Worldwide News, 20th Nov 1978 page 1
HOW CHRIST GIVES THE CHURCH ITS BELIEFS
By Herbert W Armstrong
I said to my wife, 52 years ago, “All these churches can’t be wrong. That’s how I know the Bible says ‘Thou shalt observe Sunday’”
But on intensive, indepth study of the bible, I found all “these churches“ were wrong, and that they did not obtain their beliefs from God’s word, but rather that they believed doctrines and practiced customs that are contrary to biblical teaching.
I wanted to find God’s teachings, doctrines, customs and practices. I found them! I found them in the same way the Apostle Paul did.
And, in one steeped in the practices and doctrines of today’s ‘Christianity’ – both Protestant and Catholic – it is, indeed, an eye opener.
But I followed Paul’s example.
And I can say with him, “I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ…But when it pleased God, who…called me by His grace to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood [neither went I to a biblical sanctuary, but I went into night and day study of the Word of God, mostly on my knees].” (paraphrased from Galatians 1:11-17)
The apostle Paul says, verse 17, that instead of going to other MEN, he went into Arabia. Apparently Jesus Christ, in PERSON, manifested Himself and taught Paul there. For Paul said later, “…Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?…” (1 Corinthians 9:1) and “…that he [Jesus] rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve…And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” (1 Corinthians 14:4-6, 8)
The 12 original apostles received their teaching direct from Jesus in PERSON. The apostle Paul spent some three years in Arabia, and apparently that was the time when he saw JESUS IN PERSON, and was taught directly by Jesus Christ. But as Jesus is the Word in Person, so the Bible is the Word of God in print.
Now back to Galatians 1: “Then after three years (in Arabia) I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord’s brother.” (Galatians 1:18-19) Continue on “Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run in vain…But…when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision [to the Gentiles] was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision [Israel] was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision , the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)” (Galatians 2:1-8)
One sent forth
The word apostle means “one sent forth.”
The meaning here is unmistakeable – as Peter was the chief apostle to Israel and Judah, so Paul was chief apostle to the gentiles.
Nevertheless, when ALL of the scriptures on this subject are put together, it becomes certain that Peter, in fact, was the overall chief apostle.
The New Testament Church of God received all its teachings, practices, customs, FROM THE APOSTLES, with Peter chief over all of the others.
I know well that, in view of Roman Catholic teachings regarding Peter being the first pope, this statement will be challenged by many – but it is TRUE, nevertheless.
Peter did have primacy as chief apostle! I shall amply prove that. YET PETER WAS NOT A POPE! There is a vast DIFFERENCE!
For remember an apostle is “ONE SENT FORTH WITH THE GOSPEL.” The Roman Catholic pope sits permanently (unless, as some few have done, he takes a trip to some other place – not as carrying the gospel, but as a POLITICAL HEAD OF STATE).
Yet the apostles were the teachers, who instilled in the Church the BELIEFS, TEACHINGS, PRACTICES AND CUSTOMS of the Church. And all members of the Church were required by God to BELIEVE AND SPEAK THE SAME THING!
In the Church in Corinth, Paul began his letter, INSPIRED as part of GOD’S WORD, by saying “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no division among you…” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was CORRECTIVE, as were his letters to other churches, and he was inspired to speak in the name of – and AUTHORITY of – Jesus Christ, for he said (verses 11-12) “…there are contentions [divisions] among you…that everyone of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas and I of Christ.” THEY WERE BEGINNING TO FOLLOW INDIVIDUAL LEADERS. They supposed those leaders differed in their teaching, though in fact those mentioned did all speak and teach THE SAME THING AS CHRIST had instructed.
Source of Church beliefs
Let’s SET THIS STRAIGHT, once and for all! The SOURCE of the beliefs, teaching, customs and practices in the Church of God is GOD HIMSELF! Not any man. Jesus said “I have spoken nothing of myself” – the FATHER had instructed Him! Jesus, in turn, taught His apostles in Person!
THERE WAS NO DOCTRINAL BOARD! The teachings of the Church did not come from a COUNCIL of ministers and/or lay members, who voted on what to believe.
Right here, SOME are going to ask “WHAT ABOUT ACTS 15? Wasn’t that the first Church Council in Jerusalem, to settle points of doctrine?” THE ANSWER IS NO! And I intend to devote enough space in this article to clear up this point!
