Servants' News

April 1995

Letters and Responses

We print a representative sampling of our mail—both positive and negative. We do not include names unless we are fairly sure that the writer would not object. To avoid any difficulty, writers should specify how much of their name and address they would like us to print.

More Grace, Less Law

Letter: March 21, 1995

Dear So Called Friends,

Our friends do not write us anonymously. Especially with unsolicited propaganda attacking our true friends, and Christians as Paul defined them in Rom 7. Why do you not sign your names to your correspondence? Are you afraid? Are you ashamed to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of grace and peace (Rom 1:16; Eph 6;15, Acts 20:24)? Why are you only comfortable preaching about “the old covenant law” as if it were that which saves. In my opinion your letter is riddled with borrowed archaic collection of proof-texts for support of old covenant type obedience to the law.

Response: Thank you for your letter that well-defines your understanding. We did not put any names on the letter because we felt the message was much more important than the messenger. We have not withheld our names from any that asked. We are not afraid to preach all of the good news (gospel) mentioned in the Scriptures. In the Bible we find the expressions “gospel of grace”, “gospel of peace”, “gospel of the kingdom”, “gospel of Christ”, “gospel of God”, and “gospel of salvation”. The world has witnessed hundreds of years of the preaching of a Gospel of grace without the gospel of the kingdom or the law or God. “Christian” nations sent their armies to fight each other, with the blessings of their “new testament” ministry—neither looking to the Biblical law that could prevent the conflict. “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 3:18).

We do not consider any part of the Bible archaic. If we are misusing scripture—reading in meanings that are not there, please let us know which verses you are referring to. We cannot “improve upon” His word.

Letter: All Christians agree on many important issues, but you seem unable to see anything but the differences. Many of us have been there - done that - & repented. Emphasis on “obedience to the law” rather than obedience to Christ is divisive. You hate the changes involving Sabbath observance and dietary practices. These seem to be your “great commandments”. Have you forgotten Proverbs 6:16-19 — the seven things God hates and refers to as “abominations” (KJV). Do you find Sabbath-breaking, eating pork or shrimp mentioned here? Note carefully what is included in verse 19 (and many other places including Galatians 5:20) “sowing discord among brethren”.

Response: We do not try to emphasize differences, but when we are talking about fundamental issues, truth and error are going to be different! Our Messiah said “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division” (Luke 12:51). We see one reason why He allows some divisions in 1 Corinthians 11:18-19. The scriptural teaching regarding Sabbath observance and dietary practices has not changed. Some, like David and Paul, have loved the law (Ps 119:97, Rom 7:12) and benefited from it. We encourage others to follow their practice.

The very same Hebrew word for abomination (tow‘ebah) used in Proverbs 6:16 is also used in Deuteronomy 14:3: “Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.” A description of what to eat and what not to eat follows this verse. Proverbs does not say “only seven things,” so we must conclude that these eight things and many others expressed elsewhere in the Bible are all abominations to the Eternal.

The great commandments were quoted by our Saviour from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18; “...on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets”—the entire “old covenant” is based on love of our Father and our neighbor (Matt 22:36-40.) We believe in living by “every word of God” (Matt 4:4). Sowing discord is lying or deceiving others into believing they have differences that they do not have. (e.g. Bob the Sower tells Mary that he thinks John does not like her.) Our effort is to teach significant Biblical truth and let individuals make their own choices about their beliefs, friends and congregational attendance.

Letter: How can you justify what you are doing in light of Phil 1:15-18? Paul taught the value and importance of preaching Christ, even when for wrong motives! Yet you attack the WCG, a Christian group, because in your opinion, it preaches too much about Christ (through whom alone is salvation — Acts 4:12) and too little about the law (though which no one is justified —Acts 13:39, Rom 3:20, Gal 2:16; 3:11, 24; 5:14).

