AFTER you have come to a knowledge of the TRUTH, have repented and been baptized, and by the Holy Spirit been put into the true Church of GOD, is it all right to attend some other church?
Well, you might reply, here's the way I look at it --.
But WAIT! Stop right there!
If you have truly REPENTED, you have stopped using human reason and acting according to the way YOU look at it! If you had the faith in Christ as personal Saviour to be baptized into Him, you were accepting HIM as your Lord and Master, to obey what HE says -- not the way YOU look at it. If you have received God's Holy Spirit, it is to lead you into all TRUTH -- which means understanding of GOD'S WORD, and what it instructs on all these questions, so that you know WHAT to obey.
The Scriptural Answer
Therefore you will look into the Bible for your answer.
Suppose you live in an area where GOD'S Church has not yet established a local congregation. There is no place in reach for you to attend services UNLESS you attend some OTHER church.
It has seemed to many in this situation that, since Seventh Day Adventists keep the right DAY, it would be all right to attend the nearest church of their denomination. Besides, is it not NECESSARY to keep your children in Sabbath school?
It has come to our attention that several of our members have reasoned in this manner. Isn't it necessary, as a Christian duty, to attend regular church services?
The WORLD has its churches. The WORLD has its religions, replete with false teachings, false doctrines, and pagan practices. One of its basic beliefs and practices is that it is necessary to your salvation to ATTEND CHURCH. You see the slogan: ATTEND CHURCH along the highways on billboards. You read that slogan on the Saturday Church page of your daily newspaper. You see it in signs or bulletin boards posted outside church buildings. You hear it on radio and TV. You have been told by the WORLD ATTEND CHURCH so many times you have come to ASSUME, without thinking, that this is the teaching of your Bible.
But IS IT?
You may be surprised to know that there is only one passage in all the New Testament giving any direct instruction to assemble together with others: ... and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling OF OURSELVES together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Heb. 10:24-25).
Even there, it is not a direct command that you MUST assemble together with others in the church -- for the simple reason that God KNEW, when He inspired His instruction to us, that some would be living where there is no church to attend. Notice, the command is: NOT FORSAKING the assembling of ourselves together. If there is no church in which to assemble, you are not FORSAKING the assembling together. The very words: NOT FORSAKING mean you are not to ABANDON -- not to REFUSE assembling -- not to DESERT assembling. (See dictionary). It implies RUNNING AWAY FROM, or REFUSING TO assemble.
If you live close enough to one of GOD'S churches to attend His Sabbath services, and you refuse to attend, desert attending, abandon attending, or neglect it, then you are breaking this command.
But if you live where God does not have a church near enough to attend, then you are certainly not refusing, abandoning, or deserting attendance, because that attendance is not in your power.
Does this mean that God makes light of church attendance -- that it is not important -- that we ought not to attend? Not at all. The Sabbath is a HOLY CONVOCATION (Lev. 23:2), which is a COMMANDED assembly -- one you are COMMANDED to attend. But of course this command applies within realm of your ability. If you are confined to bed with sickness, you are UNABLE to attend. If you live two hundred miles away from GOD'S Church, you are UNABLE to attend with regularity.
During apostolic days many local churches were established. And so were the churches established ... (Acts 16:5); So ordain I in all churches said the Apostle Paul (I Cor. 7:17). Nothing is said about whether they had large and ornate buildings, but the implication is that they did not. Some merely met in the houses of members. The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church THAT IS IN THEIR HOUSE. (I Cor. 16:19). In Col. 4:15 you read of the church in Nymphas' house in Laodicea -- and this evidently was one of the important churches. There was a church in Philemon's house (Phile. 2).
However, Scripture teaches against brethren assembling in small groups in private homes WITHOUT A MINISTER TO LEAD THEM! You read in Acts 14:23 that Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in EVERY church. There were no churches without ordained leaders. If you did not read the article in The GOOD NEWS on this point of a few brethren in a locality meeting together when there is no minister, write in for it. THIS OUR MEMBERS ARE FORBIDDEN TO DO!br/>
Attending OTHER Churches?
