Update 147


How Do You Know

On Saturday, June 12, 2004, Dave Harris will be giving the sermon, titled, “How Do You Know?” The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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Replace It With Truth!

by Edwin Pope

A very profound truth is revealed in Psalm 119:165. We are told: “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing shall offend them.”

How often are we offended at what is said or done by another human being, even to the point of loss of a lifelong friendship? Do we have very “thin skin” as the saying goes, when such a situation occurs? Is this becoming less or more of a problem in our lives?

Perhaps this could be a good barometer of our true understanding of God’s Word! Christ said in Matthew 24:12 that the love of God’s Truth is going to grow cold in the lives even of many who have been striving in His Way for many years. Thus, Christ tells us in verse 13 of Matthew 24 that one must endure in God’s Love if he will achieve the ultimate goal of eternal life, which we all seek.

Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but will according to their own desires… heap up for themselves teachers… and… will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” Isaiah is clear that they will say to their prophets (teachers), “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophecy (teach) deceits” (Isaiah 30:10). In other words: Teach us easy things contrary to God’s righteous Way of Life.

As we approach the time of the end, this problem in the Churches of God is not going to get better — but will get worse! We need to understand that when people have lost (or are losing) the love of the Truth, they are no longer desiring to live God’s Way. The Truth is no longer important to them. They are looking for an easier way. And if we are not on our toes, they can pull us along with them!

We have been called to a better Way. We have been called out of the ways of this world. The Truth brings us out! Therefore, our actions should reflect that Truth at work in our lives. If we are easily offended, how much of the love of Christ is working in us?

The ways of this world are carnal. Notice Paul’s comment to the Corinthians in this regard in 1 Corinthians 3:3. He says, “For you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” Only Truth will set us free from this carnal approach to life.

Christ tells us in John 8:31-32: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” That is, free from the pulls of this carnal nature we are born with, free from the ways of this world.

We must see and understand what we are, where our ways are contrary to God’s Ways. And we must replace that deviant way with God’s Truth! If we are diligent in our responsibility to the things we understand, God the Father and “Christ in you, the hope of glory” will complete the process through the Power of His Spirit (Colossians 1:27).

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Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)

Ronald Reagan, the 40th U.S. president, died last Saturday at 93 of pneumonia, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Mr. Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, reported that “at the last moment, when his breathing told us this was it, he opened his eyes and looked straight at my mother. Eyes that haven’t opened for days did, and they weren’t chalky or vague. They were clear and blue and full of love” (Reuters, June 8, 2004).

When the late human leader of the Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong, died on January 16,1986, President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, sent the following telegram: “To the congregation, Worldwide Church of God: Nancy and I join all those mourning the loss of Herbert W. Armstrong. As founder and leader of the Worldwide Church of God, Mr. Armstrong contributed to sharing the word of the Lord with his community and with people throughout the nation. You can take pride in his legacy. Our prayers are with you. God bless you.”

As a small tribute to former President Ronald Reagan, we are quoting excerpts from his remarks at a breakfast in Dallas, Texas, on August 23, 1984, as published by the Drudge Report, dated June 7, 2004:

“I don’t speak as a theologian or a scholar, only as one who’s lived a little more than his threescore ten — which has been a source of annoyance to some… and as one who has been active in the political life of the Nation for roughly four decades and now who’s served the past 3 1/2 years in our highest office. I speak, I think I can say, as one who has seen much, who has loved his country, and who’s seen it change in many ways.

“I believe that faith and religion play a critical role in the political life of our nation — and always has — and that the church — and by that I mean all churches, all denominations — has had a strong influence on the state. And this has worked to our benefit as a nation.

