H ere at UK Apologetics we did, of course, applaud the changes in the Worldwide Church of God group, (now officially 'Grace Communion International' in the US but, apparently, not so in the UK), but we warned that the deeply intrinsic legalism and strong emotional support for 'Justification by Works' among many within the group could not be overcome as quickly as some might have one believe - no matter what the group's 'official doctrines' may state.
We have been well aware for some time of a strong legalist faction of older ministers and leaders and have also been aware of the WCG UK office's determination to convey an 'everything in the garden is rosy' impression, especially to evangelical Christians which the former cult has been especially keen to court and to impress.
Suddenly, however, assurances that all the WCG's legalists have now left to join the various breakaway groups which have kept the old full-blown armstrongism alive, are looking a bit hollow. Here in Wales a WCG group which has met in the southwest Wales area for several years (some of them known to your writer) have suddenly become more militant, insisting that pure Armstrongism should be revived in their area. Apparently, civil war broke out when a minister from the UK 'headquarters' attended their west Wales meeting place on the First Day of Unleavened Bread, 2011, taking only fully leavened bread which he openly ate in the presence of all. He also preached, effectively telling them that it was time for them to grow up! I have now received a few reports of what ensued, though, as always in such reports, there are variations. According to one report, the anger almost came to blows being landed, certainly the official WCG 'minister' was accused of 'preaching heresy.'
We are told that the deacon who seems to have led the local rebellion now states that he will lead the west Wales WCG grouping out of the officially "reformed" WCG and will make contact with the 'Living Church of God' (Roderick Meredith's old, diehard Amstrongist group; website here), in order to recover full-blown Armstrongist teachings. Of course, numbers are now absolutely tiny, we speak here of about 20-25 people at the very most. But the official WCG in Wales is already very small so if this breakaway goes ahead this will make their numbers even more meager.
Interestingly, this part of southwest Wales (around Whitland) already has an extremist Armstrongist group, the so-called Church of God in Wales, Now this group is truly tiny, 3-7 people the last time I heard, but the new deacon-led grouping is currently insisting (although this could change) that they will not make contact with that group because of former clashes between the deacon and the former WCG local elder who later set himself up as leader of this COGW ('Church of God in Wales'). I understand that further damage was done when the former WCG local elder did not attend the funeral of a long-standing member in the area.
This beautiful and quiet corner of Wales is the scene for the latest Armstrongist flare-up.
One could be somewhat amused by all of these rather sad goings-on but the real tragedy is that the Lord Jesus Christ is not enough for these people, they are firmly legalistic, believing that they cannot be "true Christians" without being in subservience to a whole group of Old Covenant laws. These people hold to what is sometimes now called Galatianism, and the Apostle Paul's ringing condemnation of Galatianist legalism should be a warning for us all:
...Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:7b-9, NIV).
...a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16b).
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:19-21).
Paul has more to say in Colossians:
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: (Colossians 2:13-20, NIV throughout).
In this Scripture, Paul condemns the sort of strange legalism which sometimes creeps up on even some sincere believers, even mentioning those who place too much importance on the 'Sabbath' and on various 'festivals.' Elsewhere Paul even states that such things as disputes over the holiness of days and other peripheral matters should never divide believers. See Romans 14:1-10. Paul even compares those with such a misguided love of legalism to those who are in awe of "the elemental spiritual forces of this world," and are too willing to "submit to its rules." Here the comparison is to false spirituality, mysticism and asceticism. In other words, Paul puts those who would introduce legalism into Christian worship in the same category as he places mystics and eastern-type religionists. It is the same love of legalism. The problem being: the deeply flawed concept that Christ is not enough; that more is needed. Paul always states that Christ is fully sufficient for our salvation; nothing else is needed.
So the WCG legalists (yes, there obviously still are WCG legalists, whatever you might have been led to believe) just seem to be committed to judging their brothers and sisters and causing friction. When will some of these people grow up? When will they actually study the Scriptures for themselves instead of worshipping at the shrine of Armstrongism?
Robin A. Brace. June 25th, 2011.
WAS HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG REALLY AN APOSTLE?
THE SIGNS OF AN APOSTLE
WHY WORSHIP ON A SUNDAY?
JESUS, CHRISTIANS AND THE LAW
SHOULD WE ONLY USE UNLEAVENED BREAD FOR COMMUNION?
SHOULD WE STILL KEEP THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES AND THE SABBATH?
WAS THE MOSAIC SABBATH ETERNAL AND UNCHANGEABLE?
THE MOVE AWAY FROM LEGALISM
ENTERING TRUE SABBATH REST
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