Paul and Galatians
Mrs. Graham mentions the book of Galatians in her interview and mentions Paul as the source of the Worldwide Church of God's "new truth."
Obviously the WCG (now known officially as Grace Communion International, or GCI) is mired in the writings of Paul, as are many Protestants.
The apostle Peter says of Paul, "His letters contain some things that are hard to understand," and then he warns about people who distort Paul's words "to their own destruction" in 2 Peter 3:16.
Jude reveals the presence among Christians of "godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality" (verse 4).
So grace was distorted into an excuse to ignore God's Commandments. Is there anything new about that?
No, it is the same old false belief system I came out of more than 30 years ago.
Paul wrote Galatians to combat a growing circumcision movement. See Galatians 2:3, 12; 5:2-12; and 6:12-15 because these verses make it obvious that the battle was over circumcision, not the Commandments.
In Galatians 5:12 Paul even says angrily that he wished the circumcision agitators would just sever their own penises.
Paul was also upset with gentiles who were turning back to holidays they had celebrated when they "did not know God" and were worshiping "beings who are not gods" and "pitiful ruling spirits" (Galatians 4:8-11).
"But now that you know God--or, I should say, now that God knows you--how is it that you want to turn back to those weak and pitiful ruling spirits? Why do you want to become their slaves all over again? You pay special attention to certain days, months, seasons, and years. I am worried about you! Can it be that all my work for you has been for nothing?" (Galatians 4:8-11, Today's English Version).
Paul sternly warns not to turn back to the days of "weak and pitiful ruling spirits."
Yet Mrs. Graham bubbles over with praise for Sunday as her day of worship, saying, "I find that works for me."
Too bad it doesn't work for God, who plainly tells us to worship Him on the seventh day. Paul would have berated her for turning her back on God's true Sabbath to return to the day of the sun.
Concluding his letter to Galatians, Paul shows that "sin" is still something Christians must withdraw from. "Brother, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).
We all should know by now that sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, KJV). So, if a Christian can be "caught in a sin," then Christians are sinning if they disobey the Ten Commandments after God's grace has washed them clean. So much for "new truth" that is supposed to eliminate the seventh-day Sabbath.
Every day is holy?
Mrs. Graham tried to make the case that Jesus is Lord of every day and that this somehow does away with His examples in always keeping the Sabbath as His day of worship.
"Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, but He's Lord of every other day of the week as well," Mrs. Graham told The Journal's writer.
"I know we were taught that the Sabbath is the mark of a true Christian, but I feel Christ is that mark. He is our Sabbath rest. He is the one we worship, not a day.
"That sounds as if I think everyone who keeps the Sabbath doesn't worship Christ. I don't mean that at all. I keep the Sabbath, but in Christ."
Don't worship a day
Doesn't that entire quote just sort of sneak past you? Doesn't the Holy Spirit within you set off alarm bells as you read it?
When reading Mrs. Graham's statements for logic, you can see deep flaws. She intermingles true statements and false statements.
We do not worship the Sabbath day; we worship Jesus on the Sabbath day according to His own instructions. He was cocreator of the heavens and the earth (John 1:1-3, 10), so Jesus as "the Word" rested on the Sabbath after creation and during His life on earth.
We have no command to keep any other weekly day of worship, no matter what is culturally or socially convenient.
Jesus was furious over a similar setting aside of one of the Ten Commandments when He said, "You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men" (Mark 7:8, RSV).
Eyes slide shut
God tells us plainly and bluntly, "Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God" (Ezekiel 20:20.)
That sign has not changed. God gives His opinion of ministers who teach others to ignore God's own words:
"Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them" (Ezekiel 22:26).
New Testament proof
One clear New Testament scripture that shows Christians are to observe the seventh-day Sabbath is Hebrews 4:9-10: "So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His" (NIV).
The same verses in the Today's English Version read: "As it is, however, there still remains for God's people a rest like God's resting on the seventh day. For whoever receives that rest which God promised will rest from his own work, just as God rested from his."
Of course God rested on the seventh day, and we are to do the same if we are truly "the people of God" looking forward to His Millennium rest.
