Reflections: Whose Church Is It?

 18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18, King James Version)

Jesus said He would build His Church.  There are other verses that support this throughout the NT.  It is also called the “Church of God”, indicating that it, like everything else, belongs to the Father as well.

From here, some well-meaning and some not so well-meaning people will sometimes go off on a tangent.  They will then somehow link their activities to God and/or His calling, and justify whatever actions they are taking.  They may or may not be convincing.  They may or may not be right.  It is important to check their behavior and teachings against the Bible.

However, is that the end of the story?  It is God’s Church, and His representative is under God’s control and authority, and so that’s all there is to it, right?

Well, you’ll have to convince me that is the total reality.  God gave us a mind with free will.  Over and over in the Bible, we see some give and take.  Abraham argued with God.  Moses did as well.  While Abraham could not stop the destruction of Sodom, Moses did get God to relent from destroying all of Israel.  Samson called for water, and a spring arose from a crack in the ground.  Joshua even called for the sun to stand still in the sky, and God responded to his call.

When evangelical Christians say it is all about the relationship, they have a point.  We in the COG not only say God wants a family, but we say “God is a family,” at least in the respect that we take on His name, “God” in the English, and become His literal sons and daughters.  A family should be the strongest type of relationship that there is.  Christ will return and marry His bride, the Church.  Talk about relationship!

Men, if you are married, do you always get your way?  Does your wife ever have a different opinion?  Does she agree with 100% of what you say or do?

Men are told twice in Scripture to “love your wives” (Ep 5:25; Col 3:19).  If you truly love someone, do you ask their thoughts about things sometimes?  Do you give them what they want on special occasions?  Do you enjoy it when they are having fun or are enjoying some experience?

Relationships.

A man and a woman marry and have children and grow a family.  Does the family never do anything for the children?  Do the mother and father simply ignore the child’s wants and needs and only take care of their own?  Of course not.

It is important also to realize that families are not in a vacuum.  They have to obey the laws of the land as well.  As long as they do not transgress the laws of the land, the family can pretty much do what they want.  “A man is king of his castle” is an old saying.  Yet, he must obey the rules of the state he is in.

God deals with us in a similar manner.  He lays down rules that we are expected to obey – for our own benefit it should be added.  Within those laws, there is a lot of freedom of movement.

Some view God as a tyrant, sitting on a throne in the sky, watching for people to make a mistake, and then asking Gabriel to hand Him another lightning bolt when He sees someone doing wrong.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God gives us great freedom, and He allows us to reap what we sow.

Now consider another family relationship.  We are Christ’s younger brothers and sisters.

Christ, the firstborn, receives special honor.  The firstborn male traditionally inherited twice as much as the other siblings.  It was part of what we would now consider a retirement plan.  The firstborn was expected to take care of his parents in their old age, and as a reward he received an extra portion of the inheritance once they died.

 17And he [Christ] is before all things, and by him all things consist.

  18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:17-18, King James Version)

Did Peter have the “preeminence”?  No, my Bible says Christ does.  It is His right as the firstborn.

So, are we left without?

 12Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (Colossians 1:12, King James Version)

This and other verses show we too are inheritors!

As the firstborn, Christ receives the right to rule.  We must obey Him if we are to be part of His family.

A wife must obey her husband, and Christ’s bride is the Church.  What is His Church?  A building?  An organization that is registered with the government?  No, we are the Church!

 2Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s: (1 Corinthians 1:2, King James Version)

 23To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23, King James Version)

 20For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20, King James Version)

The Church is where the called out ones are gathered together.  Called by whom?

 44No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44, King James Version)

God the Father does the calling.  It is still a custom in some areas of the world for the parents to choose who marries their children.  God the Father chose Christ’s bride.  Therefore, it is God’s Church because He chose it, and it is Christ’s Church because He will marry it.

But is the Bride a silent partner with no voice?

 17And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17, King James Version)

Let’s be clear about something.  God calls us.  We don’t “join” a church as people tend to think of it.  God places us in His Church.  However, we have to respond!  Like Abram had to get up and go to a different land, so we must get up and go where God directs us.

It is a relationship where both parties have responsibilities.

As the Bride, we will inherit all things.  We are promised, as part of the firstfruits, to be kings and priests.

