The ABC of Scattering
Part 16:  Tying up some Loose Ends

John Plunkett
January 28, 2017

Last time – in Part 15 – we followed the scatterings of the true churches of God from the 16th Century all way through to today.

Then, we finished off by "tidying up" the first of a number of "loose ends" that I want to cover before we close off this series.  That one specifically answered the question: “How does all of this scriptural and historical scattering of God’s people apply to you and me – and to all the people of God’s true church in our time?  I’d like to continue with that tidying up today.


I strongly believe that, just as God’s people should not have too much of a desire for the physical trappings of this life, neither should we have too much of a desire for the relative comfort and permanence of any one corporate Church of God organization.

I think you’ll agree that the events of recent years have shown us clearly that there is no true permanence in any of the church organizations.  

Neither, I believe, should we allow the ministers and leaders of those organizations to make our spiritual decisions for us.  Nor to do all of our spiritual thinking for us.  Although some of those leaders might disagree with me, no such corporate organization, minister or leader is so authorized by God in His Word.

There is only one Church of God!  There is only one Body of Jesus Christ!  I don’t know about you; but I was baptized into that one Church of God – into the one Body of Jesus Christ.  Not into any corporate organization.  Not the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), nor into any of its many corporate splinter groups.

We recently heard from a lady in Montreal who told us that, due to her late son’s fine Christian example, she wanted to start attending Sabbath services with a Church of God group.  So, she contacted a local minister who had anointed her late son when he was in his last days of life.  This local minister is with one of the larger, better-known Church of God groups.

He told the lady that she needed to be baptized before she could attend their services.  That was a new one on me!  But when she told him that she had already been baptized, he answered that, No, she had to be baptized into his church organization!  I’ve heard another similar account as this from one of our local brethren.

I’m sure that you know as well as I do, that too many of the leaders and ministers of too many of the corporate Church of God groups claim, ad-nauseum, that their organization is the best of the bunch; or, in some cases – in too many cases – in an increasing number of cases – that their organization is the only true Church of God!  They will tell you that their Church of God group is where we should all be attending, and that we should adhere to their version of doctrine.  Some Church of God leaders have even stated that, if we’re not committed to their organization, we will not be in the Kingdom of God!

These scare tactics and other such demands for commitment to corporate organizations and/or their human leaders is nothing but rank idolatry! 

As many of us have experienced – some of us more than once – if we were to commit our loyalties to any one of these organizations, we would once again come to a spiritual full-stop.  

The purpose of these statements I am making here is not to name-call or to " knock" all of those Church of God groups.  I have no wish to do that.  

However, I believe that such Church of God groups that make such unscriptural claims have become modern spiritual equivalents to the Tower of Babel!  I think of them as “mini Towers of Babel.”

I was recently re-reading an old 1959 WCG booklet called “The True History of the True Church” by Herman Hoeh, and this interesting sentence jumped out at me:

Hundreds of different and disagreeing SECTS, all founded by MEN, each PROFESSING to teach the truth, yet contradicting and disagreeing with all the others -- a modern religious Babylon!

He was, of course, referring to the many professing Christian church denominations.  But although Dr. Hoeh surely didn’t foresee it back in 1959, how true this also came to be for the various “companies” of the Church of God today!

Like aggressive supermarket owners, the leaders of these Church of God "companies" are telling us, "Stop here!  Everything you need is right here!"

What does God think of this?  As we’ve seen throughout this sermon series, Jesus seems to have been telling His people – repeatedly – to “Keep on travellin’” – to keep on moving. 

In their “History of the True Church,” Dugger and Dodd frequently refer to “companies.”  It is obvious that, when they use this term, they are referring to Church of God congregations.  

If we take Isaiah’s view of the English word “companies” (Hebrew: qibbuwts: Strong’s 6899) in the modern sense of business corporations, look what the LORD says through him to the Israelites (concerning their idolatry):

Isaiah 57:13:
When you cry, let your companies deliver you; but the wind shall carry them
{your companies} all away; vanity shall take them {your companies}: but he that puts his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain.

So, in whom should the wise ones put their trust?  In companies?  In corporate church groups which, in some cases (thankfully, not all), are self-serving, looking after the welfare of their leaders and their ministers rather than the spiritual welfare of God’s flock?  Or, should we simply put our trust in God the Father and Jesus Christ?  We all know what the correct answer is.

