We print a representative sampling of our mailboth positive and negative. We do not include names unless we are fairly sure that the writer would not object. 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.
We deleted the letter section from the last issue in order to keep the total weight under 2 ounces so it could be mailed first class. We still have many more fine letters to print!
Letter: November, 1995
Dear Sir or Madam,
Greetings to you. First, I would like to thank God who has made it possible for me to write this letter. I am applying for the Servants News for the first time. The main purpose I would like this literature is to learn more about God and His Son Jesus Christ.
P K., Nyeri, Kenya
Response: We will be glad to send you the information we have available. We realize that some of Servants' News will be about congregations far away from you and may not be of much use. However, if you find the Biblical articles helpful, we will keep sending the Servants' News. Please let us know.
Please let us know a little more about the people you meet with. [In a later response the writer stated he is a Sabbath-keeper. He probably found out about us through Churchlight Magazine, a publication with some African circulation.]
Letter: November 23, 1995
Dear Mr. Edwards,
It was extremely pleasant to talk with you a few evenings ago. It can get pretty lonely over here in Scotland with so few people willing to talk with anyone who is not in Worldwide, Global or United.
As I explained on the phone I am now Fred Coulter's rep in this country and am trying to build up an audio tape mailing list to supply those brethren who have, or are contemplating, leaving Worldwide but are uncertain about joining one of the larger breakaway groups.
To this end it would be a great help if you could run an advert in your Servants' News magazine which would inform those in the United Kingdom that they can have a weekly audio tape sent to their home by writing to:
Christian Biblical Church of God
P.O. Box 7357
With kindest regards,
Response: We are sorry to take so long to print this letter. We have only a dozen or so subscribers in the United Kingdom, but others may be contacted by friends in the USA that see your letter. Your offer to give something to people that want it without "strings attached" is a good example for others.
Letter: November, 1995
Dear Mr. Edwards,
The Servants News is always a welcome arrival at my house. There is something, however, that it magnifies in each issue, some more than others, and that is contention. Although my life has been blessed these past years from the knowledge of God's truth, I simply can't believe the amount of bickering that goes on. Whether it pertains to the right way to observe days, when to observe days, other people, new and old organizations, there appears to be nothing that is safe from criticism.
Your Sept-Oct 95 issue is a good example, proper church government plus critical comments about a Church of God organization (of which I'm not a member) that is still new. It's all quite wearisome! Granted certain essentials of the faith cannot be ignored but aren't there many that we can sort of agree to disagree on?
D.C., New York
Response: Yes, we should be able to disagree with each other on points of doctrine and still regard each other as brethren. Paul explains this in Romans 14: some people in the congregation were vegetarians. Paul, being trained of the Messiah for three years could certainly have answered this question, but he chooses to simply teach tolerance instead.
Our approach from Servants' News is that all humans and human organizations have some error. We should all be free to listen to a variety of teachers and live according to our understanding of the scriptures. The division enters when people try to claim that the Eternal blesses their organization or leader above all others (1Cor 3). Leaders often encourage this kind of thinking to keep their following and their income. People like the security of thinking they are in "the one right" or "the most right" church organization.
Years ago I considered it wrong to publicly say anything against the leaders or teaching of my church organization because I believed that "God would correct the leaders from the top." I have now come to see, from both the many Bible examples and church historyespecially the last 10 years of church history, that the Eternal often lets leaders do what they wantto see what His people will do (Deut 13:3, 1Cor 11:18-19). The scriptures clearly show that church leaders will try to deceive people (Acts 20:29-30; 2Cor 2:17, 4:2, 11:12-15; 1Tim 4:1-3, 2Tim 4:3-4, Tit 1:9-11, et.al.). We should point out factual events (not rumors or speculation) that are being used to deceive the brethren.
Also, please see the following letter in this February, 1996, issue for a more in-depth answer to this question.
Letter: June 24, 1995
Thanks for your kind response of June 12. We're thoroughly enjoying your April & May news letters, the letters & responses as well!
