The Church has the means by which to determine teaching and doctrine. It is important to clarify that because there are a lot of varying ideas as to how doctrine or teaching is arrived at within the Church.
I was up in Glass House this morning and I do need to mention to you that we have two families who decided to leave our fellowship, up in the Glass House Mountains, for doctrinal reasons, which is entirely the person’s prerogative. and I wanted to, of course…we had to talk to our group up there about that today and to simply mention it to them - although most of them knew it and understood it - but to explain that we do have a certain doctrinal integrity in the Church. And we do have the means by which to determine teaching and doctrine in the Church. I want to explain that today because there are a lot of varying ideas as to how doctrine or teaching is arrived at within the Church. In fact, there is that booklet on the Fundamental Beliefs - I had that and forgot to bring it up with me, would you mind? She is a…well I don’t want to embarrass her, because I’ll hear about it later if I do!
We have our Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God. We wonder, “How do we arrive at them?” I will say that those who decided not to attend with us anymore because of beliefs, there are not any major beliefs involved, which is a little bit disappointing in the sense that we don’t take the view that a person, at least at the moment, has to or must, none of, we understand, do agree on everything. However there are fundamental beliefs that we ought to take a look at and we do ask people to prove them before they become members of the Church. It is entirely possible to prove them. You can do this. The Bible speaks in a certain way where you can take a look at the teachings and say, “Ok, does the Bible actually teach that? Are these the major doctrines of the Church? Should they be something that ought to be stated as such? And the person then ought to say, “Because they do involve belief, it involves worship, it involves practice, it involves what you should be doing now in order to get where you’re supposed to go.” It has to do with where you are supposed to go. It has to do with the whole plan and purpose of God, so everything is revolved around the teachings of the Church. You’ve got to have doctrine right - if you don’t have doctrine right, at least at a minimum and most fundamental way, well then, you’d really don’t have any reason to be where you’re at.
“It’s nice to have fellowship,” some people say. “Well, I like the fellowship.” Well that’s good, I’m very pleased if that’s the case, and I think we all are - that we do enjoy each other’s company. And I hope we do, and we give each other support, but there has to be then a community of believers who have a common belief. They have a common goal. They have common values and our families are such where we follow those values, we follow those teachings and there’s a certain expectation that we all have of each other. That’s what the community of the Church is. And the Church was when it was initiated and established by Jesus Christ, He had a certain view of the Church. I want to turn to a few scriptures here to answer this basic question.
II Corinthians 11:2 is just one place, but I do want to show you that doctrine and teaching was an issue in the early Church. Paul says to the Corinthians - and a cursory reading of the book of Corinthians will tell you that the Corinthian Church wasn’t without its difficulties and its disagreements on certain issues. Paul even speaks of them having heresies within the Church and there were divisions in the Church. They weren’t speaking the same thing - but with respect to certain fundamental beliefs. Paul had established the Church. It certainly wasn’t in his mind. It’s something that developed later in the minds of other people and of course here’s where the weakness is: God is clear in His mind what He believes. You might say, “Well that’s an obvious statement, isn’t it!” Well let me just say, so is Jesus Christ. He’s very clear. Christ is clear in His mind. God and Christ are very clear. They are one. They know exactly where they stand and what is expected - is that we believe the way they do. What is not expected is that they come down and say, “I’ll accommodate all of your beliefs.” That is not expected and that is not what Christ wants. Paul mentions it here in II Cor. 11:2, he says:
II Cor. 11:2 - For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
Now this was how Paul understood this. He was concerned that the Church would be presented to Christ as a chaste virgin, uncorrupted, as it can be in many ways - not distorted or corrupted by, certainly, false teachings, not corrupted by divisions - that is amongst themselves. But there is an agreement. I didn’t say everybody was best buddies - nothing like that - but there ought to be certain principles that ought to be followed amongst all of us so that the community of the Church - Christ understood you had to have the Church, the community of the Church, of people with those common beliefs who would gather together - who would give support. Why? Simply because He had to have people who would exist within the world. And you’re not going to exist as a hermit or a loner in this world saying, “Well, I’ve got the truth, and I’m on my own, and I’m the only one who believes this way. It’s me and You Lord! Because I’m more right than everybody else.” And you think you’re going to exist in the world in that way. That’s not anywhere close to what Christ had in mind for His Church.
Number one, we are to operate and function as a community - not only for support, but the second reason is, that’s how He wants us to function - as a community with those common beliefs. And where there are disagreements that come up, we ought to have the means - the ability to at least discuss them, to be reasonable about them in order to…wherever we may be wrong in terms of causing offenses - in how we get along with each other on a personal basis - that’s one way - but doctrinally is another way.
