Through whom does God make final decisions in matters of Church policy? What is your responsibility under the government of God?
How MUCH do you, as an individual, have to say about the policy, the conduct, the practice of God's Church? What are the CHURCH'S prerogatives and what are each INDIVIDUAL'S prerogatives? It is time we learned what questions are matters of personal decision and what are matters of Church responsibility regulating us all!
The Church Is a COLLECTIVE Body
The Church of God is a collective body. The Greek word for church means a GROUP of individuals who have been called out for a purpose. When there is a church, a collective body, who is going to determine what the church does COLLECTIVELY? Who is responsible for determining what each member does as part of that body? Is each individual free to decide for himself how God's law applies to him? And what about "free moral agency?" Every one of us is a "free moral agent." Each one of us must decide for himself whether he will obey God. God is the One who decides what we shall obey. Notice how this is explained in Deuteronomy 30:19. Moses said: "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have SET before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore," says Moses, "CHOOSE life, that both you and your seed may live." Notice Moses did not invent the difference between life and death. He did not originate it. He merely set it before the people. The people are to choose. God commands YOU to choose. That is your responsibility as a "free moral agent." But God commands you to do something more, not merely to CHOOSE. He commands you to "choose LIFE." That is an order! And any man who refuses to choose LIFE is in defiance of God. In other words, even though you are a free moral agent, you have been ORDERED to choose life. But YOU must make that choice voluntarily! Free moral agency involves merely the question of WHETHER you choose to do what God has commanded you to do, or whether you choose to go contrary to His express order by choosing death instead.
GOD the Author of Right and Wrong
Moses merely set before the people the way of life — blessing, peace, happiness — GOD is the AUTHOR of life! God's ministers are not free to decide for themselves what is right or wrong. That is a prerogative of God! Is the question of right and wrong really a matter for any individual to determine for himself? Is it YOUR decision which determines whether a thing is right or wrong? Or is there a HIGHER AUTHORITY than man who determines the difference between right and wrong? Indeed there is a Supreme Authority which regulates human life and human conduct! Scripture reveals that Authority is God and His government! It is time we LEARN how God rules and how His government functions. GOD is the source of our way of life, of our religion. He has perfect knowledge, perfect wisdom. He KNOWS right from wrong. He has not left up to people or to society or the whims of any individual to determine what is sin and what is not sin. HE is the Lawgiver. Seventh-day Adventists tell us that the Ten Commandments are a "moral law." The Ten Commandments are no such thing — they are a "SPIRITUAL" law (Rom. 7:14). A spiritual law is a law that must be set in motion by Spirit, by God, NOT by the morals of human society. Catholics call the Ten Commandments a "natural law." This idea has come down through the Catholic Church from paganism. The concept of a "natural law" assumes that God's law can NATURALLY BE UNDERSTOOD by man. To a Catholic only those portions of the Ten Commandments are valid today which can be NATURALLY understood. The question is, Is the law of God, the way of God, NATURALLY understood by man? The answer is very plainly NO! Paul tells us in I Corinthians 2 that the spiritual things of God — God's law, His way — are not discerned by the NATURAL mind. That means that as individuals we cannot NATURALLY understand or discern truth, or right from wrong. The Bible is God's revelation of spiritual knowledge and of those physical laws which man could not with absolute assurance understand by himself. The Bible then is primarily a closed book to the natural mind. That is why most learned and intelligent people regard it as a book of straw, a book of superstition or fable. Now notice how conversion and the government of God lead to understanding the Bible.
Conversion Takes TIME
Conversion involves a genuine change of this mind. We thereby BEGIN to grasp the meaning of Scripture and the Bible — we BEGIN to understand the deep differences between right and wrong and recognize what sin really is. But does this mean that everyone in God's Church is fully able — merely because he has received the earnest of God's Holy Spirit — to understand ALL the Bible, completely and perfectly? The answer is NO! Notice the scripture proof! Peter tells us there are some scriptures, especially those which Paul wrote, which are hard to be understood, which the unstable wrest or twist to their own destruction! Peter declares prophecy to be a light which shines more and more until the day that God finally intervenes in world affairs. Prophecy is not some thing that was as clear one hundred years ago as it is today. The ability to understand the Bible is a matter of growth and development. We are told to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. BUT WE DO NOT ALL GROW AT THE SAME RATE. Some individuals have been converted much longer than others. Some develop spiritually faster than others. That development depends upon the amount of earnest prayer and study and obedience. As individuals we are not all of the same competence to determine what Scripture says. How, then, does God regulate those things which we must do together IN UNITY if we do not all grow spiritually at the same rate? How are we going to have unity in the Church if as individuals we cannot all understand all things alike without assistance? The answer is that we must be led, governed, ruled by the government of God — guided by Him into truth!