As regards our celebration of the Sabbath, we have observed it faithful as we can, being on our own for 16 years this November. Our Heavenly Father has blessed us with our needs & our good health, & our personal covenant with Him, through repentance & baptism, has never been broken, nor will any fool & his organization dare steal it away. We have a personal relationship with Yahweh, God, our Father, & His Son, Jesus, (Yahshua), our Messiah, Mediator, High Priest & King, & that's love! A personal love that cannot be broken or lost! It was the hardest experience but the best experience, being kicked out years ago! I can see God's Hand in it much more now looking back. We had to let go of HWA's coat-tails, & study to show ourselves approved, & we definitely had some work to do! There's so much more to learn, so much more to do! You ask if we were involved in preaching the Gospel? I believe every converted person is living the Gospel, reaching out to others, every day of their lives, & recharging themselves in private worship every 24 hour Sabbath Day! Anything less is living 3rd-class rather than 1st-class!
In Rom 13 Paul says, Owe no man anything, but to love one another, for he that loves another has fulfilled the law. The Torah is still there, always will be; it's in our intent: Do we do it because we have to, or because we desire to? I studied it once. The N.T. hammers away at the missing ingredient. We Christians are encouraged to put on love (Col 3:14), follow after love (1Cor 14:1), abound in love (Phil 1:9), continue in love (Heb 13:1), increase in love (1Thes 3:12), be fervent in love (1Pet 4:8), be consistent in love (Phil 2:2), provoke each other to love (Heb 10:24) be sincere in love (2Cor 8:8), walk in love (Eph 5:2), be united in love (Col 2:2), forbearing each other in love (Eph 4:2), speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15), our love growing in knowledge & judgement (Phil 1:9), love with faithfulness (Eph 6:23), keep ourselves in love (1Jn 4:16), etc.
God does not forget our work and labor if they are in love! (Heb 6:10.)
Obviously, we all fall short in showing the love of God in our day-to- day activities and that is why we all tend to emphasize to one degree or another and hold up other things as measures of spirituality! Because we're so inadequate in expressing the character & nature of Jesus Christ in our daily lives, we over-emphasize technical obedience to religious activities, or legal requirements, or spiritual experiences (like speaking in languages?), or dedication to a church organization! In these I suppose we think we can attain some measurable, observable, degree of success?! As a minister from the Church of God said, "We put ritual ahead of relationship!" (We must put on the full armor!!)
So here we are, celebrating the Sabbath by closing our two small businesses on Friday night & Saturday, as usual, & resting, studying, sharing, & rejoicing with each other, corresponding with friends & celebrating, worshipping our God is our pre-eminent dutynot with idols, whether they be stone or organizational, but in spirit & in truth! (Ex 20:4-6) (John 4:23)
William Barclay said, There are in this world only two kinds of people: those who are continually thinking of their rights, & those who are continually thinking of their duties. I believe our duty is to love! And we are busy practicing our duty as best we can! Please continue your newsletter, we are your friends!
In Christian love,
J.B., B.C., Canada
Response: I agree with most everything that you have said. Even though the Worldwide Church of God may have spent today's equivalent of a billion dollars preaching the gospel through print and electronic media, the single biggest source of new members were friends and family of existing members. Living a righteous life is certainly teaching the Bible.
On the other hand, the scriptures also show the need for preachers to travel and teach (Rom 10:14-15). I personally learned many Bible truths from the WCG's broadcasts and magazines. So did thousands of others. We need not worry about using too many different ways to preach the Gospel. Our Saviour said we would not be finished before he returned (Matt 10:23).
Letter: November 26, 1995
Dear Mr. Edwards:
I am truly enjoying your help by sending the Servants' News. I am still very confused since leaving the WCG. So many are after me to join up with this one or another and you make me feel that it is all right for me to stay alone and study some more. So far, I have not had one of the off shoots that really appeals to me. May I have a copy of the following? [Literature list removed].
