The Bible mentions several times that we are not to add or take away from what is written. What is God referring to?
In a recent Q&A (Update #311), you said that the Bible requires the testimony of two eye witnesses to convict a person, but this seems to be incorrect. The Scriptures talk about witnesses who are testifying before the judge–not persons witnessing a crime with their eyes. Therefore, it seems that two witnesses could testify to scientific evidence or circumstances to establish a connection with a crime, including DNA, fingerprints, blood stain or similar evidence. What do you think?
To clarify, our stance against serving on a jury is based on many Biblical passages and principles, not just on the requirement of two witnesses. For an in-depth discussion on this issue, please read our Q&A in Update #289.
Regarding the requirement of two witnesses, we discussed this in several previous Q&A’s (compare Update #311 and #66). We pointed out that the Bible requires the “testimony” of at least two witnesses to establish the guilt of a person. The context makes it abundantly clear that these witnesses have to be “EYE witnesses” of the crime–circumstantial or “hearsay” evidence is simply not admissible or sufficient, according to the Bible, to convict a person.
Deuteronomy 17:6-7 reads that “whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” The Authorized Version says, “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death.” It is established, then, that witnesses had to speak or testify. In order to give relevant testimony, they had to testify about the alleged crime of the accused. As we will show, they had to be “EYE” or “EAR” witnesses–who had observed the crime–and who were asked to testify about what they themselves saw and heard, with sincerity, certainty and total honesty. It will also become clear that the term “witness” cannot be applied to someone not present at the scene of the crime. A “scientific expert” who testifies about “DNA evidence” simply does not fit the BIBLICAL definition of “witness.”
The Nelson Study Bible states: “The guilty was condemned to death only after guilt was established by two or three witnesses (compare Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28).” In all the Scriptural examples quoted by the commentary, the reference is to EYE witnesses–not to persons who give “hearsay evidence” or testify about some “scientific CIRCUMSTANTIAL evidence.”
The New Bible Commentary: Revised adds that the witnesses had to be of “unquestioned veracity and unanimous opinion… and the severe penalty was to be imposed only on the basis of irrefutable evidence.” In fact, when more than two witnesses were available, they all had to come forward and testify, and all of their testimony had to be unanimous. If it was not, the accused could not be condemned. (This shows that “testimony” of “scientific experts” would not be admissible or conclusive, in any event, as the “experts” of the prosecution and the defense seldom, if ever, agree on anything.)
Notice the following comments by Soncino:
“Although his crime was brought to the notice of the judges both in secret and in public…, no sentence of death can be passed unless there are two witnesses to testify… Everyone who WITNESSES THE CRIME, even if the number be more than the two witnesses required, has to appear before the court to be questioned.”
The testimony or witness of one person was not sufficient. Neither was mere hearsay. Leviticus 5:1 does not allow for testimony of second-hand knowledge as being sufficient to convict a person. The passage reads: “If a person sins on hearing the utterance of an oath, and is a witness, whether he has seen or known of the matter–if he does not tell it, he bears guilt.”
First, note, that a witness is someone who has HEARD the utterance of the oath–that is, he was PRESENT when it occurred. This is further confirmed by the fact that he has “SEEN” it. The additional expression, “or known of the matter,” is a misleading English rendering. The words, “of the matter” were added and are not found in the Original. The Hebrew word for “known” is used in a variety of senses, but it describes foremost the act of “ascertaining by SEEING” (see Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, No. 3045). It does not describe obtaining second-hand knowledge in some way from someone else.
It is also important to realize that the person addressed in Leviticus 5:1 is charged not to HIDE relevant facts, but to testify to them. However, his testimony alone would not be sufficient, as noted, to convict a person–at least one more witness had to corroborate his testimony. On the other hand, Proverbs 25:8 cautions us not to go to court too hastily, which includes the warning that we must be sure of our testimony, as the Bible provides harsh penalties for an untruthful witness.
The Bible does refer, in describing legal procedures, to documentary or other “scientific” evidence, but we must note the context. For instance, in Jeremiah 32:10, the prophet is signing a deed in the presence of witnesses–again showing that witnesses are those who are PRESENT so that they are able to testify later to the event. This procedure will again be followed in the Millennium, so that the veracity of a legal deed is established without doubt (compare Jeremiah 32:44).
In addition, “scientific evidence” was permitted to exculpate an accused–clearing him of wrongdoing–but never to convict him.
Exodus 22:10-13 provides: “If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies, is hurt, or driven away, NO ONE SEEING IT, then an oath of the LORD shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept that, and he shall not make it good… If it is torn to pieces by a beast, then HE SHALL BRING IT AS EVIDENCE, and he shall not make good what was torn.”
Let us also note Deuteronomy 22:13-15. In that case, a newly-married woman is accused by her husband of having committed fornication prior to her marriage. She can establish her innocence by producing “the evidence of [her] virginity” (verse 15) by spreading the “cloth [with the evidence of the woman’s virginity] before the elders of the city” (verse 17). If, however, no such evidence can be produced, because the allegation is true, then the woman will be convicted (verses 20-21), “IF it had been proved by the evidence of two witnesses” (Soncino).
A similar situation is described in Numbers 5:12 ff. In that case, no witnesses are found to testify about the adultery of a wife, but the husband becomes suspicious. God designed a special supernatural procedure to establish innocence or guilt of the accused (compare Update #311).