Response: We rejoice as Paul did in Philippians when Christ is preached. Anyone that reads his words is learning truth. While we feel many “Christian” groups do not understand His message, the world has benefitted by the many Bibles, histories, and other writings they have made available. We do not attack specific groups, but teach what we read in the scriptures. We believe that salvation comes from His grace, not from our keeping of the law. Through the power of the holy spirit, we can keep His law and eventually, “you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48).

Letter: You want the law/Sabbath/holydays to be the sign/badge of your discipleship? That is your prerogative. Who has forbidden them you? I love and observe them too, but they are not the sign of my discipleship. These are no more forbidden than is eating whole wheat flour or avoiding doctors. You are free to observe the law — any or all of them. But you will never be free, from a scriptural standpoint, to stir up division among brethren! And none will ever be justified by obedience to the law (Eph 2:8-9).

Response: The Sabbath is given as a sign to show that the Eternal has set us apart (Ex 31:13); our love for the brethren is a sign that we are His disciples (John 13:35). The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul... (Ps 19:7). The Feasts are a time of joy (Deut 16:13-15). We and many others have believed these truths for 20 or more years. Within the last few years there has been great division as new teachers have ceased teaching these truths and began teaching a Gospel of “accept Christ and don’t worry about what he taught.” But our Saviour has a purpose in these divisions (1Cor 11:18-19).

Letter: Although I can certainly respect any honest effort to follow one’s conscience as they feel God is directing it, it is difficult to respect those whose conscience permits criticism of Christians whose “sin” is overemphasizing Christ, and stressing what he and the apostle emphasized -- love your neighbor as yourself. All who want to be respected must obey Christ, stop attacking Christians, and upgrade any law-centered message to a Christ-centered message.

Response: Thank you for your respect. We respect your sincere presentation. We respect the sincere efforts of billions of people over the past 2000 years that have taught a Christ-centered message and taught others to love their neighbor as themselves. When their love corresponded to the Eternal’s love, this was a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, without the law, people often do not know how to love the Eternal or their neighbor. I have talked with people that have studied the Greek words for adultery and fornication and believe there is nothing in the new testament that prevents a single person from having sex with multiple partners as long as there is “love” in the relationship and it is not “perverse”. I have talked with homosexuals that see no scriptural need to change their ways as long as they are trusting in Christ’s grace. “Christian” nations have a very poor track record for loving their neighbors—they lost the knowledge of what sin is (1Jn 3:4). We emphasize the law because most English-speaking people know about the Savior, but they do not know about the value of the law.

Letter: Please put an end to suggesting that anyone who does not agree with your doctrinal view, lacks honesty and integrity in their personal bible study. It is arrogant, and your denial makes it no less true. The book of Acts with its’ history of ever-present honest controversy (and some not so honest) led the church to understand the importance of tolerance (Rom 14), and at other times to doctrinal changes and growth in the early Christian church (Acts 15). Your approach slams the door to honest discussion of issues which could promote growth, and help inspire stronger faith driven works which glorify Christ!

Response: We are not sure which of our statements you are objecting to here. We tried to make it very clear in page 6 of our letter that we did not have all of the answers. We do not believe in pronouncing public judgments on individuals or organizations (see first article on page 1 of this issue.) I think many need to grow in doctrinal toleration as described in Romans 14, but 2 John 7-11 shows that when people no longer believe Christ was here in the flesh, you should avoid them.

Letter: I look forward to the time when all will understand the admonition to “speak the same thing... that there be no divisions”. Is salvation really so complicated? Is it more than life changing faith in the resurrected and active Jesus Christ as a result of His supreme sacrifice — made for the forgiveness of sin (pride, selfishness, vanity, greed, etc. or absence of love), demonstrating his awesome love for us in terms we humans can easily understand? (John 15:13 no greater love... lay down life for sabbath?)

