Does the Bible encourage us to pray for the Work of God and His Ministers?

The answer is a resounding, Yes. Most of our readers understand the importance of prayer for the Work of God and His ministers, deacons, members and coworkers who are actively involved in the Work of God. However, in this Q&A, we want to show the strong emphasis, which the Bible places on the duty and responsibility of non-ordained and ordained Church members to pray for God’s Work and the human instruments whom God chooses to carry out His Work.

First of all, we must understand that it is God who appoints His ministers and deacons and who places His disciples in the body of Christ where He pleases (1 Corinthians 12:18). Members cannot just decide to “join” the Church of God. Rather, it is the Father who must draw them to Christ and His body (John 6:44,65). Likewise, ministers and deacons are not appointed by men. 

It is true that God inspires and uses ordained ministers to ordain converted faithful and proven members to the position of minister and deacon, with accompanying prayer and the laying on of hands (Acts 14:23; 13:1-3; Titus 1:5). But it is God who sets aside certain qualified men and women to the office of deacon and deaconess, and He sets aside qualified men to the office of minister and to a particular rank within the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-14; Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Galatians 1:1; Colossians 1:25; 4:17; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11; Hebrews 5:4; Romans 12:7; 1Timothy 1:12). In doing so, He entrusts His ministers with great responsibility for which they will have to give account (Hebrews 13:17).

We should be familiar with Christ’s command to pray to the Father to send forth laborers into God’s harvest, since the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Matthew 9:37-38). We should also know that the Word of God must be proclaimed and that it must be believed, but that it cannot be believed unless God sends His ministers to proclaim it (Romans 10:14-17). We are told that the gospel of the Kingdom of God will be preached in all the world as a witness, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14; 28:19), but it could be some of us, individually, to either hinder or delay (2 Peter 3:9), as well as hasten (2 Peter 3:12) the day of Christ’s return.

Paul asked the brethren many times to pray for him and the other ministers and helpers. In quite general and all-encompassing terms, he requests of the brethren to pray for him and the other ministers (1 Thessalonians 5:25). A similar request can be found in Hebrews 13:18.

In using a more specific example, Paul asks Philemon to pray that he would be able to visit him, as this visit was important in Paul’s eyes (Philemon 22).

In the overwhelming majority of cases, when Paul asks for prayers for him and the ministry, it is for the purpose of the furtherance of the gospel.

In Ephesians 6:18-19, Paul is telling the brethren that they ought to pray for one another, and for all the saints, and also for him that he would obtain the wisdom and strength to preach the Word boldly and to make known the mystery of the gospel. He reiterates this request in Colossians 4:2-3, admonishing the brethren to continue in prayer for him and the other ministers and coworkers, so that God would open unto them a door of utterance or proclaiming the mystery of Christ.

Again, in 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2, Paul asks the brethren to pray for him and his companions so that the Word of God may have free course and be glorified, and that they will be protected and delivered from unreasonable and wicked men who would love to prevent them from preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Finally, in Romans 15:30-31, Paul appeals with great emotion to the brethren at Rome, when he pleads with them and beseeches them, for the Lord Jesus’ sake, to strive with him together in their prayers to God, so that he would be delivered from those who do not believe, and also, that his service to the brethren would be accepted.

Did Paul really believe that the prayers of the brethren for him would make a difference in his life, and that they would help in the accomplishment of the Work of God? He obviously did—otherwise, he would not have pleaded with the brethren to pray for him. 

In Acts 12, we find a striking example of successful prayer from brethren for one of God’s ministers. We read that Peter was thrown into prison, and that the brethren in Jerusalem prayed in Mark’s house. They obviously asked God to protect and release Peter. In fact, an angel set Peter free. The irony is that when Peter went to the brethren and stood outside the house, requesting entrance, they at first refused to believe that it was really he, insisting that he was still in prison and that it therefore had to be his angel.

And so, as the following is true for every successful prayer, so it is also true for prayers on behalf of the Work of God and His ministers: We must believe that we will receive what we are asking.  And we must not forget to pray to God even in matters which may seem small or unimportant, as well as for those matters which appear to be too big or difficult to be received.

We read in Philippians 4:6-7 that we should make our requests known to God in regard to everything (compare 1 John 3:22; 5:14-15). We are to pray repeatedly, without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and we must pray boldly and with confidence and conviction, and without doubt (Hebrews 4:16). We are to cast all our care on Him (1 Peter 5:7)—including His care for His Church and the financial means and opportunities for the ministry to preach the gospel and feed the flock. 

Sometimes, Satan may hinder us to accomplish a certain task (1 Thessalonians 2:18)—but even then, we must remember that Satan and his human instruments (1 Corinthians 16:9) can only do what God allows them to do, and that God will crush Satan under our feet shortly (Romans 16:20; 1 John 3:8). We are assured that God’s Holy Spirit which is in us is greater and much more powerful than Satan’s spirit (1 John 4:4), which permeates and deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9).

God wants us to pray for His Work and His human instruments who are actively involved in carrying out His Work. The sincerity and consistency of our prayers for the Work of God show Him how much our heart is in the things which are important to God. We should never assume that any prayer is too insignificant for God. At the same time, we should think big and ask God to open mighty doors for us, enabling us to proclaim the gospel with much more strength and effect. Some of those doors which we might envision in our minds might at this point appear to be beyond our human grasp or reasonable expectation, but we must know that God has promised us powerful accomplishments (John 14:12), since with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

In the last Q&A, we showed that the New Testament did not abolish the Law of the Ten Commandments. In this Q&A, we will continue to show that God commands us today to keep His Law.

A fundamental statement of John the Baptist can be found in John 3:36 to the effect that he who believes Jesus Christ will inherit eternal life, but that God’s wrath rests upon a person who does not “obey” Christ (compare the correct rendering in the Revised Standard Version).

John had refused to baptize those who came to him without having shown fruits of repentance, challenging them with the question as to who had warned them to flee from the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7-12; Luke 3:7-17). In Matthew 23:33, Christ reiterated John’s warning, ultimately equating the wrath of God with the condemnation of hell fire. That is, if someone refuses to repent and obey God, ending up in committing the unpardonable sin, he will be destroyed in the lake of fire.

Colossians 3:6 tells us that the wrath of God will come upon the children of “disobedience.” 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 adds that Christ will take vengeance on them that “do not obey” the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is important to realize that we are going to face God’s wrath if we refuse to obey Him. The book of Revelation announces in vivid terms what will happen to mankind when God pours out His wrath on rebellious and disobedient people (Revelation 6:15-17; 11:18; 14:9-10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 19:15).

On the other hand, 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 states that Jesus Christ delivered us from the wrath to come since we turned from idols to serve the living God. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 reconfirms that God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ.

And so, the Bible emphasizes repeatedly that we must be obedient to God, in order to escape His wrath and inherit eternal life. In Acts 4:19; 5:29, 32, we read that we must “obey” God rather than man (if there is a conflict), and that God gives His Holy Spirit only to those who “obey” Him (which includes continuing obedience even after we have become converted, so that God can provide us with a steady supply of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis, rather than taking the Holy Spirit away from us).

We read in Acts 6:7 that when the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem, many priests became also “obedient to the faith.” Romans 1:5; 16:26 speaks as well of “obedience to” or “of the faith”; and Romans 15:18 says that Christ, using Paul as an instrument, is making the Gentiles “obedient,” while Romans 16:19 explains that their “obedience” has become known to all.