In conclusion, the Biblical requirement of at least two witnesses for a conviction speaks clearly of EYE witnesses who are able to testify what they themselves have WITNESSED. To stretch this clear requirement and allow for “testimony” of “scientific experts” about what a particular piece of “scientific evidence” might or might not establish, goes far beyond the strict Biblical injunctions.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
What did Jesus mean in John 17, verses 14 and 16, when He spoke to the Father, saying that His disciples "'…are not of the world, just as I am not of the world'"?
This statement by Jesus Christ highlights a misunderstood truth that very few have comprehended, about the purpose and message of Jesus Christ, as well as the conduct of His followers–those who would claim to be Christians.
In an earlier account, Jesus pointedly contrasted His origin to that of the Jews who heard His preaching (Compare John 8:21-30). What He addressed were their actions, their lifestyle–their very way of living. He plainly said that they were “‘…OF this world'” (John 8:23); while, on the other hand, He emphatically stated that He was “‘…NOT OF this world'” (Same verse).
In verse 44 of this chapter, Jesus powerfully indicts those rejecting Him and His message: “‘You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.'”
Then, Jesus adds: “‘He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God'” (John 8:47).
Two ways of living are presented in these quotations, and they are polar opposites! God’s words are contrasted to the desires of Satan. Furthermore, Satan is revealed to be a liar and “the father of it.” Those who listened to Jesus but rejected His teaching are described as “of” the devil. Their actions were representative of the wishes of Satan.
It is important to understand that this present world–this age and civilization filled with violence, lies, hatred and every evil (Compare Galatians 1:4)–is ruled over by Satan the devil (Compare John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11)! He is described as “…the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4). After a lengthy meeting explaining to His disciples things they should know and do, following His death and resurrection, Jesus also explained how He had dealt with the society that had rejected Him: “‘These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world'” (John 16:33).
The reason His disciples would suffer persecution and difficult times is because they would not be living any longer according to the ways of the world–that is, they would not be “of” this world ruled over by Satan and his demonic forces.
Jesus reminded His disciples: “‘”…A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also'” (John 15:20).
The disciples very quickly experienced exactly what Jesus had warned. Following the remarkable events on the Feast of Pentecost when God poured out the gift of His Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus, the religious leaders immediately rejected what the apostles were preaching: “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 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. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard'” (Acts 4:18-20).
Following this warning, the apostles were again confronted by the religious leadership:
“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 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!’ But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men'” (Acts 5:27-29). This time, they were beaten for what they said and what they did (Compare Acts 5:40).
These disciples were not “of” this world. They were not part of the government of Rome that ruled in the land of Judea. They were distinctly separate in doctrine and understanding from anyone else on the earth–all of whom were under Satan’s influence. Why? Because they were following the example of Jesus Christ! They were living their lives as Christians!
In his later life, Peter continued to teach the approach of Jesus Christ:
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness–by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:21-25).
Peter died because he was not “of” the world–the age and generation in which he lived. Jesus revealed to Peter even the manner of his death (Compare John 21:18-19). Another apostle of Jesus Christ, James, the brother of John, was killed by the political leader over the area of Judea, Herod the king (Compare Acts 12:1-4).
Paul, who had at one time persecuted Christians, later on was converted (Compare Acts 9). However, his conversion took him out of the social and religious relationships in which he had been living. Now he became an object of murderous plots, persecutions and constant trials–he no longer lived his life according to the way of the world (Compare 2 Corinthians 11:22-33).
For anyone called of God, the message is to come out of the world (Compare Revelation 18:4; 2 Corinthians 6:17). The special relationship of Christians is one that separates them from the world. Even in the matter of problems within the Church of God, Paul points to the higher standard of conduct for followers of Christ:
“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore ‘put away from yourselves the evil person'” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).
Christians are to continue to live in the world–just as Jesus Christ did! Yet, they must separate themselves from the ways of this world–again, just as our Savior did!
Living in the world brings on the difficulty Jesus warned us about, and that is because we are to live as ambassadors of God’s Kingdom and as representatives of Jesus Christ (Compare 2 Corinthians 5:20). Christianity is a “way” of life that stands in stark opposition to the pattern of living adopted by mankind through the influence of the devil. It is even called repeatedly the “Way” in the book of Acts (Compare Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).
When Jesus said that His disciples were not of the world in John 17, He also said: “‘I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one'” (Verse 15).
John reminds us of why we are now living a way of life that is different–that is not “of” this world:
“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:4-6).
We must differentiate between truth and error; between righteousness and sin; and between God and Satan. That means that we also must “overcome the world” as Jesus did. He did not participate in this world’s governments, showing that His Kingdom was not of this world–this age and civilization–rather, it was future (Compare John 18:28-38). Jesus did not violate the rules and laws of this present age, as long as they did not contradict God’s Law (Compare Luke 20:20-26). His ministers taught that Christians are to be subject to authority (Compare Romans 13:1-7). Of course, that is provisional in terms of whether it is a question of obeying God or man–as we have already read in Acts. When man’s rules and laws are in conflict with God’s commandments–in the letter OR in the spirit–then we must obey God (Compare Daniel 3:16-18).
