Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 22, 1954
NUMBER 49, PAGE 1,9b-10

The All-Sufficiency Of The Church

Granville W. Tyler, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

At the beginning of this lesson let us read the last two verses from Ephesians 1, then about four verses from the third chapter of the same book. "And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." Now in chapter 3, verses 10 and 11, "To the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Then verses 20 and 21, "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations forever and ever. Amen."

Importance Of This Study

I believe a study of the subject assigned me tonight, "The All-Sufficiency of the Church," is urgently needed for several reasons.

In the first place, this is a Bible subject. Every subject taught in the Bible should be carefully studied. Subjects concerning which there are doubts, disputes and misunderstandings among those who claim to love the truth should be studied diligently and prayerfully. We can never solve our problems by analyzing speculative theories or by ascertaining the position of certain Bible scholars. I am convinced that much of the misunderstanding could automatically be removed by a proper knowledge of the things taught in God's book concerning the church and its place in God's scheme of things.

Second, a study of this subject is imperative because of the type of our society. We live in a modern streamlined and complex society, a society characterized by constant turmoil and change. It is always hard to keep from conforming our lives and practices to our environment. In the Bible the church is urged repeatedly to separate itself from, and is constantly warned against intermingling with and becoming a part of, the world. The history of the church is replete with incidents of practices being brought into the church not because the Bible taught such, but rather because they were the common practices of the society in which the church existed, or because of the form of government under which the people lived. Therefore, God's warning to ancient Israel is apropos for us lest we, as did they, become like the nations about us.

In the third place, a diligent study of this subject is demanded by the multiplication and complication of new religious orders and movements in the world about us. As these orders and movements take form they express themselves not only in the various denominations, but since many members of the church came out of, or are influenced by denominationalism, these same principles find their way into the Lord's church.

Among the first sermons I tried to preach was on the subject, "The All-Sufficiency of the Bible As Our Guide." It was, sometime after that before I tried to preach about the sufficiency of the church in God's scheme of things. But I believe, when properly understood that one is just as consistent with truth and is as fundamental as the other. For a long time we have apparently nominally believed and casually taught that the church is sufficient; and yet, many people apparently do not understand what we are talking about when we speak of the all-sufficiency of the church. Let me clarify the issue tonight in the beginning.

Clarifying The Issue

To begin with, when I talk about the all-sufficiency of the church I am not trying to prove that a denomination or that a combination of denominations is sufficient. Denominationalism is wholly inadequate and hinders the work of God rather than helps. It is not necessary for me to spend time explaining to you that when I talk about the church I am speaking, not of a denomination but of the institution about which we read in the New Testament. And yet, I suspect that if we could rid ourselves completely of the denominational ideas connected with the church we would have taken a long stride toward clearing up this very issue tonight.

Now in the second place, when I talk about the all-sufficiency of the church I am not trying to prove that the church is sufficient far everything in the world. But in its field, in its sphere, for the work assigned, the Lord's church is sufficient; it is all-sufficient and nothing else is needed. For example, in 2 Corinthians 3:5,6, the Apostle Paul speaking of the apostles said, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God; who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant." Now the apostles were sufficient; they were all-sufficient, to do the work that God assigned them. Suppose somebody comes up with the idea that because Peter did not go over to Rome and kick out the Caesar and take charge of the civil government he was not sufficient as an apostle. Is it reasonable to conclude that the apostles, since they could not as things stood rule the world, were not sufficient for their work? Why of course not, that was not their place; they were not supposed to do that. Another thing, I suspect everybody in this city who claims to believe the Bible would readily admit that Jesus Christ is all-sufficient as our Redeemer. And yet, that does not prove that John the Baptist did not have a work to do. That does not prove that the Holy Spirit had nothing to do. Christ has his place and his work and for that place and work he is all-sufficient. The Holy Spirit has his work and for that work he likewise is all-sufficient. Christ built the church on earth for a definite purpose and for the doing of that work the church is all-sufficient.

Let it be clearly understood that I am not contending that the church is doing everything that it should do today. But I am saying that the church is adequately equipped and has sufficient frame-work to accomplish the work God has for it to do. Some person in an effort to prove the insufficiency of the church is ready to say, 'Well, I know some things in the community that the church ought to do that it isn't doing." Yes that may be true, but that still does not prove that the church of the Lord is inadequate in its field.