So if a person is a virgin - that is they are pure - they are not impure - concerning rather with respect to false doctrine and false teachings. So there has to be a unification amongst the people of God to agree on what it is that God really says, what it is that Christ really brought - what was that message that He brought, what were the teachings He brought, and then what He would expect in His Church. Paul was anxious, as he expresses it here, for the entire purity of that Church which was to constitute the Bride, the Lamb’s wife.
One of the things that the Church was corrupted with in the first century was false teachings. Jesus would not come in their time, as they came to understand, so he says to watch. Once you have departed from the teachings of Christ, you are not pure anymore, the idea of virgins can be used in the sense that they have been corrupted, or that they are pure from the false teachings. A virgin is one that has been cleansed from the false teachings - not only the past sins of a person who has been cleansed, and purified, and washed clean by God, but also from the false teachings - not to go back into that again. This is referred to in any number of ways in the New Testament and certainly in the book of Revelation. Especially when it comes to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, we see how some of them departed from what they believed and went back into false teachings. And you see how Jesus Christ, who was the head of this Church, really took exception to that.
Now what was the expectation? In Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×He says this:
Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×- “I also say to you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church and the gates of Hades (or death, really, the grave) shall not prevail against it.”
Now what He’s simply saying is this: He’s not saying He’s going to build it on Peter. Peter was very outspoken and would be a rock - not the rock, but a rock upon which the Church could have a great deal of confidence in, but not THE Rock. The Rock is Jesus Christ. There’s only one and, of course, He is referring to Himself - that He will build His Church on that Rock. But He says He will build His Church and the gates of hell are simply not going to prevail in any way against it. It would continue on.
One of the ways in which the Church could possibly be hurt is the introduction of false teaching - a departure from the teachings that were originally given by Christ and the apostles. Now we know for a fact this eventually happened. I can remember some of the reasoning that we used. I remember sitting down - to this day - in eastern Tennessee on a front porch of an old boy. My wife and I came to visit, and we visited his wife. And he says, “Now you say you’re the only church. We’ve got all these churches out here who believe in Jesus. Tell me, how could that be?” And so I said, “Well sir, do you know how many Christian denominations there are?” He said “No.” I said, “Well there about 450.” That was the figure at the time. That was 43 years ago. I don’t know how many there are now. We lost count. But that was what we said at the time. If you’ve been around for a while, you remember this actually having been said. And they differ on some doctrinal or point of teaching somewhere along the line. That’s what made them different. There was some approach or something that was different - some different beginning, or origin, goals, objects, emphasis or whatever, but there were some differences. And I said, “How could this be, that Christ then, when He said He would establish His Church…then, is this the way that He envisioned it - that we would have such differing opinions? Where did it all come from and how did it all happen?” So we were able to wax quite eloquent on that - all through reasoning - but he wasn’t concerned about that. All he was concerned about was, who were these people talking to my wife about coming to church? Who are these people? We got a lot of that, of course, but in any case we were able to make our points.
We don’t have our origin - I’m speaking of the Church of God - we do not have our origin in the great Christian religion. That is not where we come from. Now a lot of people make that mistake. Some of us came out of various aspects of the Christian religion, but the Church of God, of itself, did not come from the great Christian religion. The great Christian religion had its roots in the first century - yes it did - but not with Christ and the apostles. There was a departure from the truth of God and we can see numerous evidences of that right in the New Testament where they had to fight against it. The apostles themselves were fighting against, writing against, preaching against departures from the faith, as Jude did in the book of Jude - right back up against the book of Revelation. Jude himself writes - and one of the best places to illustrate this - where things really begin to change. He says in verse 3 of Jude (there’s only one chapter):
Jude: 3 - Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation… so there’s a common salvation…
There is something that is common to all of us. That’s why we’re here. We agree on the fact that this is where we’re going. We understand the purpose. We understand what salvation is. We understand what it is we’re supposed to do to get where we’re supposed to go - very important - you know exactly what you’re going to be doing once you get there, because that tells you what you’re supposed to be doing now. All that makes sense. Now, if you believe in the false doctrine simply of going to heaven when you die, and you’re going to be with Jesus and the angels and everybody else in some kind of form or another, it doesn’t matter what you do here. It follows, then, that maybe all you have to do is believe in Jesus, and follow some basic Christian creed of belief, and as long as your sins are forgiven - at the beginning and the end, you know - you’re fine. That’s the way it works. That’s the way it worked from the very beginning in the great Christian religion that began to be developed.
