The idea of a literal, yet invisible, devil of supernatural powers is looked upon askance by the “liberal” clergy, and by most of the so-called “educated” of today. But you can prove that the Holy Bible is in actual fact the inspired very Word of the Eternal God and Creator. And the Bible reveals that there is an existent devil! It reveals also that he is, in these last days, exceedingly angry and stirred to action against the true servants of God, who keep God’s commandments, and have the faith of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:12, 17).
An Angry Devil
It is also revealed that Satan’s method is to deceive, and that he and his demons have power to put thoughts, suggestions or impulses into unsuspecting human minds—unless we are alertly on guard against it.
The unseen Master Competitor had instilled into the hearts of associated ministers a spirit of competition against me, even before the actual start of this present Work of God in that little Firbutte schoolhouse.
The very second time in my life I ever “preached”—if those early efforts could be called that—an opposing minister had appeared, and devoted most of his sermon to an effort to tear down what I had preached in the first sermon of the day, just before his sermon. Another minister had tried to prevent my articles from appearing further in the Bible Advocate organ of the Church of God. A plot had been hatched by two ministers, during the Salem, Oregon, meetings, by false accusations, to discredit me and get me off the payroll of the Oregon Conference of this church.
And now, at the very start of what was to continue steadily expanding into a worldwide force directed and empowered by God, Satan tried, more viciously than ever, to stop this Work while it was still small. Surely no activity could have started smaller. The things of God, when the Eternal works through human instruments, must start the very smallest—like the grain of mustard seed. But they grow. No power, no grouping of power, whether satanic or human, can stop or prevent God’s purpose! Satan may be far more powerful than man. But God is incomparably more powerful than Satan, and the devil can do no more than God allows.
I suppose these opposing ministers thought they were doing right. There is a way that seems right to a man. God says these ways are wrong, and end in death. But a deceived man cannot comprehend that. I do not wish to impute motives. I could not read these men’s hearts. But I do know that, regardless of intent, their actions sought at every turn to destroy what has proved, by its fruits, to be the true WorkofGod! Today, far more powerful and formidable human powers are being marshaled against it. Today, just as the Pharisees and Sadducees hated the gospel Jesus was preaching, so modern organized churchianity hates that same identical gospel now pouring like an avalanche over every continent on Earth, preparing the way before Christ’s coming to rule all nations with God’s laws.
Thus prophecy is being fulfilled!
The ‘Pork’ Obsession
The opposition through the spring and summer of 1933 had come through the two ministers who had moved up to Oregon from California, Elders Sven (Sam) A. Oberg and A. J. Ray. Mr. Ray was developing, through the summer, a sort of obsession against the eating of “unclean” meats—pork, ham, bacon, seafoods and those labeled “unclean” in Leviticus 11. The emphasis he continually put on this doctrine, almost with vehemence, rather gave the impression that, in his eyes, the eating of pork, which came in for his greatest condemnation, was the greatest of sins.
About the time the Firbutte school meeting started, July 9, 1933, Mr. Ray began aiming his “anti-pork” guns directly at me. He demanded that I state definitely my stand on this question. I had written him a biblical exposition of the subject, showing that it was a physical food question, rather than a spiritual or gospel subject. Unless a man broke the Tenth Commandment by lusting after it, the eating of pork did not violate the Ten Commandments, which constitute a spiritual law.
I quoted Mark 7:15-23, where Jesus explained that sin is a spiritual principle—that which is coming out of the heart of a man—evil thoughts leading to actions of adultery, murder, theft, deceit, blasphemy, pride—violations of the Ten Commandments; but that nothing from without, entering in his mouth, defiles the man spiritually. Jesus was speaking of spiritual principles, and sin as a spiritual offense.
I explained that I was well aware that the unclean animals were unclean even before the Flood—not suddenly pronounced so by Moses. I also explained that I was well aware of the fact they are still unclean, and unfit for the physical digestive process; that Peter’s vision of the sheet was given, not to cleanse unclean animals, but to show Peter that he should not regard a Gentile man as unclean (Acts 10:28).