“Those who created our country — the Founding Fathers and Mothers — understood that there is a divine order which transcends the human order. They saw the state, in fact, as a form of moral order and felt that the bedrock of moral order is religion. The Mayflower Compact began with the words, ‘In the name of God, amen.’ The Declaration of Independence appeals to ‘Nature’s God’ and the ‘Creator’ and ‘the Supreme Judge of the world.’ Congress was given a chaplain, and the oaths of office are oaths before God. James Madison in the Federalist Papers admitted that in the creation of our Republic he perceived the hand of the Almighty. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, warned that we must never forget the God from whom our blessings flowed. George Washington referred to religion’s profound and unsurpassed place in the heart of our nation quite directly in his Farewell Address in 1796. Seven years earlier, France had erected a government that was intended to be purely secular. This new government would be grounded on reason rather than the law of God. By 1796 the French Revolution had known the Reign of Terror.

“And Washington voiced reservations about the idea that there could be a wise policy without a firm moral and religious foundation. He said, ‘Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man (call himself a patriot) who (would) labour to subvert these . . . finest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere Politician . . . (and) the pious man ought to respect and to cherish (religion and morality).’ And he added, ‘… let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion.’ I believe that George Washington knew the City of Man cannot survive without the City of God, that the Visible City will perish without the Invisible City.

“Religion played not only a strong role in our national life; it played a positive role. The abolitionist movement was at heart a moral and religious movement; so was the modern civil rights struggle. And throughout this time, the state was tolerant of religious belief, expression, and practice. Society, too, was tolerant. But in the 1960’s this began to change. We began to make great steps toward secularizing our nation and removing religion from its honored place. In 1962 the Supreme Court in the New York prayer case banned the compulsory saying of prayers. In 1963 the Court banned the reading of the Bible in our public schools. From that point on, the courts pushed the meaning of the ruling ever outward, so that now our children are not allowed voluntary prayer. We even had to pass a law — we passed a special law in the Congress just a few weeks ago to allow student prayer groups the same access to schoolrooms after classes that a young Marxist society, for example, would already enjoy with no opposition.

“The 1962 decision opened the way to a flood of similar suits. Once religion had been made vulnerable, a series of assaults were made in one court after another, on one issue after another. Cases were started to argue against tax-exempt status for churches. Suits were brought to abolish the words ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance and to remove ‘In God We Trust’ from public documents and from our currency… The truth is, politics and morality are inseparable. And as morality’s foundation is religion, religion and politics are necessarily related. We need religion as a guide. We need it because we are imperfect, and our government needs the church, because only those humble enough to admit they’re sinners can bring to democracy the tolerance it requires in order to survive.

“A state is nothing more than a reflection of its citizens; the more decent the citizens, the more decent the state. If you practice a religion, whether you’re Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or guided by some other faith, then your private life will be influenced by a sense of moral obligation, and so, too, will your public life. One affects the other. The churches of America do not exist by the grace of the state; the churches of America are not mere citizens of the state. The churches of America exist apart; they have their own vantage point, their own authority. Religion is its own realm; it makes its own claims…

“Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.

“If I could just make a personal statement of my own — in these 3 1/2 years I have understood and known better than ever before the words of Lincoln, when he said that he would be the greatest fool on this footstool called Earth if he ever thought that for one moment he could perform the duties of that office without help from One who is stronger than all. I thank you, thank you for inviting us here today. Thank you for your kindness and your patience. May God keep you, and may we, all of us, keep God.”

Kohl Praises Reagan

As Associated Press reported on June 6, 2004, “former Chancellor Helmut Kohl praised Ronald Reagan on Sunday as ‘a great friend of the Germans’ for his role in bringing down communism and ending Europe’s Cold War division. Kohl said he would never forget standing next to the U.S. president in 1987 when Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to ‘tear down this wall,’ the last high point of Cold War rhetoric in West Berlin. ‘Ronald Reagan was a man who achieved great things for his country,’ Kohl said in a statement. ‘He was a stroke of luck for the world, especially for Europe.’

