Independent Members of the COG: HWA's Comments, Plus Questions and Answers

By COGwriter

Since the death of Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) and the apostasy in the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), the Church has been scattered (e.g. Mark 14:27). Many are in various groups and many are independent. The purpose of this article is to encourage those who are independent who think they are Philadelphian to consider that they may wish to support the Philadelphian work.

This article is not directed to those that do not claim to follow the basic teachings and practices of the WCG when HWA was alive (although there are some comments about "semi-independents" towards the end).

With all the confusion and misreporting that has occurred in the last several years, we can appreciate that there are Philadelphians who are scattered. However, this is not an excuse for zealous Christians to become "independent", nor should zealous Christians who learn the truth remain "independent."

Herbert W. Armstrong wrote that the first "purpose of the Church" was to proclaim:

...the coming kingdom of God to the world… 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.

"Individual Christians"--Ex-Members

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).

HWA Asked

HWA asked:

Is the Church of God merely a scattered, isolated, number of professing Christians, each going his own way to get out the Gospel - or, as many believe, to get his personal salvation and eternal life? (The Incredible Human Potential. 1978. p.123).

Sadly, a lot of people today seem to think so. Of course, since we seem to be living in the time of the Laodicean Church era, this was expected.

HWA Answered

Here is how HWA answered that:

"The Church...It is not only a spiritual organism - it is a well-organized physical organization! Notice I Corinthians 12: ...brethren I would not have you ignorant (I Cor. 12:1). But now are they many members, yet but one body (verse 20.)

And it is a well-organized body (verses 4-6, 11-12): Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all... But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For the body is one--united, organized into cooperative team-work - not scattered individuals, each claiming to serve God in his own way!

Continuing: For... the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body... That there should be no schism [division] in the body; but that the members should have the same care [that is, outgoing concern and love] one for another (verses 12-13, 25).

Continuing: And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

Now back to Ephesians. What about the member who goes out of the Church, to have his own relationship with Christ - to GET his own salvation? He is outside the body of Christ!

Notice, again, the "household of God" - the Church - is built upon a foundation. Would one build a building on a foundation of shifting sand? God's Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles [the New Testament], and prophets [Old Testament, whose prophecies are for us today (I Cor. 1O:11)], Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:19-20).

How well organized?

In whom all the building [the Church] fitly framed together, groweth into an holy temple in the Lord." (verse 21.)

Further: From the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love (Eph. 4:16).

Yes, Christ organized His Church.

And his gifts were, that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (Eph.4:11, RSV) [continuing in KJV:] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:12-13).

What about a single member, "a joint, or part," going off by itself - or following a man instead of the Church of God that is in direct continuous succession from the apostolic Church founded by Christ, in A.D.31? He is like a joint or a piece of wood or stone, entirely outside of, and therefore no part of the body of Christ that shall marry Christ! (The Incredible Human Potential. 1978. pp.123,124-125). "

Thus it is clear that HWA did not believe members should be independent or part of small groups.

It should be noted that independents do not understand key aspects of end time prophecies. Notice for example the following one:

1 Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, 2 Before the decree is issued, Or the day passes like chaff, Before the Lord's fierce anger comes upon you, Before the day of the Lord's anger comes upon you! 3 Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the Lord's anger. (Zephaniah 2:1-3)

Those that are independent and believe that they will know when it is time to flee on their own are deceiving themselves. It is only those that are 'gathered together' with the true Philadelphia remnant (Revelation 3:7-13) that are subject to that protection, and even many who simply gather together and do not live and pray as they should (Luke 21:37) will not be protected either (see also There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra). Those who believe that God promises to protect independents from "the hour of trial that will come upon the whole earth" (Revelation 3:10) are deceiving themselves.

A list of dozens of prophetic errors that various Laodiceans, both independent and those in Laodicean organizations, hold to is in the article The Laodicean Church Era.

Why Support the Work of the Philadelphia Remnant?

That being the case, why should those scattered consider supporting the Philadelphia remnant.

