An issue that is raised a lot these days in Church of God circles is the issue of church governance. Those with a pre-1985 background in the old Worldwide Church of God (WCG) realize that in the last several years of his life, Herbert W. Armstrong often taught about the importance of proper church governance.
However, since his death, most once part of the old Worldwide Church of God have either changed their minds on governance or seem to not be interested in following the biblical type of governance that Herbert W. Armstrong taught that the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God needed to have (for one example, please see CEM’s Ron Dart on Governance).
This article will include quotes the Bible, as well as from early Church of God leaders, such as Polycarp of Smyrna, which advocate proper hierarchical governance--at this time, this appears to be best practiced by the Continuing Church of God. The article will also mention certain limits on ecclesiastical authority.
Since God is love (1 John 4:8,16), His government is based on love. But many do not understand that. It is also based on rules/laws that are based on love. (There is also a related video sermon titled Church Governance.)
The Book of Genesis starts out by showing that God made everything (Genesis 1). It then shows that God gave instructions to humans:
15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:15-17)
The instructions and governance were intended for the good of human-kind. Humans, however, often rebel from God's governance and do not agree with God about what is best for them.
Human rulers need to understand the laws of God and should rule based upon them. Notice:
14 "When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,' 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, 'You shall not return that way again.' 17 Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.
18 "Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20)
Top physical rulers were supposed to study and know the law of God, render proper judgment, not be greedy, and not be above the laws themselves. The standard for religious rulers should not be any less. Notice that all Christians are to become kings and priests themselves:
9 And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:9-10)
Surely then, Christians should read and understand God's laws. That will help them govern/reign with Christ!
Notice the following New Testament reference to the Old Testament:
37 "This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.' 38 "This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, 39 whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. (Acts 7:37-39)
Ancient Israel was the congregation in the physical wilderness back then; the true Church of God is the congregation in this current spiritual wilderness (cf. John 1:23). Notice the type of governance that Israel was told to implement:
19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace. (Exodus 18:19-23)
Here we see an hierarchical structure with God on top and people needing to learn the laws. That is consistent with the type of governance that the New Testament also endorses.
Although, as he admitted, in his earliest writings he was confused about the subject of proper church governance, over time, he believed that proper church governance was one of the 18 truths that God restored to the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God through him. He considered this a fundamental, trunk of the tree, doctrine--actually his sermon actually titled The Trunk of the Tree covered a lot about government.
Here is some of what Herbert W. Armstrong taught:
Jesus came to start God's world, and He came to start it by starting the Church. The Church was started with one Man. ... Now He came to restore the government of God on this earth. ... It's a matter of government. It's a matter that makes sense all the way through. There had to be a Church Age to have time to train people that God is calling out of the world. ... Now restitution means restoring to a former state or condition, or restoring something that had been taken away and lost. Jesus is coming to restore the GOVERNMENT of God. He's coming to knock Satan off of that throne over the world, and Christ will sit on the throne and rule over all nations. ... And then, finally, we are going to go out to the other planets all over the vast universe. ... In other words, I'm giving you THE TRUNK OF THE TREE—the roots, and the trunk, and the major branches. And the others fill in with the smaller branches, and its smaller branches than that; then the little twigs. And all those are important too. They are all part of the same tree. (Armstrong HW. The Trunk of the Tree. Sermon, October 16, 1983)
The government of God has been restored to the Church, and the government of God has been placed in the Church. You read that in Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12. Christ is the head of the Church and under Christ in the administration of the government are an apostle or apostles, then evangelists, then pastors, then all are called elders, all ministers all the way up clear down to the lowest. So then there are teachers and elders both speaking elders and preaching elders, deacons and deaconesses. And the Church is restored in that form of government. The Sardis Church even didn't have the right form of government (Sermon. Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era by Herbert W. Armstrong given on December 17, 1983).
The government of God is of necessity government from the top down. It cannot be 'government by the consent of the governed' ...
The Presbyterian Church is organized with the presbyters or ministers in control. The Congregational Church delegates top authority to the congregation--"government by the consent of the governed."
And so it goes. The churches of this world of Satan are organized according to humanly devised patterns. But the Bible gives explicit directions in regard to Church government. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. God's form of government is, indeed, hierarchical. God the Father is head over Christ--the sole Lawgiver and supreme authority...
To administer these many operations, God--not a vote of the members--"hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers." Or, as stated in more detail in Ephesians 4:11 (RSV): "And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers."
An apostle is "one sent forth" with Christ's gospel message, including the supervision of proclaiming that message to the world by means and persons other than himself. Also an apostle was given supervision over all the local congregations or churches (I Cor. 16:1). The apostle Paul had oversight over the churches of the Gentile world (II Cor. 11:28).
The prophets set in the foundation of the Church...
Evangelists were leading ministers, proclaiming the gospel to the public, even raising up local churches and having supervision over some churches under the apostle. Therefore an evangelist may hold executive functions under the apostle in the Church headquarters or work today. An evangelist is not necessarily stationary. Pastors are stationary pastors over a local church or contingent group of local churches...
Old Testament Israel, the Church of the Old Testament, was also a nation in the world--though not OF the world as God organized it. Its GOVERNMENT was HIERARCHICAL. It was theocratic government--government from the top down--the very opposite of "democracy."
The CHURCH is organized under theocratic government, hierarchical in form. The members do not set officials in the Church. God sets EVEN THE LAY MEMBERS in the Church (I Cor. 12:18).
Jesus said explicitly, "No MAN CAN come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). The world, except for the specially called, is CUT OFF from God!
We have just covered the truth that GOD set officials to serve on the human level under Christ, in the Church. Members do not elect them. Yet in the churches of this world some believe in government by the entire congregation--"democracy"--and call themselves "Congregational." Others have organized themselves into government by ministers or presbytery and call themselves "Presbyterian." " (Mystery of the Ages, Dodd & Mead, 1985, pp.49, 242, 244, 246-247).
The 'loner'-the individual Christian' who wants to climb up into the kingdom some other way than by Christ and His way through His Church-is not being trained in Christ's manner of training, to rule and reign with Christ in his kingdom!… The person who says, 'I will get my salvation alone, outside of the Church' is totally deceived.
Now what about the "private," or "individual Christian," who says, "I don't want to be a part of the Church--I want to seek my salvation direct and alone with Christ." ...
The Church is ORGANIZED on GOD'S pattern of mutual teamwork and cooperation to function perfectly together. They shall become the GOD FAMILY as it shall exist at the time of Christ's Second Coming. Remember God IS that divine FAMILY! (Mystery of the Ages, pp. 270-271).
God has always, in dealing with humans, worked through ONE MAN at a time — one who believed God! Some in ancient Israel challenged this one-man leadership. Some, like-wise, have challenged it today! First, Moses' own brother and sister challenged his one-man leadership. ... That is the case of Korah, Dathan, Abiram and On.
"And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes ... famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses ... Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Eternal is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Eternal?" (Numbers 16:1-3).
They accused Moses of appointing himself — though there had been ample evidence by the fruits of Moses' leadership and even miracles God did through him, that they were without excuse, just as many are today. What happened to them?
"And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up ... They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation" (verses 32-33). ...
God has always worked through one man, primarily, at a time. God chose David and worked through him. Two of his sons, at different times, conspired to wrest his throne from him. But God protected David, and those sons were destroyed! ...
In founding God's Church, Jesus worked primarily through one man, Peter, even though He originally chose His 12 disciples. Few have ever noticed that Peter was the real leader... "Simeon [PETER] hath declared ..." — And James merely CONFIRMED Peter's decision, making it official. That ought to make clear this crucial 15th chapter of Acts — the one classic example of settling any disputed doctrine in the Church. And, though there were other apostles, God worked primarily through ONE man –PETER! Has God changed? Or is He the SAME still today? ...
The Jerusalem conference (Acts 15) showed that PETER was predominant over even Paul, although Paul was the ONE MAN God worked through primarily in the ministry to gentiles. ... Acts 15. This crucial crux chapter has been misinterpreted, twisted and distorted. I have tried to take space to MAKE IT CLEAR in this article. The other apostles and ministers were all in confusion, arguing and disputing. But CHRIST silenced them by speaking through His CHOSEN chief apostle, PETER! (Armstrong HW, And NOW Christ Sets Church Back On Track Doctrinally. Good News, April 1979).
"The PURPOSE for which Christ built the Church exemplifies its WORK...1) To ANNOUNCE to the world for its witness the coming Kingdom of God...2) To prepare the people to whom God adds to the Church...God has always worked with humans. He has worked with O N E M A N at a time...The WORK consists of proclaiming the Gospel, by radio, by television, in print" (Armstrong HW. JUST WHAT IS THE WORK? PASTOR GENERAL'S REPORT - VOL.3, NO.6 February 6, 1981).
To administer these many operations, God--not a vote of the members--"hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers." Or, as stated in more detail in Ephesians 4:11 (RSV): "And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers." ...
Evangelists were leading ministers, proclaiming the gospel to the public, even raising up local churches and having supervision over some churches ... an evangelist may hold executive functions under the apostle in the Church headquarters or work today. An evangelist is not necessarily stationary. Pastors are stationary pastors over a local church or contingent group of local churches. (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages, Chapter 6)
Anyone who had been in the old Worldwide Church of God in the 1980s while Herbert W. Armstrong was alive heard him repeatedly emphasize the importance of proper Church governance. But most did not later accept this teaching, and many of those who thought they did had issues truly understanding and abiding by it.
You need to know who the O N E M A N at this time leading the final phase of the work is (watch also Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God).
Consider all the COGs in the 21st century. Eliminate those that do not believe in hierarchical governance as they rejected one of the truths that many of their leaders once claimed was from God. Now, eliminate those groups that do not believe that they need to keep the priority of fulfilling Matthew 24:14 their top priority as well as those who have not had any significant reach to the world.
This then leaves about seven claimed COG groups which come to mind: PCG, LCG, RCG, COGaIC, ICG, COGPFK, and CCOG. The first six of which have major problems in their prophetic understandings as well as certain doctrinal problems.
Also, there is no indication from any of the first six that God gave their leaders and/or potential dreams before their respective groups were formed and that those dreams were confirmed. Only one, the CCOG has had God's confirmation of dreams, like the old Radio Church of God had, plus without the doctrinal and prophetic problems the other groups clearly have (and those are documented in the articles linked to their initials PCG, LCG, RCG, COGaIC, ICG, COGPFK).
Many people today, which perhaps can be best categorized as Laodicean, feel that because they have been hurt by some aspect of hierarchical governance, that they are best not moving to support one with proper 'one man rule' as it is sometimes called. Jesus actually dealt with this when He told the parable of the talents:
14 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' 21 His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' 23 His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'
24 "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.'