World Rejects God's Rule
The whole world is confused, divided. Even the professing Christian world is divided. Why? The cause of the division among Catholic and Protestant denominations is the REJECTION of GOD'S AUTHORITY and the kind of church rule He set in motion. Let us notice how God first established rule and authority in the Church. In order to keep the children of Israel in the knowledge of the truth so they would not stray and misinterpret and misunderstand the law, God established His government in His Church, the congregation of Israel. First, He commanded the people, in Deuteronomy 12:8, to perform what HE said. He forbade them to do what was right in their own eyes, as they had been doing. But how were they to know what was right in God's eyes? The answer is that God set rule and authority in His Church to determine the difficult matters for the people. We read of this rule and authority specifically in Acts 7:35. Notice how the people in the Old Testament Church first regarded God's government, His rule and authority. "This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush." I want you to notice. The people did not accept God's government through Moses. They were carnal. The degree to which individuals accept God's government is illustrative of the degree to which they are converted and changed from their natural carnal mindedness to the mind of God and the Spirit of God. When people say, "Well, I chink I ought to decide this for myself," when it is not their decision, they are merely illustrating carnal mindedness. And to be carnal minded is death. Scripture makes it very plain that throughout time Church members need guidance and direction. The Ethiopian eunuch did not understand what he was reading in the book of Isaiah. God sent Philip to explain that passage which he was reading. To understand, we, too, must have God-called and God-sent teachers who do know and understand the truth.
How God's Rule Works
When it comes to collective matters the Church of God as a whole must perform, there is the need — in order that they should be unity in the Church — of a CENTRAL AUTHORITY inspired and led by Jesus Christ who is the living Head of the Church. It is the government of God, but God works through human agents. Christ worked through Moses. Christ worked, at a later time, through Joshua, then through Samuel and through David. In Christ's own day, we find that God worked through Christ, who in turn gave authority to His ministry in His Church. Consider Matthew 18:18. When questions come up, when decisions have to be made, the ministry — this central authority to which all must appeal — has the power to BIND ON EARTH those matters which the Father and Christ "shall have bound in heaven." Jesus did not institute anything new when He gave His ministry in the New Testament Church the power to bind or to loose on earth. He was merely following the practice that He had already given to the physical ministry in the Old Testament Church — to the priesthood and the judges! Notice it! Jesus said in Matthew 23:3 that, when the Scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses' seat: "All things whatsoever they command you, that do." So there WAS authority in the Old Testament Church. Most people have misunderstood this scripture. They have assumed that everything the scribes and Pharisees TAUGHT was taught from the seat of Moses. That is not true. Whatever proceeded from the "seat of Moses" had authority — but the scribes and Pharisees did NOT teach with authority — they did not teach from Moses' seat. Mr. Ernest Martin has prepared a thesis, running serially in "The Good News," entitled, "Is Judaism the Religion of Moses?" At the close of this thesis he will bring out that the "seat of Moses" WAS THAT AUTHORITY, vested, in Christ's day, in the scribes and Pharisees and which they EXERCISED ON BEHALF OF THE WHOLE COMMUNITY TO KEEP UNITY AND ORDER IN THE CONGREGATION. It had to do with those decisions which came before the Church AS A WHOLE which had to be determined by a central authority for all the Church. Such decisions were VERY RARELY MADE. Jesus recognized that the scribes and Pharisees who sat in Moses' seat had authority over the synagogues and whatever God allowed them to determine, THAT the people were to obey! Then Jesus added: "But do not do after their works."
What If Jews Sinned While in Office?
Notice what that means! EVEN IF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES HAD INDIVIDUALLY CUT THEMSELVES OFF FROM GOD, yet when it came to the major decisions, God still allowed them to determine what the Old Testament Church collectively should do, and the people under the authority of the scribes and Pharisees were REQUIRED to submit to that authority. God still governed the Old Testament Church through the "seat of Moses." The decisions rendered by scribes and Pharisees WERE ALLOWED OF GOD and were to be obeyed. If those in authority did not obey their own injunctions the people were not to follow their bad examples; but they still must follow God's orders as expressed by those in authority. Pharisaic disobedience did not excuse the people from obedience to God's government! Some people today have to learn the meaning of this example. Even if a minister today were to make a mistake, as long as God leaves him in office he is to be respected. GOD is responsible for correcting him. In the meantime we are to SUBMIT TO GOD'S GOVERNMENT functioning through him.