But now what about attending some OTHER church?
HOW does God say we must worship Him? You see signs and slogans in the world to this effect: Let every man worship God ACCORDING TO THE DICTATES OF HIS OWN CONSCIENCE. But that is contrary to GOD'S instruction.
To a woman of the world, Jesus said: Ye worship ye know not what. Then He said: God is a SPIRIT: and they that worship Him MUST worship Him in SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH. (John 4:22,24). God will not accept worship according to the dictates of man's conscience. To be acceptable to Him you MUST worship Him in SPIRIT -- that is, you must have within you HIS Holy Spirit, which He gives only to them that OBEY Him (Acts 5:32) and you must worship Him IN TRUTH. What is TRUTH? Jesus said Thy Word is truth.
You must worship Him according to the BIBLE!
With whom are we to have FELLOWSHIP? The Apostle John, in his first letter, declared God's TRUTH in order that ye may have fellowship with us ... showing we can have fellowship ONLY with those who know and obey the TRUTH. Do you know any OTHER Church that knows, believes, preaches, and OBEYS the TRUTH? -- that keeps the true Sabbath, and ALSO God's Holy days and Festivals; that knows the Resurrection was on the Sabbath and the crucifixion on Wednesday; that knows God's PURPOSE is that we, now MORTAL, are to be begotten, and then, after a life of overcoming, growing in knowledge of Christ and in grace, developing godly CHARACTER, are to be BORN of God at which time we BECOME divine members of the very God family; that the soul is mortal; that this is not the time God is trying to save the world, but only His first-fruits; that Christ is coming to rule all nations with God's WORLD GOVERNMENT, ON EARTH, for a thous and years; that the Gospel is the Message of the KINGDOM OF GOD, which is both the world-GOVERNMENT of God and the FAMILY of God into which we may be born; and many other TRUTHS held and proclaimed ONLY by this one and only TRUE Church of God!
No other church on earth knows, obeys, and proclaims this TRUTH of God!
YOU are to have fellowship ONLY with those who know and obey the TRUTH!
Now continue what John says about fellowship: ... that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly OUR FELLOWSHIP IS WITH THE FATHER, AND WITH HIS SON JESUS CHRIST. (I John 1:3).
Our fellowship is, first of all, WITH God the Father, and WITH Jesus Christ! If I have fellowship with Christ, and YOU have fellowship with Christ, then HE joins you and me together in fellowship. You can not have true Christian fellowship with ANY, except those who also have fellowship with God the Father and with Christ.
But WHO does have fellowship with God? Just anybody? Members of worldly churches? LISTEN! If we say that we have fellowship with HIM, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the TRUTH: but if we WALK IN THE LIGHT, as He is in the light (truth), we have fellowship one with another. (Verses 6-7).
Brethren, that narrows fellowship -- assembling together for worship -- down to ONLY those who are in God's TRUTH -- the true LIGHT -- and who OBEY it. And that means ONLY those whom God has, by His Holy Spirit, put into HIS TRUE CHURCH. We are barred from fellowship or worship with any others.
The Church of God at Corinth was threatened with division. It needed correction. WHY? One preferred Paul as a minister, another wanted to follow Apollos, another Peter, and some Christ. Listen to Paul's correction:
God is faithful, by whom ye were called UNTO THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, THAT YE ALL SPEAK THE SAME THING, and there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (I Cor. 1:9-10).
We must have fellowship only with Jesus Christ, and those who are together in the TRUTH -- all speaking the same TRUTH.
Now suppose you try to find fellowship with members of a Seventh Day Adventist church. They may worship ON THE RIGHT DAY, but they do not keep God's annual Sabbaths and Festivals; they do not proclaim the true Gospel of the KINGDOM OF GOD which is to rule THE EARTH for the millennium; they do not believe we are to be actually born into the divine, glorified FAMILY or Kingdom of God; and they do break the second Commandment with their many idolatrous pictures of a long-haired man they falsely call Christ; they do believe lies and errors, such as their Sanctuary Question, Investigative Judgment, Mrs. White's inspiration as God's Prophet; going to heaven, etc., etc.
