And greetings friends. This is Herbert W Armstrong with the Good News of the World Tomorrow.
And again I say we ought to have good news today, and we could have it. And there is a way to have it if we only would be willing to find that way. My friends do you know that it's possible to believe in Jesus Christ, to accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior, to worship Jesus Christ, and still be completely lost and unsaved? Do you know that a great many people are actually doing that?
Now I've been telling you that if you will only get out your Bible — and by the way why don't you run and get it now. You're going to find a lot of surprises if you'll just look into it. And you'll find it says exactly the opposite of what you've supposed.
Why is it, my friends, that we have heard a lot about Jesus Christ — we've heard Him lauded. We find that people preach His Name, and they preach about Him and a message about His person all over the world. But still they don't preach what He preached; and they don't believe what He taught.
Now here is another evidence, listen: you certainly wouldn't hear much preaching today anywhere, would you, that it's possible to accept Christ as Savior, to worship Him, and still do it all in vain and to no good use or no purpose whatsoever?
Well in going through the New Testament of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to see what Jesus did teach and to compare it with what we're believing today and hearing preached today — we're in the fifteenth chapter of Matthew now, and the first verse. And if you'll turn also in your Bible now to the seventh chapter of Mark and the first verse — that's Mark 7, and also to Matthew 15. And if you will keep those two places together, I want to read some from each of them to you.
Religion of Tradition Now Matthew's account — Matthew 15:
"Then there came to Jesus, from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread." (Matthew 15:1-2 American Standard Version)
Now let me explain something right there before we go on and come to the astonishing answer. 'The tradition of the elders,' do you know what that is? Very few people know; they read right over that. They read about the tradition of the elders. It doesn't mean anything to you, because you think, "Well I didn't live back there" — if you even stop to think about it. You don't know what it was.
Let me tell you what it is. You know that the children of Israel were in twelve tribes and they divided into two different nations. There was the Kingdom of Israel which had been taken captive 721 BC, and then later, a 130 years later between 604 BC and about 580 BC, and a number of sieges, the Kingdom of Judah, of whom are the Jews.
Now the Jewish people, as we know them, are descended from the Kingdom of Judah, but not from that other kingdom of the ten tribes that was known as the Kingdom of Israel.
The Kingdom of Israel had been conquered and invaded and had been removed from their cities and their farms, their homes, and taken up to the land of Assyria on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea.
But 130 years later the Jewish people were moved out of their land of Judea, which was the southern part of Palestine, and they were moved over into Babylon. Now after Israel was removed to Assyria, they brought Assyrians and other Gentiles and the very lowest and poorest of the Gentiles and put them in the cities of the Northern part of Palestine, in other words, the land that had been known as the land of Samaria where the Kingdom of Israel had resided.
And so now, for considerably more than 100 years prior to the time that the Jewish people were taken captive, there had been Gentiles in the northern two-thirds of the land of Palestine. And the Jewish people lived in the southern part of Palestine known as Judea — the land of Judea.
Jerusalem is in the Southern part. You know Jerusalem was the capital of the Kingdom of Judah. But Jerusalem was not the capital of the Kingdom of Israel. The city of Samaria was the capital city of Israel. You know a lot of people just don't know that. But there are four whole books of history: I and II Kings, and I and II Chronicles in your Bible that will give you all of that history if you just care to read it.
Now then, the Jewish people were taken captive and were removed out of their homes and off of their farms and out of their cities and were taken up to the Chaldean Empire — the land of Babylon. And they were made slaves up there.
True Worship Restored Now 70 years after they were moved up there, as the prophet Jeremiah had prophesied, a certain number of those people were moved back down again to the land of Judea. And they were sent down by a decree after the Chaldean Empire had folded up and had been replaced by the Persian Empire. The king of Persia had given a decree that they could go down and rebuild the Temple which had been destroyed in Jerusalem.