So far, I have shown you from Galatians 1 and 2 that Peter was the chief apostle to the house of Israel and Paul to the gentiles. Now I will show you that Peter actually had PRIMACY OVER ALL.
At the very founding of the New Testament Church of God, it was Peter who stood up and explained what had occurred – preaching the first sermon in the Church that led to 3,000 converts. (Acts 2:14-39)
A day or two later, the number became 5,000. It was Peter who said to the cripple “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6) It was PETER who preached the sermon to the crowd thus attracted that converted 2,000 more.
Next came the incident of Annanias and Sapphira stealing and lying. It was Peter who spoke and caused them to drop dead.
Next, when signs and wonders were performed by the apostles, it was PETER’S SHADOW, as he passed by, that healed the sick.
Next the apostles were brought before the high priest and the council, and the spokesman for the apostles was PETER, who said “…We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
Coming to Acts 8 where Phillip, then a deacon, went to Samaria, and when the people believed Phillip preaching the things concerning the Kingdom of God, they were baptized. It was Peter and John who went down to Samaria, laid hands on the newly baptized (gentiles) and prayed for the Holy Spirit to be given to them. This is the best example of the Church of God’s custom of laying hands on the baptized for receiving the Holy Spirit – and PETER was the leader, for when Simon the sorcerer tried to buy an apostleship with money it was PETER who said to him (the first pope) “…Thy money perish with thee…for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” (Acts 8:20-23) He was the pater or peter – papa – pope of the Babylonian Mystery religion. Paul writes (II Thessalonians 2:7) “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work…” That religion, having without authority, appropriated the name “Christianity”, is named in Revelation 17:5 “MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT.”
Is it not ironic that the one who rebuked and condemned the first pope was Cephas, whom Christ had called PETER.
But continue on.
We come to Acts 10. Although Paul was later to be made apostle to the gentiles, the time had come to first open salvation to the gentiles officially. And this was done by PETER, not Paul. It was PETER whom God sent to the house of the gentile Cornelius, to teach him. It was PETER who convinced the others at Jerusalem that God had opened salvation to the gentiles (Acts 11).
Peter not a pope
UNDERSTAND this about Peter. HE WAS NOT A PROUD RULING POPE. He was a humble man, strong in Christ’s gospel and faith, but he did not try to lord it over others or always take the top seat, unless his position required. He was HUMAN, still, though since the Day of Pentecost he had the Holy Spirit. When Peter came to Antioch, more than 14 years after the founding of the Church, his human nature showed when he withdrew from the gentiles after some Jewish converts arrived from Jerusalem. Paul rebuked Peter publicly for this. But then, we might well remember that Paul was also human. This event occurred in the chief gentile church, and Paul was a little nettled at seeing Peter withdraw from eating with gentiles because some had arrived from Jerusalem. This incident reflects the humanity of both Peter and Paul – and demonstrates also that Peter was not a pope, else Paul would never have dared rebuke him.
Now we come to that crucial 15th chapter of Acts.
Few in God’s Church have fully understood this chapter. I shall go into sufficient detail to MAKE IT CLEAR.
Notice verse 1 “…certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” Who were these men? NOT apostles, or they would have been named.
Right here, MARK WELL THIS POINT, GOD PUT HIS TRUTH INTO HIS CHURCH THROUGH CHRIST AND THROUGH THE APOSTLES! These men were not apostles. What they taught was NOT FROM JESUS!
The apostle Paul KNEW WELL that God gave His Church its teachings only through Christ and the apostles. Immediately Paul withstood these unauthorized teachers.
Verse 2 “When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”
The men from Judea were undoubtedly Jewish Christians who had not received authentic teaching through the apostles, nor did they recognize Paul’s authority as an apostle, or they would not have entered in such a disputation with him.
Undoubtedly being Jewish converts, without full apostolic teaching, they looked on the Church as merely an extension of Judaism. Incidentally, the Judaism of that time was NOT Mosaic teaching. But after the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the only organized Jewish religion was among the descendants of the contingent of Jews sent back to Jerusalem from Persian Capitivity (see Ezra l:1-3) 70 years after the destruction of Solomon’s temple, to build the second temple – to which Jesus later came. After Ezra and Nehemiah, the rabbis gradually made a considerable change in the old covenant religion given Israel by Moses.
