We include our response to each letter in this type-style. We have selected a title for each letter for easy reference. If writers supply their own title, we will be happy to use it.
Letter: July 1, 1995
Dear Friends of the Brethren,
In my further studies of what is being taught by the Worldwide Church of God, I still can’t go along with how the Ten Commandments are being treated.
There is at least four questions that I see nobody is answering about the Ten Commandments being the Old Covenant:
1) Where is there any example of some of the Church working during the Sabbath time (sunset Friday to sunset Saturday), while others of the Church went to Sabbath Services?
2) If the Ten Commandments are the Old Covenant, then why do I need to follow any of them?
3) What scriptures in the New Testament show that the words “THE LAW” plainly means the Ten Commandments, which includes the Sabbath?
4) What scriptural examples clearly tell what the Old Covenant was and what the New Covenant is?
I am not going to follow what is being taught because the answers to those questions prove the Ten Commandments are not the Old covenant. Part of the answer is plain common sense.
Herbert Armstrong used to say: “Don’t believe me. Look in your own Bibles.” His words are just as relevant today as they were then. The Holy Bible calls them the Ten Commandments, not, as Ted Kopell said they were not, “ten suggestions”. If they were suggestions, Christians would have a choice to keep them or not. But the fact is we don’t have a choice because they are COMMANDMENTS.
—Matt Gee, Wisconsin
Response: You have asked four good questions and provided some good answers. The Law of the Eternal is not the same as the Old Covenant. Abraham kept His Law (Hebrew torah) over 400 years before Moses (Gen 26:5, Ex 12:40). Some will say that the Old Covenant is Exodus chapters 20-23, with the ratification in Exodus 24:1-8. A covenant always defines responsibilities and benefits to both parties. Exodus 24:1-8 contains no benefits to Israel, only an affirmation of obedience.
The Old Covenant is found in Exodus 19:5-6: “If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. ‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’” Israel was to obey the Eternal’s voice—all that he said (Deut 8:3), and they were to be a special nation to Him. In Exodus 24 we find that the words the Eternal spoke were written down and became a part of the covenant—because the covenant included obey everything that God said.
The New Covenant includes forgiveness of sin, but the same laws being written in our minds and hearts rather than on stone (Heb 8:10-12, Heb 11:16-17). There was no fault in the law, the fault was in the people (Heb 8:8).
In answer to your four questions:
1) We never see believers working on the Sabbath in the Bible.
2) The Ten Commandments (or “Ten Sayings”—literal Hebrew translation) are not the old Covenant and are part of His Eternal law as we have shown.
3) In Matthew 19:17-19, our Messiah told a man that if he wanted to enter into life, he should keep the commandments. Then he proceeded to name some of them: he mentioned five of the ten, and quoted from Leviticus 19:18, a commandment that summarizes the whole law (Matt 22:36-40). See our article, Oh How I Love Your Law, in the June issue for more information on which laws have been ended.
4) We have already cited the scriptures defining the Old and New Covenants.
We absolutely agree with your approach of looking into the Bible for yourself. Sometimes we even need to look back to the original language because translators wrote what they wanted the scripture to mean. Even if the term “ten commandments” never appears in a Hebrew or Greek Bible, these ten sayings certainly are spoken by the mouth of the Eternal and confirmed by the Messiah as commands to be obeyed. Let us obey them!
— Norman S. Edwards
Letter: July 5, 1995
Thank You! I do greatly appreciate what you are doing. Your efforts have helped me very much! Your “Statement of Purpose” is wonderful. I’m sure our Father is pleased with your efforts to help in so many ways. I’m now attending the UCG Akron, Ohio. I would very much like to remain on your list to receive Servants News. Please accept what I can give to help your good works.
When it is possible I would like the following [five literature items].
Thank You Sincerely,
— W. W., Akron, OH
Response: Thank you for the encouragement. Our work would not be possible except for the power of the Eternal. All praise to Him!
