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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
BOOK ONE - THE GOSPEL
BOOK TWO - THE WHY AND HOW OF PREACHING THE GOSPEL
I have been a member of the Worldwide Church of God while Herbert W. Armstrong was alive, and I have been reading and studying his literature since the late sixties. Since the death of Mr. Armstrong, those who have continued to believe the things he has taught, whether they have proven those things for themselves, as he did, or whether they simply agreed with and accepted Mr. Armstrong's teaching without proof, have been divided and scattered into a multitude of church organizations, and some stay home. There are now many churches that call themselves "Church of God" that trace their roots back to Worldwide and to Herbert W. Armstrong. In the sense that many of these churches can be collectively called "the Church of God", I consider myself to be a member of the Church of God, but I do not profess membership in any denomination in competition with any other. When I was baptized, I remember that the pastor said I was not being baptized into any denomination or sect, but into the body of Christ, or words to that effect. I consider myself a member of that spiritual body which follows the teachings of the Bible, as Mr. Armstrong did, and which has benefited from his teachings.
I do not mean to imply that all churches that call themselves "Church of God" and follow Mr. Armstrong's teachings to one degree or another are equal in faithfulness and in effectiveness in serving God, nor do I imply that it makes no difference which one a member attends and supports. We each have a responsibility to support those whom God is working through and who are doing the most effective job of serving God, and every member of the whole Church of God has a responsibility to exercise his or her best judgment in determining this based on the Bible and based on available facts about the churches. We should also seek appropriate opportunities when possible to attend with a faithful Church of God fellowship as well as to support the ordained ministry with our tithes and offerings.
This book is about the true gospel, what it is, why there is an urgent need to preach it to the world as a witness, and how to do it effectively. It offers proof that the Bible is the word of God and can be trusted as the primary source of belief in all doctrine.
Two major themes run throughout this book. One is that the Bible is God's word and that the principle of faith requires that we believe the Bible more than any other source for our beliefs about religious doctrine. This means that we must believe the Bible more than any minister, more than tradition, and more than our own opinions and preferences if we want to know the truth. Another theme is that there is an urgent need to preach the true gospel to the world as a witness and a warning to our nations about God's punishments to come if we do not turn from our national sins. The true gospel includes a message of repentance, and the two themes of believing the Bible and preaching a message of repentance to the world compliment each other, because in preaching the gospel to the world, the Church must also point the world to the Bible.
The true gospel has been widely taught from the Bible by Herbert W. Armstrong from about 1934 until his death in 1986. It is his teachings that enabled me to prove the truth from the Bible. He often said on radio, "Don't believe me, believe your Bible." I took him at his word on this. I used his teachings as a source of ideas, but I only accepted major teachings I could prove from the Bible. In this, I followed his example, because he also based his beliefs and teachings on what he could prove from the Bible.
This book is intended for two audiences, those who are familiar with Herbert W. Armstrong's teachings and are in general agreement with them, and those who do not know about his teachings but are willing to learn new truth from the Bible.
Mr. Armstrong founded the Radio Church of God, which was later renamed Worldwide Church of God.
I have never been ordained as a minister, or a deacon, or had any official standing in any of the Churches of God. I have no special training as a writer or teacher. I am a computer software developer by profession.
I began writing this book in bits and pieces over the years, not starting with the intent of publishing it as a book. Some of it I wrote to help me think out and clarify my thoughts and to remember and reinforce particular points of doctrine for myself, and some of it I collected as research material I thought might be helpful for ministers at headquarters of one or several Churches of God. Before thinking of publishing it myself, I had the intent of submitting parts or all of it to the leaders of one or more Church of God organizations. I thought it could be used by them as a possible source of ideas for articles or sermons. I knew my writing was not professional, so I did not submit the material as articles for publication, but I thought the professional writers in the Church could perhaps use some of the material, especially the historical material I gathered about the Holocaust (chapter 4). The church leadership could evaluate the material, and if my ideas were wrong they had the authority to separate the wheat from the chaff and to correct me, and if any of the material was useful they had the writers with the technical skills to use the ideas and rewrite the material professionally and produce quality articles suitable for publication.
