when you can control the questions.

F.G. Comments: Should God’s people be involved in debates?

For I fear, lest , when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swell-ings, tumults (2Cor 12:20, KJV)

Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers (Rom 1:29, KJV).

 

N.E. Response: Thank you! You have just demonstrated another reason why believers need to carefully examine the KJV. I noticed you quoted the above two verses from the KJV, rather than the NKJV which you had been using. Why? Because nearly every other Bible translation does not say “debate” in these verses. In 2 Corinthians 12:20 the NKJV says “contentions”, the NIV says “quarreling”. In Romans 1:29, both the NKJV and NIV say “strife”. I checked about 30 translations and almost none of them say “debate” in these places. The Greek word is eris, meaning “strife” or “contention” and is translated one of those ways almost everywhere else in the KJV. One of King James’ stated goals for his translation was to have one text with no alternate readings or notes—he did not want any “debate” either. But the Church of God groups have continuously “debated” his translation and pointed out errors to other Christians regarding Easter, the Trinity, etc. That was a good thing to do.

Furthermore, the Bible does mention some “debates” among brethren. When the circumcision question was to be settled, the Bible says: “After there had been much debate, Peter arose and said to them…” (Acts 15:7, RSV; NRS, NAU, NAB also say “debate”). Also, “And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them… (Acts 16:2, RSV).

 

F.G. Comments: If N.E. wants to convert people to his way of thinking, why doesn’t he try with the Roman Catholics or Muslims or someone else? Why is he trying to prove himself right to God’s Church? If he is so sure of this righteousness, why doesn’t he preach it to the world and allow God to call those whom He chooses? Could it be a sign of insecurity?

 

N.E. Response: I am not opposed to teaching Catholics and Muslims and I have done it to some degree. There are three people whom I know are Catholic on my mailing lists and two more who were in the past. I have had debates with them over some of their doctrines and tired to show some how they do not need to submit to their hierarchy. I have subscribers in Egypt, Iran, Malaysia, Sultanate of Oman, Tanzania and United Arab Emirates. I do not know how many are Muslim. I would be glad to help them to whatever degree they were interested.

Most of my efforts at teaching non-Sabbatarian people have not worked out well, whereas I have letters and e-mails from hundreds of Sabbatarians who have thanked me for my work, and hundreds more questions that I have not been able to answer. When I have surveyed and spoken with our readers, they are most interested in Bible and Church of God related articles—I do not believe that either they or God want me to spend most of my effort giving a message to Catholics and Muslims.

 

F.G. Quotes N.E.: I remember Mr. Armstrong saying that. He would say it in his many sermons about the two trees—how God’s way was “give” and Satan’s way was “get”. I know many members who gave much to the WCG most of their lives, cooking their own meals in cheap apartments and buying their family’s clothes in second-hand stores. Herbert Armstrong, by his own admission, wore the best suits, ate in the best restaurants and stayed in the best places. HWA said these things were necessary to command the respect of kings, but John the Baptist found them unnecessary (Mark 1:6; 6:20). Who learned the lesson of “get and give”?

F.G. Comments: How much is the truth that Mr. Armstrong (led by God’s Spirit) gave N.E. worth? Would it be enough to buy one expensive suit? If we multiply this by 100,000 members in the Worldwide Church of God, could this money buy him the best suits?

In the same way, the Lord gave orders that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it (1Cor 9:14, NLT)

For the law of Moses says, “Do not keep an ox from eating as it treads out the grain.” Do you suppose God was thinking only about oxen when he said this? (1Cor 9:9, NLT).

