Some state that the Church of God must not change any of the teachings established by Herbert W. Armstrong prior to his death in 1986. It is further stated that his doctrinal understanding has the weight of uncanonized Biblical truth! As a basis for this position, 1 Corinthians 11:1-2 is quoted. Our answer to this belief is set forth in the following response.


Before addressing 1 Corinthians 11:1-2, we need to give a brief
background on Herbert W. Armstrong and the Biblical teaching about
“apostles.” Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986) was led by God to
establish the Radio Church of God in the early 1930’s–later to be
renamed the Worldwide Church of God. This powerful work focused on the
Biblical guidelines that characterize the true followers of Jesus
Christ. Mr. Armstrong’s ministry was based on the understanding given
to him, and he often spoke of his personal growth in understanding. He
even mentioned in his old age that he had been learning more within the
last year than ever before–and as it occurred, this was the last year
of his life. He continually taught what the Bible records in 2 Peter
3:18: “…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”

who were members of the Worldwide Church of God recognized the
tremendous zeal and the obvious fruits of Mr. Armstrong’s leadership in
his service to God. Based on this and the Biblical examples, many also
came to believe that Mr. Armstrong fulfilled the office of an apostle.
Beyond the original twelve apostles chosen by Jesus Christ (compare
Luke 6:13), the New Testament identifies others who became apostles in
the Church of God in that first generation of believers (compare Acts
1:15-26 regarding Matthias, who replaced Judas; Acts 14:14 regarding
Barnabas and Paul; and Galatians 1:19 regarding James, the half-brother
of Jesus Christ). That others in subsequent times would also become
apostles in the Church of God is supported by Scripture, as we will now

Consider that in the organized administration of the
Church, God has established offices through specific ordination. 1
Corinthians 12:28 states: “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.”

adds to this: “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 [margin: building
up] of the body of Christ” (4: 11-12).

Paul reminded the
Corinthian Church of his work with them: “Truly the signs of an apostle
were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders
and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:12). In his earlier letter to this
Church, Paul also addressed the proof of his apostleship: “Am I not an
apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you
not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet
doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal [Margin: certification] of
my apostleship in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:1-2).

The Biblical
principle that these verses reveal is that an apostle will be known by
his fruits (Compare Matthew 7:16, 20). We see the example of a sorcerer
named Simon who wanted the “power” that was associated with the work of
an apostle: “And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the
apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,
saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may
receive the Holy Spirit'” (Acts 8:18-19). Quite obviously, Simon wanted
the same office and abilities as the apostles, but he wanted them for
entirely wrong purposes!

Others arose in the Church of that day
claiming to be apostles. Their fruits did not build up the body of
Christ! Here is Paul’s very poignant warning–a warning we must
continue to heed in our time: “For such are false apostles, deceitful
workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no
wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform
themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according
to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

In the message to the
churches, Jesus addresses the problem that this first generation of the
Church (Ephesus) faced, and He encouraged them in having a right
approach: “‘I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you
cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they
are apostles and are not, and have found them liars'” (Revelation 2:2).
His concluding statement includes something He sternly cautioned each
era of the Church to be mindful of and to do: “‘He who has an ear, let
him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Verse 7).

Even in
our day, some have arisen, falsely claiming to be apostles. We must
continue to judge according to the fruits we observe–regardless of
what some may claim, when their statements are not supported by God’s
Word! Paul wrote to the Church of God at Corinth and chastised them for
trying to divide Christ. They had become followers of one or another of
those who led the Church. Evidently, some even rejected all of the
apostles and claimed they followed Christ. Conveniently, that would
remove them from Paul’s oversight and authority (compare 1 Corinthians,
chapters 1, 2 and 3). However, Jesus Christ has clearly shown that the
leadership of His appointed ministry was to be followed. If fact, the
living Jesus Christ has continued to lead the Church of God to this
time through the organized administration He has appointed. As in the
lifetime of Herbert W. Armstrong or any of those who served the Church
in earlier generations all the way back to the original apostles,
faithful ministers will be known by their fruits!