Suppose you try to find fellowship with Baptists, Church of Christ, Methodists. They believe in the immortality of the soul -- if they have not gone Modernist -- they do not OBEY God's Law and therefore cannot have His Holy Spirit. There is no basis whatsoever for fellowship with them. They are deceived and carnal. They are of the UNFRUITFUL WORKS OF DARKNESS!
God commands you: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; FOR WHAT FELLOWSHIP HATH RIGHTEOUSNESS (keeping of God's Commandments) WITH UNRIGHTEOUSNESS? AND WHAT COMMUNION HATH LIGHT (TRUTH) WITH DARKNESS? ...WHEREFORE COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM, AND BE YE SEPARATE, SAITH THE LORD. (II Cor. 6:14-17).
IN, But Not OF the World
All this does not mean that we cannot have any contacts with the world, or people of other beliefs. It does not mean that you cannot buy groceries or merchandise in a store staffed with unbelievers, or with professing Christians of other beliefs.
Paul clears this up: I did not mean you were literally to avoid contact with the immoral of this world, with the lustful and the thievish, or with idolaters; in that case you would have to leave the world altogether. What I now write is that you are not to associate with any SO-CALLED BROTHER ... Associate with him? Do not even eat with him. (I Cor. 5:10-11 Moffatt translation).
We are not to have social or religious FELLOWSHIP -- close friendship -- with any except those who know and OBEY the TRUTH. We must not try to WORSHIP with them -- attend their churches.
In Jesus' last prayer for His Church -- FOR US! -- He prayed the Father: I have given them THY WORD and the world hath hated them, because they are not OF the world, even as I am not OF the world. I pray NOT that thou shouldst take them OUT OF the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil. (John 17:14-15).
Again God instructs through Paul Have NO FELLOWSHIP with the unfruitful works of darkness. (Eph. 5:11).
You can WORSHIP GOD three times a day -- in a private room, behind closed doors -- on your knees, in prayer. DO YOU?
You can have FAMILY WORSHIP in your own home -- husband, wife, and children -- every morning. DO YOU?
You can join THOUSANDS of our own Church brethren in DAILY WORSHIP, by sitting quietly before your radio while The WORLD TOMORROW program is on the air. DO YOU?
If you hunger for fellowship, remember you can, and MUST, for true worship, have regular daily fellowship with Christ, and with God the Father, to whom Christ has given you direct access in prayer!
Should You Admit Jehovah Witnesses?
When the so-called Jehovah Witnesses come to your door, should you admit them?
Well, the way I look at it, some might say, is this: it would be discourteous not to admit them, and that would not be 'Christian,' would it?
BUT HOW DOES GOD LOOK AT IT?
God says My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, SAITH THE LORD. (Isa. 55:8).
What does God COMMAND?
For many deceivers (including Jehovah Witnesses) are entered into the world ... Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not (obeys not) in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God ... If there come any unto you, and bring not THIS DOCTRINE (of Christ, and of God's true Church), RECEIVE HIM NOT INTO YOUR HOUSE, neither bid him God-speed: for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds. (II John 7-11)
These Jehovah Witness people DO NOT OBEY GOD! They ARGUE against God's Commandments, and especially against the Sabbath. Reports reach us of scores of them who lie when they say I was formerly a member of their sect. So do some Seventh Day Adventists lie, or at least willingly misrepresent, when they say I formerly was one of them.
Both of these sects will argue Scripture, in a spirit of contention, which your Bible forbids. Jehovah Witness people especially will argue AGAINST God's Law. They DO transgress God's Law, and they abide NOT in the doctrine of CHRIST. Therefore their deeds are EVIL. God says you, also, are partaker with them of their evil deeds if you receive them into your home.
