|Live Services||Who You Are!|
|Editorial||How to Study!|
|Q&A||Is it a Biblical obligation or merely a Church tradition that God's ministry officiate during a wedding or burial of Church members?|
Who You Are!
On Saturday, January 22, 2005, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “Who You Are!”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
How to Study!
by Norbert Link
Why is there so much confusion in the world, when it comes to understanding the Bible? Why is even God’s Church sometimes not immune from misinterpretations and wrong ideas about certain aspects of God’s Word?
The simple answer is that God must reveal His truth to us — but we must be His followers; that is, we must be willing, humble participants. We must replace our own human wisdom with the knowledge of God. We must give up our own ideas, speculations and concepts, and let God teach us His unalterable truth.
A most important key to gaining true Biblical understanding is to let the Bible interpret the Bible. Rather than trying to force our own human ideas upon a Scripture, we must follow God’s instructions to search all the Scriptures and to add “here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:10), until a full and clear picture emerges.
Let us take the concept of the gospel as an example. There are perhaps as many ideas as to what the gospel is, as there are Christian churches, all claiming to be part of the Body of Christ. If one were to only look at all the Scriptures on this topic of the gospel, there would be no need for confusion.
The gospel is most and foremost defined as “the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:14-15). As there is only ONE gospel (Galatians 1:6-10), any other designation and description of the gospel must be looked upon as describing certain aspects and characteristics of the one and only gospel — that of the Kingdom of God. Far too many look at these descriptions as alternate or additional gospels. One famous evangelist once told Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong (who died 19 years ago, on January 16, 1986): “You are doing a great work proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of God, while I am doing a great work proclaiming the gospel of grace.”
However, the gospel of grace (compare Acts 20:24) is just a description as how to enter God’s Kingdom. It is by grace — God offers to us entrance into His Kingdom through grace or unmerited pardon.
The gospel of the Kingdom of God is also the gospel of Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1; Romans 1:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; compare Romans 1:9), and of God the Father (Romans 1:1) — as it is Their message (gospel just meaning good news), which They proclaim to man. It is a glorious gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4 (Authorized Version); compare 1 Timothy 1:11), and when we identify with it, it has become “our” gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3; compare Romans 2:16). It is an eternal or everlasting gospel (Revelation 14:6), proclaiming the everlasting truth that man can obtain eternal life. It is a gospel or good news of peace (Ephesians 6:15), as God’s Kingdom will establish peace on earth. This very same gospel of the Kingdom of God was proclaimed to Abraham (Galatians 3:8). It is the gospel of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13), because when we enter the Kingdom of God, as born again members of the Family of God, we have obtained our eternal and ultimate salvation.
Rather than teaching different gospels, the gospel of the Kingdom of God can be described in many different ways, but all these descriptions only contribute to the essence of the one true gospel (For more information, please read our free booklet, “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.”)
When we study the Bible, we must submit to God and His wisdom. We must follow God’s directives to search all the Scriptures and to read them, “here a little, there a little,” until we can see clearly the all-encompassing truth on a given matter.
It is a joy, reassuring and very rewarding to do so — as long as we do it right.
This Week in the News
President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address
As The Associated Press reported on January 20, 2005, “President Bush sought in his second inaugural speech to define his new term as a fight for freedom in every nation with the ‘ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.’ At home, he urged a divided nation to find the unity it had felt after the Sept. 11 attacks… Yet seeking to soften an image sometimes seen as aggressive around the world, Bush said America does not want to impose ‘our own style of government on the unwilling.’ And while he led the nation into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during his first term, he said that spreading freedom is not ‘primarily the task of arms.’… [President Bush] sought to reassure U.S. allies that America did not want to stand alone in the fight for freedom. ‘All the allies of the United States can know: We honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help,’ Bush said. ‘Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedom’s enemies.'”
President Bush’s statements to the allies of the United States have to be seen as a direct response to mounting fears, especially in Europe, that Mr. Bush will continue, what has been perceived by many Europeans, as an American course of action without regard for the concerns, desires and wishes of friends and allies.
