"Keepers Of The Word"
The age is modern, but the Bible is the same Book. The tendency leans towards "institutionalism" to advance the truth rather than the "local congregation" as the Bible designs. Too many have the idea that doing "mission work" one must set sail upon the seas and go to a foreign field. This is truly "mission work", but the same can be said of the many destitute and barren fields in the Western Hemisphere. There are thousands of communities in these United States that could march forward and present the gospel with a more telling effect if they had a "commodious building". For over a hundred years the churches in our country have had an open opportunity to assist other communities in building church buildings and few they have assisted in constructing! But they all at once get excited about a program that is out of the bounds of the United States.
Work In Alaska and the Church's Attitude The church at Van Nuys, California has shouldered this burden and has really borne the most of the expense for over three years. Brother Boyd Field is on the job there preaching the gospel and helping in the erection of a building that will cost not under $15,000. We are glad to have a hand in this good work, but my point is that many of the churches in the Los Angeles area have turned the other way when we need the help most. Many good folks are assisting, but the cost at present is great. We have a contractor on the job and his salary is $550 per month and brother Field's salary is $300 per month. One of the elders in a nearby church gave a check for $1,000 to the Tanda Lodge (Recreational Park Program) and they refused to give anything on the Alaska work. One is indeed blind that cannot see how the material and physical is valued over the spiritual. Truly, "they say and do not"!
What are churches doing in their locality? That is their field of labor. The place to begin anything good is at home. Even if we spend all our money to feed the poor and preach the gospel to the lost across the waters, the responsibility at home is not lessened.
"Faithful Men Of God"
I do not like to hear faithful, devoted preachers sneered at and given the "horse laugh" for their unselfish sacrifices in going with the gospel, leaving the family circle and traveling almost constantly "breaking the bread of life." Brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr. is an example. For years he has gone almost constantly preaching the gospel, helping to erect fine church buildings that are today a credit to the Lord's cause. Central congregation in Los Angeles owes a great deal to this great man of God who spent and was spent that the church might enjoy the good edifice that it now possesses That was real going that he did, that was "real mission work" that he engaged in. There's no way of telling how many hungry, thirsty, and naked have been ministered unto by this congregation. The Central congregation has "sponsored" brother Homer Hailey in the work at Honolulu where brother Lovell says "Scores have been baptized Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiians and others." Looking back into the days past we can see the hand of him who helped at least make such a program possible. It is possible, in tracing the history of every church or congregation, to really see how that the faithful men of God who helped establish congregations of Christ over the land had a great part in the program of the church today. Some people write and talk as though the church has always been as strong as it is today and simply has just been doing nothing but 'being "orthodox" in teaching. The churches in the great metropolitan area of Los Angeles are here by sacrifice and toil of men, faithful and great men of God who professed and loved truth. And such is the case in every city the church has gone. We have no information as to how to set up a "hospital" for the sick and an organization for the same. If there was one set up by the New Testament church we do not have any record of it. Then that, if established, would call for a medical school with its organization. This is completely out of the field of the church; it is social and not spiritual. The same would be true concerning a "Baby Mart or Clinic" to care for the unfortunate babies brought into the world by sinful parents. Indeed they are objects of pity, but such does not give the church the right to enter the realm of "institutionalism" to provide for such. The Lord evidently thought the "church" was large enough and good enough to care for the unfortunates. It is completely impossible for the church to take care of all the irresponsibles, the unfortunate mentally and physically, to establish bread lines all over the world, to feed all the hungry and clothe all the naked, but our first duty is toward "the household of faith"! There is a social obligation the world maintains. There are parental obligations to bear, by the parents and by the children. When those are exhausted the church is responsible. The first duty of the church is to preach the gospel to the sin-sick soul, "go tell thy brethren"! The Lord places preaching the gospel to the lost above everything else. All else therefore is secondary or incidental.
The Truth Is Sufficient!