Mr. Armstrong wrote that he restored to the Church of God at least 18 truths that the previous era had lost (Mystery of the Ages, 1985. p. 251). Philadelphians are the ones who hold to those truths (as well as all other biblical truths)-including governance-and will be able to have a crown and to rule! Philadelphians have "kept My command to persevere" (Revelation 3:10). Holding fast to Truth, while putting a priority on proclaiming the Gospel, is what sets the Philadelphian Church apart...making their top priority the Great Commission of proclaiming the Gospel as established by Jesus Christ...One can expect that Philadelphians, who care about doing an effective Work and holding fast to the Truth, will naturally support... Of course, simply attending with the Living Church of God does not make one a Philadelphian; individual members must do their part, and must not allow their lives to be cluttered by the cares of this world so that they themselves become lukewarm (Laodicean) (What is a Philadelphian?. Living Church News. July-August 2001, pp. 14-15).

Some have claimed that the Philadelphia remnant should not place their top priority on getting the Gospel out because we have no ordained apostles and supposedly HWA finished the work. If you truly are interested in this subject, please carefully study the article, Should the Church's Top Priority be Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority? This article quotes the Bible and HWA to prove that the remnant of the Philadelphia era is to get the Gospel out and that it does not need an apostle to do this. The group that now strives to be this faithful remnant is the Continuing Church of God.

For those who have not yet read the article, I will simply comment here that 1) HWA never stopped proclaiming the Gospel through the medias of tv/radio/publications 2) that HWA had Dibar Apartian, and others proclaiming it through those media 3) the New Testament shows that non-apostles preached the Gospel and 4) that the last three letters that HWA sent out said that the Church was organized to continue to get the Gospel out through tv, radio, and publications, even if he was no longer around.

At this time, the Continuing Church of God is leading the effort of the final phase of the work.

Here are some items of possibly related interest:

Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?

Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.

4. The Thyatira Church Era was predominant circa 1050 A.D. to circa 1600 A.D. The Church during the Inquisition.

5. The Sardis Church Era was predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D. Discusses early history of the Seventh Day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, and COG-7th Day.

6. The Philadelphia Church Era was predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D. The old Radio Church of God and old Worldwide Church of God, now the remnant of that era is basically the most faithful in the Church of God, like who hold to the beliefs and practices of the Continuing Church of God.

7. The Laodicean Church Era has been predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present. The Laodiceans are non-Philadelphians who mainly descended from the old WCG or its offshoots--and this includes 'independents.' They do not properly understand the work or biblical prophecies and will face the Great Tribulation if they do not repent.

Other Questions and Answers

There are lots of reasons, questions, and excuses that have been raised which have stopped some from supporting the Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God and I will attempt to address some of them here.

I am happy where I am, so why support the end time Philadelphia work?
Here is an article titled Do You Believe God Used Herbert Armstrong to Raise the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God? If you believe that, you should consider supporting the major work of proclaiming the whole Gospel without watering down major teachings or adding non-biblical revelations. If you are not interested in that you probably will wish to stay where you are.

I have questions about hierarchical governance, so why support the end time Philadelphia work?
There is nothing wrong with having sincere questions. However, it appears through the history of the Church of God, more fruit is borne when stronger leadership is in place. Also, an article you may wish to study is Should a Christian Vote? You may wish to read the article Responses to a Hierarchical Church which was also published in Servant's News. Another article, and perhaps the most relevant, might be The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government.

Aren't independent groups better, as they have less problems?
This does not seem to be the case according to the writings of some independents.

Notice the following from Servants' News, July-Aug 2007 (a leading publication for some independents):

Falling Away from the Laodicean Church

by Sandy Kile

I’ve heard more excuses lately for not meeting on the Sabbath and for groups splitting up than you can shake a stick at. Some are splitting over doctrine, but quite often things so petty and silly it’s practically unbelievable! Like song books or even single words in songs! Some are starting to keep the Sabbath whenever they want, however they want—or not hosting Sabbath Services for troubling reasons that compel me to speak...

Excuses Overheard

Read the following examples of excuses of people not meeting on the Sabbath, of people pleasing themselves, doing what they please, as they please, and not pleasing God.

Remark: “It doesn’t feel like the Sabbath to me if I host Sabbath Services. It’s too much work.”
Answer: It’s not about how you feel, it’s about obeying the command that the Sabbath is a holy convocation (Lev. 23 & Heb. 10:25)... 