In that respect, Mr. Bush’s statements in his second inaugural speech were reminiscent of his first inaugural address in January of 2001, although subsequent events created the perception in many parts around the world that President Bush did not deliver, at least in respect to America’s allies, what he had stated at that time. In his first inaugural speech, President Bush had said:
“The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake, America remains engaged in the world, by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom. We will defend our allies and our interests. We will show purpose without arrogance.”
Many hope that President Bush’s words in his second inaugural address will be followed by action. But widespread fear and skepticism remain — especially in Europe. Der Spiegel Online reported on January 20, 2005, that according to a poll conducted by the BBC in 21 countries, 60 percent fear that under President Bush’s leadership, peace and world security will be threatened. 58 percent believe that the world will become more dangerous under President Bush. Only the majority in India, Poland and the Philippines believes that President Bush’s policy will make the world safer.
In particular, when asked whether President Bush will have a positive or a negative impact on world peace within the next four years, 77 percent of Germans answered, “negative,” while only 14 percent answered, “positive.” In France, the results were very similar (75 percent say, “negative,” 13 percent say, “positive”). In Great Britain, 69 percent believe that his impact will be negative, while 29 percent state that it will be positive. The strongest disapproval rate was received in Turkey where only 6 percent believe that Mr. Bush will have a positive impact on the world’s security and peace, while 82 percent believe that his impact will be negative. This may be somewhat surprising to some observers, as the United States is strongly advocating EU membership of Turkey, while many Europeans are opposed to it and US involvement in the matter.
Prophecy clearly shows that the United States of America will lose, ultimately, most support in the world. Friends and allies will turn out to become America’s enemies. For more information on this important Biblical revelation, please read our free booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”
Israel Member of EU?
UPI reported on January 11, 2005, that “Israel could be a future member of the European Union, a top EU official suggested Tuesday. Germany’s [Guenter] Verheugen, vice-president of the European Commission in Brussels…, claimed, in the long-term, he would ‘not even rule out monetary union,’ in which Israel would adopt the euro as its currency… Verheugen said he could ‘imagine Israel being widely integrated into the European economic structures’ and ‘being a full participant in the internal market.’ Two years ago… Verheugen caused a stir by first raising the possibility of a special relationship between Israel and the EU, and spoke of ‘a single market from Oslo to Jerusalem.'”
This kind of wishful thinking notwithstanding, Bible prophecy strongly indicates that Israel will not become a member of the EU, as the EU will be at odds with the state of Israel. Instead, the EU, under German leadership, will form an alliance with certain Arab nations AGAINST Israel.
The Apocalypse and the Catholic Church
WorldNetDaily reported on January 12, 2005: “Pope John Paul II commented on the Apocalypse, saying that the increase in violence and injustice in the world is the work of a furious Satan who doesn’t have ‘much time left’ and ultimately will be defeated.” The article quoted the pope as follows: “Satan, the original adversary, who accused our brothers in the heavenly court, has now been cast down from heaven and therefore no longer has great power. He knows he has not much time left because history is about to see a radical turning point in freedom from evil and therefore he is reacting full of great fury.”
These comments are highly remarkable. It is indeed correct that Satan and his demons know that they have but a very short time, as Revelation 12:12 and James 2:19 indicate. We also read in Romans 16:20: “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.”
Death Toll in Indonesia
According to a report published by www.news-leader.com, “An official document posted here says that nearly 210,000 people in Indonesia are dead or missing from the Dec. 26 tsunami, a death toll that appears to be far higher than officials have reported publicly. Rescue workers think even that number may be low. The Indonesia toll would bring the total of dead and missing from the tidal surge across the Indian Ocean to nearly 272,000, ranking the tsunami as the fifth or sixth deadliest natural disaster in about 250 years.”
The article continued: “The new death toll came as Indonesian officials restricted the movements of foreign relief workers, U.N. employees and journalists in devastated north Sumatra, the Indonesian island that took the brunt of the tsunami’s force, and said foreign military units would be allowed to work in the country for only a limited time. Indonesia’s vice president told the United States and other nations that have sent troops to deliver relief that their forces won’t be permitted to remain in Sumatra longer than three months, and should leave as soon as their work is completed. The blunt comments seemed to end what had been tacit Indonesian acceptance of a foreign presence in an area that has been off limits to foreigners for years.”
