Monthly letter archive

Restoring Original Christianity—for Today!

Christian Biblical Church of God

Post Office Box 1442
Hollister, California 95024-1442

Fred R. Coulter,

June 19, 2015

Dear Brethren,

This year's Elders' Conference, May 6-8, was a great success! Afterwards, on the Sabbath of May 9, we had an enthusiastic gathering of 160 brethren for morning and afternoon sessions. We had a wonderful meal between services. Each year it is essential for all the elders, with deacons and other leading men, to assemble together. As always, our focus is entirely on how we, under God's inspiration, can best serve the brethren and preach the Gospel to the world. We thoroughly discuss current trends in the world and the Church so that we can better serve and instruct the brethren. Our goal is to make sure that we are all growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

On their way to the Conference, Roy Assanti, our elder and office manager in Australia, and his wife, Manola, flew to Italy to visit a family. While there, Danko Wylupek and his wife, Zeljka, came from Croatia to be baptized—which took place in the cold Adriatic Sea. Then Roy went to South Africa to visit the brethren and Helmut Burger, our long-time office manager in that area. While there he saw that the brethren needed an elder. After conferring with the brethren, and with my endorsement, Roy ordained Helmut as an elder. It was a joyous occasion for the scattered brethren of South Africa.

Next, Roy and his wife went to the UK and spent time with David Obey, our UK office manager. He and his wife, Margaret, have diligently served the brethren for over ten years—sending out books, literature, CDs and DVDs. In addition, they have been serving scattered brethren in Europe. David urged Roy to visit the brethren in the Netherlands—Holland—across the English Channel. Little did Roy realize that several years ago Frans Peeters (Dutch spelling), a long-time member of God's Church, had (with my permission) begun to establish a Dutch Web site for the CBCG and to translate our literature into Dutch.

When Roy arrived in Holland and saw what God was leading them to do, he was amazed. Again, however, he could see that the brethren needed an elder. He said it was most evident that God has been working with Frans and the brethren. Roy asked the brethren if Frans should be ordained as an elder. They emphatically said, Yes, it was long overdue! Then Roy called me and we discussed the situation. I agreed with him and the brethren. The next day, when they all assembled, Roy ordained Frans as an elder. As a result, we will soon have a Dutch office and work. And there is this added blessing: they can also translate into German. We will see what other doors God will open as a result. So this year God has added two additional elders to serve God's people.

We are sending you the messages brought on the Sabbath after the Conference, including Roy's detailed account of their long and eventful journey to Cincinnati for the Conference. When you listen to the various men speak, you will discern their love, dedication and spiritual understanding.

There was also another ordination that took place in January of this year. At the Feast of Tabernacles last year, Ben Ambrose, our elder in Georgia, went to Houston, Texas, where there is a fellowship group that has associated with the CBCG for over 16 years—the Houston Independent Church of God. Frank Penny is their deacon and long-time leader; they have about 25 brethren in that area.

During the Feast, Ben saw the need to have Frank ordained as an elder. He instructed the brethren to write me and ask that Frank be ordained. They were most eager to do so. In November, I received their letter of recommendation to have Frank ordained. Since I was not able to make the trip, I asked Roger Kendall and Ben Ambrose to go to Houston and ordain him. This was accomplished on the Sabbath of January 31.

Main Conference Discussion: During the three days of the conference, central to our discussions was our new Elder's Manual. At last year's conference we ordained three elders—Guilebaldo Elizondo, Ben Ambrose and Steve Durham. Afterwards, Roger Kendall and Marlin Fannin brought up the fact that, as we add more elders, we would need an elder's manual. This was obviously an inspired idea. Thus, I asked them to begin writing the manual and have it ready for the 2015 Conference. They did an excellent job! We all appreciated what they had accomplished. There are only a few additions that need to be made to the text. We plan to have the new Elder's Manual completed after the Feast of Tabernacles this year.

With this in mind, below is a scriptural summary of Jesus Christ's instructions on how the elders are to serve His brethren, who are the children of God the Father.

Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church: The whole New Testament and the Church of God are built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 3:11). Furthermore, God the Father has given all authority in heaven and earth to Him. Thus, Jesus commanded the apostles to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Matt. 28:18-20).

Down through time, there have always been leading men—such as Peter, James and John at the beginning of the New Testament Church. However, no man, at any time, ever replaces Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church! God the Father never gave that authority to any man at any time. In some of His last instructions, Jesus made it absolutely clear that, in addition to preaching the Gospel, Peter and the other apostles were to FEED THE FLOCK. Notice Jesus' powerful instructions to Peter in the presence of the other apostles: "Therefore, when they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me more than these?' And he said to Him, 'Yes, Lord. You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Feed My lambs.' He said to him again a second time, 'Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me?' And he said to Him, 'Yes, Lord. You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Shepherd My sheep.' He said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, 'Do you love Me?' And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things. You know that I love You.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed My sheep' " (John 21:15-17).

As we will see, the instruction to "feed My sheep" was not only for the original apostles, but for all future ministers as well. The entire reason for the ministry—or "elderhood"—is to serve the brethren and teach them the way of life Jesus taught. Through this spiritual work—by the power of God's Holy Spirit in the elders and brethren—God the Father is increasing His Family, which will be completed at the first resurrection and return of Jesus Christ.

