Opening Night: Thankfulness—a rare Characteristic

There are noticeable health benefits for thankful people. What does the Bible say about the necessity for a Christian to be thankful? When and for what are we to be thankful, for whom, and towards whom? And why is thankfulness so rare today and seldom to be observed?

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Individually and Collectively

We in the church have a responsibility both individually and collectively if we want to make it into the Kingdom, and the Bible gives several examples of each which we need to apply if we want to be counted worthy to be a part of God’s Family.

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Strength in Unity

When we are faced with trials, how do we respond, how do we react? Do we neglect the power of prayer when we go through difficult times?  Are we strong enough?  Is there a purpose for the trials we may be going through?  We must understand that we are not alone, as we ALL struggle at times,  which is why it is important to pray for one another, and if we put our problems into God’s hands, anything is possible.

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False Accusations

Are we guilty of wrongly accusing others or of judging prematurely, without having all the facts? Are we guilty of slander, libel or spreading lies? Are we opening ourselves up to demonic influence, as King Saul did, when he became angry with David and misjudged certain situations? If we just look at outward appearance and what is in front of our eyes, rely on hearsay or gossip on the Internet, or listen to false witnesses, we may make false accusations and become guilty of sin.

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What is the meaning of the Biblical term, "elder"?

The Bible uses the word “elder” in many different connections. In each case, the context will show, however, how the word is to be understood.

“The Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,” by W.E.Vine, gives a fairly accurate description of the meaning of the word “elder,” with the exception of several related or unrelated blatant mistakes, as will be pointed out by us through annotations in brackets:

Vine’s commentary states the following:

“A. Adjectives

“1. PRESBUTEROS…, an adjective, the comparative degree of ‘presbus,’ an old man, an elder, is used

“(a) of age, whether of the elder of two persons, Luke 15:25, or more, John 8:9, ‘the eldest’;

“or of a person advanced in life, a senior, Acts 2:17;

“in [Hebrews] 11:2, the ‘elders’ are the forefathers in Israel [including spiritual teachers]; so in [Matthew] 15:2; Mark 7:3,5;

“the feminine of the adjective is used of elder women in the churches, 1 [Timothy] 5:2, not in respect of position but in seniority of age;

“(b) of rank or positions of responsibility,

“(1) among Gentiles, as in… [Genesis] 50:7; [Numbers] 22:7;

“(2) in the… nation [of Israel; Vine says here, “Jewish nation,” which is too restrictive, as the nation of Israel consisted of more than just Jews; “Jews” referred originally to just ONE of the TWELVE tribes of Israel],

“firstly, those who were the heads of leaders of the tribes and families… [Vine refers here to passages such as Numbers 11:16; Deuteronomy 27:1– it should be noted, however, that here the word “elders” clearly includes RELIGIOUS responsibilities, not JUST political leadership], and those assembled by Solomon;

“secondly, members of the Sanhedrin, consisting of the chief priests, elders and scribes, learned in Jewish Law [both the inspired Word of God and Jewish human traditions which were sometimes in conflict with the Word of God], e.g. [Matthew] 16:21; 26:47;

“thirdly, those who managed public affairs in various cities , Luke 7:3;

“(3) IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES, those who, being raised up and qualified by the work of the Holy Spirit, were APPOINTED to have the spiritual care of, and to exercise oversight over, the churches. To these the term bishops [episkopoi], or overseers, is applied (see Acts 20, ver. 17 with ver. 28, and [Titus] 1:5 and 7), the latter term indicating the nature of their work; ‘presbuteroi’ their maturity of spiritual experience… the duty of elders is described by the verb ‘episkopeo.’ They were appointed according as they had given evidence of fulfilling the Divine qualifications, [Titus] 1:6 to 9; [compare] 1 [Timothy] 3:1-7 and 1 [Peter] 5:2;

“(4) the twenty-four elders enthroned in Heaven around the throne of God, [Revelation] 4:4, 10; 5:5-14; 7:11, 13; 11:16; 14:3; 19:4… the word ‘elder’ is nowhere applied to angels. [This is one of Vine’s terribly wrong conclusions, based on the erroneous teaching that we go to heaven when we die. NOWHERE DOES THE BIBLE TEACH THAT MAN ASCENDS TO HEAVEN WHEN HE DIES. Therefore, the word “elder” in the context of Revelation CLEARLY applies to angelic spirit beings–and NOT to humans. For instance, we find that God Almighty is described in Daniel 7:22, as “the Ancient of Days”–referring to the fact that He has ALWAYS existed. Even though angels were created by God and had a beginning, they are nevertheless much “older” than any human being; therefore the term “elder,” in describing them, is very appropriate.]

