By Norman S. Edwards
From SVM – Winter 2018
Dear brother in Christ:
Greetings. My name is Stephen Karuga Kariuki, an elder in an independent, small congregation in Kenya called Sabbatarian Church of God.
We joined the independent movement through the inspiration of independent brethren such as Church Of God Big Sandy, the late Ray Wooten, and our dear friend Dennis Mouland, etc.
We broke away from the Armstrongism hierarchical way and have been shunned by the Armstrongist spin offs around us. I followed all the educating material in the Servants’ News and now subscribe to the Shepherd’s Voice Magazine. I have shared your articles in the Servants’ News to many former WCG members to help them overcome the mind control created for many years by the corporate church. I am happy to say that I personally and a few with me have now embraced the concept of the spiritual organism and unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).
Servant leadership, avoiding titles (Revelation 2:2), not coercing people to contribute a certain percentage of their income to build a religious empire. We have understood cheerful giving which builds character (Romans 12:1-2).
Two of your writings helped us most to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ:
- How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans?
- How Do We Give to the Eternal? I feel you should rewrite these two for general edification removing the WCG references for distribution to all religious groups.
I just want to personally thank you for the good work in the independent movement. I am not in a position to give a financial donation, but know I have prayed for you and your team all along and will continue. I have received much from your service – my main appreciation has been sharing with others by photocopying and preaching in our small local church. [Address change information not included]
Our country is facing a very contentious repeat presidential election on October 10, 2017, one week from now. Please mention us in your private prayers. There have been deaths, as politicians compete for political power. Elections are very emotive here.
Thanks brother; pass my regards to the staff brethren behind Shepherds Voice Magazine. It is like a breath of fresh air, independent minded, joyfully expressing the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. And by this, the world will believe that Christ was sent to affect it in us (John 17:21).
A brother in Kenya that those in the US never have met but one in Christ and in The Father forming a spiritual organism, with a common hope. Shalom and God bless.
Stephen Karuga Kariuki
BOX 905-00208, NGONG,KAJIADO, KENYAStephen Karuga Kariuki
Dear Stephen Karuga Kariuki:
Your letter is most encouraging to us. It helps us see that the work we have done has been a blessing to you and other believers there, even though we have not planned it or spent any money specifically to help you. We sow the seed via magazine and Internet, and it is God that brings the fruit.
It is the mission of servants of God to turn people to God, not to turn them into an organization in one’s own name. Hence we do not see the “Church of Peter”, “Church of Paul” or “Church of James” in the New Testament. I really doubt there was a “Church of Thomas”. These men did not leave organizations behind them because they were not commissioned to build them. They were commissioned to preach the gospel and make disciples who would do the same things that Christ taught them to do (Matthew 28:19-20) and we should expect the same thing of servants of God today.
May God bless you in the ministry He has given you. You need not send us any money and we will not send you any unless God shows us in some way. God supplies the needs of ministries as He sees fit.
I agree with your suggestion to rewrite my literature so it is easily understood by people with no knowledge of the WCG and its offshoots. I did this to “How Does The Eternal Govern Through Humans?” in 2004. You can find it here: http://www.cbtm.info/cbtm/popular/govhum.pdf
I need to do this to “How Do We Give to the Eternal?” and other literature— and I plan to do it. In the 1990s and early 2000s, God used me to reach a small group of people who had a specific common Christian background and who were very serious about following His Word. In the future, I think my ministry will be to a much wider audience who are still learning the Scriptures.
I have prayed for the elections in Kenya. I read some about the difficulties and the corruption there. The USA and many other countries are experiencing similar problems. Powerful political forces have relied more and more on manipulating public opinion to get elected, rather than making honest promises and trying to deliver on them. Voters are beginning to see that more than ever before, and are voting for non-traditional candidates and parties. The result is a real conflict. The secular nature of most nations’ politics does not encourage leaders or voters to repent of their sins—which is the only real solution. Instead, greed for money and power continues—and the strife becomes more serious.
It is good to know that we can follow God in spite of religious or political power-seeking and strife. The power and love of God will abide forever! Amen!
October 24, 2017
It is my desire that you and your family are well in all regards. My wife and I are still in good health, even though I have a bad hip that hinders me some in my work.
Our main business, Prairie Mills Feed and & Farm Supply, has continued to grow over the years, and about four years ago we were able to bring in a junior partner, which has proven to be a great blessing for us.
I might have told you before that we also have a small farming operation called Cackleberry Farms, where we raise range fed chickens, eggs and beef.
About a year ago we started up a third business, called J.E.S. Tire and Automotive, where we sell tires as well as mount and balance them. We also do light automotive service, such as oil changes, etc.
Response: Thanks for the update—I found Cackleberry Farms in my old notes. Your family is setting a great example by running these honest, helpful businesses. It is great that you have taken on a junior partner— teaching and investing in others as they help you. It is not easy to start a small business these days, but when one does, it is great to pass it on to the right person as one gets older. We are doing the same thing with our homeless ministry.
