Following is an exchange of letters between Rod Matthews, pastor in WWCG, and Bruce Armstrong, independent, regarding the changes in doctrine occurring in the Worldwide Church of God:
Dear Mr. Matthews;
A couple of weeks ago we saw your video on the church's financial problems and Gary Regazolli asked us what we thought was causing these problems.
It is my opinion that many of the 'new' understandings regarding the Sabbath, annual Holy Days, prophecy, Nature of God, etc, are biblically unsound. I believe many others in the church still share my reservations about these things and fear that the church is on its way to becoming simply another mainline Protestant denomination. (Why bother? There are lots of other Protestant churches we could join right now if that's what we wanted.) Understandably, I (and they) are reluctant to finance the corruption of so many of God's Truths. If you wish to increase the financial income of the church, rejecting clever deceptions and returning to Biblical truth would be a major step in the right direction.
In this regard I must enquire about an article which appeared in the March/April 1996 issue of The Sabbath Sentinel, P 11, entitled "Is the Worldwide Church of God a Sabbathkeeping Church?" (Copy attached) The article quotes a memo from Joseph W. Tkatch to Don Ward, which essentially states that any member of the WCG who believes that Sabbath observance is required by God is a heretic and will be disfellowshipped.
Could you please tell me if this is an accurate copy of the memo, and if this is currently WCG's official position on this matter?
Below is Mr. Matthew's response. It has been annotated with numbers relating to issues which I respond to in our reply.
WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD
A.R.B.N. 010 019 986
AMBASSADOR DRIVE, BURLEIGH HEADS, QLD, AUSTRALIA
PO BOX 202, BURLEIGH HEADS, QLD 4220, AUSTRALIA
TELEPHONE: (07) 5593 4544 FAX: (07) 5593 4662
JOSEPH TKACH . . . . RODNEY H. MATTHEWS
PASTOR GENERAL . . . . . REGIONAL DIRECTOR
September 4, 1996
Mr. Bruce Armstrong
KINGSTON VIC 3364
Thank you for your letter seeking clarification of comments attributed to the late Joseph W. Tkach that appeared in The Sabbath Sentinel.
I cannot advise whether or not the comments that appeared are an accurate representation of any communications between Mr. Tkach and Dr. Ward as I have never seen the memo in question but have only heard comments that raise questions about its authenticity.
I can, however, refer you to the material reproduced below. The first is a letter Pastor General Joseph Tkach published in a recent Pastor General's Report responding to a question on the church's position toward Sabbathkeeping.
"After reading [what you wrote]...it seemed appropriate for me to write to you and clearly state the position of the Worldwide Church of God on the seventh-day Sabbath. I believe that you are a brother in Christ and would not consciously misrepresent our position.
"We believe that 'Sabbathkeeping,' whether it be on Saturday or Sunday, can be an appropriate response to the gospel of Christ. (1) However, we do not believe Scripture teaches that Sabbathkeeping should be taught as a requirement for those who are saved. We have found that besides lacking biblical support, (2) such a position misleads many people to feel that they are qualifying for the gift of God by their individual effort and merit, (3) and worse, that believers who do not keep the Sabbath are not true believers. (4)
"Our position is to welcome Sabbathkeepers into our fellowship as long as they do not cause division by mandating that others live up to their definition of Sabbathkeeping. (5) In my conversations with ministers of the Church of God (Seventh Day), I have been advised that they view Christians who worship on Sunday as genuine Christians. This is evident by their invitations to ministers like Ted Engstrom, H.B. London and others to speak at their ministerial counsel meetings. (6)
"We believe that it borders on blasphemy to attribute the work of the Holy Spirit in people's lives as being the work of the devil. Sadly, this is the position that some Saturday sabbatarians have taken when they refer to nonsabbatarian Christians as 'children of the devil,' or 'falsely so-called Christians,' or other pejorative labels. (7)
"We believe that it is appropriate to worship God on every day of the week, and that our devotions, prayers, hymns, Bible study and hearing of sermons are not diminished in quality simply because they may not fall on Saturday. (8) We feel the Holy Spirit instructs us through Paul's correction of Peter in Galatians 2:14. Paul wrote: 'But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before [them] all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?'