New Testament Church Government Today
Jesus Christ reveals His New Testament Church government through the writings of Paul in I Corinthians 12. In verse 18 we find God set certain offices in the Church. It is the Government of God, not the election of people. In Ephesians 4, verse 11 to 14, we are told of the same government — of apostles, of prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers. The function of this government is to teach us and to bring us to that final goal — "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." The goal, then, is that we all may be BROUGHT TO the unity of the faith, to the stature of spiritual understanding like Jesus Christ. The very fact that this is A GOAL and AN AIM and that we don't all progress to that goal with the same degree of speed, nor do we all sense the direction that we should go, PROVES the need of the ministry! Ministers are pictured as shepherds, and the people, in general, are called sheep because they do not always know the way to go. Jesus Christ is the CHIEF SHEPHERD. He has set those in the ministry who are SPIRITUALLY MORE MATURE, and who can be called "elders," and who are responsible under Christ to assist in shepherding the flock. HE HOLDS THEM RESPONSIBLE FOR RULING THE CHURCH WELL. We read of some of the functions of the ministry in I Timothy 5:17: "Let the elders that RULE WELL, be counted worthy of double honour, ESPECIALLY THEY WHO LABOUR IN THE WORD AND DOCTRINE. " Notice it again! One of the functions of the elders is to RULE WELL. This rule involves the authoritative expounding of the meaning of the Scripture. If God's rule in the Church involved ONLY teaching, but no authority to enforce that teaching, the Church would quickly be divided like Protestant sects are! If you for example tell your child do this or do that, and he doesn't do it — and you haven't been given the authority to act, but only the authority TO TALK, are you going to have any unity in the family? No! Now if God says that every elder must FIRST learn how to rule his own house well, that means he is also to have Church authority vested in him. He is to teach God's truth, and if the teaching isn't followed, then he is responsible for exercising authority to see that God's teaching is obeyed. The duty to rule well in the home is a necessary prerequisite to the ministry.
You Must Decide Whether This Is God's Church
Notice Romans 10:13 through 17: "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how shall they call on him on whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him on whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear WITHOUT A PREACHER? and how shall they preach EXCEPT THEY BE SENT?" We must first of all come to a knowledge of where God's teaching is. We must find those whom GOD has sent. Unless we have found those whom God has sent, how are we going to know that what is preached is true? The first thing that all of us must do is to decide whether or not THIS IS GOD'S CHURCH. We must come to know where God's Church is. The Church of God has been given a commission. Jesus said He will be with us always, even to the end, or consummation, of this age. We know that the Church that God uses is one in which CHRIST IS. It is the Church which fulfills the commission of Christ, not some other mission. It preaches the Kingdom of God, not a social gospel, not the "Israel message," and certainly not the visions of Ellen G. White. It is the Church which yields itself to all the Scripture. A Church which obeys God and which has Jesus Christ as its Head and living in its members. When Jesus made a statement that many of His disciples didn't agree with, many of them left. Jesus asked Peter, "Are you going to leave also?" Peter said, "To whom shall we go? YOU have the words of eternal life." Now if this is not God's Church, where else WILL you find the truth? If this is God's Church, then you must recognize that God has set in this Church His government through which Christ rules. Once you have proved this is God's Church, how far are you going to let GOD rule you? How far will His government extend in your home and into your life? What decisions are you, as an individual, to make? And how much is vested in the Church as a body? The Church, of course, authoritatively speaks BY THE MINISTRY when it comes to making decisions WHICH REGULATE THE WHOLE CHURCH. (Observe Acts 15, for example.)