Also that I well understood that 1 Timothy 4:1-5 did not make unclean foods digestible and healthful, but only those which are “creatures of God” and “sanctified,” which means set apart, “by the word of God and prayer.” The Word of God does not sanctify the flesh of swine, or set it apart for holy use—but rather forbids its use for food. Undoubtedly millions of people have contracted disease from eating unclean meats.
But, I pointed out, it still was a physical violation, not a spiritual sin. The Kingdom of God (Romans 14:17) is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit—spiritual things.
And, I explained, I was commissioned to preach to the outside world the Kingdom of God, which is not preaching meat and drink. I explained that neither I nor any of my family ate unclean meats; that I taught all converts not to eat unclean meats, as a matter of good health. But I asked him if he could show me by the Bible where I was in error, or any scriptural commission to preach sermons to the unconverted on the eating of pork. I told him I refused to make this food question a subject for sermons to the unconverted, unless he could show me scriptural grounds for so doing.
He was unable to reply. Instead, he set out with renewed zeal to discredit me and get me ousted from the ministry.
There was a ministers’ meeting one Sunday afternoon, about four weeks after the Firbutte school meetings had started, at the Jeans schoolhouse, four miles west of Firbutte. Both Mr. Ray and Mr. Oberg came to talk to me. They were not friendly. Mr. Ray, especially, was wrathful.
Hatching Another Plot
Then a general business meeting of the state conference was called for the following Sunday, at the church building in Harrisburg. I was instructed not to let the Fishers or any of the people in the Firbutte or Eugene district know about it.
I well knew the purpose of the meeting. I was having, in the one-room country schoolhouse out in this sparsely settled rural district, a larger attendance than Mr. Oberg was having in the larger church building in the town of Harrisburg. I already had three or four conversions, he had none.
At this meeting with Mr. Ray and Mr. Oberg, they strenuously objected to my baptizing new converts before I had preached to them against pork, and had evidence they had given it up. I knew that Messrs. Oberg and Ray intended to use this against me in the business meeting, as their latest try to get me ousted from the payroll.
I must repeat that I was receiving a salary of $3 per week! The farmer members provided my family in Salem with a certain amount of food, in addition to the salary.
I have not mentioned it before, but in April 1933, during the Salem meetings, I had started the issuing of a monthly Bulletin for members of the conference. It was mimeographed. At Salem, I had hired the Bulletin printed at the local mimeograph shop. At the Fisher home, after starting the Firbutte school meetings, I had borrowed a typewriter, and the Eugene mimeograph dealer permitted me to use one of his mimeographs without charge—though I had to buy the stencils and paper. These costs were paid by the conference treasury.
After we started the meetings West of Eugene, some people in that area had begun giving me small amounts of money occasionally, which I began to use for the expenses and mailing of this conference Bulletin.
A Letter to My Wife
During this week, between the conference with the two ministers and the business meeting at Harrisburg, I wrote a letter to my wife. I was temporarily discouraged, and I was exasperated and indignant at the tactics of these ministers, professing to be the ministers of Jesus Christ. I simply felt I had to blow off the steam of righteous indignation. Some of the human nature asserted itself.
I really “got it off my chest” in a six-page single-spaced letter I typed to my wife on this borrowed typewriter. Then, after “getting it out of my system” I folded up the letter. But I did not mail it. I must have neglected to destroy it, for I have run across the letter in an old dusty file. I had refrained from sending it to my wife, for I knew she would reprove me for “griping.” I felt I had “murmured” like the grumbling children of Israel being led out of Egypt under Moses.
Nevertheless, although some of this letter reflects a humanness of which I was ashamed, it does give an account, written at the moment, of the very feeling of the situation.
I did go up the hill to my prayer rock and get the complaining out of my heart. There it came to my mind that I should prepare a written defense of my action in baptizing the four so far converted at Firbutte.