"We do not believe this is merely talking about circumcision. Peter had not become de-circumcised. Rather, it is evident to us that Peter was living after the manner of the gentiles in those ways that distinguished him as a Jew, such as Saturday Sabbathkeeping and laws of purity. In other words, he was no longer scrupulously following them. We suspect this correction got Peter's attention very quickly because he knew that Paul was correct he should not be imposing these old covenant signs of the people of God on the new covenant, gentile Christians. (9)
"Sabbath observance, as well as the seven annual festivals given to Israel, can provide a meaningful and biblical pattern for weekly and annual worship. Lifting up our hands in praise in the sanctuary also provides a meaningful and biblical form of worship (Psalm 134:2), as does dancing (Psalm 149:3). Yet we do not say that those who do not participate in these forms of worship are lesser Christians, or uninformed Christians or not true believers. We believe there is freedom in Christ on all these issues, and that it is wrong to teach any of them as a requirement for those who are in Christ Jesus. (10)
"Unfortunately, some who have left our fellowship have misrepresented our position on many doctrinal issues. Sometimes this happens unwittingly. In other cases, some have 'doctored' statements to make it appear as though we have established a policy of not allowing Sabbathkeepers in our fellowship. Needless to say, people are disinformationed and misled by such a practice.
"I thank you for your genuine willingness to listen and to publish accurate
statements of our teachings."
The following is also taken from the Pastor General's Report, this time February 8, 1996, and was written by J. Michael Feazell, Director of Church Administration. He discusses the annual holy days.
"We're nearing the start of a new cycle in our annual worship pattern. And as we do, we rejoice that our reasons for celebrating on these particular occasions are entirely different from what they were in previous years.
"Our annual worship pattern includes seven festivals with historic roots in the worship forms and promises given by God to Israel. These festivals were given to Israel for Israel and never commanded for Christians. (11) Yet, the new covenant does not limit Christian worship to any specific days. This fact means that Christians are free to worship Jesus Christ any time, any place including on days given to Israel under the old covenant, as well as on any other day of the year. (12)
"It is helpful for us to understand that our history of celebrating certain of the festivals of Israel was rooted in a misunderstanding of what God requires of Christians. We believed that the festivals were commanded for Christians, which affected our approach to observing them. (13)
"We believed that we should strongly teach others that the festivals were commanded, so that they would not ultimately be punished for failing to keep them. We believed that people who called themselves 'Christian' but did not keep the festivals were false Christians. We even believed that no person would finally be saved and allowed to enter the kingdom of God unless he or she at some point would begin to keep the festivals. That belief that kept us from understanding the true meaning of the gospel, which Paul called 'the power of God for salvation for everyone who has faith' (Romans 1:16). It caused us to think that faith in Jesus Christ was not enough for salvation that God required, in addition to faith in Christ, the observance of the old covenant days, which Paul said 'are of no value in checking self-indulgence' (Colossians 2:23), before he would finally save a person. (14)
"The Holy Spirit has brought us to see that we must shed the legalism of our former practice. (15) This can be done either by totally abandoning the festivals or by bringing the festivals totally under the lordship of Christ. (16) In other words, we can either stop assembling on the festivals altogether, or we can use these traditional times of assembly as voluntary occasions for celebration and worship of our Lord and Saviour.