“2. SUMPRESBUTEROS… a fellow-elder (‘sum,’ with), is used in 1 [Peter] 5:1.

“3. MEIZON… greater, the comparative degree of ‘megas,’ great, is used of age, and translated ‘elder’ in [Romans] 9:12, with reference to Esau and Jacob.”

“B. Noun

“PRESBUTERION…, an assembly of aged men, denotes

“(a) the Council or Senate among the Jews, Luke 22:66; Acts 22:5;

“(b) the elders or bishops in a local church, 1 [Timothy] 4:14…”

Addressing now the word “elder” within the confines of the Church of God, Peter called himself a “fellow elder.” But he was also an apostle. In addition, John, who was also one of the original apostles, called himself “the elder” (2 John 1; 3 John 1). However, we also read about a clear distinction, at times, between apostles and elders (Acts 15:4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4).

Christ gave different ranks, roles and functions to the ministry.

In Ephesians 4:11, Paul writes:

“And He Himself [Jesus Christ] gave SOME to be apostles, SOME prophets, SOME evangelists, and SOME pastors and teachers…”

The word for “pastor” here is “poimen,” meaning “shepherd or “feeder”–who “leads” or “takes” care of the “sheep,” the flock of God,” and who “feeds” them with God’s Word.

Although the passage in Ephesians 4:11 addresses “ranks or positions of responsibility” (Compare Vine, p. 21, under “Elder, Eldest”), it also clearly talks about functions.

In addition, we read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:28-29: “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 [languages]. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?”

Note that “evangelists” and “pastors” are not mentioned in that Scripture. But Paul says that God has appointed “teachers” in the “third” position. If Paul was addressing ranks here, as distinguished from functions, he would have had to list them in the “fifth” position, in order to not contradict his statements in Ephesians 4:11-12.

Paul calls himself “an apostle,” “a preacher” and a “teacher” (1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11), describing his functions and responsibilities. In addition, he, as well as Barnabas, who would become an apostle (Acts 14:14), are also designated as “prophets and teachers” (Acts 13:1-3).

On the other hand, the word “bishop” simply means “overseer.” The Greek word is “episkopos” and is applied to “elders,” as Vine correctly points out (compare again Acts 20:17 with Acts 20:28, and Titus 1:5 with Titus 1:7, describing “elders” as “bishops” or “overseers”–in Greek, “episkopos.”). 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:7 describe the qualification of a “bishop” or an “overseer”–that is, an elder. In its ultimate sense, the word “bishop” is also applied to Jesus Christ (as is the word “Apostle”; compare Hebrews 3:1), as we read about Christ’s FUNCTION as a “Bishop” in 1 Peter 2:25:

“For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and OVERSEER [Greek, “episkopos,” i.e. Bishop] of your souls.”

At one time, the Church of God distinguished between “local” elders (not employed by the Church) and “preaching” elders (employed by the Church). Even though they were both understood to be “elders,” with full ministerial credentials, the role of a local elder was perceived as mainly overseeing a local church, under a more experienced elder or pastor, while the function of a preaching elder included additional preaching responsibilities. However, as such designation cannot be specifically found in Scripture, we distinguish today in the ordained ministry between elders, pastors, evangelists, prophets and apostles–regardless, of whether or not they are employed by the Church. At the same time, we realize that an evangelist would also have the function and responsibility of a pastor and an elder–and that a pastor would have the function and responsibility of an elder.