Example of the Sabbat
Let us take the example of the Sabbath. Who determines what day the Sabbath is? GOD does! The source of our religion is GOD. What does God say? He says the SEVENTH DAY is the Sabbath of the Lord our God. Who then has been responsible for determining whether or not the seventh day, which is now called Saturday, is actually the seventh day of God's week? The Jews! But when every seventh day comes around WHO DETERMINES THE EXACT TIME WHEN THE SABBATH BEGINS FOR YOU? I have asked several this question and very few have been immediately able to answer! Where YOU live, who deter mines the moment when the Sabbath Day begins FOR YOU? The Bible — the source of our religion — shows us that it begins at sundown. That is the beginning of every day. But who determines for you when sundown occurs? YOU DO! That is YOUR individual responsibility. If you live west of me, the Sabbath begins for me before it begins for you. God holds ME individually responsible for deciding when the Sabbath begins FOR ME — either by observation or by consulting the local paper. But I must always decide it IN ACCORDANCE WITH GOD'S LAW — which makes sunset the beginning of the day. It is YOUR INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY to determine at what moment the Sabbath begins FOR YOU. But, if you are responsible for determining when sundown commences for you, who is responsible for the TIME at which we all meet at the local church on the Sabbath Day! This is a COLLECTIVE MATTER. When it comes to the time we all meet together, THAT must be a decision of the local ministry in each congregation. When it comes to the matter of THE PLACE where we all must meet, that again is a collective matter. That is for those in authority in the Church to decide. Whoever decides must be one whom God has chosen to decide — one in His ministry. It is not your responsibility. But some individual will say: "Well, I believe we shouldn't meet here — I think it should be there, or somewhere else." Or: "I believe it is wrong for us to meet at a certain time of day, I think it ought to be at a different time." If you think that IS your responsibility, you are saying then that God is using you and not someone else to make this decision for the Church. And anyone who decides that he himself should make such a decision is doing what all worldly ministers have done — he is PUTTING HIMSELF in the function of the ministry — an act only God can do! Let's again illustrate the responsibility God places on the ministry for the Church. We have the matter of Pentecost. Pentecost is the fiftieth day after the day that the wave sheaf is offered. The question comes, how does the Church determine what that fiftieth day is? The answer is, the Church, led by the Holy Spirit of God, COUNTS it properly. INDIVIDUALS often cannot count this properly. And, since observing this day is a MATTER for the whole Church, it becomes the responsibility of those WHOM GOD HAS SET IN AUTHORITY IN THE CHURCH to determine how the day is counted — whether or not you can see it! Once you recognize this is God's Church and that we ARE under God's authority in the ministry — then Jesus' statement applies to you as much as it applied to the Jews in that time, "All things whatsoever they command you, that observe and do. And when God decides through His ministers which day Pentecost is, you are required to obey. God gives His ministers the wisdom to understand His will — or He could not continue to use them in His ministry.
What About Controversial Passages in the Bible?
When it comes to the TEXT of the Hebrew Old Testament, do YOU, as an individual, have authority to decide for the whole Church what is the true reading of the Old Testament Hebrew in any controversial passage? Of course not! But, some argue, were not the scribes and Pharisees responsible for the death of Christ? Of course! But consider! When He was rejected of them, they collectively cut themselves off from any NEW service in God's government. From that time forward Jesus had to commission others in the New Testament ministry to bear His spiritual Message worldwide. This does not mean that the Jews, because of disobedience to God, are not to be relied upon in the preservation of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Calendar! Their disobedience does NOT mean we can spurn God's government functioning through them when it comes to those things which God committed to the Jews to preserve for us — the Hebrew Old Testament and the Sacred Calendar. THE JEWS, despite their sins, STILL HAVE authority in these matters! It is THEIR responsibility to determine for us what constitutes the Old Testament and to preserve the rules of God's Calendar! We find in Romans 3:1-4 the proof! "What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that UNTO THEM were committed the oracles of God." But we may ask, "What if some [of the Jews] did not believe? shall their unbelief" — their rejection of the truth of God — "make the faith of God" — which was committed to us in the Scriptures of the Old Testament and in the Sacred Calendar — "without effect?" In other words, even though the Jews have disbelieved the Scriptures, twisted the meaning of the Bible, substituted their own traditions for the truth in their oral teaching, we still must acknowledge their authority. THEIR SINS DO NOT MAKE THE HEBREW OLD TESTAMENT NULL AND VOID! Verse 4 further explains