"Just What IS an APOSTLE?"

Chapter 11

Getting Back on Track

As we have seen in the previous chapter, there is an urgent need to “get back on Track” – to return fully once again to the spiritual heritage and “Way” of God. But how? What does it specifically entail? What is involved in us getting “Back on Track” – more than a mere nebulous embracing of whatever we may personally perceive as “The Way”?

But Mr Armstrong “Got Things Wrong…”

One of the most common excuses people use to justify rejecting specific areas Mr Armstrong dealt with is that “he made mistakes.” Indeed, Mr Armstrong would be the first to admit that he was human and therefore did make mistakes – as did Peter, James, John, Matthew, Paul and all the other New Testament apostles.

Paul and Barnabas had a fierce argument over John Mark (Acts 15:39). The apostle Peter had to be openly corrected by Paul for his treatment of Gentiles (Gal 2:11-13). The apostle Paul was at one time fully expecting to be alive physically at Christ’s return (I Thes 4:15, 17). In each case God is teaching us. He is showing us not only that apostles make mistakes – but that such “mistakes” in no way absolve the apostolic nature of their writings – nor do they jeopardise in any way the leadership of the One who is actually guiding the Church – Jesus Christ! Although Christ chooses to work through frail human apostles to lay foundations – and chooses to continue to work through them to preserve those foundations – He does not make mistakes with His Church.

Those who attempt to use past “mistakes” as their excuse, invariably do so because they have their own agenda. I remember being asked, in this context, if I agreed with the statement, “we reserve the right to continually review and change any of our doctrines that are not in line with scripture.” My reply was simply, “who is ‘we’?” They had no effective answer. Whoever the “we” may be, they have absolutely no right whatever to change apostolic revelation (I Cor 3:11).

I hope by this point in this booklet we can clearly see that assuming an apostolic role for ourselves, or attempting to take to ourselves a grace that God has not given, places us in opposition to God’s direction and purpose. But this still leaves the question: which portions of Mr Armstrong’s material has Christ prepared for us to use today to “get back on Track” – in regard to the specifics?

Learning From “The Trial Run”:

Fortunately, our loving God has provided precise instruction on how we must proceed in regard to the “specifics.” He did this during a unique time – from 1978 to 1985 – when He brought His end-time apostle back from total heart-failure to put the Church “Back on Track” in a kind of “trial run.” What the Church had to recover from at that time was an almost identical “Laodicean” condition to that seen around us now. For those with eyes to see, God’s hand was then – and is today – firmly on the helm. Notice what was said in one of the first “Back on Track” sermons Mr Armstrong gave after his return to Pasadena from Tucson:

I have called a special day of prayer and fasting today - because God's church is in FATAL DANGER! I can’t say that loud enough to hammer it home to you.

WE DON'T REALISE my brethren the way we've been drifting. We've been doing just what you heard in the sermonette - doing our own thing. We’ve been getting lukewarm … I would rather have two or three filled with the Spirit of the Living God than to have this church packed full and a thousand other churches like it of lukewarm people – getting into the Laodicean condition – doing their own thing.

(“Warning to the Church,” 24th June 1978)

Notice that the problem Mr Armstrong highlights above is “doing our own thing.” This is the very meaning of the word “Laodicea.” God allowed Mr Armstrong to witness this condition not only within the Church, but also within the leadership, the ministry, the College and the media effort. Notice this segment of a letter he had to write to his own son pointing out his part in allowing the Work to get progressively “off Track”:

The Work … was done in a MANNER unlike anything in this world -- it was CHRIST doing it HIS WAY -- and not the way men would do it …

In due time, you, my son, came into the Work. But unfortunately you DID NOT AGREE with the WAY Jesus Christ had been leading me …

At first you followed the same style on the air that Christ had used in me -- totally DIFFERENT from THE WAY the 'expert' commercial broadcasters used … Then you changed in your delivery. You copied the commercial broadcasters …

You did not agree with THE WAY in which Christ was building the college and the Work through me. You even said to others you would not have built the college THE WAY I did under Christ's guidance … You began changing WAYS and personnel over to YOUR WAY. And, although you will not agree with me in this, as you have not agreed in THE WAY things ought to be done, the Work started downhill. Yet I have been told you claimed YOU BUILT THE WORK.