Response: I, too, look forward to a time when we can all speak the same thing—probably the thousand years when the Messiah will rule and “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (Isa 11:9). If what our Father wants of us is as simple as you describe, the Bible would need to be only one chapter or maybe one book. But He gave us 1189 chapters. Concepts are “here a little, there a little” and most of us must study in “another tongue” [English, not Hebrew or Greek] (Is 28:9-11). Even after the understanding of salvation, Paul told Timothy that “from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, [only the Old Testament existed] which are able to make you wise for salvation...” (2 Tim 3:15). John 15:13 does not require us to lay down our life for the Sabbath, but Rev 14:9-13 probably does. It is very clear in these verses that it is better to lay down your life rather than accept the “mark of the beast.” Even if Sunday-worship is not the “mark of the beast” we still must be willing to die rather than accept that “mark.” I believe what the opening chapters of this book say: it was given so His servants would know what is happening, and there is a blessing for reading this book and keeping [doing] what it says.

Letter: I pray this letter might strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ.

—R. W., Murfreesboro, TN

Response: Thank you for your genuine concern. May the Eternal bless you as you continue to study and “live by every word of God.”

—Norman S. Edwards

 

Pleased to See Initiative

Letter: March 15, 1995

Dear fellow servant,

Mr. David Truan of the Seventh Day Christian Assembly of the Church of God (Knoxville, Tennessee) gave me a copy of the letter you sent to him. I found it to be well written and Biblically sound. I took it upon myself to fax a copy to my Christian brother and pastor, Mr. John Pinkston, of the Congregation of God Seventh Day in Kennesaw (Atlanta) Georgia. I hope that you don’t mind.

While I am always pleased to learn of another person of like mind spiritually, I am distressed at the circumstances which are forcing many brethren to leave the organizations which in times past have served to take the Gospel to the called ones. I am thankful to see that some few are taking the initiative to reach out to others in an effort to unite for fellowship and Bible study. May the Eternal bless those efforts with success.

I have enclosed an audio tape of a sermon I gave on February 18, 1995 in the Kennesaw church. Just that morning an article appeared in the Knoxville newspaper regarding how changes in the Worldwide Church doctrine were causing large decreases in income and liquidation of many church holdings. We had been hearing even more disturbing reports of enormous losses of members who apparently had reached the end of their ability to hang on in the face of drastic changes in doctrine and policy. May the Eternal protect each one and provide fellowship, and even growth, as a result of these trying times.

I pray that God will bless you with increased understanding and spiritual growth. Please let me know if there is any way in which I may be of service to you.

Sincerely in Jesus Christ’s name,

—Kenneth W Swiger, TN

 

Response: Thank you for your letter, tape and prayer. We have heard many “disturbing reports” as well, but we encourage all of our readers to get first-hand information wherever possible. Some of these “reports” are inaccurate and overblown. We hope others will join with your approach of asking the Eternal to protect each one as he sees fit.

—Norman S. Edwards

 

20 Tough Questions

Letter: March 10, 1995

Friends:

I recently received your mailing of 2-27-95. Apparently it is specifically targeted to members of Worldwide. [1] Who puts people in a church? [2] Who takes them out? [3] What comes from God? [4] What comes from man? [5] Are people led or mislead? [6] How do we know how and where God works? [7] Can different organizations declare that their brand of truth is correct and all others are wrong? [8] Can each cite scripture that proves they are right and every one else is wrong? [9] Can each cite miracles, healings, blessings, circumstances and happenings that prove “their” truth is correct? [10] Can the Bible be used to prove that two opposite opinions are correct? [11] Can men pour their heart out to God in earnest and humble prayer and study and then end up with the wrong “truth”? [12] Is simplicity in Christ so complicated that men cannot understand or agree upon it? [13] Does organized “religion” answer these questions? [14] Do men have to follow the right organization to be saved? [15] Where is God in all this mess? [16] Are the answers to these questions clear as mud?

[17] How much consideration should someone give to an anonymous mailing from an unknown organization that is ashamed to even sign their name to what they have written? [18] How did “Friends” get my name and address? [19] Did they have permission, legally and ethically to obtain my name and address? [20] Or does God wink at such things as long as it is done in their opinion for His glory?

—P.C., Nebraska

Response: Congratulations on writing our most inquisitive letter to date. We feel your questions are good and they are on the minds of many people at this time.