A New King of Israel?
The Jerusalem Post reported the following on January 12, 2005:
“According to a group of 71 Jewish scholars who met this week in the Old City of Jerusalem in the form of a modern-day Sanhedrin – a duplicate of the religious tribunal which convened during the time of the Second Temple – a coronation day is growing closer… For the past several years a group called the Monarchists has conducted extensive research into the lineage of several families in an effort to discover who has the closest bloodline to the biblical King David – a requirement for any future Jewish king. Rabbi Yosef Dayan from Psagot, known for his recent threats to place a death curse on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is said to be a leading candidate to become the ‘king of Israel.’ ‘Dayan has the best lineage to King David,’ several members of the Sanhedrin told The Jerusalem Post.” The article continued:
“Some of the other ideas discussed at the Sanhedrin meeting included the construction of an altar on the Temple Mount to be used for the Passover Offering during the upcoming holiday. One of the ideas, members said, is to climb the Mount and build the altar within minutes and sacrifice the lamb before security forces can stop them… Participants also discussed [Baruch] Ben-Yosef’s idea [a leading Sanhedrin member] of reinstating the Sanhedrin’s authority to announce Rosh Hodesh, the beginning of the new lunar month. ‘It is very important to reinstate the Sanhedrin’s authority to announce the month, because it will force people to understand that God gave us the power to control the calendar and our own destiny,’ Ben-Yosef said.”
School Forced to Continue Teaching Lies
The Associated Press reported on January 13, 2005, that “A federal judge Thursday ordered a suburban Atlanta school system to remove stickers from its high school biology textbooks that call evolution ‘a theory, not a fact,’ saying the disclaimers are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. ‘By denigrating evolution, the school board appears to be endorsing the well-known prevailing alternative theory, creationism or variations thereof, even though the sticker does not specifically reference any alternative theories,” [the] U.S. District Judge… said.”
By hiding behind the misinterpreted mantle of “separation between Church and state,” school children are not permitted to even question the unscientific theory of evolution. What a travesty in a country claiming to be “educated.” And how true are God’s words about our modern societies (compare 1 Corinthians 1:20-21): “… Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through [their human] wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached (that is, in the eyes of the so-called “educated” establishment) to save those who believe” (the truth — and not falsehoods like evolution!).
An Asian Century?
As “timesofindia” reported on January 14, 2005, “The rise of China and India as global players is heralding an Asian Century in place of a receding American Century, a US intelligence report said on Thursday. In a far reaching projection, the CIA-commissioned report compared the rise of the two Asian giants to the advent of a united Germany in the 19th century and a powerful United States in the 20th century, and said the event will transform the world’s geopolitical landscape, with impacts potentially as dramatic as those in the previous two centuries.”
This report is interesting in light of the fact that in the very end, an army from Asia, which will be fighting a mighty European power bloc, is described as “two hundred million” (Revelation 9:16). Only the combined manpower of many Asian nations, including China, India, Japan, and Russia, could produce such a mighty army. This battle between Europe and Asia is also described in the book of Daniel. We read, in Daniel 11:44-45, that a future European leader will be troubled by “news from the east and the north…; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many… yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him.”
Europe Won’t Break Up
On January 17, 2005, “scotlandonsunday” reported about a CIA forecast, warning that Europe may break up within 15 years “unless it radically reforms its ailing welfare systems.” We know from Biblical prophecy, of course, that Europe will NOT break up, but that it will become the greatest power bloc on the globe. In light of this understanding, the following comments from the CIA report are startling:
“The report predicts that America’s relationships with Europe will be ‘dramatically altered’ over the next 15 years, in a move away from post-Second World War institutions. Nato could disappear and be replaced by increased EU action. The EU, rather than Nato, will increasingly become the primary institution for Europe, and the role Europeans shape for themselves on the world stage is most likely to be projected through it,’ the report adds.”