The Greek word "Sabbath rest" is translated from is sabbatismos, meaning a keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath.
The King James and New King James translators didn't like the clarity of that verse and translated it dishonestly only as "rest," creating the worst and most blatant mistranslation in both versions.
The Greek word sabbatismos is in both major Bible manuscripts, the Nestle and Textus Receptus. Therefore modern translations such as the New American Standard Updated, Revised Standard Version, Today's English Version, New International Version and American Standard Version all correctly translate this important verse in Hebrews 4:9 as a seventh-day Sabbath resting.
Sunday cannot be substituted for the seventh-day Sabbath without breaking God's Fourth Commandment. God tells us specifically that it is the seventh day that is holy in His eyes, not the first day of the week. We have remaining for us a keeping of the Sabbath while resting "as God did" on the seventh day.
The holy days
Do you see God's holy days as something you need to be set free from? Or do you see God's holy days as times that set you free from the cares of this world?
I think the days God claimed in Leviticus 23 have picked up a bad reputation. Some people seem to have negative ideas about them: these precious days that God has set apart and called His own. Why is this?
Rejoicing is supposed to be a vital part of the days (Deuteronomy 2:12, 28; 14:23, 26). Yet that part is often left out.
I think it may be because many leaders legislate these days too finely. They don't trust people to be able to rejoice on their own in some part of the holy day.
Having this aversion to trusting God's people to be joyful while unsupervised, many ministers fill every holy day with multiple opportunities to hear themselves speak--which they like just fine, but the people don't deal with them quite so well.
So, maybe in the past, rejoicing became difficult for people because they were not left any time to rejoice. Yet the holy days must be a time to rejoice as well as learn and revere God.
My husband often says about the holy days: "There are lots of people who say to God, 'You can't make me rejoice.'"
Yet it seemed as if David was quite good at rejoicing. He danced and hollered like a mountain man celebrating at a rendezvous (2 Samuel 6:14-16).
His dear wife became offended because she was jealous of the good-looking women cheering him on.
But, you know, God didn't seem to be offended at David's dancing, celebrating and rejoicing. I think God enjoyed seeing David so happy.
Each holy day has important Christ-centered lessons to teach us while we celebrate each one. Those who stop observing God's days each year soon lose their overall view of God's plan and God's ways. His precious days are not optional and should be honored and not made onerous.
Just what do you mean grace?
God's kind and forgiving nature, summed up in the word grace, allows us forgiveness of our sins and brings us salvation through Jesus Christ.
But grace also works to help us live godly lives after we are baptized. Paul taught Titus: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:11-12, NIV).
How does God's grace teach us to lead godly lives?
God's love displayed in His grace encourages us in our daily struggle toward perfection in an imperfect and sinful world.
When we haven't lived as perfectly as we want to live, we turn to Him and sincerely ask for His forgiveness. We fully repent, and God's merciful grace extends to us in forgiveness.
Then we go forward, impressed with the extent of God's love and determined to live godly lives in obedience to His Ten Commandments.
Grace makes it possible and prevents our quest for godly perfection from ending in discouragement and abject failure.
Grace and obedience
For baptized Christians grace does not replace obedience. We receive grace--God's loving and kind gift of forgiveness--and acquire faith in God. Both grace and faith lead us into obeying the merciful, powerful God who loves us.
Paul's words in Romans 1:4-5 (NIV) help us understand this point: "Through him [Jesus Christ our Lord] and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith."
True Christians have the Holy Spirit, which helps us daily acquire the attitudes and mind-set of Jesus Christ.
The Days of Unleavened Bread each year teach us this principle of refusing sin and acquiring the sin-free nature of Jesus. We avoid the sins of this world--the leaven--while eating unleavened bread and savoring the true righteousness of Jesus.
We strive to be like Jesus, the real unleavened bread (John 6:4, 32-35). Our daily quest for godliness is made possible by God's grace.
Yet we must never use grace to excuse a hardened attitude toward purposeful sin. Nor can we let grace create in us an attitude of daily compromise with God's laws.
When one ceases to strive to obey God's Commandments, and breaks God's Commandments blatantly, one ceases to be a part of God's people.