"We believe it is better for us to bring our traditions under the lordship of Christ. (17)
"Of course, shedding the legalism of our previous misunderstanding of the annual festivals requires some important changes in the way we look at the festivals. Let me list a few:
"1) We need to keep firmly in mind that the festivals are not commanded for Christians. They are entirely voluntary. (18)
"2) We need to emphasize what the festivals actually foreshadowed: the grace of God revealed in the life, death, resurrection and return of his Son. (19)
"3) We need to abandon the idea that keeping the festivals makes us more faithful than not keeping them. That means we must not put guilt trips on members who do not attend the festivals. (20)
"4) We need to use the festivals first and foremost as opportunities to celebrate salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. (21)
"5) We need to realize that the plan of God ordained from the foundation of the world is his plan of human redemption and eternal life through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14; 3:8-12). Understanding that, we are able to see the weakness with our former idea that 'only those who keep the holy days know the plan of God.' (22)
"Observed as optional opportunities rather than as required assemblies, the annual festivals can be meaningful occasions to celebrate God's free gift of redemption and salvation through his Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord, whom Paul calls the end, or fitting conclusion or goal, of the law of Moses (Romans 10:4). (23) The festivals of the old covenant were designed by God, after all, to find their fullness and completion in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:16-17; Galatians 3:24)." (24)
One final statement comes from the June 29, 1995, Pastor General's Report, and was written by Mr. Tkach in his role as Director of Church Administration:
"For the record, let me say that we have no quarrel with ministers who feel that it is their Christian obligation to keep the Sabbath in an old covenant way. Some of our full-time ministers still feel this way. We are tolerant of their position and their conscience. What we cannot tolerate, however, is division in the Body of Christ. When ministers attempt to impose their conscience on others, when they teach that current Church doctrine will send people to damnation, they are causing division. It is unrealistic to expect us to pay people to preach that we are going to gehenna. Following scriptural injunctions, we have been forced to disfellowship such people and warn our members of the spiritual danger that they present. We would prefer peace and reconciliation, of course, but they have not done their part. (25)
"When I wrote above that people keep the Sabbath 'in an old covenant way,' I was speaking loosely, for I believe that only a tiny few of our members -- and probably none of our ministers -- have been keeping the Sabbath in the way that the old covenant would require. The law of Moses would not allow us to drive for hours just to get to church services. It would not allow us to set up chairs and p.a. systems. (26)
"What the old covenant would require is that we rest. Either we meet some other day, or travel to a central site before the Sabbath, set up chairs before the Sabbath and wait until the Sabbath is over before we take chairs down and drive home. Of course, this is 'not practical,' but neither is losing a job because of work on Friday evening. In ancient Israel, most people would simply stay home on the Sabbath. There was no requirement for a worship meeting that everyone had to attend. (27)
"You see, in our approach to old covenant customs, we were not entirely consistent, and I believe that this illustrates our error in thinking that these laws were requirements for Christians today. We were picking and choosing which laws were to be bound on Christians and which weren't. We were less than fully submissive to the old covenant." (28)
I hope the above statements by the church are helpful in clarifying our position regarding the seventh-day sabbath and holy day celebrations.
You said in the introduction to your letter that it was your "opinion that many of the 'new' understandings ... are biblically unsound" and that to restore the church's financial stability we should return to what you believe to be biblical truth. I am sorry you feel that way. I do understand that the changes in the church's doctrines and theology have been challenging and disturbing to many people. But I also know the joy, the growth, the transformation that has occurred in many lives as a result of the church focusing on the heart and core of the Bible the central truth of the Bible, that which is, as Paul wrote "of first importance" (1 Corinthians 15:3), namely that gospel that saves us and to which we must hold firmly is the gospel of Christ's death for our sins and the truth of his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-5) 'This is what we preached," Paul reminded the Corinthians, "and this is what you believed."
It is the power and presence and Person of Jesus Christ that changes our lives. He is, by his own testimony "the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). That is the new and proper focus of the church's teachings. We thank God for his gentle rebuke and loving correction. I hope that the reservations you feel can be overcome by the testimony of Scripture, the leading of the Holy Spirit and the continued ministry of the Church. (29)
My best wishes to you and your family and for your studies.
This Biblical response to Rod Matthew's Sabbath/Holy Days letter was written by Bruce Armstrong and Bruce Harris:
5 October, 1997
Thanks for your letter dated 6 Sept, 96. I have spent considerable time since then in prayer, studying my Bible and seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit as you suggested. I want to share with you the results of this study. Bruce Harris, a friend of mine has also studied these issues with me and helped shape these responses. We would like to reply to some of the statements quoted in your letter. We have included a copy of your letter which has had reference numbers added to simplify correlation of our comments to your letter.
