TEN BROKEN COMMANDMENTS
Jesus Christ famously said "By their fruits you shall know them" (Mt 7:16). Let's examine some of the "fruits" of broken law in God's own Church in the Laodicean era.
It is not my intention here to go through the ten commandments as one normally would, but rather to focus on the failure of their application by the Church itself.
Malachi 2:8 warns: "you are departed out of the way: you have caused many to stumble at the law".
Thou shalt have no other gods before me
The Laodicean era of God's Church has transgressed the first commandment more than any other. In the 1950's, Herbert Armstrong had a 180 degree change of mind regarding Church government and instituted "one man government" in the Church, calling it "the restoration of the government of God". This government form was modelled on the Papacy. In 1968, in the image of the Catholic "Universal" Church, God's Church became the Worldwide Church of God. The end result saw God's people, just like the Catholic Church, placing the opinion of their "one man" ahead of the opinion of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
For all practical purposes, from this point on, one man, and of late a slew of men, "as God, sit in the Temple of God" (II Thes 2:4). At present, two of these leaders even refer to themselves by one of Jesus Christ's own titles, i.e. "That Prophet" (John 6:14).
Government over the physical nation of Israel is frequently depicted in the Old Testament as a ruling man who is a type of Jesus Christ. Moses is a good example of this. As described in detail in Numbers 1, under Moses were twelve tribal leaders over the twelve physical tribes of Israel.
Under the New Covenant however, Christ fills Moses' role. He is in charge of the spiritual nation of Israel, i.e. the Church. Under Himself, Christ placed twelve apostles to administer the Church.
For Church members to accept a human being in the role of Christ, ruling as sole head of the Church, is a transgression of the first commandment. Please see the page "THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD" for a full explanation of this subject.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
Christians of this world have statues, paintings and pictures of Christ, Mary, and so called "saints", as well as their Popes. Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as other religions, also have their images. Images of movie stars, sports stars, music stars etc. abound in the lives of the people of this world. The Church of God historically has always condemned the use of images, but in the Laodicean era of the Church we have pictures of Herbert Armstrong, or whoever the new "one man" is, adorning our walls, our mantle pieces, church offices etc.
While this physical transgression of the second commandment is problematic enough, the spiritual aspect is truly alarming.
In the Laodicean era, a false image of its main leader, Herbert Armstrong, is portrayed by many of the remnants of the Church of God. Unlike the Scriptures, which show both the commendable and less flattering traits and actions of people such as Abraham, David, Solomon and many others, the Churches have habitually only shown Herbert Armstrong in a positive light, which has given a far more favourable impression of him than his actual record deserves.
The fact that extensive periods of his life are missing from his autobiography speaks volumes. Herbert Armstrong's biased efforts at handling his erring son Garner Ted, his permission to the Church to transgress God's Sabbath by visiting restaurants, his opulent lifestyle, and his $200.000 plus expenses annual income from God's tithes, which would be the equivalent of millions today, are all conveniently overlooked.
The end result of this cover up, which most seem to think is the proper Christian response, is that God's people have created a false image of their former leader and bow down to that image. Try to speak against that image and you find out how much it is worshipped. Try to speak against the Catholic worship of Mary and you get the same response.
In death Herbert Armstrong is worshipped even more than he was in life.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain
Projecting to this world a focus on "one man" as the restoration of the "true Church government" has been a serious misrepresentation of God and Christ. Herbert and Garner Ted Armstrong as well as the bulk of their "one man" successors, have given our Creator a bad name and made the true religion an embarrassment and a laughing stock to this world.
The amassment of fabulous wealth, the "executive level" incomes taken from God's tithes, the hobnobbing with the rich and famous, the taking of biblical titles, the ascribing of prophecies to the self, the favouritism to one's family etc, are all totally foreign to the humility, the simplicity and selflessness of the Church that Christ established, but unique to the most lukewarm generation of the Church of God.
To state the obvious, if we want to take on Christ's name and call ourselves Christian, we should in all things endeavour to be Christ-like.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
The Laodicean era of God's Church has seen the most liberal approach taken to God's weekly holy day ever. Many new brethren are initially shocked by the careless attitude displayed towards doing business on the Sabbath, since Church literature only emphasises strict observance.
