Christian Churches of God
(Edition 3.0 19960629-19980530-20071204)
The Church has one commission given to it by Jesus Christ, as shown in Matthew 28. One recent phenomenon that has arisen in the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God is that a significant number of people – not under persecution but simply disillusioned at the happenings in organised churches – are withdrawing from this commission of Christ and going into house churches and not participating in the work of extending the Gospel to all nations. This is a dereliction of duty as imposed by Jesus Christ, and is the exact same sin that Christ condemned as the burying of the talent.
The Church has one commission given to it by Jesus Christ.
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (KJV)
This commission is not a suggestion – it is an order. The word commission is derived from two Latin words meaning to go forth with a mission (or purpose).
The teaching of the nations here is of the Commandments of God and the Testimony of Christ, which constitute the Mysteries of God (of which we are stewards), and the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven and of God. The RSV renders the text:
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (RSV)
The term to make disciples or to teach (KJV) is derived from matheteuo (SGD 3100), which means intransitively to become a pupil and, transitively, to disciple or enrol as a scholar: hence disciple, instruct or teach.
The Church, which is comprised of a body of individuals that makes up the ecclesia or congregation of God, comprises a group of priests and kings (1Pet. 2:9; Rev. 5:10; 20:6) and as a holy nation. Each one has the Holy Spirit and each one is subject to the injunction and the commission of Christ. This priesthood is a new priesthood after the order of Melchisedek, of which Christ is the High Priest (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5:6,10; 6:20; 7:1-21). This priesthood, unlike the Aaronic priesthood before it, has no beginning of days or end of days; no lineage by father, or mother, but is of the elect in Christ forever (see the paper Melchisedek (No. 128)).
One recent phenomenon that has arisen in the Church is that a significant number of people, some many thousands, are withdrawing from this commission of Christ and going into house churches and not participating in the work of extending the Gospel to all nations. This is a dereliction of duty as imposed by Jesus Christ and is the exact same sin that Christ condemned as the burying of the talent. This parable is directed at the elect and at no one else.
Matthew 25:14-30 "For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. 17 So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, `Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' 21 His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.' 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, `Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.' 23 His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.' 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, `Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26 But his master answered him, `You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.' (RSV)
Each of the elect is given assets according to the ability they possess. Nothing is asked of the elect beyond their capabilities. These talents are the riches and Mysteries of God. Part of the talents is the individual’s tithes that they earn in direct relation to their capacity and effort. The tithe system is God’s first-fruits and does not belong to the individual. The tithes belong to God, and are to be used for the propagation of the Faith. The tithe system is a measure of the repentance of the individual and their return to God (Mal. 3:7-9; see the paper Tithing (No. 161)).
The Temple is the elect in which God operates. Thus the tithes belong to the Temple, which is the ecclesia of God acting through the Body of Christ, as living stones fitly framed together (1Pet. 2:5-10; 1Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; 2Cor. 6:16; cf. the paper Sanctification of the Temple of God (No. 241)).
1Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are. (RSV)
Thus where the elect are, there the Temple is also, and hence there the tithes must be concentrated in the work of God through the Church.
The Holy Spirit gives each individual understanding, and directs and guides each of the elect to the voice of the shepherd. At no time in the history of the Church over two thousand years since the commencement of the ministry of John the Baptist has there been a cessation of the Church and the word of God according to the Law of God and the Testimony of Christ.
Christ stated he would be with the Church until the end of the age. This was in relation to the process of their teaching and the education of the disciples, who were drawn from all the nations. Thus, racism is not a function of the Church.
Individuals are required to maximise the gifts they are given. The gifts are for the work of the Body (1Cor. 12:4-31). The talents are used in the work of Jesus Christ. Each individual must determine where the truth of the Gospel is being preached and place their resources and effort behind that work. The injunction to prove all things is placed upon each person. The promulgation of truth and the preaching of the Gospel and the Testimony is the test. If a church is not preaching the truth or not formulating sound doctrine then each individual is required to regroup with those that are teaching sound doctrine.