it: "God forbid: yea let God be true, but every man a liar." If ALL the Jews should have departed from the faith, WE WOULD STILL BE REQUIRED TO RECOGNIZE GOD'S GOVERNMENT WORKING THROUGH THEM TO PRESERVE AUTHORITATIVELY THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES. The Scriptures were given to the Jews to preserve — and GOD HOLDS US RESPONSIBLE FOR RECOGNIZING THAT FACT. What were once committed to the Jews to preserve is even now their responsibility — it is not OURS! We acknowledge the authority of the Jews for the Hebrew text of the Bible. The Jews authoritatively preserved it in the "Masoretic Text" — the official Hebrew Old Testament, accurately copied by the Masoretes — a guild of specially trained Jewish scribes. When we seek the proper order in which the books of the Old Testament have been kept, WE GO TO THE JEWS, who have preserved it. When the ministers want to know authoritatively how the various Hebrew words of the Old Testament are to be read (the Hebrew, you know, did not have vowels), we do not decide for ourselves. We must rely on the traditional oral reading that the Jews ALWAYS ENFORCED, as a part of the government of God, in their synagogues. Here is why: The Jews used to assign readers to read the Bible aloud in the synagogue. If the readers did not read properly the true text, they were not allowed to continue oral reading of the Scriptures in the synagogue. Jesus, according to Luke 4:16, was a reader in the synagogue. He thereby gives His approval of the text of the Bible as then orally read. That same oral reading is still preserved in the various added vowel points of the Hebrew Old Testament so that we may know how the Hebrew Scriptures ACTUALLY ARE TO BE READ, word for word. This is how God's Government operates. It is not left to the individual to decide! But what about all those footnotes in the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament?
How God's Government Rules the New Testament
Who decides in your home about the RSV footnotes in the New Testament? How can one know AUTHORITATIVELY what the text of the New Testament is? When the oracles of God were revealed in New Testament times, He sent a special apostle — Paul — to commit the New Testament Message to the Greek people! The New Testament Scriptures were written in Greek, and it is to the Greek people that we must look. They — not the modern critics — are responsible under God for the preservation, the copying, and the reproduction of the New Testament! The Greeks have not been left to decide for themselves whether or not they want to preserve it. God has MADE THEM responsible. The footnotes in the Revised Standard Version have no authority. I have before me, as I write, the Greek New Testament in the first printed edition published in Constantinople in 1912. It is the Greek's OFFICIAL authorized printed text of the Greek New Testament. When the Greeks published this edition they checked THEIR authoritative manuscripts. The Greek religious authorities are held responsible by God for it. You and I do not have the facilities to decide on our own whether this, that or another reading should be in the New Testament. We don't even have access to those manuscripts! How, then, can you in your home know the true New Testament wording? God makes US — His ministers today — responsible to teach you what it is. And we, recognizing God's government, are to go to the Greek authorities in the Greek world, not to "higher critics." In most every instance the "King James Version" agrees with the true Greek text. Jesus committed His Word to the people who always read the Greek Scriptures IN THEIR CHURCHES AND WHO HAVE HEARD THE TRADITIONAL READINGS SINCE APOSTOLIC DAYS. Here is an example of how the New Testament is being preserved under the rule of God's government. In the reproduction of this first edition (in Constantinople) before me, A TYPOGRAPHICAL ERROR OCCURRED. Mark 7:16 was, by accident, left out of the printed text! So, in later production, when the printing of the new edition came out, in all faithfulness to the original printed edition the Greeks did not insert this accidentally missing verse (Mark 7:16) in the text, but made a note in the text and put the verse at the foot of the page for all to read. In other words, once an OFFICIALLY APPROVED printed edition was made, there are to be no additions or deletions in the printed edition. And if an error, due to human oversight, later is found, it was required to be printed below. Every Greek must thereafter, when reading, insert the accidentally missing verse placed at the bottom of the page! This is fundamentally the same way the Jews preserved the Old Testament! When the Jews had OFFICIALLY APPROVED a manuscript for synagogue use, if, at a later time, they found a scribal error which they had not noticed, they left the text JUST AS IT WAS — with the scribal error; BUT, in the margin of this officially approved text, they inserted the correct reading and every man who read in the synagogue had to read what the margin had! When they recopied that manuscript, they RECOPIED THE ERROR IN THE TEXT AND THE TRUE READING IN THE MARGIN! That is how they have ALWAYS PRESERVED the Bible absolutely accurately! God has not left it to the individual to decide these matters. He has made certain authorities responsible! What peace of mind to know that God set authority in the Church.
Who Decides the Calendar?