Finally, we have these words from John that dramatically point out that those who follow what Jesus Christ taught must stand separate from the age and the world in which we live:
“We know that we are of God, and THE WHOLE WORLD lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:19-20).
Lead Writers: Dave Harris and Norbert Link
I understand that you teach that Christians, serving on a jury, can only convict an accused if at least two eye witnesses testify against him. But doesn't modern science, such as evidence based on DNA or fingerprints, render that ancient Biblical command obsolete, which was given at a time when people had no concepts of modern scientific advancements?
First of all, our stance against serving on a jury is based on many Biblical passages, not just on the requirement of two eye witnesses. Even if two honest eye witnesses were available to testify against an accused, a true Christian should still not participate in the jury system of this world. For a further in-depth discussion of this vital question, please read our Q&A’s in Updates #289 and #66.
In Update #66, we state, indeed, the following, after having discussed numerous additional principles prohibiting true Christians to serve on a jury:
“In following the biblical injunctions, one could not convict a person, in any event, unless the accusation is supported by the testimony of at least two witnesses (John 8:16; Deuteronomy 17:6-7). Since the witnesses would have to ‘cast the first stones,’ circumstantial evidence would not be sufficient, under God’s law, for the requirement of two witnesses.
“Since we may be required, as a juror, to apply man’s laws in conflict with the law of God, we could not take the oath as a juror, as we would, in principle, agree to obeying man rather than God (Acts 5:29; Acts 4:19).”
Far from being obsolete in this advanced scientific age, the Godly requirement of two eye witnesses is still very much applicable–as distinguished from witnesses giving “hearsay” testimony or just convicting someone based on circumstantial evidence. Let us note the exact Biblical instructions:
Deuteronomy 17:6-7 reads:
“Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall NOT be put to death on the testimony of one witness. The hands of the witnesses shall be THE FIRST AGAINST HIM to put him to death; and afterward the hand of the people. So shall you put away the evil from among you.”
Numbers 35:30 confirms that one witness was not enough to convict a person. The requirement of two or three witnesses was not limited to capital criminal cases. Deuteronomy 19:15 says: “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning ANY sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.”
This Old Testament law, which is based on a sound Godly principle, has been reconfirmed in many New Testament passages, including Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; and Hebrews 10:28.
The accusing witnesses had to cast the first stones on the convicted offender. This was for the purpose of protecting the innocent–so that a witness had to be very careful in his testimony, lest an innocent person be convicted. In addition, if the innocence of a person accused by false witnesses should come to light, the accusing witnesses had to be stoned themselves (Deuteronomy 19:16-21).
None of these safeguard provisions are in any way applicable to “scientific evidence.” We need to understand that the idea that a jury may reach a conviction based on “scientific evidence,” is a misconception. Rather, a jury may decide to convict someone based on the testimony of so-called scientific experts who explain to the judge and the jury how they evaluate and interpret the “scientific evidence.” But more often than not, the testimony of several scientific experts does not harmonize. Depending on whether the scientific experts have been provided and paid by the prosecution or the defense, their testimony may differ greatly.
In a much popularized case in San Diego, California, scientific experts for the prosecution and the defense were asked to testify about the time when the murder of a young child had taken place. Their testimony, based on scientific evidence, differed greatly. The expert paid for by the prosecution prevailed with his opinion–but who is to say that his opinion was correct, and that the evaluation of the defense’s scientific expert was incorrect? And what legal mechanism exists to hold the scientific expert liable and accountable in the unlikely event that it should ever be clearly established that his testimony was incorrect? Basically, none whatsoever.
For many years, fingerprints were considered the “non-plus-ultra” scientific evidence. But then it happened that an innocent attorney was accused of a crime, due to fingerprints allegedly identifying him as the perpetrator, until it was proven beyond any doubt that he could not have been involved. But the wrong evaluation of the evidence, based on the “scientific evidence” of “his” incriminating fingerprints, was never clarified or detracted.
Also, for many years, evidence is being derived at from the evaluation of guns and bullets, to ascertain, whether a particular bullet was fired from a particular gun. Again, this is being looked upon by many as iron-clad scientific evidence — but recently, serious doubts have been raised in the judicial and legal community about the fool-proof “accuracy” of such evidence.
Today, many think that DNA-evidence has replaced the need for eye witnesses! But has it? Who is to say? And who is to be held accountable for false scientific testimony of “scientific experts”? Several years ago, a prominent and well-known person was acquitted in a criminal case because the DNA evidence was allegedly not sufficient. Later, he was found liable in a civil wrongful death action, based on the same evidence, but based on different legal standards.
God knew, in His wisdom, why He required the testimony of two EYE WITNESSES to guarantee righteous judgments. We must also not forget that at the time of Old Testament Israel, the nation was a theocracy. It was ruled directly by God, and God saw to it that no injustice would be carried out. He even instituted certain procedures, involving accusations of adultery, that required His direct intervention to make manifest the innocence or guilt of a person (Numbers 5:11-31).
But when there was insufficient evidence, the accused had to be acquitted. When there were no witnesses, a person could not even be accused and brought before a judge. Today, it seems that many times, even if there is much doubt, the accused is still convicted and condemned–and if it is a case involving a celebrity, he is, quite often, “tried” and “convicted” and “condemned” in the court of public opinion, before he has ever seen an “impartial” jury.