With this
background, let us address 1 Corinthians 11:1-2, where Paul states:
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. Now I praise you, brethren,
that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I
delivered them to you.” It is difficult to see how someone can argue,
based on these passages, that the Church of God must not correct any
error today, when the Bible clearly reveals such error; but there are
indeed some who take this strange position. They reason that we must
follow an “apostle,” no matter what–even if an apostle should be
incorrect in teaching or action–as we are to follow an apostle as we
would follow Christ. This is, however, NOT what 1 Corinthians 11:1-2
conveys. In fact, just the OPPOSITE is true.

Matthew Henry’s
Commentary explains this passage as follows: “Yet would not Paul be
followed blindly. He would be followed himself no further than he
followed Christ. Christ’s pattern is a copy without a blot; so is no
man’s else.”

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown state: “We are to follow Christ first, and earthly teachers only so far as they follow Christ.”

translation of 1 Corinthians 11:1 says: “Be imitators of me, EXACTLY as
I am of Christ.” Certainly that translation would clearly show that we
are to follow another individual only as long as he imitates Christ
exactly. Paul was encouraging people to follow his good example, which
was in direct contrast to the one that many Corinthians seemed to be
setting. At the start of this epistle, in 1 Corinthians 1, Paul
addressed the problems regarding contentions over men (compare verses
10-12). The same has happened in this modern age, showing that
nothing really changes.

1 Corinthians 11:2 states that Paul
delivered traditions to the Corinthians, but he was the deliverer, not
the originator. This is being said in the context of him having seen
and spent time with Christ personally (Acts 9:1-9; Galatians

The Church was built on the foundation of Jesus
Christ and the apostles and prophets because Christ was perfect and,
while the apostles and prophets weren’t, only that which is correct
doctrine has been preserved and canonized.

This is not to
say that the Bible DOES NOT report of wrong conduct of the early
apostles, both before and after their conversion. Quite to the
contrary! Are we to assume that Church members had to follow the
apostles, even if they acted wrongfully? Let us not forget that Judas
Iscariot was an apostle. Should he have been blindly followed in spite
of his example?

When converted Peter, who was also an apostle,
played the hypocrite and refused to eat with the Gentiles (Galatians
2:11-13), so that even converted Barnabas, another apostle, was
influenced by this hypocrisy, should the Church have followed Peter and
Barnabas? That would be following apostles irrespective, as some
teach today; but Paul–a third apostle–did not approve of such a wrong
concept. He challenged, rebuked and corrected Peter openly, explaining
that he was no longer following Christ in that incident, and that Paul
could not follow Peter in that regard. In fact, Paul asked Peter to
change. Should Peter have been blindly followed at that
time in spite of his example?

Before he died, Mr. Armstrong
exhorted members to follow the new Pastor General after his death. But,
it should have been clearly understood that Mr. Armstrong did not mean
that we were to follow the new Pastor General in ways opposite to the
Word of God. Sadly, many in the Church did so and adopted false
teachings and practices, especially, when the new Pastor General began
to claim that he was an apostle (even though his fruits showed that he
was not). This wrong concept, which is only a variation of what some
teach TODAY, ended in disaster, as under Mr. Armstrong’s successor,
much truth was removed from the Church and gross error introduced.

Armstrong stated many times in his life that we were ONLY to follow him
AS he was following Christ, and that we would have to REJECT him or his
teachings if he was to CEASE following Christ. Many will remember how
Mr. Armstrong told the Church time and time again: “Don’t believe me.
Believe the Bible.” The Church, under Mr. Armstrong, taught its
students at Ambassador College that Paul was telling the Corinthians,
in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Follow me as I follow Christ, but don’t follow
me if I don’t follow Christ.”

In 1 Corinthians 3:10 Paul
states that “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a
wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on
it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.” The foundation
must always be that as revealed by God and if an apostle is in accord
with God’s revelation of truth, then he may be imitated as he imitates
Christ. The original apostles who were eye witnesses, recorded the acts
and teachings of Jesus when He was here on earth, together with other
much needed information which, when added to the Hebrew Scriptures,
give us God’s complete and perfect revelation to mankind. But even
these apostles should not be followed blindly, as Scripture clearly

Acts 4:8-12 sets out that there is salvation only
through the name of Christ and not through any other third party:
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the
people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good
deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let
it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the
name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised
from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is
the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the
chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is
no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Corinthians 11:1 can, and must be taken at face value: We are to follow
Paul or any other servant of God ONLY to the extent that he follows

Lead Writers: Norbert Link, Dave Harris and Brian Gale

©2024 Church of the Eternal God