But the living CHRIST built it. And He built it THE WAY He led me -- THE WAY you disagreed with.

(Quoted in co-worker letter of 21st May 1978)

In getting the Work “back on Track,” Mr Armstrong had to return each area of the Work back to “The Way” Christ had formerly shown him. He did this in stages. I hope we can see, therefore, that “The Way” is anything but nebulous. The reason the Work became “off Track” was because aspects of “This Way” were no longer being faithfully adhered to as taught” (Col 2:7; Tit 1:9).

A Starting Point:

If we wish to personally get “back on Track”, an excellent place to start is by once more reading Mystery of the Ages. But this time – now we understand more about apostleship – our approach must be different. Whatever our role in the church, we do not have the grace given to an apostle. It is not Mr Armstrong who has left us the spiritual heritage within Mystery of the Ages and his other material. It is the Head of the Church – Jesus Christ – as He leads His end-time Church toward its position within His bride and Temple!

The fact that Christ chooses to speak through a frail human instrument – His end-time apostle, with all his faults – has no bearing whatever on the True Source. The position of such teaching is actually the same as the non-canonised writings of Paul or Peter, or their scriptural writings prior to canonisation. The approach Christ would have demanded in the past, towards such un-canonised material of Peter and Paul, would still have included a respect toward its apostolic nature! So the writings of our apostle – sent by God at this end-time, just before the return of Jesus Christ – require the same respect! Mystery of the Ages is indeed an apostolic writing – albeit an un-canonised one.

Read the author’s statement and be reminded just why Mystery of the Ages was written – and why Satan did his level best to stamp out this explanation of God’s “coded message not allowed to be revealed and decoded until our time” (page xii). Appreciate that indeed, “time may prove this to be the most important book written in almost 1,900 years” (page xii), and that “God’s time for it has come” (page xiii).

Realise that just as the apostle Peter said, “I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance” (II Pet 1:15), so our apostle says to us: “And now, in my 93rd year, I have been led to write this book before this event-packed life ends, to share with as many as care to know, the answers that the great supreme mind of God reveals in his Word” (page xiii). Realise also, that just before this paragraph, Mr Armstrong makes very clear indeed that the only ones able to understand – will be God’s True Church – and no one else! Mystery of the Ages has been specifically written for those future teachers – that they may thoroughly understand “The Way” they are destined to teach.

The Sin Question:

In studying this wealth of material, one thing should constantly come to the fore: “The Way” – as we have seen in the previous chapter – is spiritual. When getting “back on Track,” we must learn from the writings of Mr Armstrong, to apply the principle of God’s Word properly. We must do so in a Godly, open, honest way – not “handling the Word of God deceitfully” (II Cor 4:2), as so many are doing today.

Should we try to bend “The Way” into “our own way,” we will be unfit to apply it properly in the Kingdom of God. Clearly and firmly applying the principle – not merely the letter – is exactly how we were taught to get “back on Track” in the 70s and 80s. Notice how Mr Armstrong does this in this 1983 Pastor General’s Report sent to the ministry concerning the subject of makeup:

Before examining specific texts on the subject of make-up, let me summarize the PRINCIPLE involved--not only on make-up but on any or all subjects of what is right and what is wrong.

God's law defines the WAY of human conduct—first of all, in relation to God, and secondly to human neighbor. LAW simply means the rules of conduct. The RULES of a basketball, baseball or football game might be called the LAWS of those games—the rules that regulate performance.