World cut off from God
Their Israelite ancestors had always wanted to be more like the world around them. In 1 Samuel 8, you will read of how they wanted a king and government more like the other nations of the world. Now the WORLD, except for Israel, which was specially called by God, was CUT OFF from God. Remember, all those centuries and millenniums, the Chinese, Japanese, people of India, South East Asia, Africa, the Roman Empire knew little or nothing about GOD. They all had their own religions, and most were derived, with some changes, from that established by Semiramis the mother-wife of Nimrod. (Genesis 10)
Now these pagan religions of Egypt, Greece, Babylon, Rome, had known nothing of God’s GRACE – unmerited, undeserved PARDON, forgiveness of past sins on repentance. Instead, their religions had adopted a system of self-inflicted punishment, ordeal or torture to justify past sins.
Israel given laws through Moses
Moses had been used of God to give Israel certain laws. First, there was the overall spiritual law of LOVE, or the Ten Commandments – although Israel without the Holy Spirit could keep that law only in the strictness of the letter (in the New Testament it must be according to the Spirit – or the obvious intent). This is called in the Bible the Law of God.
Then, through Moses, God gave them the “law of Moses” – a sacrificial law of animal sacrifices, which could not justify sin, but was a reminder of sin, and was a physical substitute for the sacrifice of Christ. When Christ died on the cross, animal sacrifices ceased.
There was also a ceremonial law – of physical rituals, carnal ordinances, meat and drink offerings, etc – to teach them the HABIT of obedience – things to do repeatedly morning, noon and night. The law of rituals, including circumcision, was PHYSICAL, and a substitute until the Holy Spirit should be given, to teach them the HABIT of obedience.
In Galatians 3:19, this law was ADDED, because of transgressions. That is, transgressions of the spiritual law. In Galatians 3:24, this ritual law is called a “schoolmaster” to bring them to Christ. In Romans and Galatians, the terms “works of the law” always refers to these PHYSICAL laws, which were TEMPORARY until Christ. Sometimes the single word works means “good works” in accord with the spiritual law, and sometimes the “works of the law” when mentioned in the context will for brevity speak of just “the law”, but the context will make it plain the subject is the RITUALS. The Greek for works of the law is ergon, which means physical effort.
Besides these temporary physical rituals and sacrifices, God gave them, through Moses, statutes and judgements – the CIVIL LAWS of their nation. They were not necessarily temporary or substitutional, but were to last as long as the NATIONAL GOVERNMENT was administered over the nation Israel.
Dos and don’ts added
Now the rabbis, after Ezra and Nehemiah, added some 65 dos and don’ts even to the keeping of the Sabbath. They adopted the PAGAN PENANCE – self-inflicted punishment – and construed the physical rituals as a means of justification of past sins. THIS WAS PAGAN, something really quite different from the religion of Moses.
Now back to Acts 15.
These Jews who had come down to Antioch thought this system of PENANCE was still in effect. In Galatians 5:3, Paul shows that if a man was circumcised as a legal ritual, he became a debtor to the WHOLE RITUAL LAW – and the context is speaking of the RITUAL law, though this verse does not use “works of the law”.
Paul was quite willing to take this to Jerusalem, BECAUSE PETER WAS THERE AT THE TIME.
This visit of Paul to Jerusalem is undoubtedly the one mentioned in Galatians 2. Apparently, according to Galatians 2:9, the only apostles at Jerusalem at that time were Peter, James and John.
But in Acts 15:4, it is stated: “And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the Church, and of the apostles and elders…”
Then, verse 6 “And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.” All ordained ministers are called elders in the Bible. This means the lay members were excluded, but the apostles and ordained ministers ranked lower than apostles came together in this council.
Peter settles the question
Now we see that even these elders were not clear on this matter of circumcision. For, verse 7 “And when there had been much disputing, PETER rose up…” and settled the matter!
Continue, verses 7-11 “…PETER rose up, and said unto the, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made the choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us. And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke on the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe through the GRACE [not ritual penance] of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”
Verse 12, “Then all the multitude kept silence…” PETER had settled the question!
