Well, the UCG GCE meeting has completed. As usual, there are the comments about “church government” that seems to accompany every UCG GCE meeting. Many like to quote HWA’s doctrine on church government from his book Mystery of the Ages:
Old Testament Israel, the Church of the Old Testament, was also a nation in the world–though not OF the world as God organized it. Its GOVERNMENT was HIERARCHICAL. It was theocratic government–government from the top down–the very opposite of "democracy."
The CHURCH is organized under theocratic government, hierarchical in form. The members do not set officials in the Church. God sets EVEN THE LAY MEMBERS in the Church (I Cor. 12:18).
Jesus said explicitly, "No MAN CAN come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). The world, except for the specially called, is CUT OFF from God!
We have just covered the truth that GOD set officials to serve on the human level under Christ, in the Church. Members do not elect them. Yet in the churches of this world some believe in government by the entire congregation–"democracy"–and call themselves "Congregational." Others have organized themselves into government by ministers or presbytery and call themselves "Presbyterian." Some follow Luther and call themselves "Lutheran." Some follow Wesley, who was strong on "method," and call themselves "Methodist." Some learned God’s truth about baptizing and call their church after the name of that one doctrine, "Baptist." One wanted complete universal world dominion, and called itself "Catholic," which means "universal." What is the name of the Church Jesus founded?1
~ HWA, MOA
The people who quote this, however, seem to completely ignore the fact that HWA changed his view on government over time.
The word "apostle" means "one sent." The definition in Cruden’s Concordance is "one sent forth. Used as referring (1) chiefly to one of the 12 disciples of Christ; or (2) to any of various other followers of Christ who did evangelistic work."
An apostle does not mean one IN authority, but one UNDER authority — one SENT by the authority of another! The only power and authority Jesus ever gave even His original twelve was to heal the sick, and cast out demons. And He SENT them, not to rule, but to PREACH — not to BEAR authority, but to MINISTER, to serve!
Nowhere in the Scripture do we find the slightest hint that the twelve constituted a higher-up church board, and nowhere were they even given power to rule, or govern, or decide what doctrines the other disciples must believe.
…How, then, did ORGANIZATION, and the idea of CHURCH GOVERNMENT get into the Church?
It came out of BABYLON! Spiritual BABYLON — that is, ROME! The same as nearly all other false doctrines of Satan.2
~ HWA, Did Christ Reorganize The Church?
The real questions boil down to: 1. Are you going to follow a man or God? 2. What does the Bible really say about it?
In reality, these are both the same question. The answer needs to come from the Bible. We are warned over and over again about following men.
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
~ Ac 20:30
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
~ Mt 7:15
But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
~ 2Ti 3:13
The answer is to turn to God’s word. He wrote it down for our benefit. We need to turn to Him instead of men.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
~ Ac 5:29
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
~ Heb 1:1-2
Even well-intentioned men can be wrong. Even God’s ministers can be wrong. We must be cognizant that all of us are deceived and have blind spots.
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
~ Rev 12:9 (emphasis mine)
The real problem with backing up something from HWA’s doctrines is that he was a man. He was a great tool used by God, no doubt, but he was still human. He had blind spots, as do you and I. While MOA is a useful systematic look at COG theology, it is not the Bible. We need to accept that the Bible was closed for this age.
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
~ Rev 22:18-20
This bears repeating because we need to consider whether or not the head of the Church is God or man.
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
~ 1Co 11:3
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
~ Ep 4:15
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
~ Ep 5:23
Is there a parallel in the Bible, though? Yes, there is! Ancient Israel had anarchy because they had no physical king (Jdg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Yet, it is revealed that they had no physical king because God was supposed to be their king! Yet, it is the human condition to want a physical ruler to be placed over the people.
But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
~ 1Sa 8:6-7
I want to point out, though, that God did not leave Israel without human government! Elders were appointed over the tribes. As needed, God raised up prophets and judges. Samuel himself was a judge. In fact, Samuel’s sons were judges, and it was their corrupt nature that tripped up Israel, causing them to desire a king.
God’s (and Samuel’s) displeasure was not because of human government, then, as much as it was a “one-man government”! They wanted a king, just as all of the other nations around them had.
Likewise, there are some COG organizations that want a human “pope” similar to how the world’s churches want a human “pope”, “pastor general” or “apostle” over them.
Each tribe of Israel would have had a leader, an elder of the elders, if you will. The Levite head would have been the High Priest. There essentially would have been 12 elders as heads of their families.
There were 12 Apostles, each of which will rule over the 12 tribes of Israel in the World Tomorrow (Mt 19:28). The power was divided amongst themselves. There was no “supremacy of Peter” recorded in Scripture. In fact, such a move would go against the words of Jesus as He rebuked His disciples more than once over who would be the greatest amongst them:
But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
~ Mk 10:42-44
There was to not be a greatest! They were to be servants instead (Mt 18:1-4; Mk 9:34).
It was not God’s idea to work through “one man”, a physical king, in Israel. To use the OT nation of Israel as an example of a hierarchy using “one man” also ignores a couple of other points:
- There were two kingdoms. If God only worked through one man at a time, then the dividing of the Kingdom of Israel was not from God. Yet, clearly, it was His idea to rend a large portion of the kingdom from Solomon’s son (1Ki 11:11).
- The king oversaw the civil government, but there still was a High Priest to rule over the religious portion. Again, it obviously wasn’t God’s idea to work through one man.
As we have seen, hearkening to the NT is self-defeating for the “one man” concept as well. In addition to the points already made, consider:
- John the Baptist was used by God. For a time, John and Jesus both held baptisms (Jn 3:22-23, 26). If God intended to only work through one man, then John would have been sinning by this action.
- The disciples forbad a man from casting out demons in Jesus’ name. However, Jesus said to not stop him. If God only works through one man, then the man was a sinner for his actions considering that he did not follow Jesus. Furthermore, this would have made Jesus a sinner because He sanctioned the man’s actions.
- Saul was struck down on the road to Damascus and converted. He started preaching right away (Ac 9:10-22). He did not go up to Jerusalem to surrender to the head of the physical Church (Gal 1:11-12, 17-19). He didn’t even go to Peter when he did go up to Jerusalem but only saw James! If God only works through one man, then Saul/Paul was sinning by preaching Jesus.
- Paul even encouraged others to sin, if God only works through one man. He was rejoicing that others preached Jesus, even if it was through strife and envy (Php 1:13-18)!
When all is said and done, there not only is no Biblical basis for the concept that God only works through “one man”, but there is plenty of Biblical support for the opposite.
- Armstrong, Herbert W. (n.d.). Chapter VI: Mystery of the Church. In Mystery of the Ages. Retrieved from http://home.sprynet.com/~pabco/chap6.htm
- Armstrong, Herbert W. (n.d.). Did Christ Reorganize The Church? Retrieved from http://home.sprynet.com/~pabco/reorgch.htm