As of today, we do not find that God has presently ordained a minister to the office of apostle or prophet, but we cannot rule out the possibility that He will do so in the future. We DO believe that the late human leader of the Worldwide Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong, who died in 1986, was in fact fulfilling the role and function of an apostle, and that he held such spiritual rank. If God chooses to appoint ministers as apostles in the future, this will have to become very obvious and manifest, by the FRUITS of such individual(s). It stands to reason that the TWO WITNESSES (compare Revelation 11:3-7, 11-12) will fulfill the office, rank and function of both apostle and prophet (as some of the early apostles, such as Paul and Peter, fulfilled several functions, roles and responsibilities, including the function of “prophet,” “preacher,” “teacher” and “elder”).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

God's Kingdom and His Righteousness

Jesus Christ, while teaching His disciples principles by which they were to live instructed them that any who would follow Him should seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.
Why did Christ say this? Why is it critical for one to seek after these two things? And how is one to accomplish this requirement?
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In Update #230, you stated that only ordained men should preach in Church. Some men give sermonettes or even sermons in the Church who are not ordained to the ministry. Would you please explain this apparent inconsistency?

As a general rule of understanding, there is a difference between teaching and preaching in Church–preaching can be, and often is more of a corrective nature. Preaching, in that sense, should be left to the ministry, whereas non-ordained men can of course teach during Church services, if asked by the ministry to do so.

We should also note that the task of “preaching” includes proclaiming the gospel or good news to the world. The responsibility of preaching the gospel in all the world is reserved for the ministry or to be undertaken under the direction, guidance or supervision of the ministry. Matthew 28:19-20 points out that the Church is to first “go… and make disciples of all nations (verse 19).” This summarizes the Church’s responsibility of preaching the gospel in all the world (Romans 10:14-17), including the need of repentance, faith and baptism. Before a person is to be baptized, he or she must repent of his or her sins and accept, in faith, the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:36-38). The Church’s ministry will baptize those who respond correctly to the preaching of the gospel (Mark 16:15-16; compare Luke 24:46-47). At the time of proper baptism and the laying on of hands by the ministry, the baptized person receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is then that the Church is to fulfill the second part of its commission, by “teaching them [the converted disciples] to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).” As distinguished from “preaching” or proclaiming the gospel to the world, “teaching” the truth in depth applies to activities within the Church. We must have God’s Holy Spirit within us to grow in the understanding of God’s word (John 16:12-13), and to obtain the strength and power or might to obey God as God’s Spirit continues to give understanding through His Word (Ephesians 1:13; 3:14-21; compare Romans 1:5; 16:26).

But even in regard to teaching God’s truth to others in the Church, unordained men who have been asked to speak in Church must be careful that they don’t appear to try to fulfill the role of a minister. They are not to “correct” others, nor are they to “teach” “new” understanding, or, even worse, to challenge Church doctrines and practices.

The ministry has specific areas of responsibilities–for example, pertaining to the laying on of hands for receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17); healing (James 5:14-16); and the authority to cast out demons (Mark 16:17). All of these responsibilities, and more, are areas of accountability for which the ministry, specifically, is responsible to God.

The original twelve apostles and the seventy disciples were sent by Jesus Christ to preach–BEFORE they were “converted.” This was a unique occurrence. Later on, when the Church was established, ordinations were conducted for the express purpose of preaching and of administering the Church of God (compare Acts 6:1-7; 13:1-3).

In considering the qualifications of ministers and deacons in Timothy and Titus, it is apparent that a developmental process based on mature approaches and goals was to be in place within the Church. Paul speaks to Timothy about having deacons being first tested before being ordained (compare 1 Timothy 3:10). This has been the practice of the Church of God over the last many decades–something we continue to do in first TRAINING individuals before they are ordained. Men who are capable teachers (“able to teach,” compare 1 Timothy 3:2), and who exemplify Biblical qualifications in their lives, are the ones considered for ordination.

Preaching and teaching, when it comes to establishing doctrines and their administration, solely fall to those ordained to the ministry. However, ALL Church members should strive to have the spiritual maturity to explain the Truth–especially those introductory occasions when someone new asks a member about the Church (Compare Hebrews 5:12-14; 6:1-2; 1 Peter 3:15). As was explained in the Q&A in Update 230, ALL should likewise seek deeper and deeper understanding of those things God is revealing to those who seek Him.