Continual disobedience, without repentance and turning back, will finally remove you from God's people.
Where are God's people?
Who are God's people? What is the biblical definition of God's people?
In Revelation we find a definition of "God's people" in the last days: "This calls for endurance on the part of God's people, those who obey God's commandments and are faithful to Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).
According to this Bible definition, God's people are those who obey God's Commandments, all 10 of them.
We cannot bend and twist God's wonderful grace into something that encourages baptized believers to disobey God's Commandments. However we define grace, it cannot result in permission to continually disobey God's Commandments.
If we contort grace into some bizarre right to ignore any of God's Commandments, then we stop being God's people.
God's people endure in stubborn resistance to false doctrines of lawlessness. God's people are to obey God's Commandments and repent quickly of any lapses. God's people never let go of the righteous example of Jesus.
The New Covenant
Because ancient Israel failed to truly love God as He wanted them to with His first "covenant of love" (Deuteronomy 7:9, 12; 30:16), He envisioned a "new covenant": "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts" (Hebrews 8:6-10).
This covenant is "founded on better promises" because it promises us not only a physical homeland but eternal life. The New Covenant is not founded by trampling on God's Ten Commandments.
Jesus on lawlessness
Someone asked Jesus how one obtains eternal life. Jesus' answer is in Matthew 19:17: "If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
When Jesus began to list them, the man interrupted Him and said, "All these I have kept ..."
Jesus, wanting him as one of the disciples, asked him to sell everything and follow Him.
But the cost was too high for the man, so he walked away and lost his chance to become a disciple.
Today many lose their chance of great rewards in the resurrection and maybe even their chance to be in God's Kingdom because they won't follow the advice of Jesus and obey the Commandments. Instead they swallow a lawless doctrine that chokes off their chance at greatness.
First woman elder?
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness'" (Matthew 7:21-23).
Mrs. Graham said the first woman elder was ordained in 2007, but the WCG elder she was talking about certainly wasn't the first woman elder in the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God.
Phoebe, Priscilla, Junia and Nympha all date from the 1st century and put modern women to shame with their zeal in serving God and converting people.
My own ordination as elder and minister was in August 2000. I know of Seventh Day Baptist women who were ordained before I was, and I think there are many Seventh-day Adventist women ministers whose ordinations predate mine.
All of these are Sabbath-keeping women ministers.
Acts 2:17-18 predicts that in the last days women serving through God's Holy Spirit will dynamically impact God's churches.
Mrs. Graham expressed a concern for the way women are treated in Sabbath churches, and I share her concern. Most of today's seventh-day churches differ from New Testament churches by ignoring the spiritual gifts of women and limiting their participation.
(See www.churchofGodDFW.com for our articles and videos that explain this subject in greater depth.)
Religion shouldn't divide?
"Religion shouldn't be so divisive," Mrs. Graham lamented.
Certainly we should treat each other with respect. But Jesus warned us that the truth He brought would be divisive even in families (Matthew 10:34-36).
He also warned that many would turn away from the true faith at the end of the age and would "betray and hate each other" because of the increase of confusing deceptions of "lawlessness."
Jesus warned of lawlessness increasing by a lack of obedience to His laws in religion and society. He foretold that the love of most people would grow cold at the end of man's era (Matthew 24:4, 10-13).
Remember that Jude warned about "doctrines of those who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality ..." (Jude 4). Those doctrines are still promoted.
Lawlessness cloaked in new clothes is smiling while he stands at your gates today.
You look down from your castle safely secured in God's love and are surprised that Lawlessness has come for you.
Now he is yelling at you, trying to get you to open the gates so he can walk into your mind and lead you captive to his camp bound with cords of deception. What will you do?
Peter was tugging at some of God's people who were starting to follow Lawlessness out of God's Kingdom. Peter reasoned with them urgently in 2 Peter 3:15-18.
Yes, Paul was smart. But Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand, things that can be distorted and lead to your destruction.
"Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position" (verse 17).
Men, women and children of God, be on your guard. We are under attack. Take the Word of God as your sword and defend the faith. Defend God's own Truth!