— Norman S. Edwards
Letter: July 5, 1995
I just received Vol. 1, No. 3, your latest Servants’ News, and am a bit confused. On Page 20, in the article Why Are There Divisions?, you seemed to support the divisions within God’s Church. However true it is that different personalities will always be present within God’s Church, that does not give it credence for division within the personality of God. There will always be personality differences in physical family situations. (You can’t choose your family, only your friends) BUT God puts in His Church whom He wants in it for whatever purpose HE wants that individual to accomplish, without our consultation. With God’s Holy Spirit, however, that called out individual would be able to overlook the physical and dwell on the spiritual aspects. If only we all would live by God’s inspired Word, and not judge others, but follow the principles set forth by God Himself. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment (judging your actions in relationship to Jesus Christ’s), mercy (asking God for mercy and as He shows it to you, you show it to others), and faith (That God will do as He said, and that God does know what HE is doing): these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone”; “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” and “Let nothing be done through strife and vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
To continue. The second paragraph of the third column on page 20 may have me confused. How can you say that the New Testament does not reveal the kind of unity and harmony that we long for today? If you have God’s Holy Spirit, and Christ working in you, then you will be unified and be willing to work together. Again the question of “Is it possible that He never intended the Church to be completely united in Theology and organization?” Can you not open your Bible and find anywhere (since the Old Testament seems not to be referred to anymore, try the New Testament) that God says it is One body, one spirit, one way of life, one savior, one... etc.
Response: Yes, there is one body, but many members. 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 clearly indicates that people in the first century were having a hard time understanding the need for the great diversity in the body. While each one of us should accept the other members of the body, too many organizations are quick to claim that they are the only or most active part of the body. Both Old and New Testaments show us that there will be divisions for the purpose of testing us: “You shall not listen to the words of that [false] 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 13:3). “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1Cor 11:17). Diotrephes, a self-seeking man, was allowed to cast true brethren out of the congregation (3Jn 9-10). The Eternal allows false teachers in his congregations (2Cor 11:14-15). Revelation 2 and 3 show us all different kinds of doctrines that had gotten into seven churches within about 100 miles of each other, yet John does not say that only one of them is the “true Church.” They were all His congregations, but with different doctrines—some were worse than others. Christ warned that his Servants might be found fighting among themselves when He returned (Matt 24:45-51). Romans 14 shows that we can be united without having identical beliefs. I know of no human leader that the Eternal has clearly set over his congregations at this time. I feel much division is caused by self-proclaimed leaders that set themselves up above other brethren and organizations.
Letter: Seems to me, what so many have forgotten is that there is something greater being done on this earth today than just the revelation of the Sabbath and the nature of God. I realize that those subjects are important and are a very intricate part of the message. But how soon we forget, that without the total message, we lose sight of the temporal goal. Reflect back to the total message God gave to us through Mr. Armstrong. Why are we here? Why did God call us today? What is the purpose of the Church? Why do we go to Services on the Sabbath?? Recall the total picture yet?? But since Satan has the minds stopping there, let’s try to advance one step further. Why the Passover? Why Unleavened Bread? Why Pentecost? Even more so, Why Feast of Trumpets, Why Atonement? Why Feast of Tabernacles? Why the Last Great Day? Has our association with WCG in the last ten years caused us to fail to remember what part we will have in what the last four feasts represent? And why we have to be united in minds and spirits today? If we aren’t united now, do you think God will want to use us later when He sends His Son back to earth to CONVERT and UNIFY the entire world? I cannot envision the millennial reign of Christ being multi-faceted. I don’t think God will allow it. (Too many scriptures in God’s Holy Word of what Jesus will do to unify the world.) IF we can’t cooperate and overlook our petty personalities now, then how can He trust us to build unity later??
Response: I have seen many examples of unity and working together during the Feasts. I do not think those people will have any trouble working together under the Messiah in the Millennium. However, I do not believe that the scriptures give authority to a man to enforce his unity on the brethren. At one time, the WCG taught that Pentecost was always on a Monday. Those that openly kept it on Sunday were disfellowshipped. Later, it was changed to Sunday. Those that did not agree with the change and openly kept it on Monday were disfellowshipped. If our Father insists on corporate unity, how could He allow this to happen? If either one of those days was correct, people were disfellowshipped for obeying the truth? Does the Eternal require us to practice what we know to be error in order to stay with an organization? No! (Rom 14:23). Those people disfellowshipped for correctly keeping Pentecost, are still in the ekklesia, but independent or in another organization. The Messiah has not forsaken them! We could go over many other issues where people were disfellowshipped or left various organizations over other doctrinal questions.
Whom would you trust with authority over cities in the Millennium? 1) A person that cooperated for his whole life because he knew he would be fired or disfellowshipped if he did not, or 2) a person that voluntarily cooperated with other members and other organizations because the work they were doing was Biblically based and they had the faith to believe that our Savior was directing it. It would be nice to assume that people in the hierarchical organizations also have Biblical understanding and faith, but look how they chose to stay with the same organization rather than the same doctrine.