 

N.E. Response: The scriptures you quoted are obviously correct—it is right for people who serve by teaching to earn their living by it. I have lived that way for 7 years, though I have also had to gradually spend my own savings. The phrase “in the same way” in verse 14 refers to verse 13 which talks about the way the priests received money for their service. They did not receive dozens of times as much money as the average man of their day. Some believe that elders who serve well should. There is no biblical example of any man of God saying, “I deserve great physical possessions because of the great value of God’s truth that I bring you.” The rewards for what we do now will be given at our judgment (2Cor 5:10). Furthermore, I did not learn that much directly from Herbert Armstrong, but from other believers who taught for free, and from booklets that were produced and mailed by low-paid headquarters staff, and from low-paid Big Sandy college faculty. Paul clearly speaks of “men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself” (1Tim 6:5).

 

F.G. Quotes N.E.: I realize that Herbert Armstrong frequently credited God for the “Work”. But as Paul’s letters are Christ’s work through Paul, so the WCG was Christ’s work through Herbert Armstrong. The big mistake is that where Paul acknowledged that God worked through other apostles and teachers, HWA claimed that all of Christ’s work on earth, both spiritual and physical, was through Him (see organization chart published in the March 6 Worldwide News, reprinted on page 26, Nov 1998 Servants’ News). The Dec 1998 Servants’ News contains an article about 26 groups that taught the Sabbath, Holy Days and/or clean meats, most of which did not learn any truth from Herbert Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong certainly knew that there were many Holy Day keepers among the 200,000+ members of the Church of God Seventh Day groups. But he virtually never publicly acknowledged that God might be doing a work outside his organization.

F.G. Comments: There have always been other groups who preached varying amounts of truth (and Mr. Armstrong recognized this), but none preached the whole truth the way Mr. Armstrong did. It’s a shame that N.E. did not know this.

 

N.E. Response: I believe I can show many places where the Bible disagrees with Mr. Armstrong’s teaching. When I stand in my judgment, I will go to the Scriptures for what I did, accepting Christ’s correction, not to the writings of Herbert Armstrong. There is no promise that he will be there at your or anyone else’s judgment. Mr. Armstrong certainly acknowledged that other groups had some truth, but he rarely ever acknowledged that they were part of the Church. Whereas, Jesus Christ, in Revelation 2 and 3 acknowledges a number of groups with error that are part of His Church!

The only reason people who were in the WCG and also those in the LCG think they have the “whole truth” is because they only listen to one source. If they would do as Christ and the Apostles did, and speak in open meetings where “outsiders” can ask questions (they must either answer or say “I don’t know”), you would find out that there are many Bible questions that they cannot answer. Yes, there are some that I cannot answer, and I admit it!

F.G. Quotes N.E.: It can also be called “Mr. Armstrong’s work” in that he tolerated only people who were at the same level of understanding as he. When Mr. Armstrong kept a Monday Pentecost, he disfellowshipped Sunday Pentecost people. When he switched to Sunday Pentecost, he disfellowshipped those who continued to keep it on Monday. Obviously, HWA was not claiming that God rejects a person for keeping the wrong day—because, whichever is right, he kept the wrong day at some point.

The issue is that HWA would not tolerate a member who was either ahead or behind HWA in their understanding. Understanding the truth a few years early, or taking a few years to understand the new teaching would have gotten most people disfellowshipped. This kind of thing happened with many other issues. It is little wonder that so many WCG members simply followed their headquarters when doctrines began to change.

F.G. Comments: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! (1Cor 5:1)

Maybe this man was behind the Apostle Paul in his understanding of sex. Did that stop Paul from disfellowshipping him?

 

N.E. Response: Hmmm. The issue here is not understanding, but sin. This man knew he was sinning, the brethren knew he was sinning, even the Gentiles knew he was sinning. Whereas Romans 14 contains a story about some brethren who had a doctrinal question as to whether or not they should eat meat. Paul could have given the answer and disfellowshipped those who disagreed, but he said: “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak…. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin (Rom 14:20–21, 23).

 

F.G. Comments: But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.