Also, if you check the other side of this sheet, you will see that my latest issue came in pretty bad condition. I thought they had dropped it in some waste water. The front sheet was equally soiled. I am enclosing a donation to help you for I am sure all of this material is not cost-free and it is a help to so many in need of support and help. Thank you,
V.C.B., Napa, CA
Response: We should assemble together with other believers (Heb 10:25). However, if we are not sure where the Eternal wants us to assemble, then it may make sense to stay home and study on the Sabbath until you determine where you should assemble. It is important to realize that we do not have to find "the one right group." We need to find a place where we can grow and where we can serve others. You have heard: "Iron sharpens iron..." (Prov 27:17). Our article, Assembling on the Sabbath, is designed to help with these decisions.
We are sorry about the condition of your newsletter. One or two percent of our newsletters seemed to be greatly damaged in the mail when we sent them without envelopes. We are now sending them with envelopes. If you ever need a replacement or duplicate copy of an issue, please let us know.
Letter: July 25, 1995
I just wanted to write and tell you that I appreciate your small paper. There are a lot of articles that give food for thought and study.I have been a baptized member of the Worldwide Church of God since November 1984. Before that I was a subscriber to The Plain Truth since 1963. I took the Bible lessons as well as reading the many books and pamphlets that were written by Herbert W Armstrong and others as well. I will state that I learned a lot and became an avid Bible student.
Recently I have been concerned by all the new changes, that have taken place within the WCG. While I realize that changes do take place in almost every type of church organization that exists, some of these changes have been radically different from the original doctrine. Although I realize that some of the changes, were for the better, I cannot agree with everything. I just cannot agree that you can do away with God's law. How can God's law be written in our hearts if we don't practice them?
However traumatic this has been, though, it has made people dig in and study their Bibles to find out if these things are so. Could it be that something good came out of all the new changes? It certainly could be thought of as a test as to whether we will follow God or man.
Again I wish to complement you on the Servants' News. I find the articles interesting and challenging. Please accept my wishes for your continued success. Please accept the small contribution I am sending to help with printing costs.
Sincerely, your servant in Jesus Christ;
D. H., Iowa
Response: Yes, we certainly believe that the whole reason the Eternal allowed the massive doctrinal changes at the Worldwide Church of God was so He could see who was really following scripture and who was following a man or an organization. Some of the groups that departed from the WCG are trying to continue the policy of "truth comes from headquarters." With so many people studying their Bible and seeking to reprove every doctrine, they are generating far more Bible questions than ever before. Most headquarters' doctrinal teams simply cannot keep up with the questions being sent to them.
We think this trend of increasing Bible study is wonderful and we hope that it keeps up. Certainly some people will misunderstand the scriptures and some incorrect interpretations will be made. But we feel it is better that a man understand 50% of the truth of scripture and have his foundation firmly rooted in scriptures that he knows, than to hear 75% of the truth of scripture via the teachings of an organization, but be unable to prove any of it. What will happen to the latter person when his organization changes doctrines or disappears?
Letter: July 6, 1995
Since talking to you about two months ago I have received two more of your Servants' News. Thank you for your efforts. Enclosed is [amount withheld] to help pay for your continued efforts.
Please send me the articles by [literature withheld] that you mentioned. Also please send me any of your own articles.
It's very interesting to read names of people we knew years ago surfacing here & there.
Although we have all gone thru considerable pain & anguish in this time of crisis, it is exciting to see such an abundance of scriptural subjects to study & to learn. I thank God for all He gives us.
H.O., North Carolina
Response: Thank you for your encouragement. We have found that there are a great many brethren that have been studying for many years. We hope to share much more of their work as we can get to it.