26 "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29 'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' (Matthew 25:14-30)
Many people do not know what to do and they seem to feel that doing nothing is the best response--they are in error. Notice also something else that Jesus taught:
14 "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:14-19)
Jesus DID NOT say you were better off not doing what needed to be done. The Laodiceans are condemned because they have a work that is different than the Philadelphia work--which is to go through the open doors while holding fast to sound doctrine (Revelation 3:7-13).
Yes, many people have been hurt by claimed COG leaders that misunderstood and/or misapplied hierarchical church governance. But that does NOT mean that this is a sufficient reason to abandon it. The children of Israel used this excuse themselves related to the sons of Samuel, and God condemned them for it even though accomodation was made (1 Samuel 8:6-9). And while the children of Israel did have valid problems with leaders (1 Samuel 8:3-5), God did not consider this a reason to reject His form of governance, but instead warned the children of Israel (1 Samuel 8:10-18). They were told that rejecting governance was rejecting God (1 Samuel 10:19).
Notice something from the old Radio Church of God:
Paulician Church Government
The Paulicians claimed to be THE "holy universal and apostolic church" founded by Jesus Christ and his apostles. Of the false churches, they would say: "We do not belong to these, for they have long ago broken connection with the church."
They taught that the Church is not a building, not just an organization, but an organism — the body of truly converted baptized persons, which has continued unbroken with the apostolic traditions from its beginning. Jesus Christ was and is the HEAD of that Church.
Paulicians also taught that the Scripture is for the layman as much as for the minister. They continually urged the people to check the Scriptures for themselves, and accused the priests of hiding the Scriptures in order to deprive the people of the truth and of making monetary profit in addition by dispensing a SUPPOSED word of God in its place. ...
Four of their greatest leaders, the Paulicians called APOSTLES and PROPHETS. ...
Only by the choice of Jesus Christ, by the Scriptural ordinance of the laying on of hands, were different ranks of ministers ordained to authority, and that by those who were ministers before them. The succession of ministers thus begun by the hands of Jesus Christ remained unbroken in the True Church through all ages.
Some of the men so ordained may prove unworthy. (Judas is an example.) They may be more interested in physical things than in service or the gospel.
Among the Paulicians were men, from time to time, whose works made it obvious Jesus Christ Himself had ranked them as apostles.
An apostle need not be an impressive looking man, or of HUMAN nobility. Fishermen, publicans, and tax-collectors have been among Christ's apostles (Mat. 4:18, 21; 9:9; Luke 5:27). Any greatness is not of the man, but of the OFFICE. No man is qualified for it but through the Holy Spirit.
Though you might not respect the MAN, YOU had BETTER respect that OFFICE!
THAT office is of God. (Lesson 50 - I Will Build My Church, Part 2. 58 Lesson: Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, 1965)
The New Testament endorsed prophets and the old Radio Church of God taught that they existed beyond New Testament times.
Do not be afraid to believe God's word and take action consistent with what the Bible teaches. Do not be too fearful (Matthew 25:24-30) and be willing to change as Jesus urges in these latter days (Revelation 3:19).
If you are not supporting the Continuing Church of God because of fear of making a change, consider that the New Testament teaches:
7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:7-8)
Overcome your fear of taking godly action.
If people once in the old WCG want to see some type of a sign, they should consider accepting the dreams, as they presumably accepted Herbert Armstrong's account of his wife's dream.
And yes, I Bob Thiel did have confirmed prophetic dreams, and another person had one which her husband concluded was about Bob Thiel, and the Continuing Church of God, which none of us had an idea of when we had our dreams later formed (for details see Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God). Some might not want to accept dreams as a sign, but this is what God did for the old Radio Church of God, and people should accept the sign(s) that God gives, as He limits signs to what He wants (Matthew 12:39; Luke 11:29).
Of course, dreams are not the most important criteria for God's chosen leader. Notice what Jesus said about prophets:
15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)
We in the Continuing Church of God have reached people in over 220 countries and territories, and millions of our articles are accessed every year and we have materials in multiple languages, plus also reach multiple thousands over YouTube television and millions over the radio (for more details, see The Final Phase of the Work). While there are other groups that reach people, those that do have serious doctrinal, prophetic, and/or integrity issues that CCOG does not have.
Unlike some of the other groups who needed millions of dollars to reach people, we in the Continuing Church of God have not done it that way.
6 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 4:6)
Can you believe in God's form of governance and work?
Notice also the following article from Roderick C. Meredith of the Living Church of God which addresses a variety of issues related to proper (and improper) church governance (note that any bolding or italics were in the original):
Correct Church Government is Vital
By Roderick C. Meredith
The religions of this world are confused about almost every major doctrine in the Bible. It should be no surprise that they are also confused about the biblical form of Church government.
Yet the biblical form of Church government is absolutely vital in identifying where Christ is working, and in teaching members of God’s Church the important lessons of correct government. After all, true Christians are preparing to rule— under Christ—the cities and nations of this entire world. Therefore, learning about right government and the experience of practicing that form of government is crucial in the development of the future kings and priests who will soon be given that responsibility when Christ returns!
Also, it is vital that we all understand how wrong it is for “every Tom, Dick and Harry” to rush off to start his own church, whether or not he is in any way qualified! Mr. Herbert Armstrong used to explain this very carefully and thoughtfully. He would often quote Hebrews 5:4, “And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.” Throughout His inspired word, God is very specific in condemning men’s efforts to “ordain themselves”—or appoint themselves to some job in the ministry!
Perhaps the most dramatic example of this is the situation involving Korah and the “two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown” (Numbers 16:1–2). As we see in verse 3, these men tried to exalt themselves, and indicated that they should be able to take the job of leadership over the congregation “just like” Moses and Aaron. So Moses said, “and are you seeking the priesthood also” (v. 10). Obviously, God knew the hearts of these men—and knew that Moses was correct in his assessment. These men were trying to take over the leadership, even though God had clearly appointed Moses and Aaron to that responsibility.
God dramatically gave us a powerful lesson when “the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly” (vv. 32–33). We should all study Numbers 16, and learn the lesson that none is to “appoint” himself as a minister—or spiritual “priest”— apart from God using those He has already put into the ministry to do the appointing or ordaining.
As most of you know, Mr. Armstrong was ordained by the Sardis era Church of God back in 1931... No one should try to “appoint himself” to the ministry or to take an office Christ has not given him!
Remember, following correct Church government involves faith that Jesus Christ is alive and doing His job. But in today’s society, most people place great value on democratic government, because that is currently the most popular form of government in much of the Western world. But will democracy be the inspired form of government after Christ’s return? Remember that Jesus Christ “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). What form of government did He always lead His true servants to follow— in both Old and New Testaments? And what kind of government will be followed in the soon-coming Kingdom of God?
Jesus stated, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’” (Luke 4:4). Are we willing to open our minds and hearts and see the biblical approach to Church government? God says, “‘For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,’ says the LORD. ‘But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word’” (Isaiah 66:2). Will you fear and tremble before God’s word, and determine to be absolutely sure that your church is following the biblical form of government?...
God’s Government in the Old Testament
The nation of Israel was also called “the congregation in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). How did God inspire this church-state body to be governed? Notice this instruction, which Jethro gave under inspiration from the One who became Jesus Christ: “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you” (Exodus 18:21–22).
So God led Moses to appoint dedicated men to these responsibilities. Certainly, much counsel, thought and fervent prayer must have been involved. There was no “politicking”—and no voting! Later, God led King David of Israel—the “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22)—to use the same form of government (2 Samuel 18:1). Remember that in the soon-coming resurrection, David will be back in his same job as king of all Israel (Jeremiah 30:9). And then—understanding more fully the spirit of the law—King David will again govern the people using God’s laws. “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them” Ezekiel 37:24).
It is clear that God’s government was, throughout the Old Testament—as it will be in God’s soon-coming Kingdom here on Earth—a hierarchical government with direction from God through the leaders under Him directing His people. Scripture does not record any exceptions to this practice receiving God’s blessing.
Remember that the Being who emptied Himself to become our Savior was the God of the Old Testament. “And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). The author of Hebrews tells us: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). So, it should be obvious that Christ does not keep “switching” His form of government in directing His people through the ages.
Church Government in the New Testament
Throughout the New Testament, we find the living Christ directing His servants to follow the same pattern of government that He had inspired over the previous 1,500 years. Jesus Himself set the example. “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles” (Luke 6:12–13).
Here, Jesus gives us a powerful example. A true servant of God must pray fervently and seek God’s will— not his own! And yet, in the end, such a leader should make the decisions involved in directing the affairs of God’s Church. There were never any “boards” or committees directing Jesus, Peter, James, John or Paul, telling them what to do. After much thought, and then fervent prayer to the Father throughout the night, Jesus then chose the twelve apostles...
The letter to Titus begins, “Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Putting this together with verse 5, three basic points become clear:
Christ was the Head of Paul, His apostle.
Under the leadership of the living Jesus Christ, Paul had authority to direct the activities of Titus, an evangelist, and also to give him instructions on how to carry out his responsibilities.
Titus, responsible to Christ overall and to Paul especially in administrative matters, had authority to “appoint elders” within the guidelines set by Paul—not by any board of men.
This clear pattern of government is evident throughout the entire New Testament. The overall Headship of Christ is stressed again and again. But it is also made clear that Christ Himself has established important offices in the Church of God for the sake of unity: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–13).
It should also be very clear that the living Christ has always directed each phase of His Work primarily through one man at a time. Moses directed different phases of God’s Work within the Israel of his day, and after him Joshua, then Samuel, then others. God indicates that He primarily used the Apostle Peter to direct the Work to the Jews, and the Apostle Paul to direct the Work to the Gentile world: “But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised” (Galatians 2:7–9)...
Misguided people often seize on several common examples to try to contradict the clear pattern of government God reveals in His word. One of these is the idea that in Acts 1:20–26, Matthias was chosen to replace Judas by a form of voting!
The above idea is clearly unscriptural, and some may hold it partly through ignorance of the Old Testament practice of appealing to God for a decision through the Urim and Thummim.
Notice the context of this matter: after finding two dedicated men who met the qualifications of having been with Christ from the beginning of His ministry all the way to His resurrection, the apostles then appealed to God to make the decision between these two, “And they prayed and said, ‘You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.’ And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:24–26).
Notice this reference from The New Bible Commentary: Revised— “‘And they cast lots’. Deliberate selection and prayer played their parts in this appointment as well as the lot. The lot was a sacred institution in ancient Israel and was a well established means for ascertaining the divine will (cf. Pr. 16:33), being in fact the principle of decision by Urim and Thummim. This is the first and last occasion of the employment of the lot by [during] the period between the ascension and Pentecost; Jesus had gone, and the Holy Spirit had not yet come.”
Besides showing that this was an appeal to God’s will before the Holy Spirit had come, it is significant that this was the last time the apostles cast lots. Once the Holy Spirit came, the living Christ—through God’s Spirit—would guide His faithful ministers in all major decisions.