2 Corinthians 10:5-6 even states that we must bring our thoughts into captivity to the “obedience of Christ,” and once our obedience has been fulfilled or perfected, we will be able to rule with and under Christ, to deal with and revenge all the disobedience of rebellious men.

Peter admonishes us to be “obedient children” (1 Peter 1:14) who have purified our souls in “obeying the truth” through God’s Spirit (verse 22).

John explains that we know God when we keep His commandments; that we are liars when we say we know Him and don’t keep them; and that the love of God is being perfected in us to the degree that we do keep them (1 John 2:3-5). He even states that we know that we love God’s children, when we love God and keep His commandments (1 John 5:2-3).

Paul has much to say about obedience and disobedience in his letter to the Hebrews. He explained that the Israelites who had left Egypt could not enter the Promised Land because of sin, unbelief and “disobedience” (Hebrews 3:17-19; note that in verse 18, the correct rendering is “disobedience,” not “that believed not,” as the Authorized Version renders it. The New King James Bible and the Luther Bible translate it correctly.). Again, in Hebrews 4:6, 11, Paul states that they were unable to enter the Promised Land because of “disobedience” (as it should be in both verses, compare the New King James Bible and Luther; the Authorized Version renders incorrectly “unbelief” in both passages).

In Hebrews 5:9, we are told that Christ became the author of eternal salvation for all those who “obey Him”; and Hebrews 8:10-12 quotes a prophecy from the Old Testament to the effect that God will write His Law in the hearts and minds of the people, so that they will know Him and obey the Law and not sin anymore (compare also Hebrews 10:15-17).

In the very last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, the need for obedience of God’s Law is stressed again. In Revelation 12:17, we are told that Satan will persecute members of the Church of God who keep the commandments of God. In Revelation 14:12, we read about those who, in the face of persecution, have the patience of the saints and the faith of Jesus, and who keep the commandments of God. Finally, God warns those who refuse to obey God’s commandments and who instead live in and practice sin, that they will not enter the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:27; 22:15).

At the same time, He tells us that we are blessed when we keep His commandments, so that we may enter the holy city (Revelation 22:14); and when we overcome sin, self, society and Satan, we will inherit all things and won’t have to die the second death in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:7-8).

We are left with the strong encouragement that we are to continue living in righteousness and holiness if we want to enter the Family of God (Revelation 22:11), knowing that Christ will return soon to give us our reward in accordance with our works (Revelation 22:12). We cannot afford beginning to slip and fall and turn away from the Holy Word of God, by giving heed to human fables and fairy tales and demonic philosophies which will try to convince us that we don’t need to be obedient to God’s Law, because we are now under grace. Paul says that the condemnation of those is just who teach such heresy.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

Since we are under grace, are we no longer obligated to keep God’s Law and be obedient to Him?

In a previous Q&A we discussed the meaning of grace. We pointed out that grace does not dispense with individual responsibility. In this Q&A, we will show in more detail what God expects of us.

It is claimed that the New Testament teaches that we are no longer obligated to keep God’s Law, and that especially Paul made clear that the Law is no longer binding for us. This is a terrible and, quite frankly, abominable doctrine stemming from demons.

An important tool for right Bible study is to look first at the clear and plain passages, before trying to understand the more difficult ones. Even Peter said that Paul wrote a few things, which are difficult to understand, and that the unlearned try to misinterpret and twist them for their own purposes (2 Peter 3:16). Let’s not make the same mistake, but look at Paul’s clear and plain statements.

And so, Paul is telling us in Romans 2:13 that the doers of the law, and not the hearers, will be justified. (James 1:25 says the same thing, and James 2:8-12 shows that the law is a reference to the Ten Commandments, and that we are guilty of the transgression of the entire law if we break just one of the Ten Commandments. Compare also James 4:11-12).

In Romans 2:22-23, Paul reconfirms that he is speaking of the Ten Commandments (referring to idolatry and adultery as examples), when he says that we dishonor God when we break the law.

In Romans 2:27, he states that those who keep the law, even though they are physically uncircumcised, will judge those who are physically circumcised, but who transgress the law—clearly referring to the Ten Commandments.

Romans 3:31 does away with the wrong concept that because of faith, we are no longer bound to keep the law. Rather, Paul says here that we do not make void the law of God through faith, but quite to the contrary, we are establishing the law.

To leave no doubt as to how Paul felt about the law of God, he tells us in Romans 7:12 that the law is holy, and that the commandment (that is, any one of the Ten Commandments) is holy and just and good.

He also adds in Romans 7:14 that the law of God is spiritual, and he states in Romans 8:7, 9, that the carnal mind does not and cannot obey the law of God in its final spiritual application, and that one must have God’s Spirit dwelling in us to be able to obey the law of God.

In Romans 13:8-10, Paul emphasizes that God’s Law is a law of love, and that we fulfill the law (at least the portion of the law which deals with our relationship with our fellow man) when we love our neighbor. He stresses the same in Galatians 5:14, stating that all the law (dealing with our fellow man) is fulfilled by us when we love our fellow man; and he says in Galatians 6:2 that we fulfill the law of Christ when we love our neighbor by bearing his burden.

However, many have a wrong concept of love, thinking that we can love someone while breaking God’s law. This is totally false. When we break God’s law, we do NOT love our fellow man. God’s Law DEFINES for us what true love is. We read in 1 John 5:3 that “this IS the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” When we commit adultery with our neighbor’s wife, we do not love our neighbor or his wife. When we kill or lie to or steal from our neighbor, we do NOT love him.

But Paul says in Galatians 5:22-23 that when we love our neighbor and live in peace with him, have patience with him and bring joy to his life, etc., then we do not transgress the law, because against such right conduct and feeling, there is no law. In other words, the law does not prohibit right conduct. It does not tell us, for example, not to have peace with your neighbor.

The same is expressed in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 where we read that the law is not made for the righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, and then Paul lists numerous examples of sinful conduct. This statement must not be twisted to say that the righteous is under no obligation to keep the law. Rather, as long as he lives righteously, he obeys it and the law is not convicting him as a transgressor; but once he begins to disobey it, he lives no longer in righteousness and has become a transgressor of the law.

And so, Paul tells us that if we are unrighteous and abide in the kinds of sins which he listed in 1 Timothy 1:9-10, we will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

(To Be Continued)

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

What is the apostasy mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3? Is it a continuation of wrong teachings by a revised orthodox Christianity?

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 there is a falling away (“apostasia”) mentioned, which is defined by Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries (G646) as “defection from the truth, falling away, forsake.”  This verse is in the section of Scripture (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4), which reads as follows in its entirety:
“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
The context of these verses is interesting. This is talking about a falling away from the truth, and it is the only place in the Bible where the word “apostasia” is used. The apostle Paul is addressing “brethren” (verse 1) about an apostasy especially at the end time, as “the man of sin” is also mentioned who is to reveal himself during the very last days, and who will sit in the temple of God and pretend to be God himself. This strongly indicates that the Jews will build a temple in Jerusalem prior to Christ’s return, where they will bring sacrifices, and that the man of sin or the false prophet will occupy the temple for a while, when the armies of the beast power will occupy the city of Jerusalem and suppress the daily sacrifices. All of this will be fulfilling aspects of Christ’s end time warning that the abomination of desolation will be set up or standing at the holy place, where it should not be (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14).
It is correct, of course, that an apostasy from the true gospel already began during the lifetime of Paul, when he stated that he marvelled that so many in the Church of God had turned to another gospel (Galatians 1:6-7). But Paul’s warning, taken as a whole, is not about others who did not or do not have the truth, but he is addressing those who had learned it and who would nevertheless “fall away” or leave their own beliefs behind and go off in a different direction.
It is therefore clear that any revival of orthodox Christianity, including a revival of the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek and Russian Orthodox Church or the different Protestant churches (as mentioned in Revelation 13 and 17), is not in any way to be viewed as being an aspect of the end-time apostasy or falling away from true biblical teaching.