1. How can Sabbathkeeping occur on Sunday? There is not one passage in the entire Bible which states that the weekly Sabbath is any day but the seventh day of the week, which the Western world calls Saturday. How can keeping a day which God never authorised instead of the day He sanctified and blessed (Genesis 2:3) be called "an appropriate response"? The fruit of this statement can be seen in the actions of the Dallas East WCG congregation, which as of Pentecost this year has begun keeping Sunday services as "it is more convenient". Return
2. Does keeping the Sabbath "lack Biblical Support"? In some of the few words God has spoken directly to mankind, He commands us to:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yehovah your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
For in six days Yehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.
Therefore Yehovah blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Exodus 20:8 to 11
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as Yehovah your God commanded you.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work, and the seventh day is a Sabbath of Yehovah your God.
You shall not do any work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your foreigner who is within your gates, so your male servant and your female servant may rest as you do.
And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Yehovah your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore Yehovah your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. Deuteronomy 5:12 to 15
These passages show us that keeping the Sabbath is one way to remember and acknowledge God as our Creator. It also reminds us how God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt by His powerful miracles. Figuratively, it reminds each of us how we have been set free from slavery to sin by the actions of Jesus Christ. The command for Christians to keep God's Sabbath is also included in the Greek Scriptures but has been mistranslated in most English versions. Hebrews 4:9 literally says: "Therefore there remains a keeping of Sabbaths for the people of God." The Greek word used in this passage is sabbatismos which means 'a keeping of sabbaths' or 'a sabbath day rest'. It completes the restatement of all of the Ten Commandments in the New Testament. How can anyone who has repented of sin, which is a requirement for all Christians, continue to walk in sin, which is the transgression of God's commandments? As John says:
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.
Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might remove the works of the devil. 1 John 3:4 to 8
3. Indeed people can incorrectly think they are earning salvation by their own efforts. This problem can be prevented by clearly teaching them that (1) they are saved by God's unmerited grace through Jesus Christ AND (2) that God has now given them His spirit to enable them to keep His commandments. Thus even in keeping the commandments, it is not us but Christ in us who is keeping the commandments. There is nothing left in which we can glory but Jesus himself. We keep the commandments out of obedience to God, not to establish our own righteousness.
James says both faith and works are required:
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
Even so faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself.
But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble!
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God.
You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
James 2:14 to 24
Pride in our works is prevented by knowing that (1) our works are required, not some great gift we give to God and (2) even our ability to keep God's commandments is a gift to us from Him, as Paul recorded:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
For the law was powerless in that it was weak through the flesh. God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and because of sin He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:2 to 4
Please notice that it is the law of sin and death which Jesus destroyed, not the righteous commandments of the Law, which include the Sabbath. Return
4. Revelation 14:12 tells us that God's saints are those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus. Both are required, and the Sabbath is one of God's commandments. We cannot teach people to disobey God's commandments as an alternative to accurate instruction in righteousness. We do well to think carefully on Jesus' own words:
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of My Father in heaven.
"Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, in Your name did we not prophesy, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many powerful works?'
"And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' Matthew 7:21 to 23
I beg you, do not be deceived and deprived of your crown! Why is it that the WCG leadership no longer warn us about who these unfortunate people are? Is it because the ones who are now teaching the WCG leadership are the very ones who are walking on this easy, but worthless, path?
Over the last two years I have been told by many people in WCG what a wonderful example of Christianity Mother Teresa was. But is this true? Indeed she devoted her life to serving the poor, but did she help them develop a saving relationship with Jesus Christ? Let her speak for herself, in this quote from "Is Roman Catholicism Christian?" by Doug Kuepper:
Although her service to the suffering street people of Calcutta is commendable, her "dying with dignity" leaves out the Gospel. She has said, "Oh, I hope I am converting. I don't mean what you think...If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are" (Desmond Doig, MOTHER TERESA: HER PEOPLE AND HER WORK).
John MacArthur visited Mother Teresa and wrote in MASTERPIECE, "We asked her questions that might reveal her spiritual state. Her answers were troubling. 'I love and respect all religions.' [This is] an unthinkable remark in the light of the hellishness of India's dominant religions."