Some also read the practice of politics and voting into the appointment of deacons as described in Acts 6. Yet one need only look carefully at the scriptural context to see the error of that assumption. Verse 3 gives the key information: “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”
So the brethren were to sincerely “seek out” a number of individuals who met certain qualifications. They may have found quite a few men whose “fruits” showed wisdom and the Holy Spirit. But then, did the brethren as a whole vote on which of these men would become deacons?
Of course not! That has never been God’s way at any time in human history, nor in the history of the true Church! No, the brethren did not vote. The apostles—no doubt after much counsel and prayer—appointed Stephen and the other deacons to be ordained.
Some have also misunderstood the account of the Jerusalem conference, as given in Acts 15. There certainly was an open and brotherly atmosphere in that landmark conference. There was obviously a good deal of hearty and perhaps even heated discussion among the “apostles and elders” (v. 6).
But, “And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: ‘Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us’” (vv. 7–8). Then Peter proceeded to explain God’s decision to give the Gentiles the Holy Spirit without having them first become circumcised.
Afterward, Paul and Barnabas also showed how God had backed up this principle by “miracles and wonders” (v. 12). James—the presiding apostle at Jerusalem—referred to Peter’s declaration, enlarged on it, and said, “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God” (v. 19). So James stated the consensus judgment or decision of the leadership.
Commenting on this procedure, The New Bible Commentary: Revised states: “It seems from v. 12 (‘all the assembly’) that other members of the Jerusalem church were present, although deliberation and decision rested with the leaders.” Again, it is obvious that there was no “voting” as such, but rather much hearty counsel from the apostles and elders. The apostolic “pillars” such as Peter and Paul made the major speeches, then James stated the final decision to which the Holy Spirit had led these dedicated men.
Much Input and COUNSEL Must Be Sought
In all the above examples, a number of people gave advice or counsel before the leaders made a decision. God clearly tells us, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15). As God’s word states, “Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22)...
A dedicated servant of the living God will always try to seek the “counsel” of at least several qualified individuals before making any major decision. Also, a true servant of God will spend much time in thoughtful, fervent prayer to God—asking for His will to be made clear—before making an important decision. We have already noted that Jesus prayed all night before choosing His twelve apostles (Luke 6:12). We remember how Paul fasted and prayed for three days in seeking God’s will after being struck down on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:9–11).
Notice also this fervent seeking of God’s will in the appointment of elders. “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:23). Such humble, sensitive seeking of God’s will should be the hallmark of all His true ministers. As long as this attitude is maintained, Jesus Christ will be there to guide His Church as its living Head (Colossians 1:18).
A key distinguishing attitude of God’s true servants is that they do regard themselves as just that—servants. Finding the disciples arguing among themselves about “who is the greatest,” Jesus found an opportunity to explain a very important principle. “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many’” (Matthew 20:25–28).
All in authority in God’s Church should have, and should conduct themselves with, this attitude of service. We all know that, in the past, some ministers would appoint themselves as “dictators” in their areas—trying to run the lives of the brethren even in purely personal matters. This was wrong, and is completely unjustified by Scripture! For each leader in God’s Church should humbly try to serve each of the brethren in ways that help them increase their own wisdom and develop their own human potential.
Each of us should try to understand those we serve, and we should endeavor to strengthen, encourage and inspire them to be like Jesus Christ in every aspect of their lives. Only in this way can we truly “love our neighbor as ourselves.”
Peter, who had been impetuous and “pushy” early in his ministry, was later inspired to write: “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:1–4).
God clearly showed His approach to government from the very beginning, when He organized the family unit and set the husband in charge (Genesis 3:16). Yet, even here it is the living Jesus Christ to whom we should look as our ultimate Head under God the Father. “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Notice that although there is no voting, and the husband is the undisputed head of the family unit in God’s sight (Ephesians 5:23), he is still admonished to practice “servant leadership” and to serve his wife in how he leads the family (v. 25). So all of us in God’s Church—and especially those in the ministry—should try to “lay down our lives” for the brethren. We all need to heed the Apostle John’s inspired instruction, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
FAITH in the Living Christ
If we have genuine faith in the living Jesus Christ as the active Head of the Church, we will quickly see and submit to His form of government in the Church. For we will look beyond men, and beyond the human foibles that we all have. We will see that Christ has anointed, with His Spirit, certain men who are preaching His full Truth and really doing His Work—and that He has promised to be there to guide and inspire those ministers in leading His Church (Matthew 28:20).
Jesus said, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:19–20).
So, in determining where Christ is working, and whom He is leading to walk more fully in His ways, one needs to look at the “fruits”—the results. Is the biblical form of government being followed? Is the message of the Kingdom of God being preached powerfully to the world? Is the prophetic warning of the coming Great Tribulation being proclaimed urgently to modern Israel—the Jewish people and the descendants of the so-called “Lost Ten Tribes”? Is the full Truth of God’s laws and ways being taught? Are people being taught to grow in grace and knowledge, “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”?
When the above “fruits” are present in a church organization, one can have confidence that Christ is there and will direct its leadership. And if the leadership should turn aside— “water down” the Truth significantly, or fail to really preach the true Gospel and do the Work—then Scripture clearly instructs the brethren to cease to follow such an organization and its leadership. As Paul wrote, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, KJV)!
Notice how the apostles answered when they were threatened and pressured to stop preaching the Gospel. “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
So, once the “fruits” are evident, it is to the living Christ we should look to lead and inspire His faithful ministers to direct the affairs of His Church in the right way. Truly dedicated Christians will have faith in this. Not faith in men, but in the living Jesus Christ!
Some may say, “But mistakes were made in the past and people were hurt by Church government!” This is exactly the kind of reasoning the people used in Samuel’s day (1 Samuel 8:1–7). Many had been hurt by Samuel’s sons misusing their offices. So, what did the people do? Did they cry out to God in prayer and fasting to either chasten or remove those offending persons?
No! They came to Samuel en masse — like a “ march on Washington”—and they demanded, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).
These self-willed men were not merely demanding a redress of the current misuse of office. They demanded that the entire form of government be changed! They felt they could not trust God to direct Samuel and his sons, so they wanted a form of government more like the carnal nations around them. This would be like people today wanting democracy simply because it is the way of the world around them! And Israel has been cut off from God’s direct form of government ever since! Partly because of this, the modern descendants of Israel are soon headed to doom, in the Great Tribulation!
To use a modern example, suppose a president or prime minister abuses his office, perhaps by committing adultery, perjury or larceny. Do you immediately do away with the office of the presidency or the prime ministership?
No! It never pays to “throw the baby out with the bath water!” Church leaders’ human mistakes never justify going against God’s entire approach to Church government and His law. Yet, when human beings find they have been in one ditch, they often leap out, run across the middle of the road, and jump into the other ditch! The answer is not in going to either extreme, but in trusting Christ to guide His Church, following the pattern of Church government as He clearly reveals it throughout the Bible.
Even back in Old Testament times, faithful men and women knew that God was responsible to guide His servants. Faithful King Jehoshaphat set judges in the land and said to them, “Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment” (2 Chronicles 19:6). How much more will the resurrected Jesus Christ be with and guide His New Covenant ministers who are, in fact, preaching His Truth and doing His Work?
Be sure to examine very carefully the “fruits” of leaders who claim to be of God. If good fruits are clearly there, and they are practicing the principles described above, one can have faith that the Savior who died for us, and is now resurrected and seated at God the Father’s right hand, can and will lead and guide them— so long as they follow His form of Church organization and government, preach His Truth and do His Work. (Correct Church Government is Vital. Living Church News. March-April 2008, pp. 3-5, 17-19).
Although pride gets in many people's way, including religious leaders, the truth is that submission to proper governance shows that one will properly submit to God and to accept His will in one's life. Yet, one should not submit to biblically-improper teachings if the leader/church has strayed away from the Bible. His comment that "the living Christ has always directed each phase of His Work primarily through one man at a time" is of interest as it is my view that Dr. Meredith is NOT the one man that God is primarily working with to complete the final phase of the work. God used Herbert W. Armstrong to establish the Philadelphian phase, an evangelist to lead the transitional phase, and a prophet to lead the final phase of the work.
The late evangelist John Ogwyn wrote (bolding in original)
The Final Phase of Church History...
The Church of Philadelphia is characterized by a zeal to do the Work... Satan has sown confusion and discouragement... the Gospel will be preached to the world in this end-time (Matthew 24:14), and there is a growing assembly of believers that is both zealous for the full Truth and zealous to finish God's Work. Just as God’s people have had to do from the first century onward, so His people today must "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). God states clearly: "He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness" (Romans 9:28). Who will He use to do it? According to Daniel 11:32 it is "the people who know their God [that] shall be strong, and carry out great exploits." (Ogwyn, God's Church through the Ages, pp. 55,57-58)
Notice also the following that was published in The Journal: News of the Churches of God: in 2013:
THE JOURNAL asked Dr. Thiel if he believes only one church group at a time is qualified to wear the mantle of authority from God in the Christian age.
(Some Church of God groups and their members interpret the seven congregations of Revelation 2-3 as prophesied eras of true Christianity that have stretched down through the last 2,000 years or so.)
“If you accept hierarchical governance the way it’s discussed in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians,” Dr. Thiel said, “the mantle, if you will, would reside with the highest ecclesiastical authority.
“And, since prophets are above evangelists, etc., then that would say that, unless a different type of prophet rose up or someone who was truly an apostle rose up, then the mantle would be with the highest non-self-appointed legitimate Church of God leader.”
The above is consistent with the Bible and the beliefs of various COG leaders, including the late Herbert Armstrong, throughout history. For example, even though A.N. Dugger did not fall into severe apostasy (if he was ever truly in the COG to begin with), because he ignored certain truths (for example, A.N. Dugger saw truth in doctrine that Herbert Armstrong brought up as he admitted in writing on July 28, 1929; and when he had a chance with his new organization in 1933 to correct them, A.N. Dugger failed to do so), the mantle from CG7 was passed to Herbert Armstrong in the 1930s (though Herbert Armstrong did not realize at the time, and probably it was in 1933 as HWA later wrote). However, A.N. Dugger continued for many more decades as a major CG7 leader. But those of the Philadelphian era and its remnant do not believe that A.N. Dugger could have retained the top ecclesiastical authority after the 1930s (if he even ever had it, which because of his views on the Godhead cast severe doubt on that)--hence if he had it, he lost it. Although Herbert Armstrong did not directly mention it, according to another former CG7 President Robert Coulter, A.N. Dugger also had some serious personal integrity issues around this time that Herbert W. Armstrong would have likely known about (Robert Coulter not only told me this personally, it is documented in his book The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day) pp. 262, 271, 283-285, etc.). A.N. Dugger had time to change but he would not in certain key areas.