An All-Sufficient Architect

God Almighty established upon this earth and equipped the church of the Lord; it is the only divine religious institution in the world. It is true that the family is an institution ordained of God, but to accomplish the work of saving the lost, to do religious work, the church is the only divine institution in the world. One who questions the all-sufficiency of the church is questioning the all-sufficiency of the Architect of the church. This New Testament teaches that God planned the church and brought it into existence in keeping with His eternal purpose. The church therefore, is not only the medium through which the knowledge of God is made known but is itself a demonstration of "the manifold wisdom of God." Sometimes it is suggested that the church is insufficient today because we have problems now that they did not have then, and that circumstances and conditions now are different from those of the first century. Those who make an argument of that kind overlook the fact that God Almighty who is the Architect of the church, who designed the church for a specific purpose and work to last "throughout all ages world without end," knew the needs of the people of the twentieth century just as well as He knew the needs of the people of the first century. God's power was (and is) just as sufficient to solve the problems of the twentieth century as it was to solve the problems through the church of the first century. Therefore, to question the sufficiency of the church to do its work today, because things are not what they were then, is to question the all-sufficiency of the God who planned the church.

Sufficient Organization

God has provided sufficient organization for the church. So far as the church universal is concerned there is no earthly ecclesiastical organization. Christ is the supreme and sufficient head of the church. In Ephesians 1:22, 23, we read, "He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body." In Hebrews 3:5,6, we learn that, "Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant . . .. but Christ, as a Son over his house." Christ Jesus, therefore, is able to direct, protect and rule as king of the kingdom, as the head of the church. The scriptures teach that the organization of each local congregation consisting of elders, deacons and other Christians is sufficient for the church to fill its mission on earth. The Philippian letter (1:1) is addressed "to all the saints .... at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." In Titus 1:5 Paul said, "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou mightest set in order the things that are wanting and appoint elders in every city." From Acts 14:23 we learn that as Paul and Barnabas returned on their first missionary journey elders were appointed in every church. In 1 Timothy 3 we have the qualifications of both elders and deacons set forth. Therefore, the Lord's church properly organized has (each congregation) its elders and deacons, elders to oversee and deacons to serve under the direction of the elders.

Now, let us turn to Ephesians 4:11-13. I want us to notice some things in these verses that may sometimes be overlooked. First of all, in verse 11 it is said, "He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers." From the connection and the things said here it is clear that these men were endowed with the Holy Spirit in a special way, for a specific work. In verse 12 we are told what the work was and something of its purpose. "For the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ." I am told that the word used here, perfecting, carries with it the idea of placing the parts in their proper order, putting parts in the whole and uniting them in such manner as to make the body complete. So it was the work of these men endowed by the Holy Spirit to perfect the saints in their work and make the body complete. Notice in verse 13, "Till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." The work here mentioned, that of perfecting the saints and building up the church was to result in, and last till, we come to (attain) the unity of the faith, the knowledge of the Son of God and a full-grown man. Therefore, the church was full-grown, completely developed, so far as the frame-work and organization were concerned, when the work of these spiritually endowed men ended. To say that the church is not properly organized now and that the Lord's church was not fully equipped at that time is to argue that those men especially qualified by miraculous gifts of the Spirit still exist, for their work was to continue "till" these things were accomplished. Some people seem to have the idea that the church was established by the Lord in a very loose and careless manner so far as its organization is concerned. The idea seems to be that some general and loosely jointed principles were given by the Lord by inspired men, that were to be taken and put in place and cemented together by uninspired men.

People often say, "The Lord established the church and gave it a work to do, but he did not say how to do it. Now, since he did not give the details as to how it is to be done we may use any method that we deem wise." Well, the church is sufficient in that the frame-work through which the work is to be done is given, all the organization necessary is provided. Those who ignore that principle and feel that because we are not told in detail how to do it that we are left free to use any method we see fit, even to use other organizations, are overlooking an important fact. God did give sufficient organization; He did at least, give us the tools with which to accomplish the work. Suppose some person assigns me a work out here. He does not tell me in detail how I am to do it, but he does tell me that the work must be done in this locality; and says to me, "Here are the tools you are to use in doing that work." Now, suppose I argue that because he did not tell me exactly how to do it, I may move over here in another place and use other tools in doing the job. Am I following the directions given? Certainly not. So, if we follow God's directions we must do His work within the frame work and with the tools He provides. — (To be concluded)