Who Is Really The Greater (that is the more blessed)?

John David Clark, Sr. - July, 1999

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." (Gal. 5:1)

A while back, I came in contact with a minister in Iowa who seemed to have something from God. (He has now been dead several years.) I received some tapes from him and was so impressed that I even played parts of them in our meeting for everyone to hear. He was a very impressive speaker and knew the scriptures well. His voice resonated with authority as he spoke of things concerning the kingdom of God. In time, he and I began to correspond, and in the course of that correspondence, I learned that he was known as, and claimed to be, an apostle.

I learned also that those who brought him to the Lord had belonged to the congregation taught by a man named Sowders who lived in Louisville, Kentucky during the same time my father had ministered there (mid to late 1930s). I asked my father if he had known a minister named Sowders while in Louisville, and he did vaguely recall being in a meeting with him. He said Mr. Sowders used to have meetings in which he would do nothing but answer questions that people in the congregation had. I suspect that my father learned the truth about the Father and the Son from this man, but I can't say for certain about that because I never asked him. It is either that, or God revealed the same truth to them both. They certainly had the same understanding of the Father and the Son.

Anyway, the minister in Iowa whose parents had belonged to the Sowders group was Lloyd Goodwin. He ruled over a large congregation in Des Moines, Iowa, and apparently was held in great esteem by other congregations scattered through other states. In his letters, he complimented me regularly on my understanding of certain truths, especially what I am teaching concerning the doctrine of the Trinity and the true relationship of the Father and the Son. He invited me to come meet him at one of his meetings when he was in a state closer to North Carolina. But the Spirit would not allow me to do that, and in time I found out why.

As I continued to listen to his tapes, I began to hear things that were not true. His voice was the same; his tone of absolute confidence was the same; the sound of his message and the appearance of divine authority was the same. But where was the truth? I heard him speak of ceremonial baptisms as if he still was engaged in them. I heard him speak of someone already being saved. And when I wrote him to inquire further of his doctrine concerning these and other things, he would not give me straight answers nor budge from his errors. He merely continued to issue invitations to meet him at one of his meetings.

As I delved deeper into his ministry, it became clear that this man was elevated in his own mind and in the mind of others, and beyond all reason, to a status of great superiority over the rest of us. It made me wonder if it had affronted him for me to question his teachings at all. It was clear that I was expected to submit to him and to every word he uttered simply because of who he was. But who was he?

I have no problem believing that God could in our time make a man an apostle. An "apostle" is one that is sent out from God with wisdom and power, and God is fully capable of doing that in our day. In fact, it would thrill me and bless the church greatly if God would send us many apostles; we certainly need them. (God help us receive them if He does send them!) But there is something suspicious about a man who claims to be an apostle, yet he still is in bondage to Christian tradition and ceremony. John wrote, "He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God" (Jn. 3:34). This man was speaking things that I knew were not of God. So, who was he? John also recorded these words from Jesus: "He that is of God heareth God's words" (Jn. 8:47). But this "mighty man of God" would not hear my words, which I knew were of God, concerning Christian ceremonies and false doctrine he taught. So, who was he?

I prefer to say that he was simply confused and to suggest nothing else about this man, now dead. But one thing I know: he was NOT an apostle sent from God to the church. And the Spirit absolutely refused to allow me to go to this man at his direction and at his convenience, as if he were my overseer in the Lord. You who know the truth must understand this. You are never to act as though you are superior to others; at the same time, you also must never act as though you are submissive to "those who say they are apostles and are not." An anointing from God is upon you. When the truth entered into your heart, YOU were made a light, a standard by which the children of God are to behave and think. The holy Ghost commanded me in no uncertain terms a few years ago, "Don't you EVER surrender your liberty to any man!"

This man was not my elder, even if he did look and sound greater, but I had to learn that. No doubt, our merciful God had caused our paths to cross in order to bless us both. I know that if Brother Goodwin had been willing to hear me, God would have perfected his message, but he would have no part of it because . . . well, he was an apostle, but who was I?

In my final letter to Brother Goodwin, when I had finally overcome my fleshly admiration of his appearance of great righteousness and come face to face with his exalted spirit and hardness of heart, I told him that he was not telling the truth to the people who trusted him. Then, would he not have to be classified as a "false apostle", instead of a faithful one? The Bible says that if a man will not listen, it is foolish to try to teach him. It also says to depart from a man when you see that he is not telling the truth. So I did. I gave no more of my time or energy to that highly exalted man.

