Thursday, February 4, 2010

Some Difficult Scriptures

Please allow me to give my view on a few verses that I often hear (mis)used by Armstrongists to bolster their position.
Time and again I hear these verses quoted by followers of Herbert Armstrong's doctrinal teachings. I feel sometimes that these verses were spat at me. The ones quoting them feel these verses condemn Mainstream Christianity. But in all actuality, the verses speak loudly and clearly against Herbert Amrstrong's teachings. That is what I would like to go over here.

(Yes, the title of this post is a throwback to David Albert's book "Difficult Scriptures". I recommend reading it, but I'm not suggesting anyone base their salvation from it.)

(GAL. 3: 10) For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”

This verse it not to HWA's benefit. It speaks against HWA's teaching.
It does not say, "Cursed is everyone who doesn't at least attempt to keep a cherry-picked selection of the law and eventually grow into, say, 90% of it." Not at all.
It says, in effect, "cursed is anyone who cannot finish what they start." It says "All things," not "some things," or even "most things." It says "continue," as in, "without interruption," not "eventually I'll grow better." It is a premise of the law that the very second you slip up, you are in violation. Search the law as you will, you won't find mercy for you there. The law contains no path to a true removal of sin once incurred. And you're already guilty.

So, do we go to the law for righteousness, and to Christ for mercy? No. Righteousness is not of the law.
(GAL. 2: 10) ...for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.
Rather, we go to Christ for both!

I've been given an analogy of salvation. "It is as if Christ pulls us into a life-boat to safety." But the water He supposedly pulls us from is the violation of the law, is it not? So we immediately slip up and leap out of the boat and right back into the same old water. And He pulls us in again. And we leap out again. And He pulls us in again. And we leap out again. ...?
This is absurd! And other than Christ pulling us back in, how does it differ from the Old Covenant errors?
I am told "God is looking for an attitude of repentance." No. God is not looking for us to conjure up some attitude of repentance of our own will and effort. That's not what He's looking for, and that doesn't enable Him to get to work in us. Rather, He Himself is building that attitude within us. He's not looking for it at all. If it's there, it's because He put it there.

(PHP. 2: 13) for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

The problem with the Old Covenant was with people not continuing in it.

(HEB. 8: 9) ...because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.

No man could continue in it, because of the wickedness of our hearts. But continuation is the problem, and it was solved.
To demonstrate that the same old issue of not continuing in the Covenant remains, and to think that you have a solution in continued failure to keep the law, well, that's just dead wrong on it's face. The truth is that so long as anything depends on our effort, it will not succeed. That's not what God wants. He wants His own righteousness. Nothing else will satisfy.

(GAL. 2: 20) 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

(ROM. 2: 13) For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

As much as many Armstrongists would like to think this verse is in support of their position, I've been harping on this wherever I go to hopefully get people to see that this verse is against a legalistic viewpoint.

It does not say, "Those who genuinely attempt a fraction of the law will be righteous, but if you don't at least try you won't be declared righteous." It says, "You will never be declared righteous with the law unless you keep it perfectly and without interruption in perfection. Period."

No man can keep the law perfectly; it is impossible. Perhaps one would think they could, but Christ comes along in Matthew 5 and lets us know that all of the Old law was only the beginning of God's righteousness. If you could keep it, God would declare you righteous. But you cannot.

(JOB. 40: 9-14) 9 Have you an arm like God? Or can you thunder with a voice like His? 10 Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor, and array yourself with glory and beauty. 11 Disperse the rage of your wrath; look on everyone who is proud, and humble him. 12 Look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low; tread down the wicked in their place. 13 Hide them in the dust together, bind their faces in hidden darkness. 14 Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you.

It's not good enough to say 'I know the law'; because the law demands uninterrupted perfection.

(JOHN 9: 41) Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

God is a perfectly righteous God. We have no hope to meet His standard. Such a view of needing the law for righteousness completely ignores Galatians 2: 21, which states "...for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." Righteousness is not of the law! So how can anyone possibly think it is? It would be if you can keep it perfectly, but no man can, it's impossible, so righteousness is not from the law.

Let's say you did keep the law, then Luke 17: 10 would still not favor a person very well:

(LUK. 17: 10) So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’

What man can please God? Only One! And that comes to us by faith in Him.

(ROM. 10: 5) For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”

Again, this doesn't tell you "keep what you can keep, and God will wink at the rest." It hearkens back to Moses and says, "Do them - ALL of them - and you will live."

(DEU. 6: 25) Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.

But neither can any man do all the law, nor does Armstrongism even so much as attempt to teach all of the law. So no man can say they will ever keep the law if they are following the tenets of Armstrongism to get there.

(GAL. 3: 10) For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”

Once again, this verse is not in support of the Armstrongist position. It says "all things." It's an all-or-nothing proposition. And, again, no man keeps all of the law. No man but Christ alone has. And not for one day did Herbert Armstrong teach all of the law as it was written.

Don't know what I'm talking about when I say that? Answer this: why don't you travel three times in the year to the place where the Lord chooses to place His name? Or answer this: what are the only things God said could be tithed upon, and who are the only people God said could accept tithes?

I am consistently reminded of I Timothy 1: 7, "desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm." People who preach necessity of law are zealous, but not according to knowledge (ROM. 10: 2).
(ROM. 10: 3) For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

What should we know about the law? That whomever sets out to keep the law, and yet rejects the law - even a tiny fraction of the law - there is only death without mercy (HEB. 10: 28). Herbert Armstrong and Ron Weinland et al never taught even close to the whole law, in one place strangling us by it and in another place loosening it to meaninglessness, so this verse is speaking against them.