A major reason that CG7 lost the mantle because it would not correct known errors and teach the truth. The 'mantle-holding/retaining' Church of God is the one that is "the pillar and ground of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). That is why God could not allow LCG to be that group and part of why CCOG had to form. Unlike the old Radio/Worldwide Church of God, LCG would not print retractions for errors that it made, but instead insisted it was proper to knowingly send out literature with errors.
Roderick Meredith once wrote:
In II Kings 2:8-15, we find the account where the great prophet Elijah was taken up into heaven — turning his office and mantle over to Elisha. Read this account carefully. Notice that Elisha expected to carryon in the power of God as had Elijah. For he asked for a "double portion" of Elijah's spirit to be upon him. As Elijah ascended up to heaven, his mantle fell on Elisha. ...
Today, you should personally awake to the fact that the mantle and power of Elijah will be manifested among God's true servants in this age.
For as John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), so God says of our day: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and. dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:5-6). (Meredith RC. Tapping Your INNER POWERS Is Not Enough. Plain Truth, October-November 1979)
Unlike Herbert Armstrong who restored truths to the Philadelphia era, and Bob Thiel who added more details to those truths, Dr. Meredith has not done that. Nor has he fulfilled the prophetic office.
Dr. Meredith is not the ONE MAN that God is now primarily working through as he has in various ways disqualified himself for that role (presuming he ever had it--it may have been that it was the late Dibar Apartian until his death)--for some details, please see Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God. Dr. Meredith had years to keep his promises, but then ended up refusing to do so, despite repeatedly reminders and him repeatedly agreeing to do so.
The old Worldwide Church of God taught:
Since Church leaders are appointed and not voted into office, and since, therefore, the members are not watchdogs over the leaders, who is responsible for keeping these leaders on track spiritually and administratively?
The answer is that God's government in His Church is a government of faith. Simply put, this means members believe that behind the physical, outward appearance of the Church, is the unseen hand of Jesus Christ, who directs its affairs.
True Christians today trust Christ to direct the Church, bless it, correct it or its officers if need be and steer its general course.
From the time of Moses and the rebellion of Korab (a leader in the congregation who was killed by God for insubordination — Numbers 16), through the age of the apostles and the rejection of Judas Iscariot from his apostleship, to the present day, Christ has demonstrated His ability to:
run His Church,
place capable men in their proper positions,
discipline those who need it,
and reject from the Church those unfit to wear the Christian mantle.
- The very existence of the Church and the Church's continuing vitality proves this beyond dispute! (Doctrines of the Church: Church Governance. Worldwide Church of God, 1986/1987)From the time of Moses and the rebellion of Korah (a leader in the congregation who was killed by God for insubordination — Numbers 16) , through the age of the apostles and the rejection of Judas Iscariot from his apostleship, to the present day, Christ has demonstrated His ability to run His Church, place capable men in their proper positions, discipline those who need it and reject from His Church those unfit to wear the Christian mantle. The very existence of the Church and the Church's continuing vitality prove this beyond dispute! (Prove All Things: Governance in the Church. Good News, May 1986)
This is important as, even though many have had hands laid upon them, they were not always faithful, yet the true Church has continued from the time of the apostles. But leaders who are not truly faithful, lose the mantle. That is why Bob Thiel left the Living Church of God. Ordained minister Gaylyn Bonjour told me on December 15, 2011 and March 23, 2012 that my anointing seemed to be related to the passing of the mantle, and considering that and the rejection of biblical truth by LCG's leadership, it was clear to me that the mantle could no longer abide with LCG's top leadership.
A major problem that those in certain COG groups have is that they willingly deny God's word (hence they are not Philadelphian, as the real Philadelphians do not deny it per Revelation 3:7-8) as they often misundertand proper church governance and accept statements from leaders that are in conflict with scripture. This is similar to how those in the Church of Rome also view their leaders positions and this is a major error.
Yet this is the case amongst those excessively loyal to leaders over the Bible in groups such as PCG, RCG, and LCG.
In late 2013, the Editorial Staff of Dr. Meredith's church put the following out:
Those who act on God’s word are able to understand it and retain the truth in their own lives. Those who think they “know better” or that “it doesn’t apply” to them will lose the knowledge they once had. (Editorial Staff. To WHOM Do You Listen? http://www.lcg.org/cgi-bin/lcg/lcn/lcn-issue.cgi?category=LivingChurchNews&item=1382630828 2013, viewed 11/01/13)
The above should also be applied to leadership at LCG because, in various ways, they simply do not act like they need to heed Jesus' words in Matthew 18 related to church leadership. Notice what Jesus taught:
15 "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
18 "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:15-20)
Sadly, my own experience was that Dr. Meredith did not respond to my bringing up his lack of keeping his promises to me (he absolutely sinned against me), and then when I was with others to get him to do it, he still did not keep them, so I finally told "the church" in late 2012 and 2013.
Furthermore, when Dr. Meredith sent out "to the church" letters against me, he never once 1) spoke to me about the issues before or per Matthew 18:15, 2) ever came to me with one or two others to discuss matter and 3) although I never refused correction (as no one told me about personal problems), he "told it to the church." Furthermore, what he told "to the church" contained false information and improper accusations. This is not proper governance. LCG is not what its members hope that it is. Unless LCG changes, those who are with it will not possibly understand when the Great Tribulation will begin until it is too late (for some details, please see Is there a need for a prophet now?).
"You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:42-45)
Those who do not believe that they have to heed what the Bible says are not truly servant leaders.
Although God used the high priest Caiaphas and even had that high priest make what ended up being a true prophetic statement about Jesus (John 11:49-52), He had that envious high priest (cf. Matthew 26:57; 27:18; John 11:49-53) replaced (cf. Hebrews 7:12-28).
Herbert W Armstrong wrote:
THE WORK of God, which the Church had been added to back up and assist, was started by myself, with only my wife as full time assistant. I started the radio broadcasting program in January, 1934, and The Plain Truth, in February, 1934. The Good News, as the organ for our members, had started earlier in 1933.
The Work GREW. God continued to ADD to His Church such as HE called to back up the GREAT COMMISSION, and to develop the godly, holy and righteous CHARACTER to qualify them to be made kings and priests UNDER CHRIST after His return to earth as KING of Kings at the beginning of the millenial rule.
For 35 years the WORK OF GOD grew steadily at the rate of approximately 30 percent a year. I do not know of any organization, secular or of God, that has shown so remarkable growth, starting from NOTHING financially (though we started with something greater — FAITH in the living Christ HEAD of the Church and the WORK). This Work was built literally on FAITH. The living Christ blessed it richly, even though there was carnal opposition and persecution from the beginning.
Read carefully now. As the Work grew, so did the human organization to work UNDER me in getting God's Work done. Then, after this 35-year unmatched GROWTH with God's blessing, I made a basic mistake, which I did not then realize was contrary to GOD'S form of organization. It was a detail that NONE in the Church realized was unscriptural.
It happened this way: As the work continued growing and growing, especially after the foundation of Ambassador College, my younger son, Garner Ted, had become converted. Mr. Roderick C. Meredith had entered Ambassador College as a student beginning its third year, fall of 1949. He was developing as a leader under me. He saw the rapid strides my son Garner Ted was making at the time, spiritually. My elder son, Richard D. (Dick), was growing spiritually too, but at a slower more steady rate.
Mr. Meredith began to urge me to make Garner Ted vice president under me, in the Work. I thought it a good suggestion. ...
Christ built Work
Now to the CENTRAL TRUTH leading into today's state of the Work. Brethren, READ THIS SERIOUSLY! Jesus Christ, the living HEAD of God's Church, started this present era of His Work through me. I DID NOT BUILD THE WORK OR THE CHURCH — the living Christ built it, using me as His instrument and His apostle.
But I made the mistake, unrealizing that mistake, of allowing an office of authority to be injected BETWEEN ME AND THE MINISTRY AND CHURCH!
For the first 35 years of this Work, I was the sole human in supreme command, UNDER CHRIST. There was opposition and persecution — from without — but THERE WAS NO QUESTION OF WHO WAS IN CHARGE! During those 35 years the Church and the Work GREW AND GREW AND GREW! It had Christ's BLESSING!
I knew that GOD'S FORM OF ORGANIZATION IS FROM THE TOP DOWN. I DID NOT REALIZE that allowing an office of authority to be interjected BETWEEN me and the Church was contrary to God's form of human organization.
WHAT RESULTED? Great confusion grew in the Church — especially in and around headquarters. "WHO IS REALLY IN AUTHORITY?" many wondered, perplexed. The Work STOPPED GROWING. (Christ Puts Church On Bible Form Of Organization. Good News, June 5, 1978)
Until I saw the above on 12/24/16, I did not realize that according to Herbert W. Armstrong, it was a suggestion by Dr. Meredith that stopped the church's growth.
Notice something Dr. Meredith wrote:
Personal - Pray for Our Financial Growth!Roderick C. MeredithJanuary/February 2016
One special prayer that I would ask all of you to join me in praying is this: let us all together beseech God to grant us in this Work at least half of the financial increase that He gave Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong for about 35 years! For, as Mr. Armstrong explained many times, God gave the Work under his direction about 30 percent increase year by year for about 35 years.
Near the end of his ministry, with personal problems and sins growing throughout the Church, those blessings were taken away or cut back. ...
God Almighty is still alive, He is working through us right now, and—as these terrible end-time events approach—we really need to shake the world with the knowledge of His Kingdom far more than we have ever done. Remember, brethren, we are only “beginning to fight.” We have not yet finished! So again, since Jesus told us: “ask and you shall receive,” we can with faith ask God to give us at least one-half of the financial increase He gave His Church all those years when Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong were still alive and doing the Work. That would be a 15 percent financial increase of this Work year by year. I hope all of you will sincerely and zealously do your part. But I am not going to “press you” on that. For that is up to you and between you and God as you “walk with Him” in the fear of God. But I feel that God would want us to cry out and ask Him for the blessing that I have already indicated. Then, we could go on far more television stations, greatly increase our impact over the Internet—which is certainly the “wave of the future”—increase our personal appearance campaigns and “grow” the Work in every possible way.
When I first began this present Work back in 1992, I was a little embarrassed to ask for money. ...
Most of you realize this. If you go around your neighborhood you find virtually no one who has heard of the Living Church of God or any of the other groups that are trying to do God’s Work today. This needs to change! So I hope all of us can begin to fast and to pray fervently and ask God to help us stir ourselves to do our part far more zealously and begin to serve our Creator with zeal and to give of our physical substance sacrificially as we are able. Some of our brethren are already doing this. But I am fully aware that many of our brethren—often fine brethren who mean well and who are already giving a little bit of their substance—are nevertheless sitting on hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars worth of money, property and other resources they very rarely touch to help do the Work of the living God at the very end of this age.
Think of it! ...
God’s Word tells us: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus,having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32–37). God does not ask us to “have all things in common” as did these first-century Christians, but we can still be moved and inspired today by their great zeal.