“Obeying God is always for our good and is part of how we show love to God,” states Don Haney (1) (Duet. 10:12-13). In other words, it’s our responsibility to obey God. I don’t see much responsibility in the Church these days, I see irresponsibility.

The Holy Days have been attacked with this “Do Your Own Thing Virus” as well, as in the following example: “We keep the Passover as the spirit moves us with whatever we have, including pop and pretzels. That’s not wrong, is it?” they ask. Answer: Yes, it is...

Squabbling over song books, making up excuses to not meet together, and generally making a mockery of the commitment we once had is not love! “We don’t have to agree with each other on every point of doctrine to love one another,” says Brian Knowles. It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. We can agree to disagree and remain friends. We can grow up, and quit focusing on food, and picking at every little thing. If not, God may take us to the wood shed for a thrashing, and you can bet it’s not going to be as comfortable as if we disciplined ourselves.

The theme of Ron Dart’s recent CEM letter was also about sin being alive and well, and finding a comfy home in the church: “In something as small as Paul’s ‘a little leaven leavens the whole lump’, we are reminded that we are accountable for maintaining the integrity of the church. And if we don’t, the whole church can be corrupted by a very small matter tolerated over a long period of time.”...

While distant brethren faithfully and bravely suffer, the Church of: “God Is Too Much Trouble” is in danger of falling away from the Laodicean Church, the one Christ says He will spew out (Rev. 3:16).

Why? Because we can’t be bothered to even try reaching the “high”standards of the most lukewarm church in the Bible. We need to wake up and grow up before it’s too late. As Christ said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:19).

Norman Edward's (editor of Servants' News) made the following comments in an insert box next to the above article:

State of Independent Churches

This heartfelt article indicates some of the problems that are occurring in the church at this time. These specific problems seem to occur more frequently in independent groups than in hierarchical groups, where a certain standard of behavior is expected or enforced. Brethren in independent groups need to realize that the price of freedom from this enforcement is that each of them, as an individual, is now required to have a close relationship with God and to look to Him to “keep them on track”...

Are independent believers also spending too much to take care of themselves and not preaching the gospel or feeding the flock? Because they are independent, these groups cover the whole spectrum: Some are very diligent to serve our Father, doing much with little. Other groups, while they quote the scriptures continually, are such a poor example to the outside world that they are an embarrassment to our Father. Independence is of little value if it produces no fruit. 

The fact is that the price of being independent is NOT what Norman Edwards indicates.  Being completely "independent" means that you are not truly supporting the Philadelphia work of getting the gospel of the kingdom out to the world as a witness so that the end may come (Matthew 24:14).  Because of failing to "hold fast" (Revelation 3) but thinking that your own "people decide" governance (which is basically what the two Greek words that make up the term Laodicea literally mean), Jesus says He will spue the Laodiceans out.

And furthermore, as the writers above even admit, the independent Laodiceans are having major problems simply hosting church services or even attending Holy Day services.

FWIW, my wife and I have been hosting church services in our home for nearly 17 years now.  It does take a certain amount of work and is a bit of a hassle at times, but so was driving nearly an hour to WCG services many years ago.

In addition, as readers of this page are aware, we are not "independent" Christians as we support the Philadelphian work of the Church of God. 

Zephaniah 2:1-2 warns God's people to "Gather yourselves together...Before the LORD's fierce anger comes upon you. Before the day of the LORD's anger comes upon you!".  Unless independents wake up, they will go through the Great Tribulation (for more information, please read the article There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra).

I am spiritually fed by various ministries and COGs, why should I restrict myself to supporting the Philadelphia remnant work?
You may wish to consider the previous answers, HWA's quotes above, as well as the following,

"Philadelphians love others, not just themselves."

"This era of the Church was to produce fruit" (Mystery of the Ages, p. 290).

As Jesus taught: "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35).

Philadelphians will give their all to proclaim the Gospel. Philadelphians have "a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name" (Revelation 3:8). They are not part of an especially strong church (or a large church by the world's standards). They have kept God's word without watering it down. They have not denied Christ's authority (which is essentially how Strong's defines the word translated as "name"). The Philadelphians accept that "Christ is head of the church" (Ephesians 5:23), and accept authority within the Church: "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, 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, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-15).