God's LAW is stated in the one word, LOVE. The word LOVE is a PRINCIPLE, and in principle it is opposite to the word LUST. It is LOVE toward others. First of all, LOVE toward GOD, in love, worship, and obedience. Secondly it is love toward other humans. It cannot be vanity, because vanity is toward self and puts SELF before God. Love toward and worship of God in itself is the PRINCIPLE of humility, not self-glory or vanity or coveting. It is love toward neighbor in the spirit of outgoing CONCERN for neighbor's welfare and good—of cooperation, serving, helping, sharing. It also may be love toward self in the sense or principle of concern for the physical and mental and spiritual welfare of the body and mind, which is the temple of God's Holy Spirit.


As I write, and THINK on this subject, I am convinced that few understand — even in God's true Church — the TRUTH on this SIN question.

A great deal of Protestantism has rubbed off on our people in God's Church. Neither the Catholics nor Protestants teach God's Commandments. Rather, they teach that the law was abolished. If there is no law, then there is no sin, "for where no law is, there is no transgression" (Rom. 4:15), and "sin is not imputed when there is no law" (Rom. 5:13) and "sin IS the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4). But the law of God is SPIRITUAL (Rom. 7:14).

God looks on the heart. But "the heart" as used in the Biblical sense, refers to the attitude, the intent or purpose. Sin results from a wrong attitude, intent, desire, which is an attitude of mind. Yet sin is also an act. It is the act of yielding to an attitude, desire or purpose contrary to LOVE toward God or toward humans. Vanity violates "love toward and worship of GOD." It is desire or intent, or attitude of SELF glorification. SELF wants to glorify itself, not God. VANITY is the root of SIN.

Brethren, this month I shall enter the 92nd year of my life in this age. I have to realize that I am only a heartbeat away from the end of this life. For your sake, and the Work's sake, I hope God will allow me continued heartbeats. But I have to look at the state of God's Church realistically. I think I see these things more soberly than formerly — perhaps more soberly than many of you.

Ask yourselves, "Do I really hunger and thirst after God's righteousness?" or after being like the world, whose, god is Satan?

How many are like the woman who had been baptized only a few months and came to me, saying, "I've just inherited some money. Tell me, how much of it do I have to tithe to God? I don't want to tithe any more than I have to, but I want to get into God's Kingdom."

Do YOU hunger and thirst after God's righteousness, or after the ways of this world? Are you concerned with what GOD thinks of you, or what the world thinks — WHICH?

(Pastor General's Report Vol.5, No.26 July 1, 1983)

Two Types of Error:

There is no doubt whatever that the full article, partially quoted above, clearly and firmly shows that makeup cannot form part of “The Way” we walk. This is merely an example chosen because it deals the most succinctly with the sin question – but such conclusions stand true both in what we are to follow today, and in what we must teach tomorrow. Makeup is incompatible spiritually. Yet within the corporate Churches of God today, what do we find in relation to specific rulings such as this – rulings originally made by God, through His apostle who was being led by His Spirit – to show His people how to get “back on Track” in the modern world?

What we largely find are two approaches – spread through hundreds of different corporate groups - and both approaches are “off Track”:

The most common blatantly rejects the leadership of Christ – and instead assumes a grace reserved specifically for apostles. They decide Mr Armstrong was mistaken on various issues and take to themselves the knowledge of right and wrong in whatever areas they decide to re-examine. They almost wear the Laodicean “the people judge or decide” badge with pride!

The other approach, however, appears outwardly to be more righteous. They try to maintain that because they have added makeup (or some other point) to the “check list” they have compiled, this makes them righteous. Often you will also get the impression that this group has always been right, that they have always been “on Track.” Such an approach within a human being is never the Way of God, and was not “The Way” we received via Mr Armstrong as our spiritual heritage. Certainly, “sin IS the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4), but as Mr Armstrong points out above: “the law of God is SPIRITUAL” and the apostle Paul then goes on to say, but I am carnal, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14).