This is not God’s world, which, far too often, condemns the innocent and acquits the guilty. We are ambassadors of a better world to come, when true justice, fairness and equity will prevail for all.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Would you please explain Mark 11:24. We are told in this passage that we will receive from God all things, if we only believe. Is this promise conditional, and if it is, what are those conditions?
As we point out in our booklet, “Teach Us To Pray!”, Christ’s
promise in Mark 11:24 is indeed subject to several conditions. In this
passage, Christ is emphasizing the absolute necessity of manifesting
living, unwavering and obedient faith in our lives (compare verses
22-23). Without faith that God will do what we ask Him for, we cannot
expect to receive anything from Him (compare James 1:6-8). But godly
faith alone is not sufficient, either. As explained in our booklet,
additional necessary aspects of successful prayer include the need to
ask; to ask in faith; to pray boldly; to keep God’s Commandments; to
bear the right kind of Christian fruit in our lives; to pray in
Christ’s name; and to pray always.
Another additional extremely
important and all-encompassing condition for successful prayer is the
necessity to pray in accordance with God’s Will (1 John 5:14). This
requires that we learn to understand and agree with God’s Will for us
(Ephesians 5:17; Romans 12:2). In other words, God must reveal His Will
to us (Ephesians 1:9).
Generally, God has shown us His Will for
us. God wills that we live godly lives (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7) and
inherit His Kingdom (compare Luke 12:32). We also understand that it is
not God’s Will that we ask for and receive things to spend them “on our
pleasures” (James 4:3). When we ask for those wrong things, we ask
“amiss,” and God will not give them to us, even though Christ said in
Mark 11:24 that we would receive “all things” from God, if we pray in
faith. Rather than viewing this as a contradiction or inconsistency, we
must read all the biblical passages in context. For instance, we are
told that “all Israel” will be saved (compare Romans 11:26), but we
know from other Scriptures that not every single individual will be
saved–some WILL commit the unpardonable sin and be burnt up and
destroyed in the lake of fire (compare Revelation 20:13-15; Matthew
We must also realize that it may not be altogether clear
to us from the outset what God’s Will may be in a particular,
individual situation. When we ask God for His help, we must do so in
faith, and we must persistently and continuously pray for God’s
intervention, as long as God has NOT made it abundantly clear to us
that it is NOT His Will to act in accordance with our specific request.
If it SEEMS to us that God’s answer is “No,” we still need to continue
praying to God that He intervenes on our behalf–even if this would
require that God changes His mind–until His answer has been made known
to us as being irrevocable and final, with no possibility of change.
instance, just prior to His illegal arrest, Christ prayed three times,
for about three hours, in the garden of Gethsemane that the cup of
suffering and crucifixion would pass from Him (Matthew 26:36-44). Even
though He knew that one of the purposes for His coming in the flesh was
to suffer and die for us, He prayed to the Father that, if at all
possible, another way could be found to accomplish the same purpose.
But God showed Him that there was no other way, and so He submitted to
God’s Will, after an angel from heaven gave Him the strength and
comfort to face His terrible trial (Luke 22:43). And so, Christ told
the Father, “… not My will, but Yours, be done” (verse 42).
testified that he was sick–that he had been given “a thorn in the
flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Apparently, this sickness, perhaps
malaria, a serious eye trouble, or another physical affliction or
intense body pain, was caused by a “messenger of Satan” (same verse).
Paul asked God three times to remove this sickness from him (verse 8),
but when God made His Will finally abundantly clear to Paul–telling
him that He would not heal him in this life (verse 9)–Paul submitted
to and accepted God’s Will for him (verse 10). But before God made His
Will clear, Paul did pray THREE TIMES for God’s
intervention–undoubtedly with unwavering faith that God would heal him.
find another example in Scripture where Christ healed a leper who
approached Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me
clean.” And Christ responded, “I am willing,” and He did heal the man
(compare Matthew 8:2-3). In that particular incident, it was Christ’s
Will to heal–and it is God’s Will to heal us many times (compare Psalm
103:3). But not necessarily always! Sometimes, God may decide not to
heal us immediately, or not even in this life. God let Elisha die of
sickness (compare 2 Kings 13:14, 20). But when God decides not to heal,
He will make His Will abundantly clear. Unless He has done that, we
MUST continue to pray persistently in faith, without wavering and
doubting, that He WILL heal us–without being shaken by circumstances
or “human wisdom” which seem to indicate that God will not heal us.
Remember, godly faith is the evidence of things NOT yet seen (compare
Hebrews 11:1), and we are to walk by faith, not by sight (compare 2
Even when God has announced His Will to His
servants that He will do a certain thing, we still can ask God to
change His mind, if it is at all possible in accordance with His Will.
God told Moses that He would destroy the Israelites, but due to Moses’
intervention, God did not do so (compare Exodus 32:9-14; Psalm 106:23).
On the other hand, when God announced to David that his son would die,
subsequent circumstances proved that that decision was irrevocable.
Even though David fasted and prayed for seven days, his son died. But
while his son was still alive, David prayed in faith that God would
relent from letting his child die. Only when it had become absolutely
clear that no change in God’s Will would occur–only when the child had
died–David recognized the finality and ceased from fasting and praying
for the child (compare 2 Samuel 12:13-23).