How can orthodox Christianity “fall away” from biblical beliefs that they do not accept in the first place, and have never accepted? For instance, the Catholic and Protestant churches have rejected, for nearly two millennia, the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days. The Roman Catholic Church has stated that they had the authority to change the Sabbath day. James Cardinal Gibbons wrote in his book “The Faith of our Fathers”, 88th ed., p. 89:   “But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday.  The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify.”   Further, The Catholic Mirror stated in 1893:  “The Catholic Church, . . . by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday.”   There are many other admissions along these lines, and so it is a dogmatic statement which will not change.

The Protestant Church, even though they officially rejected and still reject the authority of the Catholic Church to change the teachings of the Bible, nevertheless followed the lead of the Catholic Church and adopted Sunday worship, while rejecting the Sabbath. Martin Luther himself declared that the Bible teaches the observance of the Sabbath, agreeing with the Waldenses who insisted at the time that the Sabbath must be kept, but he concluded that one should instead continue the observance of Sunday, as to avoid an unnecessary uproar. Other Protestant “reformers” such as Calvin understood that Easter is a pagan holiday, which is not enjoined in Scripture, but which the Catholic Church adopted from pagans who kept this day in honour of pagan gods. The goal was to  bring those pagans into the fold of the Catholic Church. However, these same Protestant “reformers” did not feel it necessary to abrogate Easter observance.

The food or dietary laws are ignored and nominal Christians are permitted to eat just about any abomination one can imagine, and the correct way of tithing is something that they have never believed in. At the same time, a false concept of God is being taught, where He is misrepresented as a Trinity—One Person in Three Persons—while the Bible clearly rejects such absurd doctrine. The list could go on and on, but suffice to say that orthodox Christianity could not be part of an end time “apostasia”, because they never had the truth in the first place from which to renege, and they most certainly do not have the truth today.
In Galatians 1:8-9, we are instructed in no uncertain terms to preach only the truth: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
The true Church of God has always been a “little flock”.  Jesus said in Luke 12:32: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”   The history of the Church of God has shown, down through the centuries, that it has always been a little flock, whilst the Roman Catholic Church has grown to a membership of around a billion people.   The rest of the professing Christian world is about another one billion people, many of whom are nominal members.
It must be remembered that “a falling away” doesn’t have to be millions of people.   It is a falling away from a small flock, which the Church of God has always been, and therefore, numerically, won’t be millions of people. The “falling away” is only in connection with where the truth is and has been preached – and that is in the Church of God. We should also note that the Bible does not use the term, “great” falling away.
Paul’s warning for us today is therefore very sobering: Even though a falling away did undoubtedly take place at the time when a new administration came to power in the Worldwide Church of God, after the death of its human leader, Herbert Armstrong, in 1986, the apostasy from the truth within the Church of God will continue. As many fell away from the truth then, so many will still fall away in the future.
Many of us may remember that in the Worldwide Church of God, many things were changed, but the official explanation was that it was just another way of explanation or a “clarification.” That should be sufficient warning for all of us to be very careful, and check up on what the Bible actually says, rather than following any individual’s personal interpretations.
The reason for the ongoing apostasy, which will culminate just prior to Christ’s return, is clearly explained in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12:
“The coming of the lawless one [the man of sin, mentioned in verse 3] is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the LOVE of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them [allow them to receive] strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
There is also a warning about those who are always wanting to hear something new. In 2 Timothy 4:3 we read the following prophecy: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers.”   Others teach falsely that the Church of God does not need any true ministers.
And so, we have been warned not to be deceived. We must heed the warning, lest we fall away from God’s Church and God’s truth.
Lead Writers: Brian Gale (Great Britain) and Norbert Link

Is the true Church of God a Sect?

A “sect” may be defined as “a body of persons agreed upon religious doctrines usually different from those of an established or orthodox church from which they have separated; non-conformist or other church as described by opponents.”
The terms “cult” and “sect” are often used interchangeably; a sect is usually connected with religion and a cult may be – but many things outside the religious arena can also be classified as cultish. Certain television programmes may have a cult following – never a sect following.
Very often, using the term “sect” or “cult” is an epithet – a term of derision, a put down, an insult or a way of dismissing others. A former leader of the Worldwide Church of God, Joseph Tkach Sr., stated repeatedly that he did not like to be called the leader of a cult—hence his desire to change doctrines to bring them more in line with orthodox Christianity. To call an organization a sect or a cult is how some deride or undermine, in their own eyes, another group, which could include the Church of God. And what term or terms so easily fall off the tongue by those who want to accuse the Church of God of not being true to mainstream Christianity? Their description can be scathing, often using the term “sect” or “cult”.
It is interesting that those who criticise the Church of God for not being faithful to Scripture are the very ones who break Scripture so often!   So many in mainstream Christianity spawn homosexual priests or clergy – an act which God calls an abomination and which is mentioned, as such, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. But they accept it in spite of this being contrary to Scriptural admonition. The Bible is quite clear that women are not to speak – in a teaching capacity – in church, but again so many in mainstream Christianity allow and promote women priests and vicars. There have been ministers who don’t believe in God. One high ranking bishop in the Church of England thought that the resurrection was a “conjuring trick with bones”. There are those who know that Christmas and Easter are of pagan origin and still keep these feasts. There have been vicars who have advocated stealing in certain circumstances, and most churches trample all over the seventh day Sabbath.
Some years ago, “The New Christian Herald”, a newspaper published in Sussex, England, (which ceased publication in 2006) ran an article about the Worldwide Church of God. The article was headed “Back to the Plain Truth?” The paper stated that “the writer [of the article] charts the progress of a rare phenomenon – a cult making its way back into mainstream Christianity. The Worldwide Church of God’s journey makes intriguing reading…”
This “expert” then went on to give nine distinguishing points that define a sect or cult. Of course, other “experts” might agree with this assessment or have a different perspective, but for the purpose of this answer we will stay with the considered opinion of this “expert”. These nine distinguishing points were as follows: World rejecting, not world embracing; Clear strong leadership [depending on the degree of leadership, a group might be called a sect or a cult]; A high degree of commitment needed; Active “lay” participation; A strong sense of mission and purpose; A strong sense of belonging; Definite entrance to membership by personal faith, not by birth; Beliefs shape lifestyle; and Members often belong to the working class and identify with the poor and disinherited.
Let Scripture and some brief comments answer these points, and we will see that the “expert” was clearly deficient in his Biblical knowledge.

1)  World rejecting, not world embracing. 

Are we to embrace the world?