All of our roles should blend harmoniously, but they still remain distinct. For instance, a really poignant question brought to the ministry may indeed lead to a deeper understanding that, in turn, solidifies doctrinal points. This is to be done in an orderly process and not just based on anyone’s whim.

Qualifications showing that God is calling someone into the ministry generally become apparent through that individual’s conduct. An over-arching consideration is given in James 3:1: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” We would note that this specifically refers to teachers of Christianity.

Lead Writers: Norbert Link and Dave Harris

I understand that recently, pastors and elders ordained one of your ministers to the rank of evangelist. Isn't that procedure contrary to Scripture?

We assume that you are referring to the concept, taught by some, that ministers can only ordain other ministers to a rank equal to or lower than the rank held by the ordaining minister. Although it is true that the Bible does contain examples reflecting such a procedure, there are other examples reflecting a different procedure.

A correct understanding of this question includes the correct concept of ranks in the ministry. We read in Ephesians 4:11-12 that Christ “Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

Although this passage addresses “ranks or positions of responsibility” (Compare W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 21, under “Elder, Eldest”), it also clearly talks about functions. We read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:5-6 that there are “differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but the same God who works all in all.” Paul goes on to explain, in verses 28-29: “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 [languages]. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?”

In 1 Corinthians 12:5-6, 28-29, Paul is clearly addressing functions, rather than ranks. Note that “evangelists” and “pastors” are not even mentioned in that Scripture. But Paul says that God has appointed “teachers” in the “third” position. If Paul was addressing ranks, he would have had to list them in the “fifth” position, in order to not contradict his statements in Ephesians 4:11-12.

It is for this very reason, that the passages also emphasize functions of responsibility, that Paul referred to himself, not just as an apostle, but also as “a preacher… and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2 Timothy 1:11). These functions are also explained in 1 Timothy 2:7: “I was appointed [by Christ] a preacher and an apostle… a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” In addition, Peter, an apostle, called himself a “fellow elder” (1 Peter 5:1), and John, who was also one of the original apostles, called himself “the elder” (2 John 1; 3 John 1).

Although God has always used His ministry to ordain others into the ministry [and “raising them in rank”], through the laying on of hands and prayer, it is likewise evident that it is God who must inspire those ordinations. We read about this principle in Hebrews 5:4, addressing the ordination to the office of high priest: “And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.”

We also find, in the Old Testament, that the prophet Samuel anointed Saul and David as kings, but it can be hardly said that the office of prophet was “above” the office of king. Again, we see how certain men were chosen by God to fulfill certain functions. We might also remember how Elisha, when he received Elijah’s mantle, also received a double (!) portion of the Holy Spirit, that had dwelt in Elijah (2 Kings 2:9-14).

When we analyze Paul’s life, baptism and ordination, we find that Christ had already set aside Paul (known at that time as Saul) for the purpose of the ministry, before he became converted (compare Acts 9:15-16). When the time had come, the disciple Ananias (most likely a minister, compare our Q&A in Update #171) baptized Saul and laid hands on him for the purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit and for being healed from his blindness. We find, in Acts 11:26, that Barnabas and Saul assembled with the church at Antioch for one year “and taught a great many people.” Then they went to Jerusalem to bring the elders of the church relief from the famine that plagued the areas. Acts 12:25 continues to report that “Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem [to Antioch] when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.”

At this juncture, we read, in Acts 13:1: “Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” We notice that all these prophets and teachers were functioning in the church at Antioch, and that both Barnabas and Saul were included in the group referred to as teachers and prophets at that time. Continuing in verse 2: “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘NOW, separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'”

It was at that moment in time that Christ made it clear to the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch that Barnabas and Saul were to be “separated” for a particular aspect or function of the work of Christ. Notice verse 3: “Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”

The word “apostle” means, “one who is sent.” We read, in Matthew 10:1-8, that Christ SENT OUT the original twelve apostles to preach the gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons. It is of special note that Jesus Himself established the office of apostle–even selecting that name as the title: “And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles” (Luke 6:13). Consider, also, that first, Jesus prayed about those whom He should choose to be apostles: “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12).