Unbelievably, excuses like "the place would have been open anyway" are sufficient for brethren to be given the green light to visit restaurants, coffee shops, bars, etc on God's Sabbath. Even on annual Holy Days, meals are organised in restaurants without a second thought.
Neh 10:28-31 and 13:15-22 leave no doubt as to God's view on this, our "test commandment". At least in Nehemiah time, the sellers of wares were coming to the Israelites. We, on the other hand, don't wait for these vendors to come to us, rather, we go to them! Words fail to describe the level Laodicean era "Sabbath keeping" has descended to. Brethren from previous eras who were tortured and murdered for upholding this precious law of God, would turn over in their graves.
In his sermon given on October 23, 1983 regarding Sabbath keeping, after initially making very strong points defending the Sabbath, Herbert Armstrong begins to stumble somewhat over his sentences and says that if the sun set at 6:30pm on the Day of Atonement, he would already be seated in a restaurant at 6:30pm!! In other words, he would already be travelling to a restaurant and entering the place while it was still Atonement. He also states that on the Sabbath, people would be working anyway, regardless of what we do, implying that our frequenting of such establishments is of no consequence, even though Nehemiah already deals with this situation, as referenced above. Herbert Armstrong then continues to say that, when travelling, there is nothing else a person can do but go to a restaurant on the Sabbath, which he says is what he does and he has never thought anything of it!!!
Listen to this sermon at: http://www.herbert-w-armstrong.com/radio/B811023B.MP3
especially from the 17.45 minute mark.
Perhaps he had a luxurious three course meal in mind, not the raw food Christ's disciples ate in the field on the Sabbath as recorded in Matthew 12, where we find the biblical example of what they did when away from home on the Sabbath. It certainly shows being humble and making do with the most basic things one can find. There is certainly no hint whatsoever of money changing hands or business being conducted. Rather, the question being debated was how much labour a person might reasonably use on the Sabbath to prepare a meal. It is for good reason that the Scriptures give us the concept of a "preparation day" for the Sabbath.
Think about this:
Do you really think that Jesus Christ would go to a restaurant on God's holy Sabbath?
In ancient times, defiling the Sabbath for the purpose of one's personal pleasure was contrary to God's law. In the future it will be contrary to God's law. Why would it be any different today? Israel was sent into captivity for its Sabbath breaking.
Brethren like to justify their conduct by pointing out that in our houses we turn on the tap, turn on light switches and flush our toilets on the Sabbath, whilst people are at work at all these service providers. This is a Laodicean argument. These are all automated services that we are more or less dependent on in our modern homes. Not so with attending restaurants, which for us is totally a matter of choice. Never in history has it been easier to prepare for the Sabbath than it is today. As has been said many times, this is a test commandment. Exodus 31:12-18 makes that very clear. The worst that could happen is that we go without food for a few hours.
What a terrible example of disobedience the Laodicean era Church of God sets for those on the outside, as well as new people God is calling. Our Lawgiver will hold us accountable.
Where in Scripture do Christ or the apostles do business on the Sabbath? How is this "restoring all things", if it was never done before? If we make purchases on the Sabbath indiscriminately, then what is the difference between a Sabbath keeper and a Sabbath breaker?
For an excellent in depth discussion about attending restaurants on the Sabbath, please see:
Honour thy father and thy mother
A COG Regional Director was once asked by the author "How are your parents?" Answer: "No idea, I haven't spoken to them for years". The reason? They moved to a "rival" Church of God years ago. Christ did teach that we must put Him before our relatives if our relatives turn against us and force our hand, but at no time did Christ say He was doing away with the fifth commandment.
Jesus Christ came to magnify the Law, and we must put "precept upon precept" and "line upon line", "here a little, there a little" (Isa 28:10), not see one pronouncement as overriding another.
The Pharisees said that they gave their extra money to the Temple (we might say "the Building Fund") and therefore couldn't help their parents. Christ totally rejected this reasoning. The same applies to us. Just because our parents follow "Paul", while we prefer "Apollos", doesn't mean we can neglect our responsibilities under the fifth commandment.
However, from a spiritual perspective, this final Church era has neglected the honouring of our spiritual Father, instead honouring physical leaders more than Him. Whenever in doubt, we usually lean to the opinion of man, rather than the word of God.