Letter: August 24, 1995
Dear Friends, Mr & Mrs Norman Edwards,
Please send us the article How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans? We need to read that article. As of now we are still attending the Global Church of God and find that the leaders are striving to teach and preach truth. The Servants' News has been a blessing to us and we want to encourage you to consider continuing your doctrinally-oriented Bible research. We want to grow in understanding and wisdom but do not have the expertise to search out many subject. It will be wonderful when we can all discuss doctrines openly with love and not be separated in so many little cliques within each organization. It seemed that with us over the past few years we became more & more of an outsider-not fitting into any of the little groups. We only want to study God's word in truth.
Please accept the enclosed gift to help with the Servants' News.
M.B., South Carolina
Response: We are encouraged by your letter and have found many others that feel this way. They want to study and learn. They want to talk to the Eternal's people wherever they may be. They are willing to accept differences. They are not interested in belonging to the biggest, best, or most powerful organization.
May the Eternal strengthen and teach all of us through the power of His spirit!
Letter: August 18, 1995
Thank you so very much for all your hard work and efforts to help God's people see the truth!
God is in control of everything that is happening in the times that we are living in! God has his purpose in what is taking place with his people! It is now our time of trials and testing, to prove to our great God and Creator that we love him and will follow his voice in this spiritual time of confusion that he is allowing. Satan can only do what God allows him to do!
Please use this small amount of monies to help others to understand the truth that comes only from God!
In Brotherly love
Response: While it may seem that your point is overly simple (God is in control of everything), it has been too often forgotten. People have stopped praying, become atheists, and even committed suicide because of the things that have happened over the past four years. Most people have absolutely no control of who becomes the leader of their church organization. They may lose their job or their friends because of it, but these are trials from which He has promised to make a way of escape (1Cor 10:13).
We must continue to live our lives in the most righteous way we can and not be dismayed at what our Father is allowing to happen.
Letter: November 29, 1995
Thanks so much for Servants' News. Dale & I really receive much spiritual nourishment from it. Norm, your Assembling on the Sabbath was so good. I learned so much more about the synagogues, etc. and how they were structured, and also how to get a group to assemble on the Sabbath without a lot of confusion. I do have a question, though. It seems to make sense that elders means older men, but what about Timothy? Paul had him do ministerial work, and he was young. And Timothy was to go and appoint elders in every city, etc., so he seemed to be in authority somewhat because Paul sent him. Anyway, someone told me that they didn't believe elders meant older men because Timothy wasn't old.
Anyway, I would like to request some literature from you. [literature request deleted] Thanks for all your hard work.
Response: As far as we can tell, Timothy is never called an "elder" in scripture. Many commentaries assume he was an elder because he is told to "do the work of an evangelist" or because they assume that "elder" was a title like "bishop," "minister," "deacon," etc. These ideas of church offices and positions are taken from the early "church fathers" in the second and third centuries, not from the Bible. Our free article, How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans?, goes into the subject in more detail.
The use of the term "elder" (Hebrew zaqen, Greek presbuteros) is used consistently throughout the Bible. It refers to older, wiser men that often performed governing and judging functions in both civil and religious matters. The New Testament congregations did not undo 2000 years of historic meaning of this word to create a new "church office." We find no scripture that gives the qualifications of an elder (Titus 1 gives the qualifications of an "overseer") because it is simply a state that one grows into. We find that elders were appointed to do certain things, but we never find any ceremony of laying on of hands that made a person an elder.
While some say that Timothy was less than 25 years old, we would be interested in seeing evidence for such a claim. One clue that we have is when Paul tells him, "Let no one despise your youth" (1Tim 4:12). My research indicates that this is a comparative term and primarily means he was much younger than Paul and many of the other men he was dealing with. Older people still occasionally call me "young man" and I'll be 40 this year.
Letter: December 5, 1995
Greetings my friend. I hope you & your family are doing well & that the inspiration of God through His holy spirit is guiding your service in the right direction.
I recently cut off all ties with United & have concluded that I will never join an organized man-made church calling itself The Church of God, again!