Do sons and daughters have a voice?  Do kings and priests have a voice?

Remember, as a called out one, you are the Church.  It is compared to a physical body in Paul’s writings.  What affects one affects all.  When one rejoices, all rejoice.  When one hurts, all hurt.

Dare I say it?  It is your Church, too!  That is, if you are a part of it, then you have some ownership in it as well.  You responded to the call.  You gave your tithes.  You sacrificed your time.  Hopefully, you have done much more than that, even.

As part of the body, it is every cell’s responsibility to fight cancer.  Each cell must detect when it is having problems and correct them.  We are told to tell others their faults – not because we want to be judgmental but because we need to stop the spread of cancer (sin).  If we do not, then we ourselves can become infected.

Can one man make a difference?  I think so, as long as God is with him.

 6And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

 7And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;

 8And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.

 9And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.

 10And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

 11Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.

 12Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:

 13And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. (Numbers 25:6-13, King James Version)

I’m not advocating violence.  It’s a sad world where I have to state that explicitly, but if you think I’m advocating violence, you are barking up the wrong tree.

However, Phinehas was a man of action.  He didn’t waver in what he knew was right.  He saw what was happening, and he took action.  Phinehas was not a silent bride.  Phinehas was submissive to God and not other men.  Phinehas saw the cancer and removed it in a manner acceptable for that time and place.  As a Levite in the priestly line, he had the authority to carry out the death penalty upon those who were bringing death to a nation.

Do we have that kind of courage?  Do we know the right course of action?  Do we tolerate evil in our midst?  Can we see the consequences of our and other’s actions and make a course correction as necessary?

We may feel powerless to change things, but Phinehas did not.  He knew his responsibilities, and he carried them out swiftly and expediently.  What are our responsibilities?  Do we bring our concerns to the elders and ministers of our church organization as appropriate?  Do we write study papers and send them to whomever is responsible for doctrinal decisions in our church?

Do we even take a stand?  Do we know where we stand?  If we don’t know what is right, then how will we ever teach others?  If we cannot reach out in love and show our (hopefully converted) church leaders where things have gone wrong now, then how will we deal with hostile people in the Millennium?

Whose Church is it?  It’s God the Father’s Church because He chose it.  It’s Christ’s Church because He will marry it.  It is our Church because we are the Church!

0 Comments

  1. I suspect you are writing this from the heart. Many of us an agonizing at present. What should we do? What can we do? What does God want us to do? Start yet another COG? Be a stay at home group? How do we preach the gospel? Write and speak to our ministers and COE? I have done that. But is that all I can do? Do I really know all the facts? Even with all the information on the internet and some private conversations, I still do not have all the facts. Can I therefore make an informed decision? I wonder if anybody can suggest a positive solution to all of this?

    If anything I wish the COE would give us all the facts. For example the change with the regional pastors. I would like to see the detailed financial analysis that lead to this decision. Perhaps it is available and I have missed it. There is too much hiding behind protecting confidentiality.

    When Christians have relationship problems, Matt 18 says that we are to take these problems to the entire church if private resolution is not successful. Is this such an occasion? Would the ministry be game to do this? I really don’t know, but the present situation really does trouble me, and many others.

  2. @BureaCat: No, I don't advocate Living Room COG unless that is the only valid option. People who go off on their own have a tendency to end up in the weeds, I'm afraid.

    Pretty much, my suggestion for the GCE to push the issue is pretty much bringing it before the church. I think it's time for some frank and open discussions.

    Who has all the facts? Well, it doesn't seem to be the laity at present. Maybe that's about to change … I hope.

  3. I think we have seen what bringing it before the church gets you! Ask Larry Salyer.

  4. I'm not even sure what Larry Salyer said that ticked them off so much. I wasn't there, and I haven't seen a transcript of what he said. Certainly, he makes it sound like it was just stating the papers were wrong and that he disagreed with them.

    So far, though, have any lay members been shown the door? I'm not aware of any.

  5. Take it to the church in Matt 18 means both sides presenting their case to the entire church affected by the dispute. Some have argued that church here refers to the ministry. However the Greek word means the entire congregation, which is how some translations translate it. If Mathew had meant the elders then there are other Greek words that he could have used. Other have argued that you could not take it to the entire congregation as this is a matter of private sin. However Mathew is not taking about some provide sin such as adultery or stealing, rather a relationship problem. In most cases the congregation would know about this sooner or later anyway.