Now it’s formalized in the fourth century, where the great church - the Catholic church - became the official church of the Roman Empire. And it was through the church, then, that one attained to salvation. And if you were in the church, it didn’t quite matter what you did in the meantime. But as long as the priest was there to start with and the priest was there at the end, you’re in. That’s it technically. There were other aspects to it, but basically salvation came through the church, and teaching, then, was controlled by the church. As time went on, the true church, then, at that point - that is, those who held to the true beliefs as much as they were able to within the Roman Empire - had to leave. And they began to migrate. They began to move up into the northern parts of Italy and a lot of them went up to a place we call Armenia today, where we find, around 600 AD, you find a group called the Paulicians, who, in time, themselves came under persecution. Then we begin to trace various parts of the history of the true Church of God, who had the true observances and the teachings, in Europe. But they were in the backwaters of civilizations. They couldn’t come out, as it were, because of the control of the Catholic Church. And as the Catholic Church also had control over governments, there was not a lot that people could do. So there were persecutions of these people. You couldn’t get a lot of traction, as it were, with the truth of God in any of these areas.
Once you got going - some certain preachers began to get going at certain times - they clamped down on them and they persecuted them. It was only, then, into the 18th century when you had the Protestant reformation take place. Martin Luther formed, let’s say, a departure from the hold of the Catholic Church. But even the Protestants themselves had a great hold in their areas over religion and the true Church still could not get going. It was only when democracy started to come about, first of all in France but then went very quickly, the whole idea went into the United States, and here it began to be formed. In the 17th century you had colonies that established themselves in Massachusetts - Plymouth Colony in 1620 and, a couple years later, in Boston. And here is where then they established the idea of democracy - where there was a freedom of religion. The first Sabbatarian church then was established in the United States in 1674, I believe, under Steven Mumford in Rhode Island. It began to develop from there. But it couldn’t flourish before. It simply couldn’t happen because there were too many controls over them, and you had totalitarian governments, and you had strict control by religion, whether it was the Catholics and then later on the Protestants.
Then when the Protestant movement…. Later there was the evangelical movement, where it moved, then, later to an individual thing, where you can have an individual relationship with God and you were permitted and allowed beliefs - various, whatever kind of beliefs that you wanted to have, as long as you basically believed in Jesus. And so we have now - where we’re at today - the religious world - that people are coming out of today - an idea that “I can discover this for myself. I can determine this for myself. I can have a spiritual relationship with somebody as long as it affects me in a certain way.” And you had these movements begin to come along. And so it’s developed into where even some of the Orthodox Protestant churches have, let’s say, lost a great deal of their influence with respect to the various differences and doctrines that they have.
Now I don’t want to belabor the point. I simply want to try to demonstrate to you the enormous amount of different doctrines that we have in the Christian world today. But we do not - never have claimed - that we have come out of, or we started at any point in the great Christian religion. But we trace our origins directly back to Jesus Christ and the apostles. The Church of God can only go back to them. It cannot come out of another movement, or a distortion of the Christian movement, that was started with Christ and the apostles. Now we did not come out of that. I simply wanted to make that point clear.
So He says, “I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Now this is telling us several things here. It’s telling us that it is going to be protected by the teachings that He would put in the Church. And those teachings would be in the Church right up until the very end.
In Matthew 28:19-20 Matthew 28:19-20 19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
American King James Version×, here’s what He’s telling His apostles - and something He’s telling His Church to do - and to always do - right to the very end:
Matthew 28:19 Matthew 28:19Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
American King James Version×- “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the holy spirit, teaching them…notice, teaching them…to observe all things that I have commanded you and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
Jesus spoke about the end of the age in Matthew 24. It says, “When is going to be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?” Okay, He gives those prophecies which we talked about previously. However He says, “I will be with you to the end of the age.” He’s not going to leave His Church on its own, but He’s always going to be the head of His own Church. It’s very important to understand the picture of the Church that Jesus had in His mind. And the picture that He had in His mind was simply this: that Church would exist - that Church would never die out. The Church from the time of Jesus Christ has never ever died out. Death did not prevail against that Church. It just simply never happened.
Now Ephesians 5:22 Ephesians 5:22Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
American King James Version×- the book of Ephesians is about the Church. You can read it from start to finish. It uses the term, body of Christ, the body, the whole body and so on. He’s talking about the Church. And we see here in verse 22, it’s a great picture of the Church. What was the expectation of Christ? Not what you see, but what the expectation is:
Ephesians 5:22-23 Ephesians 5:22-23 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.