United is quickly turning out to be a copy of the WCG before Tkach with a top-down government intact. I can no longer submit to men who do not follow Christ nor can I make a church an idol, denying God. When so-called ministers of God required you to worship them, obey them, follow them & be controlled by them, you know something is dead wrong.
When ministers deny you access to God, when they do not edify you, nor encourage you to obey Him, when they deny you fellowship with God's people who are not under their control, when you are not allowed to have in-home Bible study groups without their divine presence, nor allowed to read other's literature nor listen to other's tapes, something is dead wrong!
If we allow these wolves in sheep's clothing to dominate us, lord over us, control us & lead us into the slaughter house, then something is dead wrong!
What is dead wrong is that we have given up our spiritual calling, salvation & entrance into God's holy kingdom & divine family because we chose to follow men & church rather than Christ, our King & God our Father!
May the Lord Jesus Christ help us & strengthen us to follow him, obey him, love him & be glorified by him as the Father has willed.
A.G., New Jersey
Response: Not everyone finds as much difficulty as you have with the local congregations of "church organizations." Nevertheless, we personally know of examples where every problem that you mention has occurred.
Each person is going to be judged by what they do and say, not by what their "church organization," "congregation" or family does (2Cor 5:10; Matt 12:36-37; 16:27; Gal 6:4-5; Deut 24:16; Ezk 18:20). We respect your decision to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12)to serve where you can serve best. May the Eternal bless you and help you to share your knowledge and zeal with many others.
Letter: January 10, 1996
I know this isn't much, but every little bit helps! Keep up the Great Work that you are producing. I pray that our Father-Creator in Heaven will bless all the hard work that you are giving to the Scattered Flock! [Literature request removed.]
Question: I sent for some information from The House of Yahweh in Abilene, Texas, and I would like your advice on the issue of God's True Name and Jesus Christ's True name that we should use when praying to God or Yahweh and asking all in Jesus Christ's name Yahshua our Messiah.
Thank you Norm,
K. J. , Salinas, CA
Response: Thank you for your encouragement. I have spent some time studying various "sacred name" groups and doctrines and have concluded, like so many others, are a mixture of truth and error. Some groups believe that unless you pronounce these names exactly like they do, you do not have salvation. They consider any other names for the Father and Son to be blasphemy. Other groups occasionally use what they believe are the original names of these two, but are very tolerant of those that do not. I hope to do more research, but I will briefly summarize what I have learned so far:
1. The Hebrew YHVH, usually translated "the Lord" in the King James really is a name, just like you have a name. Scriptures like Psalm 135:3 show that we are supposed to both praise Him and praise His Name. Explanations such as "praising His names means to simply praise what He stands for" do not make sense in the light of the numerous scriptures on the subject.
2. The Jews, in an effort not to profane His name, have not regularly pronounced it for centuries. They use the word HaShem ("the name") or Adonai ("Lord" or "Sovereign") instead. The exact pronunciation of YHVH is disputed and I have not studied the many widely varying explanations in detail. I know of several that have been researched to a great degree. I think Bible translators would have done better to put YHVH in the Bible rather than "the Lord," since "the Lord" sounds like a title and does not imply any kind of name at all.
3. We do not have to know how to pronounce this name in order to have a relationship with Him. Consider Exodus 6:3: "I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty [El Shaddai], but by My name LORD [YHVH] I was not known to them." Abraham was righteous and did not use this name. Nevertheless, we should not ignore truth that He gives us.
4. While the meaning of YHVH is in some dispute, most agree that it means Eternal or Ever-living One. We use this word in our writing since it probably conveys the Hebrew meaning accurately. We will probably change to a transliteration of YHVH if we ever reach a conclusion on how to pronounce it.
5. We are told to pray in our Savior's name which is something like Yeshua, Yashua or Yehosha in Hebrew. There are quite a few theories on this one as well, though the possible pronunciations vary much less than those put forth for YHVH.
