Who Feeds The Flock?
... Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep (John 21:17).
In this age of the Laodicean Church of God, many lay-members have taken it upon themselves to enter the Temple of God to perform the work of a priest. Why this lack of understanding of who works at the Altar, who lights the Lamps and who makes the Shew bread? How serious does Jesus Christ, the Head of His Church take these infringements in His Temple?
Jesus warned His disciple Peter, that Satan the devil wanted to sift him like wheat, “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32). This same Peter–an Apostle–once he was converted, did go on to strengthen his brethren.
Prior to this warning by Jesus, there was contention among the disciples (Luke 22:22-26), we can be sure with a certainty, the irritated feelings which that contention caused, prepared the way for the testing and sifting of Peter. Satan desired to try Peter; to place trials and temptations before him; “to agitate him” like agitating wheat in a sieve to see whether he had faith and if it would remain. Satan used the same tactic with Job in chapters 1 and 2, therefore like Job, God allows Satan to test our faith as well.
Strengthen Thy Brethren
Notice how John described what took place the same evening that Luke spoke about in Luke 22, ... “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17).
The responsibility to feed the flock of God was place squarely on the shoulders of an Apostle. Once converted, Peter took that responsibility very seriously. In his epistle of I Peter ch. 5, this faithful Apostle encourages the ministry of Jesus Christ to do the same... “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Pet 5:1-4). The ministry were to be types of the Great Shepherd. They stood in place of Jesus Christ, feeding the flock as He inspired them.
Another apostle, one “born out of due time” Paul, also encouraging the ministry to feed the flock... “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Act 20:28). Paul went on to warn these ministers... “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). And “grievous wolves [did] enter in among the church, not sparing the flock” as we have witnessed soon after an apostasy in the church of God! That apostasy in the twentieth century, ushered in the Laodicean era, an era wherein the people decide, Judge and want to rule. It was during this time–of the Laodiceans–that men who were once deemed faithful, men who love the truth, began to scatter the flock of God, bringing about in many members the attitude of “every man and every woman will do what was right in their own eyes.” This evil attitude of self-indulgence, espoused by the devil, gave birth to the rejection of the government of God, which Jesus inspired and revealed to the “last” apostle Herbert W. Armstrong in the 20th century.
Feed the Flock in the 20th Century
During the twentieth century Jesus Christ raised up the Philadelphia era of His church to do the final work of preaching the true gospel to the world (Matt 24:14; Rev 3:7-8). Like Paul, a great and effectual door was opened to to Mr. Armstrong (1 Cor 16:9; 2 Cor 2:12; Col 4:3). Once that apostle, Herbert W. Armstrong, took the gospel to all the world, and completed his prophetic assignment, the door to preaching the gospel as an organized work was closed and darkness once again covered the earth. Please read the Worldwide News, March 6, 1981 for in it, Mr. Armstrong wrote on page 12... “I think that when God lets me die, the thing He's called me for will have been completed, preparing the way for the Second Coming of Christ carrying that Gospel of the Kingdom to the world for a witness to all nations.”
This same apostle was inspired to distinctly teach the membership of Worldwide Church of God the reason Jesus Christ was building His church. Notice what he wrote in Mystery of the Ages page 228... “The Church may be called God’s teachers’ college to prepare rulers and teachers for the kingdom of God when God does offer redemption and eternal life to the world as a whole. The CHURCH was planned to be God’s instrumentality for calling predestinated human beings out of this world to be trained for positions of leadership in the world tomorrow, when they shall teach and train others. That is why in the New Testament, the Church is called the firstfruits of God’s salvation. All this necessitated certain vital steps-one at a time-in the procedure of God’s supreme master plan!”
Mr. Armstrong continued to explain the church on page 230... "So, once again, WHAT and WHY is the CHURCH? The Church is the called out (from this world) begotten children of God. It is the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:23). It is the spiritual organism that shall be the “Bride of Christ”– after its resurrection to immortality. Then it shall be married to Christ! It is the spiritual TEMPLE to which Christ shall come at his second appearing” (Eph. 2:21).
The Church is the Spiritual Temple (1 Cor 3:16-17; 2 Cor 6:16) and Paul tells us, it is only the ministry who are typed, as temple priests and it is only the priests who live off the temple, serve at the altar, and who are partakers thereof (1 Cor 9:13).