But the truth is, God did prosper the Work started in the Eugene area. With the Church then being raised up at Eugene, He did start a Work through us which He could, and did, prosper! He is still prospering it in a mighty way!
The ‘All-Day Wrangle’
Mr. Fisher drove me to the business meeting at Harrisburg on Sunday morning. But he, being excluded, returned home.
Both Mr. Ray and Mr. Oberg had their fighting tempers on. This time they were determined to have me put out of the conference. One of them preached an hour and a half or two hours in the morning—until noon—in one long tirade against me. The other followed in the afternoon session, with another two-hour denunciation of my baptizing people on repentance and faith, before they had been given a complete education about God’s law, and before they had been instructed against eating pork. As usual, not much Scripture was given—but emotional arguments based on human reasoning, and worked up to a high pitch.
I knew they had swayed some of the brethren into believing I had done wrong in baptizing these people according to the Bible teaching.
I then asked to be allowed to defend myself, and present the scriptural reason why I baptized as I did, according to scriptural teaching. Immediately Messrs. Oberg and Ray were on their feet in protest.
“If Brother Armstrong is allowed to speak, he will take up too much time,” they argued.
“I anticipated that,” I replied. “I have my reply to these long speeches by Brother Ray and Brother Oberg typewritten. I have timed it. It takes exactly 15 minutes to read it. Are you going to allow these men hours—all morning and afternoon—to accuse me, and then refuse me even 15 minutes to answer their accusations, and show bythe Scriptures, who is right?”
On promise I would not take up more than 15 minutes’ time, I was allowed to read my defense.
In brief it was this: The natural, unconverted mind cannot understand the Bible, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. There is no promise in the Bible God will give His Holy Spirit to anyone prior to baptism—even though He did in the case of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48). God’s order is 1) repent, 2) be baptized as a symbol of faith in Christ, and 3) receive the Holy Spirit. Repentance means unconditional surrender to God, and to God’s will and His way, or whatever He commands. It means having the rebellion in the human heart against obedience to God broken. It means utter submission to God, and to whatever He instructs in His Word. Those I had baptized had repented.
In Matthew 28:19-20, God’s order is 1) go and preach the gospel (compare with Mark’s version, same words of Jesus, Mark 16:15); 2) baptize those who repent and believe; then, after that, 3) teach them to observe the commandments. Since people cannot fully comprehend the truth of the commandments and the teaching of the Bible until after they receive the Holy Spirit, and since there is no promise God will give the Holy Spirit until after baptism, therefore I baptized them after repentance and faith, just as the Bible instructs—and then, after laying on hands with prayer for their receiving of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:12, 14-17; Acts 19:5-6; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6, etc.), I taught them God’s commandments, and not to eat unclean meats, etc. Every convert I had ever baptized had obeyed all the truths as soon as I taught them. They were submissive, teachable, yielded to God, hungry for His truth. The knowledge of the Lord is something to teach converted people whose minds are opened by God’s Spirit. We must continually grow in this knowledge.
The Double Cross
As soon as I finished, Mr. Fisher’s car had arrived to take me back to the Firbutte schoolhouse for the evening meeting. I was forced to leave immediately. Under the circumstances, I asked the board members and ministers if they would postpone any action until another meeting when I could be present. To this they agreed.
About half of the brethren present were very plainly on my side. As I left the church, this half rose and walked outside to assure me of their sympathy, and that they would resist any action against me.
But as soon as I and all who would support me had gone outside, Messrs. Ray and Oberg broke their word! They immediately offered a resolution that I be required, if I remained in the conference, to baptize people their way instead of the scriptural way, and those remaining inside the church building were swayed into voting for it.
As soon as I heard of the action taken, I immediately wrote a letter canceling the $3-per-week salary, and suggesting they give it to Messrs. Oberg and Ray. I did not resign from the conference. But I refused further salary.