In conclusion, until
we know–and we know that we know–that God’s answer to a particular
request is, “No!,” we are called upon to ask in unwavering faith for
God’s intervention and help. God WILL make it abundantly clear to us if
in a given situation, He has irrevocably decided not to intervene for
us in the way that we ask Him to. But until that final outcome has been
clearly revealed to us, we must not give up imploring God, in faith, to
give us the petitions of our heart.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Is the Biblical story of Noah's Ark based on fact, or is it mere fiction or folklore?
The Biblical account of Noah’s Ark is clearly factual. Some have
advanced arguments saying that Noah could never have built the Ark, and
that the Ark would not have been big enough to hold all the animals.
Both objections are without foundation.
Some of the following
material has been published in “The Good News” magazine, February 1980,
and in “Exploring Ancient History–The First 2500 Years,” Imperial
Based on the Holy Scriptures, God spoke directly
to Noah, telling him of His decision to destroy wickedness from the
earth (Genesis 6:13). He told him to build a great ship through which
his family and all birds and land animals would be saved alive, while
God covered the earth with a flood (Genesis 6:14-21). The building of a
gigantic sea craft presumes a knowledge of workmanship with brass and
iron–showing that all the fundamental crafts of culture and society
were known in that day. God said that Noah would not have to go looking
for the animals, for they would come to him (Genesis 6:20), but he
would have to provide quantities of food and grain.
claimed the Ark could not possibly hold all those animals and
provisions, but simple fact proves otherwise. The physical dimensions
alone, as given in Genesis 6:15, stagger the imagination: “The length
of the ark shall be three hundred cubits [450 feet-based on an 18-inch
cubit, its commonly accepted length, compare the notes in the margin of
the New King James Bible], its width fifty cubits [75 feet], and its
height thirty cubits [45 feet].” Based on the 18-inch cubit
measurement, the figures show that the Ark was ocean-liner size in
cubic capacity. It had a volume exceeding 1.5 million cubic feet, and
virtually the entire capacity of the Ark could be used for storage, as
it had no engine room or fuel tanks. It had three decks totaling more
than 2-1/2 acres of surface. The Ark had a capacity equal to more than
500 standard American railroad freight cars! That was equivalent to 175
modern one-bedroom apartments! No ship of such size was again built
until the 19th century AD!
Building the Ark, then, was not a
simple undertaking. Considering that all the work was done without the
help of modern equipment, it must have taken Noah and his
sons–undoubtedly with the aid of hired laborers and craftsmen–decades
to build and outfit it with supplies. Some suspect it may have taken
the full 120 years that God had allotted mankind (compare Genesis 6:3).
also must have possessed considerable resources and wealth, as enormous
quantities of timber, building supplies and foodstuffs–plus labor–had
to be purchased or obtained by barter. Yet, his wealth shouldn’t
surprise us. God demonstrates time and again throughout the Bible how
He physically blessed those who humbly served Him, like Abraham,
Daniel, Job and Joseph whom God raised from prison to wealth and
In addition to wealth and resources, Noah had to be an
engineer and an architect to direct the building of this enormous
vessel. He also had to employ thousands of servants–architects,
carpenters, craftsmen, contractors and sub-contractors (to use modern
terminology)–to fulfill all the details of this fantastic work! And
then, there was the task of collecting all the provisions for
sustaining them. Noah and his family may haven taken decades of
planning and preparation. All the zoological and botanical knowledge
necessary to carry this out took highly technical understanding and
But could Noah get all those animals into the Ark;
that is, was the Ark big enough for all those animals? To quote from a
publication of the Worldwide Church of God, dated 1980, titled “In The
Beginning–Answers to Questions from Genesis”:
instructed Noah to select one pair of every ‘kind’ of unclean animal
and seven pairs of every ‘kind’ of clean animal. The Bible term ‘kind’
refers generally to a group of creatures, all of which interbreed. The
horse kind could be represented, therefore, by one pair of animals
having the genetic potential to produce after the flood all varieties
we have today. The same would be true also for dogs, cats, etc. Second,
only air-breathing, terrestrial animals were included in the Ark…
This excludes all sea creatures and simple forms of life which could
survive the deluge.
“… Only 40 percent of the animal kingdom lives on land, and 70
percent of all species of land animals are insects. The remaining 30
percent of the terrestrial animal kingdom are on a mean average the
size of a rhesus monkey [or a medium-sized dog]. Most animals can be
maintained in small confinement for long periods and remain healthy…
Estimates of the number of land mammal, bird, reptile, and amphibian
species on earth today total about 18,000.
only kinds, not species, were included, it would have been necessary to
have far fewer than 18,000 animals on the Ark… But let’s be liberal
and say 40,000 animals, whose average size is that of a rhesus monkey,
were on the Ark. How much room in the Ark would be needed for all these
animals? About 40 percent of the Ark’s 1.5 million cubic feet would
suffice! What about insects? Remember, the Ark had a storage capacity
of 500 freight cars. Two hundred cars would be occupied by mammals,
birds and reptiles. Giving every pair of known species of insects 16
cubic inches of space, another 21 such freight cars would be
required… [When] viewed from the perspective of simple arithmetic,
only about half of the space on the three decks would have provided
plenty of room to accommodate all those animals. That left the other
half of the ship for food and supplies and for Noah and his family.”
are no valid reasons to doubt the accuracy of the Biblical account
about Noah’s Ark and the Flood. We should take note of the fact that
Jesus Christ Himself confirmed its HISTORICAL accuracy. We read, for
example, in Matthew 24:37-39: “But as the days of Noah were, so also
will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days of Noah before
the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in
marriage, until the day THAT NOAH ENTERED THE ARK, and did not know
until the FLOOD CAME and took them all away, so also will the coming of
the Son of Man be.”