Mr. Armstrong wrote in a Worldwide News June 24, 1985 under the title: “Recent History of the Philadelphia Era of the Worldwide Church of God”.... “Little groups, splintering off, centered in Washington, D.C.; Eugene, Ore.; Tyler, Tex.; Monterey, Calif.; and other places with groups too small to mention. They are not bearing fruit for the Kingdom. They are not pleasing God or being blessed by Him. Jesus said, "By their fruits you shall know them." They usually claim to be "branches" of the Church of God. But Jesus said, "I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). He did not say denominations, sects, cults, branches or a church divided against itself. Rather He said a house divided against itself cannot stand. There is one true Church and one only. The apostle Paul pictured humanly self-appointed "branches" when he said to the elders of the local church at Ephesus that some of their own selves would depart to draw a following after themselves. …. “The Church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Corner stone; in Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy Temple in the Lord" (Eph 2:20-21). Note, the Church is organized and fitly framed together, not organized with competing and differing branches.” And I may add, this includes lay-members who left the Body of Christ in rebellion against God's government and now try to teach and write articles to the church on websites or blogs on the internet! It would also include deacons and local elders doing their own thing, such as building websites and leading church groups; taking tithes and offerings with absolutely no authority from Christ to do so.
Paul admonished the ministry and wrote... “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” Why? Why be so determined to preach the word by telling members their faults (rebuke), why encourage them (exhort), and why persevere in doctrine? Because in verses 3-4 Paul wrote “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their–members–ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim 4:2-4). Yes an unfaithful ministry has caused this confusion in the Church of God by turning away from the truth which was inspired and revealed by Christ to Mr. Armstrong.
The word fable is the Greek word: muthos and it means a fiction, an invention and a falsehood. And today, the fable that has deluded many lay-members is the fact that they think they have the authority to teach and preach in the temple, outside of the Government of God. The actual fact is their rebellion against God's Government has placed them outside of the body of Christ and in serious danger of hearing Jesus Christ say to them... Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen (Mat 22:13-14). These despicable people need to realize that God changes not (Mal 3:6) and He is the same today as He was yesterday (Heb 13:8)! Do you think, oh man or woman, who despise God's servants, those who represent His government, that He will treat you any different than he did Miriam, Aaron (Numbers 12) and to Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their families (Numbers 16)? All these men and woman, despised God's servants! Be careful that you don't.
Shrouded In Darkness
Its amazing, the one central point, that caused the death of thousands of Israelites in Numbers 16:3 was this attitude... “And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?” This same despicable attitude, has infected the church of the Laodiceans, today they say... “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;” (Rev 3:17). Their self-aggrandizement, their self-sufficiency and self centered attitude, toward Christ and his rule over them, causes them to say, “we do not need anyone to tell us what to do, we can rule and teach ourselves”. They do not hear Christ saying to them, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (verse 18). The eye salve they need to open their eyes, is to be washed by the Holy Spirit and get back to the understanding that Christ sent an apostle with a message about the restoration of the GOVERNMENT of God – the Gospel... more later.
How often have we heard it said by lay-members, deacons and local church elders in this age! “Who are you to tell me, that I'm wrong, I have the Spirit of God!” If YOU have that attitude, you would do well to HEAR what Jude has to say... “But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, (through the spirit in man) as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core (Korah). These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear (of God): clouds they are without water (no Holy Spirit), carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withers, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 1:10-13). Influenced by the prince of darkness, they have allowed their minds to become darkened and are so deceived, they cannot see the light of the glorious gospel.
As soon as the last apostle died, Jesus Christ closed the door to the work of the Philadelphia era, this action–the end of an era–resulted in dramatic changes in the THINKING of both the membership of the Church of God–The Worldwide Church of God–and the world at large, the world took upon itself the life-style of Sodom and Gomorrah and the attitude of violence, that prevailed during Noah's time, and the church took rulership to itself.
End of the Philadelphia Era
The end of the Philadelphia era resulted in the earth once again being shrouded in darkness (Gen 1:2), because that which had brought light to a darkened world, the message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God, was fulfilled! As an organized work, Philadelphia was over, there was no group of people being led by a true apostle of Jesus Christ, doing a worldwide work. Soon after the death of Herbert W. Armstrong, the Church of God became confused and the leaders in the church at that time, did not explicitly comprehend the gospel message. BLINDNESS began to cover their minds and soon afterward, they led the Church of God astray through a scattering. And Jesus said... “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). It is only the true gospel that brings light, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor 4:4). These scriptures and many more, give vociferous testimony to the fact that Satan has deceived not only the entire world, but the entire Church of God... “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5-7). When you reject the authority of the Government of God over you, YOU become blind once more! And if you say, “I see”, while rejecting God, “your sin remains” (John 9:41).
All the Laodiceans can see, are themselves and the physical things, that surround them. They have forgotten that they were once purged of their sins by Christ and enlightened by the one sent by Christ in the 20th century–the last apostle. Jesus, through a graphic healing of a man blind from birth, reveals how the spiritually blind can once again be enlightened. Jesus...“When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:6-7). Jesus illustrated rather clearly, that mankind's eyes have been blinded, to their selfishness and their vanity, since the creation of Adam–the clay–and to remove the blindness, it took the washing of their eyes by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:10), which is symbolized by water (John 7:38), to enlighten them. This blind man, was told to go wash his eyes in the pool Siloam–which means sent! Only an apostle filled with the Holy Spirit, and sent by Christ, can reveal the true gospel and thereby once again enlighten those in the Church of God, who have become blind to the real meaning of the gospel.