The same was now happening with Barnabas and Saul. The prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch ordained them to the office of apostles, to be sent forth to do a particular work. We know this to be true as they were never referred to as apostles before, but they were subsequently called apostles (compare Acts 14:4, 14). This has also been the long-held understanding of the Church of God. In addition, Paul said that he was ordained as an apostle (compare 1 Timothy 2:7, Authorized Version). The only record of his ordination can be found in Acts 13:1-3.

What is important to realize is that Barnabas and Saul were appointed to the office of apostle by “prophets and teachers” — that is, by ministers of lower positions than that of apostle. But, this was inspired and approved by God, as we have seen.

Some believe that the prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch were actually sent by the apostles from Jerusalem, charging them with the task of ordaining Saul and Barnabas to the office of apostle. This, however, is mere speculation, and cannot be proven from Scripture. In fact, Scripture strongly suggests the opposite. We need to realize that Paul and Barnabas had just been in Jerusalem, and returned to Antioch. It was THERE, in Antioch, that Christ inspired the ministry to ordain Paul and Barnabas as apostles — not in Jerusalem. Also, the fact that prophets came from Jerusalem is normally specifically mentioned in Scripture (compare Acts 11:27; 21:10).

In any event, it is THE Apostle, Jesus Christ (compare Hebrews 3:1), Who directs the ministry to ordain people in His Church. And it was Christ Who inspired the prophets and teachers (ministers of lower positions than that of apostle) in the church at Antioch to ordain Barnabas and Saul (who belonged to the group of prophets and teachers), to the rank and office of apostle. It is therefore clear, from Scripture, that pastors and elders are authorized, by God, and under God’s inspiration and direction, to ordain a fellow minister to a higher rank and office — such as evangelist.

Is it a Biblical obligation or merely a Church tradition that God's ministry officiate during a wedding or burial of Church members?

While the current practices of the Church of God have been shaped by both national laws and customs regarding the conducting of both weddings and funerals, the ultimate basis is firmly established in Scripture. These significant events of a Christian’s life are of great importance in the plan which God has established for all of mankind.

The joining together of a man and woman in marriage is a holy ordinance of God. This can be seen from numerous Scriptures. Marriage was established by God from the beginning of mankind’s existence on the earth. From Genesis 1:27-28, we see that God created male and female humans. In Genesis 2:20-25, it is further explained that the man and the woman were to be joined together, and the woman is specifically designated as the man’s wife. Further confirmation is given that it was God Who established marriage: “‘Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate'” (Mark 10:9; compare, too, Matthew 19:1-9). It is of particular significance that in the previous verses, Jesus explained that Moses was allowed, because of the hardness of the people’s hearts, to grant divorces for different reasons. Christ added, however, that this was not so in the beginning, and that Christians are only permitted to divorce in very limited circumstances. One reason for divorce was established in the record of the Church of God as noted in the letter from Paul to the Church at Corinth–that is, when an unbeliever is no longer pleased to dwell with the believer, and departs from his or her marriage obligations (compare 1 Corinthians 7:12, 15).

God hates divorce. Note this powerful rebuke from God to those who question why God is not blessing them: “…Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife BY COVENANT” (Malachi 2:14). In Proverbs 2:17, we read that the immoral woman “forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the COVENANT OF HER GOD.”

We understand that “…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” (1 Corinthians 12:28). More details are given concerning these appointments and their purpose in Ephesians 4:11-16, as well as in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 4:6-7; 5:17; and Hebrews 13:7. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus gives us an example of the Church of God being administered. Decisions must be made on a variety of issues by applying the Word of God and seeking God’s Will through prayer. That is a part of the administration of the Church that God has given to His ministry.

Note the example found in 1 Corinthians 6:1-6. Paul strongly rebukes the members for taking matters against one another to the world (“the unrighteous… who are least esteemed by the church”– verses 1 and 4). Rather, he shows that “a wise man” should be able to judge these problems in the Church (verse 5). Why? We in the Church of God are bound by the laws of God, and they take precedence over the laws of man, if there is a conflict. For us, the issue is a matter of submitting, first and foremost, to God’s Will.