Remember, the Father is working and Christ is working continuously. There are diversities of gifts, but through the same Spirit. There are many administrations, but the same Lord. There are many diverse operations, but the same God that works all in all (1Cor. 12:4-6).
Thus, the government of the Church differs from area to area, and there are many ways that the Church can be organised. Hence centralisation is not seen as the ideal system. Indeed, the tithe laws and system preclude such a system. However, that does not mean that individuals are excused from organising into effective groups and working within organisations. It is written:
Hebrews 10:24-25 and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (RSV)
How much more so is there a requirement to work now than when Hebrews was given?
We must all understand that we are made alive together with Christ. We are raised up together with Christ (Eph. 2:6). We were dead to sin. We walked with Satan and the ways of this world according to the spirit that works in the disobedient under Satan. We were driven by lusts or desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, as the others are still such children (Eph. 2:1-3). Their carnal mind is enmity towards God and His system (Rom. 8:7). God has raised us from this death and made us something different under Jesus Christ. Through Christ we all have access to the Father by one Spirit (Eph. 2:18). We are no more strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the Household of God. We are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Christ himself being the chief cornerstone of a building, perfectly framed together and growing into a holy Temple in the Lord. We are built in him together for a habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph. 2:18-22).
Ephesians 2:4-22 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God -- 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands -- 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (RSV)
This is the gift of God. No man can boast of this construction, which is of God on the foundation of Christ. We are a holy priesthood. We are a nation of kings and priests (Rev. 5:10). The congregation is a royal priesthood and the Body of Christ. There can be no organisation established that seeks to divorce the elect into two groups – of priests and laity – where the action of the Holy Spirit is denied to the elect and the members are denied a voice and participation in the organisation. This is a doctrine of the Nicolaitans, and Christ says that he hates their doctrine (Rev. 2:6). No church that establishes the doctrine of the Nicolaitans has the blessing of Jesus Christ (see the paper The Nicolaitans (No. 202)). No individual can be excused from his or her duties by abrogation of responsibility within such a group.
Such induced division denies the priesthood of the congregation of the elect and is satanic. Induced division and indolence is also of a carnal mind. The following of men is carnality.
Ephesians 3:3-21 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen. (RSV)
The works of each group are put to the test and the fire burns those who are weak and poor in the knowledge of the Faith. That is why churches are tested and their ministry is tried by fire. The refuse is left as dross and Christ moves on with those who hear the voice of the shepherd. No man claims the loyalty of the elect. Only Christ has that, but only through the power of God. We are all loyal to God alone, for Christ is God’s.
Each member must group together with those of like mind in the Holy Spirit. Members must conduct activities in accordance with the Law of God and the laws of the land in which they operate. Where the laws of the land conflict with the Laws of God then the Church must endure persecution through obedience. Each group must form according to a series of rules for the correct discharge of the physical and financial responsibilities placed upon them by the law. The laws of the tithe require the passage of the tithe to a group structure, which is identified as doing the work of God within the Law and the Testimony. The groups must pass the tithe of the tithe back to the headquarters of the group. The groups must act to discharge the responsibilities placed upon them by Jesus Christ.
Thus, it is obvious that no individual can enter the Kingdom of Heaven if they do not assemble and discharge the commission of the Church. Paul said: “If you do not work, then you do not eat”. The Body of Jesus Christ is orderly. It is structured to achieve the work of God. Those who are part of it must work to the benefit of the Church and strive to be an example, working night and day to the glory of God and the passage of His Law-word or Law-order and the Testimony of Jesus Christ. Let each be an example to the Faith and the construction of a sound edifice that will stand the test of time.