The early apostles accepted the account of
Noah’s Ark as HISTORICAL FACT. Paul wrote in Hebrews 11:7: “By faith
Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly
fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he
condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is
according to faith.”
Neither did Peter doubt the historical
accuracy of Noah’s Ark. He spoke about the “days of Noah” in 1 Peter
3:20, “while the ARK was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight
souls, were saved through water.”
Today, many who profess to be
“Christians,” neither believe in the historical accuracy of “Noah’s
Ark,” nor in the return–or Second Coming–of Jesus Christ to this
earth. Peter warned of such ignorance and denial of God’s Word, which
will have serious consequences for those who are guilty of it. He wrote
in 2 Peter 3:3-7: “… scoffers will come in the last days, walking
according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His
coming?… for they willfully forget: that by the word of God the
heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the
water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded
with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by
the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and
perdition of ungodly men.”
Lead Writers: Norbert Link and Bill Grams
After Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, would they still have lived eternally, if they had eaten subsequently from the tree of life?
In order to answer this question, we need to explain first what the two trees symbolized.
we read in the first three chapters of the book of Genesis, when God
created Adam and Eve, He placed them in a beautiful garden, called the
garden of Eden or Paradise. In that garden, God had planted two special
trees. Although these trees were literal trees, they also had specific
symbolic meaning and significance. The two trees were called the tree
of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
that man could eat from all trees in the garden, including the tree of
life, but man was forbidden to eat from the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil. Therefore, God offered man to eat FREELY from the tree
of life. The Church of God has long understood and consistently taught
that the tree of life was symbolic of the Holy Spirit. If man had eaten
from the tree of life, he would have received the free gift of the Holy
Spirit of God, and with it godly understanding and wisdom as how to
live. Adam and Eve would have received, with the Holy Spirit of God, a
down-payment or a guarantee of eternal life, and they would have been,
in due time, upon continuously living the right way, changed to
immortal Spirit beings.
Adam and Eve did not eat from the tree of
life, but they did eat, instead, from the tree of the knowledge of good
and evil. In not eating from the tree of life, and in eating instead
from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, man decided to reject
God’s Holy Spirit, eternal life and godly wisdom, and to accept the
wisdom of this world, which leads to death. God had told them ahead of
time about the consequences of their decision. We read in Genesis 2:17
that God said that man would die if they were to eat from the tree of
the knowledge of good and evil. Correctly translated, God said: “dying
you shall die.” The Broadman Bible Commentary explains:: “Genesis 2:17b
may be read, ‘In the day that you eat of it, you shall proceed to die.’”
Satan told Eve something different. We read, in Genesis 3:5, that Satan
told Eve, in effect, that she would not die, but that she would be like
God knowing, or better, DECIDING for herself, what is good and what is
evil. Eve saw, as we read in Genesis 3:6, that the tree would make man
wise–but the reference is to human wisdom, not the wisdom from God
which can only come through the tree of life–the Holy Spirit. And so,
man has used his own wisdom ever since, by rejecting, generally
speaking, the wisdom of God (compare 1 Corinthians 2:1-7; 3:18-20).
are now prepared to answer the question posed in this Q&A. After
both Adam and Eve decided to disobey God and to eat from the forbidden
fruit, God confronted Adam and Eve. He saw from their reaction that
they refused to repent of what they had done. Rather, they proceeded to
excuse or even justify their wrong decision. As a consequence, God
said, as recorded in Genesis 3:22-23: “‘Behold, the man has become like
one of Us, to know [or better, to decide for himself what he thinks is] good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the
tree of life, and eat, and live forever’–therefore the LORD God sent
him out of the garden of Eden…”
Would Adam and Eve have lived
forever, if they had eaten from the tree of life, after having already
eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Realize that the
tree of life was symbolic of the Holy Spirit. So, even if they had
received the Holy Spirit by eating from the tree of life, God could
always take away from Adam and Eve the Holy Spirit, preventing them
from becoming immortal.
Some commentaries feel that the tree of
life symbolized more than just the receipt of the Holy Spirit. They
reason that it actually symbolized the immediate receipt of immortality.
For instance, the Ryrie Study Bible writes:
Adam and Eve from the garden was both a punishment and an act of mercy,
lest they should eat of the tree of life and live forever in a state of
death and alienation.”
The better view, however, is that Adam and
Eve would not have changed into immortality, even if they had partaken
of the tree of life. Remember that God had already told them that they
would DIE, since they had eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good
Matthew Henry’s Commentary writes:
man has become as one of us, to know good and evil!…’ this was said to
awaken and humble them, and to bring them to a sense of their sin and
folly, and to repentance for it. God thus fills their faces with shame,
that they may seek His name…The reason God gave why He shut man out of
paradise; not only because he had put forth his hand, and taken of the
tree of knowledge, which was his sin, but lest he should again put
forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life and FLATTER HIMSELF
WITH A CONCEIT THAT THEREBY HE SHOULD LIVE FOR EVER.”
