Assembling with believers
What has become another problem for the two men (especially since both are
no longer allowed to attend the WCG) is the neglecting to assemble with
like-minded brethren on the Sabbath, as Paul admonishes us:
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for
He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to
stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,
as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more
as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:23-25).
This mind-set about chains of command and the physical, corporate setup
of a church has kept some from observing an aspect of God's law regarding
the Sabbath: the requirement for a holy convocation (Leviticus 23:3).
The two men's stories are examples of a profound misunderstanding of what
church administration is and what God's government is. What part does a
congregation--a physical church, made up of people--play, and what part
does God play?
Commendably, both of these writers' attitude is to seek God's will, and,
as one said, "pleasing God is the bottom line."
Mr. Neal states that the late founder of the Radio/Worldwide Church of God,
Herbert W. Armstrong, taught, preached and zealously emphasized church government.
Then Mr. Neal quotes (I assume he is quoting Mr. Armstrong): "Why government?
God is reproducing Himself; He must be absolutely certain that not one of
His spirit-born sons and daughters will turn out to be another Satan.
"Before God can bring us into His family, He must know how we respond
to authority! God must be able to look at each of us and say, just as He
said of Abraham (Genesis 22:12), 'now I know.' "
Governed by God
This is a true statement; we are governed. But how are we governed?
We are not governed through a hierarchy of human beings, but through God's
law, as I will explain.
Mr. Neal uses two main scriptural references for wanting to stay where he
was all those years. One was the example of David and Saul, noting that
David was "a man after God's own heart" because he remained under
the authority of a corrupt leader who sat in an office established by God.
Mr. Neal cites this example to support his loyalty-to-church-government
The other example was "honoring the seat of Moses." Mr. Neal asked
who is in Moses' seat today. Then he answered:
"The Pharisees were corrupt hypocrites who perverted judgment, teaching
traditions of men in place of God's commandments (Mark 7:7-9). Christ warned
them that they had disqualified themselves from administering the way into
His Kingdom. Thus they would be removed from Moses' seat:
" 'Therefore say I unto you, "The kingdom of God shall be taken
from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof"
' (Matthew 21:43).
"That 'nation,' which was to shortly begin bringing forth fruits of
that kingdom, is the church (1 Peter 2:9)."
Then Mr. Neal says that John was the last of the original apostles to sit
in that "seat": "But, just as the church would never die
out (Matthew 16:18), the seat of Moses would also continue to exist as God
raised up new leadership."
Then Mr. Neal writes: "In recent church history, it is clear that God
passed that seat to Herbert Armstrong, who, as did Moses, shared that seat
with those in leadership under him.
"Today, however, it seems we have those in Moses' seat who are very
much like the scribes and Pharisees."
Now let's look at Moses' seat. That phrase is used in Matthew 23, where
Christ spoke to the multitude and His disciples, saying:
"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever
they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to
their works; for they say, and do not do" (Matthew 23:2-3).
Remember what Mr. Neal said about Moses' seat. He said it--the seat of government--would
continue. I feel that, because of his awe of assumed church authority, he
is reading into the Bible something about Moses' seat that is not there
and is coming up with something much like the primacy of Peter: the supposed
succession of the apostles used by the Western and Eastern universal churches.
What were the disciples to obey? Apparently the people who were in Moses'
seat read to the people from the Scriptures. Christ wanted His disciples
to hear what the Pharisees read from the Scriptures, but "don't do
as they do."
Notice Peter's statements: "For Moses truly said to the fathers, 'The
Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren.
Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you' " (Acts
Stephen made a similar statement: "This is that Moses who said to the
children of Israel, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like
me from your brethren. Him you shall hear' " (Acts 7:37). We know that
prophet was Christ.
Moses' seat ended when God gave a different administration: "the administration
of reconciliation." If Moses' seat exists today, after Christ's sacrifice
and the giving of His Holy Spirit, Christ is in it, not some human being.
God changed the physical (Moses') administration to the spiritual (Christ's).
Since Moses' seat no longer exists (or is occupied by Christ), then Mr.
Neal's comments about the "froward [harsh] master," based on 1
Peter 2:17, are not applicable in a modern context. Mr. Neal says we should
submit to the government of the Worldwide Church of God, just as a slave
in Peter's time should submit to his harsh master.
The fallacy here is that the WCG is not our master; our master is Jesus
Christ. And, of course, we should submit to Him. When we do submit to Him,
we are members of the Church of God, the Body of Christ.
We do not have to pledge allegiance to an organization or chain of command
that distresses us.
A man after God's own heart
Mr. Neal drew on the example of King David, a man after God's own heart.
Let's try to understand what a "man after God's own heart" means.
The Israelites wanted a king, and God allowed them to have a king, Saul.
Later, after God made David king, He referred to him--because of his attitude--as
a man after His own heart.
Let's look at a scripture from the book of Acts from an address in which
Paul talked about David: "And when He [God] had removed him [Saul],
He raised up for them [the Israelites] David as king, to whom also He gave
testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My
own heart, who will do all My will' " (Acts 13:22).
Paul quoted these scriptures from Psalm 89:20-24, which shows that David
was God's choice and that God chose him because he was His servant:
"I have found My servant David; with My holy oil I have anointed him,
with whom My hand shall be established; also My arm shall strengthen him.
The enemy shall not outwit him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him. I
will beat down his foes before his face, and plague those who hate him.
But My faithfulness and My mercy shall be with him, and in My name his horn
shall be exalted."