Our spiritual mother, the Church, is also dishonoured by those who refer to the Philadelphia era brethren as "Sardis" or "dead". Members today are oblivious of the teachings of Church ministers who lived only a few hundred years ago. The way many speak disparagingly of Philadelphian brethren, while trying to usurp their place in history, goes against the spirit of the fifth commandment. Please see "THE TRUE CHURCH ERAS" for more on this.
In a general sense, the belittling of the knowledge, the achievements, the sacrifices and the sufferings of brethren in all previous Church eras dishonours our "mother".
Thou shalt not kill
Jesus Christ taught that being angry towards or hating your brother, without a cause, is akin to murder. The fragmentation of the Church of God in the latter stages of the Laodicean era has led to slander and accusations fueled by spiteful, selfish glory seeking. Leaders of at least one COG accuse members of other COG's of "worshipping the Devil" and say they will go into the "Lake of Fire" if they won't come and bow down to their particular leader, even though in practice they are indistinguishable from these other COG's in many ways.
Christ will want us to work together in His Kingdom, so surely we must be able to get along today. Why does one follow Paul and another Apollos? Who is the author of all this rivalry, sectarianism, and discord? Leaders who promote these divisions are playing into Satan's hand.
If men didn't have selfish ambitions and a desire for power, we wouldn't have these different branches of God's Church.
Thou shalt not commit adultery
The idolising of men has gone so far in this Laodicean era that, as a requirement of admission to some COG's, new converts must pledge their unreserved belief in prophetic statements Church leaders make about themselves. Unwavering loyalty and obedience to the man who heads the group, and to local ministers, is expected. Even if a member knows that ministers are in error, he is assured that God will bless him for his obedience.
This is spiritual adultery: i.e. in a religious sense following someone other than God.
The Church of God should be about faithfulness to God the Father and Jesus Christ and their will expressed in their word, not faithfulness to men and their organisations, and their dubious practices and interpretations.
Thou shalt not steal
In this final era of the Church of God, leaders have stolen God's great and wonderful name and turned it into something frowned upon by many. They have also stolen His titles, His tithes and offerings, the focus that should be on Him and Christ, and His leadership position, to the point that Christ stands outside knocking on the door and can't get a word in. These leaders have stolen correct biblical understanding from God's people and replaced it with illogical, and sometimes laughable, explanations.
A correct focus on prophecy has been stolen from the Church, as well as the world, by leaders who are preoccupied with finding prophecies about themselves, or explaining prophecies along the same line as their favourite former leader, without giving a thought to the demonstrably fulfilled prophecies of the Bible. In the process, leaders are potentially stealing the opportunity of their followers to be born into the family of God.
No wonder the Laodicean era has such a bad description.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour
If there's one thing the Laodicean era is held accountable for by God, it is the lies that are told. We think that we know it all, or as the Scriptures put it, we say we are "rich, increased in goods, and have need of nothing" (Rev 3:17), but God the Father and Jesus Christ respond in the same verse that in actual fact we are "wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked". Who should we believe?
Please read the page "THE TRUE CHURCH ERAS"
Thou shalt not covet
In addition to the covetousness involving God's tithes, some of the end time Churches of God love the pursuit of "estates". Even though the Scriptures implore people to leave an inheritance for their descendants and the law of Israel made sure that every 50 years all property went back to the families of its original owners, nothing seems to be considered a greater success than to pull in the estate of a deceased member or non member. The number of court cases this has led to is indeterminable, as the Churches do not usually divulge this information.
If there is a pure desire to faithfully represent God to outsiders, surely the taking of people's money and potential inheritances should be the last thing on the Church's mind. Surely we should be saying to relatives of those who have left their estates to the Church something like: "Please, you take the money, we don't need it and neither does God". Jesus Christ abhorred covetousness and strongly rebuked those "which devour widows' houses" (Mark 12:40).
What kind of an impression do we give of the true Church of God, when we go to court with people over money? What a dreadful, embarrassing, misrepresentation of God.
Christ said "Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth" (Matt 6:19).
Throughout the history of the Church of God, there is no recorded example of greed comparable to the pursuit of wealth witnessed in this Laodicean era.