The Track to which we are to return is not a destination. It is a “Way” – a path on which we all must walk. Getting “back on Track” is therefore a process – of aligning absolutely all we do, think, or say, with the divine nature of God. In a human being, the True “Way” of God consists of a lifestyle of constant repentance.

The Purpose of Rulings and Law:

Mr Armstrong explains that, “LAW simply means the rules of conduct. The RULES of a basketball, baseball or football game might be called the LAWS of those games—the rules that regulate performance” (Pastor General's Report Vol.5, No.26 July 1, 1983). By using this analogy from basketball, we can see that the laws of basketball point out when we are not playing the game – but they do not make us good basketball players!

In the same way, both the specific Laws of God and the apostolic rulings, made for the modern world through the end-time apostle, are both designed to point out when we go OFF Track (the meaning of “sin” – to “miss the mark” spiritually). But they do not make us righteous! They do not get us back ON Track again. We may keep whatever “check list” we decide to compile and still be totally off Track – as were the Pharisees. Being on Track comes only from God’s Spirit, for it is only those who “are led by the Spirit of God, [who] are the sons of God” (Rom 8:14).

This vitally important point is reinforced within Romans when Paul tells us that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the KNOWLEDGE of sin” (Rom 3:20). The law tells us WHEN we sin (are off Track). It does not get us BACK to possessing God’s Character. It does NOT make us righteous! Righteousness can come only from God – it must be God’s righteousness not our own (verses 21-22). This is why it takes constant contact with God – using study, meditation, prayer and fasting – if we are to be successful.

This is also true with any apostolic rulings made by Mr Armstrong. Whatever rulings we have today – left by the end-time apostle – show us when we are “Off Track” in our modern world. We are therefore duty bound to adhere to them. But keeping them does not get us back on Track again. That still takes the conversion of our innermost being – our heart – by God’s Spirit. This is why Mr Armstrong pointed out, “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).

I hope we can now see just why we needed an end-time apostle. We needed to be taught by God how to apply “The Way” in our 20th and 21st Centuries. This Way – this Government – is the “all things” that was restored to God’s Church. It is what we specifically need, at this time, to train us how to function as Sons of God within the Kingdom of God. This is why it is so vital for us at this crucial time in history to LISTEN again to the spiritual teaching Christ left us! Unless we fully understand it within today’s society – we will not be able to teach it in the future society – and God will therefore not allow us to be one of those future teachers!

At this time – just before Christ returns – we must go back and listen to the sermons Mr Armstrong gave during 1978-1985, and study God’s Word in the light – the illumination – of them. If you have not done so for some time, I can guarantee that you will be amazed by the breadth and depth of Truth. Also we must read the articles that God’s apostle wrote at that time – coupling them with humble, meditative Bible-study. Only when we are fully submissive to the full Government of God (which is “The Way” of God), can God effectively prepare us for His Kingdom – ready to teach, correctly, that identical “Way” when Christ returns.

Faithful Ministers:

As we have seen in chapter 5, specific grace is given alongside each ministerial office God has established within His Church. Because such ministers are the very servants – or ministers – of God, we should indeed “esteem them very highly” (I Thes 5:13) as the apostle Paul commands. This is because they teach as representatives of God Himself.

However, we should only accept teaching from such men if those men are themselves clearly and unambiguously aligned with the foundations laid by God. The apostle Paul brings this out in I Corinthians: According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (I Cor 3:10).

A minister must be a faithful steward (I Cor 4:2) – carefully aligning his own words with those of the apostle sent to us. They must be like Timothy – “faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ” (I Cor 4:17). As we have seen, God chooses to reveal foundational Truth only to apostles – not the general ministry. For example, doctrine cannot come into the True Church of God via a doctrinal committee! Notice what God clearly reveals about this area through His end-time apostle:

And some of our intellectuals are going to burn up with it if they do not wake up in time and if they don’t realise that that intellectualism is of Satan the Devil. Let me explain a minute about that before I go on with the main sermon. This type of intellectualism and scholarship - they all want to be scholars - they want high scholarship - it is 100% carnal. It is material and materialism. There is none of God, none of Christ in it. It is an intellectualism that throws Christ right out the window. And that has been like leaven getting into the College …

We had here a doctrinal committee of intellectuals. And the whole idea was "lets try and study intellectually to find out how wrong Mr Armstrong is and where he's misled us.” That was the real object. Well there isn’t any such committee any longer and there isn’t going to be. God doesn’t reveal His Will to intellectual scholars on the intellectual basis that go into it in little tiny ways.