Originally, I never thought I would publish it myself. Although I strongly believe the things I have written are correct according to the Bible and also in agreement with the fundamental things Mr. Armstrong taught the Church, and that the principles in this book are strongly needed by the Church of God at this time, I had been taught by the Church for years that only ordained ministers had the authority to teach others in the Church. I understood hierarchical government and the need to all speak the same thing. There is a lot of confusion in the scattered churches with many people, ministers and lay members alike, promoting their own personal opinions, especially on the Internet. I have tried to respect and obey ministerial authority, and the last thing I wanted to do is to be rebellious or to add to the overall confusion. I have recognized that my opinions could be wrong because I am fallible, and I thought that by submitting material to leading ministers only, they could "screen out" and correct me on anything in which I am in error about, and yet rewrite and use anything of real value.
Over time, I have made several efforts to communicate with leaders of churches about much of the material in this book, but with few exceptions I have received little if any feedback. As of the time I am first publishing this (March 2006), the VERY little feedback I have received has been positive only, such as "it contains a number of very good points". But the leading Churches of God I have submitted material to have not used any of the material, nor corrected me on anything, nor indicated if they planned on using it or not using it and why, nor given me any feedback of substance, and in several cases refused, despite my inquiries, to even acknowledge receiving my submissions. Whenever I submitted something, I first sent a letter asking the church leader if he wanted the material. When the reply came back, "Yes, please send it", I did so. Thus, I never submitted anything except what was requested. Yet it has not been used. Yet I feel this material can be very useful for helping the Church to be effective in preaching the gospel to the world, which is what I want to support. Perhaps some ideas I have submitted actually have been used in small ways as ideas for articles (I am not able to receive all of the publications of churches I have sent material to), but I am not aware of any significant use.
As much as I want to support the preaching of the gospel, I know I must do it lawfully according to God's way, not my own way. There are two ditches I wanted to avoid. One ditch is to presumptuously appoint myself as a teacher and rebelliously teach things in contradiction to what God's appointed and ordained ministers are teaching, thereby bringing guilt upon myself and adding confusion to the Church. I have always been aware of this ditch, but I began to be aware of another ditch. We also have a responsibility to put to use the "talents" or "pounds" God has entrusted us with. God has harsh words for the lazy and unprofitable servant who, motivated by fear, hid his master's money in the ground. I began to worry that if indeed the things I felt moved to write, and have written, are right and useful, I need to act responsibly to do what I can, lawfully, to see to it that these things are preserved and put to the best possible use.
Maybe I am kidding myself. I see on the Internet and in printed publications all kinds of ideas and "doctrines" from people who are convinced they are right and everyone else is wrong, and in some cases it is easy for me to see that their ideas and opinions are ridiculous. Yet they don't seem to be ridiculous to the writers and promoters of these opinions. It seems that everyone sees what is wrong about the opinions of others, but no one can see their own error.
But I am just as human, just as fallible, just as subject to error and blindness to my own error as everyone else. Maybe my ideas are wrong and I just can't see it.
But this is one reason why I have tried to submit my material first to several ordained ministers, leaders, of a few of the major Church of God organizations. They not only should have the ability, but they have the AUTHORITY, as appointed by God, to correct me where I may be wrong. I honestly would appreciate words of correction about the things I believe and write. But I have been unable to obtain any. In spite of the fact that I have submitted most of the material in chapters 4 through 7 to one or more church leaders for evaluation and feedback between May 2000 and October 2005, I have received no critical feedback. No one has been willing to show me where I am wrong, yet to my knowledge no one has wanted to use any of this material or the ideas and principles contained in it. Yet if I am right, the principles in this book may be vitally needed by the Church of God as never before. And I find no Church of God that is effectively teaching all of these things today. I do not say that no Church is teaching any of these things, just that if any Church of God is teaching all of them, I haven't found it yet.