American King James Version×- Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. People want to remove that from the marriage vows today, by the way, but of course we include that. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the Church, and He is the Savior of the body.
Now that’s a picture - Christ is the head of the Church. Now, if you’ve got a Church here that differs so much on so many teachings, it’s quite difficult to understand how Christ could be the head of it. Could Christ operate that way? He is the Savior of the body. Christ dies. He dies on a cross or a stake. He sheds His blood. He’s serious about what He’s doing and He’s going to let them get away with all of these teachings? You have to really explain this to me. If that’s the kind of Christ we’ve got, we have a serious problem here. He’s the head of the Church. And other places in Ephesians, he talks about Him being the head of the body. So Paul, here, is giving a very literal analogy of a body with a head - head determines what the body does. And the Church is the body. Christ is the head. And therefore just as the Church is subject to Christ…. Really? Well now you wouldn’t think so if you simply looked at the great Christian religion. Let’s read on and see what the picture is:
Ephesians 5:24-25 Ephesians 5:24-25 24 Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
American King James Version×- Just as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husband in everything. Now I’m not speaking to wives and husbands here. But, of course, wives and husbands need to answer this question for themselves, too, of course. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her.
Like I said, He’s serious about this. We say, “Well, Christ gave His life for the world.” Well that’s true. The scripture says that, but, more specifically for our time now, it is the Church He is dealing with. He gave His life for the Church and so it will apply - the life that He gave - will, of course, in time, apply to everyone. But when He calls people and puts them into His Church, that’s who He’s dealing with now with respect to the sacrifice that He provided for them, because they’re the ones who are taking Him up on the offer of having their sins forgiven and accepting that sacrifice for themselves.
V. 26-27 - That He might sanctify…that simply means set apart…and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word. So she’s washed - with what? Not her own ideas, not her own teachings, not her own doctrines, but cleansed with the washing of the water by the word. What word? Well the word of God. That He might present her to Himself, a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Folks, I ask you, “Is that a picture? Is that a picture, then…is this in the mind of Christ? Is this what His vision is? Is this what His idea is that He wants to see happen - that she is going to be holy and without blemish?” Don’t be concerned about whatever else you might see out here. I’m saying, “What does Christ have in His mind? That’s the picture. Now if you and I don’t conform to that picture, we’ve got the problem - not Christ - because Christ is expecting us to move His direction. He’s not going to accommodate us in all of our various beliefs.
V. 28-32 - Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies He who loves his wife, loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it just as the Lord does the Church. Is He watchful over the Church? Is He concerned about the Church? It seems to say He is here - nourishes and cherishes it. For we are members of the body and flesh of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. Now we understand marriage in this way, don’t we? Very clear. But he says: This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.
Let me explain it to you this way. If you would function in your marriage the way that the Christian religion operates with supposedly its head, Christ, you would be divorced a long time ago. Think about this folks. You can’t function in a marriage, except the way it says here. I ask you then, “Is the way the whole thing looks, is that the way it really is - is this it? I say that’s not it. We’ve got a serious problem here. But he’s explaining it here the way he intended it to be. And I will tell you this, His Church IS this way. The only question left to us is, “Are we in it?” That’s the question we have to ask. And that’s our choice. We can be in it and say, “This is it. I’m a part of His true teachings. I’ve repented of my sins. I’ve been cleansed of my sins, and I have turned my life to accept His teachings, and to reorder my life in accordance to what He would have me to do so I can fulfill His purpose. All of His teachings have to do with my conduct. All of His teachings have to do with my worship - how I worship, what I do and what I don’t do in that worship - how I conduct myself toward each other. All of the practices and the observances, the days of Christ that He gave, such as the holy days and the Sabbath, and what I should eat, everything I do has to be determined by what He says.”
Now that’s called following the teachings of “everything I have commanded you to do. I want you to teach them.” So don’t think for one minute that Christ is going to operate His Church in such a way where you got body parts all over the place. It isn’t going to work that way. Some of you are in business. And I’ve heard people in business have a very loosey-goosey way of saying, “Well the Church ought to be a little more broadminded.” Let me tell you something. If you would run your businesses the way some of you want the Church to be run, the Church would go out of business. You would never run your business this way. You know you wouldn’t. Some sitting here are thinking, “These people don’t run their business this way, I know they don’t…so I’m not going to buy it for one minute. I’m going to believe what Jesus said, He’s very definite. He knows what He believes from the beginning. He knew where He was going from the beginning.” Of all people who should know what they believe, it’s God and Christ right? Right! Okay, I’ve belabored that point too much. I don’t want to carry on too much about it, but I want to say that Jesus is very precise in His description of what He says the Church is.