Who decides the point on this round earth at which the new moon is to be observed? The surprising answer is, GOD DOES NOT ALLOW US TO DECIDE! He has NOT made it OUR RESPONSIBILITY to observe the new moon. God revealed His Sacred Calendar to the Jews. THEY determine where the new moon is to be calculated from. THEY determine mathematically when, in a nineteen-year cycle, the thirteenth month is to be added. THEY determine when a nineteen-year cycle begins. THEY determine mathematically that no holy day in the Sacred Calendar may fall on Sunday in the autumn. That is why the Feast of Trumpets, for example always falls on either a Monday, or Tuesday, or Thursday, or Sabbath (beginning in each instance, the evening before). But it never falls on a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday. It is one of the irrevocable mathematical rules of the Sacred Calendar God committed to the Jews. We have nothing to say about it. We are under authority. Determining the year is not left up to any individual in God's Church today. It is determined by those who are responsible in the Jewish community. The function of God's ministry today is to understand God's Calendar and to ENFORCE this calendar today. The Jews have been required THROUGH ALL THESE CENTURIES to preserve God's Calendar. One can find the Sacred Calendar for this century preserved by the Jews in "The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar," which gives in advance all the months from now till 2000 A.D. The ministry today is responsible for publishing God's Calendar for the Church each year, but we do not decide for ourselves when a month begins. We do not decide what year is to have 13 months and what year is to have 12 months. These things are not left to us, NOR TO ANY OF YOU. But we do have authority to bind God's Calendar on the Church. As to WHICH DAY a Festival falls, that is not left to your decision. GOD tells us WHICH DAY in the calendar any Festival falls. He tells us the Passover is to be observed on the 14th day of the first month. But He does not allow us to decide for ourselves when the first month is. That has been committed by revelation to the Jews, just as much as have the Scriptures of the Old Testament! The responsibility of the ministry is to bind these dates on the Church in any matters of controversy. But we do not originate them. God does! When we see these things, brethren, it becomes quite clear that there has to be AUTHORITY over our lives when it comes to group functions of the Church.
The Decision on "Make-up"
God's government even determines the question of wearing make-up IN YOUR HOME! The problem of "make-up" was not clear to many people. The Church could have been split on this matter! The Church had to speak authoritatively on this matter, and it did. Now, whether or not you agree, whether or not you can understand, it is no longer a question. There has been a "thus saith the Lord" and all are to obey. God expects you to submit to His truth and to respect His government in the Church, to submit to that government for the sake of the unity of the Church and to obey that regulation WHETHER OR NOT YOU "SEE" GOD'S decision. God holds us responsible for making the decision. You should study to recognize why God's decision is true; but, in the meantime, it is your responsibility to SUBMIT TO GOD'S DECISION REVEALED THROUGH HIS MINISTERS. Whether it concerns the time we meet on the Sabbath, the place we meet, how to count Pentecost, whether or not make-up is to be worn — all those public matters — we publicly expound and make plain, and you are required to submit! As an illustration, every Library has its rules. No student in Ambassador College will stay in college who cannot submit to the rules. If he decides, "I don't have to submit, I'm going to do as I please," that student must be reprimanded and may have to be expelled. There have to be rules and we have to submit to the rules whether or not we "see" them.
What About Personal Decisions?
There are private, personal decisions, for instance on baptism or cases of divorce. Most cannot determine whether they should be baptized, whether a prior baptism was valid. How are you to know? The answer is you come before two or more of the ministers. If they cannot decide, they bring it up before others at headquarters so that we CAN know. Your God-given responsibility is to provide us with the facts. If the facts you provide are true, THE DECISION IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY. All we can do is apply God's law to the circumstances you give. If you have been baptized by another Church and we find it was not valid, in order to conform to Christ's teachings you must, upon repentance and faith in Christ, be baptized again. It isn't left to you to decide whether your former baptism is valid. It is our responsibility to decide. Former marriages often come up. If you have been married before, the question is, Are you really married to that person or are you not? Some mistakenly attempt to decide for themselves. Since, in God's Church, authority is vested in the ministry to perform a marriage ceremony, we cannot perform a ceremony unless we know you are FREE to be bound to another partner whom you wish to marry. We have to determine whether that former marriage was binding or not. If a decision has been rendered by the ministry, you are bound by that decision. And if you want to marry unlawfully somebody else, God allows you to sin — to go ahead and do it. But He puts you out of the Church — out of His fellowship for do doing. Some, at times want their cases reopened. But if the ministry, upon hearing the petitions, finds no new, different facts, we will not reopen a case. You must abide by the original decision.