(1) “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased” (1Cor 12:18). The Church is the “body of Christ” (1Cor 12:27, Col 1:18, 24).

(2) Our Father has promised to finish the work he began in us (Phil 1:3, Heb 13:5). No man can separate us from our Savior (Rom 8:35-39). If we willfully sin, we can loose eternal life (Heb 10:26)

(3) Our Father gave us his Son as a sacrifice for sins (John 3:16) and He gives us His holy spirit (Luke 11:13). He gives us his word which shows the way of Salvation (2Tim 3:15-17).

(4) We are required to repent and be baptized to receive the holy spirit (Acts 2:38). We are required to “live by every word of God” (Luke 4:4). (While we do not physically carry out the instructions for animal sacrifices or stoning of adulterers, we read and understand these things to know the gravity of sin.) Most of the scripture is about things we either need to know or need to do. We are required to “overcome” the ways of this world (1Jn 5:5, Rev 3:5, 21:7)

(5) People are both led and misled. You can find examples of good and bad leaders from Genesis to Revelation. Yes, there are false leaders apparently “in the Church” (2Cor 11:13-14, Gal 1:6-9, 2Thes 3:6, 1Tim 4:1-3, 6:3-5, 1Jn 4:1-3, 2Jn 7-11, 3Jn 9-11, Jude 5-19). The Ephesian congregation was praised for finding their false apostles to be liars, (Rev 2:2), the Pergamos church was criticized for putting up with those that taught the doctrine of Balaam (Rev 2:14). Good leaders can be a great help to the people, but we are individually responsible for what we do (2Cor 1:22).

(6) The Eternal works in many different ways, with great power and many people (Ex 3-20), to a “small voice” and with only one man (so he thought) (1Kng 19). There is one common thread: the Messiah said his followers would “bear much fruit” (John 15:1-8). These fruits may take on the form of personal character improvement (Gal 5:22-23), service to others (Rom 15:25-28), praise to the Eternal (Heb 13;15), or teaching the truth to others (Rom1;13). Even if a tree has stopped bearing fruit, the Master may “dig” and “dung” it, then give it some time to begin bearing again (Luke 13:6-9). In short, you cannot easily tell where the Eternal is beginning to work, where he is working, and where he has stopped working. Our purpose should not simply be to find where the Eternal is working and “hang around” there, but we should make sure that we are personally bearing fruit and look for the place where we can most effectively serve.

(7) It is easy to find an organization that declares its brand of truth correct and all the others wrong. This becomes truly amazing when you find such statements are made without any attempt to understand the beliefs of “all the others.” How can you know that no one else believes what you believe? I can find no scripture that states we will be saved, judged, or rewarded based on the organization or teacher we follow. We are strongly influenced by the company we keep, but it is our own character by which we will be judged. The man that came to the wedding without a wedding garment was in the right place (a “right” organization?), but he was not personally ready (Matt 22:2-14). Many claiming His name will not be accepted (Matt 7:21-23). On the other hand, there are “a few names even in Sardis [a “bad organization?] who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy” (Rev 3:4).

(8) A favorite tactic of many groups (especially tiny ones) is to show how they understand one doctrine correctly and how others teach a Satanic counterfeit. Some groups go on to declare all others as “inactive,” “dead,” “Laodicean,” or “Satanic” churches. If we can learn any lesson from Revelation 2 and 3, it is this: a congregation can have error, and still be used of the Eternal; but “to him [an individual] who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev 3:21). I have never seen any “Church history” that shows a group of people that have had the same doctrines for nearly 2000 years. While we should all strive to understand and obey the scriptures, I cannot find where 100% doctrinal correctness is the sign of His people.

(9) Miracles were certainly a sign of our Savior’s ministry (John 3:2). Yet, the great ministry of John had no miracles (John 10:41). The Messiah said his followers would have miracles (Mark 16:17-20), but false prophets will do the same (Matt 24:24). Miracles show that a powerful spirit is at work, but they should never be used to “prove” that doctrine is correct: “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and that sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you comes to pass, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut 13:1-3).