And then another decree went forth for a number of them to go down and restore the worship of God in the Temple at Jerusalem.
Now that was just 400 and, let me see, 490 years, there were a total of seven weeks proclaimed and it was 482 years from the time of the anointing of Christ, or prior to that time, because there is the prophecy in Daniel, of course, of the 70 weeks: each one being a year being fulfilled — a total of 490 long years, actually.
Well anyway, Ezra and Nehemiah were the leaders of those people. And each of them, that is Ezra and Nehemiah, each wrote a book that you will find in the Old Testament of your Bible. And you will find that when they came back down, after having been up in the northern country as captives and as slaves, and when they came back down again to the land of Judea, they began again to transgress the law of God — which was the reason for their having been taken captive in the first place.
Now a lot of people today, of course, would think that breaking some of the commandments of God doesn't make any difference. I know that a lot of people today would say, well they can't see where it would make any difference whether you keep Saturday or Sunday for instance. "What's the difference? One day's as good as another." And in the eyes of men it certainly is. I'm sure that a man, alone, outside of any command, or any revelation or explanation from God, could never see where it would make any difference. And a lot of preachers can't see either, so far as that's concerned. But God always did see it.
And a lot of those Jewish people couldn't see either, where it made any difference. Actually, God punished His own people more severely than any people have ever been punished by a punishment meted out from God, because they broke His Sabbath day. Now it made that much difference to God.
And God only does those things that are good for us. And it was good for them. When He punished them He really did it because — well He did it for the same reason that a loving parent will punish his children to teach them better lessons.
Now after they had come back down to Palestine, and here is Nehemiah as one of the leaders, and they began to break the Sabbath again. And Nehemiah writes this in his thirteenth chapter of his book and the fifteenth verse.
"In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; and also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day when they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the Sabbath unto the children of Judah and Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and I said unto them, What evil thing is this that you do, and profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath." (Nehemiah 13:15-18)
Now you see why they were taken captive? And here again — Nehemiah is warning them that, "That's why you people went into slavery and captivity! And a few of you have just been released from it and been able to come back down here and restore the worship of God! And this thing you begin to do — you begin to break His Sabbath right away!"
Now what happened? I'm giving you a bit of history and I want you to get it. It's very important that you understand!
Burden of Tradition They then, and thereupon, began to keep the Sabbath, not only, but they became such strict commandment keepers that, for instance, on the Sabbath day, they applied about 65 regulations that they began to invent themselves that God had never given them. They were never given through Moses; they never came from God, but ideas of men, and they set it up as a tradition. And they set up a lot of rules and regulations. And they made the Sabbath day a yoke of bondage! They made it so hard that it became a great burden to the people to observe it — all by their man-added traditions that God had never given them.
That's why Jesus Christ, when He came preaching the NEW TESTAMENT gospel of the kingdom of God, devoted a great deal of time, and the explanation of which requires several chapters in the NEW Testament of your Bible, to explain how the Sabbath day ought to be kept, because they had profaned it by observing a lot of man-made rules that made it a strict thing that took away from it altogether — the real, sacred meaning that God had intended! They made it illegal to do this, that, and the other thing; they made it necessary to do certain things that made it so difficult, and so hard, that the Sabbath day was a great burden!
Now you know there are a lot of people today that still seem to think the Sabbath day's a great burden. They think of God as a cruel kind of a God that just gives people things that are not good for them.
Now God never gave them these things that were not good for them. Those were things that men added because of this rebuke from Nehemiah. Then they became so strict that they made it a matter of penance.
Now along the way these same Jewish people began to notice that the Gentiles, the pagan nations around them, had a way of getting rid of their past sins. They didn't know anything about a Messiah to come. They had known, their forefathers had known something about that long, long years before — they had a knowledge of God. But they had not retained God in their knowledge as Paul wrote to the Romans — the Gentile people at Rome.