N.E. Response: Is Paul saying here that the brethren should withdraw from any beleiver who disagrees with Paul on any point? Let us read it in context. Also, note that the term “walks disorderly” is not in most modern translations as the Greek ataktos means to be idle or lazy as the next few verses (as well as verse 11) bring out: The NIV (and many other translations) have it correctly: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow” (2Thes 3:6–9). Paul’s approach was obviously quite different from Herbert Armstrong’s. If we are called to let Christ work through us, I agree that we should avoid professed “believers” who do nothing.

 

F.G. Quotes N.E.: You have questioned my faith several times in this letter, but what do you think takes more faith for a man with a family of six? To work for a $50,000 salary plus benefits for the GCG, a church of thousands that took in millions per year? Or to start an independent newsletter, not teaching that people must tithe to me, not having anyone pledge to support me, not even taking up collections in services?

F.G. Comments: It took faith for Mother Theresa to do the things she did! It took faith for Mahatma Ghandi to do what he did! But did their faith come from God?

 

N.E. Response: I am not about to judge whether or not their faith came from God. Rahab the prostitute had faith and spared her family (Heb 11:31). A woman of Samaria, who knew almost no truth, had faith in Christ (John 4).

 

F.G. Comments: All tithes belong to God! Mr. Armstrong always taught that. Tithing is to support God’s Work. We tithe to God, then God gives His tithe to His Ministers to use as He directs.

Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, “In what way have we robbed You?” In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house (Mal 3:8–10).

 

N.E. Response: You have done a good job of quoting Mr. Armstrong, but you cannot find a scripture where God commands people to tithe to anyone other than the Levites who then tithed to the priests. (Yes, Abraham gave a tenth of war spoil to Melchisedec, then gave all the rest back to the people it belonged to—no increase on his part. In Numbers 31:25–30, God asked for 2% of the spoil of war.) There is neither command nor example of tithing to the ministry or “God’s work”—but numerous examples of voluntary offerings given to the New Testament ministry. Neither the prophets (unless they were Levites) nor King David who wrote so many Psalms received the tithe, but people did give them offerings. For more information ask for my paper, How Do We Give to the Eternal?

F.G. Quotes N.E.: Mr. Armstrong spoke about government a lot in his sermons, and wrote a lot of short articles on the subject, but never wrote one booklet devoted to the scriptures on the subject.

F.G. Comments: Here are some articles/booklets that disprove that statement:

Christ Did Put Authority and Rule In His Church, by H. W. Armstrong

May, 1974 Letter on Church Government, by H. W. Armstrong

The Wonderful World Tomorrow, by
H. W. Armstrong

The Incredible Human Potential, by
H. W. Armstrong

What Is The True Gospel? by H. W. Armstrong

The Kingdom of God is the Government of God. Every booklet Mr. Armstrong wrote about the Kingdom of God also addressed the Government of God. Could it be that N.E. never did get the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom/Government of God?

 

N.E. Response: I definitely got the message of the “Government of God” over the years. The phrase appears over 1,000 times in Mr. Armstrong’s writings and I heard it in numerous headquarters sermons. But now that I try to teach from the Bible, I have trouble with it because it isn’t in there. I have the same trouble with protestant doctrinal words like the “rapture” which are not in there. Clearly God does govern, he does protect people from tribulation, but when one builds a doctrine around a phrase that is not in the Bible, I think we are in trouble. If the Bible says “Kingdom of God”, then that is the term I will use.

Thank you for pointing out a mistake in my writing, for which I repent. I meant to say that Mr. Armstrong never wrote a whole booklet on “church government”—he wrote several on “government”. The latter three booklets you mentioned talk a lot about government in the Millennial Kingdom of God. The first two deal directly with church government, but they are only an article and a letter. May 1974 letter goes into the most detail on Church government. I offer a copy of that with my comments to anyone who wants it (ask for order code “MAY74”). The article shows verses that do not speak against hierarchical government, verses that show the ministry does have some authority, but fails to show scriptures that establish a multi-level hierarchy of church deacons, ministers, and higher leaders each of which must be ordained by a leader of greater authority. The Catholic church and most military organizations (even in the Bible) establish such hierarchies, but the Bible does not teach this for the church.