Is it too much to ask that all of us follow the pattern of the early Church and give of ourselves, our time, our energy and our possessions in the very service of Jesus Christ at the end of this age?
So, Dr. Meredith believes that sins cause COG groups to have less than 30% growth, so he is hoping for 15%. There are sins in LCG (see Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God). By Dr. Meredith's logic, there are severe problems with LCG.
But is there a group with over 30% growth per year?
Yes, the Continuing Church of God has had that type of growth (see CCOG's Four Years and God Revealing Philadelphia?). We have had this 30% growth type of blessing that the Philadelphia era once had and that Dr. Meredith wishes LCG had.
We in CCOG have been more faithful to church government than GCG/LCG. Actually, it was mispplications of church government that allowed for the GCG takeover, and ultimately, my departure from LCG.
On October 3, 2008, Dr. Meredith (then Presiding Evangelist of the Living Church of God) telephoned Bob Thiel and said to him, “God may consider you to be a prophet.” In January 2009, Dr. Meredith told Bob Thiel over the telephone that if he (Dr. Meredith) was raised to the office of apostle, he was considering ordaining him (Bob Thiel) as a prophet.
A few weeks after having a discussion with Dr. Bob Thiel about prophets and his own anointing for a "double-portion" of God's Spirit, Dr. R.C. Meredith declared that according to the New Testament, that one who is a prophet can have "inspired preaching" or teaching as opposed to having seen a vision or received regularly prophetic messages in dreams as those prophets in the Old Testament did (Meredith RC. God is building a spiritual family. LCG DVE703 sermon, May 5, 2012).
And that is consistent with what happened at the start of the New Testament church (cf. Acts 2:1-18)--though at some point, New Testament prophets did have one or more dreams or visions (e.g. Acts 16:9; cf. Numbers 12:6) (see also Dreams, the Bible, and the Continuing Church of God).
The New Testament seems to discuss several types of prophets. Some, like the Apostle John, received direct revelation from Jesus (Revelation 1). Some others were apparently "local" prophets (1 Corinthians 14:29-32) who assisted in the understanding of matters in local areas. And some were apparently prophetic evangelists or evangelical prophets (like apparently Timothy), who had some prophetic gift, but may or may not have had many/any visions/dreams. Timothy had governmental authority and that was so recognized by the old Radio Church of God (e.g. Hoeh H. GOVERNMENT in Our Church. Good News, August 1953). Although it was not always scripturally clear about prophets, the old Radio Church of God realized:
"And God" — not man, but GOD — "has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues."
The most complete list of the gifts of spiritual administration, however, is found in Ephesians 4:11. "And He [Jesus] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers."
Again, we observe that Paul, under inspiration, mentions bishops [elders] and deacons as church officers in I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.
... under the apostles, next in spiritual order and above the evangelists are listed the prophets (I Cor. 12:28). (Hoeh H. GOVERNMENT in Our Church. Good News, August 1953).
As far as dreams go, at least one preceded the start of the old Radio Church of God and at least two preceded the start of the Continuing Church of God (check out Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God)--none were reported to have preceded the start of the Global or Living Church of God.
Dr. R.C. Meredith, while in the old Radio Church of God under the leadership of the late Herbert W. Armstrong, wrote (bolding mine; italics his):
The true Church of God is the ONLY Church which directly follows not only the form of government but employs the very titles which God Himself inspired as the designations for His ministers of various ranks and functions. These titles are partially included in the various spiritual gifts mentioned in I Corinthians 12: “And GOD hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (Verse 28)...Those mentioned first are apostles...
Next are mentioned “prophets.” These can be either men or women and were used to foretell future events by special and personal revelation from God (Acts 11:27-30; 21:9-10). There is no example of them having any administrative authority over other ministers in the Church unless they were also apostles or evangelists. Also, from the later chapters of Acts and the following centuries of true Church history, it would seem that their function has diminished and that Christ is not placing many in this office since the basic revelation of the Bible is now complete.
Next in authority under the apostles were the evangelists. Originally, they included such men as Timothy, Titus, Epaphroditus, Silas and others who assisted the apostles in directing the work of the ministry. (Meredith RC. How Church Government Really WORKS. Good News, March 1964, pp. 4-5)
So according to the writings of Dr. Meredith, with the editorial approval of Herbert W. Armstrong, prophets who also do the work of an evangelist, "prophetic evangelists" or "evangelistic prophets," can have administrative authority. And that is so (other prophets in New Testament and later times probably also had some type of administrative authority as well). And not placing MANY in that role does not mean that CHRIST is not placing any.
Dr. Meredith also mentioned a group that he called local prophets (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:29-32):
As God’s Church in this age has GROWN over the past thirty years in this era, Christ has filled ALL of the ministerial ranks outlined in Ephesians 4 except that of the local “prophets”- who were not much in evidence toward the latter part of the Biblical history and after the Bible was written. (Meredith RC. How Church Government Really WORKS. Good News, March 1964, pp. 6,24)
And, that combined with those like the Apostle John, show that there were apparently at least three kinds. Yet, many today in the COG do not seem to realize this. They may wish to be like the Bereans and "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11).
And, of course, any minister (or church member) below the level of a prophet who truly believes in biblical church governance would accept the authority of a prophet, especially if he also functions in an evangelical role/position. It should be clear to those willing to look (see CCOG's Four Years and God Revealing Philadelphia?) that I am an "evangelical prophet" or "prophetic evangelist "(see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God). But, sadly, Dr. Meredith (who is now aged, etc.) and the organization that he heads have thus far not decided to follow such a one.
Sadly, hypocrisy over church governance is a major problem with LCG. A major problem is that most there seem to act like loyalty to individual leaders is more important than authority to the Bible--but this is absolutely not supposed to be the case:
We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)
Furthermore, LCG has a major problem with Matthew 18:15-17.
Here is something I wrote in a letter to Dr. Meredith on June 9, 2011:
I should perhaps let you know that I was once told by of the Charlotte staff that "Matthew 18:15-17" does not apply around here" (meaning Charlotte). I asked, "Shouldn't it?" And this staff member responded, "Of course it should, it just doesn't."
The person who told me that Matthew 18:15-17 did not apply to Charlotte, specifically told me he was referring to the top leadership--the evangelists and some others there. This employee gave up on Matthew 18 with them. Although I tried repeatedly to work with them, this matter was not addressed. And, instead of keeping promises or responding to my Matthew 18:15-17 comment, it was ignored. But I complied with Matthew 18:15-17 as no church leader--including any evangelist--is above scripture. Pride is a major issue for those who will not follow Jesus' admonitions in Matthew 18:15-17.
LCG has ignored Matthew 18:15-17 both ways. The first is that certain leaders function like Matthew 18:15-17 does not apply to them if they have faults (like not keeping their words), but also that they can violate it related to those who were affiliated with their organization.
Related to Matthew 18:15-20, notice something I posted in January 2013:
01/05/13 a.m. As expected, some associated with the LCG ministry have leaked the 12/28/13 letter to me to anti-COG sources on the internet. They can later try to explain this to God as obviously several with insufficient love of the truth or trust in the word of God would not actually want to first talk to me to find out if these things are so (Matthew 18:15-20). The reality is that that letter contains false accusations, improper statements, and a variety of false statements. The Bible warns against spreading such things, for "whoever spreads slander is a fool" (Proverbs 10:18).
01/04/13 a.m...Yet, on September 6, 2012, with possible disregard of Matthew 18:15-17 and matters of prophetic authority (1 Corinthians 12:28), Dr. Meredith publically criticized Bob Thiel without previously discussing the related matters with him; nor did Dr. Winnail take certain steps related to promises related to doctrinal matters (Revelation 3:14-19).
Paying lip service to God's governance is not the same as truly accepting it. LCG has on several occasions I am aware of, violated Matthew 18:15-17 both ways.
The rationale? Basically, it appears to be that since Herbert Armstrong ordained Dr. Meredith as an evangelist so long ago, if something is or is not fine with him, that is God's government at work. That is simply not true.
Here is something Dr. Meredith wrote me on December 28, 2012 as part of his rationale for dismissing things about me (bolding and italics his):
Therefore, as the one Christ Himself has put in the office of Presiding Evangelist...I want to tell you...recognize that authority for your own good.
I have never challenged that Dr. Meredith was ordained as an evangelist nor his proper ecclesiastical authority. Yet, he and others need to realize that Christ expected His leaders to actually follow His words better than Dr. Meredith has. Dr. Meredith and others need to live by every word of God and not decide that they can overlook portions that are not convenient to their understanding of church governance. No human leader is above the word of God. His pride, also promoted by many who follow him, has not allowed him to consider that he may not personally hold the highest ecclesiastic office.
It needs to be made sure that I did attempt to tell Dr. Meredith certain of his faults per Matthew 18:15-17 privately, and also tried to get others to assist as Matthew 18 says to do when that did not work, then finally I have told "it to the church" (Matthew 18:17) as Jesus said to do.
Despite being told by his son Jim Meredith that Matthew 18 did not apply to the ministry, the reality is that the Bible holds teachers, which includes ministers (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2), to a higher, not lower standard of biblical conduct.
But, LCG not only did not approach me first, nor bring in others to discuss various matters with me, instead they publicly "told it to the church" on two or more occasions and then what they told contained false witness. Nor would LCG correct any of it when told. Those who feel that LCG has proper church governance need to re-examine that.
While I will not try to quote all the possible scriptures here, the New Testament clearly supports hierarchical governance.
Notice that the New Testament is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets:
19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Notice that the Holy Spirit came from the laying on of hands from those that apostles that God used to start the church:
18 ... through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given (Acts 8:18).
The New Testament teaches that the laying on of hands is one of the six foundational doctrines (with going on to perfection as the seventh) of the true church:
1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:1-2).
I believe that through the laying on of hands, the Holy Spirit was passed on from the original apostles to leaders such as Polycarp of Smyrna and through those leaders to the true Church of God leaders throughout history and has been passed through the leadership of the Church of God into the 21st century. The Bible shows that deacons, elders, bishops/pastors, etc. had hands laid upon them (Acts 6:5-6, 8:17, 13:2-3, 19:6,17; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Hebrews 6:2).
Since the time of Pentecost in Acts (Acts 2:1-4), ministers have been appointed through the laying on of hands from those who had the Holy Spirit, beginning with the apostles (Acts 9:17; 2 Timothy 1:6) and then through others who had hands laid upon them to be part of the ministry. While Christians should normally obey their spiritual leaders in the Lord (Hebrews 13:7,17), these leaders need to uphold biblical standards (1 Timothy 3:1-12; Hebrews 13:17) and govern as the type of servant Christ would have them be (Matthew 20:25-28).