Again, it is not for me to point the finger at any specific groups, leaders, or ministers.  That’s not my job.  God is the number one Judge of us all.  Still, we have an individual, God-given responsibility to make "righteous judgments." 

Let’s go back again to Jesus’ “shepherd scriptures” and review what He has to say about the care of His little flock (Luke 12:32):

John 10:
1: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that enters not by the door
{which represents Jesus} into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2: But he that enters in by the door
{Jesus} is the shepherd of the sheep.
3: To him
{the shepherd} the porter {symbolizing an angel, perhaps?} opens; and the sheep hear his voice: and he {the shepherd} calls his own {the shepherd’s own} sheep by name, and leads them out.
4:  And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5:  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”
6:  This parable spoke Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which He spoke unto them.
7:  Then said Jesus unto them again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
8:  All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
9:  I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture…

Please note that Jesus is "the door" of the sheep-fold and, as we will shortly see, He is also "the shepherd" – the Good Shepherd –  the Head Shepherd – the Chief Shepherd.

There are strong implications from many other scriptures (e.g. Jeremiah 23:4; Ezekiel 34:7, 9) that there are also lesser spiritual shepherds under the authority and leadership of the Chief Shepherd.  I call them “under-shepherds.”

However, as God prophesied through Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others, so many of these “under-shepherds” have been so rapaciously self-serving that, in numerous scriptures, the LORD makes many severe judgments against them. 

Again, it is not for me to point fingers at anyone specifically as to who are the good, spiritual under-shepherds and who are spiritual thieves, robbers and hirelings.  God knows who’s who.  God is the number one Judge.  Still, He does require us to righteously judge and to wisely discern (John 7:24; Hebrews 5:14).

Please note also – still in John 10 – that the Lord Jesus does not keep His sheep permanently penned up in one single sheep-fold. The implication seems to be that to do so would be unhealthy – or in some other way, bad – for the sheep.

Rather, He says here that He leads them in and out of the sheep-fold.  Perhaps this might be better expressed as “out and in” because His sheep follow Him out of the sheep-fold and into areas where He finds nutritious pasture for them.

Some relevant questions and answers on this symbolism:

What is physical pasture? 

It is grass – food – and in this symbolism, food for sheep!

What is spiritual pasture? 

It is spiritual food for God’s spiritual sheep!

Is there only one source of good physical pasture – of good physical sheep-food? 

Of course, not!  It is quite a well-known fact that, physically, a small flock of sheep would soon decimate even a large field of grass.  I believe that, in times gone by, the cattle farmers of the old United States had running battles with the sheep farmers because of the voracious appetites of the sheep.  (By the way, it is a very good thing for us to have a voracious spiritual appetite for spiritual sheep food.  That is a very good habit for God’s spiritual sheep to develop!)

Continuing further along in this same symbolism – another question: 

Does a good physical shepherd lead his sheep from one source of good pasture to others – especially if the grass is a better quality in the new location?  (Believe it or not, there are various qualities of grass.  I worked with a man who bred sheep.  He told me that for sheep farming, the grass in Cobble Hill here on Vancouver Island is just about the best anywhere in the world). 

And the answer to the question is Yes! 

In order for a shepherd to lead his sheep to a new location, is movement necessary?  Yes. Of course, it is!

When we were in England and Ireland last year, we saw literally hundreds – maybe even thousands – of sheep wandering all over the beautiful green hills and valleys (and in some cases blocking off the roads!), their fleeces having been purposely stained with different coloured dyes to identify their ownership.  We also saw shepherds transporting some of their sheep – apparently moving them from one food-source to another.

And is there only one source of good spiritual pasture – good spiritual food –  for Jesus’ little flock?  

Of course, not! 

Is it then acceptable for God’s spiritual sheep to move from one spiritual food source to another? 

Yes, it is!  And especially if the Chief Shepherd deems the spiritual food source to be better in the new location.  Not only is it acceptable; it is beneficial for us.  Even necessary!  Even mandatory!

As it’s been some time since we did so, let’s quickly review another lesson on this in:

II Chronicles 15:
1:  And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded
{both true prophets of God};
2:  And he went out to meet Asa
{King of the southern house of Judah}, and said unto him, “Hear you me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin {the southern house}; The LORD is with you, while you be with Him; and if you seek Him, He will be found of you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.”
3:  Now for a long season Israel
{the northern house} has been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.
4:  But when they in their trouble did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought Him
{not very often, mind you!}, He was found of them.
5:  And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries
{N.B. plural; likely referring to both houses – both Israel and Judah}.
6:  And nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city: for God did vex them with all adversity.
7:  Be you strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.
8a:  And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim…

Mount Ephraim was officially part of the northern kingdom of Israel and was located just north of its boundary with the southern kingdom of Judah.  This was apparently part of the territory taken from Israel’s King Jeroboam I by Asa’s father, King Abijah (see II Chronicles 13:19).