Fausset and Brown agree with Henry’s conclusion that Adam and Eve would
not have become immortal, even if they had eaten from the tree of life:
God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us’–not spoken in irony
as is generally supposed, but in deep compassion. The words should be
rendered, ‘Behold, what has become [by sin] of the man who was as one
of us!’ Formed, at first, in our image to know good and evil–how sad
his condition now. ‘and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take
of the tree of life.’ This tree being a pledge of immortal life with
which obedience should be rewarded, man lost… all claim to this tree;
and therefore, that he might not eat of it or DELUDE HIMSELF with the
idea that eating of it WOULD RESTORE WHAT HE HAD FORFEITED, the Lord
sent him forth from the garden.”
Man was made from the dust of
the ground. God said: “FOR DUST YOU ARE, AND TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN”
(Genesis 3:19). For man to acquire immortality, God would have had to
change mortal man into an immortal being. Eating from the tree of life
and thereby receiving the Holy Spirit, would not have made man
immortal, all by itself. Even when we receive the Holy Spirit today, we
are not immediately changed into immortal Spirit beings. We still
die–physically–and need to be resurrected from the dead to
immortality. In addition, we can even still die spiritually, after
having received the Holy Spirit–if we lose the Holy Spirit and commit
the unpardonable sin, which cannot be forgiven.
We therefore hold
that Adam and Eve would not have been changed automatically to immortal
Spirit beings upon eating from the tree of life. Furthermore, God did
not want them to eat from the tree of life and receive the Holy Spirit,
as He did not see any repentance in them for their disobedience. God
does not grant His Holy Spirit to those who disobey Him–rather, we
read in Acts 5:32 that God gives His Holy Spirit only to those who are
obedient to Him. Revelation 22:14-15 confirms that only those have
access to the tree of life–the Holy Spirit–who “do His
commandments… But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral
and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Why did God want to slay Moses after He had commanded him to free Israel from Egypt?
The question addresses a seemingly difficult passage in Exodus 4:24-26, which reads:
it came to pass on the way [to Egypt], at the encampment, that the LORD
met him and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and
cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ [literally: his] feet, and said, ‘Surely you are a husband of blood to me!’ So He let
him go. Then she said, ‘You are a husband of blood!’–because of the
Please note that this incident occurred after God
had prophesied to Moses how Pharaoh would react to his demand to let
the people of Israel go (verses 21-23). It would therefore make little
sense to assume that God had changed his mind a few hours later to kill
Moses. Note that verses 22-23 record God’s words to Moses, which
immediately precede the above-quoted passage: “Then you shall say to
Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say
to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let
him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.”‘”
context of the passage in Exodus 4:24-26 shows that God did not intend
to kill Moses [whom He was sending to Egypt to free the Israelites],
but one of Moses’ two sons, who had not been circumcised. At the time
of Moses, there was in effect a temporary law that God had given to
Abraham, to circumcise every male child (Genesis 17:9-13). God
specifically stated that “the uncircumcised male child, who is not
circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off
from his people” (verse 14).
It is apparent that Moses and
Zipporah had neglected to circumcise one of their sons, even though
both knew better. God, true to His Word, was about to “cut off” or kill
the uncircumcised son, due to Moses’ and Zipporah’s disobedience–God
later killed the firstborn sons of Egypt, when the Egyptians refused to
be obedient to God. God could not use Moses to be His servant, as long
as he refused to faithfully obey God’s commands. Zipporah might have
influenced Moses not to circumcise their son; so she immediately acted
in obedience to God’s command, whereupon God ceased from attempting to
kill the son.
When reading seemingly difficult passages, it is
important to study the passage in context and in light of other
Scriptures. For example, we read about Noah’s curse of his
grandson Canaan for something that–so it might seem–Canaan’s father
Ham had done. We find this passage in Genesis 9:20-25. As in the case
of God’s attempt to kill Moses’ son, a careful study reveals that it
was not Ham, but Ham’s son Canaan, who disgraced Noah and was cursed as
a consequence. The passage reads:
“And Noah began to be a farmer,
and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and
became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the
nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem
and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went
backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were
turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. So Noah
awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him.
Then he said: ‘Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to
The context of the passage shows, of course,
that more was involved than mere “nakedness” of Noah. Apparently,
somebody had violated Noah, while he was drunk. But who did? We read
that Noah awoke and knew what “his younger son” had done to him. This
is not a reference to Noah’s son Ham, but to Ham’s son Canaan. A
correct rendering of Genesis 9:24 states: “And Noah awoke from his
wine, and knew what his YOUNGEST son had done unto him.” But Ham was
not Noah’s youngest son–Japheth was–while Canaan was the youngest son
of Ham. According to Jewish tradition, Canaan either “castrated” Noah
or he “indulged a perverted lust upon him” (compare Soncino, page 47).
In any event, Ham saw on his uncovered father the terrible signs of
Canaan’s evil deed or perverted lust, and Shem and Japheth covered Noah
with a garment.
It is not that uncommon throughout the Biblical
narrative, that subjects, objects or pronouns might be referring to
another person other than what might be suspected at the first reading
of a particular passage. For a last example, let’s consider Exodus
34:27-28 (Authorized Version):
“And the LORD said unto Moses,
Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made
[better: I will make] a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was
there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat
bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tablets the words of the
covenant, the ten commandments.” The question is, Who wrote the words
of the covenant on the tablets of stone? A superficial reading might
suggest that it was Moses. But a study of other Scriptures reveals that
it was God, not Moses.