Fire in Australia
According to www.news.com.au, dated January 15, 2005, “Scientists believe 500,000 Australian homes are at high risk of being destroyed by fire because of their proximity to the bush. They said 334,000 homes within 80m of the bush had a 60 per cent chance of burning down if the nearby grass or trees caught fire. And another 155,000 homes in the next 50m were in serious danger. The predictions came days after the most devastating Australian bushfire since 1983, in which nine people died, including four children, in South Australia.”
Hitler and Pope Pius XII
Reuters reported on January 15, 2005, that “Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler gave one of his generals a direct order to kidnap Pope Pius XII during World War [II]…Two but the officer did not obey, Italy’s leading Roman Catholic newspaper reported Saturday…. [According to the report] Hitler feared the Pope would be an obstacle to his plans for global domination and because the dictator wanted to eventually abolish Christianity and impose National Socialism as a sort of new global religion.”
The article also pointed out that “Church officials accumulat[e] evidence to back efforts to have Pius eventually made a saint. But the reports of Hitler’s contempt for Pius have contrasted with other versions by historians and authors who have depicted Pius as being pro-German and have accused him of intentionally turning a blind eye to the Holocaust.”
These reported incidents could very well serve as a type or forerunner in respect to what is clearly prophesied to happen. The Bible predicts, in the 17th chapter of the book of Revelation, that at one time in the near future, a military power and a religious power will work together, but that in the end, the political power will turn against and fight the religious power. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”
Is it a Biblical obligation or merely a Church tradition that God's ministry officiate during a wedding or burial of Church members?
While the current practices of the Church of God have been shaped by both national laws and customs regarding the conducting of both weddings and funerals, the ultimate basis is firmly established in Scripture. These significant events of a Christian’s life are of great importance in the plan which God has established for all of mankind.
The joining together of a man and woman in marriage is a holy ordinance of God. This can be seen from numerous Scriptures. Marriage was established by God from the beginning of mankind’s existence on the earth. From Genesis 1:27-28, we see that God created male and female humans. In Genesis 2:20-25, it is further explained that the man and the woman were to be joined together, and the woman is specifically designated as the man’s wife. Further confirmation is given that it was God Who established marriage: “‘Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate'” (Mark 10:9; compare, too, Matthew 19:1-9). It is of particular significance that in the previous verses, Jesus explained that Moses was allowed, because of the hardness of the people’s hearts, to grant divorces for different reasons. Christ added, however, that this was not so in the beginning, and that Christians are only permitted to divorce in very limited circumstances. One reason for divorce was established in the record of the Church of God as noted in the letter from Paul to the Church at Corinth–that is, when an unbeliever is no longer pleased to dwell with the believer, and departs from his or her marriage obligations (compare 1 Corinthians 7:12, 15).
God hates divorce. Note this powerful rebuke from God to those who question why God is not blessing them: “…Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife BY COVENANT” (Malachi 2:14). In Proverbs 2:17, we read that the immoral woman “forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the COVENANT OF HER GOD.”
We understand that “…God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28). More details are given concerning these appointments and their purpose in Ephesians 4:11-16, as well as in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 4:6-7; 5:17; and Hebrews 13:7. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus gives us an example of the Church of God being administered. Decisions must be made on a variety of issues by applying the Word of God and seeking God’s Will through prayer. That is a part of the administration of the Church that God has given to His ministry.
Note the example found in 1 Corinthians 6:1-6. Paul strongly rebukes the members for taking matters against one another to the world (“the unrighteous… who are least esteemed by the church”– verses 1 and 4). Rather, he shows that “a wise man” should be able to judge these problems in the Church (verse 5). Why? We in the Church of God are bound by the laws of God, and they take precedence over the laws of man, if there is a conflict. For us, the issue is a matter of submitting, first and foremost, to God’s Will.
Marriage laws vary from society to society. In fact, in some nations marriages are not recognized by governmental authorities when merely and solely performed by a minister. However, for members of the Church of God–while we are to respect the laws of the land in which we live–marriage is governed by the greater laws of God. In countries, where only civil marriages are recognized by the government, Church members have asked a minister of God to officiate, in addition, over the marriage ceremony in a religious setting. During the ceremony, the minister emphasizes the purpose of marriage, and that the couple is entering into a life-long COVENANT with God. He also places his hands on the couple, while asking God in prayer to sanctify the marriage and to set aside the couple for the holy purpose of the marriage relationship. (That God’s minister lays hands on the couple is highly significant: The Biblical procedure of laying on of hands is done for “sanctification,” that is, for the purpose of setting the person or persons aside for a holy purpose.)