(10) I have seen long papers showing from the scriptures that the Israelites killed the passover lamb at the beginning of the 14th of Nisan and other equally long scripture-filled papers showing it was at the end of the 14th. Obviously, the lambs were only killed at one time. Some (or possibly all) of these papers are using the Bible incorrectly. On the other hand, I have seen many expositions of the “seven churches” in Revelation 2 and 3. The prophecy of Elijah in Malachi 4:5-6 gives no hint of two fulfillments, but the Messiah said Elijah “is coming” and “has come” (Matt 17:11-13). With prophecy parables, and some other lessons, multiple fulfillments or multiple correct explanations are possible.

(11) Daniel fasted and prayed as most of us never have (Dan 10:1-3). After he was given the truth, he was told that he would not be able to understand it (Dan 12:8-9). Paul initially spoke as though the Messiah would return in his lifetime (1Thes 4:17), but later realized he would die (2Tim 4:6). Herbert Armstrong kept Pentecost by three different methods (Sivan 6, Monday, Sunday) with apparent sincerity each time he looked into it. The holy spirit will lead us into all truth (Jn 16:13), but there is no promise of exactly when. We are responsible to seek truth (Matt 6:33), but we are only minimally accountable for truth we have not been given (Luke 12:48).

(12) The simplicity of Christ can be summed up in the two commands to love the Eternal with our whole heart and love our neighbor as ourself (Matt 22:36-40). Yet we are commanded to live by “every word of God” (Matt 4:4). The Eternal has big plans for the future (Ezekiel 40-48, Rev 21-22). You do not want to hire a builder that knows only the two fundamental principles of building.

(13) When organized religions grow large, there is a temptation to become primarily concerned with the number of people and the amount of money coming to the organization. Like people, some organizations resist the temptation, some succumb. Some organizations will attempt to answer these questions, and others are convinced they have most of the truth and there is no real need to answer this kind of question.

(14) We can find no scripture requiring adherence to a specific organization or teacher for salvation. (See point 7.) Rather we find Paul’s admonition not to create factions following different teachers (1Cor 1: 11-13,3:1-21).

(15) Where is God? “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer 17:10). He is there to see what we will do, but he is also there to help: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt 7:7-8).

(16) The answers may not be as clear as we would like them to be, but they are as clear as they need to be. It seems easier for us if all we have to do is attend and support the one “right” organization. It is a little more scary when we realize that we will be judged by what we know and what we do with it.

(17) We were not ashamed of our names: we freely gave them out to any that asked. We did not put any names on our letter because we hoped our readers would look at the scriptures to see if these things were so, not make a judgment based on their opinion of the authors, whether it be good or bad.

(18) Friends of the Brethren collected names and addresses from a great many sources. We cannot be certain how we obtained yours.

(19) We do not know the original sources of every name and address that came to us. We know of no laws that were broken in the process. As far as ethical questions are concerned, there may be conflicts between corporate ethics and Biblical ethics. The most important thing to realize is that those that take it upon themselves to teach others will receive much greater judgment (Jms 3:1, Matt 18:6). The writing of our first letter came after much prayer and fasting. I am far more concerned about the fate of other teachers (with corporate mailing lists at their fingertips) that are supporting doctrines that they know or at least should know to be in error.

[20] Does the Eternal allow his own law to be bypassed for a good purpose? Sometimes! When Israel was sinning by adulterous relationships with the Midianites, Phinehas, the son of the high priest killed a guilty man and woman for doing this (Num 25:6-13). The law required that two or three witnesses be present to put anyone to death (Deut 17:6-7). The Eternal did not condemn him for his zeal, but promised the priesthood would stay in his lineage forever. Similarly, David was allowed to eat the showbread when none other was available (1Sam 21:6). On the other hand, Uzzah reached up to steady the ark of God while it was on a cart, and he died (2Sam 6:1-11). Why? He should have known from Numbers 3:30-31, 7:8-9 that the ark was to be born on the Kohathite’s shoulders and specifically not to be put on a cart. There were Levites available at that time. Whenever we can follow His law, we should!