6. Several sources document that many names in our Bible come from false religions. For example, some will show that "Jesus" comes from the Greek god "Zeus," not from the Hebrew Yeshua. I need to do more study in this area.
7. If Hebrew pronunciations of the Eternal's name are important, why don't we find them in the New Testament? Indeed, we find the Greek Theos for "God" and Iesous for Jesus. The answer given by many "sacred name" proponents is that most of the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew then later translated into Greek where the divine names were dropped out by translators that had lost the knowledge of this truth. I have seen some good evidence of this theory, though I have not completely proven it to myself.
When I pray, I use the closest thing I know to being the correct name, but I am not confident enough in its correctness to mention it here. We must also remember, that many people through the centuries have had little or no access to Hebrew and Greek Scriptures of any kind and God used them. I think this is an important subject, but I do not think we should let it overshadow the many other important scriptural issues regarding how we live our lives.
Letter: January 10, 1996
I have been intending to write you since the Feast, but haven't seemed to find the time or the words. However, after reading the article, The Trinity Re-Examined by Gregory H. Richardson [December 1995, p. 2], I was moved to write.
First, let me say that this is an intriguing article and brings to our attention some information that rings true. That is, that the words of Matthew 28:19-20, "...baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost..." may be spurious. I would like to see a more in-depth article with more proof that this is so. For instance, I notice in every movie that has a Catholic background, everything is done in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. This is the phrase that is continually on their lips usually spoken in Latin and with the sign of the cross. Can we trace this back to its origins? If these words are spurious, there will be ample proof that it is so. But we will have to dig to get the information. even an embellishment of the references given in the article would help.
However, Mr. Richardson's idea that, "for the serious student of the Bible, no such proof is really necessary" is a misconception. The serious student of the Bible would absolutely require just such proof from outside sources that these words are spurious before he would strike them from the Bible.
We must remember that we are dealing with the words of God. If these words are in the original language then we must have positive proof that they are not God's words. Also, Mr. Richardson's idea that, "every biblical concept used to establish doctrine must be corroborated: In the mouth of two or three witnesses" is not correct when applied to the words of God. This concept is applicable to the words of humans in their relationships with one another. A perusal of the scriptures which Mr. Richardson used to back up his concept will show this to be true. God does not need to tell us two or three times in order for us to accept something. As only one example, the foot washing service which we perform at the Passover Feast is mentioned by only one of the Gospel writers and only one time did he mention this act of Christ. Would Mr. Richardson use this concept with this doctrine of the Church?
This same erroneous concept is used by Fred Coulter in his book, The Christian Passover where he would strip several verses from the sixteenth chapter of Deuteronomy because he thinks that they are the only verses which do not support an early 14th passover. But we do not eliminate words from the Bible, especially in its original languages unless it can be proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that they have been put there spuriously. Rather, we seek to coordinate the words of God in His Holy Word.
It should be noted that tens of thousands were baptized by the ministers of Worldwide "...in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ." This is no proof that they were correct, but it does point out how these scriptures can be misunderstood by putting all the instructions of these verses about the act of baptism together.
I must admit, however, that from time to time I have thought about these words and wondered how they could be understood. We have seen proof that the Jews have eliminated certain passages from the Old Testament that referred to the coming Messiah. We have the Septuagint to prove this. We have the spurious passage in I John [5:7-8] as mentioned in the article. We have ample proof that this took place. Now it seems that a case can be made for Matthew 28:19-20. But we must make an honest effort to show that this is true. This is not a case where we have a great deal of movement in our logic. We are dealing with something which is concrete. Either these are the words of God, or they are not. Hopefully we will see more on this subject in a later issue of Servants' News.
I hope that this finds the Edwards family in good health. We enjoy reading each issue of your newsletter. Keep up the good work, and let me know your thoughts on the above issue.
Juan R. Rains
PO Box 1082
Andrews, NC 28901
Response: I agree with nearly every thing you said. We should be very, very careful when we say we feel the original language texts of the Bible are in error. I believe this happens, but it is rare.