James 4:4 states: “Adulterers and adulteresses!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?   Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
James 1:27 states: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble,and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
As is stated in our booklet, “The Book of Zechariah – Prophecies For Today”: 

“God’s true servants must be sober and of a sound mind, resisting the temptation of wanting to belong to and befriend the people of this world—this Babylonian system—in order to follow their bad example.”
2)   Clear strong leadership.
God has always had strong leaders. God used Abraham, Joshua, Moses, Gideon, Elijah, Elisha amongst many others in the Old Testament and Peter, Paul and the other apostles were strong leaders in the New Testament.
Hebrews 13: 17 says (this is a variation of a command in verse 7): “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
Strong leaders and leadership in the church are a necessity!
3)   A high degree of commitment
A high degree of commitment is vital because for those whom God has called to salvation in this day and age, today is their only opportunity to qualify for eternal life. We have to be committed to the cause.
1 John 3: 16 points out:  “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
James 1: 22-24 adds:  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.”
4)   Active “lay” participation
We all have to play our part as God has put us in the Body of Christ, as He sees fit. We cannot just be passive bystanders.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 refers to active member participation: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”
5)   A strong sense of mission and purpose.
Again, such a strong sense is absolutely necessary.
Matthew 28:18-20 states:  “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”
Ezekiel 33:7-9 adds: “So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me.  When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.  Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.”
6)   A strong sense of belonging
In Acts 2: 1-4 we see that the future members of the early New Testament Church, even before their conversion, were in the same place, of the same mind and had a sense of belonging:
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
This attitude did not change after their conversion. We read in Acts 4:32: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.”
7)   Definite entrance to membership by personal faith, not by birth.
However, John 6:44 says:  “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John 6:65 adds:  “And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.’”
Acts 2:38 reports:  “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
8)   Beliefs shape lifestyle. 
We understand that our calling is a calling to a way of life. Our beliefs MUST shape our lifestyle – it can’t be any other way. Christianity is about the way that we behave, the way that we treat other people, esteeming others better than self and practicing the golden rule of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. It is also about being service orientated, having a kindly attitude, displaying the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 and behaving as Christ would do.
Acts 9:2 refers to true Christianity as “the Way.”
We also read in Acts 19:23:  “And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way.”
9)   Members are often working class and identify with the poor and disinherited.
But note 1 Corinthians 1:26-28:  “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.”
1 Corinthians 4:10-12 adds:  “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure…”
Perhaps a look at the ministry of Jesus Christ will show that He ministered to the poor and disinherited – and we are to follow His example.
And so, is the Church of God a sect or a cult? Based on these nine marks as this “expert” names them, and according to their definition, the answer that the world might give could be Yes. In this regard, Acts 24:5 is highly instructive: “For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.”
In Acts 28:22-24 we read another reference on this topic: “But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere. So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.”
It appears that the original, apostolic church was called a sect. And when Christ was on earth, He was at odds with the establishment. They didn’t believe Him then, and the majority do not believe Him now. 
Of course, there will always be those who want to put a label on the true Church of God, and there will always be those who think that the Church should be lumped together with other non-conformist groups as they see it, simply because of non-conformity with mainstream Christianity. There will always be those who want to think the worst.
The apostolic church was called a sect. The true Church of God today is directly descended from the first century church. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised by the label that the world might attach to the Church today.
But there is an irony in all of this. As you will recall, a sect can be defined as “a body of persons agreed upon religious doctrines usually different from those of an established or orthodox church from which they have separated; non-conformist or other church as described by opponents.”
When we look at church history and the doctrines of the Bible, the Church of God is the true Church holding fast to the truth that is expounded in God’s Word, and all of those in mainstream Christianity have descended from the apostate church of the 1st and 2nd century. They have developed many traditions and an understanding that are simply not biblical!
In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter how the world refers to us, as long as we are doing the Work that God called us to do and that we, individually, are growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), as we progress towards the kingdom of God!
Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

Jesus instructed His disciples to make their requests to the Father in His name. What does that actually mean, and how should this be done?

Specifically, in the book of John, Jesus instructed His disciples about prayer. In the hours before His death, He revealed that they would now have access to the Father—but that He, Jesus, was the means by which that would be possible.

Here are the relevant verses:

“‘And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it’” (John 14:13-14).

“‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you’” (John 15:16).

“‘And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full’” (John 16:23-24).

“‘In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God’” (John 16:26-27).

To understand more fully what this means for those who follow and obey Christ’s instructions, we will need to consider other applicable and compatible Scriptures.

First of all, praying in the name of Jesus Christ is not an incantation; that is, a formula that evokes an answer to anything we say as long as we incorporate doing so “in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Jesus warned:

“‘And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him’” (Matthew 6:7-8; compare 1 Kings 18:26).

In another example, some misused the name of Jesus, and the consequences were devastating:

“Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.’ Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, over-powered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (Acts 19:13-16).

These self-appointed exorcists were guilty of misappropriating the godly name, Jesus—they broke the commandment of God:

“‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain’” (Exodus 20:7).

Using the name of Jesus Christ must be done with the reverent awe that reflects His place in the Family of God:

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Note that “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” There has arisen a demonically inspired teaching—one that threatens to “overthrow the faith of some.” Essentially, the idea behind this heresy is that one should only say the name of Jesus Christ in the Hebrew language. In answer to this fallacious concept, consider what happened on the Day of Pentecost—the time when the Church of God began amidst powerful and miraculous circumstances:

“And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.’ So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘Whatever could this mean?’” (Acts 2:5-12).

The very first thing that occurred to the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ upon receiving the Holy Spirit was to speak under God’s inspiration—carefully note what they did:

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). They spoke at that time about Jesus Christ (Acts 2:30-36), but they did not speak only in the Hebrew language, but also in other tongues or languages.

This coincides with the work of the Church—that of being sent to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God in all of the world and to all nations (compare Matthew 24:14; Mark 16:15-18; Acts 26:17-18).

Quite plainly and unmistakably, the name of Jesus Christ would be spoken—along with the rest of the message of the gospel—in one’s own language.

The warning for us is to “…be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth” (Titus 1:13-14).

What, then, should we ask for when we pray “in Jesus’ Name”? Here is the foundational approach for us in prayer:

“And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).

When we pray, using the name of Jesus Christ, we must have persevering faith:

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

In one of His parables, Jesus told of a proud Pharisee and of a humble and contrite tax collector who came before God in prayer (compare Luke 18:9-14). The key for us is that we must not exalt ourselves—rather, we are to seek God out of a submissive heart, willing to yield to God and obey His Will.

This is what Jesus did. In the record of Jesus praying to the Father in deeply fervent agony over the death He was about to face, He, nonetheless, humbled Himself, saying:

“‘…Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will’” (Mark 14:36).

This dramatic example brings home the lesson that we are to pray and make our requests within the framework of God’s Will. However, we must not draw back from God and use this as an excuse for lacking faith! Jesus made this a point in His teaching:

“So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matthew 17:20).

“So Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” it will be done’” (Matthew 21:21).

Jesus did what He did in the name of the Father (compare John 10:25). He did none of the miracles by His own authority—something that He carefully taught:

“Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner… I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me’” (John 5:19, 30).

His obedience is our example!

Peter understood that he needed to rely on Jesus Christ, and the lesson that is brought clearly home is His role in the healing of a lame man: “Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk’” (Acts 3:6).

Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

In both of the cited examples, Peter and Paul speak of relying on Jesus Christ in ways that are all encompassing. In baptisms, in healings, in preaching—the ministers of Jesus Christ did what they did through the express authority of Jesus Christ!

This holds true for all Christians, and it is an absolute imperative for each one of us to recognize the supreme authority that Christ holds over the Church of God. While many professing Christians acknowledge that Christ existed, only the few believe that He is seated at the right hand of God as our living High Priest (compare Acts 5:31; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22)—intervening on our behalf in order to complete what He has promised (compare Romans 8:34).

Furthermore, we must be close to God by following the example of Jesus Christ. That means we are to live as He lived—by living obediently to God. The way is open for us to have direct contact with God in prayer. However, it is only through Jesus Christ that this is possible:

“‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing’” (John 15:5).

