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WHERE Is the True Church?
Plain Truth Magazine
September 1984
Volume: Vol 49, No.8
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WHERE Is the True Church?
Herbert W Armstrong   
Church of God

Born: July 31, 1892
Died: January 16, 1986
Member Since: 1928
Ordained: 1931
Office: Apostle

Herbert W. Armstrong founded the Worldwide Church of God in the late 1930s, as well as Ambassador College in 1946, and was an early pioneer of radio and tele-evangelism, originally taking to the airwaves in the 1930s from Eugene, Oregon.

PART FOUR: A WORLD HELD CAPTIVE - Here is the concluding installment of this eye-opening series!

   NOW once again, let's UNDERSTAND the dual relationship concerning the first man Adam, and Jesus Christ the SECOND Adam.

Duality in Scripture

   The first human, Adam, was mortal. And the tree of LIFE, freely offered him, symbolized yielding to allow divine GOD-LIFE to enter within him.
   If Adam had taken the fruit of the tree of life, he would have received the divine LIFE of and from God. He would have received the MIND of God by God's Spirit entering him and uniting with his human spirit. He would have had this close father-and-son relationship with God. But Adam chose to "go it alone." Instead of receiving sonship with God, accepting God's offer to come into his life, injecting into him life and mind of God, he took to himself the self-production of the knowledge of good and evil.
   The tree of LIFE would have brought Adam into close father-and-son relationship with GOD. Jesus, the second Adam, had that close relationship with God. He came to call sinners OUT of this evil world and UNITE them with GOD, as the first Adam and his family could have been. Jesus came to reconcile the called-out ones to GOD.
   Jesus taught the gospel of the kingdom of GOD — the ruling, governing family of God. Not to repair the faulty and rotten superstructure of the building that was the expanded FAMILY of the first Adam. But to call his Church, the expanded FAMILY of God, out from the building that is this world, and unite them with GOD.

The God of this World

   But this world is SATAN'S world. He is the god of this world (II Cor. 4:3-4).
   Satan tried to kill the infant Jesus. Then, when Jesus was about 30 years of age he tried to destroy Jesus through the great temptation. He caused the martyrdom of most of the apostles. He tried to destroy God's Church at its very foundation. But it was built upon the foundation of a Rock, "and that Rock was Christ" (I Cor. 10:4). The Church got off to a good start in spite of Satan's efforts to thwart. it. Jesus had said the gates of the grave would never prevail against the Church. The rains might come, the floods, and the winds blow in hurricane strength, but the Church would endure.
   Satan wanted to destroy it. WHY? Because this world is Satan's world. He sits on the throne of this world (Isa. 14:13). And the Church of God will fill the earth after Satan is deposed and his world destroyed. Christ, the Head of the Church, will take over Satan's throne as world ruler.
   So, when Satan failed to prevent the Church from being founded and getting off to a glorious start, what did he do next? He deceived certain humans into seeking to destroy the Church from within. There's a saying, "If you can't defeat them, join them." He caused some within the Church to turn to a false and counterfeit gospel.
   In Galatians 1:6-7, we read that the churches in Galatia had turned to "another gospel." They had believed those who began to proclaim "another Jesus" (II Cor. 11:4). These false ministers professing to be ministers of Christ were in fact ministers of Satan (verses 13-15).
   Thus, through false brethren within the Church, Satan succeeded at that time in deceiving even the vast majority in the Church. He succeeded in turning this majority into a growing false and counterfeit church.
   During the first few months of the true Church of God, the opposition in Judea was Jewish. Most Jews refused to believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah — God in human flesh. But the 12 apostles were eyewitnesses to Jesus' messiahship. They had been with him three and a half years before his crucifixion, and 40 days after his resurrection. Many, though only a minority of the Jews, believed and were baptized by God's Spirit into the Church. The Church, during its first few years, was mostly Jewish.
   Then God sent Peter (Acts 10-11) to the gentile Cornelius to open salvation to gentiles. God raised up the apostle Paul to head a great gentile ministry. Some Jewish converts then tried to bring the rituals of the law of Moses, and circumcision, upon gentile converts. They wanted "more LAW." Paul and the apostles opposed this and cleared the issue through the Holy Spirit (Acts 15). Then gentile false members brought in the issue of "NO LA w." They claimed the law of God was done away — Christ had nailed it to the cross. They taught a false Jesus whom they represented to have done away with his Father's commandments.
   So it was, that before A.D. 50 (the Church had been founded in A.D. 31) a fierce controversy arose as to whether the gospel to be proclaimed was the gospel OF Christ, or a gospel ABOUT Christ. Soon the curtain was rung down on historic records of the Church. It attested the fact that a vigorous cooperative and systematic effort was made to destroy historic records of church happenings of the next hundred years. It was the "LOST CENTURY" in church history.
   When the curtain of history is raised about A.D. 150, it reveals a church calling itself "Christian," but one totally different from the Church Jesus founded through his apostles in A.D. 31.