Some people will laugh at the idea that the Messiah’s body includes a multitude of human organizations that will be perfectly unified in the millennium. However, the scriptures show that this is exactly what is being done. We are the temple of God (1Cor 3:16-17). “And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built” (1Kings 6:7). Reading the surrounding chapters shows that the stones and wood came from a great variety of places. As this was an absolutely incredible building project, preparing all the pieces locally so that no more tooling was needed at the temple, so our Elder Brother and Savior is preparing each of us where we are, to be ready to fit into his plan in the Millennium. He can do it! He will know that the pieces will fit. We need to concentrate on letting Him make each one of us ready, not on creating our own brand of unity. After all, the Worldwide Church of God preached and enforced human unity for at least 40 years. Look what has happened to it. If God wants all of his people in one human organization, why didn’t He “clean up” the WCG?
Letter: In regards to the corporations that now claim to be doing God’s work. You seem to be a bit confused as to where anyone stands. Global, in some minds, is definitely trying to continue to do God’s work. (Also why aren’t you and Tom with them anymore?) That is good. One question I have, though, is why do some of them continue, from the pulpit, to downgrade and criticize and condemn those of United? As one of their own ministers once said, “Unless we leave the attitude of condemnation and judgment, we will never be able to do the work of God effectively.”
Response: I think many corporations are doing parts of God’s work. Global has produced The World Ahead magazine and telecast as a direct outreach to the unconverted world. I think this is a fine effort. Unfortunately, Global does not acknowledge that the Eternal may be working equally in other organizations. When the many thousands went to United, did Global and other organizations encourage them in their support of the Eternal’s law? How many organizations ignored this good example in their sermons an publications. Was gladness overcome by sadness because the members and money were not coming to them? I think it is up to each person and each group to do the most they can with the spiritual gifts they have been given, and that we will be rewarded based on what we do (see the parable of the minas or pounds in Luke 19:11-27). I do not know of any organization or individual (including myself) that has perfect doctrine, but I and many others learned to repent, be baptized, receive the holy spirit and grow from an imperfect organization. I commend all organizations for the good works they do, and hope that they will correct their problems as our Father shows them.
I stopped working for Global for multiple reasons, one of which was that I felt I could not represent their point of view on some doctrinal issues. (I do not believe I know the “Tom” you mentioned.). However, I continue to attend Global services, United services, other organization’s services and Sabbath meetings of unincorporated groups. I have encouraged these groups to accept each other and work together as much as possible. I know of cases where United, Global, and other groups have met together for picnics, services, etc. The people usually like it. The headquarters leaders are not so sure. What does our Father think?
Letter: As far as United is concerned, maybe not all, but however there were some ministers who did “linger” behind in WCG to help and assist those members who were having difficult times. There are still true ministers of God there doing the same. Just because they didn’t consider themselves and looked to do their ordained job, why do you and others judge? I do not believe that you know fully what is or was in their minds and how they felt about the decision that had to be made. I don’t feel that criticism is due any of them. Only God can read the intent and the heart of another human.
Response: We are sorry that it appeared that we were criticizing United. Indeed, these problems are not unique to United at all! We could have done a much better job by mentioning these problems in a separate section without the name of any organization attached. That approach would help those making a decision about where to go without appearing to condemn one particular group. Our intent was to alert the brethren to beware of false teachers (2Pet 2, Ezk 34). They need to realize that all teachers are not alike just because they are in the same organization. As you say, we do not know what is in these men’s minds and God will ultimately judge them. Yet, when we are looking for a place to learn and fellowship, we must “test the spirits” (1Jn 4:1) and “test those who say they are apostles” (Rev 2:2). See page two of the July issue for more about correcting our mistake.
Letter: Other organizations have split from WCG and are looking to serve other interests as well. That is fine. But ask yourself “And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbade him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.” The only question to that is, Did Christ say that if they come in the name of the “Church of God” and keep the Sabbath that they are OK? Or could we turn around what He said and say “IF they do lightly speak evil of Me (or My servants; or one of My churches) can they be doing My work??” (Many shall come in My Name Saying I am the Christ...)