“Reagan stood before the wall’s concrete and barbed wire on June 12, 1987, and delivered a speech at the Brandenburg Gate that dared the reform-minded Gorbachev to pressure East Germany’s Stalinist regime. By the summer of 1989, communism was
crumbling in eastern Europe and East Germans started fleeing to the West via other Soviet bloc countries. On Nov. 9, East Germany threw open the wall under pressure from massive pro-democracy protests, allowing people to go west once again without fear of being shot at the border. On Oct. 3, 1990, Germany — and with it, Berlin — reunited, the communist east merging with the capitalist west. ‘His determined support for freedom contributed decisively to overcoming the division of Europe and of Germany,’ Kohl said. ‘We Germans have a lot to thank Ronald Reagan for.’

“The two leaders’ 1985 visit to a German war cemetery in Bitburg — highly controversial at the time because SS soldiers are buried there — was a ‘great gesture of friendship’ and reconciliation 40 years after the end of World War II, Kohl said. In 1987, the wall erected by East Germany to keep its citizens from fleeing to the West had been in place for 26 years, stretching 160 kilometers (100 miles) around West Berlin, its barriers reinforced by electric fences, dog runs and watchtowers. West Berlin was a capitalist island encircled by Soviet-backed East Germany and its capital, East Berlin. Reagan, like John F. Kennedy more than two decades before, made his critical point in German in his 1987 speech, expressing “this unalterable belief: ‘Es gibt nur ein Berlin’ — There is only one Berlin.”

“‘General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate,’ Reagan said. ‘Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.'”

President Bush Visits the Pope

On June 4, 2004, President Bush visited the Pope in Italy. We are setting forth excerpts from their addresses, as published by Zenit and Associated Press on June 4:

Excerpts from George Bush’s Address to John Paul II:

“Your Holiness, …we are honored to be here; perhaps the best way I can express my country’s gratitude to you and our respect to you is to present to you the Medal of Freedom from America and, if you might, allow, I’d like to read the citation attached to that honor. ‘A devoted servant of God, His Holiness Pope John Paul II has championed the cause of the poor, the weak, the hungry, and the outcast. He has defended the unique dignity of every life, and the goodness of all life. Through his faith and moral conviction, he has given courage to others to “be not afraid” in overcoming injustice and oppression. His principled stand for peace and freedom has inspired millions and helped to topple Communism and tyranny. The United States honors this son of Poland who became the Bishop of Rome, and a hero of our time.'”

Excerpts from the Pope’s Address to U.S. President Bush:

“… Mr. President, your visit to Rome takes place at a moment of great concern for the continuing situation of grave unrest in the Middle East, both in Iraq and in the Holy Land. You are very familiar with the unequivocal position of the Holy See in this regard… In the past few weeks other deplorable events have come to light which have troubled the civic and religious conscience of all, and made more difficult a serene and resolute commitment to shared human values: in the absence of such a commitment neither war nor terrorism will ever be overcome. May God grant strength and success to all those who do not cease to hope and work for understanding between peoples, in respect for the security and rights of all nations and of every man and woman… A fuller and deeper understanding between the United States of America and Europe will surely play a decisive role in resolving the great problems which I have mentioned, as well as so many others confronted by humanity today… God bless America!”

Germany and France

As Bild Online reported on June 7, 2004, “60 years after D-Day, World War II has ended.” The article continued: “It was the most important gesture during the D-Day celebrations: A heartfelt, trusting embrace between France’s Premier Jacques Chirac and Germany’s Head of State, Gerhard Schroeder…. Newspapers all over Europe celebrated this gesture…. France’s President Chirac said to Chancellor Schroeder, the first German Chancellor having been able to participate in D-Day celebrations: ‘The French are accepting you on this day of memory and hope more than just a friend. They accept you as a brother.’… The Paris paper ‘Liberation,’ wrote: ‘The key word during these days was reconciliation…. This Sunday, Germany’s change was celebrated and sealed by all….’ The British ‘Guardian’ commented that the time had arrived for all British to leave the war behind.”

Sadly, as the Bible prophesies, the times of the past will return to haunt us in the future. Although the world hopes for peace, there will be no peace. Only when Christ returns will things change — but sadly, not before then.

Support the Gay Community?