Why are her gentle remarks troubling? Because they contradict the teaching of Jesus Christ, who says:
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6
If she had a real relationship with Christ, she would know and teach those she helps that salvation comes through Jesus alone. Ezekiel certainly did not share her world view. Jesus' statement confirms the will of His Father, who says:
"Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of Yehovah your God.
"When Yehovah your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself lest you are snared and follow them after they are destroyed from before you; and lest you inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I, even I, will do so too.'
"You shall not do this to Yehovah your God; for everything Yehovah hates and which He detests they have done unto their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
"All the things I command you, be careful to observe; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. Deuteronomy 12:28-32
And what of Mother Teresa's spiritual leader, the Pope? Kuepper says this in regard to the Pope:
Some evangelicals praise Pope John Paul II, who gathered liberal Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus and other non-Christian religious leaders to pray for peace. By his acknowledgment of their "prayers", he was saying their religions were valid. Jesus is still the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no man can come to the Father except by Him. Are we only giving lip-service to that statement while we succumb to an ecumenical spirit that eliminates biblical truth for the sake of unity? Too often the answer is yes; ...the truth of God's Word is exchanged for experiences, "signs and wonders", and a false form of love.
Should we, as Christians, judge each other? In the following areas, the Bible clearly says Yes!:
But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; not even to eat with such a person.
For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves that wicked person."
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?
Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
1 Corinthians 5:11 to 6:2
I have been told that the Pope must now be regarded as a Christian, and thus our brother. And indeed the Pope calls himself a Christian. As this is so, I am obliged by the passage above to judge him, to ensure that he is a worthy servant of Christ who will not bring discredit to Christ (and our fellowship) by his conduct nor weaken the faith of our fellow servants.
And what do I find? A man who travels the world to worship images of 'Mary'. Even worse than this, he has devoted his life to corrupting others by encouraging his followers to do the same. He also worships ("adores") a wafer which he claims is the actual flesh of Christ and again compels others to do the same. Idolatry is a sin, even if one prefers to call it 'adoration'. The scripture above tells me that because he is an idolater it is my duty as a Christian to have nothing to do with him. Indeed, if I love my brethren, I have an obligation to warn others to stay away from him too, to protect their faith. How can anyone who truly loves the Word of God also love the many blasphemies practiced daily by the Roman church? Have we forgotten so much??? Return
5. My purpose in writing this letter is not to cause division, but to follow this Biblical injunction:
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
James 5:19 and 20
I love you, and cannot let you be turned back into sin without one more warning. I am not mandating that you live up to "my definition of sabbathkeeping", but rather ask you to live up to God's definition of Sabbathkeeping. To do less is to return to the world. Return
6. The ministers of the Church of God (Seventh Day) or WCG do not have the authority to change God's Laws any more than the Pope has. Indeed there are some Christians in the Sunday keeping churches. However, they have not yet understood the need to keep the Sabbath, as many of us also did not understand when He first called us. When God reveals this to them, they will begin their search for a church which teaches people to keep God's Sabbath, as each of us has done in the past. But for us to now reject God's Sabbath is to turn back to sin. (2 Peter 2:19 to 22) Return
7. To use such pejorative labels is indeed not Christian, as pointed out in Jude 1:9. However, when confronted with pseudo-Christians who actually encourage us to disobey God's commandments we should remember Jude 3 and 4, which warns us to beware of their wiles. Return
8. The Bible makes it clear that it is acceptable to worship God anywhere, anytime. However, this in no way replaces or diminishes God's clear command to worship Him during the time he has specifically set aside for fellowship with Him. This can be seen in His instructing the Levites to offer sacrifices every day, not just on Sabbaths. (Exodus 29:38 to 46) Daniel also prayed to God three times every day. (Daniel 6:10) Yet the Sabbath command remained. Return
