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A Frank Answer to a Reader's Sincere Question
From Seattle, Washington, comes this question from a reader of The Good News, after reading my "Personal" on "What we should learn from the spectacular Israeli strike to free scores of hostages from skyjack terrorism.
The amazing parallel!"
"Dear Mr. Armstrong, I read with interest your article in the December Good News. I am enclosing part of it with underlinings that I would like more information on.
"I would appreciate receiving a short and concise statement of the basis of your call from God. Did He visit you personally? How was this Bible commission announced to shake someone like me to be able to know that you are the 'APPOINTED'? Will there be any need for a successor to you? And how is it provided?
"I enjoy your magazine. Best to you."
The letter was not anonymous, else I would not give it an answer.
But I feel many readers might be interested in the answer. God did appear personally to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Christ did appear personally in calling His twelve apostles. There is every reason to believe that He appeared in person to the apostle Paul, in calling and instructing him.
I have often compared my call and teaching from Christ to Paul's account in Galatians 1:10-17.
First, he gave one of the evidences of the authenticity of his apostleship in verse 10: "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."
Then comes his teaching and commission: "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of .Jesus Christ.... But when it pleased God, who ... called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood [humans]: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus."
There is every reason to believe that Jesus Christ appeared in person to Paul in Arabia, and for some three years taught him just as He previously had taught the original twelve for some three years.
Jesus Christ is the personal living Word of God. The Bible is the written Word of God. The Bible was not in print in Paul's day. Paul, when called, did not go to men, or those recognized by men as God's teachers, but he was taught directly by Christ the personal Word of God. In like manner, when God called me, by circumstances I believe He maneuvered, in the autumn of 1927 after preparing me in many ways while I was unconverted and traveling the wrong road of life (see volume I of my autobiography)I did not go to any school of religion, to any denominational teachers, or to any humanly taught theological seminary. I went directly to the living CHRIST for teaching THROUGH His WRITTEN WORD!
I was immediately shocked to see with my own eyes that in Protestant Sunday school, from a child, I had been taught precisely the OPPOSITE of what God PLAINLY SAYS in His written WORD!
How do I know HE guided me? Two reasons: 1) My eyes saw exactly the SAME WORDS my human teachers of Sunday-school days had seenthe difference being that they "believed" in the BiBLE-but did NOT believe WHAT IT SAIDand I did believe WHAT IT PLAINLY SAID. 2) I had been brought to a full and complete REPENTANCE and UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER TO GOD, according to WHAT HE SAID (which I believed).
I had given my life without any reservations to HIM. I had forsaken THIS WORLD, the glamorous future it appeared to promise meeverythingto believe and follow HIM, AND HAD ACCORDING TO HIS PROMISE RECEIVED HlS HOLY SPIRIT TO OPEN MY MIND TO HlS SPIRITUAL TRUTH! I knew it was TRUE, because it made sense and nothing else did!
Little by little, in almost day-and-night study of His WORD, much of it on my knees, God opened more and more TRUTH to my understanding. Always I had craved UNDERSTANDING. And God was giving it to me.
After the first six months of this intensive biblical study, God brought me to this complete surrender, and gave me the gift of His Spirit in the spring of 1927. I feel He gave me also the special gift of UNDERSTANDING.
I DID NOT CHOOSE THE MINISTRY as a life vocation. I had long before chosen advertising and journalism as a life profession.
My first employer, when I was 16 and in a job away from home, filled me with a vigorous, energetic AMBITIONa burning DESIRE to become successfulplus the willingness to pay the price in STUDY, HARD WORK, PERSEVERANCE and DRIVE. I had not yet chosen my life goal, but by 18 I had. And I WORKED at it. I worked hard by day, studied hard by night. I put myself where I would be in constant contact with so-called big and successful men. My dealings were with presidents and board chairmen of America's great industrial, banking and commercial corporations. I was filled with AMBITION, SELF-CONFIDENCE, DESIRE TO DRIVE MYSELF TO THE TOP.
