Thursday, June 16, 2016

Honor Thy Father

Within the mindset of Armstrongism, from its heritage in Adventism and even to the COG splinter groups of this day, there is a pervasive belief that in order to honor Jesus one must withhold honor from the Father. This is a clumsy way to put it, but the spirit of what I am trying to convey is true. Armstrongism sees honor as zero sum. In other words, there is only so much of it to go around. It is the overall view that all honor should rightfully go to the Father, and since all honor should rightfully go to the Father in order to honor something other than the Father – like Jesus - one almost borrows against the Father to give to the Son. It is a “Rob Peter to pay Paul” situation. I am not going to dive into the background on what builds up to this conclusion, suffice it for now to simply say that it is. This is one idea shown in Martha's post "COGWA On The Resurrection: That's Nice, Now What?".

As a result, we often hear from Armstrongists that mainstream Christians pay far too much attention to Jesus and not nearly enough attention to the Father. Mainstream Christians might say that the COGs take Jesus out of His box once a year at Passover. If there is almost a guilty sensation in honoring the Son because it somehow diminishes the Father, how much less then could an Armstrongist agree that honoring a person can honor bring honor to the Son? Sadly, the view that mainstream Christianity has of Jesus and even our calling as Christians cannot be fully understood while laboring under the COG view of honoring God.

Is this “rob the Father to pay the Son” view Biblical? Can you honor the Father without directly honoring the Father? Can we honor the Son by honoring pitiful, lowly humans? Let’s look and see.

(I JON. 2: 23) Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

Whatever you do to one, you do to the other. This is how God views things. Thus is the relationship between Father and Son. There is no such thing as having more of the Father or of the Son. It’s a package deal. There are many other verses to demonstrate this. The main thing to glean from this is that to honor the Father it is required of us to honor the Son. This is how we honor the Father. This is the method.

(JON. 5: 18-23) 18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

The Son should be honored just as the Father is honored. It is commanded it is right and it is just. Perhaps the COGWA could remember this in their next talk about being "Father-Centered."

There is no such thing as having too much emphasis on the Son. To emphasize the Son is to emphasize the Father. To honor the Son is to honor the Father. This is how the Father is honored. Why do we honor the Son? Because of the Father. It is in order to glorify the Father that the Son came. It is in order to glorify the Father that we glorify the Son. No one goes to the Father except through the Son (JON. 14: 6). The Son does not steal from the Father. There is no taking from the Father to give to the Son. All that is, be it tangible or intangible, is the Fathers – and the Father has given all to the Son. That includes glory and honor. Why? Why does this not take away from the Father? Because the Son then turns right around and returns all to the Father, so that the Father may be all in all.

So, the common saying that mainstream Christianity honors the Son too much is not correct. It is untrue. It is a misunderstanding of the Father and the Son, it is a misunderstanding of honoring the Father and the Son, and it is a misunderstanding of what we are called to do as the spiritual Body of Christ.

So, if we honor the Father by honoring the Son, we must ask how do we best honor the Son?

We honor the Son by following the Holy Spirit whom the Son sends. We honor the Son in spirit and in truth, with sincere hearts. We honor the Son with our intentions and thoughts and words which flow into our deeds. What deeds? The Old Covenant law? No. With acts of charity towards those whom He has created. We honor the Son by loving those whom the Son loves.

This is what James speaks of, that faith alone is dead faith. We need to do for those whom Jesus loves. We need to actively love those whom Jesus loves. We need acts of charity. Armstrongism teaches that James is merely speaking of an attempt to observe the Old Covenant law, but that is not what James speaks of. James comes right out and tells us what he is speaking of:

(JAS. 1: 27) Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

James speaks of our true religion; our service to Jesus. What is that service to Jesus? Serving others.

When Jesus restored Peter, what did Jesus say? If you love Me, tend My flock (JON. 21: 15-17). He didn't say "If you love Me, ignore Me and concentrate on the Father." Nor did He say, "If you love Me, tithe and we'll call it even." No. If we love Jesus, we should do well for those whom He loves. The prescribed method of returning love to Jesus is acts of love to other humans. We honor our Lord by honoring others.

For years, as I attended the WCG and later my COG splinter group, I heard about how James talks of the law, and how everything else had to be seen in the light of this interpretation of James. But James isn’t speaking of the Old Covenant law. James is speaking of letting faith and the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit have its expression in our lives. James is speaking of charitable actions to others. James is speaking of our reasonable acts of worship. James is talking about how to love Jesus by loving those around us. James is talking about our religion.

Several times in this article I have compared and contrasted Armstrongism to mainstream Christianity. Does that mean mainstream Christianity always get this right? HA! No!! Anyone misleads you who says to you that all we need is faith in Jesus Christ. There is more to it than that simple phrase. This is precisely what James speaks about. Faith must have its expression in our lives. Good thing that most people who say this know there is a lot more to it, and both their lives and their fruit bear this out.

I am not speaking of law but of love. Old Covenant law does not equal love. To love is to fulfill the law. In fact to love is to fulfill the spirit of the entire law. All of it. It’s the only way to do this. The only way to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees is to love. But to keep the law is not to love. The Pharisees had the law, but they did not have this kind of love. They honored God with their mouths and their law-keeping, but not with their hearts. Love fulfills the law, but the law does not fulfill love.