One of Mr. Armstrong's books which I have read so many times it is falling apart is his autobiography. In it, I noticed that before he was ordained as a minister he was already teaching others. I remembered that in the Bible, it is not just the apostles who taught, but others as well. When the Church was scattered, the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, but the brethren were scattered and preached the gospel everywhere (Acts 8:1-4). Although no doubt many of the seventy that Jesus directly commissioned to preach were among those scattered who preached, this passage does not restrict the preaching to those seventy. Verse 4 simply says "those who were scattered". I remembered the occasion, during Jesus' three-and-a-half year ministry, that His disciples told Him that one who was not "with them" was doing works such as healing or casting out demons in Christ's name, and they forbade him. Jesus told his disciples, "Do not forbid him" (Luke 9:49-50, Mark 9:38-40).
Acts 18:24-28 records an incident regarding Apollos. This is the first time Apollos is mentioned. He boldly spoke accurately the things of the Lord, but he only knew about the baptism of John. But he preached in the synagogue. Then Aquila and Priscilla explained the way of God more accurately, so his knowledge was limited before that time. Then he publicly preached that Jesus was the Christ. It is obvious that he was not specifically authorized by the Church or he would have known more than the baptism of John and Aquila and Priscilla would not have had to explain the way of God to him more accurately. Yet he had started to preach and continued to preach in public. There is not one word of rebuke towards him, rather the whole tone of the passage is that he was doing a good work. In fact, I do not know of a single passage in the New Testament rebuking members who teach others or indicating that it is unlawful, provided they teach the truth.
I remembered the warnings from God in the Old Testament against those who presumed to speak in God's name, but God didn't send them. This is what ministers often quote. Yet, did this refer to people who taught God's truth, quoting Moses or the prophets, but they were not appointed to the job? Or did it apply to false prophets who claimed to be prophets receiving revelation directly from God, like the four hundred prophets who advised the king of Israel to go up against Ramoth Gilead in the days of Jehoshaphat, but were lying or deceived themselves (2 Chronicles 18:5-22)? There is an indication that it is the latter, not the former, because in a condemnation of false prophets, God says, if the prophets had taught the people God's words they would have turned them from the error of their ways (Jeremiah 23:19). In other words, it is not those who teach the people God's words that are rebuked but those who promote false teaching based what they think are revelations directly from God. God was not rebuking them just for "running" when He didn't send them. He rebuked them also for failing to teach God's words.
As far as I know, unless and until someone corrects me from Scripture, there is nothing in what I have written that is contrary to the Bible or to any fundamental principle taught by Mr. Armstrong. For the most part, the teachings in this book are in support of the efforts of the major Church groups that are trying to carry on the work Mr. Armstrong started of preaching the gospel to the world as a witness and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. I am trying to offer reasons to support the view that the gospel and the Ezekiel warning still need to be preached to as many among the general public as possible, and I offer suggestions on how that can be done more effectively. I also believe what I have written is in general agreement with the doctrinal positions of the Worldwide Church of God when Mr. Armstrong was alive, and with several major fellowships of the Church of God today.
I have tried to give the relevant scriptures, history, and other reasons to support the positions I take so that the reader can judge for himself or herself the merits of what I say. Since I am "nobody", I feel there is no risk anyone will believe what I say because I say it. I give all my reasons for what I believe, and what I have written can stand or fall on its own merits. Any reader who believes what God says in the Bible can check up on what I am saying and separate truth from error. That is the way it should be.
For my own case, I do not claim I understand the Bible better than trained ministers in the Church of God, or even better than most members. There are many subjects I do not understand well, and many things that seem easy for others to understand seem difficult for me. I do not claim to "know more than the Church". I am also well aware of many personal faults and shortcomings I have, which I am striving to overcome, and I am also aware that I no doubt have faults I am yet too blind to see. But in regard to the particular topics I address in this book, I may have a little better understanding than some others, not because I am better or more gifted in an overall sense (I am not), but because I have spent time on these particular subjects, and because of my own studies, background, experiences, and personal history in the Church of God in relationship to these topics.
From my study of the Bible, the warnings against those who do not use their opportunities to try to serve others seem stronger than the warnings against those who try to serve in a capacity to which they have not been officially appointed. I want to support the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning as much as I can. This book is a way of doing that.
If I were a member or a regular attendee of a Church of God that was willing to evaluate my material with an open mind, correct me where I am wrong, and seriously consider using anything of value that I have written, or be willing to tell me why they cannot use it, I don't think I would have reached a point of publishing it myself. I would continue to try to channel any contributions I had to offer through the established authority of the Church. This is what I have tried to do, but there has been no meaningful response.