My wife was in complete accord with me.
“As for me and my house,” I then said firmly, “we shall serve the Eternal our God, and Him only shall we serve. If men pay us a salary—even as small as $3 per week—we have now learned we must preach only what men order us to preach. If we are to work forGod we must look to God as our employer, and trust Him to supply our every material need. And then,” I added, “if we fail to serve Him as He commands, He will stop our income.” I wrote my wife to this effect.
It may seem like a step that required great courage to give up even a $3-a-week income when that was all we had. Of course, a few offerings were by this time being handed to me personally—but they were usually a dollar or less, and averaged less than the $3 weekly salary. But it really did not require any real courage. My wife and I knew we were obeying and serving God. We knew He was using us. The fruits being borne were loud testimony of this. God had prepared us for relying solely on Him by many miraculous answers to prayer. Therefore we knew, in perfect faith, God would supply our need.
The Crucial Test
Actually this was the turning point of my whole life—far more crucial than I realized at the time.
This was the crossroads—the final pivotal, crucial test before the living Christ began opening the doors of mass communication through which God’s Work at last could come to life after centuries of sleeping, and go forth in mighty power to all the world, preparing the way before Christ’s return to Earth as Ruler over all nations.
I did not fully realize, then, that this was a crucial turning point in the history of the Church of God. My wife and I did not leave the Church. This was God’s Church. Of that I was not, then, completely sure. They came closer to biblical truth than any other—but I was seriously disturbed by their lack of power and accomplishment.
What actually was happening, though we did not understand it then, was that a new era was dawning in the history of the Church of God. The words of Christ are quoted in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation, foretelling the history of God’s Church in seven successive eras, or phases. Events since that time have revealed this to be the era in which Christ’s message is to go worldwide just before the end of this age.
Mrs. Armstrong and I continued to fellowship with these brethren. I continued to work with them, and with their ministers, as far as that was possible. The lay brethren continued to look to me for the leadership for getting the Work of God going to the world. But from that “all-day wrangle” I was independent of them and their ministers, financially. From that time I was dependent, solely, on God. We did not ask or solicit financial contributions from any except those who voluntarily became financial co-workers with us. And that has been the policy ever since.
But, from that moment when we began to rely solely on God for financial support not only, but also for guidance, direction and results, the Work began a phenomenal yearly increase of nearly 30 percent for the next 35 years. It doubled in size, scope and power on the average of every 2²∕³ years. It multiplied eight times every eight years—64 times in 16 years. Today it is an immensely larger and greater Work than then.
WHY has this Work leaped from virtually nothing to worldwide power and scope, multiplying itself continually over and over again?
Certainly I had not the ability, the resources within myself, to have planned, directed, and accomplished anything remotely like the phenomenal development into the worldwide enterprises that is reality today.
In my 20s I had been ambitious, self-confident—conceited, supposing I would be doing great things. But that self-inflation had been punctured and utterly deflated. I had been brought down to earth with a sickening thud. I had been forced to realize, in retrospect, that I had been merely “running around in circles,” unable to develop any organization or take an executive job requiring the management and supervision over others. I had come to see myself as “a hunk of burned-out junk,” unworthy to be cast aside on the scrap pile.
Conversion had deflated ego and replaced self-assurance with the confidence that is faith inGod!
And this crisis was the turning point when my wife and I actually, in practice, began relying solely on God—no longer on either self or men!
Until those two milestones had been hurdled, God could not openthebigdoors! The difference between THIS Work of God and others is just that—this is the Work of GOD and not of men. It started, and continued, to rely on God, not on man.
I had been changed; I had seven years of intensive Bible study and growth in biblical knowledge behind me. I had five years of experience in preaching. I had become quite experienced in relying on God, instead of on self or on humans. Yet, notwithstanding, as long as I was employed by men who were over me, and who had proved to be susceptible of being influenced and swayed by false ministers, into acting contrary to God’s Word, I was not yet free to rely onGodalone, and to be completely faithful to His Word!
