By Brian Franks
It has happened many times in my life and ministry within the Church of God (Seventh Day). On a random Sabbath morning someone I don’t know walks in the church building. I greet them and introduce myself and they respond in kind. Then they get down to business: what does Seventh Day in the name of this church mean? I tell them about our belief in the Sabbath and why it still matters today (that it especially matters today in this culture). They ask about a few other things, and I share the stances the church has on each issue.
Many times, by the end of the conversation, there is great relief for this person I have just met. They had been looking for a church that held theology that lined up closer to what the Bible says than the churches with which they were familiar. For some of them, it’s a godsend to find a church that strips off the many long-standing practices of Christian churches, that are not found in the Bible.
I’ve thought of these issues of doctrine as the distinctive COG7 package of theology, as we understand the Bible. It seems many who come to see the reality of Sabbath also recognize the value of eating only clean meats, the sleeping state of the dead, rejecting many pagan/secular holidays, etc. This package is a result of the interpretive lens we distinctively use for understanding scripture, one that no other church seems to use.
This lens can be reduced to two questions: what does the Bible, as a whole, say we should do and believe? And what does it say not to do and not to believe? Nearly all other churches use some combination of tradition, historical doctrines, and the views of an influential founder to steer or outright determine their beliefs. Yet COG7 has spent centuries asking the question continually: but what does the Bible say about this?
I find that the “fresh eyes” provided by these searching strangers validate that we have done well in sticking close to what the Bible teaches as truth, giving clear answers where the Bible gives clear answers, and refusing to make up our own details when the Bible says little. Our open creed and culture ensure we are always seeking to grow in our understanding of God.
Surely there are areas of practice where we can improve, but the treasury of our theology, based on the Bible, is a great relief to those who search for such a church, and I’m thankful to be part of such a body of believers. I am convinced there is great value to holding to what we believe and sharing it graciously with others. If done with proper care, prayer, and wisdom in the grace of God, we can bless others with the same blessings we have found in walking closely with God and honoring him as we believe the whole Bible reveals.
Given all this, there are great resources to learn more about our distinctive doctrines. This We Believe is a book published with the endorsement of the North American Ministerial Council of the COG7 (after a detailed review process) that goes step by step through all our beliefs. This is available through the Bible Advocate Press.
Artios Christian College, the ministry training arm of the COG7, also offers a five-week course to anyone who wants to study the doctrines of the COG7 under the guidance of a qualified member of our faculty and alongside others who want to learn more and discuss our theology. Whether you have generations of family in COG7 or have recently found it, there is much to learn in such a deep dive into our beliefs. I encourage all–ministers, members, new believers, and everyone in between–to consider engaging these resources to better understand the way COG7 believes, not just the distinctives, but the whole view our lens of interpretation reveals. God bless you on your walk with God.