The Kingdom Is Not the Church

   Jesus' gospel was the "gospel of the kingdom of God" — the government of God in the hands of the born FAMILY OF GOD. The Church Jesus founded brought God the Father into the very lives of believers.
   The disciples, during Jesus' ministry, were WITH him who literally W AS God in human flesh. After Pentecost, when the Church was founded, those baptized into the Church BY the Holy Spirit were also in close personal contact and communion with God and with Christ (see I John 1:3). God, and Christ, through the Holy Spirit, were IN the very lives of converts.
   But, as the vast majority of professing Christians apostatized, they held only to a gospel ABOUT Christ. They turned grace into license to disobey God as Adam had done. They taught being GOOD — but it was only carnal, human good. Their human spirit was not united with God's Holy Spirit — their minds not united with God's. They came to worship Christ. But Jesus had said in Mark 7:7-8 they worshiped him in vain, rejecting the commandments of God, holding to their human traditions. Indeed, by today, this religion has come to call itself "traditional Christianity."
   They began to build buildings they called "churches" — with a steeple atop, and a cross on their facades.
   A cardinal point of distinction of the one true Church from the many professing sects and denominations is this: The deceived churches of this world put the focus on Christ. God becomes unreal — a mystic unreality. They are not taught that Jesus came to reveal the Father — that Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father — that it is the Father from whom our sins have cut us off — that Christ's shed blood does not of itself "save us" — give us salvation and eternal life. Rather (see Romans 5:10) the death of Christ reconciles us to God and we are saved (given eternal life) by Jesus' resurrection, making possible the gift of eternal life from God the Father through a resurrection from the dead. Jesus' resurrection made possible our resurrection, for he was "the firstborn [by a resurrection] among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29).
   The true Church has Christ in the right perspective — as mediator between us and God the Father' as personal Savior — as our present High Priest at the right hand of God the Father in heaven — as Head of the Church — as coming King and ruler UNDER God the Father.
   Jesus, as the second Adam, came to call those drawn by God "out from among them" of this world and even its counterfeit "traditional Christianity," and to start a whole NEW WORLD — a NEW CIVILIZATION.
   SO, Satan succeeded in counterfeiting the Church of God, which Christ, the second Adam, founded. But the gates of the grave HAVE NOT prevailed against it.
   True, on this building founded on a Rock, the winds blew, the floods came, the opposition beat heavily against it. Even the true Church, in the struggle to stay alive through the centuries of persecution and opposition, lost considerable original TRUTH. But it held fast to the true name of God the Father, whose Church it is. It held fast to God's spiritual law, the Ten Commandments. It held fast to the things HOLY TO GOD — his holy Sabbath, paying God's tithe. For this it was persecuted. But it has weathered the storm.