Paul wrote that their forefathers, and the great philosophers of old, had known of God, but when they knew God, they didn't worship Him as God. And they did not like to retain God in their knowledge. (Romans 1:28)
And, my friends, God is not retained in much of the knowledge today. You can't teach anything about God in the public schools today. And you ask any college or university student how much of God is retained in the knowledge that is taught him in the average university or the average college today, or even a high school, and he'll just look sort of blank and shake his head — meaning nothing. And that's the way we're going again today. And I tell you it's about time we began to wake up.
Now here they were transgressing the 'traditions of the elders.' In other words they were transgressing the ideas of Judaism. The Jews did not adopt the Gentile form of tortures, but they did adopt the Gentile principle of expunging past guilt by doing something that would torture them. And the kind of torture they adopted was to add things to what they had had from the Law of Moses, and to add a lot of traditions, and a lot of 'dos' and 'don'ts,' and strict prohibitions and strict obligations that made living very hard and very difficult.
Now the way the Gentiles had of getting justification from past guilt was to do penance. They were a very penitent people. And they tortured themselves. They did things that were hard to do and that were physical torture. And they figured that by doing that torture that they wiped the slate clean from a guilty past.
Now all the torture in the world is never going to forgive your guilty past, my friends. And that's what the apostle Paul was trying to teach, because, in the meantime, these Jewish people, after this stern rebuke from Nehemiah, and remember, that that was back there 500 years or so before Christ, or 400 and some years before Christ, and after that they became so strict that they made the Sabbath a matter of torture. Not only the Sabbath, but they also introduced many other rituals; they introduced many customs; they introduced many traditions that the leaders, the rabbis — following Ezra and Nehemiah — began to think out by human reasoning, and that they invented, and that they enforced upon the people.
Judaism Now they, by the time of Jesus, had come to have a religion built on these traditions that had been added by these men. I'm painting this picture; I want you to get it! I want you to know what Judaism is! I'm picturing for you now Judaism. And Judaism, my friends, is not the religion that came through Moses. Judaism is not the religion that God gave the people through Moses.
Judaism is the religion that was really invented out of the imaginations of the rabbis that were the priestly rulers over the Jewish people that were in Palestine from the days of Ezra and Nehemiah on until the time of Christ.
After that rebuke of Ezra, or of Nehemiah, of how they were breaking the Sabbath, they not only quit breaking the Sabbath in that way, they actually did break it, though, by the regulations and rules that they put on it — but they also introduced other strict rules and regulations.
Now one of them was that they had to have a certain type, or form, or ceremony of washing their hands before they ate. And it wasn't merely because their hands were dirty, it was a religious ceremony, and it was considered a sin, and a religious infraction of religious performance if they didn't wash their hands in a certain manner.
Now Jesus cut right through all those things. He did not observe those traditions; He had no use for them at all. He rebuked the people for them. And He taught His disciples; and His disciples followed His example; and they did as He had taught them.
Now I tell you, my friends, there are some today that would have you worship Jesus Christ in vain, and not keep any of the commandments of God. And in order to do that, they turn to what the apostle Paul said about not being justified by the law, and by the rituals of Moses. Because the Jews of that time were turning the rituals of Moses, with their human additions, as I said, and subtractions of the traditions that they had added, and they made that their means of justification — adopting the principle of pagan worship which was the principle of getting rid of your past sins, as I say, by doing penance instead of by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Now you can't get rid of past sins by that; you can't get rid of past sins even by obeying the great spiritual law of the Ten Commandments, so far as that is concerned. That is only your obligation for today, anyway. And the reason it's an obligation is because it's the only right way to live. It's the only way that's going to make you happy, and make you a blessing to others, and make us all happy. It is the right way to live.
But there are some that are vicious today that don't like the law of God or the way of God. And they fight against it; and so they do twist around the writings of Paul. As Peter said, that Paul wrote some things that are hard to be understood which those that are unlearned, and they are very unlearned, and willfully so in some cases, twist and wrest as they do also the other scriptures to their own destruction (II Peter 3:16). Now when the blind lead the blind, as I'm going to show you here in just a few minutes, they both fall in the ditch.