As Mr. Armstrong wrote: "The government of the kingdom of God is of necessity government from the top down. It cannot be 'government by the consent of those being governed'… Revelation 3:12 indicates that those of the 'Philadelphia era' will be pillars in the Headquarters Church… What I am showing you here is that Christ's gospel of the kingdom actually includes all this knowledge here revealed-even the whole universe will be ruled by us, who, with God the Father and Christ, become the kingdom of God" (Mystery of the Ages, pp. 49, 347, 362)...

The Laodicean Church is the last one mentioned in the book of Revelation (Revelation 3:14-22). As the last, it is the one that will be the most dominant at the time of the end. The word "Laodicea" can be rendered "the people rule", "judgment of the people" or the "people decide." Laodicea is characterized by a rejection of the governance accepted by the Philadelphians, and by a general lukewarm attitude. Laodicea places emphasis on self (as opposed to proclaiming the Gospel), thus it also waters down the Truth-and so is "rebuked and chastened" and counseled "to buy from Me gold refined in the fire" (Revelation 3:18-19)" (What is a Philadelphian?. Living Church News. July-August 2001, pp. 11,14)

The United Church of God is larger, shouldn't I go there?
You can attend and support whomever you wish. But the truth is that UCG does not officially teach most of the 18 Truths that HWA Restored to the Church. For detailed proof, you may wish to read UCG's Fundamental Beliefs (found at its website) or the highly detailed article, Differences Between the United Church of God and the Living Church of God. I believe those who are Philadelphian will eventually conclude that the UCG (or its offshoot COGWA) is not it.

The Philadelphia Church of God claims to be the Philadelphia era of the Church, why not support them?
Simply calling oneself (or one's church) "Philadelphian" does not guarantee that one actually is Philadelphian (e.g. Revelation 3:9). Some who claim to be Philadelphian are not. PCG has departed from the truth by adding non-biblical teachings and requirements. For some details, please read the article Teachings Unique to the Philadelphia Church of God.

Ministers have misled me before and I don't want that to happen again, so aren't I better being independent?
You are not better off if you do not believe you need to support the major work of God or if you do not believe you need to follow the Bible.

HWA and Paul taught, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1).

Yes, it is true just because someone makes mistakes does not mean that God is not using him/her.

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:4). "Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel (I Corinthians 9:13-14).

Aren't you writing this because you are a paid minister or because someone told you to, if not doesn't that make you an 'independent'?
No. I am not a paid minister and have never received any income from LCG or any of the groups that once had some WCG affiliation. No one in any COG even knew that I was writing this article when I originally wrote it (though many now have read it from this website). And while I now serve and physically run the Continuing Church of God, I still do not take a salary (though it is possible that could change some day).

The scriptural reason to write this article is,

"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1).

Individual members are to do their part as their talents/abilities allow. It is probably wise of me to add that I did not begin to write Church articles nor have a Church website until ministers in the Global Church of God (later the Living Church of God) asked me to (and no, even though there had been some suggestions--which I normally followed, they had not 'controlled' it).

Herbert Armstrong finished the work so why is there any reason to support end time warning work?
If you believe HWA finished the work so you do not need to, then you have ignored what he wrote in his last three letters and are ignoring what the Bible teaches on this subject. For HWA and biblical quotes on this matter, please read the article, Should the Church's Top Priority be Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority?

I like others and I (or a family member) do not like what I have heard about certain leaders so isn't that a valid reason to not support the Philadelphian work?
The biblical answer is no. The Bible clearly indicates that one should not make their religious decisions on the basis of what family members decide (Luke 14:26). Jesus also taught, "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:27), thus one probably should not chose one fellowship over another because one seems 'easier' to bear. The Bible indicates that financial reasons are also unacceptable (Matt 13:22). The fact that one likes the preaching style of one minister (or group) more than another also does not seem to be biblically sanctioned (I Cor 1:12-13). The truth is that although COG leaders are far from perfect, there have been many false accusations and rumors floating about that are not true.