9. This section shows that Mr. Tkatch has missed the point: Galatians 2:12 clearly shows that at this point Paul was not confronting Peter about either circumcision or the Sabbath as Tkatch claims. The specific issue in this case was whether Jews should eat with the gentile converts, a practice which was condemned by the Pharisees and the circumcision party, but not by any commandment of God. In a broader sense, the issue was not if one should keep God's commandments, but whether one should keep the traditions which the Jews themselves had invented and observed instead of God's commandments. In actual fact, the Sabbath is not mentioned once in the entire letter to the Galatians. The truth of the Gospel referred to in verse 14 is that explained in Galatians 3:26 to 28:
For you are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as were immersed into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, not slave nor free, not male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Thus the problem was one of the Jews trying to exalt themselves above the gentile converts, rather than treating them as equal brothers in Christ. Jesus also condemned the traditions of Judaism in Mark 7:1 to 13. Paul, an ex-Pharisee, knew exactly how dangerous such 'commandments of men' could be. Return
10. As Mr Tkatch says, the Sabbath and annual festivals "provide a meaningful and biblical pattern for weekly and annual worship." If he truly believes this, why is he working so hard to diminish their importance? Furthermore, God says observing these Sabbaths and obeying Him are signs that we are his people. (Exodus 13:9, Exodus 31:13 Deut 6:8) Being sealed with the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as our Saviour (Eph 1:13) is a wonderful gift which enables us to keep these signs, rather than displacing them. In contrast, nowhere does God say that lifting our hands or dancing before Him are specific signs that God requires of his followers. The simple fact of the matter is that observing God's Sabbaths is a requirement for His followers, the other things are not. Can Mr Tkatch, with such shoddy analogies, give us liberty to disobey God? (See 2 Peter 2:18 to 22) Return
11. God does not say that the Sabbath was given to Israel for Israel alone. Through Isaiah God states that the Sabbath is for everyone who wishes to join themselves to the Lord. It is not restricted to the Israelites. This is what God says:
Thus says Yehovah: "Keep justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is coming near, and My righteousness is to be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds on to it; keeping from defiling the Sabbath, and keeping his hand from doing every evil.
Do not let the foreigner's son who joins himself to Yehovah speak, saying, "Surely Yehovah has separated me from His people"; and do not let the eunuch say, "Behold! I am a dried-up tree."
For thus says Yehovah: "To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose things I am pleased with, and take hold of My covenant, I will even give to them in My house and within My walls a hand and a name better than that of sons and daughters; an everlasting name I will give them that shall not be cut off. "
"And the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to Yehovah, to serve Him, and to love the name of Yehovah, to become His servants; everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and takes hold of My covenant; even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." Isaiah 56:1-7
The covenant that Yehovah refers to in this passage is actually the New Covenant, as indicated by verse 1, which says His salvation is yet to come. This is proved by the promise of everlasting life in verse 5. Everlasting life was not promised under the old covenant. It only promised physical blessings and a long life on earth. (See Exodus 20:12, Exodus 23:20-33 and Leviticus 26)
In Mark 2:27 Jesus does not say that the Sabbath was made solely for the Jews. Instead, he says that the Sabbath was made for man.
Genesis shows that the children of Israel are also the children (seed) of Abraham. Galatians 3:29 says if we are Christ's, then we are Abraham's seed too. Romans 11:15 to 20 reminds us that we have been 'grafted' into Israel. This makes every Christian a 'child' of Israel. So keeping God's Sabbath is a sign of eternal fellowship between us and Yehovah God. Return
12. As in the reply to point 8, the Bible makes it clear that it is acceptable to worship God anywhere, anytime, but this freedom does not remove God's Sabbaths. However, it seems that the WCG leadership use this freedom to participate in pagan holy day rituals such as Easter Sunrise services and are now encouraging the brethren to do so. They do this while simultaneously distancing themselves from God's real Holy Days as shown in these letters. As already quoted in answer 4 above, God says we cannot worship Him by copying pagan practices. (Deut 12:28-32) Return
13. Again one must remember that the Biblical Festivals are God's Festivals, not the Israelite's festivals. As has already been shown, the Festivals are intended for Christians and reveal God's plan for the entire earth. As the Festivals themselves are being played down so also is God's plan of Salvation. When did you last hear a clear sermon on this topic at WCG? Return
14. Two answers are required here. The first is given above in the quote from James: "Faith without works is dead." The second answer suggests that Mr Feazell is willing to distort Scripture to 'make' his point. The things "of no value" referred to in Col 2:23 are identified in Col 2:22 as the "commandments and doctrines of men." Tell me, Mr Feazell, when did God's Holy Days become the "doctrines of men"?