The concept of needing two or three different scriptures to prove a point is also unbiblical. Most of the stories of the patriarchs are only recorded in one placeshould we doubt them?
I had noticed some of these statements when we decided to print the article and I hoped to call Mr. Richardson, but other concerns took priority and I did not. We printed the article because it made a point that I had rarely seen elsewhere.
I would like to write more on this issue after I have done some additional study. During this month, additional archaeology projects are going on in Israel that may unearth more ancient manuscripts. Finding some first century copies of New Testament books would solve a great many things but probably shake the foundations of many established religious groups. That is something to pray for!
Will You Be Counted Worthy...?
Letter: January 18,1995
Thank you for publishing the study on Luke 21:36, "Will You be Counted Worthy to Escape?" in the Dec '95 Servants' News. I have had thoughts along these same lines for some time and asked myself and others, "Should we not be ready to die for the gospel of Christare we better than the apostles?" I was not able, however, to bring the scriptures together that supported my feelings. Keep up the good work of printing clear, concise studies of God's word.
I know God is using your ministry to enlighten the path for many of His sheep.
T. W., Strawn, TX
Response: Thank you for the positive words. I had not studied the issue in such detail until Donald Flowers sent the article.
Godly Unity Questions
...We know you have said you do not always agree 100% with every article you print in Servants' News, and we don't either, but PLEASE comment on the article on [Godly] Unity by Norman Brumm, III [November 1995 SN]. We cannot come to an agreement with him on what Godly unity and political oneness have to do with keeping 1 Pet 3:8-9 AND Phil 2:2-3. Please help us understand. We are in a situation now where our group is not in unity because we don't all agree on certain doctrinal issues and most of all on government issues (church government that is). We still love each otherwe treat each other with kindness and respect. But it does cause us to NOT be like minded! Why? Our opinion is, carnal human beings have a hard time accepting anything new that they didn't think of first. Especially if you are labeled with an office of authority (minister, pastor, evangelist, etc.). When someone discovers a new truth that can be scripturally proven to be sound, why don't we have the first reaction of saying, "Yes, that's an interesting concept, let's all study this and see if it is true according to God's word." That represents true godly unity, doesn't it? Isn't that what the church is for a place where we can be together and study God's word so we can grow in truth and knowledge? [The squelching of] new truths ... before anyone has a chance to prove them true or false, has been the downfall of God's church for MANY years, has it not?
In all sincerity and love, how does Norman Brumm, III, manage to fellowship with a group of brethren in God's Church and have unity and like-mindedness when some are keeping the Passover on the 14th and some on the 15th, some are keeping the postponements and some are not, some are keeping Pentecost on Sunday and some on Monday? This seems like total confusion! Where is the unity? We are to keep His Feasts at the appointed times (Lev 23:4). Shouldn't these matters be discussed and let God's word be the final authority on the matter?
God says to be like minded, being of one accord (Phil 2:2-3). We should be studying all knowledge and truths, new or basic doctrine, and proving them from God's word. If something is not scripturally sound, show your Godly love to one another, discuss it with each other and especially the one who brought the new truth to you.
We agree there are some things that are not critical to our salvation that we can be in disagreement with and not cause disunity. For example, make-up - some may wear it - some may choose not to wear it. Where the place of safety is is another example. These haven't been causes of disunity for our group thus far.
God tells us not to follow men and to prove all things. That makes us more noble in character (Acts 17:11)....
In Christian love,
M.C., Riverside, CA
Response: Thank you for letter. I hope you don't mind, but Norm Edwards passed your letter on to me, as the author of the Godly Unity article, and asked if I would respond.
I believe that I understand where you are coming from. I come from the mentality that I addressed as being wrong "If someone brings in some other doctrine that disagrees with the official line, he's out of here lest he destroy our unity." You state that you are in a situation that is not in unity because of disagreement on doctrinal issues. I feel that your opinion as to why is right on target. People who approach things from a carnal point of view will never reach godly unity (see 1 Cor 3).