Now the fact that one does not like aspects of the leading minister is not a biblical reason for non-support--look what Paul wrote, "Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ's, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ's, even so we are Christ's. For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed-- Lest I seem to terrify you by letters. "For his letters," they say, "are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible" " (II Cor 10:7-10), thus some did not care for Paul either. The same could be said of Jesus, Moses, and many other biblical leaders; "Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD'S doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes'? (Matthew 21:42). Is not interesting to note that Jesus says the following in the next verse, "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. " (Matthew 21:43). Or in other words, some of you who think you are God's people have rejected God's representative, so God will not use you but someone other than you to produce the fruits from proclaiming the Gospel!

But aren't there a lot of other groups?
Yes, but none is doing more to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). Ask yourself, does the group "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3)? If so, great, but is this the only biblical criteria? "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples...You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit (John 15:7,8,16). Thus individual members are to bear fruit. And, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matt 7:15-20). Thus groups should be judged by their fruits! The next verse says, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matt 7:21).

What is the will of the Father regarding fruit?

That we bear much of it!

Thus, whatever group you are affiliated with should be trying to bear fruit. Jesus clearly indicates that this is not just talking about an individual improving one's own life as he said, " For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35) and "But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matt 13:23). Therefore, it appears clear that one should be affiliated with a group that places a high priority of developing fruit through proclaiming the gospel! Even though this author has heard some say that this is the job of the two witnesses (Rev 11:3,7) or the 'third angel' (Rev 14:6), here is what Jesus says this to those who want to wait for someone else, "Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!" (John 4:35).

It should be added that those of us who still believe in Church eras, believe that there will be at least three different broad groups (not limited to any particular corporations) during the end time. One that has a name that it is alive, but is dead (Sardis, Rev 3:1), another who keeps Jesus' command to persevere (Philadelphia, Rev 3:10), and the final one that is lukewarm where, apparently, the people rule (Laodicea, Rev 3:14,16; note 'justice of the people' is how Smith's Bible Dictionary translates 'Laodicea'). A related article of possible interest may be Are the Laodiceans the Modern Sadducees and Pharisees?

I feel that HWA was Elijah and does not that justify my being separate from those who disagree?

Here is an interesting quote from Herbert Armstrong on this subject,

Also Malachi 4:5-6 pictures the Elijah to come at the very end of the Church age" (Mystery of the Ages. 1985, p. 349).

I agree with that.

All should understand that since the Church age has not ended, that HWA's own writings are completely consistent with my position on this matter. I publicly admit that HWA often said/wrote that he was the Elijah, but having communicated with many that HWA knew well for years, it is clear that HWA was not totally sure (otherwise he would have not told Dibar Apartian that he was not sure about it). Teaching that HWA did an Elijah-like work and allowing that God MIGHT have another Elijah in mind as the absolute end has not yet come (and HWA died over 29 years ago) is not inaccurate or wrong. Furthermore, while HWA claimed to restore at least 18 truths, I never recall reading or hearing him say that he 'restore all things,' which is the requirement from Malachi.

Some, sadly will not support the true work because of its position on this subject. More information is included in the article The Elijah Heresies. A directly related sermon is titled Elijah, Herbert W. Armstrong, and CCOG.

Laodicea means 'the people decide,' and sadly each has decided what is more important than proclaiming the Gospel. As you know, Jesus taught Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven...Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand" (Matthew 7:21,26). Jesus and HWA taught that the Philadelphia Church's top priority was to proclaim the Gospel.

I feel that the fact that those supporting the Philadelphia work allows make-up disqualifies it from being a unique remnant of the Philadelphia era of the Church, so aren't I better off not being part of it?

Interestingly, it is this make-up issue which I believe separates many of independents that claim to be Philadelphians from the work.

If you read the article What is a Philadelphian? you will see what HWA and the Bible says defines the Philadelphia era--I do not believe HWA ever indicated that make-up was one of the 18 restored truths. Actually HWA wrote that the make-up position "would be changed over my dead body", and, and I do not mean this disrespectfully, he is dead, (I attended his funeral); thus my position is consistent with HWA's statement. And yes, I do believe God inspired that particular statement to allow this position to be once again changed.

I also read an article HWA wrote about make-up in the 1960s. He essentially wrote that women wear make-up to fit into the world. While that may have been true then, the world has changed; Western culture has changed. Women now often have tattoos, weird body piercings, bare midriffs, wear sheer clothing, etc. For the Church woman of the 21st century to wear moderate amounts of make-up really does not make her look worldly, nor like a hooker.