Thank you again for your very good questions! May the Eternal bless you as you continue to study His word.

—Norman S. Edwards

 

Acts 15:10: What is the “Heavy Load” or “Yoke”?

Letter: March 13, 1995

To: Friends of the Brethren,

A friend passed on a copy of your recent mailing. It was interesting but a major question exists relating to Acts 15:10 when it came to ‘shooting down the old law is done away with theory’. I don’t think this is talking about circumcision. I would really appreciate your input by fax as to just what was this ‘heavy load’ that was being put around the necks of the ‘non-Jewish brothers’.

Thanks in advance for your help.

A friend,

—J.H., California

Response: I am aware of the frequent comparison between the “yoke” mentioned ion Acts 15:10 and the yoke mentioned in Matt 11:29-30. The yoke of the law (meaning the Old Testament) is termed unbearable and replaced with a new yoke from Christ. This comparison might have validity in the sense that many Jewish leaders thought they had eternal life simply by adhering to the scriptures (John 5:39-40). Since they could not keep the law perfectly, this was an unworkable (and unbearable) attempt to obtain salvation.

However, if we attempt to understand these scriptures from a Jewish perspective (the conference was composed of Jews talking about Jewish issues), then the meaning becomes very clear. Acts 15:1 states the problem: “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’” The issue here is not just circumcision, but how the circumcision is performed. Many Middle-eastern people are circumcised, but only Jews are circumcised “according to the custom of Moses.” The Bible says very little about how to perform a circumcision. The references here to the “custom of Moses” and to the “law of Moses” in verse five include both the “written law” (the Hebrew Scriptures) and the “oral law.”

According to Jewish history and tradition, the “oral law” are those instructions given by the Eternal to Moses that were not written down. Also, when new situations arose, elders made decisions and added them to this body of oral law, which was finally written down late in the second century AD and known as the Mishna. The Mishna contains quite a bit of information about the exact method of circumcision. It also contains an incredible amount of additional do’s and don’ts not found in the Bible (it is over half the size of the Bible). Most of these things are not contrary to the Bible, and many serve as a reminder of some righteous principle. However, many are very tedious. The Scribes and Pharisees added many more traditions in their day, some of them contrary to the written law. The Messiah admonished them for their hypocrisy and bad traditions in Matt 15 and 23. They must have listened a little bit since some of the bad traditions mentioned in the Gospels had been discarded by the time the Mishna was written..

The Jewish word commonly used for circumcision is brit-milah, which means “circumcision covenant”. The act of a Mosaic circumcision was a covenant to keep the whole law—both oral and written (Gal 5:3). This is indeed a burden that neither “our fathers nor we were able to bear.” The issue at this conference is: “should Gentiles be circumcised according to the Oral law and take on all of those traditions? (i.e., Should they become Jews?) The same issue occurred again in Acts 21:21 where Paul was accused of teaching “...all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.” Again, we are dealing with the oral law of Moses and customs, not the written word of the Eternal. All we need to do is see what Paul said later in Acts 24:14: “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.”

Paul did not think the law was “done away,” neither do we!

—Norman S. Edwards

 

95% of Letter O.K., But No “Bottom Up” Government

Letter: March 15, 1995

Dear Friends of the Brethren,

I received your letter and have read it from one end to the other. It is a very good letter overall, but I really do not get the point of what you are trying to say to us. I agree with you that the Law is still in force and with most of the points that you make that are based on the Holy Bible.

Response: A number of people that read our letter asked the same questions: “What is the point?” “What do you want me to do?” Our purpose was primarily to help people look to the Eternal and realize that He has his Church and there is work for us to do regardless of which church groups may come and go—we are responsible for working out our own salvation. We do not have any prepackaged formula (i.e. we don’t say: contribute or attend with us and you will be “saved” or “go to a place of safety”). Since you already understand these concepts, much of our letter was not “news” to you.