8b: … and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD {in the Jerusalem temple}.
9:  And he
{Judah’s King Asa} gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the LORD his God was with him…

This is not referring to the people of the captured Mount Ephraim area mentioned in verse 8.  These Ephraimites, Manassites and Simeonites came voluntarily and "in abundance" to King Asa when they saw the evidence of the LORD God being with Asa and the southern kingdom – when they saw the evidence of better spiritual pasture because Asa and his southern kingdom were closer to the LORD.  (By the way, although not very relevant to today's topic, the question of Simeon's former loyalty is an interesting one, as their territory apparently had been mixed in with that of Judah).

10:  So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa…

Even though these people had separated themselves from their former alliance with the northern house of Israel, this gathering was the right kind of re-gathering – and for the right reasons.

Verse 12:  And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul;
13:  That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
14:  And they swore unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets.
15a:  And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire…

Please notice that this swearing – this rededication – this recommitment – was not to King Asa.  Nor to Judah.  It was unto “to the LORD”!  

This is exactly the kind of commitment and dedication that the LORD’s Twenty-first Century peoples should be emulating.  To Him and to His Father.  Not to human companies!

If we do commit ourselves to Jesus and His Father, they will richly bless us – just as they did with people mentioned here:

15b: … and He was found of them: and the LORD gave them rest round about…
Verse 19:  And there was no more war unto the five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa. 

This move – this voluntary relocation of all these “northerners” – was approved by the LORD – because it was done for the right reasons.

Let’s go back to John 10 now so that we can finish out Jesus’ line of thinking there:

John 10: 
10:  The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
11:  I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
12:  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees: and the wolf catches them, and scatters the sheep…

I should give a reminder at this point that there is a good kind of scattering and a bad kind.  Jesus is referring here to the bad kind of scattering, in which the sheep are frightened away from their flock by spiritual wolves (Satan and his demon and human agents – Matthew 7:15; 10:16; Luke 10:3; Acts 20:29). 

Habakkuk 3:17:
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

The sheep in these symbolic verses are pictured as being scattered across the land, cut off or separated from their fellow-sheep and from their loving, protective shepherd – some of them even being killed by those wolves – perhaps implying the danger of a spiritual death – the dreaded “second death” that is mentioned four times in the book of Revelation.

The good kind of scattering is the “controlled” kind that is beneficial to the sheep – as in the case of God’s scattering of the early humans and His chosen patriarchs who we have been studying for the past few months.  This is scattering for the LORD’s own good purposes, as well as for the ultimate good – the ultimate benefit – of His scattered people.  Continuing in:

John 10:
13:  The hireling flees, because he is a hireling, and cares not for the sheep.
14:  I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15:  As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16:  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

This is an additional warning to the spiritual under-shepherds of Israel in addition to His many Old Testament warnings.  The under-shepherds must emulate the one Shepherd – the Chief Shepherd – the Good Shepherd.  They must not be mere hirelings, interested only in their bank accounts and high standard of living; but must be willing to lay down their lives for His sheep – yes, practically, on a daily basis; but also, if it ever became necessary, even literally.

Who Scattered the Church of God?

Here is a very important question for me to repeat right now – and for us all to consider: Who scattered the modern Church of God?

Some would say that it was the Tkachs in the 1990’s – even though, as we have seen, other episodes of scattering of the true church began decades – and even centuries – before Joseph Tkach Snr. was a twinkle in his daddy’s eye!

Others would answer that it was Satan – the chief of the wolves mentioned by Jesus in John 10. 

But, although it is certainly true that “agents” such as Satan, his demons and the Tkachs were instrumental in the scattering – in a similar way that the human rulers and armies of Assyria, Chaldea and Rome were used to enslave and to scatter Old Covenant Israel and Judah – and although there are many ministers and brethren who cannot seem to get their minds around this fact, the primary, historical, scriptural evidence of God’s holy written Word tells us that it was God Himself who scattered His church – His New Covenant spiritual Israel!  Yes.  Just as He did with His scatterings of Old Covenant physical Israel.  I and others have covered the scriptural proofs of this in other sermons and articles (which are available on our web-site), so I won’t take the time to go into all that detail again today.