When we speak to the Father in prayer, we do so by recognizing the authority of Jesus Christ—that is, in His Name. Christ also explains:

“‘…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6).

There are additional meaningful and important aspects associated with praying in the name of Jesus Christ. Note the following excerpts from the chapter “In the Name of Christ,” in our free booklet, “Teach Us to Pray”: 

“When we do something in the name of Christ, we recognize His great power through which He works… When we pray to the Father in Christ’s name…  we are praying through Christ—expecting Christ to back us up, support us, and do something in regard to what we say…

“Since we belong to Christ, Christ allows us to do and say things in His glorious and all-powerful name. That is, we can do things through the power of His Holy Spirit in us. When we pray, write, or say something in the name of Christ, we are actually asking Christ to do those things for us. We speak to the Father through Christ. It is as if Christ speaks to the Father on our behalf—as if Christ communicates our prayers to the Father, helping us express to the Father what we think, how we feel, and what we are going through. Sometimes, we may not know exactly what to say, but Christ, through His Spirit in us, helps our weaknesses.

“When we end a prayer by using the words ‘in Christ’s name,’ we had better make sure that we CAN say this—that Christ IS actually speaking though us, or interceding for us. The warning here is that just saying ‘in the name of Christ’ after a prayer can easily become a vain repetition. To prevent this from happening, we must be well aware of its meaning, and when we use this expression, we must realize the accompanying great responsibility, and liability, for us.

“Every time we use the words ‘in Christ’s name,’ we are to be very conscious of the fact that Jesus Christ is acting, at that very moment, as our Mediator, Intercessor and Advocate, interceding on our behalf as our merciful High Priest, and that He is pleading our cause, expressing to the Father our most intimate feelings and temptations, as well as our personal struggle with ourselves and our own human nature.

“Christ promised that He would do for us what we ask when we pray to the Father in His name. The Father will answer our prayer through Christ. But we must ask the Father in the proper way, and with the correct understanding of what it means to pray ‘in Christ’s name.’”

Rather than becoming perfunctory and carelessly muttering the name of Jesus Christ at the close of our prayers, we need to very deliberately and in a deeply meaningful way mention the name of Jesus Christ with true esteem and in a spirit of worship.

For a more in-depth study on prayer, please read our free booklet, “Teach Us To Pray,” which is available on our website.

Lead Writer: Dave Harris

Do you have any guidelines for preparing and giving a sermonette?

As we pointed out in a previous Q&A, discussing opening and closing prayers, the Church of the Eternal God in the USA and its corporate affiliates, the Global Church of God in the UK, and the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada, trace their roots to the Worldwide Church of God under the late Herbert W. Armstrong (who died in 1986). During his lifetime, Mr. Armstrong established the way in which Church of God services should be conducted, and we have substantially adopted these procedures. As a consequence, our weekly and annual Sabbath services include opening and closing prayers, a song service, announcements, occasional special music presentations (especially during the Feast of Tabernacles), and a sermonette and a sermon (sometimes, we may have two split sermons instead of a sermonette and a sermon, and we may on rare occasions dispense with a sermonette in lieu of a longer announcement session).

As pointed out in our previous Q&A, only baptized men are to give sermonettes and sermons.

We are presenting the following guidelines, which the Church has developed over the years, in regard to the preparation and presentation of sermonettes. This is not a rigid outline or formula, but it is meant to give valuable principles.

The purpose of the sermonette is to prepare the audience for the sermon, but it is not just a “general” or “ordinary” message, but it is supposed to be an inspired message from God. Normally, a sermonette should not be longer than 15 minutes, unless the presiding Pastor has given special prior permission for a longer message.

To give a sermonette is a privilege, not a right. Sermonettes provide opportunities for baptized men to teach—not to preach or correct. A sermonette speaker won’t be able to “fix” or “save” someone in a short message, anyway. Correction is the responsibility of the Pastor. Sermonette topics should be carefully selected. Topics which are corrective or overly broad or are “new” or speculative would be inappropriate. A topic which challenges Church teaching is absolutely forbidden.

Appropriate topics could be broken down into the following categories:

  1. an explanation of “difficult” or misapplied Scriptures in light of Church teaching (e.g., 1 Timothy 4:4 or Acts 10:12-13–do these passages justify eating unclean meats; or John 14:2–is heaven the reward of the saved?; or Luke 17:21–is the Kingdom of God in the hearts of men?);
  2. an explanation of two Scriptures, which apparently contradict each other (e.g., Acts 9:7 vs. Acts 22:9–did or didn’t those with Paul on the road to Damascus hear the voice of Christ?);
  3. a clarification of a particular Scriptural point (e.g., Mark 9:48–are there immortal worms?); and
  4. an explanation of how to apply Scripture and Church teaching in practice (e.g., how to use our second tithe; or how to dress for Sabbath services; or what is right conversation after services; or how to participate during the song service; or how to teach our children to rejoice at the Feast of Tabernacles; or what does it mean that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, as related to drugs, smoking, excessive drinking or tattoos). However, as mentioned, it should encourage the audience to do or not to do something; the purpose is NOT to correct the audience.

The sermonette speaker has to make sure, of course, that the explanations he is giving are the right ones! He is not to rely on what he might have heard someone say many years ago. He also has to make sure that the written source material he may be using is accurate and current. This is true for “worldly” commentaries and encyclopedias, but it can also include “old” Church articles which are by now outdated or which have been subsequently revised.

The Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates have published a wealth of current information on biblical topics, including 33 booklets, over 500 weekly Updates (many of which include a Bible Study or Q&A and a Bible-oriented Editorial); over 100 member letters, as well as hundreds of posted sermons, split sermons and sermonettes. We have posted all of our literature and many of our audio and video-recorded messages on our websites (;;;; Many of our video-recorded messages can also be found on You Tube, and the Church of the Eternal God is now also featured on Facebook.

The sermonette speaker must be supportive and promote unity. The material he presents must be correct, and he must never publicly disagree with any Church teachings. If he has questions, he must check them out with the ministry. It is not wrong to have questions or a lack of understanding, but one must get them sorted out if one is to be a fully supportive member of the Church. If in doubt, it is always advisable to discuss the proposed sermonette with the local Pastor before giving it.

The sermonette speaker is not to use the sermonette time to air personal gripes or complaints about the Church, the organization, members of the local congregation, the ministry, or any other Church problem. He is not to take a personal problem of someone in the congregation and give a sermonette about it.

The sermonette speaker should pray about his sermonette and begin to prepare the message early—not just the night before or the very same day when he is to speak. When preparing and delivering the message, the sermonette speaker has to keep in mind proper and clear pronunciation and grammar; as well as vocal variety and quality. Inappropriate language is to be avoided. The pulpit is not the place to describe explicitly the sins of mankind. Paul and the other apostles do mention certain types of sin, but they do not describe them in detail. The same goes for slang bordering on bad language.

When giving his message, the sermonette speaker needs to maintain eye contact with the audience, which prohibits just reading from many notes or a transcript. As we pointed out in a previous Q&A, “This is not to say that we should not prepare our messages and reduce our thoughts to writing and that we should not have any notes when delivering a sermonette or a sermon, but it is to say that speakers must not be too ‘note-bound’ when they deliver their message. Rather, they should and must allow God to inspire them, while speaking.”

In addition, a sermonette speaker needs to be well groomed; and he needs to smile and be warm and friendly, without being overly jocular or just plain silly. Remember, we are appearing in front of GOD during the entire Sabbath service.