The fact is that HWA must have considered make-up somewhat of an administrative and cultural matter, as he changed his position on it at least two times while he was alive (I am fairly sure it is at least three times with one of those times restricted to Ambassador College students). In addition, the last time he ruled against it, he allowed make-up to be worn in areas he felt it was appropriate for the culture. The genuine COG teaches that vanity is a sin. The genuine COG teaches that wearing make-up out of vanity is a sin. I do not wear make-up, and do not require anyone to wear make-up--you can support the Philadelphia work and not endorse make-up. On the other hand, it is nearly impossible to be independent and place the top priority on proclaiming the Gospel.

If you are a man who is highly concerned about the make-up issue, please ask yourself, are you female? Did you ever wear make-up? Thus, if you are male, is it truly relevant for you or does this subject simply make you possibly judgmental? Was HWA wrong the various times he allowed it? Did not HWA always try to get the gospel out? Vanity is the problem. Every man at his best state is altogether vanity (Psalm 39:5). Vanity is the problem related to make-up. Sometimes for the wearers, sometimes for the judgmental.

Make-up is a twig, pharisaical argument, often used by those who do not place there priority on getting the Gospel out. In his November 19, 1976 letter Herbert Armstrong wrote,

It is true that Baptists, fundamental Methodists, and other Protestant denominations, do teach some things as we do--but they have the branches and twigs of the tree--NOT ONE OF THEM has the real TRUNK of the tree--with its MAIN BRANCHES. In other words, not one of them knows what spiritual salvation really is, what the KINGDOM OF GOD (Christ's whole Gospel) really is, WHY God put humanity here on earth: WHAT is our real ultimate human POTENTIAL, or HOW we shall reach it. They know not God's PURPOSE, nor His MASTER PLAN for working it out. They do not know why we are here, where we are going, or THE WAY. Those are the BIG, MAIN branches of the tree of knowledge. They are the MISSING DIMENSION in knowledge...But we in this Philadelphia era have too much of that fault, also. When first TRULY converted, it is like a ROMANCE, but we too soon cool down in our LOVE for Christ and HIS WORK...But Christ said to His Philadelphia era Church, that because we have but little strength, He would OPEN THOSE DOORS TO US (Rev. 3:8).

Notice HWA that said the doors would be open to US (not just him) and not to be that concerned about twigs of truth; some on this make-up issue are ignoring this important concept. For further information, please read the article Makeup and the Philadelphia Era of the COG.

Speaking of twigs, many small groups believe they have a few twigs that justifies their separate existence. They can be separate, but being separate means being part of the 'people decide' COG.

I do not accept 'one man' rule, so why should I not be independent?

If you do not believe that God's government is hierarchical from the top down and that God is working through the leadership of one man, than you simply do not believe that Herbert W. Armstrong taught that the Bible taught about this.

Here is some of what Herbert W. Armstrong taught:

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.

"Individual Christians"--Ex-Members

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).

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.

For more details on church governance, check out the article The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government. Another item of interest may be the sermon: Dreams, COGs, and One Man Rule.

The group that now strives to be the faithful Philadelphia remnant is the Continuing Church of God.

Semi-Independents

Since there have been a variety of confederations among those who once had some affiliation with the old WCG, perhaps this should be discussed here. Essentially the "semi-independents" (my term) believe that they are fully capable of learning and growing without a church hierarchy and can cooperate on a variety of matters (normally Feast sites, conferences, and sometimes gospel proclaiming efforts) when they believe it is appropriate.

One leader of such a confederation is CEM's Ronald Dart. Notice some of his comments:

Mr. Dart drew an analogy between a literally pacifist stance —traditional in the old Worldwide Church of God and its derivatives—and a metaphorically pacifist stance that keeps people from taking active steps to protect brethren from dangerous doctrines and leaders.

“We have inherited spiritual pacifism unthinkingly,” he said. “I have a 12-gauge and a 9-mm handgun in my house, and, if some guy breaks into our home and threatens my wife and me, he will go back down those stairs head over heels. I’m not a pacifist. I believe I have every right to protect myself and my family”...