In the UK, the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday the 8th of June that a museum to extol gay campaigners and acclaim homosexual lifestyles is to be set up and funded with public money. The future of the scheme was guaranteed after all the major candidates in the London mayoral election backed the idea. Tory hopeful Steve Norris said yesterday: “I’m afraid whoever you elect, you are going to get it.” But critics said the decision to give public cash to a project devoted to the interests of a highly-politicized minority group is deeply questionable. The museum supporters want it in the former Bow Street police station in the prime tourist district of Covent Garden. This is likely to cost £20 million to establish. Its appearance would be seen as setting the seal on the respectability of the gay lobby, which has moved into the political mainstream under the Labour government. Supporters say it should detail the history of gay life, including recent political campaigns for the repeal of Section 28, the law that until last year banned gay propaganda from schools. It should also house records of campaign groups and provide a meeting place for them, they say. Supporters of the museum want taxpayer funding to go into it alongside lottery money and business donations.

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You teach that the ministry of the Church has received authority from God to excommunicate or disfellowship Church members for their unrepentant public sinful conduct. Doesn't Matthew 18:17 give this authority to the entire Church membership, and not to the ministry?

In order to properly understand the passage in Matthew 18:17, we need to review all the Scriptures to see whom God has entrusted with the administration of the Church of God.

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:18-19). It is He who leads and directs the Church, the building of God the Father (1 Corinthians 3:9). He adds those to the Church whom He wants (Acts 2:47). He is composing the body — the Church (1 Corinthians 12:18, 24). He is the One who places members in certain positions and appoints the ministry (1 Corinthians 12:28). He uses appointed ministers to appoint others to the ministry (Titus 1:5; compare Acts 14:23) by, among other things, the laying on of hands (1 Timothy 5:22).

Christ gives the ministry certain responsibilities and the “authority” to carry out these functions and duties. Christ gives the Church the ministry for edification of the Church membership (Ephesians 4:11-16), and with that ministerial responsibility comes authority (2 Corinthians 13:10: “… lest being present I should use sharpness according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification.” Compare 2 Corinthians 10:7-8). Although this might not sound good in the ears of some who have developed an attitude not unlike that of ancient Korah (Numbers 16:1-3), God has given His ministers “rule” over the members (Hebrews 13:7; compare Titus 2:15). God expects the members to follow that “rule” and obey the faithful ministers, unless their instructions or commands violate God’s Word (1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:10-11; 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 6:17). God expects that the members submit to the administration of His faithful ministers (1 Corinthians 16:15-16; 1 Timothy 5:17). God’s ministers are to conduct themselves in such a way, of course, that the membership CAN follow their (good) example (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Corinthians 4:16-17; Philippians 3:17; 4:9).

The ministers are to teach the membership the Word of God (Romans 10:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 4:8; John 17:20; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2). The administration of the Church includes the proclamation and preservation of sound doctrine. When doctrinal decisions have to be made, they are to be made through the ministry. In Acts 15:6, the apostles and elders came together in Jerusalem to consider a doctrinal matter. After the apostles had spoken, James announced the decision (Acts 15:19) that had been “determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem” (Acts 16:4). The entire Headquarter church, including the membership, agreed with it (Acts 15:22-23), but the lay members did not participate in the decision-making process (compare again Acts 15:6). Christ gave Peter and subsequently all of the apostles, and by extension, His leading ministers the authority to bind and loose — that authority was not given to all of the members (compare Update Number 127, dated January 23, 2004, Q&A, “Power to Bind and Loose”). That authority includes the responsibility of the leading ministers to determine, with the help and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, whether or not somebody has repented of his or her sins (John 20:22-23).

Christ charged His ministry to protect the flock from false teachers or ravenous wolves (Acts 20:17-38). The purpose is for the edification of the body of Christ, that is, to prevent, that false teachings overthrow the faith of some and draw them away from the simplicity which is in Christ. Paul admonished Timothy to instruct the brethren in the right way of life, and to protect them from wrong teachings (1 Timothy 4:1-7). He admonished the members in the letter of Hebrews not to be carried about with various and strange doctrines (Hebrews 13:9). He told the Church membership to hold on to what Paul had taught them (compare 2 Timothy 1:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:15).