Each sermonette should follow the usual Outline of a powerful introduction, a clear and precise Specific Purpose Statement (SPS), a body or main contents of the message, and a gripping and memorable conclusion. (But before beginning with the introduction, it is important that the speaker recognizes and welcomes the audience. A warm short greeting with a smiling face will be much appreciated by the audience. Just jumping into the message without first addressing the audience would be inappropriate.)

The Introduction must grab the audience’s attention. It must give the audience a reason why they should listen; why it is important for them to know. It could present a challenge; give some startling facts; or ask a question. A sermonette speaker should not begin with, “Let’s turn with me to….”; or, “I would like to explain the apparent contradiction….” All of this is lifeless and somewhat boring. Instead, a powerful introduction could perhaps be, “How can you be sure that you don’t go to heaven when you die?” Or: “How would you explain to someone that we don’t vote in governmental elections?” It is of course necessary that the introduction relates to the rest of the sermonette. It must lead into the Specific Purpose Statement (SPS).

The Specific Purpose Statement (SPS) makes clear what the sermonette speaker is going to cover in the course of the sermonette. It tells the audience what he is seeking to achieve. It introduces the ONE point which the sermonette will discuss. The introduction and the SPS of the sermonette do not necessarily have to be presented distinctly and separately. The sermonette’s opening comments may be a combination of these two functions.

The Body or main contents of the sermonette must of course respond and relate to, and deliver what was stated in the introduction and the SPS. It must fulfill what was set out to achieve, without containing new or unrelated material. The points within the body should flow in logical sequence (chronologically, historically, etc.), but there should not be too many points. A sermonette is to have ONE main point; it can of course have a few sub-points which all relate to the main point.

A sermonette is not to have too many Scriptures, either. The Church has suggested at times that a sermonette should have no more than three or four Scriptures. This is a sound guideline, but not an iron-clad rule. Some sermonettes can be very effective, even though they may include more than four Scriptures, while other sermonettes with three Scriptures may not be that effective. But it is most certainly not good to load the message with Scripture after Scripture where most of the time is taken up reading them and little time is left to comment on them or give supporting material.

The Conclusion of the sermonette is vitally important. The last words will stay the longest with the audience. Common mistakes are to just stop speaking almost without warning at the end of the body of the speech; to give a conclusion which is not related to the rest of the sermonette; or to introduce new material. The conclusion must be memorized and should not be read, and the speaker should NOT end his message with, “Thank you.” Rather, the conclusion must be effective. It could emphasize the ONE point that was made in the sermonette. It might include some catchy phrase related to the sermonette, or leave the audience with a challenge to apply what has been said.

Since giving a sermonette is an opportunity for a non-ministerial speaker to receive training in leadership and effective public speaking, as well as in serving the congregation, he should expect and welcome constructive criticism and an evaluation of his sermonette from his minister. Being asked to give a sermonette is a wonderful opportunity and responsibility, which must not be taken lightly. A sermonette speaker should carefully and prayerfully review and apply these guidelines, so that he may deliver a God-pleasing and Godly inspired message, which will be helpful to the audience.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

Politicians often have to compromise to achieve their goals. Wouldn’t it be acceptable for Christians to compromise at times, if it is a means of setting a good example or preaching the gospel?

The short answer is that it most certainly is not acceptable for a true Christian to compromise his or her Christian beliefs for any reason whatsoever.

What is compromise? A compromise is an agreement (or proposed agreement) to accept a situation in which the parties get variations from what they originally sought, to achieve a compatible outcome. It can also be defined as an amicable agreement between parties in controversy, to settle their differences by mutual concession.

Actually, to reach such an agreement can be acceptable if this applies to decisions that don’t apply to God, His Word and His Way of Life, and that do not require the violation of our standards, conscience or conviction. For example, a married couple may want to spend a particular day together but with different pursuits. Therefore, a mutual agreement has to be reached between the two parties. But coming to a consensus in such a case is not a problem because God’s Law and His Way are not violated—quite to the contrary, we read that we should not look only at our needs and desires, but also at the desires and needs of others, and that we should treat others better than ourselves. In addition, in Romans 12:18 we read the following: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” That may mean giving in, at times, in order to get along, without having to violate any of God’s standards or our own convictions.

On the other hand, politicians can spend much of their time compromising and horse-trading in order to get as near as possible to their particular objectives. When they thereby violate what they truly believe in, as they often do, then such compromise is unacceptable. Sadly, many politicians today do not even have strong convictions to begin with, and so they are willing to flip-flop when it serves their purposes.

There is one Person in the universe with whom we cannot compromise. God Almighty will never allow compromise with His Will and His Way, and His followers must do neither. Good intentions are no substitute for correct and Godly behaviour! No compromise must be the watchword when it comes to Godly and righteous behaviour.

Although Uzzah was well intentioned, he lost his life because what he did was not in accordance with God’s instructions (2 Samuel 6:7).

After Solomon became accustomed to foreign gods (1 Kings 11:1-9), they found public acceptance when he built high places for Chemosh and Molech, and for all the other gods of his foreign wives. One commentary states that “these shrines were stationed on the hill (possibly the Mount of Olives) that is before Jerusalem, the city where Solomon had built the house for Jehovah.” In spite of subsequent reformations of Asa and Hezekiah, these high places were permitted to stand approximately three hundred years until the reign of Josiah. The effects of Solomon’s compromise were seen for about 300 years.

Aaron made the golden calf upon the insistence of the children of Israel, when he should have held fast against their wrong desires. We read in Exodus 32:35: “So the LORD plagued the people because of what they had done with the calf which Aaron made.” Again, Aaron’s compromise produced disastrous results.

Saul also compromised and was rejected as king when he offered a burnt offering instead of waiting for Samuel as he was instructed (1 Samuel 13). He also failed to utterly destroy the Amalekites as instructed (1 Samuel 15); and to make matters worse, he consulted a medium – the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28)–which he knew was wrong. He engaged in compromise after compromise after compromise, and so it is no wonder that he was rejected by God!

But because concession and compromise can begin in small, insignificant ways, it is easy to underestimate the potential for damage. These lessons from the Old Testament are there for our admonition (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Some compromise their standards because of peer pressure or simply to get ahead in the workplace—they may seek profit, a business promotion, or a larger salary. There are men and women who concede inappropriately because of doubt or spiritual weakness; they lack the necessary faith in God’s power and support, or maybe they are too impatient to wait for God’s perfect timing. Some may yield because they are discouraged; others, because they are proud. Any form of sin or weakness makes us more susceptible to compromise.

Lowering our standards weakens our character; reduces the effectiveness of our personal example; and can hinder our prayer life. Compromise will also corrupt our thinking. While we may believe we are making accommodations in just one area, every aspect of our life can be affected.

If we have compromised on a principle that should have been non-negotiable, we may cease to think in terms of right and wrong. Then we can easily grow defensive about concessions we have made in our faith and behavior. This may result in us distancing ourselves from God, becoming out of touch with Him, His Word and our calling, and it can produce fruit not in keeping with the life of a true Christian. In the end, people may well regard us as untrustworthy. Compromisers eventually destroy themselves.