A few days ago, I received a phone call from a man in Des Moines, Iowa. He had already spoken by phone to Gary Savelli in San Francisco and to Jimmy Tolle in Louisville, Kentucky. He told me that since Brother Goodwin died, there has been a power struggle in the congregation there and that he and many others had left that group. As we talked, he seemed happy that we were teaching truth concerning the Trinity doctrine and the new birth; at the same time, he seemed a little bitter toward those who now stood in Brother Goodwin's place. I hope he stays in contact with us long enough to learn to overcome those feelings and be thankful instead that God has given him the opportunity to be set free from the spirit of that place.

As we spoke of the truths we had in common, I rejoiced in my spirit at the fellowship we had, the holy Ghost at times speaking through me. But on the other end of the phone line, there seemed to be no fellowship with my joy. Later, when I was talking with Gary Savelli, he told me about his conversation with this man, and Brother Gary's experience with him had been identical to mine! When Brother Gary rejoiced in the Spirit, it seemed to cut something off with the man who was calling. His spirit is bruised. What has he been taught?

I have had similar experiences, such as the one with the mother of Jimmy B., a man who came to our meeting. She is one of the sweetest children of God you will ever meet, but when we were visiting her and the Spirit fell, she could not rejoice with us. I sensed the reason, and when I asked Jimmy about it, he confirmed my suspicions. The slander she had heard about me and those who love the truth with me prevented her from being able to rejoice with us. She feared that she would be rejoicing with a demon instead of the real holy Ghost. How sad! And how my heart ached for her! We loved her so much in the Lord, but she couldn't see past the slander to believe what she was feeling in her own heart--and seeing with her own eyes!

Remembering that, I wondered what had happened over the years to the spirit of that man from Iowa that he could not rejoice with us in spirit. It was sad as I pondered again the effect it has on the spirits of God's children to sit for years under false teaching. And it humbled me again to realize just what it is that Jesus has done for us! Folks, we are blessed!

The greatest errors I have made in my walk of faith have not been the result of puffing myself up but of humbling myself to religious spirits, to spirits that claimed to be of God but were not, spirits that looked good but were not good. At times, I have been too willing to submit to someone, longed too much to have someone over me in the Lord, and been too ready to follow the counsel of others when Jesus would have shown me the way. One case in point that some of you will know about is that of Brother Lary in Louisville, whom I respected far beyond what he was worthy--or able--to bear. That undeserved respect puffed him up. It hurt him--and the whole church, to a degree.

This is a lesson we must learn, or some "great man of God" is going to deceive us. No man, nor angel from heaven, is to be honored above the truth of God. Regardless of how good any minister looks or sounds, if he does not preach the truth, he is not sent from God. If he is still in bondage to Christian traditions and doctrines, then refuse to be impressed with him. Listen! You who love the truth and obey it are in a better place than he, no matter what he appears to be. We must learn this!

The secret of your soul's safety is this: If you fall in love with the truth of God, no man will be able to deceive you, for you will not be impressed with numbers, with style, with degrees, or with a man's reputation among men. You will be impressed only with what is really of God, and you will believe only those who truly are sent from God and speak His words! Love the truth, my brothers and sisters; that alone will provide assurance of safety from false apostles with their appearances of righteousness (2Thes. 2:10). Take it from me; you WILL be hurt if you fail to live by these words. You must not be impressed with "mighty men" who are still in darkness, nor be intimidated by them. Instead, they should be impressed with you because of the blessing you have from God! In fact, they are foolish if they are not impressed with you.

After my conversation with Brother Gary Savelli about the man from Iowa who called us, I realized that if I had not already learned this lesson, the man's dullness to my joy on the phone would have bothered me. It would have been the same old thing; "Lord, did I do something wrong? Was that rejoicing not perfect?" Instead of that, however, I did the right thing; I pitied him, that he did not know the Spirit any better than he does and that he had not been blessed with old saints such as I had to guide me through the confusing maze of this world.

I will honor all men, as Peter said to do. At the same time, I pity all men--even the greatest among them--who do not know the truth. I pity those considered now to be princes in the church because they do not know the truth. I pity the "great evangelists" of our time for their ignorance. There is no man on television anywhere who is teaching the truth to the church. I pity them all because they are ignorant and in bondage and they think they are not! I measure the greatness of all men by the standard of God's truth. I know of nothing else that I can rely on. And I feel greatly blessed to have been taught it.


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