What is the form of government we should have in the Church? Should it be like the time of Moses? The Judges of Israel? The Kings? Christ & the disciples? What does scripture say about what God expects of us in terms of government?
These are the notes taken live during services as captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing. This is not a word for word transcript. For the exact wording, please consult the audio recording.
Many people are on a quest to find the true church of God. They are on a lifelong quest. To many, it is like a drug addiction. They reach an emotional high, but on the other side, they search for something new and better. Churches are built to outdo the one on the other side of town. In Europe, some of them can be quite elaborate. Every stone has an engraving. Windows that capture sunlight in beautiful colors. The halls echo with sound. Organs add a deep bass sound. But in all cases, one tries to outdo something that was done before. You can only get so big and impressive building churches. Religion has kind of died out. Evangelicals focus a lot on me and how it makes you feel. They draw heavily on the emotion. There is Christian Rock music. Me and I; God do this for me; that sort of thing. Just as before, they are seeing this great decline. Even the Evangelical movement is losing members. Some 20 million people have given up on organized religion. They are staying home. When these things become the norm, what do you do afterwards? If you search and your high is satisfied, and you go the other way, what then? We have some like that. Some were like that in Christ times. They were always learning. They don’t realize that God’s truth is not enough. Sometimes that high is replaced by prophecy. It is a great tool, but it is not the solution.
Some cry the end is near and they collect people together to ride the high. But when things don’t happen, the high fades. They say then, the end is not near; it is here! The Tribulation has started! The high continues. You end up with Waco, Texas. The Tribulation hasn’t started; I’ll start it myself. One man who is still alive has purchased the place of safety. You can buy a plot of land there from him. He is doing well, financially. We can’t stall forever. When that emotional high lets off, what do you do? Christ is coming. Several years ago, people were told to go to the Tulsa airport to board Christ’s spaceship. Think of Jim Jones and the Kool Aid. People search for a high. That is not what the true church is about. It is not about keeping people coming back. It is not about new and improved doctrine or new truth. It is not what the church is about. As your pastor and shepherd, I’m here to teach you. Keep this in mind for the rest of your life: Matthew 22:37-40 Matthew 22:37-40  Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
 This is the first and great commandment.
 And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
American King James Version×These are verses we hit often; I’m sure you will get tired of me reading it. But this is the key point of the whole Bible. Vs. 37 – Put your full body into it. All of your energies. Vs. 38 – This is the purpose of the Church along with preaching the gospel. Salivation is based solely on developing this kind of godly character. It may not be thrilling, but it is our purpose. To develop this character. To put on this nature of God. This should be a thrill to us. Think back to when we were baptized. We were thrill. Then a few months or years, we back off and don’t pray and study like we used to do. This should be the ultimate thrill for God’s people. What is the proper and perfect government for God’s Church? Many make this a gigantic core issue. I can’t go there because it is not the right form of government.
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×Christ says “I will build my Church.” And He has. And He is building His Church. And He will continue to build His Church. Today I want to look at the purpose of the Church. I want to look to look at historical and future administrations of the Church. Nothing can be compared to the Church of God. It is God ordained. What command did Christ give to His Church? John 13:34 John 13:34A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
American King James Version×Here Christ tells us in His own words the commandment. “Commandment” in Greek is “entole”. It means an order; that which is prescribed by one to another. G1785 ἐντολή entolē en-tol-ay' From G1781; injunction, that is, an authoritative prescription: - commandment, precept. Thayer Definition: 1) an order, command, charge, precept, injunction 1a) that which is prescribed to one by reason of his office 2) a commandment 2a) a prescribed rule in accordance with which a thing is done 2a1) a precept relating to lineage, of the Mosaic precept concerning the priesthood 2a2) ethically used of the commandments in the Mosaic law or Jewish tradition Part of Speech: noun feminine A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from G1781 Citing in TDNT: 2:545, 234 A new commandment. A new order. This is a godly type of love. This is agape love.
This is the primary message of the Bible: To love one another. To have godly love for one another. This is the primary charge of the Church. It is what the Bible is all about. Remember Matthew 22. All the law and the prophets hang on this principle. God created a spiritual universe. He created billions and billions of angels. There was a system to administer that spiritual universe. Later, He created a physical universe. He had a different mission for it. He never created angels for them to overcome sins or grow in character. In the physical universe, He wanted to create character via choice. That is the mission of the Church, besides preaching the gospel. The Bible advocates character through choice. It is a book of stories about that. Read about the Garden of Eden. It is a story about choice. Will you trust Me and do it My way, or take it on yourself? The Ten Commandments. A choice. God wants to create character in us by having us go through choices in daily life. God wants us to put on His mind. He wants us to learn by the choices we make. Human life is all about making godly churches. The purpose of the Church is to assist humans in building godly character. Not to meet in great halls or have great camps. What is the sign that identifies Christ to His disciples?