The New Testament repeatedly shows that leaders were appointed by those above them, like the apostles (Acts 6:3; Titus 1:5) and ultimately God (1 Corinthians 12:28):
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you — 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. (Titus 1:5-9)
Those who are being led by God, will seek to understand how and why He has a ministry and will submit themselves to God's will to help accomplish His plan (Ephesians 4:11-16; 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 16:16). Notice:
1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? (1 Corinthians 6:1-4)
Notice that Christians are to follow the type of leadership that God had the Apostle Paul appoint:
15 I urge you, brethren — you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints — 16 that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us. (1 Corinthians 16:15-16).
Notice that a specific order, a hierarchy if you will, is taught in the New Testament via Paul:
28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:28-30).
The Apostle Paul discusses this again later and even adds a reason for the offices that God has ordained:
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Notice that this hierarchy is necessary according to the Apostle Paul to help prevent true Christians from being misled. Also notice that there is a role for EVERYONE, every Christian. Church governance involves more than simply anointed/ordained leaders.
I believe that those who do not accept hierarchical governance as the Apostle Paul listed have been misled. And while some have claimed a universal priesthood of the membership, the reality is that there are differences in ministries:
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:4-10)
It is God who gives His Spirit to work with believers in various ways, which is why not all hold the same position in the Church. This is also consistent with something else the Apostle Paul was inspired to write:
20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets... (1 Corinthians 12:20-28).
This was truncated above as I cited the hierarchy a little earlier in this section, so I decided not to repeat it.
As far as qualifications for deacons and elders, see the article Were the Early Duties of Elders/Pastors Mainly Sacramental? What was their Dress?; for prophets, see the article How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God.
While the apostles were present, Jesus taught:
1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. (Matthew 23:1-3)
But does that mean one has to obey anything a minister/religious leader tells one? Not according to what the Apostles Peter and John taught. Notice:
1 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening...18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:1-4,18-21)
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!" 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him."
33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. (Acts 5:27-33)
In both of the above events, the apostles were brought before ecclesiastical authorities. The kind that Jesus had spoken about.
As the apostles, including Peter said, it is important to understand that one does not accept what a religious leader says if it contradicts the Bible.
Furthermore, notice that the Apostle John had a problem with a church leader who would not accept John's role:
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church (3 John 9-10).
Thus, one needs to be sure that the leader one listens to is actually properly practicing church governance, and not just claiming to. Some will not accept the authority of those in higher spiritual offices and this has been a problem since the time of the Apostle John. Local leaders do need to listen to leaders like apostles and prophets, etc.
Perhaps I should add that a minister should not compel one to do something against one's conscience. And it is WRONG to violate one's conscience, but one should consider proper input. Notice:
12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God...23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. (Romans 14:12, 23)
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)
There certainlly is a time for obedience, even if one does not really want to. But conscience is an issue, and should not be improperly violated (vanity and ego issues may hurt, but those are to be overcome--see also Overcoming Sin).
Now these passages in Romans do not mean that a minister cannot counsel or exclude a person who will not obey the Bible. But if one has a moral problem with a request/demand from a minister, one should not violate one's conscience and should study into the matter more to see if the minister is correct (cf. Acts 17:10-11).
Should you accept teachings from a church that are in conflict with scripture?
Several times sermons, as well as in one or more letters to me, Dr. Meredith has relied on how long he was ordained an evangelist to prove that his positions--even when they in my opinion (as well as the opinions of many others)--were not correct--they were in conflict with the Bible.
Most do not realize that many decades ago, Dr. Meredith condemned the type of organizational loyalty that he now insists on for LCG. Dr. Meredith called that type of loyalty to an institution IDOLATRY as he wrote:
"One of the most common forms of modern idolatry is the making of an idol out of one’s church..If you blindly obey the dictates of your family, your church or society instead of the direct commands of God, you are guilty of IDOLATRY. That group or institution becomes an IDOL to you in place of the true God!...You must study God’s Word-willingly be corrected by it-and TREMBLE before its authority over your very life!" (Meredith RC. Second Commandment. Plain Truth, March 1960, p. 27).
Nowadays Dr. Meredith seems to think such obedience to his church over scripture is loyalty--but that is NOT proper hierarchical governance. Christians are to be loyal to the Bible and to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29), if there is a conflict. And in LCG there certainly is (see The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings and Who is the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians 2? and What About the Living Church of God? Are there Doctrinal Differences with the Continuing Church of God?).
It should be mentioned that LCG is not the only group that has significant organizational idolatry. Without naming all the groups with that tendency, it has long been clear that PCG and RCG have massive organizational idolatry. However, since its institutional idolatry is somewhat more subtle in LCG, many of those in LCG seem too willing to accept it. Perhaps if they study further, they will realize the truth? I pray that they and all others who hope that they are part of the Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God will act on the truth sooner than later--remember it is the Laodiceans who are condemned for being lukewarm by Jesus (Revelation 3:14-22).
It should also be noted that the Bible teaches to "walk by faith and not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). Yet, those in LCG (and groups other than CCOG) seem to feel that it is better to walk by sight. They accept the fact that men ordained their leaders, but refuse to accept the fact that the Bible says that God reveals Himself to prophets via dreams (Numbers 12:9). True prophets of God are, from a hierarchical perspective, above evangelists and ministers per Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. But Laodiceans seem unwilling to believe God's word about these matters (see also Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God).
Many today are like the Sadducees of old. Notice something from the New Testament:
23 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, 24 saying: "Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 25 Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. 26 Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. 27 Last of all the woman died also. 28 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her."
29 Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matthew 22:23-32 )
Many in the COGs do not know the scriptures as they should nor the power of God (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God and Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God and The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government).
Few will believe:
Most seem to wish to be like the Sadducees who "are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God." They do not really believe nor understand how God works and governs, despite what the Bible actually teaches.
History records that the Apostle John appointed Polycarp, and that other leaders descended from him (there were also others in other areas). The Apostle John gave an important criteria to determine who was faithful:
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (1 John 2:19)
24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us — eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. (1 John 2:24-26)
Notice, not just someone who may have been baptized, etc. by John, but only those who continued in his teachings would be legitimate. Because of that, groups such as the Church of Rome and Eastern Orthodox who violate various teachings and practices of the apostles, such as John, do not have proper ecclesiastical authority despite their oft repeated improper claims to have apostolic succession.
While many who have some association with the Church of God believe that the true Church can be traced through the Apostle John's disciple Polycarp, many do not seem to normally understand the following that Polycarp wrote:
Knowing, then, that "God is not mocked," we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory. In like manner should the deacons be blameless before the face of His righteousness, as being the servants of God and Christ, and not of men. They must not be slanderers, double-tongued, or lovers of money, but temperate in all things, compassionate, industrious, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant of all. If we please Him in this present world, we shall receive also the future world, according as He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead, and that if we live worthily of Him, "we shall also reign together with Him," provided only we believe. In like manner, let the young men also be blameless in all things, being especially careful to preserve purity, and keeping themselves in, as with a bridle, from every kind of evil. For it is well that they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since "every lust warreth against the spirit; " and "neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God," nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming. Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all these things, being subject to the presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ (Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians, Chapter V).
Hence, Polycarp advocated that Christians not be independent and that they be subject to those true church leaders as they would be to God and Christ:
And let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always "providing for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man ; " abstaining from all wrath, respect of persons, and unjust judgment; keeping far off from . all covetousness, not quickly crediting [an evil report] against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin. If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves to forgive; for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and "we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself." Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence (Hebrews 12:28), even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]. Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offence, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error (Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians, Chapter VI).
And part of the reason for the presbyters is to protect against "false brethren" and doctrinal "error" (the Apostle Paul taught the same thing in Ephesians 4:11-14).
Ignatius was a second century church leader who also knew Polycarp. He taught:
Give ye heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God! Labour together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God. Please ye Him under whom ye fight, and from whom ye receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter (Ignatius. Letter to Polycarp, Chapter VI).
Wherefore, as children of light and truth, flee from division and wicked doctrines; but where the shepherd is, there follow as sheep. For there are many wolves that appear worthy of credit, who, by means of a pernicious pleasure, carry captive those that are running towards God; but in your unity they shall have no place.Keep yourselves from those evil plants which Jesus Christ does not tend, because they are not the planting of the Father. Not that I have found any division among you, but exceeding purity. For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion (Ignatius. Letter to the Philadelphians, Chapters II-III).
Now it becomes you also not to treat your bishop too familiarly on account of his youth, but to yield him all reverence, having respect to the power of God the Father, as I have known even holy presbyters do, not judging rashly, from the manifest youthful appearance [of their bishop], but as being themselves prudent in God, submitting to him, or rather not to him, but to the Father of Jesus Christ, the bishop of us all. It is therefore fitting that you should, after no hypocritical fashion, obey [your bishop], in honour of Him who has willed us [so to do], since he that does not so deceives not [by such conduct] the bishop that is visible, but seeks to mock Him that is invisible. And all such conduct has reference not to man, but to God, who knows all secrets. It is fitting, then, not only to be called Christians, but to be so in reality: as some indeed give one the title of bishop, but do all things without him. Now such persons seem to me to be not possessed of a good conscience, seeing they are not stedfastly gathered together according to the commandment (Ignatius. Letter to the Magnesians, Chapters III-IV).
See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God (Ignatius. Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter VIII).
For, since you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, you may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as you indeed do, so without the bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire (Ignatius. Letter to the Trallians, Chapter II).
May I always have joy of you, if indeed I be worthy of it. It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ, who has glorified you, that by a unanimous obedience you may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing, and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, you may in all respects be sanctified (Ignatius. Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter II).
Note the term "bishop" essentially means the same as the word "pastor" in Ephesians 4:11. Also, perhaps I should mention that there was no "Bishop of Rome" then--as Catholic scholars admit (see What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History?)-- hence Ignatius was not telling people to become subject to the Vatican.
(Ignatius did address "bishops" in each of his letters, but did not in his letter to the Romans as they did not have a bishop until after Ignatius died. Furthermore, perhaps I should add that many have relied on a mistranslation of part of one of Ignatius' letters to indicate that he did not hold Church of God teachings--those interested in learning more about him and his teachings should read the article Another Look at the Didache, Ignatius, and the Sabbath).
Notice that church leadership passed from the apostles to others in the second century as Polycrates wrote,
For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead ? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man'...I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 24).
Throughout the second century leadership passed through ordained leaders who apparently held titles other than "apostle" as there is no written evidence that I have seen that any of the leaders were considered as apostles. This means in modern times that just because there is no properly ordained apostle, that this is no excuse for not listening to any of the properly ordained leaders (overseers/evangelists are essentially 'bishops').
Perhaps it should be noted that the idea of a hierarchy for Christians who kept the Sabbath was confirmed by scholars such as B. Bagatti who wrote:
Nazarenes and Ebionites...Each sect had its own hierarchy...(Fortescue A. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. (Jerusalem (A.D. 71-1099). pp. 355-361 Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, p.30)
The late fourth century historian Epiphanius wrote:
Ebionites have elders and heads of synagogues...(Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Book I. Section II, Chapter 30, Verse 18,2. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, p.145)
That is a form of hierarchy, which while sometimes not clearly maintained throughout history, was often used and hierarchy is the form of governance that God's kingdom has.