The Church was told to “note” a person that would be disobedient to the instructions contained in the letter (2 Thessalonians 3:14). At the same time, he instructed Timothy not to receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19). So, it is Timothy who is to receive an accusation against an elder — not the entire church membership — to deal with the situation. We read in 1 Timothy 5:20 that Timothy is to rebuke a sinning and unrepentant elder in the presence of all — again, it is Timothy who is to administer this situation, after he has heard the charges. This example shows how Christ’s command in Matthew 18:17 was understood by the Church: The offended member and two witnesses were to bring an accusation against another person, including a minister, to the MINISTRY of the Church — NOT to all the Church members — as the MINISTRY was understood to deal with the situation and render a decision. If the decision was to disfellowship the unrepentant and stubbornly rebellious person, then this would be announced to all the Church — or at least to the local congregation. (We should also mention that Christ expects His ministry to administer situations involving sinning members or ministers with MERCY and LOVE. When Jesus saw the repentant attitude of the woman caught in adultery, He did not condemn her, compare John 8:11. Jude 20-23 encourages all of us to have a merciful and compassionate attitude toward others, as we ourselves are waiting for God’s mercy.)

Returning to the passage in Matthew 18:17, we are told that the offended brother is to bring the matter involving unrepentant sinful conduct of a Church member, along with two witnesses, to the Church, and if the offender does not hear the Church, he is to be looked at as a tax collector or heathen. The word for Church is ekklesia in the Greek, which is also used in Matthew 16:18-19. Although it most certainly can refer to the entire Church membership or the membership of a local congregation, it can also refer to the leadership of the universal or local Church. In Matthew 18:17, it clearly refers to the Church leadership or ministry, as the following verse, verse 18, addresses the LEADERSHIP or MINISTRY of the Church, giving THEM the binding and loosing authority, as discussed earlier. The meaning of Matthew 18:17 is that if the offender does not even hear the leadership of the Church, the entire congregation needs to be involved, by sharing in the ministry’s decision to treat the offender as a heathen or tax collector. Once the person comes to repentance, as determined by the ministry, he is to be invited and received back into the fold (compare 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 2 Corinthians 2:6-11).

We should also remember that the Bible uses, for instance, the words for “king” and “kingdom” interchangeably (Daniel 2:37, 39). The word “kingdom” refers at times to the king, the leader or representative of the kingdom. Likewise, the word “God” can refer to God the Father; to Jesus Christ the Son; or even to all of us — when considering our future as sons and daughters of God the Father and members of the God Family. Still, the Father will always be the highest in the Family of God, followed by Jesus Christ. The point is that also the word “Church” can refer to the entirety of the Church membership, as well as to the leadership or leading ministers, depending upon the context.

If one wants to teach that the entire Church, or at least the local Church congregation, needs to be involved in the decision-making process of excommunication, imagine the problems to be encountered if the congregation consists of 400 or 500 members. On what basis would a “decision” be reached — especially, if some of the brethren would not want to participate in the “voting” system?

The Bible does not teach that God’s Church be ruled by democracy. Rather, God’s government is that of a hierarchy — with God the Father above all. God’s Church is administered by His ministers, with love and mercy, but with the authority to rebuke and correct, if need be. Local “Church” groups which have disassociated themselves from the ministry to “rule” themselves and to independently administer their own affairs are in clear violation of God’s command that His Church be administered through His ministry. This is also true for those “Church” groups that are being “administered” by self-proclaimed or “elected” ministers, not approved by God (compare 2 Timothy 4:3-5; 3 John 9-10). In extreme cases, God’s ministry may even have to excommunicate someone from spiritual fellowship with His people, to protect the flock, and to, at the same time, motivate and encourage the offender to come to repentance, so that he or she can be restored to God’s fold.

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