Be careful who you pick to be your hero
The writer is part of the greater Church of God and editor of The Churches of God Newsletter, P.O. Box 30272, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27130, U.S.A.; firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rick Beltz
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.--Two separate articles appeared in the Jan. 31 and Feb. 28, 2001, issues of The Journal, beginning on page 3 in both issues, written by Mark A. Little and Rob Elliott, respectively. Both writers are part of an organization called God's Church Worldwide.
First, I don't know either of these men personally and therefore have no personal ax to grind with either of them.
Both articles inspire me to ask: Why do so many people in the Sabbatarian Church of God continue to perpetuate and idolize the memory and teachings, including many nonbiblical teachings, of a deceased man who died actually alienated from his family?
This man was a person who, in fact, lived lavishly at the expense of many thousands of others who lived in poverty while thinking it was God's will for them to live as paupers.
What is left from this man's legacy? Virtually nothing remains, except three college campuses and a headquarters that have been sold or are being sold, as well as other convention buildings that have been sold and left to decay.
Also remaining is a church organization that has split into literally hundreds of smaller groups. I don't think God is impressed with properties and buildings.
Eve of destruction
Why have these things happened? Is it because of heresy?
That's only a small part of it, for the seeds of destruction were sown long before the man died, in 1986. How about pride and vanity? What about the churchwide practice of the doctrine of the Nicolaitans so prevalent in the corporate churches of the past and present?
The doctrine of the Nicolaitans, simply stated, is hierarchical church government: "Yet this you have, you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate" (Revelation 2:6).
Jesus Christ says He hates church hierarchies. This situation in the church seems no different from those who continue to pay homage to Ellen G. White and swear by nearly everything she said, or the Mormons, who religiously follow the Book of Mormon rather than the Bible.
These leaders are like Bill Clinton: When will he ever go away? And when will so many of God's people stop living in idolatry and start following Jesus Christ?
"It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are chaste; it is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes; these have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are spotless" (Revelation 14:4-5).
Teachers to emulate
Why not perpetuate the teachings of Jesus Christ or Solomon or John the Baptist? After all, didn't God give more wisdom to Solomon than to any other human being who ever lived? Check it out for yourself:
"And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding 'beyond measure,' and largeness of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men . . ." (1 Kings 4:29-34).
How about John the Baptist? What did Jesus say about him?
"Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matthew 11:11).
So Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born of women. What about Jesus Christ Himself?
"The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here" (Luke 11:31).
Four books of the Bible are filled with Christ's life and teachings. What else does the Bible say about Him? Many things, such as: "For it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God'" (Romans 14:11).
Also: "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth" (Philippians 2:9-10).
When will more brethren in the Church of God stop idolizing men, dead or alive, and start idolizing their very Savior, Jesus Christ, who has in His hands the power of life and death?
We are to bend our knees to God the Father and Jesus Christ, not to any man now living or to the memory of any man who is dead. Our salvation does not depend on whether we honor any man, dead or alive, or believe anything he said or wrote.
Prove all things
We need to believe God's Word in the Bible and practice the life Christ lived.
Jesus told what to do to gain eternal life: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). He said we are to keep the commandments, His commandments, not the teachings or commandments of men.
Like so many in the church today who claim to have "authority" or a special "commission" from God, Mark Little, Rob Elliott and others seem content to quote the writings and teachings of a man or men, rather than proving every one of their points from the Word of God.
For example, Mark stated that "associations exist that are not subject to the government of God on earth as administered through His ministers."
Since when does any man stand between a Christian and God to administer God's government on earth? Where in the Bible does it say God's government is in the church and is administered by any man or men "over" any other person?
Another statement of Mark's, a quote from the deceased person we're talking about here: "The people he spoke of despised being subject to authority and therefore will never be in God's kingdom until they repent of their rebellious attitudes against God."
Wow! Who died and made you boss? Where is this in the Bible? Please show me. What I see in the Bible is John 5:22: "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son . . ." I think that says that Jesus Christ, not a man, will judge every human being.
How about the words of Peter in Acts 5:29: "But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men.'" Because a Christian chooses not to be subject to church leaders has absolutely nothing to do with his obedience toward God.
The government of God on earth exists in the life of every true Christian who chooses to live his life in obedience to God. It has nothing to do with men or their organizations. When will certain people in the church begin to understand that?
How about the many statements from the book of Revelation?
"He who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, I will give him power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received power from my Father" (Revelation 2:26-27).
"He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels" (Revelation 3:5).
"He who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name" (verse 12).
"He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne" (verse 21).
This sounds to me like Jesus Christ is our judge and will reward every man according to his efforts at overcoming and doing good works in his life. There is absolutely nothing here in Revelation or anywhere else in the Bible about being judged by whether we choose to be subject to any church organization or men who claim to have authority.
A proliferation of groups
How about this statement from Rob: "We learned these truths through the teaching of [this man], so God had to reveal them to him first. Certainly no other minister on this planet was teaching them."
Another wow! Does anybody really believe that to be a statement of fact? Real evidence continues to mount that there are and have been other Church of God groups throughout the world, numbering in the hundreds of thousands or even more, that have existed quietly throughout the 20th century.
The people in these groups, who never had anything to do with the Worldwide Church of God or its leaders, were called of God and have been keeping the Sabbath, holy days and Commandments.
Evidence of these groups has been found in South America, Burma and Ukraine, to name a few areas. The WCG and its offshoots are not unique in the world. To say that no other person on this planet was teaching the truth of God for the entire 20th century is entirely false.
It has also come to light in the past few years that this deceased man borrowed material from others and even plagiarized their works as his own, even stating that God revealed certain things to him alone and to no other person.
It's long overdue for so-called church leaders especially, and the brethren in general, to stop looking to men and their organizations and to look instead to God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible.
Paul the servant
They must learn to stand on their own feet instead of saying, as Paul chided the Corinthians: "For when one says, 'I belong to Paul,' and another, 'I belong to Apollos,' are you not merely men? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:2-7).
Also: "If you pay attention to the Scriptures, you won't brag about one of your leaders at the expense of another" (1 Corinthians 4:6).
Paul says to stick our noses in the Word of God and stop bragging about church leaders, living or dead. In other Words, follow God and not men or the words of men.
Mark and Rob failed to do their homework from the Word of God before they wrote their articles. They, as do so many in the church today, still have not grown up and away from their dependence on men and the teachings of men.
They still fear men more than God, and the men they follow have become their idols.
Our allegiance must be to God alone. Our salvation as one of the firstfruits of God depends on no man, but on our Lord and Savior.
"For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
I believe God, who never lies, and the Word of God, the Bible, which never lies.
Mark and Rob, who and what do you really believe?
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God