Now in Hebrews 13:7 Hebrews 13:7Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
American King James Version×;9, we begin to see that in the early Church, I’ll try and get through these as fast as I can, because it’s very clear that there were doctrinal issues in the early Church.
Hebrews 13:7-8 Hebrews 13:7-8 7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
American King James Version×- Remember those who rule over you…that simply means, who has the lead, as your margin might say…who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. So the conduct ought to follow belief. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. How could He change? How could He possibly change? He says, “I am the Lord God, I change not. I don’t lie and I don’t change.” If He did, He couldn’t be God. I think that would stand to reason.
V. 9 - Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines…therefore, that’s what he means here…For it is a good thing that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.
He didn’t say foods were not a part of it, but he just simply said, some have made that their entire religion. That’s all he’s saying. And that was one of the ideas that people got caught up with in those days. He’s giving it specific mention.
I John 2:24 John 2:24But Jesus did not commit himself to them, because he knew all men,
American King James Version×- Therefore, let that abide in you which you have heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you will also abide in the Son and in the Father.
There was something they heard right from the very beginning. And it’s going to stay that way. And he was urging people, in what John was saying in I John, because there were those who had already entered the world as deceivers.
II John: 7 - For many deceivers have gone out into the world, who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. He’s referring to that, as it refers to earlier, they used the name of Christ, but what they are really saying is against Christ and what Christ stands for and what Christ is.
V. 8 - Now look to yourselves that we do not lose those things that we worked for, but that we might receive a full reward. You can lose those things. Absolutely you can lose them and false teachings can come in. But that we might receive a full reward. So does it affect where you’re going to end up? Yes it will, absolutely it will. So you have to be careful. So he says to watch, doesn’t he? What should we watch?
V. 9 - Whoever transgresses does not abide in the doctrine of Christ and does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
Now he is referring back to, as he does here, an idea of the nature of God. That question was even beginning at the time - the whole nature of God - who is He and what is He and how does He exist? We understand that the Father and the Son exist as entities. They are one in the sense that they are fully agreed. But they choose to agree. One is subordinate to the other and that’s how they exist. But there are two. The spirit of God - the Holy Spirit - is the power that emanates from both the Father and the Son, and it is how the Son, then, is able to dwell within us. It is through the Spirit and Christ explains that very clearly. It’s not the third person of the trinity.
Ephesians 2:19 Ephesians 2:19Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
American King James Version×- if we go back to Ephesians, we see the picture again.
Ephesians 2:19 Ephesians 2:19Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
American King James Version×- Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
Whose is he talking to? He’s talking to Gentiles - giving a picture of the Church that, when Gentiles, or non-Israelites, come into the Church, they are full citizens, then, as it were - fellow citizens with the saints, who up to that time were mostly Jews and now Gentiles in Ephesus. Non-Jewish people were now permitted or, let’s say, allowed into the Church. They are members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. Now what does this mean? It means Jesus gave the teachings to the apostles. If you have a base or a foundation of something, you have a cornerstone. It’s like a big stone or piece of pavement that is laid down and all the other pavements are squared off of that one corner. And it has to be completely square with that corner. Everything that is laid down off of that corner, which he describes here so far as the Church is concerned, has the apostles and the prophets come off of Jesus Christ. So that, then, is the foundation - the foundation of the Church - the Old Testament prophets, as well as, the apostles that Jesus Christ Himself taught and sent out. But Jesus Christ Himself was that cornerstone. Now any building that is constructed has to be founded on that foundation. It can’t be somewhere else. It has to be on that foundation. And that is what the Church is.
V. 21-22 - Whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. You can’t imagine the Lord dwelling in a building that’s so diverse in its beliefs, it’s impossible, this isn’t God, this is confusion if you believe that. In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the spirit.
So we are being brought into the building. We are part of that building. And He is shaping us to fit into that building. We don’t come in and say, “We don’t like the building. We want to change the architecture a little bit just to suit us!” That’s not the way it works. He’s got in His mind exactly what that building is. He knows what the foundation is. And everything has to be built on that building. Now the gates of hell, or death, can only prevail against the Church if somehow it would get the Church to believe in different teachings.
I Timothy 1, I want to cover as briefly as I can - to demonstrate the concern that Paul had when teaching younger ministers or pastors the importance of doctrinal integrity, and making sure that they would hold fast to this. And they did not have the authority to make those changes - the changes that are just continually made. They didn’t have that authority to do so.