I Began to Find the Answer

   I have described my own background and conversion. In that original six months' in-depth study and research regarding God's law, I came among a group of brethren of that Church. They were mostly vegetable farmers in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, in the northwestern United States. They were humble, God-fearing people willing to make any sacrifice to obey their great God.
   But, I wondered, could they possibly be the one true Church of God founded by Jesus Christ? They were small, of no advanced formal higher education. Yet they were the ONLY church I could find who held to the Word of God and his commandments. They held faithfully to the things that are HOLY TO GOD — his Sabbath and paying his tithe. They held to the true biblical NAME, "the Church of GOD." No other church on earth held to these three pivotal basic beliefs and practices. They were humble and sincere and would have sacrificed their lives for these basic truths.
   But WHY did God bring me into contact with these people? I little realized the reason at the time.
   At this point I must backtrack and relate additional facts that occurred in my own life.
   I had been for 26 years in the commercial field of magazines and newspapers. I did not know it then, but subsequent events have evidenced that God was preparing me through this experience for the real calling that was to come later.
   I was married at age 25. A week or two after marriage, my wife experienced a vision, or a most unusually impressive dream, which at the time embarrassed me. I had not been "religious." My whole mind and heart was in my business. I was living at the time in Chicago, Illinois. In her dream — vision my wife had seen an angel come from the sky, at a busy Chicago intersection, attracting hundreds of people. The angel had come directly to my wife and me as we stood in this busy intersection. He put his arms around us both, saying the Second Coming of Christ was not far off, and God had work for us to do. When my wife told me the dream — vision I was somewhat shaken. for it had seemed so real to her — yet I was embarrassed and my only thought was to get it off my mind. If it really was a call from God, like Jonah I wanted to run away from it.
   "Why," I said, "don't you tell it to the minister of the church on the corner, and if it means anything, perhaps he can tell you?" I thought no more about it, but subsequently God took away my business, and then a later business established in the Pacific Northwest, followed by this challenge that led to the intensive Bible study.
   The religious fanaticism (to me) that engrossed my wife concerned the seventh-day Sabbath. To me that was fanaticism. But I had to "eat crow." In the most intensive study of my life, I failed to prove my wife to be in error. This intense in-depth study and research proved to me the infallible existence of God, and the absolute AUTHORITY of the Holy Bible as the directly inspired Word of God. Decades of continued in-depth study and research since have opened a vast labyrinth of biblical knowledge and understanding that HAD BEEN LOST. By the shattering agony of having two successful businesses swept out from under my feet, and this biblical challenge, God had softened me to the place of utter submission where I was willing to admit being wrong — willing to submit wholly to him, and willing to believe what he plainly said in his Word, regardless of the unpopularity of such belief.

Restoring the Truth

   Thus the living God began RESTORING through me much true biblical knowledge and UNDERSTANDING that had been lost through the centuries.
   Now it has been clearly revealed to me how a false Christianity arose during the first three centuries of the Christian dispensation. Satan led human religious leaders to proclaim a gospel of their own ABOUT Christ, substituted for the gospel OF Christ — Jesus' gospel of the KINGDOM OF GOD. This false Christianity is revealed in Revelation 17 and elsewhere in the Bible as "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."
   Jesus' whole mission was to reconcile those called, to GOD THE FATHER. There is ONE lawgiver — God the Father. Sin is transgression against GOD. Repentance is toward GOD, and faith is toward Christ. Jesus came to reconcile us to the FATHER — not to replace him.
   It is significant that, after God had beaten me down and softened me, ripe for submissiveness to him, he caused me to be so crucially challenged on the cardinal point of HIS LAW — his government — his preeminence above all else, his lordship over our lives. Of all the points of God's law, the Sabbath is the one test commandment. Professing, sincere Christians will freely admit we should have no other gods before the one supreme and true God. They will acknowledge we should not bow down to idols, or take God's name in vain. They accept the commandment about honoring our fathers and mothers, the prohibition against murder, adultery, stealing, lying or coveting. They will even claim all these nine commandments are carried over into the New Testament.
   The one commandment they reject and refuse to obey is honoring God by keeping his Sabbath day HOLY. God made that particular day holy, and told us to keep it holy.
   A woman once told me she had heard that Saturday was my day, and she hoped this was not true. I replied, "No, Saturday is NOT my day. Sunday is my day."
   "Oh, I'm so glad to hear that," she exclaimed.
   "But you don't quite understand," I continued. "Sunday is MY day, and so is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. But Saturday is NOT my day — it is GOD'S day."
   In my intensive, in-depth, exhaustive study and research to prove Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, I left no stone unturned. I carefully examined every book, article or writing I could obtain that argued against the Sabbath and attempted to establish Sunday. I examined the religious encyclopedias, checked carefully the original Hebrew and Greek words in the relevant Bible texts; I read the Bible commentaries and the lexicons. I checked history.

