Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 2, 1961
NUMBER 38, PAGE 3,14b

Our Institutions

A. M. Plyler, Jasper, Alabama

Come now, my dear brethren, let us reason together. A proposition must be clearly defined before any successful progress can be made in a study, or reasoning can well be done with respect to the proposition.

Now what do we mean by "our institutions?" We mean the institutions that we as men, and as brethren have created, established and made to exist. They are not the ones that our Lord ordained and established upon the earth.

The Lord established his church in which man can labor, work, and pray, and do all the work of a religious nature, both in work and worship. (Matt. 16:18; Col. 1:18; Eph. 3:10-11 and 21) I understand that civil government is ordained of God, for man's good and protection. (Rom. 13:1-10)

Not any particular form of government, but he has ordained that we have law for the restraining of the wicked and lawless, and he intends that we as Christians obey these laws.

But God's oldest institution is the institution of marriage and family relationship with the word "home." And right here, I feel sure, is where a great part of our present-day trouble lies. I have most all my life heard my brethren speak of the "home" as being a divine institution. But God nowhere or at any time ever ordained a "home." He ordained marriage, and the family relationship. And we build our "homes." We have long used the word home as a synonym for the family relationship. But God never so used it. In the Bible the word means a staying place, not the divine relationship that God ordained. In Ex. 9:19 the cattle and beast are referred to as having a "home." 1 Chron. 13:12 the Ark of God had a "home." Hag. 1:9 other things of a material nature had a "home." 1 Sam. 6:7 the calves had a "home." And in 2 Cor. 5:6 Paul speaks of being at "home" in the body. And so is the word used throughout the Bible; to mean a place of residence. And so is it defined in both our English dictionary and by lexicographers.

In the Bible it never meant anything but a "staying place." And when we use it to refer to the divine relationship that God created, we misuse it insofar as the Bible is concerned. A home may exist apart from the divine relationship. For example an old bachelor may have a "home;" or an unmarried woman may have a "home." And also the divine relationship may exist without a "home," so long as the family has a staying place. The home then is the staying place of the divine relationship, but not the relationship itself.

The relationship is as divine as God who ordained it, but our "homes" are as human as we who make them. To illustrate, a preacher has a "home" in one city today. Nat year he has a "home" in another city, and every time he moves he has a different "home," but it is the same family and the same divine relationship.

A staying place is properly a "home:" this is true in the Bible with reference to people, beasts, and material things. So long as we misuse Bible terms in talking about Bible things there will be confusion among us. Therefore we learn to make a difference in the Holy and the common, the divine and the human, the clean and the unclean.

Let us always view the Church, the government, and the family relationship as God's divine institutions; and our institutions such as we create (publishing companies, religious schools, homes for the needy, youth camps, and hospitals, and whatever we design and arrange) as our institutions.

Now let the reader understand that I am for "our" institutions. Maybe not as some exist and are operated, but as having a right to exist; and I do believe and seek to maintain that they have a right to exist.

No Bible principle is violated when a group of Christians come together to plan, formulate, and to carry out a good work which God has not laid out for his church to do. But on the other hand, no group has a right to plan a work for our institutions to do which God has ordained for his church to do. In the divine institution the Lord has ordained that there be elders to plan, and to oversee the work of the church; in our institutions we usually appoint a committee, a superintendent, a group of trustees, or a board of directors, as we see fit. There is room, and a place in the world for our institutions, but we must learn to discern between the human and the divine, the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean. (Lev. 10:10) "And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean."

God has placed a general responsibility upon Christians to teach his word, and to carry the gospel to all the world. (Acts 8:1-8; Heb. 5:12) And when brethren come together and organize a publishing business to publish religious papers and tracts or books to teach the gospel to the world, they are not only acting within their rights but are fulfilling their duty according to their ability and judgment. Again, the Lord has charged Christian parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4) This of course includes teaching and training; and when a group of brethren come together and organize a school to help one another to do this thing commanded, they are only doing the thing that God has commanded in the way that seems best to them. The same thing is true with reference to "homes" for the needy. When brethren come together to plan and maintain a "home" for the needy, young or old, they are doing a good work. (Luke 10:30-36; Jas. 1:27; 1 John 3:17)

Youth camps and hospitals are our later ideas and projects, in our planning and thinking, and I am not too well informed with reference to them, but I am sure that there can be much good to come from them if they are rightfully handled, and kept in their proper channel. Therefore, I believe that we can all agree that our institutions have been a source of great good among us in the years past and gone.

Thousands of God's people read our religious papers and literature and from them find not only pleasure and satisfaction, but also a source of spiritual food for the soul.

A great portion of our several thousand gospel preachers of the brotherhood can point back to the happy days that they spent in our Christian schools, and be thankful for the training and Bible knowledge that they acquired therein. And the same may be said of our other institutions.

And let us hope, work, and pray that such institutions may continue throughout the years to come to render the same Godly influence and inspiration to the lost and fallen race of mankind.

But there is also another side to this study, and for that study let us look to the next article.