Christ Did Put Authority and Rule In His Church claims that the reason for so many church denominations is that attitude that each man must decide for himself what he will do from Scripture. In reality, denominations are caused by people following the doctrines of church leaders (often without knowing what the Bible says on the issues), assuming their group is right, and all the others are wrong. Numerous “non-denominational” congregations get along with each other and work together, but “church organizations”, especially hierarchical ones, often do not. Mr. Armstrong goes on to say that God has always had His Government in His Church, but utterly fails to give the names or locations of the top leaders throughout history (even in the near-history of the 1800s and 1900s). If following a human church government is so vital to obeying God, how can that be done if nobody knows where it is for most of history? The article claims that the church leader’s decisions are God’s decisions—including decisions such as whether it is all right for women to wear lipstick. This makes God look rather unstable, as Mr. Armstrong reversed his decision a few times on the issue of makeup. Today, groups that still claim to be “the government of God” are still divided on this issue—even ministers in your church organization have different opinions.

 

F.G. Quotes N.E.: I am not opposed to God being in charge forever. (And even if I was, God would remain in charge anyway!) But I do not believe that the Scriptures teach that “God always works through one man” and that we are bound to accept one man’s understanding of Scripture no matter what.

F.G. Comments: Here are some men who were the only ones in their time who God worked through: Abraham, Elijah, Moses, Samuel, Jesus Christ. Many persons challenged Moses’ one man leadership—read about it in Numbers 16.

 

N.E. Response: Twenty years ago, I would have said, “that’s right,” without thinking about what the Bible says. But let us examine each of these men and see what the Bible says.

Abraham: Lot received a visit from angels and a miraculous deliverance from destruction (Gen 19). Abraham deceived Abimelech by saying Sarah was his sister, but God appeared to Abimelech in a dream rather than to Abraham (Gen 20:1–7). After Hagar was sent away from Abraham, an angel gave her a miracle and a great promise for her descendants for the future (Gen 21:16–19). When Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac, Abraham promised that God would send an angel (Gen 24:7), but the servant prayed directly to God for a sign of his own request (Gen 24:12–22). Please be honest. What would the leader of your group say if a member claimed to have had a visit from an angel, a dream from God, a personal promise of greatness from an angel, or a miraculously answered prayer? My experience is that the member would not be believed, and maybe be put out of the group for talking about it because “God works through one man”.

Elijah. Elijah’s primary ministry spans 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 2. Obadiah hid 100 prophets from Jezebel because “he feared the Lord”, not specifically because of Elijah’s command (1Kngs 18:3–4). Elijah thought that he was the only one obeying God, but there were 7,000 whom he did not know about who could not possibly have been “under him” (1Kngs 19:13–18). An unnamed prophet of God spoke to Ahab (1Kngs 20:13–28). Another unnamed prophet delivered a message to Ahab (1Kngs 20:35–43). Finally, Elisha seems to continue the job of Elijah in 2 Kings 2, but Elijah is still alive and writes a letter in 2 Chronicles 21:12. As we can see, God works through as many prophets as he needs, but if God gives a CoG member a prophecy, will the leader of his group reject it, saying, “God works through one man”?

Moses. While Korah and his followers certainly died and God upheld Moses, the chapter does not say “God always works through one man”. Rather, it faults Korah for making false accusations against Moses. Furthermore, God had said nothing to Korah, and Moses clearly was following God. But did God work through other people while Moses was alive? He spoke through Aaron and set him over the priesthood. God also placed his spirit upon 70 elders, two of whom prophesied apart from Moses (Num 11:25–27). Did Moses have to assert his position over them? No, because God was working in them, too: “Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, ‘Moses, my lord, stop them!’ But Moses replied, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!’” (Num 11:28–29). No “just one man” philosophy here!