Later in the same Psalm God is quoted as saying: "Once I have sworn
by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever,
and his throne as the sun before Me; it shall be established forever like
the moon, even like the faithful witness in the sky" (verses 35-37).
The 119th Psalm and others depict David meditating on God's law day and
night, showing how highly he regarded it. In Psalm 51, after David had sinned
with Bathsheba, we read evidence of his repentant heart. He, in spite of
being a sinner, was someone with whom God could work.
We have seen that David was a "man after God's own heart," but
saying that David's love for God means that spiritual loyalty to a modern
church organization is necessary for Christians is a non sequitur. Since
the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God's relationship with His
people is a direct one. No one stands between the repentant sinner and His
We no longer live under the administration of physical Israel. Even though
physical organizations can be beneficial in helping Christians preach the
gospel and fellowship with each other, our relationship with God transcends
any temporary physical organization. It goes far beyond any congregation,
whether the congregation is doing the will of God or not.
Government hierarchy called gentile rule
Both the prophet Daniel and the apostle John described world-ruling governments--gentile
rule--in Bible prophecy, as in Daniel 2:31-45.
In the book that bears his name, Daniel--and later his three colleagues,
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego-refused to worship a form, or image, of
gentile-rule government, as recorded in Daniel 3:2-7, 18.
John wrote many verses in the book of Revelation as part of a similar prophecy,
showing that the worship of the image, or form, of an end-time, world-ruling
government is forbidden (Revelation 13:14-15; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20;
The primacy of Peter in the Eastern and Western universal churches is patterned,
or based, on this gentile rulership.
But God wants His people to obey Him from their hearts, living by His law.
He does not want them to worship a hierarchical form of government. He wants
them to worship Him, adhering to His law of love.
God indeed has allowed (or inspired) the toppling of one-man rule in many
of His congregations. I feel that the idea of "apostolic succession"
needs to be discarded as unscriptural, since, in my opinion, the interpreting
of the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 as church eras is part of the
same concept and is also foreign to the Bible.
The thinking that invokes the church hierarchy between the believer and
Christ is the same thinking that relies on the concept of the seven eras,
apostolic succession and primacy of Peter (or variations such as the primacy
Christ forbids gentile rule
The form of church government referred to by the two writers in In Transition
reminds me so much of what Christ said about gentile rule. The disciples
argued who was to be the greatest, but Christ said to them:
"The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who
exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' But not so among
you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger,
and he who governs as he who serves" (Luke 22:25-26).
"For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is
it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.
But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow
upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may
eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the
twelve tribes of Israel" (verses 27-30).
Gentile rule is referred to again in Matthew 20. After the mother of Zebedee's
sons came to Jesus and tried to procure for them positions in His Kingdom,
and the other 10 disciples were as a result displeased with the two brothers,
Jesus said to them:
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those
who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among
you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.
And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave--just as
the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His
life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25-28).
Only one church?
There exists only one true spiritual Church of God, made up of Spirit-led
members. Only God knows His borderless spiritual church.
When people think there is only one physical organization that is the one
true church and that it somehow physically contains God's spiritual government,
they are a lot like Elijah. He thought he was alone. But notice what Paul
said about Elijah:
"Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with
God against Israel, saying, 'Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn
down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life'?
"But what does the divine response say to him? 'I have reserved for
Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal'" (Romans
When those of us who have moved away from where we were--and joined with
other members and have attempted, through consensus, to prevent a repeat
of what happened in the Worldwide Church of God--we have employed the biblical
principle that there is safety in a multitude of counselors.
Many of us not only have felt God's hand in delivering us from heresy, but
have seen God's hand in doing away with the hierarchical government that
Notice what Paul wrote about the church in Ephesians 4, where he shows that
we are all part of the Body, that we all have the same Spirit, baptism,
oneness with God. Christ, after his earthly ministry, imparted gifts and
responsibilities to His followers:
"He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens,
that He might fill all things. And He Himself gave some to be apostles,
some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers . . ."
Contrary to our old perspective, this list of gifts or responsibilities
does not refer to rank or hierarchy, but these bequests are for "the
equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the
body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge
of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the
fullness of Christ . . ." (verses 12-13).
The saints are equipped for the work of the ministry so the church can grow
to "fill up" all things, "that we should no longer be children,
tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine" but,
"speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who
is the head--Christ . . ." (verses 14-15).
All the saints are "joined and knit together by what every joint supplies,
according to the effective working by which every part does its share, each
gifted member causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love"
"This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no
longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,
having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God,
. . . and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the
new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness"
(verses 17, 23-24).
Notice that Paul said nothing in the preceding verses about one-man rule,
but that every part should share in the growth of the Body of Christ.
Elsewhere, the example of the conference in Acts 15 shows a consensus, not
a hierarchy (see verse 22 and following verses).
Loyalty to government
God wants us to be respectful to governments, but, if a choice has to be
made between man's government (in this case the Worldwide Church of God)
and God's government (obedience to the Father and Jesus Christ), obey God
rather than man.
This truth, when accepted, should serve to comfort and encourage members
of the "Stay-at-Home Church of God," who may be forgoing their
personal responsibilities in preaching the gospel as well as their assembling
and fellowshipping with like-minded brethren.
It is true that God will not allow us to enter His Kingdom until He knows
we can be ruled. But that rule is through His holy, righteous law, not obeisance
to an image, or form, of gentile rule. When it comes to government, God
is much more interested in substance than He is form.