A minister of God’s Church, today, officiates in many duties associated with the Biblical command to both preach the good news of God’s Kingdom and to serve the Church of God. We have the examples of Jesus Christ and of those who faithfully followed Him as recorded in God’s Word. Jesus Christ, while here on the earth, specifically and ceremonially blessed little children: “And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them (!), and blessed them” (Mark 10:16). We now follow this example by setting aside a time at the Feast of Tabernacles each year to bless little children. This, then, has become a “custom” or “tradition” of the Church.
In the time of Jesus, the Jews had many customs or traditions as a part of their worship. However, Jesus, time and again, rejected the wrong aspects that had arisen: “He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?'” (Matthew 15:3).
Not all tradition is, of itself, bad–as we can see concerning the burial of Jesus Christ: “Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury” (John 19:40). Reading the full account of this occurrence as recorded in John 19, we note that the burial of that day was different from that of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob (Israel). Furthermore, Jacob was embalmed (Genesis 50:2). His son, Joseph, officiated in this burial, which included taking his father’s body back to the promised land (compare Genesis 50:1-10, 14). A period of great mourning was observed. Likewise, we find other Biblical examples of ceremonial burials in the Bible in which customs of the day were observed (Moses: Deuteronomy 34:5-8; Samuel: 1 Samuel 25:1; David: 1 Kings 2:10; John the Baptist: Matthew 14;11-13).
For members of the Church of God, death is to be viewed in light of God’s truth (compare 1 Corinthians 15). We also read: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). In a very true sense, Paul–through inspiration from God–established the basis for members to deal with death. For those not called to the truth of God, this knowledge is either completely missing, or it is interwoven with false and deceptive teachings about one who dies going to heaven or purgatory, limbo or hell.
Because of the understanding God has revealed to His Church, it has been a long standing practice for the elders of the Church to officiate over matters such as marriage between those who are part of the Church of God, as well as burials. However, depending on the particular situation, a minister may also conduct a memorial or burial service for non-members.
Burials are performed as a service to family and friends of the deceased when one in the faith dies and is put in a place of rest, awaiting the return of Jesus Christ to establish His Kingdom on the earth. This is, of course, a time of trial for the family and friends, due to the loss of fellowship for a time. The purpose of the service is to give comfort and hope in reminding family and friends of the fact that the very next thought the deceased will experience will occur when he or she comes forth from the grave. His or her first awareness will be the glorious, spiritual body which God will give to all His faithful children.
One distinction exists between wedding ceremonies and services performed in relation to burials and anointings for healings. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 that we are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Therefore, the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the USA, the Global Church of God in England, and the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada, will only officiate over a marriage between a man and woman, if both are baptized in the faith, and have received God’s Spirit. This rule does not apply, however, relative to funerals and anointing for healing.
Anointing for healing of both Church members and non-members, ordinations of deacons and deaconesses or elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-9), and baptisms are instances where God’s ministers administer or officiate. In ALL of these cases, the Biblical procedure of laying on of hands is practiced (compare James 5:14; Luke 4:40 regarding healing; Acts 6:6; 2 Timothy 1:6 regarding ordinations; and Acts 8:17; 19:6 regarding baptisms). This is all done by the ministry because God has established this procedure for His Church: “‘For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts'” (Malachi 2:7).
It is an awesome responsibility to stand as representatives of God and Jesus Christ in matters such as these. Likewise, less we look upon the administration of God’s Church lightly, let us also consider the warning of Hebrews 5:4 concerning what God has ordained: “And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.”
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.
While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.
Donations should be sent to the following addresses:
United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198
Canada: Church of God, ACF, Box 1480, Summerland, B.C. V0H 1Z0
United Kingdom: Global Church of God, PO Box 44, MABLETHORPE, LN12 9AN, United Kingdom