Mr. Dart criticized the concept of “one man” as leader of a church. “Now, maybe he’ll be a good guy, a benign despot,” he said, “but the fact of the matter is that, when you leave the task of protecting the church to one man, you are taking a risk on autocracy and authoritarianism.” Mr. Dart praised Mr. O’Brien’s mention, in the introduction to the conference, of a “free church.”

“The idea of a free church is so powerful, so meaningful,” the CEM leader said, “but we haven’t gotten down to understanding what it means to be free”...

“Doctrine has been kicked around this church for too long,” he said. “I don’t know why it’s such a big problem. We tend to use the word in a sense of the word dogma. Now, does a church have the right to establish what we teach?” (Cartwright D. Conference of Church Leaders convenes to talk
about the diversity and defense of congregations. The Journal. Jan-Feb 2007).

So, his confederation (see also Teachings of Christian Educational Ministries), like others among the Laodiceans, has doctrinal problems.

Look at some of what the Apostle Paul wrote about the church:

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; 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, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 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).

Having watched DVD presentations previously by at least two the leaders at this conference, I will simply state that "the semi-independents" do have a real problem with doctrine, getting the Gospel message out, and remaining a coherent body (these type of confederations have never seemed ideal in meeting the mission of the Church of God as far as HWA and others have been concerned).

Perhaps I should add that Ron Dart left WCG in 1978 to support Garner Ted Armstrong who was put out of WCG at that time for sexual impropriety. Ron Dart also endorses military service for those in the COGs.

Thus, I feel that semi-independents, like him, should not be supported at this time. I believe that they are truly a source of division and simply are not doing the Philadelphia work to proclaim the true gospel to the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14). Even though CEM currently has the biggest media presence of any of the semi-independents, I believe the message being proclaimed deviates too much from the message that Jesus would want His Church to proclaim.

Notice something also from the Book of Proverbs:

1 A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.

2 A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart. (Proverbs 18:1-2)

Do not be rebellious and independent of the body of Christ. Jesus organized a church for a reason.

Notice something else from the Book of Proverbs:

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.

3 To do righteousness and justice Is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

4 A haughty look, a proud heart, And the plowing of the wicked are sin. (Proverbs 21:2-4)

Independents are convinced that they are right and as long as they 'sacrifice' by avoiding certain sins that this is enough to please God as tends to lead to prideful sins. Indepedents need to consider that they are to aid others:

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

The 'Day' is approaching. Faithful Christians support the work (see also
Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert W. Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work?).

Email from a Former Independent

On November 14, 2015, I received an unsolicited email from a former independent (who in late 2014 became a CCOG member) after he watched the recommended sermon that day titled Dreams, COGs, and One Man Rule (he granted me permission to post it, and I X'd out one name in it):

Dr. Thiel,

   Thank you for a needed sermon to inform those who have doubts about the use of dreams by God and to make it clear who God is using now to finish the final phase of His work. I know many are skeptical of one who claims they are the one God is using to lead His Work/Church. This is understandable since there are those who make such claims and are in it for themselves. Clearly you are doing what God has commissioned/called you to do. I can see no reason why you would dedicate so much time and energy in starting and leading the CCof G (what material benefit do you receive?). Materially you would be better off putting that time and energy into your business. However, the only wise option you really have is to allow God to use you as He wants since ones reward is in heaven. Therefore one should store up treasure in heaven.  I do not believe you sought/seek power and prestige as some do in other so called Church of God groups.

   I believe God has lead me to CCofG. He heard and answered my prayer. I finally became so disgusted with GCI and where it had lead God's people. I had so many issues with their doctrine, and tearing down of everything God built through HWA. But I did not know where to go. I believed God called and chose me and that His church would never die out. For many years I thought the mantel passed from HWA to Mr. Tkach senior, since Mr. HWA chose him as his successor, and then Joe Jr. Of course I was wrong. I looked to the example of unfaithful kings in Israel and Judah and waited for God to appoint a faithful leader. The example of David waiting for God to remove Saul was misunderstood by me.

   The last straw was a message DXX RXXXXX gave on church history about 4 years ago. He traced church history through the Catholic Church and he marginalized Mr. Armstrong's work. I finally woke up. I asked God to lead me where His most faithful leader and body of believers was.  In time and after much study of church history and those who were most faithful to the faith once delivered God lead me your website. He answered my prayer. Interestingly it was not until I had re-studied early church leaders such as Polycarp and Polycrates plus the Passover/Easter issue on other web sites, etc. that I discover Cogwriter by "accident".