Shall you, then, be discourteous or un-Christian? Of course not. When these people come to your door, just smile and tell them politely, but FIRMLY, you are not interested -- you do not discuss religion -- and BE CLOSING YOUR DOOR as you say it, and be sure you DO close it as soon as you have said merely that short sentence. Do NOT give them any chance to talk back, or continue the conversation, or get you into an argument.
YOU CANNOT CHANGE THEM! You cannot talk them into the TRUTH! If you already KNOW the truth, they cannot deceive you with their false teachings, or talk YOU into anything. Any further conversation with one of these people are IDLE WORDS, for which you shall have to give account in the judgment!
The GREATEST Danger of ALL
But all these temptations to ensnare you into the world -- into false doctrines -- into forbidden fellowship or false worship are mild compared to the ONE IN OUR VERY MIST, HARDEST OF ALL TO RESIST!
That is the impulse to listen to the professed BROTHER in the Church -- one supposedly of our own membership -- who begins to say to you -- or to a group standing on the Tabernacle grounds -- that he is not quite sure he agrees with something one of God's ministers said -- or with something said on the WORLD TOMORROW program -- or with something in one of our magazines or booklets or articles.
Several times -- in fact, almost every Festival -- someone on the grounds will approach one or two members, with an argument, or interpretation of his own of some point or question of Scripture, which is contrary to the doctrine of GOD'S OWN CHURCH.
Usually a crowd begins to gather quickly. It seems MANY are such dumb sheep -- so naive and unthinking, and ready to be deceived by Satan -- that they are ALL EARS at once! This sort of thing seems to stimulate a certain excitement -- an interest, to see what this fellow has to say, that many of you members just can't resist crowding up to hear him! It seems to fascinate you!
Now LISTEN TO GOD'S TEACHING! The Apostle Paul, speaking his farewell to the elders of the large Church of God at Ephesus, said:
I KNOW THIS, that after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also OF YOUR OWN SELVES shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30).
THAT DID HAPPEN IN THAT CHURCH!
The GREATEST DANGER OF ALL is when one who is among us, supposed to be one of us, approaches you with some doctrine or interpretation CONTRARY to that of God's Church, and of God's ministers.
Whether it be a so-called Jehovah witness or even one supposedly a member of God's own Church, remember THIS COMMAND:
If there come ANY unto you -- it does not say member of ANOTHER church -- it says if ANY come unto you -- AND BRING NOT THIS DOCTRINE, RECEIVE HIM NOT INTO YOUR HOUSE ... -- DON'T LISTEN TO HIM!
IF you see a little group gathering around a man or woman on the Tabernacle grounds -- or at your local church -- and this person is dis agreeing with God's ministers or God's Church, REPORT THIS TO A MINISTER OR DEACON AT ONCE!
There have been at least two different WOMEN who have come to the Tabernacle either at Passover time or at the Feast of Tabernacles, who devoted themselves busily to trying to teach different and false doctrines -- especially to the women. WE HAVE HAD TO PUT THEM OFF THE GROUNDS, and forbid them to return. One woman tried to argue contrary doctrines PRIVATELY, in the tents and steel booths of members, hoping not to be seen, or caught by one of the ministers.
It is your duty to report such an activity to a minister or deacon IMMEDIATELY!
Didn't I Say, LISTEN?
But some will say, But didn't you say, over the air, for us to LISTEN to you, and also to LISTEN to all others, but not to believe you, and not to believe the others, but believe what we see in the Bible?
BRETHREN! When I speak ON THE AIR, I am speaking to the outside WORLD -- to the unconverted. I am not speaking just to those who should already KNOW the truth.
These people all around the world, who listen to me on the radio, do not know whether I am a false prophet, a minister of God, or WHAT. To them, YES, I say, DO NOT BELIEVE MEN -- BELIEVE YOUR BIBLE!
That is what you should have done -- before you knew the TRUTH. Probably it was because you did do that, that you saw the TRUTH with your own eyes in your Bible. Perhaps THAT is what brought you INTO the truth, and led you to God's one and only true Church!