Letter: I also agree with you that we do work out our own salvation. As we read in Ezekiel 14:20, “Though Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter, they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.” And I also agree that for many people, myself included, we have put too much emphasis on an organization in the past.

Before I start to criticize your paper, let me just say that I agree with 95% of what you have written and believe that your intent is good, but since I am not totally clear on what your intent is, I will reserve judgment on that subject until a later date. Certainly, these are trying times for all Christians, and we cannot read anything with the childlike mind that we used to.

My first major criticism is the example you use of Moses to demonstrate government from the “bottom up.” In Deuteronomy 1:13 we read (your example), “Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.” The top made them the rulers, not the bottom. Also, in verse 14 we read, “So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men and known, and made them heads over you,...” This demonstrates government from the top down. Also, note verse 16, “And I charged your judges at that time,...” Finally, notice verse 18, “And I commanded you at that time all the things which you should do.” What the children of Israel did was to just recommend people for a job, they had no authority to select people to do the job. It is clearly not a case of government from the “bottom up,” but a case of authority from the top down. Also, read Exodus 18:25.

Response: We made a mistake! Our reference to “from the bottom up” is only accurate as far as the initial recommendations. Since the Bible says both the people (Deut 1:13) and Moses (Ex 18:25) chose them, both must have been involved in the process. It seems probable that the people made recommendations and then Moses did the final choosing. The entire government was not “from the bottom up.” Moses was not responsible to some council of people, he was given his job from the Eternal and was responsible to Him to do it (Ex 3:10,17-18). The people were responsible for obeying Moses and the judges as long as they were within the law.

While the expression “bottom-up government” is inaccurate, Moses was not instituting a classical “top-down government” either. The people still had access to Moses (Deut 1:17). In a classical top-down government, the leader appoints his top managers, who appoint middle managers, who appoint lower managers, who manage people that have no voice and must “obey or else.” No authority was given to the “middle” leaders to replace the local leaders with their own friends. The Eternal gave his people a system where there was enough authority to accomplish His purposes, but not so much that His people would have to suffer under the all-to-frequently-occurring corrupt leader.

Letter: My second major problem with your paper is one that you admit to be a problem yourself or at least a statement of fact. I quote from page 3, “before modern transportation and communication, regular fellowship was possible only at a local level; cassette tape and booklet programs were not invented yet.” You need to get out of the first and second centuries and join the real world. Since these things do exist and are here for man to use, not just for the church, I think that we as a church (notice I use the term “church” and not a leader or a group name) should use these as a means of getting the Gospel to the world as a witness. Don’t you think we should? Your letter made it seem like these things were somehow bad.

Response: We should use whatever means our Father makes available to preach the Gospel. It can be done with 10,000 people all helping one spirit-filled man so his voice can be transmitted electronically all over the country. It can also be done with 10 people each helping 1000 spirit-filled men so their voices can be heard locally in 1000 different places. Both approaches or other approaches can be used. Any one of these methods is probably superior to doing nothing at all.

I think it is a mistake to say that the only way the Gospel can reach the world is through one specific program. Especially when we have evidence such as the over 120,000 current members of the Churches of God 7th Day. It appears that the “tortoise” has overtaken the “hare.” While Herbert Armstrong started a fast growing work with a huge media budget, its over-dependence on central leadership has caused it to dwindle, now being smaller than the 7th Day churches which grew primarily by word-of-mouth and a much smaller publishing effort.

Letter: Finally, I would like to state that your letter gave me the impression that organized religion is of itself bad. An organization is nothing more than a tool to use to get a job done. If men misuse the organization, it makes them bad, not the organizational structure. After all, individually we could not have done what was done through God’s servant, Mr. Armstrong (I am assuming you know who he was and what he did, because I do not find him mentioned in your letter.). Mr. Armstrong certainly used an organization to complete a very important part of the work of God, and I can only hope that another man will rise to the occasion.

