History of the Seventh Day Church of God
I. Introduction — Controversial History
Summary of Book
The True Church
Is there a true church? Did Jesus Christ of Nazareth form one distinct church, or body of believers in Him, that as He stated in Matthew 16:18 would continue to the very time of His return to rule this earth as Lord of Lords and King of Kings? That church was prophesied to be a small, despised little group, Luke 12:32, that would bear the name, "Church of God," the church name used in the Bible more than any other, and used to denote a local church as well as the church as a whole, the name used twelve times in the New Testament.
If there is a true church, it would have to be one church, not divided into hundreds of disagreeing denominations. It would have to live by the Law of God. And, just before Christ's return, it would have to be proclaiming the gospel of Christ — the good news that Jesus is soon coming to rule this earth with His saints and make a utopia on earth. This church would have to be proclaiming this message to the world with power, as a witness to all nations, before Christ's return. If there is a true church today, it would have to be one group, alive with God's Spirit, living by the very words of the Bible. Where is the true Church of God today?
Herbert W. Armstrong, a businessman of Quaker background, asked himself these questions in late 1926 and early 1927 while he was living in Oregon. The bottom having fallen out of his advertising business in the Northwest, he was angered into a six month Bible study by the adherence of his wife to an obscure Sabbath (Saturday) keeping church. Reading the Bible from a non-denominational viewpoint, he found that "both Catholic and Protestant teachings were, in most basic points, the very opposite of the teachings of Christ, of Paul, and of the original true Church!" Pouring through volumes of Biblical research material, and the denominational publications of all religious groups, he found that the "Protestant denominations had emerged out of Catholicism," and that the Roman Catholic Church was not the oldest, nor the original Church of Christ and His apostles.1 (See Footnote 1 at the end of the book.)
The very purpose of the Church, Herbert Armstrong discovered, was to preach Christ's gospel. But after carefully considering what this gospel was, how Christ and His apostles preached it, Armstrong found both Catholics and Protestants "were not preaching the same gospel at all, but a totally opposite message!"
So then where was the true church, the one Christ founded and the one He said would never stop the Work He began?
Using the two criteria of commandment-keeping, Revelation 12:17, and the name, "Church of God," John 17:6-12, Armstrong narrowed his 1927 search down to one church — "a little, almost unheard-of church called the Church of God, which maintained a small publishing-house headquarters at Stanberry, Missouri."
Yet he found "a church, which, compared to the large scale activities of the Catholic and big Protestant bodies, was ineffective. I could see it was imperfect. It wielded no great power." Yet Jesus Christ said: "all power is given unto me, in heaven, and earth," Matthew 28:18. If Jesus was to be in His Church, guiding and directing it, and giving the church power to proclaim His message, as He said, why wasn't the little Church of God from Stanberry, Missouri making the whole world conscious of its existence and its power? Further, Armstrong failed to see where this church was bearing much if any fruit, and asked himself the question: "Could a fruitless church be the one and only true Church of God on earth?"
In 1927, the Church of God (Seventh Day), or Church of God (Adventist), as it was variously known, had scattered members probably numbering less than 2,000 mostly in rural areas, and only a very limited number of local churches, none as large as 100 members. Its ministers seemed to be men of little education. Yet, in the words of Herbert W. Armstrong, "Small and impotent though it appeared, it had more Bible truth than any church I could find!"2
The history of the Church of God (Seventh Day), is the purpose of this book. From its modern crystallization in the 1860's to the present, this group of seventh day keepers has remained small, and almost unheard-of. The Church of God (Seventh Day) is one of "at least two hundred independent religious bodies in the United States bear [ing] the name Church of God, in one form or another."3
It is still a group which claims to be part of the "true church."
To enter into the presentation of the history of the Seventh Day Church of God is to enter a field rife with religious — and sometimes political — controversy. Today when the word, "Adventist" is mentioned, it is automatically associated with the Seventh-Day Adventist church. Yet Seventh-Day Adventists are only one — but by far the largest numerically — of several distinct church groups which trace their history through the Adventist movement. There are three other major Adventist groups extant today, the Advent Christian Church, the Church of God (Oregon, Illinois), and the various factions of the Church of God (Seventh Day). These groups all trace their history from the Adventist movement, which William Miller began in the 1840's in the United States.
That is what "official" history purports. However, Seventh-Day Adventist history states that the Church of God (Seventh Day) "was actually an early offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventists."4 But Church of God historian Andrew N. Dugger dogmatically contradicts this by stating that Sabbath-keeping Adventists were originally known as "Church of God" people, and that those who in October, 1860 formed the Seventh-Day Adventist church at Battle Creek, Michigan "are a branch from [and withdrew from] the original church, 'The Church of God'."5 In other words, the Seventh Day Church of God believes that the Seventh-Day Adventists withdrew from them, while the Seventh-Day Adventists believe the Church of God withdrew from Seventh-Day Adventists! A modern Seventh Day Church of God minister and a Seventh-Day Adventist minister concur on a more "liberal" viewpoint: in the early 1860's, the two groups parted their ways.6
Throughout the history of the Church of God (Seventh Day) and the Seventh-Day Adventists, the two groups have been in diametric opposition to each other. Thus the history of the Seventh Day Church of God is largely controversial. But considering the impotence of the Church of God, and its almost total lack of growth (while Seventh-Day Adventists have grown to nearly four million members worldwide), its history is obscure and hard to trace. Only through its publications, which somehow have been largely preserved intact (with some exceptions) since 1863, can substantive history of the Church of God be traced. The rest comes from less friendly sources. W
Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849