So what I am saying about the things you choose is: choose wisely!!! Because salvation could very much be at stake!

(GAL. 5: 1-4) 1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage [the Old law]. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised [which is to say, if we set out after law keeping], Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law [ALL of it; PERFECTLY; without interruption]. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

"Circumcision" is a shorthand reference, so to speak, for the keeping of the law. If you choose the law, you choose all of the law. Not just those parts you know about, and not just those parts you attempt but cannot complete.

(JAS. 2: 10) For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

And if you choose the Old Covenant law, you in actuality choose against the New Covenant, because the Old Covenant law is not from the New Covenant, so when you stumble in the law, there is no remission of that sin, because remission of sin is found only in Christ, and Christ is found only in the New Covenant.

(I JOHN 2: 3-4) 3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

And these verses, do they speak to the 10 Commandments? Then why didn't Herbert Armstrong teach the full set of rules regarding Sabbath observance? There is a whole lot more to observing the Sabbath than resting and going to services.
Even Armstrongists will tell me "Yes, my minister says there's more to it." But what they mean when they say that is usually that we must do "God's will" on that day. But God's will according to the law is laid out, and it clearly involves such things as a prohibition against cooking. My former organization had a pot luck each week; others went out to eat almost each week. How does one warm a potluck dish without kindling a fire? Some would say “Well, I put it in the microwave!” Sure. I’m certain the cleverness involved in circumventing the law one claims to keep like that pleases God immensely.

If you are not closely following each and every one of the Sabbath regulations, then you are not observing the Sabbath Commandment as defined in the law, and if you see John's epistles as referring to the 10 Commandments every time the word "commandments" appears, then I promise you this - you have only brought that condemnation on yourself.

Now, if we take John in context, and let John define what John means when John says "command" and "commandments", we'll see something quite different entirely. The commandments in the New Covenant are faith and love.

(I JOHN 3: 23) And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

(I JOHN 4: 21) And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

John is not referring back to the Old Covenant, but back to the Gospel.

(JOHN 6: 29) Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

(JOHN 13: 34; JOHN 15: 12, 17) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

And Paul says if you do this, not only are you in keeping with the New Covenant, but you have also fulfilled all that was required of you in the Old as well. Because all the law, even the 10 Commandments, are summed up in one word: “love.”

(ROM. 13: 8-11) 8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Letting John define his own epistle makes a lot more sense to me, anyway.

(MATT. 5: 20) For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Are we to believe the law, which the Pharisees and scribes were obsessive about - fanatical about - is our pathway to this righteousness? No. Righteousness is not of the law! But that's what we were taught by Herbert Armstrong.
How, then, is it humanly possible to be more righteous? Oh wretched man that I am! How?
Faith in Christ!
Everything is for God's glory.
If the Lord is building this house, if the Lord is the one doing the good in us, that is to say, if it's His goodness and not ours at all, or put another way if it isn't our righteousness at all but that of our Lord, His righteousness graced to us by faith and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then we have not only exceeded the righteousness of the Pharisees, but Christ has blown them away.

We were always taught, "the Bible is one book." But the one book contains two Covenants; two Covenants foreshadowed by two trees. The book may be one, but the Covenants are not one, just as the two trees in the Garden of Eden are not one. To blend them is impossible - it ruins both.

I pray God blesses and keeps you all. And may His truth (and no man's besides - not even mine) speed you into His New Covenant in Jesus Christ.


It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom.

Acts 17:11



Amy said...

Has anyone had this one thrown at them?

Luke 13:28
"There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.

I actually received an anonymous letter with this scripture written on it.

xHWA said...

Those are your "brethren" sending you these letters?
Not so brotherly after all.

I'm so sorry that is happening to you, Amy my dear. Unfortunately, we all receive that treatment. It's part of the experience of leaving. (At least this circus is free!)

If I may bore you with a short story -- My family and I spent many a wonderful day and night at a certain person's house. I had to travel 10 hours to get there. We were close as brothers. The Feast wasn't a feast without them there.
When I left, this person was threatened by the grace I received and tried to argue me back into the fold. We parted company with him strongly calling me a deceiver. He said he would never speak to me again.
It hurts. But some day we will all be together again in Jesus' arms. God willing. Both our sins will be washed away.

Count it all joy when they treat you like that, and pray for them. :)

Amy said...

Yes, these letters come from "brethren."
I had relationships that I thought were unbreakable, I never imagined that I would be completely cut off like I was from those, who I thought were "unconditional friends." They even make sure I'm blocked on facebook. I know this because my 14 year old daughter is friends with them and I'm obviously friends with her... when she's logged in on my computer, I look at her page and there are tons of comments to her from people who I can't see (because they have me blocked). I'm not sure if they're afraid of me? Or do they just not want me to be able to "see" them? Who knows.
I'm constantly being surprised by what I'm learning about real "Christianity." It's nothing like what I grew up learning, I can't believe I used to be exactly like "the brethren."
I so wish that my daughters will eventually see what I saw and leave. I have no doubt it will happen some day - and when it does, Along with Christ, I'll be here with open arms. They know they have my support and love, regardless of our differing beliefs. But I want so badly for them to grow up "free."

Anonymous said...

Going back to the Romans 2:13 passage. It would make absolutely no sense for this to be referring to the mosaic form of Law Keeping based on verse 14: For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires...Why would a gentile by nature know to keep the feasts and food laws? They are without the law, and these are things which need to be revealed and instructed. It has nothing to do with the law that Paul is saying that God has placed on our hearts.

Thank you for all you work, I have learned a lot from your site.