The first half of this book (chapters one through three) is written for those who are not familiar with the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong and wish to learn more about the truth of God from the Bible, or those who are not sure about the Bible but have an open mind and are willing to learn whether or not the Bible was inspired by God. The second half is written primarily for those with a Church of God background who are familiar with and in general agreement with the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong, or those who have read the first half of the book and want to learn more about recent events in the Church of God and the why and how of preaching the gospel.
If one asks, "By what authority do you try to teach or warn others?", since I am not an apostle, evangelist, or ordained minister, my answer is Matthew 22:39 "...You shall love your neighbor as yourself", and Matthew 7:12 "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets", and Proverbs 24:11 "Deliver those who are drawn towards death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter." I want to do everything I can to help and support giving a warning to the public about the tribulation to come while there is still time to repent, before it is too late to escape. To do this, I want to share with others what I think I have learned that can help. I think of myself as someone who is like a person in an apartment building who smells smoke at 3:00 in the morning when everyone else is asleep. I find out that the building is on fire, not because I am smarter, but because I was lucky enough to happen to be awake at the time. So I call the fire department, and get out of the building. But before I leave, shouldn't I knock on the doors of the other apartments to let people know what I know? Do I need special authority or appointment to try to help give someone a better chance to escape the fire by sharing with them what I have found out?
There is also the verse in Jude which says "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). This is addressed to the members, not just the ministry (Jude 1). Jude says we should "contend" for the faith. I do not know everything that may be included in that term "contend", but it seems to indicate more than just quietly obeying the faith and never openly taking a stand for the basic principles of what one believes in the face of challenges to our faith in God and Christ. I think it indicates that there is a time to openly take a stand for fundamental principles.
In pointing out that Mr. Armstrong preached before he was ordained and that there is no general instruction in the New Testament against lay members teaching without ordination, I am not trying to encourage lay members to quit the Church of God fellowship they are part of to start a separate work. There are pitfalls with that, and I talk more about that near the end of chapter five.
The main subject of this book is the what, why, and how of preaching to the public the gospel and the Ezekiel warning message of God's punishments to come.
WHAT is the true gospel? In chapters 1, 2, and 3 I explain some basic doctrines of the Church of God in brief summary form, and this is needed as a background for the chapters to follow for anyone not familiar with Herbert W. Armstrong's teachings. These chapters help to review and establish WHAT the true gospel is. I also STRONGLY recommend the following books written by Mr. Armstrong, which explain these things, and much more, far better and more thoroughly than the brief summary I have written:
1) The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy
2) Mystery of the Ages
3) The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong.
WHY should the gospel be preached to the public at this time? Chapters 4 and 5 explain WHY the gospel and the Ezekiel warning is needed and should be preached to the world, especially to Israel, at this time. My hope is that the information in these chapters can help to motivate church members to support the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public.
HOW can the gospel be preached more effectively? Chapters 6 and 7 suggest ways of preaching the gospel and HOW to preach it more effectively.
My hope for this book is that ministers, speakers, and writers in the Church of God may yet find ideas in it for sermons, sermonettes, and articles. It is also my hope that members of the Church who may be confused about the need for preaching the gospel to the world or may be confused about which part of the Church of God to support, may find information and ideas from this book that can help them to make decisions, while using the Bible as a primary guide. Bible study and prayer must always come first in seeking God's guidance in making decisions. Finally, it may be that a few individuals who do not have a Church of God background may find this book and through it become aware of the teachings of the Church of God and Herbert W. Armstrong. I hope that this book can serve as an introduction, and the interested reader can follow up with the above named books and with research on the Internet.
I also hope to receive, via email, constructive criticism, feedback, suggestions, and where I am wrong according to the Bible, according to other facts I relate, or according to logic, correction.