The Test Commandment

   But all arguments against God's Sabbath and favoring Sunday observance proved just that — arguments that couldn't hold water — arguments clearly in error and too often dishonest.
   I found in historic records that there had been heated and violent controversies over this very question directly and indirectly during the first three centuries of the Church.
   There also had been the historic Quartodeciman controversy between students of the apostle John and their opponents over the Passover-Easter question. The whole question was finally settled in this false church, called "Babylon the great," by the Nicene Council, called by Roman Emperor Constantine in A.D. 325. He was the emperor, not a churchman. Then, in the Synod of Laodicea, A.D. 365, there was decreed one of the church's most famous canons: "Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather, honoring the Lord's day. But if any shall be found to be judaizing, let them be anathema from Christ." This was tantamount to a death sentence.
   Space does not allow me, in this present writing, to give a thorough and complete explanation of the biblical teaching on the vital importance of keeping God's Sabbath. Our free booklet Which Day Is The Christian Sabbath? will present a far more complete explanation.
   Briefly, however, here are some significant and high-point scriptural teachings:
   At the end of what is called "creation week," the following event is revealed: "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (Gen. 2:2-3). God was not tired or weary. But he set mankind an example, and put his own presence in that day. This he has never done in regard to Sunday or any other day.
   Adam rejected God's tree of LIFE, God's law and God's rule over him. There is no evidence that Adam's family in general kept the Sabbath holy for nearly the first 2,500 years. But when God called the children of Israel out of Egypt — a type of calling the Church out of the world — God revealed to the Israelites his Sabbath.
   In Exodus 16, the children of Israel complained they were about to starve. God said he would send food from heaven, in the form of manna, to "prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no." This concerned obedience or SIN. On the sixth day of the week God sent a double portion of manna, but God sent NONE on the seventh day. And Moses said on the sixth day, "To morrow is the rest of the HOLY SABBATH unto the Lord." Then on the Sabbath Moses instructed them: "To day is a sabbath unto the Lord: today ye shall not find it [manna] in the field. Six days ye, shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none" (verses 23-26).
   On the seventh day some went out to try to gather manna. And God said, "How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?"
   Thus it was that God by a miracle from heaven showed his people which was the true Sabbath day. And history as well as Jewish tradition show that the days of the week have never been mixed up from that day till NOW.
   In Exodus 31:12-18 we read God made the Sabbath an eternal COVENANT between him and his people. It was an identifying SIGN by which God would know they were his people, because in keeping the Sabbath they obeyed him in a manner no others did. It identified them as his people. For no other people but the people of God had ever kept God's Sabbath. It identified God, for creation is the proof of God. In six days he created life on earth, and on the seventh day he rested and made that day HOLY TIME — holy to God!
   In the 56th chapter of Isaiah is a prophecy for our present time, respecting the Sabbath: "Also the sons of the stranger [gentiles], that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer" (Isa. 56:6-7).
   In Mark 2:28 Jesus declared, "Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.," So the Sabbath is truly THE LORD'S DAY — not Sunday.
   The Sabbath, as stated above, is the one test commandment — the one even professing so-called Christians refuse to obey. In I John 2:4 we read: "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
   Sin is the transgression of God's LAW (I John 3:4).
   The original Church of God, under the apostles, kept the Sabbath. The apostle Paul preached to gentiles on the Sabbath days for a year and six months, after he had turned to the gentiles in Corinth (Acts 18:4-11).
   As the Sabbath is the identifying sign of the people of God (Jew, gentile or any race), so Sunday is the mark that identifies the AUTHORITY of false Christianity — "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS" — because Sunday carries no other authority. The substitution of the pagan Sunday to counterfeit God's Sabbath is a primary stratagem of Satan in deceiving all nations, and counterfeiting God's TRUTH as well as God's Church.
   One of the excuses used by "traditional Christianity" for Sunday observance is the false belief that Jesus' resurrection from the dead occurred on Sunday. But in actual fact the resurrection did not occur on a Sunday morning but late on a Sabbath afternoon. For proof that this tradition is false, read our free booklet The Resurrection Was Not On Sunday. Then read this truth in your own Bible.
   Jesus said: " Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men.... Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition" (Mark 7:7-9).
   This is one of the keys that unlock the door to the identity of the one true original Church of God, established by Jesus Christ, as it has continued to withstand the onslaughts of Satan through the years and centuries. But it is not the only identifying sign.