Response: If we turn His saying around, it would be our saying and not His. When we read on to verses 41 and 42 of Mark 9, we find that the subject continues—those that help others do the work will be blessed, those that cause harm will be punished. There are other scriptures that deal with who is and is not “in the Church.” We can certainly learn from this scripture that we should not try to stop other “works” that “follow not us.” I believe the Worldwide Church of God was wrong for many years in declaring itself the only “Church of God” when there were many other smaller Sabbath-keeping groups that had doctrines that were extremely similar.
Letter: On the critical side of United. Why don’t you quote those who are setting up the charter? Why do you go to other sources? I am glad that United is in agreement with the 18 truths revealed to Mr. Armstrong. If United is not doing all of them now, could it be that until the transitional stage is over in December, that they may not want to do the “Top Down Government” thing right now. And you seem to be a bit confused on the matter also. On page one you are critical of them for not “moving when Meredith did” and condemn them for being slow to react to the government thing, but then a couple of pages later, you condemn the governmental system you think they should have. To go further, you seem to state that God maybe wants many forms of governmental structures out there (because as many corporations there are, there will be that many different governmental structures). Satan is the author of confusions and division, not God.
Response: I have read and quoted from United’s foundational documents. However, since policies are determined by the board, which is elected by the entire ministry, the views of individual men are important. The point of the article is that there is a diversity of thinking in the decision-making body. If the existing UCG corporation is to have a “top-down government,” the ministers will have to vote it into the bylaws. Some men have told me that they will not remain in the UCG if this is done. I cannot find any reference to Mr. Meredith in the June issue. It took me about two years from the time I understood the nature of the WCG’s doctrinal path until I was ready to leave the organization (1992). Since I lived in Pasadena, it was much easier to discern their direction at an earlier date. I certainly believe that the exact time a person leaves is an individual matter based on a number of factors. But I have talked to men that have told me that they were staying put because they needed a paycheck.
Worldwide has taught us that the Eternal does not always correct the man at the top. It has shown us the result of a large group of people that are trained to accept whatever the human government says, not what they can see in the scriptures. Indeed, we see different methods of making decisions and choosing leaders discussed in the scriptures. We have enclosed a copy of my article How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans? which goes into this subject in depth. Yes, we are disagreeing with Mr. Armstrong’s restored truth #1. We believe his writing on “church government” in the 1939 Good News was much closer to the Bible (see the May Issue of Servants’ News). We were not trying to condemn UCG, but point out that their position on 18 truths and their form of government are, at this time, somewhat contradictory. They will certainly straighten it out in time. While God is not the author of division, He certainly allows it both in the world (obvious) and in His congregation (1Cor 11:18-19, Rev 2 & 3).
Letter: Well, enough ramblings. The main point that I am trying to make is that I will not belong to any church that claims they are “one of the ones” and then criticize, condemn and judge others. Nor will I allow any material in my house that will be used to support and uphold anyone who does. So, I guess, at this point, and until “Servants’ News” and its writers quit condemning and criticizing others who are trying to live God’s way of life, regardless of the corporate name, I no longer wish to receive it. Please take me off your mailing list. However, if you do start publishing anything that is positive and reflective on what God’s attitude is and how He wants us all to be, I would be happy to start receiving it again.
— B. R., Albuquerque, NM
Response: Again, it was not our purpose to condemn UCG or any other organization striving to obey the Eternal, but to help people through the difficulties they are facing. Our writing was too critical of UCG and we are sorry for this mistake. Please notice that we did end the article with a paragraph of praise for UCG and then used a column and a half to let readers know where they could attend UCG. We use your same standards of non-condemnation for evaluating where we attend locally. We have found some organizations rather condemning at headquarters but forgiving at the local level. We also found rather intolerant local leaders in organizations that are officially tolerant. We believe this present crisis has been so stressful because members assumed that once they “proved” that a certain organization was “the true Church,” they could assume that God always worked through a top-down government (the corporate structure) and could always assume that they were being taught truth, both from headquarters and locally. We do not believe the solution to this problem is to carry that old “human government is always right” attitude into a new corporation. Hence, we were encouraging readers to “try the spirits” of their local leaders.
We very much appreciate your heart-felt letter and your striving to make sense out of the difficulty that most of us are going through. We can grow from questions and correction like this. We did remove your name from our mailing list, but we put you back on since we hope this next issue is “positive and reflective on what God’s attitude is and how He wants us all to be.” Please let us know whether you want to continue to receive it!
— Norman S. Edwards