I Tim. 1:3 - As I urged you when I went into Macedonia - remain in Ephesus that you may charge some…or command some…that they teach no other doctrine. Why is he saying this? Because some do. They bring in different doctrines or heresies. Nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.
Some of the differences that people leave the Church over are not the fundamental beliefs - not necessarily the fundamental beliefs. In fact, most of them aren’t. They’re small differences, which tells me there are different motives as to why people might do this. Oh there are different motives all right, but they grasp at small things. The fundamental beliefs are pretty solid. And we do have our fundamental beliefs. I’m going to try and get through in time to mention a little bit about how this was arrived at, by the way. I urged you…remain at Ephesus…and he said he could trust Timothy. He’s telling Timothy he can be trusted. But trusted with what? Making sure he was faithful in these doctrines.
V. 4-11 - …which caused disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience and from a sincere faith, from which some, having strayed…it’s possible to stray…to have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law…now we have a motive, don’t we? Now we have a motive…desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor things which they affirm. Now we know the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and sinners and for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
He had to be faithful in what was committed to him. There was a sound doctrine, or teaching, that was in the Church that came from Christ and simply couldn’t be departed from.
I Tim. 4:1 - the whole chapter here. He makes the point:
I Tim. 4:1-4 - The spirit expressly says that in the latter times, some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and to doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron….and you have a few other things here…forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, nothing to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
That means you can eat anything you want, right? I think we know better than that, because not every food is sanctified by the word of God. Some of it is actually forbidden. And Paul expressly says that here, and that, of course, is the criteria.
V. 6 - If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed…he didn’t say you loosely followed it. He didn’t say, “You inserted your own ideas whenever you wanted to.” It says, “…carefully followed.” Was there a continuum here of the teaching? Was there something that was set at one time in the Church and it was expected to continue? Yes, there was. Absolutely! The teachings of Christ, in that sense, do not change. I want to skip down to verse 12.
V. 12-14 - Let no one despise your youth but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love and spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you which was given by prophecy for the laying on of hands of the eldership. So we do have an eldership. So you do have those who are entrusted. That’s what we’re going to see.
V. 16 - Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine…and the doctrine, it shows there was a very strong concern and to continue in them.
I Tim. 6:3 - If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knows nothing but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words. How many times do we run across that? From which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions…the fruits are not good here…useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.
There comes a time when, if there are enough differences or strong feelings about it, people should withdraw. If a person is going to have that much of a problem, you ought to withdraw from the Church. Simple as that. If you become that much of a problem within the Church, we’ll withdraw from you. You see, the community of the Church operates in such a way where there is a certain expectation. We’re gathered here together because there is a common belief. There are common values. There are ways in which we’re all expected to believe, function and operate. This is what we want.
We might, when our children or our grandchildren - grandchildren in this case - grow up and become married, we expect them to marry a person, hopefully, that believes the way they do - who draws from the community of the Church. They have the same values. They go about in their relationship with those values and they carry them on over into their families. And they have the teachings. They have the practices. They have the observances. They have the traditions that have long been set in the Church. We don’t come along and change them every ten years or so. We can’t do that. But this is what we expect. It’s something you can absolutely count on, or should be able to count on. And once it’s set, it’s set. There are some things that change. There are some things that are very interesting here that I could get to in just a moment, especially with respect to prophecy, but the basic teachings don’t change. And I’m trying to work out in my mind, as I’m talking to you, how far I’m going to get in the sermon today, because it’s absolutely fascinating.
II Timothy 1:13 - he’s coming down to the end here and he says:
II Tim. 1:13 - Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Jesus Christ. That good things which was committed to you, keep by the holy spirit…in other words, you’ve got to be faithful…now he says in Chapter 2:1…
II Tim. 2:1-2 - You therefore my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, the things which you have heard from me from many witnesses, commit them to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
So what we have here, we have Paul, who is an apostle, who got them from Christ. He didn’t make up these teachings. He said, “This is exactly what the other apostles believe.” He asserted this. Everything came from Jesus Christ. He is teaching Timothy. Timothy is to teach faithful men. Faithful men are to teach others. You have a five tier continuum, if you want to put it that way, of people passing on faithfully what they had been previously taught. In Titus he says this - whenever you ordain elders, and there are bishops - that is, overseers, in a spiritual sense, of congregations - he says:
Titus 1:9 Titus 1:9Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the disputers.
American King James Version×- Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convict those who contradict. For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teachin g things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. Now we have another motive here, Paul is very blunt about the motives as to why people may go off on a different tangent, there’s something else going on here.
