Point At Issue
The point is, whether the local church shall care for its orphans or send them off to a human institution that supposedly cares for the orphans of thousands of churches. The question is not whether there are families that want to take them or whether the church can help a family that so does. The question is not whether the church can contribute to this or that. The question is, Shall the church do its own work or turn it over to a human institution? This is the central fundamental point on which the whole controversy must be decided.
All agree that the care of the fatherless and widows is the work of the local church. All agree also that God perfectly organized the local church, with its elders and deacons, to so do, and that each of its members is thoroughly furnished to assist in it. Shall they do it, or say that human wisdom has invented a better way?
Quibbles by the promoters of the human institution on whether the church can do this or that are a confusion of the issue. The only chance these promoters have of bleeding the church of its resources is by preventing brethren from having a clear understanding of the work of the church.
All agree that God thoroughly and perfectly furnishes the local church to care for its orphans and to do every other good work. The question is, Shall the local church actually function as God created it in Christ Jesus to do, and as the Word of God guides it to do, or shall it allow a human institution, unknown to the Word of God, to take over its work? Whether orphans can be located in private homes or whether the local church can do this or that is not the question. The question is, Shall the church be what God created it to be, and shall it do the work that God created it to do, and that the Word of God completely and perfectly furnishes it to do?
It seems undoubtedly true that if the big orphan homes would open their doors and turn their little prisoners loose to properly investigated Christian families, who would find it a pleasure to care for one or more of them, that every orphan home would be quickly emptied. But, if this was done, on what pretext could the orphan homes keep up their begging and their continual piling up of real estate, goods and chattels, stocks and bonds, and monies out at interest? Begging, indeed, is a big business and a most fascinating and profitable business, and when men get a taste of it, it is most difficult to choke them off. And then the prominence, and worldly glory, to mention nothing else, that ambitious men enjoy in being Members of a Board, can never come to any man for being just an humble, faithful, common sort of Christian. And all this ignores the plain Bible truth, that no Christian can rightfully be a member of any religious institution except the local congregation.
The point is, that the local church is God's way. The human institution, or orphan home, is man's way. Israel, in God's way, succeeded; in their own way, they failed, and failed miserably. In New Testament times, the local church, operating autonomously in every community, under the direction of inspired men, not only evangelized the whole world in thirty-five years, but utterly amazed the whole world by the way they assisted the weak, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and cared for the fatherless and widows in their affliction.
The whole world still looks back in amazement and admiration at the achievement of the local churches in New Testament times. They labored under every disadvantage. They had neither money nor worldly prestige, and they labored against the opposition of powerful enemies and the most bitter and murderous persecution. They had no general organizations of any kind or character, and no general institutions to take over any part whatsoever of their work. And yet the local church, working autonomously in every community, and all speaking and practicing the same things, by all being guided by the Word of God, preached the gospel to the whole world and abounded in every good work, including the care of the fatherless and widows. The Christian world has never so done since, but has been impotent and powerless to so do. It will never evangelize the world nor properly care for the poor until it cleans its house of all innovations borrowed from the Man of Sin and returns to the apostolic order of things.
God created the local church, not only to teach and preach the gospel, but to give aid to the weak and needy, and to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. The local church is perfectly organized to thus accomplish its mission in doing these things. The local church is the most wonderful organization on earth. There is no other organization or institution like it. It is most efficiently and most effectually organized to abound in the doing of every good work. And yet there is nothing whatever about it that the world calls "organization". It is started by simply telling men and women what to do to be saved. God adds all who do it and are saved to the church. Every one thus becoming a member of the church is thoroughly equipped by the Word of God to be active personally in doing good to the highest limit of his ability to be active. There is complete and perfect cooperation between all the members of the local church in doing every good work. They all speak the same thing and are perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. The Word of God is the thing that unites them. People cannot be divided even in thought when they are guided by the Word of God, which means when they teach and practice "the things" for which the Word of God gives the command or sets the example. But when they begin to talk about, "Where there is no pattern," or that God has commanded us "to do something but has not told us how to do it," and that, therefore, every body can commit the sin of "doing that which is right in his own eyes, "then the best that can be expected is miserable sin and failure.
Not only are the members of the local church perfectly united in the most efficient cooperation, but every local church throughout the world is perfectly united together, and cooperates fully and perfectly. Every local church that does what the Word of God commands, in so doing, is cooperating completely and perfectly with every other local church that so does, no matter what part of the world they are in, or whether or not they are personally acquainted. They are preaching the same things, and doing the same things, and even thinking the same things. There is no cooperation like the cooperation between local churches when they are all guided by the Bible.
But each local church, when guided by the Bible, works autonomously and independently of every other local church. Any thing larger than the local church is unscriptural and sinful. The elders of the local church can only supervise the affairs of that local church and the deacons of the local church can only manage the benevolent work of that local church. There can be no overall organization or institution that combines churches, there can be no "church of churches," but both the precept and the precedent from the apostles and the apostolic churches, is that every local church must do its work autonomously and independently. In no other way can the churches grow and develop and in no other way can the gospel be preached "publicly, and from house to house," and the poor and needy and the fatherless and widows be properly cared for.
The local church and it only, is perfect for the care of the fatherless. The business of the deacons of the church is to direct the financial resources and the labors of all the members in bestowing on the needy ones every attention and care and all this under the supervision and care of the elders, "who watch for their souls." Feeding, clothing and sheltering the orphans is not the most important part of their care. The elder "watching for their souls" is a thing that cannot be provided in a general human institution that cannot have elders. No "patron", and no "matron", and no "superintendent", can take the place of the elders, and no expenditure of money can provide the care that the local church gives, when properly directed by the deacons. Our plea is, that the big, human institutions lay off, and cease to bleed the churches white, and give the local church a chance to do its work. And, of course, the elders of the local church will have to start teaching the Word of God on the subject, because the local church will be exactly what it is taught to be. and will do exactly what it is taught to do.
Local churches cannot combine or consolidate. They cannot merge their resources or their work. There can be no outside, general institution to combine the work of two or more local churches. Each church keeps its own business wholly and entirely in its own hands. The local church is the only operating institution or organization in the New Testament. Any thing more or less than the local church is from the Man of Sin. Of course, every one the world over who believes the gospel and is baptized into Christ is a member of the church. But in this universal sense the church can never assemble and can take no action or do any work. It cannot have universal elders or universal deacons. There can be no centralization of either the management or the work of two or more local churches. The local church in every community is the one and only divine institution. On it doing its work, the hope of the world is dependent.