The Church of Rome is led by one called a pope/pontifex maximus who is elected by a group of leaders called Cardinals.
Are any of these titles biblical?
To demonstrate this, let us look at what the New Jerusalem Bible (a Roman Catholic translation) teaches:
11 And to some, his 'gift' was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; 12 to knit God's holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, (Ephesians 4:11-12, NJB)
28 And those whom God has appointed in the Church are, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers; after them, miraculous powers, then gifts of healing, helpful acts, guidance, various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28, NJB)
5 The reason I left you behind in Crete was for you to organise everything that still had to be done and appoint elders in every town, in the way that I told you, 6 that is, each of them must be a man of irreproachable character, husband of one wife, and his children must be believers and not liable to be charged with disorderly conduct or insubordination. 7 The presiding elder has to be irreproachable since he is God's representative: never arrogant or hot-tempered, nor a heavy drinker or violent, nor avaricious; 8 but hospitable and a lover of goodness; sensible, upright, devout and self-controlled; (Titus 1:5-8, NJB)
1Here is a saying that you can rely on: to want to be a presiding elder is to desire a noble task. 2 That is why the presiding elder must have an impeccable character. Husband of one wife, he must be temperate, discreet and courteous, hospitable and a good teacher; 3 not a heavy drinker, nor hot-tempered, but gentle and peaceable, not avaricious, 4 a man who manages his own household well and brings his children up to obey him and be well-behaved: 5 how can any man who does not understand how to manage his own household take care of the Church of God? 6 He should not be a new convert, in case pride should turn his head and he incur the same condemnation as the devil. 7 It is also necessary that he be held in good repute by outsiders, so that he never falls into disrepute and into the devil's trap. 8 Similarly, deacons must be respectable, not double-tongued, moderate in the amount of wine they drink and with no squalid greed for money. 9 They must hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They are first to be examined, and admitted to serve as deacons only if there is nothing against them. (1 Timothy 3:1-10, NJB)
Many offices are listed in the New Testament, but none that sounds like Cardinals. Note that the NKJV has the term "pastors" in Ephesians 4:11 and "bishop" in 1 Timothy 3:1.
It should be pointed out that until the middle of the 2nd century, no one had the title "Bishop of Rome." Even Roman Catholic scholars admit this--for details see the article: What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History?
Also, the first to assume the title Pope/Pontifex Maximus was the Roman Bishop Sircius in the late 4th century:
SIRICIUS, ST. (384-399)...was the first to assume the title of pope from the Greek papa meaning father (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 13).
The title Pontifex Maximus had been held by many Roman Emperors, including Constantine. It was a pagan title.
Here is a report from The Catholic Encyclopedia about the early reign of Constantine:
Could not Sol Deus Invictus, to whom even Constantine dedicated his coins for a long time, or Sol Mithras Deus Invictus, venerated by Diocletian and Galerius, become the supreme god of the empire? Constantine may have pondered over this. Nor had he absolutely rejected the thought even after a miraculous event had strongly influenced him in favour of the God of the Christians…As pontifex maximus he watched over the heathen worship and protected its rights (Herbermann, Charles, and Georg Grupp. Constantine the Great. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 1 Sept. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04295c.htm>).
A few decades after Constantine died, the Roman Emperor Gratian refused the title, so Sircius took it. It was not a biblical title.
What about Cardinals?
Certain of the garb of Cardinals were not adopted until over a 1000 years after Jesus was killed according to The Catholic Encyclopedia:
Chief among the insignia of the cardinal is the red hat, first worn by the legati a latere (cardinal envoys of the pope). It was granted to the secular cardinals by Innocent IV at the Synod of Lyons in 1245, and to the religious cardinals by Gregory XIV in 1591; the latter, it must be noted, continue to wear the distinctive habit of their order (Barmgarten, "Die Uebersendung des rothen Hutes" in "Hist. Jahrbuch", XXVI, 99 sqq.). They also wear the red (scarlet) biretta, that was granted to them, probably, by Paul II (1464-71). They also have the right to wear scarlet, particularly a scarlet mantle, which according to tradition was probably granted them by Boniface VIII (1294-1303). They also wear a ring with a sapphire stone, and use the ombrellino that is held over them whenever they quit their carriages to accompany with bare heads the Blessed Sacrament, if perchance they meet It on their way. In their titular churches a baldacchino covers the cardinalitial throne, and they have the right to use in these churches the episcopal ornaments, i.e. the mitre of damask silk (since Paul II), the crosier and the pectoral cross. (Sägmüller, Johannes Baptist. "Cardinal." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 22 Feb. 2014 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03333b.htm>.)
Cardinals come from paganism. The vestments they wear were not adopted until at least the fourth century by the Church of Rome (see also Were the Early Duties of Elders/Pastors Mainly Sacramental? What was there Dress?). Essentially, they are a combination of remains of worship of Mithras and Dagon, and it took even more centuries for them to develop into the position that they now hold. Of course, that also helps prove that there precise position did not come from the Bible and such vestments that they use were not worn by the original Apostles nor other early Christian leaders.
Cardinals were not an original office. The Encyclopaedia Brittanica reports:
In Rome the first persons to be called cardinals were the deacons of the seven regions of the city at the beginning of the 6th century, when the word began to mean “principal,” “eminent,” or “superior.” The name was also given to the senior priest in each of the “title” churches (the parish churches) of Rome and to the bishops of the seven sees surrounding the city. By the 8th century the Roman cardinals constituted a privileged class among the Roman clergy. They took part in the administration of the church of Rome and in the papal liturgy. By decree of a synod of 769, only a cardinal was eligible to become pope. In 1059, during the pontificate of Nicholas II (1059–61), cardinals were given the right to elect the pope. For a time this power was assigned exclusively to the cardinal bishops, but the third Lateran Council (1179) gave back the right to the whole body of cardinals. The cardinals were granted the privilege of wearing the red hat by Innocent IV (1243–54) in 1244 or 1245; it has since become their symbol. (Cardinals. Encyclopaedia Brittanica. http://www.britannica.com/topic/cardinal-Roman-Catholicism accessed 01/24/16)
The Bible tells nothing of a College of Cardinals who would elect a Pontifex Maximus.
If there be any who imagine that there is some occult and mysterious virtue in an apostolic succession that comes through the Papacy, let them seriously consider the real character of the Pope's own orders, and of those of his bishops and clergy. From the Pope downwards, all can be shown to be now radically Babylonian. The College of Cardinals, with the Pope at its head, is just the counterpart of the Pagan College of Pontiffs, with its "Pontifex Maximus," or "Sovereign Pontiff," which had existed in Rome from the earliest times, and which is known to have been framed on the model of the grand original Council of Pontiffs at Babylon. The Pope now pretends to supremacy in the Church as the successor of Peter, to whom it is alleged that our Lord exclusively committed the keys of the kingdom of heaven. But here is the important fact that, till the Pope was invested with the title, which for a thousand years had had attached to it the power of the keys of Janus and Cybele, * no such claim to pre-eminence, or anything approaching to it, was ever publicly made on his part, on the ground of his being the possessor of the keys bestowed on Peter.
* It was only in the second century before the Christian era that the worship of Cybele, under that name, was introduced into Rome; but the same goddess, under the name of Cardea, with the "power of the key," was worshipped in Rome, along with Janus, ages before. OVID's Fasti
Very early, indeed, did the bishop of Rome show a proud and ambitious spirit; but, for the first three centuries, their claim for superior honour was founded simply on the dignity of their see, as being that of the imperial city, the capital of the Roman world. When, however, the seat of empire was removed to the East, and Constantinople threatened to eclipse Rome, some new ground for maintaining the dignity of the Bishop of Rome must be sought. That new ground was found, when, about 378, the Pope fell heir to the keys that were the symbols of two well-known Pagan divinities at Rome. Janus bore a key, and Cybele bore a key; and these are the two keys that the Pope emblazons on his arms as the ensigns of his spiritual authority. How the Pope came to be regarded as wielding the power of these keys will appear in the sequel; but that he did, in the popular apprehension, become entitled to that power at the period referred to is certain. Now, when he had come, in the estimation of the Pagans, to occupy the place of the representatives of Janus and Cybele, and therefore to be entitled to bear their keys, the Pope saw that if he could only get it believed among the Christians that Peter alone had the power of the keys, and that he was Peter's successor, then the sight of these keys would keep up the delusion, and thus, though the temporal dignity of Rome as a city should decay, his own dignity as the Bishop of Rome would be more firmly established than ever. On this policy it is evident he acted. Some time was allowed to pass away, and then, when the secret working of the Mystery of iniquity had prepared the way for it, for the first time did the Pope publicly assert his pre-eminence, as founded on the keys given to Peter. About 378 was he raised to the position which gave him, in Pagan estimation, the power of the keys referred to. In 432, and not before, did he publicly lay claim to the possession of Peter's keys. This, surely, is a striking coincidence. Does the reader ask how it was possible that men could give credit to such a baseless assumption? The words of Scripture, in regard to this very subject, give a very solemn but satisfactory answer (2 Thess 2:10,11): "Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved...For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." Few lies could be more gross; but, in course of time, it came to be widely believed; and now, as the statue of Jupiter is worshipped at Rome as the veritable image of Peter, so the keys of Janus and Cybele have for ages been devoutly believed to represent the keys of the same apostle...
The priest who explained the Mysteries to the initiated was sometimes called by a Greek term, the Hierophant; but in primitive Chaldee, the real language of the Mysteries, his title, as pronounced without the points, was "Peter"--i.e., "the interpreter." As the revealer of that which was hidden, nothing was more natural than that, while opening up the esoteric doctrine of the Mysteries, he should be decorated with the keys of the two divinities whose mysteries he unfolded.