(Sermon by Mr Armstrong: "Warning to the Church" given 24th June 1978)

The List Seems Endless:

On and on we could go – with the apostolic guidance that led us back to “The Way” of God within our modern world: healing; doctors; voting; physical-sin; born-again; the gospel; “That Prophet”; inter-racial marriage; physical Israel; the calendar; makeup; birthdays; how we baptise; childrearing; laws of health; Sabbath dress; hymns we sing; making the publications “Plain” – or clouding them in nuance? The list seems endless.

We are today in “Fatal Danger” as Mr Armstrong thundered at us in 1978. There are indeed “men” trying to take our crown (Rev 3:11). Those who attempt to overthrow “the Way” that has already been revealed to us at this end-time make themselves “grievous wolves … speaking perverse things” (Acts 20:29-30) and become false apostles” (II Cor 11:13).

Such men are like the Pharisees of old whom Christ cornered. They were asked, “The baptism of John, [the type of the end-time apostle] was [it] from heaven, or of men? … And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell” (Mark 11:30, 33). These hypocrites were happy to use John when it suited them (Matt 3:7) but here claimed no one could tell if it was God who SENT John the Baptist. If they were to admit what was clearly evident – they knew Christ’s next question: “Why then did ye not believe him?” (Mark 11:31). Today we see leaders within the very corporate Churches of God behaving in exactly the same way. They offer lip service to Mr Armstrong, but give an identical Pharisaic response in regard to his prophesied end-time role!

God's Church must have unity – not factions – and there is only one “Way.” There cannot be “an apostle” coming after initial enlightenment who overturns previous revelation. In such a case, someone's information is not coming via revelation. If we recognise that God used the original individual in an unprecedented way and that he understood the things he passed to us due to revelation, then the only conclusion is that those who attempt to overturn that revelation are false – however many “good words and fair speeches” they undoubtedly will make (Rom 16:18).

Our loving God has shown each of us how to get “Back on Track.” Yes, the Track we are to return to is spiritual – it is “The Way” of God that we must learn and adhere to for eternity. But we have also been given precise pointers that specifically show us where we are “off Track” in this modern world. Such pointers must be accepted for what they are: the only modern apostolic administration of the Government of God available to us. They point us again to God’s Spiritual “Way.” They point us “back on Track.”

In Summary:

The Church became “off Track” in the mid 1970s when we all began “doing our own thing.” This was true from the top to the bottom of the human organisation and seems to have been allowed by God for a specific reason. It allowed God to guide Mr Armstrong as he brought the organisation “back on Track” at that time – almost as a “trial run” of what we must do today.

The material written at that time (1978-1985) is readily available today. That material will also allow God to correctly guide us “back on Track” today, just as it did originally. We must recognise and appreciate that the True Source was Jesus Christ who continues then – and now – to lead His Church. Mystery of the Ages and other material by Mr Armstrong from that period of time should be recognised for what they actually are – un-canonised apostolic writings. Such material points both where we are off track and also points out the direction we should go once more – from our modern end-time perspective.

Any minister involved in helping us in this process must himself be clearly and unambiguously aligned with the spiritual heritage over him. Only such truly faithful men should be regarded as part of the genuine Government of God. All others who are disobedient to that heritage make themselves “grievous wolves … speaking perverse things” (Acts 20:29-30) as false apostles” (II Cor 11:13) and should be avoided by God’s True people (Rom 16:17).