In the Bible, the phrase "preaching the gospel" can, in its broadest sense, refer both to teaching the baptized members of the Church of God as well as preaching to the outside public. Paul for example refers to preaching to his congregations as preaching the gospel (Romans 1:15). In the context of recent church history, among members of the Church of God, the commonly understood usage of the term "preaching the gospel" has been in reference to preaching to the public, not the Church. This book is primarily about preaching the gospel to the public. Where I speak of preaching the gospel, I have tried to clarify this by adding "to the public" or "to the world" or "to Israel". However, in any place where I refer only to preaching the gospel without qualification, I am talking about preaching to those outside the Church of God. The term I use for teaching the membership is the term we have customarily used, "feeding the flock."
Bible prophecy indicates that the United States, Canada, and Great Britain will soon go through the most intense and greatest time of trouble, suffering, and death that the world has ever seen or will see. No one knows exact dates, but I think a good estimate is that this time of trouble will begin during the lifetimes of most people alive today, maybe in the next ten to twenty-five years, maybe sooner. I believe the Bible indicates that once it begins it will last two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half years. By the time it is over, about nine out of ten people or more will be dead, and most of the ten percent or less left alive will have gone through suffering most of us cannot imagine. This death and suffering will come as punishment for our national and individual sins, but there is a way that some may be spared. That is why there is a need for a warning.
Much credit for whatever I have learned belongs to others who have taught me, and this includes ministers, speakers, and writers in several Church of God organizations. Primarily, I owe Mr. Armstrong and the ministry under his authority a great deal for teaching me about the Bible and the truths of God that I have learned. I have tried to confirm and prove all major doctrines from the Bible and to believe the Bible more than any man or church, but I could not have learned the major truths of the Bible without the help of Mr. Armstrong and other ministers to guide me. Since the death of Mr. Armstrong, I have tried to continue to learn from the faithful ministry, and I have learned things from several Church of God fellowships. In particular, I have learned some things from John Ritenbaugh of Church of the Great God, primarily through their website, that I have not learned from any other fellowship and probably would not have learned on my own, particularly about Laodiceanism and God's judgment being a cause of the scattering of the Church. I explain several causes for the scattering of the Church in chapter 5.
There are many things I learned from many people and sources over the years, and in many cases with the things I have learned I cannot now remember whom in particular I have learned them from, so I cannot acknowledge the source of everything I have learned except in the general way that I have. I certainly do not claim that most of the ideas and concepts in this book are original, and even in the cases of ideas that I express that I have found nowhere else, there is a high likelihood that others before me have also expressed similar ideas in one form or another, and I am not aware of it.
I have also tried to build on what I have learned from others.
This version of the book is published April 2012. I have added a new chapter, chapter 9, on the need for repentance in the Church of God. I would like to thank everyone who has emailed me to give me feedback, criticism, or encouragement.
I intend to continue to revise this book over time to improve it and to address new issues as they come up. The latest version can be found on the website for this book at http://www.ptgbook.org.
Bible quotes, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New King James Version of the Bible. Quotes from the King James Version are indicated with the initials KJV or the words "King James Version". In the Bible quotes, I have retained the italics as they are in the text of whatever version I am quoting. I have also preserved the "all caps" rendering of God's name where it appears that way in the original text. I refer the reader to the Preface to the New King James Version or to whatever version I am quoting for an explanation of the meaning of text in italics and putting God's name in all caps. I have also retained the capitalization of words as they are in the text I am quoting, even when the capitalization is for words that are the first word of a line in a poetic passage but not the first word in a sentence.
In this book I quote other sources. Regarding quotes of other sources, in accordance with Section 107 of Chapter 1 of Title 17 of US Copyright law, this material is distributed without charge or other commercial interest for the purpose of comment, teaching, and scholarship and research. The statute explicitly declares that such FAIR USE "is not an infringement of copyright".
I have not written this book to make money. As author of this book, in order to encourage the widest distribution and use of my material, I have placed my original writings in this book in the public domain. No permission is required to copy or use material in the public domain. Material in the public domain may be freely copied, transmitted, published, posted on the Internet, and incorporated in whole or in part in other works of writings and speaking. I am dedicating my original writings in this book to the public domain as of March 5, 2006 or the date I first publish this book on the Internet, whichever is earlier. All subsequent revisions I have made to this book are also in the public domain.
Comments are welcome. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.