Hence, from the mere jingle of words, persons and things essentially different were confounded; and Paganism and Christianity jumbled together, that the towering ambition of a wicked priest might be gratified; and so, to the blinded Christians of the apostacy, the Pope was the representative of Peter the apostle, while to the initiated pagans, he was only the representative of Peter, the interpreter of their well known Mysteries. Thus was the Pope the express counterpart of "Janus, the double-faced." Oh! what an emphasis of meaning in the Scriptural expression, as applied to the Papacy, "The Mystery of Iniquity"! The reader will now be prepared to understand how it is that the Pope's Grand Council of State, which assists him in the government of the Church, comes to be called the College of Cardinals. The term Cardinal is derived from Cardo, a hinge. Janus, whose key the Pope bears, was the god of doors and hinges, and was called Patulcius, and Clusius "the opener and the shutter." This had a blasphemous meaning, for he was worshipped at Rome as the grand mediator. Whatever important business was in hand, whatever deity was to be invoked, an invocation first of all must be addressed to Janus, who was recognised as the "God of gods," in whose mysterious divinity the characters of father and son were combined, and without that no prayer could be heard--the "door of heaven" could not be opened. It was this same god whose worship prevailed so exceedingly in Asia Minor at the time when our Lord sent, by his servant John, the seven Apocalyptic messages to the churches established in that region. And, therefore, in one of these messages we find Him tacitly rebuking the profane ascription of His own peculiar dignity to that divinity, and asserting His exclusive claim to the prerogative usually attributed to His rival. Thus, Revelation 3:7 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth." Now, to this Janus, as Mediator, worshipped in Asia Minor, and equally, from very early times, in Rome, belonged the government of the world; and, "all power in heaven, in earth, and the sea," according to Pagan ideas, was vested in him. In this character he was said to have "jus vertendi cardinis"--the "power of turning the hinge"--of opening the doors of heaven, or of opening or shutting the gates of peace or war upon earth. The Pope, therefore, when he set up as the High-priest of Janus, assumed also the "jus vertendi cardinis," "the power of turning the hinge,"--of opening and shutting in the blasphemous Pagan sense. Slowly and cautiously at first was this power asserted; but the foundation being laid, steadily, century after century, was the grand superstructure of priestly power erected upon it. The Pagans, who saw what strides, under Papal directions, Christianity, as professed in Rome, was making towards Paganism, were more than content to recognise the Pope as possessing this power; they gladly encouraged him to rise, step by step, to the full height of the blasphemous pretensions befitting the representative of Janus--pretensions which, as all men know, are now, by the unanimous consent of Western Apostate Christendom, recognised as inherent in the office of the Bishop of Rome. To enable the Pope, however, to rise to the full plenitude of power which he now asserts, the co-operation of others was needed. When his power increased, when his dominion extended, and especially after he became a temporal sovereign, the key of Janus became too heavy for his single hand--he needed some to share with him the power of the "hinge." Hence his privy councillors, his high functionaries of state, who were associated with him in the government of the Church and the world, got the now well known title of "Cardinals"--the priests of the "hinge." This title had been previously borne by the high officials of the Roman Emperor, who, as "Pontifex Maximus," had been himself the representative of Janus, and who delegated his powers to servants of his own. Even in the reign of Theodosius, the Christian Emperor of Rome, the title of Cardinal was borne by his Prime Minister. But now both the name and the power implied in the name have long since disappeared from all civil functionaries of temporal sovereigns; and those only who aid the Pope in wielding the key of Janus--in opening and shutting--are known by the title of Cardinals, or priests of the "hinge."...
Does the Pope receive the adorations of the Cardinals? The king of Babylon, as Sovereign Pontiff, was adored in like manner...
The Papal mitre is entirely different from the mitre of Aaron and the Jewish high priests. That mitre was a turban. The two-horned mitre, which the Pope wears, when he sits on the high altar at Rome and receives the adoration of the Cardinals, is the very mitre worn by Dagon, the fish-god of the Philistines and Babylonians. There were two ways in which Dagon was anciently represented. The one was when he was depicted as half-man half-fish; the upper part being entirely human, the under part ending in the tail of a fish. The other was, when, to use the words of Layard, "the head of the fish formed a mitre above that of the man, while its scaly, fan-like tail fell as a cloak behind, leaving the human limbs and feet exposed." Of Dagon in this form Layard gives a representation in his last work; and no one who examines his mitre, and compares it with the Pope's as given in Elliot's Horoe, can doubt for a moment that from that, and no other source, has the pontifical mitre been derived. (Hislop A. The Two Babylons)
Neither the office of Pontifex Maximus nor Cardinal for church governance comes from the Bible. Both titles come from paganism.
The Bible tells that there will be an overlapping succession of seven churches, often called Church eras. If the Philadelphia era was predominant until the time that Herbert W. Armstrong was alive, this would mean that the last of the seven churches, Laodicea, would be predominant now.
During this Laodicean time, there have been several approaches taken by groups that had their origins in the old WCG.
Many people decided to become independent. And many of those independents seem to feel that they are the most faithful to the teachings of the old WCG. Most have a few points they believe disqualifies others as they decide what is important. Herbert W. Armstrong, who many of them claim to be faithfully following, did not approve of the concept of "independent Christians" in that sense (this is documented in the article Independent Members of the COG: Herbert W. Armstrong Comments, and some of this was quoted earlier).
Some feel that the apostasy that occurred after the death of Herbert Armstrong was because of the type of governance he had in place. Some of those people have become independent or formed committee ran churches. Another type of governance that Herbert Armstrong condemned (Mystery of the Ages, Dodd & Mead, 1985, p. 247, quoted earlier above).
However, from the very beginning within the Church of God people left and would not listen to God's leaders. As the Apostle John wrote in 3 John 9-11 (which was quoted earlier in this article).
And if people thought that they were Christians when they ignored the Apostle John, how much more do many do so today?
The Apostle John penned the Book of Revelation. And in Revelation 3:14 he used the term "Laodikeus." This differs from how he normally started the letters to the other six churches (Revelation 2 & 3), because he used a plural term--he called them Laodiceans. This plurality, contrasted with the lack of it in the introductions to the other six churches, indicates that Laodicea is composed of divided groups.
Furthermore, according to Strong's Greek concordance, Laodicea is a combination of two words, laos which it defines as "people" and dike, which is defined by Strong's as "right," "judgment," "punish," and "vengeance." And also according to Strong's Greek concordance, Laodiceans is the plural of that.
Smith's Bible Dictionary defines Laodicea to mean "justice of the people". Might the term Laodiceans convey that the predominant characteristic of this Church is that peoples rule, peoples judge, or, in fact that the peoples change the Church's direction?
I personally have long felt that the term Laodicea conveys a difference in governance and direction. Since the Philadelphians are admonished to "Hold fast what you have" (Revelation 3:11) and the Laodiceans say, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (vs. 17) it would seem that most Laodiceans have rejected other biblical truths as well (even when they explain there positions on governance they seem to misunderstand the Bible--for one such example, please see CEM’s Ron Dart on Governance).
Now what about some of those few "hierarchical" groups calling themselves some type of Church of God which claim to have a hierarchical form of governance? Well, in nearly all of these cases, it seems that the "leaders decided" to appoint themselves to positions that they were never ordained/appointed to (perhaps, I should add here that I am NOT a self-appointed church writer--for some information on that, please see Who is COGwriter?).
For example, PCG's Gerald Flurry declared himself a prophet, RCG's David Pack declared himself an apostle, CGPFK's Ronald Weinland declared himself a prophet and one of the two witnesses, and there are some lessor known individuals who have done something similar--none of which, as far as I have been able to tell, had hands laid upon them for those roles. Not only will none of these people accept the authority of any who were anointed by others to a higher role than they have, they seem to have a variety of practices suggesting a harsher and non-biblically correct form of governance.
And if there is a non-self anointed apostle or prophet in the genuine COG (which are levels above evangelists), all should follow him (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God)--and there is one who heads the Continuing Church of God.
The O N E M A N at this time that Herbert Armstrong and Dr. Meredith referred to is Dr. Bob Thiel. God used Herbert W. Armstrong to establish the Philadelphian phase, an evangelist to lead the transitional phase, and a Bob Thiel to lead the final phase of the work. Dr. Thiel is proclaiming Christ's Gospel of the Kingdom by radio, via YouTube "television," via internet articles, in person, and in print as he leads the Continuing Church of God.
In the 21st century USA, what is the best way for a church to be legally structured?
Many church leaders have chosen to have a structure that allows for committee oversight. And most USA churches have chosen to register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a 501(c)(3) church which give more USA government oversight.
This, in my view, is not optimal. We in the Continuing Church of God chose a better option.
Since we are automatically tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3), we intentionally did not register with the Internal Revenue, which is our legal right. Because of this, in theory, we are not subject to certain IRS rules or various other potential aspects of governmental control. Thus, we are convinced that this is better from a biblical perspective regarding church governance. For deatils, check out the article 501(c)(3)? Why the Continuing Church of God chose a better option.
Many churches are structured as corporation aggregates, which basically means a committee runs them. This is also not in accordance with true biblical governance. Later on in his life, Herbert W. Amstrong realized this to a degree and set up the church as a corporation sole.
A corporation sole allows for true hierarchical governance. Here is some information about a corporation sole:
A corporation sole is a legal entity consisting of a single (“sole”) incorporated office, occupied by a single (“sole”) natural person. A corporation sole is one of two types of corporation, the other being a corporation aggregate. This allows corporations (often religious corporations or Commonwealth governments) to pass without interval in time from one office holder to the next successor-in-office, giving the positions legal continuity with subsequent office holders having identical powers and possessions to their predecessors. (Corporation sole, Wikipedia, accessed 08/05/2016)
Herbert W. Armstrong wrote the following:
The members of the Church are NOT members of “Herbert W. Armstrong, a corporation sole,” under which our financial operations currently are functioning The California corporation “Worldwide Church of God Inc.,” does require a board of directors. The corporation sole does not. Armstrong HW. ADVISORY COUNCIL OF ELDERS. Worldwide News, March 16, 1981)
Notice Herbert W. Armstrong’s correct statement that a corporation sole does not require a board of directors. Based upon his writings on church governance, a corporation sole is much, much, more appropriate than a corporation aggregate for biblical church governance.
A church can only be structured as a corporation sole in a few USA states, like California, which is one of the reason why the Continuing Church of God is based in California.
God, Himself, ordained leaders such as Jeremiah:
5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5)
Yet, people, who considered themselves the people of God, often would not listen to him (e.g. Jeremiah 43:2). Jesus taught that those who accepted a prophet in the name of that prophet would receive a prophet's reward (Matthew 10:41).
If you read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, in many instances you will see that humans were dissatisfied with the type of governance God put in place for His people.
Since many of those verses were cited above I will not repeat them here. But I would like to state that while God clearly has allowed His leaders to make many mistakes throughout recorded history, "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13), so if you feel that there has been a problem under PROPER governance, wait and pray and you will be able to bear it.
It should also be mentioned that NO ONE, including evangelists/ministers, are above the authority of the Bible--believing that they do so is a type of idolatry and violating one of God's commandments. And, sadly in at least one group that I was once a part of, its top leadership, while claiming adherence to biblical governance was not always willing to submit to the Bible itself (see also Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God).
God is love (1 John 4:16). The Kingdom of God will have hierarchical governance based upon truth and love.
Which form of governance would one expect to have in the Philadelphia remnant? The people decide and/or committee forms, odd dictatorships, or the same type that the Philadelphia era itself had and that the Continuing Church of God still has?
The answer should be obvious to all interested in the truth.
Thiel B. The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government. (c) 2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014/2015/2016/2017 0201 http://www.cogwriter.com/church_governance.htm
There is also a related video sermon titled Church Governance.
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