It appears that the scattering of God’s church hasn’t finished yet.  It seems to be continuing – year after year, month after month, week after week – almost day after day it seems!  I believe, God is bringing this continuing scattering about for His own good reasons.  Yes, just as with Old Testament Israel and Judah, as a corrective punishment because of the continuing idolatry and Sabbath-breaking that continues unabated within His New Covenant Israel – His church.  But also, I believe that He is doing it for the ultimate good of His New Covenant people.

Some have made efforts to reunite some of the splinter groups.  I think it was John Ritenbaugh who said that, if someone tries to reunite two Church of God groups, they will probably end up with three or four!  I can only assume that those efforts were well-meaning; but sadly, they were misguided.  Why?  Because Jesus said this:

Matthew 19:6: 
Wherefore they are no more two, but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.

Jesus was referring this statement to human marriages.  But if this can be applied to His church, which I believe it can be; and if this statement is true – which, of course, it is – then, I believe, it’s converse must also be true; i.e. What God has put asunder, let not man attempt to join together!

Stop the Fighting!

Just because God’s church is scattered, why should this mean that we should all be fighting and accusing one another?  Look what God inspired the apostle James to ask:

James 4:1:
From whence come wars and fightings among you?  Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

Who was James talking about?  Who was he talking to?  Who was his letter addressed to?  To a bunch of unconverted people?  No!...

James 1:
1: James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
2: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations…
Verse 19: Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

James 2:
1:  My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

The context of these and many other verses throughout the epistle prove that James was writing to members of God’s true church who were fighting – even warring – with their spiritual brothers and sisters!

I think I might have already mentioned to you that I recently read in a book called “The Story of Ireland” (by Neil Hegarty) that, back in the 8th and 9th Centuries, the monks of some of the professing Christian Roman Catholic abbeys and priories of Ireland actually, literally went to war against each other because of their greedy desire for physical riches!  Please bear with me as I read it to you again and, as I read this, please apply it in your mind to the true Church of God today:

The fusion between religious and civil authorities in these localities is a theme that would recur throughout Irish history, with the nobility integrating the monastic institutions they established into their royal houses and domains. 

Each abbot was a powerful figure: as well as being the spiritual father of his monks, he was also the ruler of the community and the heir to the property.  Family succession increasingly became the norm, the role of abbot passing to a member of the local ruling family. 

Such secularization saw certain abbots behaving like petty kings, declaring war on other monastic communities. 

Over a four-year period, for example, the monks of Clonmacnoise are recorded as going to war with the monasteries of Birr and Durrow, in the process leaving more than two hundred dead. 

These conflicts tended to arise, not from dry doctrinal dispute; but from dynastic quarrels {i.e. over who should be the leader and who should rake in the tithes and offerings!}.  

And tribal connections also meant that monasteries were drawn into larger political conflicts: as the ambitious Ui Neill clan vied with the Ulaid for control of Ulster in the late eighth and ninth centuries.

These were professing servants of God.  Yes, professing Christians; but doesn’t some of this remind you of the true Church of God today?  

Okay, maybe we’re not actually killing one another.  Not yet anyway (Luke 21:16).  But let’s read a few things that Jesus puts on the same level of sin as murder:

Matthew 5:
21:  You have heard that it was said by them of old time, “You shall not kill”; and “Whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment”:
22:  But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, “Raca
{Aramaic meaning “empty-headed,” “vain,” “idle” or “worthless”} shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, “You fool {Greek “Moros” which can also mean “impious” or “godless”} shall be in danger of hell {Gehenna} fire.

That is a stern warning from our Captain!  Let’s heed it!  In recent years, the hatred and name-calling between various Church of God groups has become so intense that many leaders, ministers and members of the scattered groups have not acted much better than those pseudo-heathen Irish monks!  And that is not acceptable!

Yes.  We might have some doctrinal differences; but we must stop the fighting and we must learn to deal maturely with any differences that we may have.  We must recognize the members in other Church of God groups as our spiritual brothers and sisters.  God knows who's who.  We must love our spiritual brothers and sisters, no matter which splinter group that they have chosen to worship with.

This is not to say, of course, that we have to agree with all of the doctrinal opinions they may have that differ from God’s Word, according to our belief.  

God’s Word solidly backs us up on this point, as we'll see next time when we go into it in the final episode of this series.