One of the great problems with early “Christianity” was the problem of syncretism. Syncretism has been defined as the attempt to reconcile disparate, even opposing, beliefs and to meld practices of various schools of thought. If you look at mainstream Christianity, unfortunately, it is full of compromises. It celebrates days that are not biblical, but pagan in origin, such as Christmas, Easter, New Year’s Day and Halloween. At the same time, it ignores God’s annual Feast days. Compromise is evident everywhere, and we must not be involved in such practices. The celebrations of Christmas and Easter are classic examples of the early church accommodating other beliefs in order to attract followers. They compromised by accommodating paganism. They ignored clear biblical teaching which resulted in compromise. They reduced the three days and three nights during which Jesus Christ was dead in the grave, to half that amount of time which, again, was compromise in order to attract pagans who believed that their “savior” had been killed on a Friday and brought back to life on a Sunday.

What about us today? Do we compromise on tithing, for example? Do we eat unclean foods so that we do not “offend” others? Do we compromise by doing things on the weekly Sabbath that are not appropriate? Do we compromise to please family, friends or our employers? If we do, in any of those or other areas, we could be on a slippery path because we usually excuse ourselves for doing so. And having done it once, next time it gets that bit easier. Compromise, in the wrong areas, can be a deadly problem. God expects us to be non-compromisers with His Truth and His Word–something that worldly religion simply doesn’t understand.

In Revelation 2:12-17 we read a few verses about “the Compromising Church” – the church at Pergamos. They had compromised with idol sacrifice and sexual immorality – and they were told to repent. On the other hand, there are many fine examples of non-compromise, including Joseph (Genesis 39) and Daniel (Daniel 1) where we see good outcomes to non-compromise, because they stayed true to their convictions which were based on the Law of God.

What characterizes the Christian who stands firm? The committed believer has strong convictions about the Bible and a sturdy faith in God’s promises. His discerning spirit helps him to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong and unacceptable–and he has the courage to remain steadfast and secure with the truth that he has learned, and in his relationship with God. The non-compromiser has a clear sense of direction in life and is governed by principle rather than preference. He shuns compromise because he is motivated by receiving approval from God, rather than the applause from men.

One tiny concession, on the face of it, may appear insignificant. But as any soldier knows (and we are soldiers of Jesus Christ, compare 2 Timothy 2:3), the slightest move in the wrong direction can be fatal. Compromising Godly principles is no small matter for the believer. It is a spiritual error that can pull us further and further from God until we are in over our heads and too weak to struggle. Holding firm to God’s Truth can require tremendous resolution. All true Christians are called upon, sooner or later, to stand up for their beliefs or to fall for Satan’s deceptions.

Andrew Carnegie, the 19th century Scottish-born American Industrialist and Philanthropist, said: “Compromise is but the sacrifice of one right or good in the hope of retaining another – too often ending in the loss of both.”

In Revelation 3:7-13, we read the message to the church at Philadelphia. We are told in verse 11 to “Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” We can’t hold fast if we compromise. Those who compromise will fall short of what is required of them, and those who compromise with God’s Law and His Way of Life will not inherit the promise of eternal life.

Christ was uncompromising in every area of His life. We, as members of Christ’s spiritual Body—of God’s true Church–and as followers of the Messiah, must be exactly the same, making sure that no compromise is entertained when it comes to our Christian life, the keeping of God’s Commandments and doing exactly what we are instructed to do!

Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

Does what Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 26:24, imply that Judas was lost?

The answer is, “No.” In our Q&A published in the Update of April 22, 2011, the question of whether or not Judas committed the “unpardonable sin” is addressed. It was pointed out, among other things, that Judas had never received the Holy Spirit prior to his death. We will now address the specific question that arises from Matthew 26:24, which reads:

“‘The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.’” Compare Mark 14:21 and Luke 22:22.

Considering how Judas ended his own life by committing suicide (compare Matthew 27:1-10; Acts 1:18-19), what Jesus said addresses the utter waste and grief brought about by Judas’s betrayal. Jesus does not in this verse address the future judgment that Judas will face in the resurrection.

In Job, chapter 3, Job wishes that he had never been born because of the terrible suffering he was experiencing. Throughout the story of Job, we see that Job agonizes in his suffering, but in the end Job came to a true knowledge of God, deeply repented and was then blessed abundantly by God. Likewise, Jeremiah anguishes over his own birth, because of his trials in serving God, saying: “Why did I come forth from the womb to see labor and sorrow, That my days should be consumed with shame?” (Jeremiah 20:18).

Judas was not called to salvation and eternal life to be inherited in the first resurrection; rather, he was chosen because he–being carnal and subject to Satan’s control–would willingly do what he did. However, Judas was not the only one who simply went along for a while with the popularity of Jesus, and as it suited them–not unlike people of our time might do regarding a political personality.

Jesus Himself stated: “But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him” (John 6:64).

In fact, we are all responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. Note what Peter told the people who heard him preach:

“So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: ‘Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses’” (Acts 3:12-15).

Consider, as well, that Peter did deny Christ on three occasions, and that part of the story is recorded quite specifically! Peter repented (compare Matthew 26:69-75), and Peter–like the rest of us are to do–lived out his life, growing “…in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Looking more closely at the actions of Judas, we see that his character was evident even before his final betrayal of Jesus:

“Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:4-6).

Let’s also carefully note that Judas was possessed by Satan (John 13:2, 27) during the Passover evening when he betrayed Jesus, but this wasn’t the first time! In Luke 22:3, Satan entered Judas and Judas then went to the chief priests and captains to betray Jesus for the “reward” of money.

Judas was not the only one who had such influence from Satan. Jesus also indicted the Jews who believed Him, without obeying Him (compare John 8:31):

“‘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’” (John 8:44).

Additionally, as mentioned above, “Jesus knew from the beginning” that Judas would betray Him (compare John 6:64, 71; 12:4; 13:11).

Indeed, what Jesus said of Judas stands–that it would have been better had he not been born to this ignominious fate. Remember, he committed suicide and died with the guilt of his actions overwhelming him. Jesus addressed this immediate fate of Judas, while praying to the Father:

“‘While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled’” (John 17:12).

In answering what the meaning of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 26:24 might ultimately imply for Judas, we need to also consider what is stated by God about His creation of mankind when they rebelled against Him:

“And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them’” (Genesis 6:6-7).

Yet, we know that God’s plan of salvation will allow even the people of this pre-Flood world to come to repentance!

The rest of the story has to do with exactly when is the day of salvation; who is being called to be in the first resurrection; and what is the fate of the incorrigibly wicked–those who will not repent of their sins! Judas died in a state of hopeless remorse, but all that we understand about the plan of salvation indicates that he will come back to life in the second resurrection (Revelation 20:5, 11-12) to confront his carnal actions and receive his first opportunity for salvation.

One more thing, even the ones who crucified Christ and the one who stabbed Him with a spear, causing His immediate death, will have to give account for themselves in the second resurrection–they are specifically mentioned (not unlike Judas) for their actions:

“And again another Scripture says, ‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced’” (John 19:37). Also: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7).

Truly, God the Father, who gave His Son for us, “…is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Thus, it is God who will ultimately judge—both Judas and all men:

“For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14: 9-12).

Lead Writer: Dave Harris

Would you please explain 1 John 5:6-8?

1 John 5:4-8 reads, in context:

“(Verse 4) For whatever is born [better here: begotten] of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (Verse 5) Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (Verse 6) This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who [better: which] bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. (Verse 7) For there are three that bear witness (in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. (Verse 8) And there are three that bear witness on earth): the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.”

First of all, please note that the words in verses 7 and 8, which are placed in parenthesis, are not in the inspired original text, but they are a very late addition by a copyist who wanted to “prove” that the Trinity was biblical. Today, it has been universally accepted that these words were a fraudulent falsification and must be omitted from the text. Many modern translations do not even contain these words any more, and those which do, normally point out in the margin or in a footnote that they are a very late addition, which are not found in the oldest manuscripts.

