"Just What IS an APOSTLE?"

Chapter 10

Our Spiritual Heritage

As we saw in chapter seven, God wanted the early Church to hold faithfully to the spiritual heritage they received from Peter after his death. Because of this, Peter wrote his second epistle as a means of encouraging them to do so, and within it warned of the dangers they would face from false teachers, who would attempt to lead them in different directions. The parallel with the instruction God gives the Philadelphian era to “hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev 3:11) is instantly recognisable.

It is also clear from II Peter that the spiritual heritage left after an apostle has died must continue to be over the people illuminated by God through him. However, the questions still remain: What exactly does such a “spiritual heritage” entail? And more importantly, what is the specific “spiritual heritage” left to us – after Mr Armstrong’s death – at the end-time today?

Called Now – To Be Teachers:

By viewing our salvation and part within God’s Kingdom through the prism of the Holy Days, a clear reason for our overall calling emerges: God’s people are to be first-fruits – part of the first resurrection – and are destined to become “priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev 20:6). This purpose – to become priests and reign through the millennium – is why we are called now.

A priest’s principal role – including the role we are destined to fulfil as the “royal priesthood” (I Pet 2:9) – is that “the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth” (Mal 2:7). Therefore, the reason God has called us during this age, is to ensure that a group of spirit-born kings and priests will be available to teach within the very Kingdom of God (also see: Deut 24:8; II Chron 15:3; Micah 3:11).

Within Mystery of the Ages Mr Armstrong very clearly drew our attention to this reason for our calling. He said:

Let it be emphasized that the purpose of the Church is not merely to give salvation to those called … The Church may be called God’s teachers’ college to prepare rulers and teachers for the kingdom of God … 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.

(Mystery of the Ages, Chapter 6, page 228)

What Will We Teach?

Our spiritual heritage is intrinsically bound to this teaching purpose for our calling. Isaiah states that those who live humanly into the millennium are going to “hear a word behind thee, saying, This [is] THE WAY, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Is 30:21). Please notice that we – as teachers – are going to have to point out “the Way” in all circumstances, as it says, “when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” This can only be done if “The Way” being spoken of here, primarily involves a principle that can be applied to each and every circumstance.

“This Way” that we must point people toward as teachers under Jesus Christ also cannot be something new, as we are told “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb 13:8). So “The Way” we are to point people toward in the millennium, is clearly the same “Way” we must also walk today. It is also the same “Way” as taught by Christ and the early apostles. It is also the same “Way” obtained from God via the apostle who originally spoke the Word of God to us – in our case Mr Herbert W Armstrong. It has to be the very “Way” of God Himself. This “Way” lies at the very heart of everything. This “Way” is our spiritual heritage.

The Two Trees:

Mr Armstrong continually talked about “This Way,” but he would do so using a particular example from scripture: the example was the subject of the two trees. In a sermon he gave on Atonement 1981 he explains why he would continually go back to this account. He said:

Have you really understood it? Have you grasped it? Does it mean anything for you? Or is it, ‘Ah I wish that Armstrong’d just quit hammering back, going back to Genesis again. There he is back to those two trees again.’ You betcha! I’ll go back to it again and again and again! I want to get you into the Kingdom of God with me! I didn’t call you in the first place, but I’m somewhat responsible for feeding you now that you’re here. You know that? God is going to hold me responsible. I want you all to go along with me and it isn’t going to be easy.

(“Meaning,” Atonement 1981)

Notice in the above passage, Mr Armstrong explains why he continually went back to the two trees: It was in order that we may be in the Kingdom of God! This subject of the two trees – the “Way of Give,” and the “way of get” – is absolutely vital. If we do not fully understand it, to the point that we can teach and apply it, there will be no purpose for us even being in God’s Kingdom! The teachers within God’s Kingdom must always be able to tell the difference between these two trees.

Paul tells us “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (I Cor 6:2). Notice what it says in Malachi in this regard: Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Mal 3:18). Two distinct “ways” are shown here – just as taught by the Two Trees. The indication is that only those who really “get it” – and “get it” the Way God specifies – are going to be there as spirit beings to both apply and teach it!