People become dissatisfied with the truth, invent new things and foster new ideas in preference to the "old paths". I think it is a high compliment to one who "holds the Christian faith" unswervingly. Sound doctrine is wholesome doctrine. Sound speech is Bible speech. Salvation is based upon the "Oracles of God". People still need to "speak the things which become sound doctrine". Oft times truth is not attractive, while error fascinates. It is readily admitted that just speaking the truth will not save one. But just "doing the truth" will not save one either. One must have a "love for the truth"! People that did not receive a "love for the truth" were sent "strong delusions" and by their false faith were damned. It is true that we should be "doers of the word, and not hearers only". But you cannot deny that we must "hear the word". It takes faith and works to save, neither can be dropped. But above all things let our works, actions be directed by the truth.
It seems to be a conceded fact that local government is as far as we can go in matters of organization. The scope of authority of a congregation is isolated to the community it serves, and that authority must be in accord with Christ's power. It is true that we can associate with other congregations, and we should, in any worthy work that needs to be done under the proper arrangement. But to bypass the God-given authority of doing things is certainly a violation of God's will. Congregations ministered to other saints in 2 Cor. 8 & 9. Individuals who were in need were assisted by contributions. We can logically draw a scriptural conclusion that, when a crisis arises that affects the church elsewhere, unitedly we may assist them. Too, individuals that need aid who are giving their life to the gospel can rightfully be assisted. That the needy are to be helped is conclusive from Jas. 1:27, but there are still qualifications to be met by widows 1 Tim. 5:9, 10. Some folks ignore the last clause if James 1:27 "and to keep himself unspotted from the world." That applies to doctrine as well as fleshly lusts!
Herod and Pilate Made Friends
In the cruel trial of Jesus that mocked justice, Herod and Pilate were made friends. Herod and his men of war cried for a miracle, and when they were refused counted Jesus as nothing, arrayed him in a gorgeous robe and sent him back to Pilate in mockery. They were made friends that day because of a common enemy. Sometimes that occurs now. Judas became friendly, for a price, with the chief priests. When he saw he had betrayed innocent blood he tried to return the bloody money, but rather with it they bought a potter's field to bury therein strangers. To show Herodias a pleasure, John the Baptist was thrust in prison. To grant the daughter of Herodias a favor, John's tread was severed and brought on a platter at her mother's suggestion. Another example, Demas served with Paul for a time (1 Tim. 4:14, Philemon 24), then forsook Paul "having loved this present world." These people paid the supreme price in forsaking the truth and truthful men, and friendship of the world is "enmity with God." We have modern Herods and Pilates who unite as comrades in the destruction, if possible, of a common enemy who is stronger in the truth and its expression. And while the "old paths" are being shunted by many modern, illustrious luminaries (?) there are still "7,000" that have not bowed the knee to Baal!
"Keepers of the Word"
To be "orthodox" in teaching is to "hold fast the faithful Word." We are commanded to "Stand fast" and to "Hold fast the form of sound words," and this is in "Christ Jesus"! "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." "Hold fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." How many times are we commanded to "Keep" the Lord's commandments? Keep means to "retain or hold fast", to "defend and protect", to "observe and practice", and to "perform as a duty." Old Israel said, "We will not walk therein" and "'We will not harken to the sound of the trumpet." Many are repeating the sad refrain. Sometimes folks get wiser than God, and when that happens there is not much anyone can do for them. The gospel began in a radius given, Jerusalem, went forth into Judea, then Samaria, and then to the uttermost part of the earth. It did not begin in Jerusalem and go forth to the uttermost part and finally come back to Judea and Samaria. Too many want to get the cart before the horse. In something over a hundred years we have not reached every soul in this country. This may be slow progress, and that we make mistakes is but to confess we are human. The fellow who has not made a mistake was a big mistake to begin with! There are five counties in Northern California in which there is not one church! I am planning every year through the generosity of the Van Nuys congregation by letting me go, to assist in starting a new congregation in that destitute field. Do not tell me that is not "doing mission work" and "going as commanded in the great commission." Other preachers and churches are with the same arrangements. And as we go into the white fields we are determined to "know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified." We extend a glad hand to those in foreign lands where no doubt the work is harder in some phases. We do not intend to discourage that kind of work by this article. The church I preach for is even fostering that kind of evangelistic labor. But let us remember that every place and every race has an equal right to receive the gospel. There are houses around you that you can toss rocks on wherein people are unsaved! Let us roll up our sleeves and get into the work at home and abroad!