2Thessalonians 3:6-15 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, 8 we did not eat any one's bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. 9 It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living. 13 Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing. 14 If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (RSV)
Keep away from those that live in idleness. Those who do not work for the Faith are to be admonished. Eat no man’s bread without paying. This applies to the social structure of a physical system but, more particularly, to the spiritual system of the Church of God. Widows and pensioners and the halt and the lame must be cared for. He who does not provide for his own, and especially those of his own house, denies the Faith and is worse than an infidel (1Tim. 5:8). However, each must work according to his gifts and ability. This applies not only to the family and the nation but also to the family of God. He who does not work for the Church to further the Faith denies the Faith and is worse than an infidel. What use is a member that is dead, or does not function, or causes offence? It is better to be removed so it does not affect the remainder of the Body. It is better to lose an eye or a leg than to fail to enter the Kingdom of God (Mat. 18:1-14). How much more does this apply to the Spirit and the Body of Jesus Christ? If one member affects the Body, cast it out so that the other parts do not suffer.
Matthew 18:1-14 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, 3 and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 "Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes! 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. 10 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven (RSV).
[11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost (in the KJV not the RSV)]
12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. (RSV)
The children of the Kingdom are those that learn as children. They soak up knowledge and ask questions without guile and seek wisdom constantly. They do not cause temptation to each other but work for the Faith and for the edification of each other. Know what we believe and proclaim it without fear. Prove all things (1Thes. 5:21), prove that which is good and hold to it (Rom. 12:2), and prove our own selves (2Cor. 13:5). If we are challenged, then follow the truth. A ministry that teaches for hire and says the Lord is still among them (Mic. 3:11-12) is worse than none at all. They are blind guides as were the Pharisees before them (Mat. 23:16-39). God scatters the sheep and then retrieves them from under the hand of these false shepherds (see Ezek. 34). Each of the elect has the responsibility of correcting error and working to the truth (cf. the paper Measuring the Temple (No. 137)).
If one member is idle, let him not eat of the work of the others. Let all labour, day and night, to preach the Kingdom of God. A Sabbath priesthood labours continuously and not only on the Sabbath. We are all kings and priests of the Church of God. Let each work to the benefit of all.
Individuals must contact the group that is preaching the truth – all of it, and not just that which is convenient. Groups must be formed locally and the individual must act to join with others of the truth, to preach the truth to others and to form such groups. No individual can hand over his or her salvation or accountability before God to any minister or any other person. No group of ministers can purport to act for and absolve individuals in their relationship with God.
A minister is a teacher and can only claim to teach when the knowledge he has is true and greater than those he teaches. The aim of the ministry is to make themselves redundant and to become a participating member of a learning team. Each teacher must desire every one of his pupils to be able to replace him or replicate what he is doing. Only when a disciple knows as much as his teacher, or is able to contribute to the body of knowledge, has the teacher truly succeeded. The Holy Spirit is the mechanism by which knowledge is revealed, and so it is always probable that pupils can grow at faster rates than the teacher, dependent upon the relationship of the individual with God in the Holy Spirit. Call no man rabbi or master for we have all one teacher, and Master, Jesus Christ (Mat. 23:8,10; KJV incorrectly duplicates master). We call no man father for we have only God as our Father (Mat. 23:9).
Individuals, therefore, have a responsibility to access information and distribute the Truth as far and as fast as possible. Where the Truth is being promulgated, that is where Christ is working. The view of the activities of the Church based upon individuals and respect of persons is sin and transgression of the Law (Jas. 2:1-10). No church that practises respect of persons and individuals, or a ministry/laity relationship in respect of persons, is of God or can stay of God for long (see the paper Respect of Persons (No. 221)).
The work of the Church must be done before the end. The First Angel’s message must be given concurrently with the activities of Messiah during the process of the selection and the sealing of the 144,000 (Rev. 14:1-5). This process lasts over the sequence of the Churches and selection and the persecution of the saints. The Second Angel’s message relates to the fall of Babylon, which precedes the establishment of the final phases of the Beast system. The Third Angel’s message relates to the Beast system and the prohibition against taking its mark. This is both an ongoing prophecy and a structure of the Last Days (see the paper The Messages of Revelation 14 (No. 270)).
The 144,000 are taken out of the world over the two thousand years of the system. Most of them are, and indeed have been, martyred for the Faith. The bulk of the 144,000 are already selected, sealed, tried and dead. They await the Messiah. (The explanation of the 144,000 is given in the paper The New Moon Sacrifices, the Harvests of God and the 144,000 (No. 120).)