After Moses had destroyed the first
tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments, because of his anger over
the sin of the Israelites who had built a golden calf, God had Moses
cut two new tablets of stone (Exodus 34:1). But God also said, in the
same verse: “… I will write on these tablets the words that were on
the first tablets which you broke.” The fact that it was God–not
Moses–who wrote the Ten Commandments a second time on the tablets of
stone, is confirmed in Deuteronomy 10:4: “And He wrote on the tablets
according to the first writing, the Ten Commandments, which the LORD
had spoken to you.. and the LORD gave them to me.” Moses wrote these
words, including with other statutes and judgments, and even temporary
ritual laws, in a book–which became known as the “Book of Moses.” But
he did not write the Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone–God did
In conclusion, it is important to read “difficult”
Scriptures in context and in conjunction with the rest of the Bible. A
correct understanding reveals that God did not try to kill Moses, but
Moses’ son, who was not circumcised. Noah did not curse Canaan for an
evil deed perpetrated by Noah’s son Ham, but for an evil deed committed
by Ham’s youngest son, Canaan. And it was not Moses, but God, who wrote
the Ten Commandments twice on two tablets of stone.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Would you please explain 1 John 3:2. Does this Scripture tell us that we cannot know what our destiny or potential is?
No, it does not mean that at all. Quite to the contrary, we are
clearly told in Scripture, so that we CAN know, what our destiny is. We
read in Ephesians 3:14-19 that it is our destiny to become spirit
members within the Family of God, and that we KNOW that we are to be
filled with “all the fullness of God.”
1 John 3:2 does not tell
us something different. In fact, this passage CONFIRMS, rightly
understood, that we DO know what our destiny is. When we read this
passage in context, it states:
“Beloved, now we are children of
God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we KNOW
that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as
This passage tells us that we KNOW that when Christ is
revealed or manifested at His Second Coming, we will be LIKE Him.
Christ will return in glory (Matthew 24:30), and so we, too, will
appear or be manifested with Him in glory (Romans 8:17). Right now, we
are not yet filled with God’s glory, as we are still flesh and blood.
That is, it has not yet been revealed or manifested what we shall be,
because we are not yet powerful glorious God beings. But we do KNOW
that we will be glorious God beings–at the time of Christ’s return.
Notice the following Scriptures which make this understanding perfectly clear:
We read in 1 John 3:2 about the time when Christ is revealed. We read
about Christ’s revelation–talking about His RETURN–in many additional
— 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 says that when Christ is
“revealed from heaven with His mighty angels,” He will take vengeance
on those who disobey God.
— 1 Peter 4:13 tells us that when Christ’s glory is “revealed,” we will also be glad with exceeding joy.
— Luke 17:30 compares the time when Christ is “revealed” at His return with the time of Noah and Lot (verses 26-29).
We also read in 1 John 3:2 that when Christ is “revealed,” we will be
LIKE Him. That is, when Christ is revealed in glory, we, too, will be
revealed in glory. Again, note the following additional passages:
Romans 8:29 tells us that God “predestined us to be conformed to the
image of His Son,” with the ultimate goal of our glorification (verse
— 1 Corinthians 15:49 adds that we “shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man”–Jesus Christ.
— Philippians 3:21 says that Christ will “transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.”
we have been TOLD WHAT we will be! But it has not been revealed yet–as
we have not been revealed or manifested yet in power and glory. But we
KNOW that we WILL be REVEALED or manifested as born-again God beings in
the near future. Notice Paul’s words in Romans 8:18-19:
consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be
compared with the GLORY which shall be REVEALED in us. For the earnest
expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the REVELATION of the
sons of God.”
Again, when is our glorious revelation going to
take place? At the time of Christ’s Second Coming! Note Colossians 3:4,
as it is correctly translated from the original Greek:
Christ who is our life is manifested [or revealed], then you also will
be manifested [or revealed] with Him in glory” (compare Elberfelder
Uebersetzung). The New Revised Standard Version and the Revised English
Bible translate accurately: “When Christ who is your life is revealed,
then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”
translations say, “when Christ… appears, then you also will appear
with Him in glory,” giving thereby the intended meaning that Christ’s
revelation will occur when He appears at His Second Coming. But all
renderings make it clear that we will be revealed or appear with Him in
glory, when He is revealed or appears. That is why we are to eagerly
wait “for the REVELATION of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians
We can and do know our potential. That knowledge has been
revealed to us by God, but it has not been revealed yet to the world,
as we are still flesh and blood–not yet immortal God beings. Rather
than teaching us that we cannot know what we will be, 1 John 3:2 tells
us the exact opposite: We can and do know our potential, but the
manifestation of our potential has not occurred yet. That is, we are
not yet glorified! But when the glorified Jesus Christ is “revealed” or
appears at His Second Coming (1 John 2:28), we KNOW that we will also
appear with Him in glory–provided, however, that we have remained
faithful to God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
For more information on our destiny, please read our free booklets, “The Mysteries of the Bible,” “God Is a Family,” and “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.”
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
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).
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).
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!
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.
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
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