As Colossians is frequently used to "prove' that God's Holy Days are no longer valid, let's look at an accurate translation of Col 2:6 to 23:
As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
Watch, lest anyone rob you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ.
For in Him dwells all the fullness of Divinity bodily; and you have completeness in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in immersion, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the record of our debts to the law that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the body of Christ.
Let no one defraud you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase which is from God.
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations; "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using; according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:6 to 23
We see that it is our offences against God's Law which have been nailed to the cross, not God's Law. Thus we should not listen to any deceitful philosopher who criticises us for not eating unclean foods or for keeping God's Holy Days and Sabbath. Instead we should submit to the teachings of the real body of Christ, which teaches us to have faith in Christ and to keep the commandments of God. The doctrines of men which Paul correctly condemns here are the very ones which Jesus condemned in Matthew 15:1 to 9 Return
15. According to the Webster dictionary, the primary definition of legalism is "close adherence to law". By this definition, the alternative to legalism is lawlessness. Is that what the Holy Spirit wants from us? I think not. Is it not rather that because of God's Grace that we, alone of all peoples, are able to keep God's Law, as shown in Romans 8:2 to 7:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
For the law was powerless in that it was weak through the flesh. God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and because of sin He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
For those living according to the flesh concentrate on the flesh, but those living according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
For to be fleshly minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Because the fleshly mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor can it be.
16. Anyone who doubts that the WCG leadership wishes to stop the church from observing God's Annual Holy Days need only remember the survey which was given to members earlier this year. The survey was intended to find out if they could get away with changing the dates as another step in moving us from keeping God's Holy Days to keeping the Catholic Church's holy days of Easter and Christmas. We know that if this was not their intent they would never have even considered circulating such a survey. This time the membership rejected it. How soon will it be before they ask us again, or more simply just change it anyway? Do we remember that it was the Little Horn of Daniel 7:25 who intended to change God's Laws and Festivals? Has anyone in the church been warning you of the Jesuits' plan (openly documented in their own books) to bring all the churches back under the control of the Papacy? The plan involves two main tactics: The first is developing a common liturgy of "celebrations" in all churches to make them all feel more comfortable about each other. As this does not require any changes in doctrines, even the Catholic Church moved towards common ground in this area. The second tactic involves the slow and subtle replacement of Biblical doctrines in other churches with Catholic doctrines such as the Trinity, Communion, confession, Easter observances, etc. Have you noticed any of these things occurring in WCG? Return
17. The Bible shows me that what Mr. Feazell calls the 'traditions' of the Annual Holy Days were actually given to us by Christ himself and have thus always been under His Lordship. This is confirmed by I Corinthians 10:4, which shows that Christ was with the people at Mt Sinai and is reinforced in the command to keep the Passover in I Cor 5:7 & 8. Return
18. This is true: We are all made free to choose: As God says:
"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love Yehovah your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and Yehovah your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.