John 13:35 John 13:35By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
American King James Version×It is by this simple fact. It is not by the numbers of how many people go. Or any other formula. It is by practicing agape love. That is what sets us apart. Deliberate applied concern. You do it on purpose. It is not that you pick up the phone and accidentally get Mrs. Willson. Oh, I didn’t mean to call you! Godly love is deliberate. It is applied. We have to do something about it. We want the best for that person. Our heart goes out to them. We want them to be in the best position they can. God wants to build His love in us. He wants to build His character in us. We do that by character via choices. What is the criteria God uses to judge those in the Church? Is it knowing when Christ will return? There have been many dates set. Some are still in the future. Is it having a certain name, or using certain words? Is it the right physical government? Deeds? Perfect faith? Preaching the gospel? Telling people their sins? Broadcasting? Prophesying? Will Jesus come back and say, you had the right name and you are therefore My Church? What is the criteria God will use? 1 Corinthians 13:2-3 1 Corinthians 13:2-3  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.
American King James Version×Vs. 2 – Paul says those things are important, but they are not the key. Vs. 3 – I am very charitable. I have personal sacrifice in this. The purpose of salvation is not those things. It is not about having ultimate faith. It is not about being the most charitable person in the Church. These things are important, but on their own, this is not it. These things alone do not qualify for the kingdom of God. When Christ returns, many will come to Him and say, “Lord, lord, I knew all these mysteries, let me in. I had great faith, let me in.” He will say, “Yes, but you didn’t practice love.” Godly love is all about focusing on others and not being selfish. What is God’s will for mankind?
2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×That is God’s will: That no one should perish, but all should repent. Repent from what? From not loving as we should. From selfishness. That is what God wants us to repent from so we are not cast off and have the door close off on us. The whole purpose of the Bible is to build godly character. To learn to make the choices to put God and man first. So, does having the “right” administrative structure produce godly fruit? Pick any structure in the Bible of how God governed His people. Does that alone produce godly fruit? No, but repentance and obedience does. That was what God had for Abraham and all the men through time. It is changing out our nature for God’s nature. There has been thought that the last government we had was the only one we could have. Start with the angelic period. God with Jesus on His right hand. The 24 elders. Michael, Gabriel and Lucifer in charge of thirds of the angels. Is that our structure today? No. Then there was Jesus, God, and Adam. Adam was in charge of the animals. Later that day, God changed that government by creating a woman. There were splinters and divisions in those governmental structures. Lucifer broke away. Was that governmental structure perfect? No.
In the second, the humans decided they didn’t need God. Thank you God for your advice. Then we have the patriarchal period. Is that the type of government we have now? No. There were splinters then. Think of Abraham and Lot. Think of Moses and Joshua. The bringers. Bring Israel into the Promised Land. Is that the government we have now? No. We have no pillar of fire. We have no priestly system. After a generation, they turned their back on God. Then there were the judges. Gideon. Samson. Deborah. Is our government like that? No. Even that form had its splits. Then there were the kings. The prophets interrelated with the kings. God never wanted a king. The Israelites insisted. David was a decent king, but God didn’t want a king. In some ways, the priest was above the king. He could solicit God’s advice. The king had to go through the high priest. Is that the form we should have? What about the time of the prophets? The time of the minor prophets? Were those individuals ordained a prophet? Did they lead people or rule people? They didn’t rule per se, but is that the government we should have? Then there were the post exile leaders. They returned and there were more splinters. Then there was the synagogue based system. It was a collaborative system, and no one person was really in charge. They had a master of ceremonies and took ad hoc comments from anyone who wanted to talk that day. Even then you had splinters.
The Pharisees and Sadducees disagreed about the resurrection. Talk about a major doctrinal split. Christ was a great teacher. But even the disciples splintered in the presence of Christ. People like to pull out a time and say nothing went wrong with that government. That is the one we should have. What is the perfect government? Then there was the first century Church. Acts 1 and 15 record discussions among the leaders. In Acts 6 they directed some to pick deacons. Should we take a hand count today to pick deacons? Who knew the needs of the widows at that point except the widows? The Church was too new. Acts 20:30 Acts 20:30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
American King James Version×Then we have the period following the apostolic age. Acts 1 says “apostle” is one personally taught by Christ. There are 1800 years of foggy history. History is limited. Then in the 20th century. We have Mr. Armstrong. Is that the perfect government? It began with Loma Armstrong. Her husband fought her on it. But he was humbled. He was recognized as the leader. He surrounded himself with 12 elders for council and advice. Plain Truth 1957 – Herbert W. Armstrong in regards to the Council of 12 elders: “Whenever there is doubt in the mind of any about some truth, doctrine or God’s way, in any problem, we ministers meet together in council asking God’s guidance and wisdom, seeking His truth. God’s word instructs us, that in the multitude of counselors, there is safety. So we meet and council together asking God’s true understanding from His word. God is always willing to give it as long as each man is yielded to God in his heart there will always be unity. If any one of us comes up with something new, not previously understood, not agreed to, then he does not speak it publically or write it in any article until we ministers can all study independently into it and council together regarding it and all come to the same mind. There is a great deal more joy in finding God’s way even when contrary to our previous beliefs or desires than having our own will.”