Right here, NOTE CAREFULLY! Peter was an apostle – ONE SENT FORTH proclaiming the Gospel, not a resident pastor of a church. James was pastor of the Jerusalem church at the time, though also an apostle. Therefore, James acted as chairman of the meeting – even though PETER gave the DECISION. As a matter of protocol, as chairman (as we would call it today) we come now to verse 13.
James speaks as chairman
“And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me. Simeon has declared…” in other words, acting as chairman of the meeting, James in effect started by saying , “PETER has declared” – Peter had settled it – “…how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.” Again affirming Peter’s primacy – for when God decided to open salvation to the gentiles – to CALL some of them to salvation, whereas heretofore God had called only Israelites (and even them NOT to salvation except the prophets) – when God opened salvation to the gentiles, He used Peter to do it! Now continue James speech:
“And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.”
This was quoted from Amos 9:11-12.
NOTE THIS! The Church of God is built upon the FOUNDATION of the apostles and prophets – Old Testament prophets as well as the VERY FEW prophets of the New Testament. And James was here quoting from the prophet Amos, to add his own approval to Peter’s DECISION. James is not making the decision – he is making official Peter’s decision!
Continue “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions from idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.” (verses 19-20) Pollutions of idols was related to idolatry, and idolatry and fornication were violations of the SPIRITUAL law, eternally binding. Eating blood or things strangled was NO PART of the ceremonial law, but a law of health that was not substitutionary.
OBSERVE SPECIALLY. This was not a matter, as did happen at Pasadena, of one of lower rank appointed by an apostle, while the apostle was in another part of the world, calling together a conference of ministers of various ranks – all under that apostle – and determining or changing doctrine – watering down God’s TRUTH – and sending it out, as the Systematic Theology Project (STP) was, claiming falsely and without authority that it was an authoritative doctrinal pronouncement!
In this case, it was PETER, chief apostle, who set the decision. The letter they then sent to the church at Antioch specified that this decision was inspired by the HOLY SPIRIT. PETER set it, James, local pastor acting as chairman of the meeting, confirmed Peter’s decision, making it OFFICIAL, inspired by the HOLY SPIRIT.
Jesus gave Peter primacy
In all these successive instances, I have shown you, step by step, that Peter was LEADER of the apostles – and that the Church received it teachings and doctrines FROM THE APOSTLES!
But God has always worked primarily through ONE MAN at a time – as Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob, then Joseph – later Moses, then Joshua, later Samuel, then David – and, in the New Testament Church, PETER. But Peter was an apostle – one sent forth proclaiming the message – not a resident pope over a religious hierarchy.
Now notice how JESUS gave Peter primacy over the apostles.
Jesus had asked His apostles to be whom they said Jesus really was, “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.. And Jesus said unto him [UNTO PETER] Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee [UNTO PETER] That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell [the grave] shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto THEE [PETER not the Church] the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou [PETER] shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-19)
There has been much discussion at Pasadena between certain ministers of lower than apostle rank, as to the CHURCH binding and loosing.
So now let it be MADE OFFICAL – by Christ’s present day apostle – that this binding and loosing PLAINLY, CLEARLY was given to Christ’s chief APOSTLE – not to lower rank ministers ordained by his authority – not by the CHURCH as a body – but by the APOSTLE!
When men who held office under the apostle, and by his appointment or approval, took it in their own hands, in his absence – stealthily KEEPING IT FROM HIM – to water down God’s TRUTH, alter his doctrines, assume unauthorized authority, then the living CHRIST moves His apostle to ACT SWIFTLY, to PUT OUT the prime mover in this conspiracy, and, under Christ, set God’s Church and Work BACK ON GOD’S TRACK!
PRAISE THE ETERNAL GOD! HE has NOT left nor forsaken HIS CHURCH. Jesus Christ still REIGNS SUPREME in God’s Church, as He shall, very soon, reign over all the earth!
Many harmful errors in the STP still remain to be PUT STRAIGHT – and it shall be done by JESUS CHRIST, through His apostle, as rapidly as is humanly possible!
JESUS CHRIST is the living HEAD of this Church! HE built it through His apostle. And He, Christ, still rules SURPREME in the one and only area on earth where the GOVERNMENT OF GOD is being administered today!