    I don’t think how Salyer did it is what Matthew is about. However in my many years in the church I have never seen stage 3 practiced. Has anybody seen it done? Perhaps we would have less unresolved disputes if it was?

  6. "I'm not even sure what Larry Salyer said that ticked them off so much. I wasn't there, and I haven't seen a transcript of what he said."

    I wasn't there either but just by reading his letters he presented what he thought was doctrinal error to his congregations and apparently spent some time with them explaining how the two papers written from the HO were wrong. That was enough to get him the boot!

    Apparently disagreement is not tolerated. I think we both agree (from reading your posts) that the sabbath paper from HO had several errors and quite possibly represent a doctrinal change. Will we get booted as well.

    I'm sure glad I don't work for them!!

  7. David C. Pack, the leader of the Restored Church of God splinter group, wrote a 330-page book called "The Government of God–Understanding Offices and Duties."

    In his book, David Pack mentioned the United Church of God, though not by its actual name. Rather, he just called it "The Very Large, Paralyzed Splinter." David Pack wrote that, "The system this organization has created is literally fraught with political infighting and opportunity to climb."

    Whatever you might think of him, I am afraid that he might have been absolutely right on that particular point.

  8. @Anonymous:

    I see no logical reason why the "opportunity to climb" would be any less present in one-man rule groups, except that nobody can climb above the main leader until he dies.

  9. "Whose Church is it? It's God the Father's Church because He chose it. It's Christ's Church because He will marry it. It is our Church because we are the Church!"

    Good thoughts in this-I agree, however I would add this; (not that what you have is not good enough-it is-I guess this is just my two cents worth thrown in.) This is kind of like asking "Whose seventh day Sabbath is it"—(Mark 2:28) Which apparently needs asking, considering what UCG leaders have been saying lately. Church, from Matt.16:18 = #1577 ekklesia (ek-klay-see'-ah);— a calling out, i.e.— especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth –: (Strong's CC)
    "We are the Church" pertains to those spoken of here; Rom 8:14 "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." (RSV)
    The COG does not have a problem understanding the commandments of God. So it makes sense that the COG is actually the real owners of all those properties that have been paid for by their tithes and offerings-does it not? Will Satan be allowed to take them-once again, or should the faithful GCE step up and oust the bad guys before that happens? A divided house cannot stand anyway, so let those who want to travel a different road start from scratch this time. Let us get on with doing the work of God more affectively, as a part of the COG.

    The editor

  10. This reminds me of a series the Worldwide News ran after the events of the mid-1990's: "Why I'm Proud of My Church."

    The "proud" part is a red flag, all by itself. But I was also uncomfortable with the emphasis on it being my church, instead of God's and Christ's.

    It's interesting that amidst all this, Jerold Aust is the only UCG minister I've seen or heard bring up the dismissal of Juan Williams by National Public Radio.

    I think there are definite parallels — so I left a comment asking: if NPR was wrong and "politically correct" to fire Williams, is UCG wrong to suspend Larry Salyer? To this day, he hasn't replied.

  11. When it comes to dismissal, the events that have occured remind me about a story that a SDA pastor wrote, relating the issues involved with his dismissmal as a paid minister.

    After years of pastoring he and his wife came to the conclusion they no longer believed in the 3 angels messages. Looking at his writings he is no mental midget either, his explainations involved an indepth analysis of scripture not just emotional opinion slinging.

    His dismissal all happenned peaceably because he understood why he would be dismissed before it happenned. Which is the major difference between his story and what is currently happenning in the UCG.

    Under his employment all employees understand that to no longer believe in the 3 angels message means a person like that can no longer be a pastor. However it also means they still can be a member of that congregation.

    Given that the UCG structure is a fairly new interpretation of the scriptures and as far as I know it was the SDA that first warned the UCG about the possiblity of political infighting. There does seem to be a lack of clarity why people who have been given positions are now seeing them taken away.

    And it would not be far from observing that something can be termed more precisely as "religiously correctness", is involved surrounding these events as everyone discusses and gives their opinions on the matter.

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