The point is that in order to express your love to Jesus you must pass on to others this love that He has given you. His gifts to us – none of us merit them in the slightest, and none of us are able to repay them. So how do you respond to the love of God? Simple. You believe in Jesus and love one another.

When I search the New Testament in the NKJV for “love one another” I get quite a few great hits from all over. I’ll give you one:

(I JON. 4: 11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

If God so loved us, we ought to love one another. Sums it up.

This is what it means to live as a Christian. Bear in mind that the church is the Body of Christ. What we do to one another that we also do to Him.

(MAT. 20: 37-40) 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

(Mat. 20: 44-45) 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

Here is the summary of all that I am saying - you honor the Father by honoring Jesus, and honor Jesus by honoring those whom Jesus loves.

To honor the Son is not to diminish from the Father, and to honor a human is not necessarily to diminish from the Son. I affirm that it is not possible for an Armstrongist to fully understand mainstream Christianity without accepting this Biblical truth.

Is this charity and love to go to the people in your COG splinter only? We were taught as much within Armstrongism many, many times in the past. I know it is still taught today. I personally sat through more than just one sermon instructing us to actively withhold charity from “the world” for one reason or the other. We were instructed that to be charitable to “the world” is to defy God. (Do all COG groups teach this? No. But most do. Kudos to those who do not.)

Are those big-named and many-titled men that lead large splinter groups really correct when they say to shun everyone that doesn’t go to their group? Are they right that they are Philidelphia and everyone else is Laodicea? Are they justified in splitting up families and indirectly causing suicides? Does that teaching really mesh with what you read in the Bible?


(MAT. 5: 43-47) 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?

No, not just to those in your splinter group. Not just to other Armstrongists. Everyone! Everywhere. Every human being bears the image of God, and we are called to love them all.

How can you love the people with whom you disagree if you can’t even love those with whom you do agree? Oh, how the COG groups fight! How they strive against one another! What do you really disagree on? I mean really. Your current glorious leader? The importance of Herbert Armstrong? The timing of the Wave Sheaf offering? The date on which Jesus will return? Seriously. If we had to quantify what the COG groups truly disagree on, it wouldn’t be more than 2% of the overall body of doctrine. Yet you can’t seem to love one another. Not just failing to love, but actively tearing down.

Since your COG splinter teaches you to observe the law (some of it anyway) I want to challenge you. I want to challenge you to implement this honor of the Father into your life. While you go about intending to observe the law, be mindful of the law in its New Covenant, spiritual, royal fulfillment – by that I mean faith and love. Don’t just go to church services on Saturday. Go out of your way to be kind to someone each and every time. Not the same person and not in the same way each time. Go out of your way. At the same time, accept the help and generosity of others. At the time I write this, Pentecost is coming up. More people means more opportunity to love and serve.

Then go out and do the same for people who aren't in your church.

Pray to God that He grant you His love. Then pray to God that He grant you the will and opportunity to give it all away. You cannot just take this up on your own. It has to be granted. Then be a living sacrifice. Do as James exhorted us to do. Live pure and undefiled religion. Be a Christian. Love one another.

In honoring others you honor the Son and through the Son you honor the Father.

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


Anonymous said...

In moving away from Armstrongism, I began attending the New Life Church of God Seventh Day. The first sermon I heard there by Rich Odegard (at the time he had been the Pierce County Chaplain for 16 years at the Pierce County Jail) was about redemption. He took Scriptures from Genesis all the way to Revelation in the most amazing sermon I had ever heard. He also played the piano (one of the best pianists ever) to accompany the song service with guitars accompanying the congregation singing. It's quite the group and the people are great. They attend weekly (with Bible Studies as well) and have potluck once a month in the building they built themselves.

Once a year, they go off to attend the Feast of Tabernacles with the Seventh Day Church of God (Caldwell, Idaho) organized by Pastor Paul Woods. It is a different experience. It's not like a church cult corporate conference. It is to seek God, learn about Jesus and rejoice in the salvation of the Lord. And you can be sure that you won't hear sermons on prophecy, nor will you hear anything about British Israelism. In fact, Paul Woods told me some interesting news about Herbert Armstrong and made it clear that he won't let anyone embrace British Israelism. (For example, he told me that Herbert Armstrong was baptized by A. H. Stith, a minister of a Seventh Day Church.)

Personally, I sought to learn about God, the Father, because there is no experiencing Him nor teaching about Him by any of the Armstrongist churches of God. What they teach is about a powerful Universe CEO who is interested in ruling everyone with a rod of iron. There's no view of God as any kind of a loving Father, probably because Herbert Armstrong could have never imagined God as such. Herb's view was that He is a retentive God who is interested in submission and obedience in order to get people to do His Will, carry out His Work and build His Projects -- devoid of emotional content. It is a rather sterile mechanistic authoritative God that Armstrong envisioned, One who really liked Nice expensive Quality Material Things. You know, like Herbert Armstrong himself -- a rather demanding and narcissistic God.

There's quite a contrast between the god of Herbert Armstrong and God the Father.

And the Armstrongists will never know what they are missing until they leave off their idolatry.

Anonymous said...

As a child in the wcg we weren't even allowed to TALK about Jesus. He seldom came up in spiritual conversations. However...Satan and demons were referred to literally nonstop. I heard more about the dark, evil side of the spiritual realm than I did about the One who gave His life for me. This only proves to me that you can't "bypass Jesus" directly to the Father. You either belong to Jesus, or you far away from God. There's no third option.