Some Jehovah’s Witnesses left a little while ago. I do believe that this is the first time ever they offered to come back after mentioning the 7th day Sabbath. I don’t expect they will change their minds, nor that they will change mine, but it should keep me on my toes.
I was thinking about Mr Herbert W Armstrong (HWA) yesterday. There really is an interesting mix of opinions about him on the net. Oddly enough, it seems that some would stuff him and put him up on a pedestal to bow down and worship while others would condemn him for heinous acts based upon hearsay. What they call “proof” would be thrown out of any courtroom. Even the charges of plagiarism probably would not have resulted in a guilty verdict given the laws of the times (even famous writers were accused of plagiarism in the courtroom of public opinion, but rarely did it ever go to a real court). However, he was very much a human being and made some pretty serious mistakes even when you discount much of the slander.
He’s been dead for 23 years. That means anyone who graduated college last spring probably does not remembering ever seeing or hearing him except from a tape or a YouTube video. And yet, those tapes and clips exist. That in itself shows the mark he left. And, let me shock everyone I know, I will further state that he was a great man. However, you’ll have to read on to see what I mean by that.
It was the 7th day Sabbath that was the hook for HWA. He insisted that the Bible said, “Thou shalt keep Sunday.” His wife handed him a Bible and asked him to prove it. At the same time, he was challenged by an in-law about the theory of evolution. Obviously, proving which day was the Sabbath is quite irrelevant if God doesn’t exist in the first place, so he put his sights on that issue first. He noted that much of the evidences for evolution are not in themselves proof, how many of the assumptions early evolutionists made were proven wrong, but the biggest hurdle of all was the human mind. Then, he learned about the circular reasoning involved in looking at fossils. After proving to himself that there had to be a Creator God, though, he next tackled the Sabbath question.
The really interesting thing is that his study of creation and the 7th day Sabbath turned out to be the study of the same thing! The 7th day Sabbath was “the creation memorial”, he wrote in his autobiography. He diligently sough the command "Thou shalt keep Sunday”, but it simply did not exist. Even searching for phrases containing the “first day of the week” brought disappointment to his search to refute his wife on the Sabbath issue. Instead, he had to admit the Sabbath was on the 7th day of the week, and that it was a memorial of the true Creator God!
I found there is no command to observe Sunday. Sunday is nowhere called holy time, but to my chagrin, I found this "Jewish Sabbath" is, and is said to be holy to God. There was not even a single example of any religious meeting having been held on the hours called Sunday!
On the other hand, I had to learn, like it or not, that Jesus kept the Sabbath day "as His custom was," and the Apostle Paul kept it "as his manner was." Also Paul spent many Sabbath days preaching and holding weekly services, and in one instance the Gentiles waited a whole week in order to be able to come and hear Paul preach the same words on the following Sabbath!
…I found it in the SPECIAL SABBATH COVENANT in Exodus 31:12-18. He made it the SIGN between Him and His people. A SIGN is a mark of identity. First, it is a sign that GOD is the CREATOR, because it is a MEMORIAL OF CREATION — the CREATION is the PROOF of God — it identifies Him. No other space of time could be a memorial of CREATION. Thus God chose that very space of time for man to assemble for worship which KEEPS MAN IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUE IDENTITY OF GOD AS THE CREATOR. Every nation which has NOT kept the Sabbath has worshipped the created rather than the Creator. It is a sign that identifies God’s own people, because it is they who OBEY God in this commandment, while this is the very commandment which everyone else regards as the LEAST of the commandments — which they REBEL against obeying!
He then realized that all these churches were wrong! They teach that God’s Law has been done away, but Paul wrote:
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
~ Ro 3:31
His willingness to not give in to pride or to “get back” at his wife with dishonest arguments speaks volumes. Many say he was filled with pride, but on more than this occasion, he admitted he was wrong and made changes as God directed him.
Perhaps that’s why whenever someone writes “he never repented”, I have to wonder, no matter what the accusation is. Does this person know the thoughts of someone at night? Is that person privy to another’s prayers that go up before God?
for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
~ 1Sa 16:7b
We need to be careful about judging motives or even the spiritual state of an individual, as we can only see the outside of a man. The standard by which we judge will be used to judge us!
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
~ Mt 7:1-2
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
~ Ro 2:1
About a week ago, I posted an “Interesting Two Witness Question” I came across on the net. David Ben-Ariel had posted in “Two Witnesses in Jerusalem” the question if the Two Witnesses would be welcomed by the Church of God! I wonder.
Was King David a great man? Careful how you answer that question. If King David was a great man, then so was HWA. They were great men not because they were great, if you know what I mean. They were great because God is great, and God worked through them for mighty purposes! It was God in them that made them great!
King David was a man after God’s own heart. He was accused of adultery. He was accused of murder. And the accusations were true! How many in the Church would have followed after his son Absalom after those events? I wonder.
So, here are my questions:
- Should we be ashamed of the actions of some leaders in God’s Church?
- Should we try to forget the Church’s history?
- Should we reject everything because so-and-so leader happened to be human?
- Should we dwell on the failings or virtues of men? Should we question their calling? Should we put them on a pedestal?
- Does the messenger change the message? If the postman is a dirty, rotten scoundrel, then are the letters he delivers any more or less accurate?
- Is the truth absolute? Can it be known with God’s help?
It is my sincere hope that the answers are pretty straight-forward, at least in theory.
When my JW friends return, I am not going to be afraid of our past. I may even share with them one man’s struggle to understand why mainstream churches seemed to be doing just the opposite of what the Bible says. I will certainly share with them the revelation that the Sabbath stands as God’s memorial to His creation. However, it is Jesus Christ Who is my mediator, not HWA, GTA, EGW or especially not any minister alive today who tries to steal the mantle of a dead man.