The living Christ simply could not start opening the doors for His Work, until I was free to rely solely on Him!
I was now free! This final crucial test had proved that I would be faithful to God and His Word, even at cost of giving up everything!
I know of evangelists who probably are sincere in supposing they are serving God—and who would like to be free to proclaim many truths they now hold back. They reason something like this: “If I go farther, and preach those things, I’ll lose all my support. I’d be cut off from the ministry altogether. Then I could preach nothing. Better serve God by preaching as much of the biblical truth as possible, than to be prevented from preaching anything.”
They are relying on the financial support of men, or of organizations of men. Anyone in that predicament is the servant of men, and not ofGod, whether he realizes it or not.
A man accosted me as I was walking along the gravel country road, between the Firbutte school and the Jeans school in the fall of 1933.
“You won’t get far,” he said. “You’re preaching the straight truth of the Bible. That offends people. The Bible is like a sharp two-edged sword. It cuts—it reproves, corrects, rebukes—people won’t support that kind of preaching! You won’t get far.”
But I was not relying on the support of people. If people paid me, I would have to serve people. If I were to serve God, I would have to look solely to God for support!
Of course God does work through human instruments. But I had to rely on God to lay it on the hearts of people to support the kind of preaching that obeys Isaiah 58:1 by crying aloud—lifting up my voice and showing the people their sins!
Never was a more important decision made than that decision to cut loose entirely from relying on men, and instead, relying solely on God—not only for truth, and for direction, but also for support! That’s why we never solicit the public for contributions.
Very quickly after that decision the living Christ began opening doors! Very small ones at first. Then additional small ones—then a big door—then more and more of them!
And, to finance what He opened before me, He added, slowly, gradually, but consistently to the little family of co-workers who voluntarily wanted to have a part in God’s Work—in changing hearts, changing human nature, preparing for Christ’s coming to change andSAVEtheWORLD! But I could not invite people to become co-workers. I could welcome them with gratitude when God caused them voluntarily to become co-workers with Christ—but until they took the initiative I could not ask them. No other activity on Earth is operated like this—and perhaps none has grown so surely.
The First Broadcast
The six-weeks meetings in the one-room Firbutte schoolhouse came to a close on Sunday night, August 20, 1933. A total of more than 20 had come with us—but this apparently included the 10 members of the Fisher and Ellis families, members of the Church before the meetings started.
The October 1, 1933 Bulletin carries the report that “with the Fisher and Ellis families, more than 20 signified their desire to establish a new Sabbath-keeping Church of God in this district.”
In September—very soon after rejecting a salary and being controlled and muzzled by men, the living Christ began opening doors for the mass-proclaiming of His gospel. It was then that someone brought to my attention the fact that the local radio station at Eugene, kore, then the very smallest minimum-power of 100 watts, had a morning devotional program scheduled, but that they were having difficulty getting local ministers to conduct the program. It was free time, carried by the station as a public service sustaining program of 15 minutes, 7:45 to 8 a.m.
Immediately I went to the radio station. A woman secretary told me she felt sure they would be glad to have me take the program for a week. I was to call back later for the exact date.
On my second call I was assigned the week of October 9.
October 9 was surely a great big day in my life—the day of my very first experience before a microphone, ON the AIR!
I took this opportunity very seriously. It was an opportunity to speak to several hundred people at once! I had never spoken to that many before.
I spent the preceding week preparing rather extensive notes and script. I might never again have such an opportunity, so I decided to strike directly at the very heart of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Since the Kingdom of God is based on the promises made to Abraham, I began, on Monday morning’s program, with the promises made to Abraham.
I had heard a lot about everybody getting mike fright the very first time on the air. I wondered if I would experience this. It was probably the most exciting adventure of my life.
On Monday morning, I arrived at the radio studio early. The announcer did not come into the studio until 10 or 15 seconds before 7:45.