But, isn't doctrine where the truth is? You said that some things are not critical to our salvation. Where do you draw the line? Where do I draw the line? What if these lines are in different locations?
Your explanation of a process whereby a group finds truth is absolutely marvelous. That does make us more noble in character.
You asked about unity with two different Passovers. What if a group exists as you describe? They get together every Sabbath and have wonderful fellowship and Bible studies. One winter, they tackle the issue of Passover. They all study together week after week with the attitude of "let's see if it is true according to God's word." The odds are, especially if they had no previous Passover background, that some of them come to a different conclusion than the rest and are very convicted of it. Both sides will also say, "We are to keep his feasts at the appointed times" (Lev 23:4). Is it right for them to split up into two different groups and no longer fellowship with each other because of this disagreement? Or would it be better for them to stay together and continue fellowshipping and studying and when the Passover event arrived for them to then split up, observe it the way each deemed best and then come back together again?
How could I fellowship with a group like this? Actually, it is wonderful. Some in our group felt strongly to observe the Passover at home. Others felt that getting together in the traditional church of God way was the best. Still, others kept it on a different day and others felt very strongly to do the lamb ceremony (without the sacrificing part). The next day, we all got together and were all very genuine when we asked how each others' Passover went. We all observed the Passover, yet in different ways. Is when and how you keep Passover a point of salvation? In some ways yes and in some ways no. In our situation, we felt that it was not. We differed but we still had godly unity, were like minded and were "all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, pitiful, courteous" (I Pet 3:8). We weren't perfect, we had to keep our attitudes in check but it still worked. I learned a tremendous amount about unity from this experience. The same should work for Pentecost and many other matters.
Paul wrote of this subject in Romans 14. Apparently, the Romans were having pretty much the same problems regarding unity. Yet, what was his conclusion? "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (Rom 14:17-19, NIV). It might be very worthwhile for your group to conduct a Bible Study on Romans 14 if you haven't done that already.
I asked an old acquaintance where he and his family stood regarding the church situation. His response is one of the best that I have heard.
"My family stands with Christ's Body, wherever its individual parts are found. We are against no one except the adversary and his cohorts. We regularly fellowship, in and out of congregational services, with brethren from both sides of this matter. In other words, we have NO part of this man-made fracture and refuse to reject even the most radical elements of both persuasions. Norm, until later notice, [my wife] and I will no longer embrace or reject specific fellowships of our brethren to the exclusion of others. It's that simple. If you find us fellowshipping with, financially supporting, defending, or collaborating with a group of our brethren and you take that as evidence that we reject another group of brethren, you would be incorrect. Hope that answers your question."
Some issues simply present logistical problems for unity. Obviously, if people think that the Sabbath is on Sunday, then unity isn't even a question. Church governance can separate a group if people can't agree on how to operate the group. Paul and Barnabas split up because of a contention they could not settle. Sometimes it has to be done, but it is better to work out grievances if possible. Even separate, Paul and Barnabas considered each other brethren.
"We should be studying all knowledge and truths, new or basic doctrine, and proving them from God's Word" is easy to say, but it makes it sound like everything is black and white. However, there is much that isn't black and white in God's Word. We all understand God's word from different perspectives and angles. Can we tolerate these differences? If we can, then we are a good ways toward achieving godly unity. I guess the message here could be summed up in two words: tolerate and accommodate.
I feel that if you still love each other and treat each other with kindness and respect that that is a tremendous foundation on which to build. I feel very strongly that seeing eye to eye on every point without the foundation that you have is merely political oneness. Godly unity in this human realm does allow diversity. I would like your group to be strongly encouraged by your foundation and open willingness to allow the Word of God to direct your steps. Your group may have more godly unity than one may realize. It is okay if some come up with different conclusions.
-Norman A. Brumm, III