To people who do not KNOW that this is the ONLY true Church of God, I do say those very things.
But to you who have PROVED this is GOD'S CHURCH, it is different.
BUT, you say, are you no longer supposed to PROVE ALL THINGS, by your own BIBLE? Yes, of course you are!
Then is it wrong for you to PROVE THESE THINGS FOR YOURSELF, in your own Bible? Not at all! What we say is, DO NOT LISTEN ANY LONGER to those who bring a DIFFERENT doctrine! If you have already seen these truths for yourself -- already PROVED them in your own Bible -- already proved this is the true Church of God, then GOD'S TEACHING, as I have shown you in this article from the BIBLE, is, DO NOT LISTEN to those who bring a different doctrine.
In God's Church, we ministers do not tell you what to believe, and command you to believe us, without even looking into your Bible. That is what the Roman Catholic Church does -- but not God's Church.
Of what does the preaching of God's ministers consist? Do we not PREACH THE WORD, just as we are commanded? (II Tim. 4:1-2). Do not our sermons to you in the Church consist of EXPOUNDING the Scriptures -- of PROVING to you, in your own Bibles, the true doctrines of God?
What about the articles we write? Do they not consist of expounding the Scriptures, PROVING the truth by the Scriptures, so you can see these things for yourselves IN YOUR OWN BIBLES? Is not that what I am doing NOW, in this very article? Am I now asking you to merely believe ME -- to take my word, without proving it to you by GOD'S WORD?
But suppose, when you study your own Bible, you come across something you feel is contrary to the teaching of the Church? Must you hide your eyes from what you see in your Bible? CERTAINLY NOT!
Well then, can you go to other members with it, to set them straight? CERTAINLY NOT -- that would only tend to CAUSE DIVISION. The Bible teaches that we must all SPEAK THE SAME THING.
Well, what shall you do, then?
LISTEN! UNDERSTAND THIS! You MUST NOT go to any other member with what you feel you have found is contrary to the Church's teaching. Instead, YOU MUST BRING IT TO THE MINISTERS! If you are a member of a local congregation, take it to your pastor. Go into it WITH HIM -- but with NO ONE ELSE, lest you foment division, and be cast out of the Church! If there is no local pastor, bring it to one of God's ministers, or write it to HEADQUARTERS.
God's ministers will go into it with you. If you are right -- if you have found any place in the Bible where we are in error, then WE WANT TO KNOW IT. We hate error, and love truth, even though the truth correct and reprove us! Bring it to us. If YOU are wrong, we will patiently show you, and explain it more perfectly to you. If we are wrong, we will correct it BEFORE THE WHOLE CHURCH, so that ALL the Church may, with one mind, believe the TRUTH, and speak the SAME THING!
If any other member comes to YOU to point out where the Church is wrong -- DO NOT LISTEN! Rather, TELL HIM TO TAKE IT TO THE CHURCH! And then report him to Headquarters.
This, Brethren, is the ONLY way we can have unity!
AUTHORITY of the Church
When you repented, you repented of rebellion against God and His government. You surrendered to OBEY God's government. And God carries out His government THROUGH HIS CHURCH!
Has God given His Church AUTHORITY to determine DOCTRINE? Yes, indeed He has.
In the Apostolic days God set up His HEADQUARTERS Church at Jerusalem. There are some matters of doctrine, or procedure, which do not appear plain to all members alike in the Scriptures. One such example was the matter of whether physical circumcision was still to be practiced. The Church at Antioch was divided, and in doubt. This could have split up the church. But they took it to the Headquarters Church at Jerusalem, where the largest number of highest ranking ministers was located.
God, through His Holy Spirit, LED THIS CHURCH to settle this doctrinal dispute GOD'S WAY. The decision of the Headquarters Church WAS NOT THE DECISION OF PETER AND THE APOSTLES -- it was the decision of GOD, as He led them to understand, and to settle it. The brethren at Antioch WERE REQUIRED TO ACCEPT THIS DECISION, and Church was kept in UNITY, all speaking the same thing -- and the thing inspired by GOD!