Samuel. Even though Samuel was alive, an unnamed prophet spoke to Eli (1Sam 2:26–36). Saul and an entire “company of prophets” prophesied apart from Samuel (1Sam 10:1–12). Saul’s messengers prophesied and then Saul himself prophesied again, “he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night” (1Sam 19:20–24). This was not Saul’s or Samuel’s idea. Also, Gad prophesied to David while Samuel was alive (1Sam 22:5). Finally, David wrote some of his inspired Psalms while Samuel was alive. God is great and has no trouble working through more than one man. I think almost everyone agrees that God directly inspired both Samuel and David.

Jesus Christ. Even though John recognized the superiority of Jesus (Matt 3:13–15), he did not immediately terminate his ministry and send all of his disciples to Jesus; John’s ministry continued on and he had disciples even when he was in prison (Matt 9:14; 11:3–6; John 3:25–4:1). Jesus was not the least bit concerned that the Father would “go around Him” and reveal things directly to someone. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’” (Matt 16:17). Jesus Himself taught this important lesson: “Now John answered Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side’” (Mark 9:38–40).

These many scriptures prove beyond any doubt that God does not always teach and work through “one man” at a time. But one might look at the above examples and say, “God did work through multiple people, but they were not in conflict with the “man God was using”. Usually, that is the case, but not always. We already mentioned the debates in Acts 15:2,7; there was a contention between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39); Apollos disagreed with Paul’s plans for him (1Cor 16:12), brethren discussed whether it was all right to eat meat (Rom 14), and other issues. Unity is possible through love and co-operation in the Spirit, not in groups forming around leaders who will decide all truths for their group.

 

F.G. Quotes N.E.: I realize that the LCG and many of the other CoG groups teach their members not to read outside literature. But again I ask, who will be best able to keep following God in His Kingdom? Someone who has only read and heard the truth? Or someone who has read a variety of things, some true, some false, and who has been able to discern the truth from the error?

F.G. Comments: Adam and Eve were given the same advice that the members of the LCG were given (according to N.E.). They made the choice N.E. made—see where that led us? Adam and Eve sought independence, they decided for themselves what is truth and error, they did not want to depend on God to teach them His way and in His time, so they started their own organization based on their own human discernment of truth from error!

 

N.E. Response: How did this mix-up occur? I never said people should decide for themselves what is truth, but that they should study the Bible and rely on God’s promise for the Holy Spirit to lead them into truth (John 16:13). Please notice that God let Satan tempt Adam and Eve. He did not keep Satan out of the Garden (He could have). If Adam and Eve had believed it was their personal responsibility to seek God on the matter, they might well have rejected Satan. Instead, they believed Satan’s doctrinal error because he seemed “good” (2Cor 11:14). Apparently, they had not received the Holy Spirit, which gave Satan the edge on them. God did not stop Satan from tempting Christ (He could have), but He was glad to see that Christ overcame Satan. We need to use the Holy Spirit and be able to resist and defeat Satan. “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jms 4:7).

 

F.G. Quotes N.E.: Galatians 6:1 states: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” God wants mature believers to help others. If you would like to read my writings and find error in my ways, I would be glad to be helped out by it.

F.G. Comments: For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa 66:2).

God’s Ministers are always happy to help anyone who is genuinely repentant. That is a part of our God-given duty.

 

N.E. Response: May you help many people! Notice that we are to tremble at God’s word, not Herbert Armstrong’s. If you would like to read How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans? and show me my sin in there, I would be glad to listen and repent if you convict me from the Scripture.

 

N.E. Conclusion: Thank you for writing. This dialog helps everyone to read the Scriptures and see what they say. When I read through the many scriptures on eternal judgment, I concluded that we will be judged more strongly on how we treat our family, neighbors and associates than we will on our technical doctrinal learning, though the latter is also important. I hope to see many brethren, who have been in and out of church organizations in the first resurrection! — Norman Edwards


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