Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 15, 1959
NUMBER 36, PAGE 6-7a

Prelude To Apostasy

James A. Allen, Nashville, Tennessee

All whose whole desire is simply to do God's will, as God's will is revealed in his Word, realize that something has gone wrong when brethren begin to say "that God has commanded us to do something but has not revealed to us how to do it, and therefore, we may do it any way our own wisdom dictates." They know that it is a prelude to apostasy when a man who ought to know better begins to preach on "Where There Is No Pattern."

The state of mind produced in the church by the elders committing the sin of permitting this kind of preaching is the preparation necessary to cause it to accept the unauthorized thing. "The mystery of iniquity" permeated the churches with the state of mind that made it possible to introduce the Great Apostasy. Men, whose minds are wholly set on being guided by God's Word, and thus doing God's will, do not preach on "Where There Is No Pattern," or "that God has commanded us to do a thing but has not revealed to us how to do it, and therefore, we may do it as our own wisdom dictates." No! this sort of talk is presumptuous and wicked and is incompatible with that humbleness of mind that says, "Speak Lord, and thy servant will hear; command, and he will obey."

But the president of a theological school preaches on the subject, "Where There Is No Pattern." No pattern for what? It cannot be for anything embraced in the service of God. "Where there is no pattern," there can be no worship or service of God. Every thing that is done in the service of God must be done "by faith." "Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to Him." (Heb. 11:6.) "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Rom. 14:23.) "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (Rom. 10:17.) If the Word of God does not say it, it is not the service of God, it cannot be done "by faith". If people presumptuously do it anyhow, they commit sin.

The president of a theological school ought to know that incidentals and circumstantials are no part of the thing commanded. An expediency, or a thing that expedites the doing of the thing commanded, must be within the command. It cannot be alien, foreign or outside the command. It cannot introduce any thing into the commandment that is not a part of the thing commanded. A human institution to take over a part of the work of the local church is not an incidental for a circumstantial on which a man can use his own judgment. It, itself, does the work that God commands the local church to do.

Those pushing a thing that they, themselves, know is not in the Bible talk about "the realm of faith" and "the realm of opinion". Those of us who have gone to the front line in the struggle with the digressives over missionary societies and instrumental music are very familiar with this kind of talk. The heart-breaking thing about it is that some of our own brethren have grown so money-loving and worldly that they have adopted the same line of talk. There is no "realm of opinion" in the service of God. It is all "the realm of faith" or it is sin.

They overlook the most fundamental fact that if a thing is in "the realm of opinion", it must positively be kept out of sight as "private property". It cannot be brought out to the light and pushed and forced on others. If an orphan home is established, to take over the work of the deacons of thousands of churches, without command or example, from the apostles and the New Testament churches, I say, that if such a human institution is really in "the realm of opinion", it must be kept as private property and cannot be forced on those who believe it to be sinful.

And yet, the very man who preaches on "Where There Is No Pattern" is the man who has written a restrictive clause that he and others are trying to get churches to put in the deeds to their meeting-houses to prevent all who do not believe these human institutions are taught in the Bible from using the houses that they themselves built. Some of them openly advocate division, and that the Christian brotherhood be torn asunder, in their effort to "isolate" all who faithfully adhere to "the things" for which the Word of God gives the command, or records the example. They do all this on a matter that they, themselves, say is in "the realm of opinion." Instead of holding their opinion, as "private property", as all agree opinions should be held, they are so wedded to their idol that they are determined to force their opinion on others, even to the sin and misfortune of division.

To preach "where there is no pattern" is to say that there are some parts of the service of God for which there is no pattern. If this is true, it means that there are some parts of the service of God that cannot be done "by faith". There can be no faith except as the Word of God 'speaks. If the Word of God speaks, either by command or example, there is the pattern. If there is no pattern, there can be no faith. No part of God's service can be performed "by faith" in the "realm of opinion". To say that there is no pattern for some areas of Christian activity is to say that the Word of God is not all-sufficient and that it does not fully reveal "all things that pertain to life and godliness.

The old restoration adage is taken in reverse. "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." All who so do are perfectly united. When all are silent where the Scriptures are silent, no one speaks any thing that he cannot read in the Scriptures. The "no pattern" promoters contend that every one else should be silent while they preach something the Scriptures do not speak. They speak "where the Scriptures are silent", but want every one else to be silent while they speak. They do not respect the momentous and significant language of the silence of the Scriptures.

God is the Author of worship and service that is acceptable to him. Man can only obey. He cannot originate any part of it. There is no "area of opinion", no "realm of opinion", in which man can use his own judgment or wisdom and invent any thing in either the worship or work of the church of God. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." (I Peter 4:11.) No one can speak except as the oracles of God speak. A man who so does cannot speak his opinions, but holds them as "private property". 'What thing soever I command you, that shall ye observe to do: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." (Deut: 12:32.) "To the law and to the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them." (lsa. 8:20.) "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself." (1 Tim. 6:3-5.) "The things which ye have both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you." (Phil. 4:9.) Every human institution to take over any part of the work of the local is, sinful because it is not one of "these-things" that came from the apostles.

To say "that God has commanded us to do something but has not told us how to do it" is to say that the Word of God is not all-sufficient, and that it does not thoroughly and completely furnish us to do every thing good, but that there are gaps in it in which we must depend on our own judgment or wisdom for guidance. It is a terrible impeachment of the perfection of God's Word. It is to say that God's Word is inadequate and that it does not cover every thing. It is also to presume that there are some things in the service of God that cannot be done "by faith". Abel, "by faith", simply did what God commanded. He did not presume that he could improve upon it. He was accepted and blessed and "though dead, yet speaketh". Cain, instead of simply doing the thing that God commanded, decided that he could improve on it and so used his own judgment or wisdom. The results are horrible to contemplate. A man can please God and worship and serve him acceptably only by doing what God commands.

We kindly submit that no one can join in either originating or supporting any institution, other than the local church, to do any work of the church, without by action declaring that the local church is inadequate to the mission that God established it to accomplish. All agree that God ordained the local church to evangelize the world. This eliminates a missionary society. All that God ordained the local church to teach is the Word and thus to give its every member a Christian education. This eliminates a theological college. All agree that God ordained the local church to minister to the fatherless, and that he has given it deacons to direct the members of the local church, and to manage its resources, in so doing. This eliminates an orphans home. No human institution can do any of these things as well as they can be done by the local church.

The local church is the one and only operating divine institution. God, in his wisdom, established the local church to preach the gospel, to teach the Word of God in giving its members a Christian education, and to render abundant aid to the poor and weak and to the fatherless and widows in their affliction. To organize any human institution, and to incorporate it under civil law, is to sinfully and wickedly set the wisdom of the world above the wisdom of God. All the local churches in all the world, whether personally known to each other or not, are cooperating most efficiently and perfectly in carrying on the great and wonderful work of the church by all of them being guided by "the Bible and the Bible alone". God's blessings is upon them, and they will succeed most gloriously. The human institutions, not planted by the heavenly Father, will be rooted up.