Letter: The reason I share these things with you is because I consider you a friend. You helped us during some very turbulent times after Worldwide [Church] broke up and many of us were desperately trying to figure out where we had been, where we stood at the time and where we needed to go. In your article on church government, you showed from the Scripture that we had been misled and manipulated by men, and the ones we thought had such great authority over our lives, in reality, had absolutely no authority over us whatsoever!
Response: I remember you writing back in January 1996, less than a year after I started Servants’ News. You helped out with the magazine. It was vital to learn that the Son still runs the Church and that He works through believers by the spiritual gifts that He gives. I think the reason He allows church denominations is because we, like ancient Israel, tend to want powerful human leaders (1 Samuel 8). If the leaders follow the Eternal and the people follow the leaders, then things go well (1 Samuel 12). But if the King or the people depart from our Father, then there is trouble. Big church groups like we attended tend to treat members this way: “Stay and tithe in our church group because we are the one true church because our doctrines are right and the money you give to us allows the ministry to bear spiritual fruit and that is what our Father wants.” And they do bear some fruit. Some people leave the church hierarchy, and then bear less fruit than they did under the hierarchy. We also must learn to bear fruit as individuals as we follow our Father and His Son. That does not automatically happen.
Many non-denominational believers continue in the trap of thinking that having all of their doctrines right is all their Father expects of them. There is nothing wrong with good doctrine, but knowledge is only one spiritual gift and tends to “puff up” rather than produce love (1 Corinthians 8:1). I eventually stopped Servants’ News because I did not want to debate finer and finer points of doctrine, but I wanted to do some of the major work given to believers:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28:19-20).
“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18).
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).
Letter: For us, that was the beginning of a totally life-changing journey, a journey that we did not know before, in a totally different direction from anything in our past. This journey that led us in the direction of seeking to come to know the only true Elohim and the One whom He sent. And within this seeking, this knocking and this asking the Master began to teach us in matters of which we had little or no understanding in the past. Even as He spoke to the Father and said, “I have revealed Your Name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world. I have made Your Name known to them, and shall make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me might be in them, and I in them” [John 17:6, 26].
Response: The Hebrew word used for “name” in these verses is shem. It refers to both the words and sound of a name, but also its character and reputation: “A good name [shem] is to be chosen rather than great riches”… (Proverbs 22:1). It is not talking about the sound of a name, but its reputation. The same in Deuteronomy 22:19: “because he has brought a bad name [shem] on a virgin of Israel.” Moses wrote about his experience having the Name proclaimed to him. It was our Father’s character that was proclaimed:
He [the Eternal] said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name [Hebrew shem] Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Exodus 33:19, CSB).
Then Yahweh passed before him and called out, ‘Yahweh, Yahweh, God [Hebrew El] of tenderness and com- passion, slow to anger, rich in faithful love and constancy maintaining his faithful love to thousands, forgiving fault, crime and sin, yet letting nothing go unchecked, and punishing the parent’s fault in the children and in the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation!’ (Exodus 34:6-7, NJB).
Letter: This journey led us to the understanding that the Father, the Most High Elohim — not “God,” because “god” is singular with roots in Baal, and Elohim is plural and is the Hebrew word that is used to describe “the Ancient of Days, and One like unto the Son of Man.” — has an awesome and esteemed Name! I am not aware of any English word that is equal to “Elohim.” Elohim is not a name, and certainly is not the Name of our Creator. It is our conviction that coming to know His Name is at the very foundation of coming to know Him.
Response: I understand your respect for our Heavenly Father and your desire to please Him and use His Name according to the Old Testament. I hope you will understand my desire to follow the Bible’s example of using the words that are most easily understood by the people we teach. The Hebrew elohim is usually used for the Creator of the Universe, but also for false gods—dozens of times. In the Aramaic parts of the Old Testament Ezra 4:8–6:18; 7:12-26; Jeremiah 10:11; Daniel 2:4b–7:28), elohim is never used, but the Aramaic elahh is used instead—for both the Creator and false gods
The New Testament uses the Greek theos for both the Creator and false deities. The English “god” is little different than elahh or theos—it defaults to the true God, but can be a false god. Some etymologies will trace theos and “god” to pagan roots, but others do not. The origin of a word is not as important as what it presently means. Theos is used over 1000 times in a Greek New Testament.
Letter: Norman, I have to believe that you know and understand that the One who was sent to this earth as “the Lamb of Elohim” never was named JeZus, is not named such now and never shall be named such! Neither was His title Christos/ Christ. This is a gentile name and a gentile title, and these are matters of fact.
Response: There is no doubt that “Jesus” comes from the Greek Iesous, which does not sound much like the Hebrew Yeshuah or Yashuah, as some prefer. But Iesous and “Jesus” are the words massively used in the thousands of Greek manuscripts and billions of English Bible translations. Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Gospel of Matthew uses the derogatory Yeshu for the Son and never spells out the Father’s name.
The Hebrew Mashiach, meaning “Anointed” appears as the Greek Messias only twice in the New Testament (John 1:41; 4:25). Every other place, the Greek word Christos is used—“Christ” in English. John 13:13 says: “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.” Our Savior accepted these Greek titles of Didaskalos (“Teacher”) and Kurios (“Lord”). If the Greek terms were acceptable, what is wrong with their English equivalents? The Apostle Paul clearly teaches us to use language that our hearers will understand:
So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air… yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue (1Corinthians 14:9, 19).
