No Gods Before Me

Dear Brethren,

Every day we are faced with making decisions of “right” or “wrong.”  How can we be sure that we are pleasing in God’s sight? “Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”  (1 John 3:22)

When we live by God’s rule – defined by His Law and Commands – we can be sure that we are acting on His behalf.  However, anytime we infringe upon any of God’s laws, statutes, judgments or perfect way, we have stepped away from His sanction.  We are no longer acting on His behalf; no matter how important and highly regarded we might think we are.

Because of certain men who have crept in unawares over the years, there has been a great deal of confusion over the issue of who is the head of the Church (Jude :4).  The difficulty arises primarily because of a misuse of the word, "church." The Church of God is not a physical organization – but a spiritual entity, the called out body of true believers – the Body of Christ.  Corporate organizations are ruled by men, whereas the Church of God answers directly to Jesus Christ - the head of the Church.

In the second half of the last century, the Gospel message went to the world with great power.   Many people were converted and learned the true doctrines of Jesus Christ.  But, at the same time, many brethren suffered to one degree or another from the heavy hand of wrong leadership.  When the apostasy came after the death of Herbert W. Armstrong, many brethren had great difficulty deciding what to do.  Over half of the people made the mistake of remaining loyal to the Worldwide Church of God.  They had learned to be loyal to men and their organization.  As a result, they accepted its heresies, and discarded their devotion to God and His truth.  They did not know how to remain faithful to God and His Word.

Have we not learned our lesson?  Some corporate church organizations have fallen back into the same idolatrous trap of putting loyalty to men and organizations ahead of loyalty to God.  The answer is not to love an organization, but to love God and one another. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loves not his brother abides in death... Hereby perceive we the love of God." (1 John 3:14, 16)

Many brethren have suffered abuse or neglect at the hand of a hireling minister causing them to be less inclined to trust any other minister.  Brethren were taught incorrectly that the minister could rule over their lives and that if he made a mistake – it really was not a mistake because God would set it right.  One minister preached that he could do whatever he wanted, because he was the Pastor.  Ministers made decisions in families’ lives that should only have been made by the head of the family.  Too many ministers taught that their decisions, whether good or bad, were sanctioned by God's Himself because of the authority invested in them.

Brethren, please understand this:  No minister is ever above God’s law.  Whenever a minister sins, he act on his own.  He does not have God’s approval.  His counsel will not be blessed.  God’s administration of His Law, which begins with God the Father and flows down through Jesus Christ, extends to every member of the entire body of the Church of God – but not through any minister.  Not even if that minister claims to have received the baton, or the mantle of authority, and subsequently thinks that he rules over the brethren of the Church in God’s stead. Many brethren have been led to believe that organizational “Church Government” is merely an extension of “God’s Government,” exercised and administered by the ministry.  That is not the case.  No man is ever permitted to change God’s counsel.

In the past, there have been many ministers who abused the brethren. Some brethren are still hurt, angry, bitter, and resentful at the Church of God because of the treatment they and their families suffered at the hands of harsh ministers.  Those ministers were hard taskmasters who demanded obedience to themselves.  Brethren were taught that their salvation was at stake if they did not yield to every whim of the Pastor, because he represented God on earth.  That was a false teaching. Other ministers tacitly approved of and even supported that ungodly ministerial behavior by turning a blind eye to the evil that was being perpetrated on innocent brethren. Those men who close their eyes to the abuse are more than willing to condone sin and corruption on a ministerial level.  They are guilty of iniquity.  (Leviticus 5:1).

We have got to get back to the Truth of God. There is no man between a Church member and Jesus Christ.  Our loyalty is to Jesus Christ and His Father – anything less constitutes idolatry.  Jesus is our advocate… “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1)  Jesus is our mediator… “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  (1 Timothy 2:5)

Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3). That is the rule of God in our lives as His Spirit leads us.  Nothing, or no one can supersede that relationship (Romans 8:14). Is there a proper place for the ministry of Jesus Christ?  The answer is an unequivocal, Yes!

The apostle Paul said that the work of a minister in the Church is to serve the brethren in Godly love and to feed, nourish, protect, and care for the flock of God.  The very last time that Paul saw the elders of Ephesus, he admonished them concerning their responsibility to faithfully serve God and the brethren.  "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers [guardians], to feed the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:28)

There is a need for ministers of Jesus Christ who preach and teach the Truth… to counsel according to the word of God... to marry… to bury… to visit the sick and to anoint with oil… to facilitate the ministry of reconciliation… to return those who have gone astray... for the laying on of hands, and baptizing those whom God calls… and there are Feasts to administer, babies to bless, and the Gospel to warn the world, etc.

The apostle Peter warned the ministers not to use coercion or constraint in their teaching and care of the flock.  (1 Peter 5:2)

We are to follow a minister's faith only as it complements and corresponds with the teachings of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). We, the people of God, live by, and are bound by the rules of the Kingdom of God – even now.

Sermon:  "No Gods Before Me"