Are there Branches of the Church of God?

Worldwide News – Special Edition, 24th June 1985, Page 1  – Recent History of the Philadelphia Era of the Worldwide Church of God  By Herbert W. Armstrong “I want you, brethren, to think about and understand what happened to God’s Church in the 1970s “lest history repeat itself!” I want you to see the “fruits” of rebelling against God’s way and God’s government.

After all, the basic issue all along was that of God’s government in the Church. One who followed one liberal who, as the apostle Paul had predicted, sought to draw away followers after himself (Acts 20:30) said, “We are liberated from that church government and now have a loosely knit organization, and that’s the way we like it.”

Those liberals, who are no longer in God’s Church, actually seem to be more interested in news of the Church — especially false accusations, criticisms and persecutions of enemies — than are the loyal members of the Church. It would seem the chief interest in their lives is to hear false reports, accusations and innuendos against the church.

Daniel prophesied of our time: “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10). Truly this has been a time of trying and testing. We are the firstfruits called to be students that we may become kings and priests and rule with Christ (Revelation 5:10). We in the Church are students, and we are in the time of final exams.

Little groups, splintering off, centered in Washington, D.C.; Eugene, Ore.; Tyler, Tex.; Monterey, Calif.; and other places with groups too small to mention. They are not bearing fruit for the Kingdom. They are not pleasing God or being blessed by Him. Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” They usually claim to be “branches” of the Church of God. But Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). He did not say denominations, sects, cults, branches or a church divided against itself. Rather He said a house divided against itself cannot stand. There is one true Church and one only. The apostle Paul pictured humanly self-appointed “branches” when he said to the elders of the local church at Ephesus that some of their own selves would depart to draw a following after themselves.

Paul said, “But now are they many members, yet but one body” (I Corinthians 12:20). How was that one body organized? Did it have one government? “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (verse 28). Verse 25 shows there should be no divisions in the body — no branches or branch organizations.

The Church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy Temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:20-21). Note, the Church is organized and fitly framed together, not organized with competing and differing branches.

Notice Ephesians 4, there is only one organized church “fitly joined together and compacted” (verse 16) — compacted as if welded together into one well organized body. And how did He organize this body? How was it governed? “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith … (Ephesians 4:11-13). It is not DISunity or some other type of organization and government. Paul also said “that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10).

A primary reason for the contentions and slowing down in the growth of the Church during the liberal years is the fact that, in our desire to hold rebellious and liberal ministers and members within our fellowship, we did not rigidly obey the command of Romans 16:17: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Also in I Corinthians 5:11: “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”

To make clear one of the reasons — if not the primary reason — for the conflict caused by the liberal element, I quote from a Western newspaper. In an interview with a former minister, who had sought to draw away a following of members after himself, it was stated concerning this split-off church that they have “a completely different administrative structure.”

The story continued to explain that they totally differ with the governmental structure of God’s Church. He was quoted as saying “he also does not believe in expelling people from the church if they do not live up to its teachings.” It also stated they believe “the church is where people belong to help them overcome their problems.” In other words the liberal idea is to disobey God’s instruction to disfellowship and avoid those who are contentious and cause division and accept members who believe and live contrary to the teachings of Christ and the Bible.

Most of the dissension of the past in the Church has been over the matter of government. The dissenters believe in a very liberal government — the way of Satan and his world. The whole purpose of the Gospel is to call those chosen by God out of this world and its ways into the ways of God. God’s government is based on God’s law. All government, even in the world’s nations, is based on a foundation of law. A law is simply the rules of human conduct and behavior. The righteousness of God merely means righteous conduct and behavior based on the great spiritual law of God.

Christ said, “Every plant, which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13). And the apostle John also stated, “They went out from us, but they were not of us …” (I John 2:19).

We who remain in the one and only true Church grieve over the loss of those who are so far failing in their final exams.

But sadly we remember that part of the responsibility is ours in not strictly heeding the admonition in Romans 16:17 to note those that cause division and avoid them. We love them all and pray for them. Some of them who have gone out from us were parents, children, brothers, sisters or close relatives to those who remain steadfast.

Meanwhile, we pray also that God will keep those of us who remain loyal, constantly steadfast, growing in grace and spiritual character and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, overcoming self, the world and Satan and enduring to the end. Pray that you, the loyal members of God’s Church, remain dedicated to the Kingdom of God — which is the government of God.

Now one final reminder to the Church and all loyal ministers. If any who have gone out from this wonderful fellowship that we have in God’s one and only true Church, profess repentance and wish to come back, they must now, as John the Baptist said, “Bring forth fruits meet for repentance” or prove their repentance by performance over an adequate period of time. I personally do, and hope all of our loyal members will, pray for their repentance and ultimate return.

The Church is the embryo of the coming Kingdom of God, which is the family of God. There will be no divisions in that Kingdom. There must be none in the Church.

A final personal word. In a few days I will be 93 years of age. For some years now, there have been some, like vultures, waiting for me to die. They would like to come back and take over the leadership of the Church in my stead. I have been deeply concerned about this, but in no sense worried. This is the Church of God, not of any man. Jesus Christ is the living Head of this Church. I am not.

And Jesus Christ will never receive any of those who have gone out to draw a following after themselves to come back and lead God’s Church into Satan’s liberalism. It would be no longer God’s Church, even as Ambassador College was no longer God’s college, and Christ had to start it all over again through me with one freshman class.  “

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