Now with that background, I want you to notice these Pharisees — and we have some modern Pharisees today — these Pharisees didn't believe in obeying God and keeping His commands, but they did keep the traditions of men. And we have people today doing exactly that same thing. Time has not changed; human nature has not changed.
Now notice. These Pharisees said:
"Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders [they didn't say anything about transgressing God's commands, but the tradition of the elders. The elders, human men, were the authors of these traditions]? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread [that was one of the traditions that was in question at this moment. And Jesus answered and said unto them] ...You hypocrites [and I tell you, my friends, Jesus Christ says that to that kind of preachers today. And there are some of them, as I say. And I'm only saying just where the shoe fits, put it on and wear it. And where it doesn't fit I am not including any such man. But Jesus said of them], Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people honoreth me with their lips [now notice: they honored Him with their lips. There are a great many like that — doing lip-service today to Jesus Christ]; but their heart is far from me." (Matthew 15:2, 7-8 American Standard Version)
You know that God looks on the heart, not just on your lips and how much you say, "Praise the Lord," and how much you say, "Bless God," and things of that sort, but where your heart is, and whether you're surrendered to God to be one of His children, to obey Him. God wants obedience; and He has never stopped wanting obedience.
"This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me...(Matthew 15:8-9) Here were people honoring Jesus Christ with their lips; here were people accepting Him; here were people praising Him; here were people worshiping Jesus Christ. And He said, "in vain!" Read it, my friends, in your own Bible. That is in Matthew 15, verse eight. There are many such hypocrites today; there are many people that worship Jesus Christ, but how, how are they doing it in vain? Listen:
"... in vain do they worship me [how?] teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men." (Matthew 15:8-9)
Modern Traditions That's what you have today! People don't want to keep God's Sabbath today! They keep one of men's devising! They don't want God's annual holidays, or holy days, that God made holy and ordained forever!
No, they observe the days of paganism and of men's devising — the traditions that they've gotten from other people. They observe Christmas, and New Year's, and Easter, and April Fool's Day, and Halloween, and those days! And those days I tell you, my friends, you cannot find ever kept in your Bible by the people of God. They were not observed by Jesus Christ; they were not observed by the apostles; they were not observed by the Gentile Christians under Paul's teaching. They were never observed by any but pagans!
My friends, when will we wake up and see that we're doing the same thing today? I tell you that this is important. And we brush it off and think, "Oh well, I guess God wouldn't care. Maybe God isn't looking. Perhaps He's gone way off some place." I tell you nay! I'll tell you, my friends, God is present; God is looking. And the Day of Judgment is at hand; and it's a lot closer than you think. It is much later than people realize!
"In vain do they worship me [how?] teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men." (Matthew 15:9)
And I want to tell you, my friends, if you go around and notice the doctrines that most people believe and proclaim today, they are precepts of men. They are not the precepts of the Bible, but exactly the opposite. And a lot of us have been taught that.
When you were born you didn't know a thing. Everything that you believe, every doctrine that you think is a true Christian doctrine, you have been taught, or you have learned and come to believe since the day you were born.
And you know, my friends, now be honest; you didn't really get these things out of the Bible. You have believed them because you've heard them; you've believed them because other people believed them; you've believed them because a group of people who banded together in some kind of religious organization believed them. That's how you came to believe what you believe. You never looked to prove and see whether it's true according to the Word of God.
And I tell you by authority of Jesus Christ that they got away from the Word of God; they got away from the true doctrines and the preaching of Jesus Christ and the message that the apostles took out. They got away from that. After two nineteen-year time cycles of thirty-eight years the world got away from it and it has not been proclaimed in a general organized way to the whole world from that day until now.