Daniel recognised these two distinct “Ways” when he said, “O Lord, righteousness [belongeth] unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces” (Dan 9:7). Christ also talked about them when he told the disciples, “wide [is] the gate, and broad [is] the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait [is] the gate, and narrow [is] the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt 7:13-14).

The very spiritual heritage that Peter left after his death involved them: He contrasts “the right way with “the way of Balaam” (II Pet 2:15); “the way of truth” with the “pernicious ways of false teachers (II Pet 2:2); and how those who deceive have left “the way of righteousness” when they “turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (II Pet 2:21).

The lesson of the Two Trees is crucial! The World Tomorrow is not going to be the way it is due to fancy scholarship, or management techniques. It is not due to a list of do’s and don’ts that men may glean from scripture – or even that men may glean from an apostle’s teachings. The World Tomorrow will be brought about by a radical change of thinking, from one way of life to a totally different WAY of Life.

This “Way of Life” is also our spiritual heritage. At its root is “the divine nature” (II Pet 1:4). This is why, in the book of Acts, we continually find the True Church mentioned as being followers of “That Way” or “The Way” (Acts 9:2; 18:26; 19:9; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22).

It was The Way the apostles taught when the early church “continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). It was also “The Way” taught to us by the end-time apostle – Mr Herbert W Armstrong – under the inspiration of the very same Spirit of God.

The Government of God:

Though describing our spiritual heritage as “The Way” may appear somewhat trite on the surface, what we are actually describing is the very government of God. Mr Armstrong writes:

GOD’S PURPOSE in having created and put HUMANS on earth was to develop in them GOD’S own holy and righteous character. God wants a people who will REJECT and overcome Satan’s WAY OF LIFE and turn to THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD – which is GOD’S WAY of life.

(Incredible Human Potential, Chapter 11, page 162-163)

Not only is Jesus Christ The Way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), but He also is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb 13:8). This Government of God – this Way of God – flows down from God to His people, and it is destined to do so for eternity. God’s Government therefore can never be merely from a human leader down. It must always be transparently evident that those over us in the Church must themselves remain humbly subject to what Christ places over them!

When Mr Armstrong was alive, that link was through God’s apostle. Today, though the individual apostle is dead, we must still place ourselves beneath the identical administration – if we are to remain under the identical Government of God. Any leader over us has no right to change that spiritual heritage over him. “The Way” never changes. How ironic therefore, that at the end-time, Christ is depicted as standing outside the Laodicean Church knocking! (Rev 3:20).

Administration of the Spirit:

How many times did we hear Mr Armstrong tell us that, “the problems in this world are spiritual!” After all, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but … against spiritual wickedness” (Eph 6:12). It is after all, a Spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph 2:2). Therefore it is also clear that the solution – God’s future “Way” and Government – must also be spiritual.

The apostle Paul talks of this spiritual dimension within the administration of God’s Government, when he says that God “hath made us able ministers (or administrators) of the new testament (or covenant); not of the letter, but of the spirit” (II Cor 3:6). Please notice that the administration to be used must not be according to the letter – but according to the Spirit. It is talking here of The Way in which the Law of God must be administered.

This aspect – that the Law of God is to be administered within God’s Church according to the spirit and not the letter – has been, and is today, a major stumbling block to many. Many simply never “get it.” Some allow liberalism and licentious behaviour that relegates God’s Law into a mere nebulous “something set up in our hearts.” Others ignore what God says here completely and become little more than modern day Pharisees – constructing “check-lists” of points that they believe will somehow “make them righteous.”

These approaches are both carnal and are utterly false in the eyes of God. Neither of them was received from God’s end-time apostle. The spiritual heritage we received was just that – spiritual! And that does not mean nebulous – but actually the exact opposite!