"But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish. Deut 30:15 to 18
19. Yes, we need to emphasise what the Festivals foreshadow: God's Plan of Salvation for mankind. However, have you noticed that WCG no longer teaches most of this plan? More than this, ministers who would like to teach end-time prophecy and events leading up to the Millennium (remember that word??) are now prevented from doing so. If you doubt this read the article on Millennial Views in the Worldwide News several months ago. The article specifically says they can no longer teach the traditional pre-millennial Return of Christ as the correct interpretation. This is despite the fact that it is the only one of the four possible viewpoints which has a scripturally consistent basis. Return
20: Hebrews 11:28 says "By faith (Moses) kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them." -Who was faithful, Moses who kept God's Festival, or Pharaoh who despised God? Return
21: The Festivals have always been intended to help us understand and rejoice in the salvation we have through Jesus Christ. This is not a new concept. However, as this is still the case even now, why has WCG started claiming there is no longer a need to keep them? Return
22: What weakness was there in the "former idea that 'only those who keep the holy days know the plan of God.'"? Which non-Holy Day keeping church knows and teaches the full Plan of Salvation? I know of none. Not only that, but as shown above in Point 19, WCG is now rejecting large sections of God's plan. Return
23: How can the annual festivals only be "meaningful occasions" when they are regarded as "optional opportunities" and not as "required assemblies"? Surely a required assembly is more meaningful and important than an optional celebration. Return
24: As Michael says, the festivals were designed by God. The festivals show God's plan right through to the end of the Millennium. As God's plan is not yet complete, why should observation of the festivals end now? Contrary to Michael's new teachings, prophecy shows us that God's people will still be keeping the annual festivals during the millennium:
And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Yehovah of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Yehovah of Hosts, on them there will be no rain. Zechariah 14:16-17
25: Peace is achieved by having full and open Bible-based discussion on doctrinal issues. Changes achieved by issuing decrees and then slandering and disfellowshipping anyone who openly disagrees with the new WCG hierarchy is not Biblical practice. (Pressure to suppress discussion was partly achieved by ridiculing Bible-believing brethren as "Old Testament Christians who just haven't caught on yet.") A minister who does not function according to his conscience is nothing more than a hireling, with no love for the sheep. (John 10:13) Such abusive leadership is condemned by Jesus Christ:
But there was also rivalry among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.
And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.'
"But you shall not be so; he who is greater among you, let him be as the lesser, and he who governs as he who serves. Luke 22:24 to 26
26: Where does the Bible say we could not do these things if they are required for worship? Even the Levites served in God's house on the Sabbath and yet did not sin. The Pharisees attempted to control people in such petty ways, but not God. They even went to the extreme of trying to stop Jesus from healing on the Sabbath. (John 5:8) Return
27: Is it possible for any minister of WCG to unknowingly make such an outrageously false statement? God says:
'Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of sacred rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of Yehovah in all your dwellings. Leviticus 23:3
Collins Concise Dictionary defines convocation as meaning: "a large formal assembly", derived from convoke: "to call together, summon". Convocation is an accurate translation of the actual Hebrew word used. Surely a convocation is precisely "a worship meeting that everyone had to attend." As the Sabbath convocations are called by no less an authority than God, does Mr. Tkach have the authority to anull them? As Peter says in Acts 5:29 "We ought to obey God rather than men." Return
28: Is Mr. Tkach being consistent now? If we can choose to break the Sabbath, why not also worship idols, lie and steal if it's convenient? The only consistent way to know which laws to keep is to rely on the testimony of the Bible. Hebrews 7 shows us that Jesus has moved us from being under the Levitical priesthood to the priesthood of Melchizedek. Thus we know that the laws pertaining to the sacrificial system administered by the Levites are finished. The other laws, including all of the Ten Commandments, are part of all of God's Covenants and are still in effect today. Return
29: The WCG always taught that salvation through Jesus Christ was the central truth of the Bible. Our old WCG booklets on Salvation reveal that. It is true that not enough emphasis was placed on walking with Jesus Christ in the past. More focus on this is good and proper. However, once these first principles have been absorbed, this must be followed by other sound, Biblical teaching. One example of the current lack of depth is how WCG now discourages the study and teaching of prophecy, contrary to God's Word as shown in Revelation 1:3. God says:
Please repent of teaching the brethren that God's Sabbaths are no longer commanded convocations, so that they (and you) may enter into the City of God.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of immersions, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Heb 5:12 to 6:2
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.
But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
Revelation 22:14 to 15
May this document be a blessing to you.
The Central Highlands Church of God Bible translation is used in our responses.
CENTRAL HIGHLANDS CHRISTIAN PUBLICATIONS
PO Box 236 Creswick VIC 3363 Australia
Web Site http://www.chcpublications.net