And now, once again, as Jesus Christ prophesied, it is beginning to go around the world. And now the people are astonished when they hear it even as they were when they heard the same message from the lips of Jesus Christ, Himself, over 1900 years ago.
They tried to sneer and to ridicule and say, "Yes, that man says he's the only one in 1800 years." I don't say anything of the kind. I merely tell you the truth; I tell you that for 1800 years the same gospel that Jesus Christ sent has been submerged under a rubbish heap of pagan tradition. And I tell you it's time to wake up! I tell you it's time to blow the dust off your Bible and look at it with your own two eyes and be honest with it. God's looking on your heart. Where is your heart; is it honest with God? Wake up my friends.
Jesus said to them "Why do you transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3)
And that's the way it is today. They don't want the commandments of God; they fight the commands of God, but they hold the traditions of men; and these things that I've been telling you that they observe!
Today's Traditional Education Do you know that nearly everything that people do today is a tradition of men; do you know that even our Sunday schools we have — yes now get ready to heave some brick bats at me! I'm glad I'm only behind a microphone and some of you can't do it. Listen, you look up the history of Sunday schools. Did they have Sunday schools back in the days of the apostles, or even Sabbath schools? And again I say, "No!" It is a comparatively modern invention and tradition of men.
You say, "What'll we do with our children?" Well now nobody is going to accept the idea faster than I will that we're neglecting our children — and the religious and the proper education of our children.
Let me tell you something: you parents are guilty! You parents are not trying to train your own children like you should. God Almighty, in His way, put the responsibility for the training of children right on the parents. And what are you parents today trying to do? Farm them out for someone else to take care of; you want to be rid of the responsibility. You don't want to be responsible for your children! You let your children go to any kind of a school and you don't know what they teach them when they get there — just anything so you can get rid of the responsibility and the duty. How much do you love your children?
Most of you couldn't teach your children because you haven't learned yourselves. My friends I tell you it's a time of awakening. It's a time when God's last warning is going out and you're not going to hear it much longer.
Now let's go over to Mark's account of the same thing — Mark 7. I told you to turn to it a while ago — beginning with verse one; he starts out about the same way. And I want to begin with verse seven and read Mark's account of the same identical thing I've just been reading to you as Matthew wrote it down.
Here he said, "But in vain do they worship me [these people that honor Him with their lips. They're worshiping Jesus Christ; they honor Him; they accept Him; they worship Him, but He said], in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men " (Mark 7:7 ASV) Not the commands they get out of the Bible.
Oh they don't like the commands of the Bible! They want to debate about that; they want to argue about that. I'm not here to debate. I'm here to tell you the truth by the authority of Jesus Christ. And it'll be a witness against you in the Day of Judgment, my friends, if you reject it.
God Almighty says through Hosea, the fourth chapter, the sixth verse...
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because you have rejected knowledge [saith the Eternal], I will also reject you." (Hosea 4:6)
Some of you don't want to know. You can know; the truth is plain. Jesus said, "Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men. You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast to the tradition of men. And he said unto them, Full well do you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your tradition." (Mark 7:7-9 ASV)
That's exactly, my friends, what is being done today. And I tell you that there are a lot of modern Pharisees in this world today.
God's True Church You know the true Church of God is different — and the difference between the true Church of God and all others. Which is the true Church today? How are you going to find the true Church? There is only one Church. Jesus said, "I will build my Church," (Matthew 16:18) He didn't say, churches!
Which is that Church that He built? Out of all these hundreds and hundreds of sects and denominations — which is that one? I'll tell you how to find it. It's the one that is obeying God; it's the one that is obeying Jesus Christ; it's the one that Jesus Christ is the Head of; and it's the one that is keeping the commandments of God and has the faith of Jesus.
It's the one the devil is wroth with — turn over to the twelfth chapter of Revelation. Read the last few verses and you will find that they're very plainly described. It's the one that regards the Bible as supreme AUTHORITY and lives by every word of God — and not by the traditions of men!