January 1, 1986 Issue
by Barney Owens
The desire to restore New Testament Christianity is a most wholesome thought, a work which began in this country and has proved a blessing to men who are want to serve God unimpeached by creeds and doctrines of men. One thing that (so it seems to me) has been a thorn in the flesh to restore the God given way is the subject to which your attention is now directed. The world is now filled with organizations of every kind and purpose imaginable to mankind, some having noble ends others not so profitable, and of course some disrespectful. This thirst has found its way into the religious arena and even into the church. The harmony of the church has been disrupted, friendships ended, and brethren are no longer walking together as the Cause has been slowed for disagreement on organization.
Our lessons have been learned in a hard fashion, but are short in duration. Why cant we remember? Can we without difficulty look and learn the end to which the path of "devising our own way will lead?" Only a knave would think everyone receptive to the New Testament on this subject (or others), as it is too simple for many. However, trusting some will re-think this subject I wish to make suggestions.
1. The organization of the church is found in the New Testament. If it is not then we are left to our own wisdom in this matter. (II Tim 3:16-17; II Pet 1:3-4 etc.).
2. The organization of the church falls into two categories:
(a) The universal church is organized under the Head Jesus Christ. His will is law, and every member of the church must seek to please or praise Him (Acts 2:47). Christ as King in His Kingdom has the power within His hands only (Mt 28:18) so, it is a monarchy. Every human being who has been saved by the grace of God, having the blood of Christ applied to his soul is a member of the universal church. There is no earthly head.
(b) The local church is ruled in an autonomous fashion with elders and deacons being appointed upon their qualifications. Each local church is made of those people who have been saved by the grace of God applying the blood of Christ to their souls, who meet regularly for worship God (Acts 20:7) in a "local" place. They're the church in that area. A local church, as per organization can exist in one of four ways:
(1) Scripturally organized. Such a church will have qualified men watch over and caring for the flock under Jesus Christ (I Pet 5:1-4).
(2) Scripturally unorganized. These congregations have not reached the place that men within their membership qualify to be appointed as elders and deacons, so they work to that end (Tit 1:5).
(3) Unscripturally organized. Such a church desirous or organization appoints elders and deacons who are not qualified by scripture. Perhaps their intentions are good, as they might feel these will grow into the qualifications, but nonetheless, they are unscriptural.
(4) Unscripturally unorganized. Such churches have qualified men but will not appoint them. This is a violation of God's will, and just as wrong as number 3. It is against scripture.
ORGANIZATION SMALLER OR LARGER THAN THE CHURCH
Within the brotherhood I have yet to meet anyone who does not accept the concept presented in regard to the universal and local church. Oh, we might not agree about elders and deacons, but about the organization of the whole church under Christ and the local church being autonomous we are in agreement. However, in recent years the church continually wars over organization and the questions attached to it. The "disciples of Christ" began largely over the organization of the "missionary society." Division again came to the body over "Herald of Truth" and the organization of it. What is wrong with these? Are they not wrong because they supplant the local church? Is the problem not to be found in the fact that they are smaller than the universal church, yet larger than the local church? Please take note brethren: When we organize or form a body or group that is not made up of all the saved on the earth "the universal church," and is yet larger than a single congregation, "the local church", are we not walking over territory which takes us to the same end as our brethren before us?
MEETING A NEED
Often it is pointed out that we can have a conglomerate of congregations which will enable us to do work that needs doing. Granted, such many be the case, does not the same thing apply to the class system of teaching? "What's wrong with teaching the Bible to children on their own plane?" Can the application be made to missionary societies? "What's wrong with sending preachers to preach the gospel to heathens?" The end does not justify the means. Wisdom instructs "There is a way (singular) that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways (plural) of death (Prove 14:12) How can one way bring, equal many ways? Simple, the way is "theory and doctrine." The doctrine that "the end justifies the means" or "that it doesn't matter HOW we do something as long as we sincerely try to do good, God will accept it" leads to death in a variety of ways. Have not the denominations accepted this "theory?" Can we not testify to the fact that our digressive brethren promote this "doctrine?" Well, why should we think we are exempt?
THE NEW TESTAMENT CONCEPT
Each congregation should do it's own work it is plainly taught in the word of God. If and when we abandon this truth, consistency would demand that we allow others the same privilege. I ask brethren, in all fairness, "is it sin to pool our resources but right to pool everything else?" Does God care for resources?
I hope and pray that these few words will cause all to pause a moment and think seriously on this old subject. My desire is not to throw a wet blanket on everything, but to encourage all to wrap in the cover of God's truth.
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