Marriage laws vary from society to society. In fact, in some nations marriages are not recognized by governmental authorities when merely and solely performed by a minister. However, for members of the Church of God–while we are to respect the laws of the land in which we live–marriage is governed by the greater laws of God. In countries, where only civil marriages are recognized by the government, Church members have asked a minister of God to officiate, in addition, over the marriage ceremony in a religious setting. During the ceremony, the minister emphasizes the purpose of marriage, and that the couple is entering into a life-long COVENANT with God. He also places his hands on the couple, while asking God in prayer to sanctify the marriage and to set aside the couple for the holy purpose of the marriage relationship. (That God’s minister lays hands on the couple is highly significant: The Biblical procedure of laying on of hands is done for “sanctification,” that is, for the purpose of setting the person or persons aside for a holy purpose.)

A minister of God’s Church, today, officiates in many duties associated with the Biblical command to both preach the good news of God’s Kingdom and to serve the Church of God. We have the examples of Jesus Christ and of those who faithfully followed Him as recorded in God’s Word. Jesus Christ, while here on the earth, specifically and ceremonially blessed little children: “And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them (!), and blessed them” (Mark 10:16). We now follow this example by setting aside a time at the Feast of Tabernacles each year to bless little children. This, then, has become a “custom” or “tradition” of the Church.

In the time of Jesus, the Jews had many customs or traditions as a part of their worship. However, Jesus, time and again, rejected the wrong aspects that had arisen: “He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?'” (Matthew 15:3).

Not all tradition is, of itself, bad–as we can see concerning the burial of Jesus Christ: “Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury” (John 19:40). Reading the full account of this occurrence as recorded in John 19, we note that the burial of that day was different from that of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob (Israel). Furthermore, Jacob was embalmed (Genesis 50:2). His son, Joseph, officiated in this burial, which included taking his father’s body back to the promised land (compare Genesis 50:1-10, 14). A period of great mourning was observed. Likewise, we find other Biblical examples of ceremonial burials in the Bible in which customs of the day were observed (Moses: Deuteronomy 34:5-8; Samuel: 1 Samuel 25:1; David: 1 Kings 2:10; John the Baptist: Matthew 14;11-13).

For members of the Church of God, death is to be viewed in light of God’s truth (compare 1 Corinthians 15). We also read: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). In a very true sense, Paul–through inspiration from God–established the basis for members to deal with death. For those not called to the truth of God, this knowledge is either completely missing, or it is interwoven with false and deceptive teachings about one who dies going to heaven or purgatory, limbo or hell.

Because of the understanding God has revealed to His Church, it has been a long standing practice for the elders of the Church to officiate over matters such as marriage between those who are part of the Church of God, as well as burials. However, depending on the particular situation, a minister may also conduct a memorial or burial service for non-members.

Burials are performed as a service to family and friends of the deceased when one in the faith dies and is put in a place of rest, awaiting the return of Jesus Christ to establish His Kingdom on the earth. This is, of course, a time of trial for the family and friends, due to the loss of fellowship for a time. The purpose of the service is to give comfort and hope in reminding family and friends of the fact that the very next thought the deceased will experience will occur when he or she comes forth from the grave. His or her first awareness will be the glorious, spiritual body which God will give to all His faithful children.

One distinction exists between wedding ceremonies and services performed in relation to burials and anointings for healings. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 that we are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Therefore, the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the USA, the Global Church of God in England, and the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada, will only officiate over a marriage between a man and woman, if both are baptized in the faith, and have received God’s Spirit. This rule does not apply, however, relative to funerals and anointing for healing.

Anointing for healing of both Church members and non-members, ordinations of deacons and deaconesses or elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-9), and baptisms are instances where God’s ministers administer or officiate. In ALL of these cases, the Biblical procedure of laying on of hands is practiced (compare James 5:14; Luke 4:40 regarding healing; Acts 6:6; 2 Timothy 1:6 regarding ordinations; and Acts 8:17; 19:6 regarding baptisms). This is all done by the ministry because God has established this procedure for His Church: “‘For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts'” (Malachi 2:7).

It is an awesome responsibility to stand as representatives of God and Jesus Christ in matters such as these. Likewise, less we look upon the administration of God’s Church lightly, let us also consider the warning of Hebrews 5:4 concerning what God has ordained: “And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.”

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