During His ministry, Jesus Himself set the example of love and service. He made it clear that a person's relationship with God is based on love. When one of the Jewish religious leaders asked about the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus said, " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment; and the second one is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 22:37-40). When we understand it, the truth is, EVERYTHING GOD DOES IS BASED ON HIS LOVE—for "GOD IS LOVE"! (I John 4:6-8, 16).

This is why Jesus emphatically charged His apostles to not be "over-lording dictators" over the brethren. They were not to become like the Gentile political and religious leaders. Notice what Jesus instructed the apostles: "You know that the rulers of the nations exercise lordship over them [katakurieo, oppressive rulership from the top down], and the great ones [their religious leaders] exercise authority [kateexousio, oppressive authority from the top down] over them. However, it shall not be this way among you; but whoever would become great among you, let him be your servant; and whoever would be first among you, let him be your slave; just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:25-28).

It is evident that Peter learned this lesson and taught the church leaders to serve the brethren in love and humility. In his first epistle, this is what he writes to the elders: "The elders who are among you I exhort, even as a fellow elder, and an eyewitness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that is about to be revealed: Feed the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight not by compulsion, but willingly; not in fondness of dishonest gain, but with an eager attitude; not as exercising lordship over your possessions, but by being examples to the flock of God. And when the Chief Shepherd is manifested, you shall receive an unfading, eternal crown of glory. In the same manner, you younger men be subject to the older men; and all of you be subject to one another, being clothed with humility because God sets Himself against the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. Be humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God so that He may exalt you in due time" (I Pet. 5:1-6).

Likewise, Paul preached and wrote with the love, strength and power of the Holy Spirit; however, he never exalted himself over the brethren. Rather, he viewed himself as "less than the least of all the saints" (Eph. 3:8).

He also clearly spelled out that the entire purpose of the ministry within the Church is to perfect the saints: "And He gave some as apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we no longer be children, tossed and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men in cunning craftiness, with a view to the systematizing of the error; but holding the truth in love, may in all things grow up into Him Who is the Head, even Christ; from Whom all the body, fitly framed and compacted together by that which every joint supplies, according to its inner working in the measure of each individual part, is making the increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:11-16).

In addition to his pastoral epistles of I and II Timothy, Titus and Philemon, the apostle Paul's instructions to the elders of Ephesus encapsulates the overall purpose of an elder's service to God the Father and Jesus Christ and the brethren. He also warned the elders to guard the flock of God from usurpers and infiltrators who would not spare the brethren: "And now behold, I know that you all, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom of God, will see my face no more; wherefore I testify to you on this day that I am pure from the blood of all, for I have not held back from preaching to you all the counsel of God.

"Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this: that after my departure grievous wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will rise up speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves.

"Watch, therefore, remembering that for three years I ceased not to admonish each one night and day with tears. And now I commit you, brethren, to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:25-32).

The Elders Are Also to Guard the True New Testament Doctrines: Timothy was an elder in the Ephesian church. In Paul's epistles to Timothy, he wrote many other instructions concerning the elders' responsibilities toward God and the brethren. In addition to serving the brethren, they are to guard the doctrine and teachings of Jesus Christ by diligently studying the Word of God and rightly dividing it: "Hold as the standard for doctrine the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good thing that was committed to you by the Holy Spirit that is dwelling in us…. Diligently study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of the truth" (II Tim 1:13-14; 2:15).

Paul also warned that if the truth of the Word of God is not properly taught, then many brethren would be drawn away and enticed to believe false doctrines and myths: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work" (II Tim. 3:16-17)

"I charge you, therefore, in the sight of God, even the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is ready to judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the Word! Be urgent in season and out of season; convict, rebuke, encourage, with all patience and doctrine.

"For there shall come a time when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but according to their own lusts they shall accumulate to themselves a great number of teachers, having ears itching to hear what satisfies their cravings; and they shall turn away their own ears from the truth; and they shall be turned aside unto myths. But as for you, be vigilant in all things, endure hardships, do the work of an evangelist; fully carry out your ministry" (II Tim. 4:1-5).

Individually and collectively, our personal relationship with God is based on His love and grace. God loves us and we love God—as we demonstrate by keeping His commandments. The apostle John writes of this relationship as fellowshipping with God the Father and Jesus Christ: "That which we have seen and have heard we are reporting to you in order that you also may have fellowship with us; for the fellowship—indeed, our fellowship—is with the Father and with His own Son, Jesus Christ" (I John 1:3). We maintain this fellowship through daily prayer and the study of His Word—as well as actually living by every word of God.

In This Mailing: This is a big mailing! Enclosed is a listing of the sites for the 2015 Feast of Tabernacles, this June letter, a CD of the sermons from the Elders' Conference, and a Church at Home DVD with nine half-hour segments.

As always brethren, remember our wonderful calling. Don't let the troubles in the world and around you drag you down and discourage you. Stay close to God in everything. Again, we thank you for your love and faithfulness as you continually serve God the Father and Jesus Christ. We thank you for your contributions in tithes and offerings. We always endeavor to accomplish as much as possible in serving the brethren and in preaching the Gospel. We make every cent count. We pray for you daily—that God will bless you, watch over you, heal you, and help you in every way.

With love in Christ Jesus,

Fred R. Coulter