I remember a particular instance when Mr Armstrong thundered that we “just did not get it!” from the pulpit in Bricket Wood. Two friends of mine were sitting towards the front and were staggered at just who Mr Armstrong was continually looking at, and even pointing to while he was explaining this: He was addressing his comments directly to the first three rows – where the key leaders within the Work then sat – evangelists, college lecturers, department heads and ministers. It was the leaders – rather than just the rest of us – who Mr Armstrong recognised were not “getting it.” This became painfully obvious immediately after his death. Unfortunately, it is still painfully obvious today!

One of those friends then had the opportunity to meet with Mr Armstrong a day or so afterwards.Mr Armstrong came to where he worked, to approve some photographs for one of the publications. He therefore took this opportunity to ask him, “Mr Armstrong, what exactly did you mean in the service when you said we are not “getting it” – what is it that we are still ‘not getting?’ ” His answer lays bare this entire subject of the two trees and the spiritual heritage we have been left: Mr Armstrong picked up a photograph and said, “What people do not understand is that there is absolutely nothing in this world today that is going to survive without change into the future. For example, do you see this photograph? The silver on this photograph has had to be mined from the ground, and in so doing caused pollution that is not “God’s Way.” There is absolutely nothing in this world that will remain just as it is when the world eventually comes completely under the Government of God in the Kingdom of God. Everything must change. And that includes us!

Not a Human Way:

This principle that “everything must change,” has to be applied today within each of our lives. If we are to remain within God’s True Church then every aspect of our lives must become submissive to the Government of God – the Way of God. The vast majority within the Church simply have not yet grasped this. They do not grasp the scale of what this actually means. Christ even tells us that humanly, it is impossible, but immediately points out that “with God, all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). Mr Armstrong clarified just how God makes this impossible situation possible when he said: “That law is love. But it is not human love. Human love cannot rise above the level of human self-centeredness. It must be "the love of God … shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy [Spirit]” (Rom 5:5)” (Mystery of the Ages, Chapter 6, page 274).

King David – described as “a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts 13:22) – did not just want to understand God’s precepts, but “to understand the way of thy precepts”; not just remove the lie, but the way of lying”; not just truth, but the way of truth”; not just walk that Way, but RUN The Way of thy commandments when thou shalt enlarge my heart (with the very Spirit of God)” (Ps 119:27-32).

David was a man after God’s own heart – because he recognised his human heart continually needed changing if he was to walk God’s Way! Because “The Way” is a spiritual heritage, it can never be grasped by the natural mind. As the apostle Paul says, “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor 2:14). Understanding the spiritual heritage demands the Spirit of God!

We have witnessed people in our midst making “check lists” on the one hand, or on the other hand “spiritualising away” the Law of God until it becomes meaningless. Staggeringly, within the recent apostasy, we even saw people who previously used a harsh “right wing” approach to God’s Law, suddenly switch overnight and become ultra liberal! We should not have been surprised. What we witnessed was simply two alternative carnal approaches to the spiritual Law of God.

Our spiritual heritage from God via Mr Armstrong is a spiritual “Way” that the carnal mind cannot grasp (Rom 8:7). But the question remains; how do we get “back on Track,” and once again embrace “That Way” once more? That is the subject of the final two chapters.

In Summary:

The Spiritual heritage, left for the people of God to follow faithfully after the death of the apostle sent to them, is much more extensive than human beings naturally grasp. It is “The Way” that is continually mentioned within Acts, and comprises the spiritual administration of the new covenant prophesied within scripture (II Cor 3:6). It is also “The Way” in which Christ applied the scriptures when He was here on earth as a human being, magnifying the very Spirit of the Law. It is therefore only possible humanly through the Spirit of God. That Spirit is given as a gift, and is only given to those willing to humbly place themselves in obedience to God (Acts 5:32; Heb 5:9).

“This Way” must be thoroughly learned by God’s True Church, so it can be effectively taught within the World Tomorrow. “This Way” can also be described as the Government of God. It is also the “Way of Give” as opposed to the “way of get” that Mr Armstrong continually returned to when describing the account of the two trees. “This Way” is our spiritual heritage. It is the priceless gift God has left us after the death of the end-time apostle He sent to us – Mr Herbert W Armstrong.