Thirty years later, he wrote: Worldwide News 1981 – Herbert W. Armstrong: “I want an advisory council of elders. I have always done that as you older ministers know. And you know how far back we used to meet together. It was the way we functioned as God’s ministers. Often we went into a session with divergent ideas always after an hour or so, sometimes less, sometimes more, we were all united because we only wanted God’s truth and we always came to a unanimous idea. Sometimes I did not agree with the others when we went in, but when we came out, I did.” Is that the kind of governmental structure we should have? In the last 25 years of Mr. Armstrong’s life, there were splinters. Then we come to the United Church of God. Do you miss your mom? Moms are great. They pack our lunches. They wash our underwear. Life as a kid is a simple time. Mom did all the thinking. Mom had all the answers. There was a time when Church members were babes. The Church did all the thinking for us. Mr. Armstrong told us what to read; what to think; how to dress. Kind of like mom -- you can’t go to school like that! We may miss his leadership. But God wants us to be led by His holy spirit. God wants us to grow and mature in His character. He wants us to compare our traditions with the Bible and see how they stack up. He wants us to test the spirit. He wants us to follow those that are tested and found to be genuine. He wants us to base everything on His word. He wants us to grow in a spirit of oneness with a focus on agape love. We must be mature as our Father is mature. It is time for us to leave the nest at home and to grow and mature and to overcome. God doesn’t want us to just sit back and let someone tell us what to do. He wants us to put our nose in the Bible. The UCG is still using a 12 man elder council. Is it the right form of government? By doing it this way, we get the consensus of the elders. But we still have splinters.
So, is it the perfect form? Even Christ’s disciples splintered. Within the ministry, we have no ordination to rank. Who ordained the apostles? They just started calling them apostles? Who laid hands on Paul? Peter said he was an elder just like all the other elders. Rather than ordaining to a rank, we just ordain to elder. They can have different rank at different times. Under Mr. Armstrong, an evangelist was really a department head over other elders. There were preaching elders. Pastors. None of those ranks are mentioned in the Bible. Should we go back to that model? Some elders evangelize. Dr. Levy and Mr. Meyers evangelize and talk to society at large about God’s truth. Some are senior pastors. Mr. Clark was over the whole country of Ghana. Mr. Antion was a pastor. He is currently an instructor at ABC. In the future, he might go back to being a pastor. I’m a pastor. I’m also a camp director. Responsibilities change. We have to follow Christ’s lead and not tradition. We are constantly being testing to see if we will follow Christ’s lead. God’s love is how we determine who to follow. 1 Corinthians 11:18-19 1 Corinthians 11:18-19  For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
American King James Version×Vs. 18 – In God’s Church? No!!!! If there are divisions, it can’t be the true Church. But Paul said it will happen. Vs. 19 – Factions are a part of our training, as odd as it may seem. Christ said false prophets would come. It is a test. Paul said grievous wolves would come. That is a test. Christ inspired John to write about the churches. That is a test. Christ said there would be tares among the wheat. That is a test. Something gets stressed. Will we practice godly love or not? To what extent will we continue to work on building godly love? Will we let these factions that God says will be in His Church to alter that priority?
