On the 16th January 1986, Mr Herbert W Armstrong died. As many of you may know, until his death, he was the human leader of the Church of God, known at that time as the Worldwide Church of God. Some 25 years later, the Church of God is organisationally split asunder with many off-shoots. This was, in part, caused by apostasy that came to a head in the mid 1990’s when it became obvious that the intention of the new leadership was to dismantle the Church to suit a mainstream approach.
This was not new but it would be fair to say that one might have been expecting problems and persecutions from the outside, but not from the inside, as it turned out to be. As we take the Bible as our guide to life, we ought to consider what had happened to the Church in the first century, when there was clear evidence of problems even at that time.
Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:6 that Church members were to “withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” The doctrines taught by Christ and His disciples are to be safeguarded by “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground (foundation) of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). We know that Paul had to admonish the Corinthian Church about the many problems that plagued it, and we read in 3 John, verses 9 & 10, that Diotrophes loved to have the preeminence among the brethren and forbade true believers to attend the local Church congregation.
There is much more biblical evidence of false leaders and those being led away from the truth. However, we should also note that God uses and approves of those who are submissive to His Will and prove to be good leaders (not perfect of course), and whose hearts are right with God. A number of God’s followers in the Old Testament would fall into that category, as well as the disciples and early apostles and leaders in the New Testament Church. But often, when a leader dies, things change and not always for the best. The history of Israel and Judah are testament to that.
In the 20th century, there can be no question that Mr Armstrong submitted to God’s Will to be used in a mighty way in the Church of God. Since the apostasy after his death, so many have thought themselves to become experts, discounting this, dismissing that and generally trying to diminish the Church’s heritage, history and doctrinal understanding. What such people forget is that had God the Father and Jesus Christ not used Mr Armstrong, these same people would not have been drawn to the Church of God and given the understanding that they had received. It is true, of course, that God could have used someone else to restore the truth that had been lost to the Church of God in the 20th century, but He didn’t.
Then there are those who almost worship Mr Armstrong, giving him almost a status of being “divine” or a “pope,” saying that nothing could be changed after his death. But Mr Armstrong emphasized again and again that we must change when in error. He stated that such willingness was one of the signs of a true Christian. If it were otherwise, there could have been no personal growth in any Church member in the last 25 years, but we are instructed to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
Balance is needed instead of swinging from one ditch into the other. Mr Armstrong was a man of God but not one to be worshipped. If he were alive today, he would be amazed as to what has happened to the Church since his death. Or would he? Perhaps he had the vision of what would occur, as he made mention on several occasions that he didn’t think many or even most Church members “got it”.
God has used and will use whom He will. And He wants to use each and every one of us today, in extraordinary ways, preparing us to become glorified members in the Kingdom and Family of God. The question is, Are you allowing God to use you to do HIS Will?