"As We Have Opportunity"-A Review
Hoyt H. Houchen
The author of "As We Have Opportunity" makes some amazing statements. He writes: "You cannot separate the work of the members from the work of the church. Where in all the Bible is a single command which will differentiate between the work of the member and the work of the church?" Already we have observed specific spheres of activity in which the work of the individual member is differentiated from that of the church. In Matt. 18: 15-17 Jesus gave some teaching about future conduct in the church that was to be established and instructs the brother who is sinned against to go to the offender and show him his fault. If he will not hear, he is to take with him two or three witnesses and if this would not bring about the desired result, then the offender brother was to take it to the church. It would indeed be a poor exegete who would suppose that this is a case of the church going to the church! No, Christ made a distinction between the individual and the church. We have often cited the teaching of Paul in I Tim. 5:16, "If any woman that believeth hath widows, let her relieve them, and let not the church be burdened; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed." This passage clearly teaches that individual responsibilities are to be fulfilled in order that the church will not be burdened. There is a clear distinction here between the individual's work and that of the church. If one is unable to see this line of demarcation, let him consider that if a saint is caring for his widowed mother who is also a saint, who is caring for her: the individual member, or the church? We have presented him some scriptures that differentiate between the work of the member and the work of the church. Will he be so kind as to oblige us with just one scripture that will authorize what we oppose? One will suffice.
Now, please observe this little jewel of splendor. "In our private lives special commands are given us: old men, old women, young men, young women, children, parents, husbands and wives, masters, servants, workers, business men, etc. . . The Lord at no time or place ever says we must do this thing as the church and this other thing as Christians separate and apart from the church." Truthfully, this statement to anyone who has any workable knowledge of the New Testament is almost too absurd to notice. Certainly a Christian who does his work is a member of the church but to assert that his work is that of the church is absurd. Suppose we apply his statement to a few scriptures for size. (1) "Children obey your parents" (Eph. 6:1). Here is a special command given to children. If this is not to be considered as separate and apart from the church, then Paul was simply directing children to obey the church. Shades of Roman Catholicism! (2) "Fathers provoke not your children" (Eph. 6:4). How much sense would this passage make if it should direct the church to not provoke its children? (3) "Husbands love your wives" (Eph. 5:25). Is the church instructed to love its wives? Remember that our friend is contending that at no time or place ever (emphasis mine) the Lord says we must do this thing as the church and this other thing as Christians separate and apart from the church. (Emphasis mine). The commands to the church and to the individual are inseparable, according to him. If the churches are to love their wives, then the churches have some wives of whom we have been unaware. (4) "Wives be in subjection to your own husbands" (Eph. 5:22). Did Paul mean wives be in subjection to your own churches? The only sense that such would make is non-sense!
Matt. 18:20 is quoted, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them." Our author declares of Jesus, "You will observe that he did not specify what activities these groups of `two or three' must carry on to enable Him to be in their midst." He defines this to be the church, so let us again try his statement for size. (1) Two or three members build a chicken coop. Conclusion: the church builds a chicken coop, according to his reasoning. (2) Two or three members are out for a drive in an automobile. Conclusion: the church is out driving around in an automobile, according to his application. (3) Two members play a game of ping pong, so he must suppose that the church is having a ping pong game! (4) Two or three members buy a bakery, so are we to suppose that the church is in the baking business? (5) Two or three members drive to California, so the church, that segment of it, went to California, according to him. The church is on the move, literally! But so much for now.
These are a few of the absurd conclusions that result as a consequence of the erroneous idea that there is no distinction between the work of the individual member and that of the church. (More to follow).
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