A Brief History of The Church of GodThe Church – The Body of Christ
The founding of The Church of God occurred when Jesus Christ called together His twelve apostles and with them organized His Church. According to the history of the Church, this occurred approximately 28 A.D. on the Horns of Hittin near Tiberias in Palestine, now known as Israel. "And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:" (Mark 3:3-15).
The Church continued under theocracy, governed by the immediate direction of God, growing and expanding until its influence was felt in all the known world.
The Church's success and identity were interrupted, however, on June 14, 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea when the Church, under the power and influence of the Roman government, headed at that time by Emperor Constantine, abandoned theocracy and established an episcopal form of government to replace it. It was at this point that the true Church ceased to function but the organization continued. This event was foretold in Isaiah 54:7 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
After fifteen hundred and seventy-eight years, a time known in religious history as the Dark Ages, the true Church arose from its long sleep and again began to function as was prophesied in Isaiah 60:1-5. The time was June 13, 1903 and the place was Cherokee County, North Carolina. In this historic meeting, one among the group who came together to pray and study the Word of God, A.J. Tomlinson, made the statement after he had gone to the top of a mountain nearby for an extended session of prayer:
"I came back down the mountain and entered the meeting. Questions were asked. Bible answers were given. They said they took the whole Bible rightly divided as their only rule of faith and practice. I said, Well if you take the whole Bible rightly divided, that makes it The Church of God...Then I said, You have agreed that this that I have said makes it The Church of God, and will you be willing to take it and keep it The Church of God? They said they were willing. I then asked if they were willing to take me in with the understanding that It is The Church of God – not going to be, but is The Church of God. They were willing...Brother Spurling...took the Bible and gave it to me. He handed it to me and said, 'Will you take this [Bible] as the word of God, believe and practice it, obey its precepts and walk in the light as God is in the light?' Right there I gave my hand to Brother Spurling...I took the obligation with deep sincerity and extreme sacredness, never to be forgotten." (Upon this Rock, Vol. 3, p. 64, C.T. Davidson, White Wing Publishing House and Press, Cleveland, Tennessee, 1976).
"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee" (Isaiah 60:1).
Following the "arise, shine" of the Church on June 13, 1903, it began again to function as the theocracy and experienced growth and expansion until a disruption in 1923 brought a separation on governmental and doctrinal lines. A.J. Tomlinson, the General Overseer of The Church of God, refused to go along with the faction within the Church which wanted to alter the theocratic form of government by introducing a constitution wiich interfered with the process of theocracy through the General Assembly.
With a remnant of those who wanted to contine with the theocratic process, on July 24, 1923 A.J. Tomlinson made a declaration of separation from the errant faction to continue on with The Church of God as originally revealed by the Holy Ghost through the Word of God. The Church grew and flourished under his leadership until his death in 1943. In the years following his separation from those in error, he and the Church suffered frequent and periodic lawsuits involving property and the name "The Church of God." Finally, the courts ruled that the Church should distinguish itself from the other group by using the name "The Church of God over which A.J. Tomlinson is General Overseer."
Following his death on October 2, 1943, his son, Milton A. Tomlinson, was selected as General Overseer and for a period of time the Church went under the name "The Church of God over which A.J. Tomlinson was and Milton A. Tomlinson is General Overseer." In 1952 the same group, which went astray from the Church during the administration of A.J. Tomlinson in 1921-1923, brought suit against Milton A. Tomlinson concerning the name and the court advised those under the administration of Milton A. Tomlinson to accept the term "of Prophecy" as a suffix to the name Church of God, so the Church operated under the name "Church of God of Prophecy," using the suffix for business purposes only.
During the administration of Milton A. Tomlinson the Church of God of Prophecy experienced its greatest growth and expansion. During this time, unfortunately, the seed of heresy and apostasy were secretly being planted and found fertile land in the minds and hearts of some within the Church who emerged in positions of leadership and influence. As Milton A. Tomlinson grew older and became more and more incapacitated and less and less able to bear up under the load and responsibility he, in the spring of 1990, sought administrative assistance until the General Assembly when the matter of considering a replacement for the General Overseer could be dealt with by the General Assembly, those who had other plans and ideas about replacing the General Overseer seized upon the opportunity to take matters into their own hands. Milton A. Tomlinson was pressured into resigning and vacated the office. Then the group of State and National Overseers, which would have been the presbytery had there been a General Overseer in place to work with them, went about to select a replacement. The action of this group was a departure from the theocratic process which had directed the Church from its beginning. A leader was selected by majority vote rather than by unanimous agreement of the General Assembly. This new leader began immediately to lead the Church away from its original revelation of Church government and doctrine.
Eventually, on July 23-25, 1993, a Solemn Assembly was called by the Holy Ghost to come together to fast and pray to find the answer to the dilemma the Church was in. One of the Holy Ghost messages given during the Solemn Assembly said "Ye are The Church of God. That is the name I have given thee...."
The result of the Solemn Assembly was that on the evening of July 24, 1993, in a mighty move and demonstration of the Holy Ghost, a proclamation was made by the group to stand for the original doctrines, teachings and theocratic government as revealed to the Church which was set in order by Christ Himself and which went under cover during the Dark Ages and which arose on June 13, 1903 to continue its divine commission as The Church of God.
These separations did not constitute new organizations, but the reorganization of The Church of God as the true theocracy of God, the exclusive Body of Christ. From the beginning it was The Church of God and through all its earthly trials and tribulations it is still The Church of God. It is not a new organization, but is a continuation of the original Church in its original revelation.
From the humble restoration of the Church which Christ established in 28 A.D. to this present day there have been glorious times, great victories, and reports of great revivals, healings, and divine deliverances.
Details of the future are, of course, unknown, but the prophecy of God is clear concerning the Church. The hour is late, but the brightness of the "arise, shine" lies just ahead. Without a doubt, perfection will be obtained, for it has already been declared of the Church that Christ will "...present it unto himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27; see also Revelations 19:6-9).
This resource contains information adapted from Introducing The Church of God, which can be obtained via the online store. Introducing The Church of God is an Outreach Literature tract produced by The Church of God and contains a brief historical summary of The Church of God from the New Testament to present day.
Who is She? History of The Church of God is an in-depth study of this topic and is a good resource for anyone desiring to learn more about this subject. Who is She? History of The Church of God is a correspondence course published through the BTI Department with lessons on the history of the Church.