Titus 2:1 Titus 2:1But speak you the things which become sound doctrine:
American King James Version×- But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine. He simply was not going to permit those people he mentored to go off and to invent other things.
Romans 16:17-18 Romans 16:17-18 17 Now I beseech you, brothers, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
American King James Version×- Now I urge you brethren, note those who cause division and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned…now there are other ways in which we can be offensive to the Church and that is in our behavior too and we find that admonition in I Cor. 5. Here those who cause offenses contrary to doctrine…and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ but their own belly. Now here’s another motive. We have motives all around the place as to why people may say and do things contrary and different to what has been established.
V. 18 - …by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
What does that mean? The unsuspecting. You expect those within our fellowship to believe the same thing, to hold the same values, to freely fellowship with those people in safety. Now when someone doesn’t - when they violate this - this is what it says.
Now it’s not…how can I put it this way…and I’ve laid the rules down before…let me just say what the rules are, in case you don’t understand. But I think most of us understand this. If you have a different belief, okay, that’s fine, but you’ve got to leave it at the door. You bring it into the congregation, it’s a violation. Our people - when they come here - they are here because they don’t expect to hear something different from what they have already proved. This is what we ask people to do. People say, “Well how do I know this is the truth?” I say, “Well, you’ll have to prove it.” They say, “Well that’s a big job.” I say, “Yes, but we all did this. It’s something you can do.” “It’s going to take a lot of study.” I said, “Right, it certainly is. As a matter of fact, we would like you do your own study and prove it for yourself. And if you find that what we teach is contrary to the Bible, then you should not be a part of what we do here. You should absolutely not do that. Now, if you find that it is right, then that’s fine. Now if you say, ‘Look I believe this is right, but there are some things I don’t have quite resolved,’ that’s fine too. We don’t have a problem with that. But you don’t bring it in the congregation. Because our congregation, when they come here, we have conversations in the back, we have fellowship, we get together, we’re back and forth in our relationships, we have nice fellowship and nice relationships. To be confronted with something that - ‘Oh, where did that come from? - out of left field - that’s totally different from what I understand to be a teaching of the Church. I didn’t quite expect that.’ Now that’s something a person has to work out individually and we have time to do that, but that’s the way it ought to be handled. It’s not that we require everybody to absolutely believe every last thing. That’s not it. We do have teachings - we have fundamental teachings - that we have established within the Church, and if a person does not quite see it that way, and they are in the process of learning, we can be very patient with that - take a lot of time - but don’t try to say, ‘I think you’re wrong and here’s how I think you ought to believe.’”
I always give this example - in the previous church that I pastored in Oakland, California - where a person came in - I don’t know who he was - and he started attending with us. Pretty soon I saw some people from our congregation, they were arguing with him and someone came over and said, “You know Mr. Bradford, he’s over there, and he’s got some really weird ideas. And he’s trying to tell our people that we’re wrong in certain things.” I said, “Thanks very much.” So I go over and say, “Sir, excuse me,” I said, “now you’re welcome to attend with us, however, our people here don’t expect that we’re going to have somebody come in from the outside and tell them that they’re all wrong. That’s why we meet here together. Okay?” I said, “Now you’re welcome to attend, but if you’ve got a different belief, you’re going to have to leave it at the door.” I said, “Sir, do you understand that?” He said, “Right, okay, I got that.” Two weeks later - he attended every two weeks - I don’t know why - so he came back two weeks later, and I saw him over there and he had a little group. Someone came over, “Mr. Bradford, he’s over there doing it again.” I said, “Thanks.” So I go over there and said, “Excuse me, sir.” I said, “Do you remember the discussion we had a couple weeks ago?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “You’ve got different beliefs. You’re welcome to attend, but you don’t bring them in here. Do you remember that?” He said, “Yeah, I remember that.” I said, “But you’re not doing that.” He said, “No, I guess I’m not.” I said, “Sir, you see that door?” I gave him a warning. I said, “That’s it.” Now he showed me he wasn’t going to stop. This is how we had to go. Now we can be very patient, but there is a way of going about it. Everybody has a chance to prove, and it does take quite a while to prove sometimes. A person can attend with us for a long time until they go through it and, at the end of the day, a decision has to be made. God expects a decision, is this right or is this not right? Now, is there a Church that is the true Church of God? Is there a Church then that has been able to establish the teachings that God would want to have within the Church? If not, then I’ll tell you right now, you haven’t found it yet. If there is, then you’ve got to decide whether this is it or not. Now it can be done and I don’t buy the fact that, well, it’s just too much to study. Yes, there is, but if God is calling you, and God is giving you a chance and an opportunity, well then, yes, you’ll go through it.