Situations in the Local Church
Take the example of our local Spokesman Clubs in some of our churches. It is the responsibility of the coordinators and leaders in each club to make final decisions. If you think that the club is mistaken because it does not usually recommend that men give "sermonettes," take it up with those in authority. If you still cannot "see" it, we are not going to force you to continue in the club. That is a voluntary matter. You are accepted on a voluntary basis. As a member, you do have to submit to the authority vested in the leaders of these speaking clubs, whether or not you agree. Once you learn to submit it is remarkable how soon you find that your MIND IS open so that you can see God's way is right. It is those who do NOT want to submit to the government of God who find they soon cannot agree with God or His Church! The "race question" also may present itself in our local congregations. We all have "inferiority complexes." The one reason some feel superior is they want to rise over their feelings of inferiority. Let's face it. None of you is any better than Job, none of you as righteous as he was. He confessed that he was nothing but "dust and ashes" and you are no different. It does not matter how tall or hour short, male or female, or what color your skin is or what nationality you are — we are all composed of the same old dirt! God organized the human family in races and nationalities. We must find out what is God's decision in these matters. Then we must determine God's policy as it applies not only in the Church as a whole, but in the various congregations, in our colleges, in our secondary schools. God's teaching is made plain in the Scripture. God has already decided what it is. We in the ministry are responsible for teaching what God has already decided. We all meet in the local congregation, no matter what our nationality or race. When it comes to the annual Festivals, WE ALL MEET TOGETHER. Some who are not Israelite by flesh birth have mistakenly concluded that — since there are certain social occasions when the Church has decided that there must be social segregation — they will not fellowship with the rest of the brethren on the annual Holy Days when are all to have spiritual fellowship TOGETHER. This is hereby EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN! That is only a feeling of SELFISHNESS, that if you can't have your way you won't have it any way. We all better have it God's way or we won't be in God's Kingdom at all. GOD determines these things. Let's see that our hearts are right. In all of these matters where we have group functions, THE CHURCH MUST SPEAK in order that we can have unity and all do these things decently together.
What About Your Home?
Does the Church also have power to intervene in your private life, in your home, if you are going contrary to the general practice and teaching of this Church? Suppose you are lazy! Suppose you become a drunkard! Suppose you live in utter filth! Do we have the right to intervene in your life and put you out of our fellowship? The answer is certainly given in II Thessalonians. Here is just such authority. II Thessalonians 3:10: "For even when we were with you," says Paul, "this we commanded you, that IF ANY WOULD NOT WORK, NEITHER SHOULD HE EAT." If there are "brethren" who refuse to work, who are indolent and lazy, you brethren are expressly FORBIDDEN TO GIVE THEM MONEY OR FOOD OR ANY KIND OF ASSISTANCE WHICH THEY SHOULD AND COULD EARN FOR THEMSELVES THROUGH WORK. That's a command! "This we commanded you," declares Paul. "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work [keep their mouths shut], and eat their own bread" [that is, earn their own living]. If this is not obeyed, we read in verse 6, "Now WE COMMAND YOU, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you WITHDRAW YOURSELVES FROM EVERY BROTHER THAT WALKS disorderly, and not after the tradition [that is, the oral sermons] which he received of us." Now do not go to the extreme as some have done. Some people decide a brother or sister is not doing exactly what Mr. Armstrong said. They then refuse to have any fellowship with him. I want you to notice that the Bible says "WE COMMAND YOU you might admonish the brother. Then bring it up to the ministry if he does not heed. It is not your responsibility, if you are in a local congregation, to decide on your own whether or not you want to have fellowship with, or to disfellowship, someone else. That is a Church matter. Otherwise we should all be disfellowshipping each other because of petty faults! Help those weak and overtaken in a fault, not hinder them. When you have no way of knowing what to do, contact a minister or elder. We will talk or write to this person, and determine what can be done to help him spiritually. God has given us a responsibility for your sake to intervene on special occasions in your personal life — in matters of adultery, drunkenness, utter lazyness, etc. It isn't a question of our wills, it is for your sakes. The great requirement is that you learn to submit to the government of God. After you have recognized that this IS God's Church, that we are fulfilling that commission which God has commanded, you are to submit to God's government in the Church.