We are explaining the following in our free booklet, “Is God a Trinity?”

“1 John 5:7-8 is probably the most frequently quoted text to ‘prove’ that God is a Trinity… most scholars agree that the words in verse 7, ‘in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one,’ were later added by the Catholic Church to ‘prove’ the Trinity, and that these words were not in the original writings. Many Bible translations and commentaries state that this particular phrase, referred to as the ‘Comma Joanneum,’ is ‘not contained in the best authorities and constitutes a late addition in the Latin Text.’ [Pattloch Bible, Appendix, page 85].

“The Zürcher Bible comments in a footnote that ‘this passage was added in the fourth century in the Latin Text, and only in the 15th century in some Greek Texts.’ The NIV [New International Version] adds in a footnote that this particular phrase is only contained ‘in the late manuscripts of the Latin Bible and that it is not found in any Greek manuscripts before the 16th century.’ Other commentaries point out that these words are clearly a falsification and that they have therefore been correctly omitted, even as a footnote, in many modern translations.”

But what is meant with the phrase in verses 7 and 8, that “there are three which bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and these three agree as one”? Notice that in context, the reference is to Jesus Christ who came by water and blood (verse 6), and the Spirit of truth bears witness to that fact (same verse). Also, John points out that those who have been begotten by the Spirit and believe that Jesus is the Son of God, overcome the world (verses 4 and 5).

In his letter, John emphasizes that Jesus came in the flesh—that He became fully Man. He had changed from a Spirit being into a mortal human being (compare John 1:1-3, 14). The spirit of antichrist denied and denies that fact (1 John 4:1-3). It denied and denies that Jesus had REALLY become a Man. But John makes clear that Christ had to become a Man—fully flesh and blood—in order to be able to die. And so, His blood testifies to the fact that Jesus was and is our Savior (compare also Hebrews 12:24). He DIED, and His death paid the penalty for our sins. That is why John emphasizes twice that Jesus came by water and blood—not just by water, but by water and blood (1 John 5:6).

Before His death, Jesus gave the apostles wine to drink, symbolizing His blood which was to be shed for the forgiveness of their sins (Matthew 26:27-28; Luke 22:20). Christ shed His very blood—“He poured out His soul” or life “unto death” (Isaiah 53:12). In the context of his first letter, John is telling us that we must believe that Jesus was fully Man and that He died, by shedding His precious blood for us (compare 1 Peter 1:18-19; Acts 20:28; compare, too, Leviticus 17:11).

But John is telling us more. He is also emphasizing the fact that Jesus came “by water.”

This reference to water has been the subject of widespread discussion. The Nelson Study Bible states:

“Water and blood have been interpreted in at least four ways: (1) as Jesus’ baptism and death; (2) as His incarnation; (3) as the water and blood that flowed from His side on the Cross; and (4) as the baptism of the believer and the Lord’s Supper…”

The Ryrie Study Bible adds:

“The water refers to the inauguration of Christ’s earthly ministry at His baptism by John (Mark 1:9-11); the blood refers to the close of His earthly life at His crucifixion. Jesus proved Himself to be the Christ (Messiah) at His baptism and by pouring out His soul to death.”

In addition, we might think of Scriptures telling us that at the time of Moses and Israel in the wilderness, water came out of the rock (Numbers 20:10-11). We might perhaps draw an analogy to the spiritual water of the Holy Spirit, flowing from the spiritual Rock—Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). Further, we are told that we are being cleansed with the washing of water by God’s Word (Ephesians 5:26 ); and that the Holy Spirit will flow out of our hearts like rivers of living water (John 7:37-38).

We see, then, that the reference to the blood, the water and the Spirit includes multiple applications.

The fact that Christ came “by water” can be viewed as containing additional proof that Jesus was fully Man. When hanging on the cross or stake, “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (John 19:34). [As an aside, the soldier pierced Christ’s side, when He was still alive, not after He had died. He caused Christ’s death by piercing His side. For a thorough explanation of this little-understood fact, please read our free booklet, “Jesus Christ—A Great Mystery.”].

A Spirit being has no blood, bones or water. The fact that Jesus did, shows that He was a Man—that He came in the flesh. His Incarnation was a change from spirit to flesh—Christ BECAME flesh.

As pointed out in some of the commentaries, as quoted above, John’s reference to water can also be associated with Christ’s water baptism, which He asked John the Baptist to perform. John’s baptism was one of repentance, but Jesus had never sinned, so He had nothing to repent of. That is why John hesitated to baptize Jesus, but Jesus insisted that it had to be done, in order to fulfill all righteousness. He wanted to set an example for us, who did sin, to be baptized, after repentance and faith in our Savior Jesus Christ and His Sacrifice which makes possible the forgiveness of our sins. Christ made it very clear that without water baptism, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:5).

Finally, John also stresses in his first letter that Jesus, although fully flesh, had the Spirit of God the Father within Him, and that without measure (compare John 3:34, Authorized Version). It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that God the Father impregnated Mary to bring forth and give birth to Jesus; it was through the fullness of the Holy Spirit in Christ that He could do the mighty works which He did. God, through His Holy Spirit of truth, testifies to us that Jesus came in the flesh—that He had blood and water—and that He “gave up His spirit” and died (John 19:30).

When we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ and His Sacrifice, and are baptized in and under water (with the subsequent laying on of hands), we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit of truth. Christ compared the Holy Spirit with living water (John 4:10, 14; 7:38-39). And only with God’s Holy Spirit, remaining in us, motivating us to obey the WORD of God, can we enter the Kingdom of God (compare again John 3:5). And so, John is saying that the three—the blood and the water and the Spirit—agree as one—in unified testimony. They testify that Jesus came in the flesh—a human being with blood and water–and that He overcame sin in the flesh by living a sinless life by and through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in Him.

They also agree that through His death on the cross, salvation was made possible for man. They agree that we—human beings—can receive the Holy Spirit to help us to overcome sin and this sinful world in the flesh, as Christ did. We are to overcome, as Christ overcame (Revelation 3:21). And with the living Christ dwelling in us through the power of the Holy Spirit, we CAN be victorious, as Christ was (Philippians 4:13; Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57).

As the Spirit of God testifies that Jesus became a Man and died for us, so it testifies that Jesus lives His life in His disciples today—that is, Jesus Christ is “coming in the flesh” of His disciples (compare 2 John 7). The spirit of antichrist denies this truth as well. But God’s Spirit bears witness that we are children of God (Romans 8:16), as it gave witness to John the Baptist, and later to Peter and other apostles, that Christ was the Son of God (Matthew 3:17; 16:15-17; 17:5). Blood and water bear witness that we—human beings with blood and water—can obtain forgiveness of sin through the shedding of Christ’s blood; and that we can receive God’s Holy Spirit–God’s living waters–after water baptism, as Christ was baptized, to fulfill all righteousness, and to receive special powers to work miracles (compare Acts 10:36-38).

In conclusion, blood, water and the Holy Spirit “witness” and testify in agreement that Christ was a Man; that He died for our sins; that He was resurrected and that He lives His life again in His disciples today; and that we–human beings—are condemned to die because of our sins; but that by our repentance and our belief in Christ’s shed blood, we can obtain forgiveness of our sins. Furthermore, through our “death” in water baptism and our “resurrection” from the dead, when we rise out of our watery grave (Romans 6:1-6), we can receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, through which Christ lives His life in us all over again.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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