Today God has His Headquarters Church, where the largest number of highest ranking ministers are located.
One subject the members could not all see alike, or agree on, was that of women wearing lip-stick and make-up. The leading ministers of God's Headquarters Church went into a very thorough study of this question. We had no set opinions of our own. We sought only GOD'S truth.
God led His Church into His TRUTH. But we did not command the women to follow OUR personal ideas, like human dictators. We rendered GOD'S decision, as He revealed it to His Church -- and we published a long article in The GOOD NEWS, explaining fully the Scriptural teaching so that every member could see this in his or her Bible. But when the CHURCH settled it or rather when GOD settled it through His Church -- that is FINAL, unless one can bring to the Church evidence of error, and the CHURCH OFFICIALLY alters its decision.
Another example: One of MANY things the Church MUST do, where there is no definite Scriptural direction whatsoever regarding some phase of it, is this: We are COMMANDED to take the Passover. We are COMMANDED to take the wine, as well as the unleavened bread. That much is PLAIN TO ALL. But one phase of doing this which is NOT made plain in the Scripture is HOW, or by WHAT METHOD, the wine is to be passed and taken by each one.
Many will say: Since Jesus took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves (Luke 22:17), therefore Jesus meant to divide it into several small glasses, and each drink of it from a separate glass.
But this year at the Passover, one member declared there should be just the one great big Texas-size cup, and all 792 who took of it should have put their lips to this same big cup -- no matter if it took all night and all the next day to pass the one cup to so many!
In such cases, the individual member does NOT have authority to determine God's will -- THE CHURCH has authority to determine the procedure FOR THE WHOLE CHURCH!
God did not give us one absolutely plain Scripture on HOW this wine was to be divided among us. Jesus did say: DIVIDE it among yourselves. Therefore, GOD has shown His CHURCH that, since God is not the author of confusion, and all things must be done decently and in order, that the ORDERLY way to DIVIDE the wine among 792 people is to divide it into 792 small glasses, provided specially for this very purpose. There is NO BIBLE TEACHING saying, as this man said, that all must put their mouths to the same one and only cup! Therefore, the CHURCH HAS RULED! That ruling has the AUTHORITY OF GOD! Every member is COMMANDED, by the government of GOD in His Church, to partake of the Passover as the Church has been inspired to rule. Any member is perfectly free to come to the Headquarters Church to present any reasons he may have why he thinks the Church ought to rule otherwise.
But, so long as he remains a member in the fellowship of God's Church, he is NOT free to voice his contrary doctrine to any other members, or to do otherwise, but obey the Church's commands, which, in such a case, ARE THE COMMANDS OF GOD! Otherwise, he is coming with a different doctrine -- he is causing division, tending to stir up strife and introduce confusion -- and he must be MARKED, and disfellowshipped, and refused permission to be in the fellowship of any of our brethren!
This is GOD'S WAY of preserving UNITY! This is GOD'S WAY of leading us all to SPEAK THE SAME THING, and insuring that it be the very thing GOD wills, not our human will.
The Church at Eugene, Oregon, was split over a division of human opinion on HOW to count 50 -- and on setting the right day for all the Church to assemble for the Feast of Pentecost. This split was STARTED by TWO WOMEN! Only the CHURCH has authority to determine such matters for ALL THE CHURCH. Otherwise there is confusion. Those carnal minded members who rebelled are no longer in God's Church. But the Church of God goes joyfully on, and on, constantly GROWING, and as God's instrument, doing the Work of God WORLD-WIDE, producing FRUIT, having God's continued and abundant BLESSINGS!
These things, dear Brethren, we speak to you, that all may understand, and that we may be drawn closer and closer to the TRUTH, in harmony, and the SPIRIT OF GOD and GOD'S LOVE! Thus, and only thus, do we have God's blessing!
by Herbert W. Armstrong