Mike fright? Why, I thought to myself, I’m calm and cool as a cucumber!
“Listen!” I said quietly but quickly to the announcer. “I’ve never been on the air before. If you have any instructions, you’d better give them to me in a hurry. We have only 10 seconds!”
He looked at me disdainfully, and a little bored.
“Just stand up there in front of the mike, and start talking as soon as I announce you,” he replied.
About three seconds later he announced me. While he was giving this very brief announcement on the air, I thought, Well I don’t have any mike fright. I’m sure glad of that!
Then, for the first time in my life, I said into the microphone:
But suddenly something had happened! Before those two words were finished, something had hit me like a jolt! Something had started my heart pounding like a sledgehammer! I felt myself gasping for breath! During those opening two words, mike fright had seized me!
I struggled with all my might to control my hard breathing so it would not be audible over the air. It was agony, but I concentrated my mind with all the strength I had on two things—to carefully say the words of my typed script as naturally as I could, and to control my hard breathing so it did not sound.
After two or three minutes I was making good progress in gaining control. After some five minutes my breathing had returned to normal, and I was so absorbed in getting this vital message over to the largest audience of my life—even though that audience was invisible—that I forgot all about the mike fright.
The Surprising Response
The second morning there was no mike fright. I was beginning to gain assurance, and able to speak a little more naturally.
It must have been about Thursday morning that the announcer told me the station owner, Mr. Frank Hill, wanted to see me in his office later in the morning.
He had received several letters and telephone calls from listeners, requesting copies of my talks. I had offered no literature of any kind. I had invited no mail response.
“This is rather surprising,” said Mr. Hill. “We never had any response of any kind, before, from this morning devotional program. They told me you had not invited any. Yet it has been coming. I listened in on you this morning to see what was causing it. You have an excellent radio voice, and a way of delivering your message that arouses interest and holds an audience.
“Now, Mr. Armstrong,” he continued, “I want to suggest that you work out a regular Sunday morning Church service, condensed into a half hour. I’d like to put that on as a regular sustaining program—free time—but I can’t do that without offering equal time to every church in town. However, I will sell you the time at less than bare cost of operation, $2.50 per half hour.”
And that suggestion from Mr. Frank Hill is what put the idea of the World Tomorrow program in my mind!
Altogether 14 letters and telephone calls came in to the radio station requesting copies of the messages I had broadcast.
I thanked him, and told him I would see what I could do.
But, $2.50 every week! WOW! That was almost as much as my entire salary had been! And I had just previously renounced even that small salary!
Today, $2.50 per half-hour broadcast seems incredibly small. We have to pay far more than that per minute on stations today! But it seemed like an insurmountable barrier then.
Yet I knew this was God’s Work not mine. I was only an instrument. God had promised to supply every need.
God had opened the door of mass evangelism! I knew He wanted us to walk through that door. I knew He would somehow supply that $2.50 every week. I knew also that we had to do our part, not lie down, do nothing, and expect God to do it without any effort from us.
I was continuing to hold meetings at the Firbutte schoolhouse, twice weekly—Sabbath afternoons and Thursday evenings.
Then, on October 21, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Smith, just across the road from the Jeans school, four miles west of Firbutte, a new Church of God was organized, with Mr. E. E. Fisher as deacon, and myself as pastor. Meetings continued from that date, three times a week, Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and Sabbath afternoons. Attendance was averaging 22. A first action of the new Church was the decision of whether to go ahead with the broadcast. These new members and the lay brethren of the Oregon Conference all approved it joyfully as an effective evangelistic activity of the Church.
So I sent out a letter to the small mailing list of members we had for the Bulletin. I asked for pledges from brethren to help raise this $2.50 per week. But I asked this only of God’s people—brethren in Christ—not of the public! In due time pledges came back for just half enough—about $1.35 per week! We decided we would trust God in faith for the other $1.15 per week!
It was arranged with Mr. Hill to start the new half-hour program every Sunday in the new year, 1934.