Miriam, Aaron, Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their families, were all blinded to the understanding of the Government of God, therefore, it was natural for them to despise Moses' leadership. You see, the central message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God, is the GOVERMENT of God.
Even though God miraculously intervened in Num 16:6... “And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.”... the people still rebelled by blaming Moses verse 41... “But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured–they were obstinate–against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD.” As a minister, I have witnessed the very same rebellion, time after time in the Church of God. When a member rebels against the ministry, and then when that member of his own accord leaves the Church, in a vitriolic state, there are some members who agree with the rebel and follow him out, yet in their deceived minds they still think they are a part of the Body of Christ!
God Does Not Change
Notice what God said to Moses in verse 45... “Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces.” The rebels in the Church of God have forgotten... “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal 3:6). With that said let us also notice something else, which GOD INSTRUCTED after this terrible incident of rebellion, verses 37-40: "Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed. The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before the LORD, therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel. And Eleazar the priest took the brasen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar: To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the LORD; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the LORD said to him by the hand of Moses.” The Almighty God takes rebellion toward Him in a very serious light, ONLY those duly called and ordained may serve at God's Altar and represent His people!
Let me remind you, the reader, of what Mr. Armstrong wrote on pages 48-49 of the book, Mystery of the Ages, about God's Government … “The very fact of law presupposes GOVERNMENT. Government is the administration and enforcement of law by one in authority. This necessitates authoritative leadership-one in command. When the only conscious Life-Beings existed, God was leader-in authoritative command. Thus, even when the only conscious Life-Beings were God and the Word, there was GOVERNMENT with God in supreme command. The government of God is of necessity government from the top down. It cannot be “government by the consent of the governed.” Its laws originate and are handed down from God-never legislated by the people-never dictated by the governed how the government over them shall rule them. Since they created other conscious, thinking life-beings, this very fact of necessity put the GOVERNMENT of God over all creation, with God supreme Ruler.” And you may say, “yes that is right, I agree and I serve Christ”. Well, if you say that, you are assuming to yourself the prerogative of governing yourself apart from God and this is exactly what caused rebellion in Numbers 16, and was causing contention among those in the Corinthian congregation. Furthermore, the same attitude is causing rebellion, division and contention in the Churches of God today... “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ (1 Cor 10-12).
Example of King Uzziah
I said the following above... “The Almighty God takes rebellion toward Him in a very serious light, ONLY those duly called and ordained may serve at God's Altar and represent His people!" The following biblical example from 2 Chr 26:14-21, will show just how serious God takes it, if a "king", nevermind a lay-person or deacon, assumes the responsibility, to serve at the altar: “And Uzziah [a king] prepared for them throughout all the host shields, and spears, and helmets, and habergeons, and bows, and slings to cast stones. And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense. And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God. Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD: and Jotham his son was over the king's house, judging the people of the land".
And those who make excuses, about their claims to be, "preaching deacons", or those who create websites as a “Watering Hole” or as a “Research Center” for the flock of God, I am here to tell YOU, “God is not mocked by your rebellion toward His name nor to His elected servants”. "But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy" (2 Chr 36:16). These people have deluded themselves into believing they are still serving God!
So...Who FEEDS the Flock of God?
So who has the authority to preach and teach the flock of God? According to Paul... “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. "(Rom 10:9-17).
BUT! Are these few verses and examples enough for those who have hardened their heart to God's Government? Some will use the following scriptures to condone their actions... "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women"... verse 14 "Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit " (Acts 8:5-17).
Philip, like most brethren would have discussed the truth with these people. Philip did not preach the gospel of the kingdom of God, but his message had elements of that gospel in it (Acts 8:5) and Jesus Christ certainly is the center of the gospel, being the King that will establish the kingdom of God at His return. The word "concerning" in verse 12 is the Greek word peri which means "around or respect to". Philip understood an apostle was given the responsibility of preaching the gospel (Acts 6:6; Matt 28:19-20; Mark 16:18), nevertheless moved by what was occurring through the persecution by Saul, he did preach a message, with certain miracles, resulting in the conversion of some which of which the scripture does not tell us these people believed his message. And though, as a deacon (Acts 6:5), Philip baptised some, they could not receive the Holy Spirit as he was not sanctioned to lay hands upon them. Later after Peter and John preached the gospel to Samaria (Acts8:25) in verse 26, Philip gets a message to go to Gaza which resulted in the baptism of an Ethiopian eunuch. After the baptism, Philip leaves the eunuch and goes to Caesarea. It seems obvious that Peter and John saw the work Philip did in Samaria, and ordained him and Evangelist... "And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven (Acts 6:5); and abode with him" (Acts 21:8).
TO BE CONTINUED...