We published, in a very simple way, The Fundamentals of Beliefs. Where did we get them from? We didn’t come up with anything new. We didn’t invent this. That’s why I took time to explain the Church did not come from the Christian religion. We don’t have our origins in the Christian religion. We take it back from Christ and the apostles. The beliefs were there before we ever came along. It was a matter of finding who abided by those beliefs. In some cases, some of those beliefs weren’t properly or fully understood - known about, but not understood - and then we began to understand them as we began to follow the ones that we knew and we put them into practice. The holy days were understood. Mr. Armstrong didn’t invent the holy days. The holy days were there. Thousands of years ago they were there. We just came to understand that that is what we ought to do.
There are certain beliefs with respect to prophecy that could only be understood in the 20th century. The apostles did not. While Peter said, “We have a more sure word of prophecy,” they understood about the resurrection from the dead, they understood there was a time lapse from the time that Jesus died and went to heaven and the time when He would come back again - they didn’t know how long - they knew something had to transpire, they knew that there was going to be an end of the age, they knew there were a number of events at the end of the age. The Book of Revelation was not given to them. They were dead when it was written. The Book of Revelation was given to those who would live in the end time. And during that time and they could never have understood that there would be a great nation, such as the United States, or a commonwealth of nations, such as the British Empire. They could never have understood this.
The prophecies of Genesis 48 could only be understood, then, in the 20th century. With some hindsight, looking back and saying, “Now we see how all of that happened.” We could never have understood the beast. In 1944, in the winter of ‘44 and ‘45, we did not understand that final beast power. We did not understand it. Herbert Armstrong did not comprehend…he suspected what it could possibly be, but it wasn’t until the middle of 1945, with the collapse of the Axis powers, that we understood that Revelation 17 is not yet fulfilled. And we understood it then. We couldn’t understand it back before then. Yes, there are some things with respect to prophecy that you can’t understand until later. We began to understand there is going to be a tribulation. We began to understand that the second coming of Jesus Christ is near. We began to understand that the gospel had to be preached to the whole world. These things began to be clear at a certain point in the 20th century. But that was truth that was written a long time ago - simply weren’t understood.
These fundamental beliefs were all in place before Herbert Armstrong. He claimed to have restored them and there is a big difference in that. That is, to begin to preach them and teach them in a sufficient amount to where enough people would begin to know it, so as to be restored in the minds and in the lives of enough people. That’s what restore means - didn’t say everybody was going to believe it. It just means restore it to the point to where it could then continue. And we’re responsible, then, for carrying on those fundamental beliefs. And anything else that may be out on the edges of this, then - if somebody wants to take issue with it - then they can take issue with it if they want to. But most of the things that we’ve said, we have good reason for saying them. Otherwise we wouldn’t be saying them.
Now I, in this sermon today, I’ve simply, hopefully, led you through a certain process that teachings were, or doctrines have been, a problem in the past. And there was a reason for that. But it’s very clear that the teachings were there from the beginning. We don’t change those. We simply understand what already went before us. We can’t come up with something new. We don’t propose to come up with anything new. We have done our own studies in the United Church of God. When it was established in 1995, we have re-established through our own study - we didn’t take the old studies, but re-established from our own studies - the same fundamental beliefs that were extent in the Church for the previous five decades, and we adopted them. I’m talking about a significant portion of the 500 elders in the Church sat down and did this over a period of time of about three years at the beginning of the United Church of God. And we’ve got paper after paper - write-up after write-up on every kind of aspect you want to - on why we hold true to those original beliefs. So we simply never adopted that, but we went back and re-established it, and set it forth in the United Church of God at a time when it needed to be done - to re-establish those truths once again. We didn’t invent something new. We can’t. It’s impossible. The Church has to be built on Christ and the apostles. So our teachings, then, are founded on that. We have the ability…if anything needs to be amended, we’ll do so. But we have also set it in the Church to where two or three people cannot change the doctrines in the Church - the way it was done before - because it was done that way before, unfortunately. We will not permit that. If there is going to be any kind of amendment, it will take 75% of the elders to agree to it - not impossible, but it has to be clear enough for enough of the elders to say, “Yes, we do need to amend this or we do need to change this, because we understand that we are growing.” But it shows how serious we are taking the matter of our beliefs and our doctrines and the manner and the process of which we go forth to, first of all, establish them, and then, of course, to keep them in the Church, so that the Church will then be maintained through the establishment then of the doctrines.