Response: I think it is a mistake to say that Mr. Armstrong’s work could be done only with the kind of organizational structure he used. Nevertheless, I am thankful that the Eternal did work through it and that I was able to learn much truth through it. Unfortunately, people came to believe (unbiblically) that there is only one true church corporation, that “God only works through one man,” and that you are responsible to follow the “government of God” (your minister or superior) no matter what you may understand from the scriptures. These teachings are causing tens of thousands of people to tolerate or whole-heartedly endorse the very doctrines which they heard Herbert Armstrong and his successors preach against when they first became interested in his message.

Letter: You see there are many of us who want to be the ones that do the sending out. As Acts 17;10 shows, “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.” There are many examples of people being sent by God or by other people in the Bible, I just quoted one to make a point. I was glad to send Mr. Armstrong to world leaders and via radio and television to the world. I hope that there is another man who rises up that I can, and will, support to preach the Gospel. Just because one man misuses the responsibility is no reason in my mind to say that we should not use that method anymore.

Response: I agree with your Bible understanding about “sending” a servant to others. I feel every converted person should be involved in either “sending” or “going.” If the holy spirit shows you through your study and prayer that you should be sending a man to speak via radio and TV, then I think you should do it. But I see nothing less righteous in being one of 10 people sending a man to speak at a local public Bible lecture with 30 people attending, When Herbert Armstrong began, he did the same thing. Today, there are thousands of men with the holy spirit, the understanding and the ability to go and teach.

Letter: In conclusion let me say this: Your message is right in the things that it says about us working out our own salvation and not depending on a man or organization to get us into the kingdom. All organizations can be good or bad as far as how they are used and it is up to the individual to look into the Bible to determine if he should support that organization in the job that it is doing. And yes, I believe that a person can be a good Christian even if he does not support any of them if the conditions are right, but at this time I believe that there are several groups that are doing it right, and a Christian has an obligation to support the group/work that he believes to be doing God’s work. If he is not doing that then he is robbing God of tithes and offerings. To borrow some meaning from a scripture in Luke 17:10, “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” Is your letter preaching that we are to be the unprofitable servant by doing only that which is commanded of us, or should we go above and beyond to unite together to get the warning to the world as a witness so that the end might come?

Sincerely,

—L.K., Texas

Response: We all need to be working wherever we can, and I see no great disadvantage to multiple organizations. Matthew 10:23, John 15:20, Matthew 24:9-10, the persecutions recorded in Acts, and the lessons of the 1979 church receivership provide strong evidence that the Church will not be primarily one central corporation at the time of the end. It would be very easy for the national government to stop the work of a single organization. (The only reasons the California Attorney General did not succeed in this was because critical business activities were moved outside his jurisdiction to Arizona.) Right now, we are relatively free of persecution. “... the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).

—Norman S. Edwards

 

Elijah Work Yet to Begin?

Letter: March 22,1995

Dear Friends of the Brethren,

Thank you for a lot of scriptural reminders in your letter to me. I don’t believe for one moment that specifically the Sabbath command is “Old Covenant rules”. If this is the case then so are the other nine commands, but no minister of the Worldwide Church of God is going to get up and say we can commit adultery, lie, steal, etc. However, it is surprising how some see a difference between the Sabbath and the other commands of the TEN.

As the Bible says, unlike most in society who are not chosen we are “without excuse”. I feel there are more days ahead that Worldwide Church of God will see regarding God’s denial of blessings because some leaders are straying from His true Way. It is hard to understand what has gotten into some people.

But the Elijah work may not have even started yet. So this is something to look forward to. If we remember Elijah’s commission, he is to restore the truth. I hope that God is merciful and the Elijah work is still on the horizon.

Sometimes the answer is God holding up a mirror which tells us that WE are the problem. We can either accept or reject God’s response. At this point in time some in the Church refuse to accept that they could be in error.

Sincerely,

—M.G., Wisconsin

Response: We appreciate your comments. Most Americans never heard of Herbert Armstrong and have no idea of the prophesied events about to befall them. Most other countries are even less informed. Others have contacted us and hope than an Elijah work may soon begin!

—Norman S. Edwards


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