Letter: I know many people try to justify this gentile corruption in and through various translations. That does not hold water for various reasons, and one looming reality is that you do not translate important names from one language to another language. Rather, you transliterate them. As a result of this universal law of languages, important names are recognized the world over, regardless of which country and regardless of the language spoken. And what name is there in heaven or on the earth or even below the earth, greater than “this esteemed and awesome Name, YHVH (YAHUAH) your Elohim”?
Response: The New Testament writers often transliterated Hebrew words rather than translated them. Three times, when referring to our heavenly Father, New Testament has both abba (Hebrew transliterated into Greek) and the Greek word pater. “And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You…’” (Mark 14:36, also Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). New Testament writers transliterated Hebrew words into Greek whenever they so desired! (Matthew 1:23; 5:22; 27:46; Mark 5:41; 7:34; 10:51; 15:22,34; 15:3 John 1:38, 41, 42, 49; 3:2, 26; 4:25, 31; 5:2; 9:2, 7; 11:8; 19:13,17; 20:16; Acts 4:36; 9:36, 40; 13:8;1 Corinthians 16:22; Hebrews 7:1-2; Revelation 9:11; 16:16).
Yet the New Testament teachers never transliterated Elohim or Yashua into Greek or other languages of the day. John wrote to people who knew little Hebrew because he explained the word rabbi twice (John 1:38; 20:16) but never mentioned Elohim or Yashuah. When Jesus was dying on the cross, He said “‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Matthew 27:46. Eli is the possessive form of El, a short form of Elohim. Jesus was probably quoting from Psalm 22:1 which uses Eli, but it was not a sin for Him to address the Father in this manner. John wrote the meaning of these Hebrew words in Greek—and chose to use the Greek theos throughout his gospel rather than El or Elohim.
Letter: With me speaking about the Name of the Most High Elohim, one thing I want to point out to you is that we have not been and are not currently involved with any “sacred names” groups. It seems that most of these groups are set in a certain rut, limiting the Light and Word of Elohim, as well as the Set-apart Spirit.
Response: I occasionally attend “sacred name” groups and believe I have seen His Spirit at work sometimes and not others. Unfortunately, I have found the attitude of self-righteousness with their own knowledge. Everyone needs to find a congregation where they can learn and serve others.
Letter: In closing, we are enclosing [amount removed] to help you in your endeavors and we wish you well. Also, I am enclosing a short quote from the book of Malachi, which I find sobering:
A WARNING TO THE PRIESTS AND TO ALL SPIRITUAL TEACHERS:
“If you do not hear, and if you do not take it to heart, to give esteem to My Name, says YHVH (YAHUAH) of Hosts, I shall send a curse upon you, and I shall curse your blessings” (Mal 2:2).Steve Schrock
Thank you for your help and willingness to write to discuss the meaning of the Scriptures. I have learned in writing this and I hope you learn reading in it. The quote from Malachi 2:2 is worth considering. Is he writing to people who use “God” and “Lord” rather than Elohim and Yashuah? We do not have to guess, but can simply back up a chapter:
“…Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ You offer defiled food on My altar. But you say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” says the LORD of hosts (Malachi 1:6-8).
“You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” says the LORD of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” says the LORD. “But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male, and takes a vow, but sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished — for I am a great King,” says the LORD of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations” (Mal 1:13-14).
The message here is not the use, lack of use, translation, transliteration or pronunciation of our Father’s name. It is about giving evil offerings which make God look bad to the world.
Yashuah our Messiah was a sacrifice for all sins forever, eliminating the need for temple sacrifices (Hebrew 10:11-14). Today, the body of believers is the temple (1 Corinthians 3:16), and we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). What kind of offerings are we giving today? Sometimes we give our Father the best of our lives—our time, our talents and our resources. Sometimes we give Him what is left over after our jobs, hobbies and entertainment. Our Father is not glorified when we do that. Other nations—and other religious groups—look at us and the Creator is not glorified.
Our Pledge of Allegiance says we are “one nation under God,” but what do other nations see from our “nation under God?”
- Most see our violent and pornographic films, our seductive music, and our often self-seeking overseas government, military and business ventures.
- Some see Christian missions to help bring water, food, good medicine and the Gospel; some experience inspiring Christian literature, music and film.
If the latter were greater than the former, His Name, in any language, would be glorified. If we prayed for our Father to suddenly and miraculously change every Bible and Christian publication to exclusively use Yahuah, Yashua, Elohim would the world be much different? Christians would quickly learn the new names, but would their hearts be any different? If all Christians suddenly began using their resources primarily to glorify our Father, to speak more powerfully than the sin of our day, we would change and bring blessing upon the world. It is this type of ministry in which I hope to serve in this physical life, when my wife and I move to Tennessee in mid-2018.
Again, thank you for writing—it has helped me understand what I think and why, and I hope it will help others to more clearly focus on the missions that God has given each of us.