Are not these all GOOD qualities? Yes?
No! Satan has deceived this world into thinking they are. But they are all based on Satan's "GET" principle of life. In my conversion I learned that God's principle of life is the OPPOSITEGIVE instead of GETLOVE instead of competition, strife, resentment, rebellion.
Conversion meant getting RID of egotistic SELF-confidence, and replacing it with the confidence that is FAITHconfidence in CHRIST. No longer were things to be accomplished through my own vaunted and vain SELF-power, but through the POWER OF THE LIVING CHRIST! It meant complete reliance on HIM.
I had to get rid of VANITY and a feeling of superiority to other humans, and replace vanity with humility, exalting CHRIST instead of myself. I could be His INSTRUMENT, if I placed myself fully in His hands in faith and obediencebut when anything was accomplished, it was HE, not I, who did it. At first, as is human, I went overboardto the opposite extremeand took MEEKNESS to mean WEAKNESS. I let others run all over me. Finally, however, Christ guided me into achieving BALANCE.
No, Christ didn't visit me IN PERSON, but He did IN SPIRIT. I did not WANT to be a minister. I wanted to be an advertising man. But I did become so wrapped up in the THRILLING and EXCITING discovery of new gold nuggets of TRUTH that, as a writer, I began to write articles about the wonders of TRUTH being revealed to me. A few people I knew personally began urging me to speak out publicly. I resisted for a few years. Finally God opened my eyes to a truth I knew a certain humble group of BELIEVERS in a rural area had never seen nor discovered, and God gave me such an urge to SHARE this knowledge with them that I agreed to talk before them. My wife said she would hardly have called that first preaching a sermon. But the hearers were enthralledexcitedand wanted me to come and preach again.
In preaching, I did not choose God, HE CHOSE MEjust as He chose His original apostles. The Church of God had existed since Christ founded it in A.D. 31. But by A.D 70 Christ's gospelwhich was announcing the KINGDOM OF Goo-had been SUPPRESSED and replaced with ANOTHER GOSPEL. The true Church of God was forced to go underground as a great false church rose to power. Thousandsmillionswere tortured, martyred. The true gospel was no longer preached to THE WORLDbut secretly to the very few, UNDERGROUND.
Christ's GOSPEL was the announcement of the coming KINGDOM OF GODincluding the restoration of THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD to govern all the earth. By the time God committed to me His great commission, we had reached the beginning of the END TIME-the END of THIS AGEand had reached the generation in which THE KINGDOM OF GOD was to be established to rule ALL NATIONS and usher in WORLD PEACE.
My first broadcast was in October 1933. on a small 100-watt radio station. It proclaimed TRUTH listeners had never heard before. It was the TRUE GOSPEL. Listeners were SURPRISEDshocked. Yet thej saw with their own eyes in their own Bibles what I proclaimed. Letters rolled in. The radio station manager was surprised at the mail response. He invited me to put together a regular radio program.
The first issue of The Plain Truth appeared February 1, 1934. The regular broadcast, then weekly, started the first Sunday in 1934.
Actually, God committed to me the GREAT COMMISSIONto carry His true gospel of the KINGDOM OF GOD to ALL THE WORLDafter much trial and test and proving.
No, Christ did not visit me in person. He has not been doing it that way since He visited the apostle Paul in Arabia.
Then HOW DO I KNOW?
How may YOU know?
Christ Himself gave one answer: "BY THEIR FRUITS YOU SHALL KNOW."
The disciples of John, after he was in prison, came to Jesus to ask a similar question: "How may we KNOW you are God's ANOINTED ONEthe Messiahthe Christ?"
Jesus answered, "Go tell John what you see being DONE-being ACCOMPLISHED." So I say: LOOK INTO YOUR OWN BIBLE. You will find where Christ Himself said what would be DONE in THE GREAT COMMISSION in our time: "And this GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the END [of this age] come" (Matt. 24:14). That's what it says!
But although millions claim they believe in the Bible, FEW believe WHAT IT SAYS.