The Babylonian system continues until the Last Days when it is destroyed by the Beast, which turns on it and destroys it because it is a false religious whore (Rev. 17:1-18). This whore is destroyed and the Second Angel proclaims the destruction as the will of God. The proclamation thus gives effect to the destruction (Rev. 18:1-24). This religious whore is guilty of the blood of the prophets and the saints (Rev. 18:24). This fall occurs immediately prior to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7; cf. the paper Trumpets (No. 136)). The saints are arrayed in fine linen for this event, which is their righteousness (Rev. 19:8).
The Testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10). The saints are they who keep the Commandments of God and the Testimony of Jesus (Rev. 12:17; or faith, Rev. 14:12). The elect keep the spirit of prophecy, which is the Faith. The elect hope in the prophecies of God. They expect the fulfilment of those prophecies.
Thus, before the final destruction of the Beast system can be accomplished, there must be a continuous process of teaching and making disciples of the elect, who are predestined to be called into the Body of Christ (Rom. 8:29-30). The process is therefore work specific. The elect must work together, and if necessary pay with their lives for the Faith.
It is evident that the systems of abuse within the Churches of God in the twentieth century gave some people the idea or the excuse that they need not regroup and work together, because they no longer trust organisations. That is nonsense. That is the equivalent of saying that, “I do not trust the Holy Spirit to act and control the elect”. Each was tried in the Faith to test his/her belief and most were found wanting. Quite simply, look at those who purport to act in the name of Jesus Christ. Systems that deny franchise to the Body of the Church are unaccountable, and deny the doctrine of the priesthood of the elect. However, the elect can and must reorganise into constitutional groups working together within a legally accountable framework of like-minded brethren. Like-minded does not mean mindless subservient concurrence or acquiescence.
No member of the Body of Christ can be prepared for the Kingdom of God without exercise of reason and decision-making power in the Holy Spirit. Each person must be prepared as fully as possible to exercise leadership. Each group must be as strong and as independent as possible so as to resist apostasy and persecution. Each Church must be as interknit as possible to ensure overall administrative efficiency and interaction. Doctrine comes from a coherent source ably supported by a well-knit group of Spirit-led believers. Only by group interaction can such work be achieved. Organisations that deny decision making to the general groups are not accountable and invite disaster and abuse. The unfettered use of power by a ministry is anti-Christ. The nations lord it over their people. It shall not be so with us (Mk. 10:42-44).
Mark 10:42-44 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. (RSV)
Thus the leaders must serve and the chief is a slave of all. There can be no distinction in the body of the elect that denies power in the Holy Spirit or franchise to any.
Individuals also must ensure that they act within a group so that they have a comprehensive knowledge and body of information in order to continue under persecution. Thus, the reliance on a centralised ministerial system contains the seeds of its own destruction. The combination of resources is necessary for the production of quality materials and messages; so good stewardship is essential. Individual interaction is essential; group interaction is essential; welfare of the needy is mandatory. Thus, organisations are inevitable.
Those who deny the gathering together, deny the capacity to undertake the commission given to the Church. No individual can be a church. Only a group of like-minded individuals bound together in the Holy Spirit can be a Church of God. Only a church like that – and one that works – is alive and will enter the Kingdom of God in the First Resurrection. If your group has no sound published doctrine, join one that does.
It is also difficult to explain why people do not gather together when they hold the same doctrines. Baptised members, who are not in a state of sin, are obliged to meet together. Failure to do so is self-righteousness and sin.
There is so much work to do before it becomes impossible for any man to work. We should all ask:
· Are we pulling our weight?
· Are we burying our talent?
· What constructive work for the Faith did I last do?
· Are we sitting at home with a bundle of other people’s documentation and supporting none?
· When was the last time we attended services, or the Passover, or the Feast with others?
If each of us is not active, meeting with each other, and do not attend the Passover we are not in line for the Kingdom in the First Resurrection.
Act now! Work for the Faith among those who care about the Truth and the Laws of God. Ask what we can do for the Faith, not what it can do for us.