1 Timothy 1:5-7 1 Timothy 1:5-7  Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
 From which some having swerved have turned aside to vain jangling;
 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
American King James Version×Vs. 5 – Godly love. That deliberate applied love for others. Vs. 6 – They have done something different than developing godly character. From developing His nature. Vs. 7 – Godliness causes harmony. Selfishness causes division. When you see division, it is nothing less than sin. It masquerades as godliness. Sin is what separates. God wants us to practice godly love. It builds harmony. That is the purpose of the Church. Godliness pulls people together. Matthew 18:7 Matthew 18:7Woe to the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
American King James Version×There are going to be divisions from the members, from the ministry, within families. It has been that way since Lucifer rebelled. Why should we expect it to be different now? This Church experience is a test for the ministry and the members. All of us make mistakes and sin and fall short of the glory of God. It is a test. Will we pass it? Where is our priority? On developing godly character? Or on governmental issues? 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 1 Corinthians 3:10-15  According to the grace of God which is given to me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon.  For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man build on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;  Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.  If any man's work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
American King James Version×Vs. 12 – This is talking about ministry. Gold endures. Silver is good, too, but not as precious. Wood is okay, but not a precious metal. But straw and hay are not things you want to use. Huff and puff and blow your house down. We will be tested. Centuries ago, they were tested. Vs. 14 – In Romans, it says we should bear fruit and that fruit should remain. It shouldn’t fall to the ground and let the ants eat it. Vs. 15 – Everyone will be tested. How badly do we want God’s character and His nature living in us? That is the test.
Ephesians 4:1-2 Ephesians 4:1-2  I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation with which you are called,
 With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love;
American King James Version×, 11-16 This is commonly called the governance chapter. Vs. 2 – If we can do verses 1 and 2, we are a shoo-in for the kingdom. Godliness creates unity and harmony. What summarizes the Bible? Matthew 22:37-40 Matthew 22:37-40  Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
American King James Version×. Love your God. Love your neighbor. Godly love. Vs. 11 – What is the purpose of Church government? Read vs. 12. Vs. 12 – That is the purpose of Church government. To help everyone grow and overcome their sins. To put on the godly nature. Vs. 13 – Godliness produces unity. The Son of God commands us to have this concern and compassion for one another. Vs. 14 – This is something other than godly love. We are to keep other ideas out. If they don’t align with godly love, we are to keep them out. Vs. 15 – It is not about finding the true church with the right government. It is about being the true church. It is not about finding the true the church. Our quest is to be the true church. It is about overcoming sins and replacing our nature with God’s nature. Vs. 16 – This is fulfilling the objective of the Church. We should focus on being the body. That is the purpose of the Church; to stimulate that and encourage that. What is the purpose of the Church? You can look all over the world, but if you are not being the Church, then what should be obvious you are looking over. When the high is over, you will resume your search. Jesus said His disciples would have agape love for one another. They are practicing that concern. Those in the Church have this. It is not so much a group as a mind set. It is not an organization. We must strive to be the church of God. Ask, am I being the Church of God? The one unchanging constant through time has been God. There have been various administrations through time. All have been used to test godliness. But God Himself, and Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, have not changed and will not change.
Colossians 1:18 Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
American King James Version×Vs. 18 – That He may be the first. We don’t look to a single man. Christ has not appointed a single leader. Some say, yeah, it is because you don’t have the right government. But God has used many forms. They are all used to test godliness. We would all love to have a single leader that everyone can look to, but God hasn’t named one. In the UCG, we have 500 elders that select 12 men. We fast for decisions that are made. We are all human and all fumble up. But how are we reacting to that test? No sermon is complete without homework. Read Acts 1. This is where the apostles replaced Judas. They took 120 disciples and narrowed the list to two. What did they do to get from two to one? What were the discussions? Acts 15. The conference on circumcision. They came to a consensus. Several chimed in bits of information. They moved forward. They didn’t replace any of the other apostles as they died. John was the last one. He was not replaced. Various things at various times. The goal should always be seeking God’s will. God has used different governments to test His people. He wants to know if you will put Him first or a particular governmental style. We are called to be part of the one true Church. Will we accept that calling, or will it have to be tweaked to our liking? I’ll accept the calling, but we will have to change out that guy… We are called and invited to be a part of that. How will we answer?
Jesus Christ is coming and He will resurrect the saints. Guess what happens next? A new government will form. One that has never existed. Christ at the head. The saints under Him. After 1000 years, the government changes again. After that, the 100 year period. The Bible is very limited about what it says about that time, but it will be different. Then the Father will come down from heaven. We will be governed by a different government. In just this time, there will be several different governments. Is it about government? No. It is about character. Ask, will I or will I not be governed to grow in His love, His nature, to love my neighbor as myself? Will I submit my will to God’s will? We can decide either way, but this is our purpose: To grow into godliness. The Church is here to help us grow to make the right choices. But the character will only be made by you. Next week, I’ll teach you how to grow in godliness. And the week after that, to overcome sins. And the week after that, godliness. The same topic. To help you and me as God’s true church as a body of believers to grow in character. Hebrews 13:20-21 Hebrews 13:20-21  Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
American King James Version×Vs. 20 – The God of harmony… What is God’s will? That none should perish. That we put on godly love. That we love our neighbor as ourselves. Vs. 21 – What is pleasing in God’s sight? That none should perish. That we put on godly love. That we love our neighbor as ourselves.