The True Name

   Jesus prayed for his Church: "... Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be ONE, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name.... And now come I to thee.... I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not OF the world, even as I am not OF the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not OF the world, even as I am not OF the world. Sanctify them through THY TRUTH: THY WORD is TRUTH" (John 17:11-17).
   Jesus said his true Church was to be KEPT in the name of the Father — GOD. Twelve times in the New Testament, the NAME of this one true Church is the CHURCH OF GOD! It is God's Church, and Jesus Christ is its guiding, sustaining, directing HEAD!
   In five passages where the true NAME of the Church appears, the entire Body of Christ — the Church as a whole — is indicated. Thus when speaking of the entire Church, including all its individual members on earth, the name is "the CHURCH OF GOD." Here are these five passages:
   1) Acts 20:28: The admonition to the elders is to "feed THE CHURCH OF GOD."
   2) I Corinthians 10:32: "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to THE CHURCH OF GOD."
   3) I Corinthians 11:22: "Despise ye THE CHURCH OF GOD, and shame them that have not?"
   4) I Corinthians 15:9: Paul wrote: ") persecuted THE CHURCH OF GOD."
   5) Galatians 1:13: This verse repeats the one last given — "I persecuted THE CHURCH OF GOD."
   Where one specific local congregation is mentioned, the true Church is called "the Church of God," often in connection with the place or location. Here are four more passages:
   6) I Corinthians 1:2: "THE CHURCH OF GOD which is at Corinth."
   7) II Corinthians 1:1: "THE CHURCH OF GOD which is at Corinth."
   8) I Timothy 3:5: In speaking of a local elder in a local congregation, Paul wrote Timothy, "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of THE CHURCH OF GOD?"
   9) I Timothy 3:15: "Behave thyself in the house of God, which is THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD." Here it is the Church of the Living God.
   In speaking of the local congregation collectively, not as one general Body, but as the total of all local congregations, the Bible name is "the CHURCHES OF GOD." Here are the final three verses of the 12 that name the Church:
   10) I Corinthians 11:16: "We have no such custom, neither THE CHURCHES OF GOD."
   11) I Thessalonians 2:14: "For ye, brethren, became followers of THE CHURCHES OF GOD which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus."
   12) II Thessalonians 1:4: "We ourselves glory in you in THE CHURCHES OF GOD."
   In some New Testament instances, a descriptive term is added to the name, as the Church of God at Corinth, or the Churches of God in Judea. And today, it is the Worldwide Church of God.
   In this world, churches are named after MEN, or after the SYSTEM men have devised, or the kind of church government MEN have thought out, CONTRARY to God's Word, or after a significant doctrine they emphasize, or what men hope to make it-all-encompassing, universal or catholic. But wherever that ONE true Church is, it will be named the CHURCH OF GOD.
   But that is not all. Many have appropriated God's name, but are not proclaiming the KINGDOM OF GOD, as the GOVERNMENT of God, which we must OBEY — teaching obedience to God's law (Ten Commandments) — teaching REPENTANCE of rebellion and transgressing God's holy law — teaching that we may be now BEGOTTEN into the KINGDOM" (family) of God, and may, by the resurrection, be BORN into the GOD FAMILY! That true Church is preaching the imminency of the coming of CHRIST as KING of kings and LORD of lords, to RULE all nations for a thousand years on earth. Not up in heaven, but ON THIS EARTH (Rev. 5:10).
   There is only ONE such Church!
   It is doing THE WORK OF GOD. It is, as Jesus said it would be, a "little flock," persecuted, despised by the world.

Personal Counsel

   God's Church does have dedicated, consecrated, converted, fully instructed and trained, ordained MINISTERS in all parts of the world — available to call on you, visit you in your home, answer your questions, explain the Bible to you — IF YOU REQUEST IT! But none of them will EVER call on you, unless YOU of your own free will request it! Regarding the general public, Jesus said, "Go NOT from house to house" (Luke 10:7). Paul had visited the elders (ministers) at Ephesus from house to house.
   Neither Jesus, nor Peter, nor Paul, nor any of the original true apostles ever approached people and personally URGED conversion on them. God has made every human a FREE MORAL AGENT. God compels each to MAKE HIS OWN DECISION, and the true GOD will never force you to be converted.
   But if you, of your own volition, want to know MORE about the very Church that Jesus Christ founded and heads today — if you'd like to ask questions about it, why not write your request for a personal visit? We will have one of God's own ministers call on you. And let me suggest that you JOT DOWN on paper the QUESTIONS you are going to want to ask. I've learned, personally, by more than 60 years' experience, that you'll forget them unless you do.
   Hundreds and hundreds — yes, thousands upon thousands — are being converted — their lives CHANGED — by this WORK OF GOD, through the World Tomorrow broadcast worldwide, through the ministry of the Worldwide Church of God, through the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course and other vital free literature we send upon request. Some, not realizing one of God's own called, consecrated ministers could call and explain, and answer questions, have JOINED one of the churches of this world. You cannot JOIN the true Church of God — the Almighty God puts you in. But if you have questions about fellowship, doctrines or practice — or ANY questions about the Church or the Bible, or the Christian LIFE — write me. I cannot call and visit with you personally anymore, as I used to do and wish I still could, but God has now given me many truly called and chosen men who CAN.
   Weigh carefully the FACTS, according to your own BIBLE. Then make your decision and take what steps GOD shows you.

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Plain Truth MagazineSeptember 1984Vol 49, No.8
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