  I recalled what HWA taught about church history and realized there still must be a Church of God group still faithful to biblical teachings and contending for the faith once delivered. But where and who?

  The main reason I never considered a break off group from WCG in the 1990's was because I first came in contact with Jerry Flurry's group. I reject his teaching on the man of sin and other doctrines and his leadership style. Also, when Global started and other break off groups there was such confusion and governance issue it seemed to me it was better to stay where I was in WCG. Of course being in Connecticut we were far from Pasadena and had little first hand information.

   However, I knew from scripture God did not want Christians to go it alone. He formed His church and it was ones duty to support His work as well as develop a personal  relationship with God. Many of my friends just left WCG or became members in churches of this world. Some stayed with WCG. But I believed God raised up HWA to start the 6th church era and to proclaim the second coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, how could I just be content to go it alone, (outside of His Church)? Thankfully in time God answered my prayer and I believe has led me to CCofG.

  Hopefully others will wake up. Thank you for your faithful service.

This particular member graduated from Ambassador College in the late 1960s. It is good he found the sermon helpful.  As far as his observation that I was not seeking power and prestige, I would add that he has met with me and seen me both in the USA and Canada, and realizes that my profession, etc. could give me more of that.  And yes, I would concur with his position that I would be better off financially (as well as the related stresses of 'the burden' associated with the work, cf. Malachi 1:1; Numbers 11:11) if I did not lead the CCOG, as I do not take a salary from the Continuing Church of God (CCOG).  While the Bible says that ministers are entitled to be compensated per the Apostle Paul (1 Timothy 5:17-18), it also warns against worthless shepherds:

1 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: "Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them." (Ezekiel 34:1-6)

While there is nothing wrong with wearing wool clothing, many in the ministry ended up with better clothes than perhaps they otherwise would have.  Often their focus has been wrong.

Why do I not take a salary?

Two basic reasons.

1) The work would be affected too much negatively--the Apostle Paul, himself, worked in his profession at times (Acts 18:3).  We must feed the flock spiritually, and that does take funds to reach people.  Costs are incurred for literature, the internet, video production, graphics, printing, postage, and travel--including sending Pastor Evans, Elder Veljic, myself, and/or others to differing locations to minister.

2) If I took a salary a lot more people would go hungry, especially in Africa (cf. Galatians 2:10).  The salary amount that would be appropriate for me by historic Worldwide Church of God standards would be more than all the money we currently send to Africa each year.  That being said, while I wish we had more money to send to Africa (and sometimes Asia), as we cannot satisfy all the hungry and other needs there, we are sending what we can.  We try to feed the flock physically where we can (yet, even the Apostle Peter could not always give to the needy per Acts 3:6), and that takes funds.

This does not mean I would never consider taking a salary, but with the 'present distress' (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:26) I have chosen not to do it and God has blessed our business enough that our family has our needs, etc. met.

The work (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20; Galatians 2:10) is being done, and CCOG is a work that God has blessed with at least 3 dreams prior to its start and at least once since.But sadly, many do not believe that God will work using dreams in the 21st century, despite the reality that most once part of the old WCG supposedly believed that God did in the 20th century (see also Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God).

Those who have been hurt and independent can change and support the end time Philadelphian work.

Conclusion

In conclusion, HWA said members are not to be independent nor should they be part of real small groups. HWA said to keep getting the Gospel out. HWA taught that he restored at least 18 truths to the Philadelphia era of the COG, all of which the Philadelphia remnant of the COG teaches.

Zephaniah 2 sternly warns against being independent in the end times.

Jesus taught, "You will know them by their fruits." The group that now strives to be this faithful remnant is the Continuing Church of God. We have reached millions with almost no budget as we believe we are truly being led by God's spirit (cf. Zechariah 4:6) and that the fruits prove it.

So, if you have been independent (or part of a small or single minister group), isn't it now time to support the work?

Those who will not, and early enough (cf. Zephaniah 2:1-2), will NOT be protected from the hour of trial that will try the whole earth (Revelation 3:10) even if they are COG Christians (Revelation 12:17).

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