"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.III No.X Pg.2-3
May 1941

The Infidelity Of God's People

Jeremiah's condemnation of the evils of God's people was the editorial caption in the former issue of the Bible Banner. His condemnation of their infidelity is the present subject.

The conduct of Israel toward God had become as a gadding bride. Jeremiah rebuked her fickleness. "Why gaddest thou about so much as to change thy ways?" (Jer. 2:36). One of the most forbidding things a woman can do is to gad about. It is the outward sign of an inward inconstancy, of changing desires, of a capricious attitude, in short a seeking of interest other than in the palace of her own home and in the contentment of her husband's love.

THAT WAS Jeremiah's diagnosis of Israel's trouble. She was gadding about. She had gone after strange lovers. She said, "I have loved strangers and after them will I go." (Jer. 2:25) In Israel's folly God's people had "changed their glory for that which doth not profit" and in their unexampled backsliding the prophet's only hope for them in their extremes was that "thine own wickedness shall correct thee and thy backsliding shall reprove thee." (Jer. 2:19)

Has the church, like Israel, gone gadding about? Is it not possible that some of the trouble we are having with certain issues is due to a general attitude of softness toward all questions of doctrine? Any weakness in the attitude of the church toward sound doctrine, or a let-up in its defense of the truth, is but a repetition of Israel's folly. It is going after strange lovers. "Hath a nation changed its gods, which yet are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit." (Jer. 2:11).

Israel's improbity was compared to the bride's infidelity. "Can the maid forget her ornaments or the bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number. How trimmest thou thy way to seek love! Therefore even the wicked woman has thou taught thy ways." (Jer. 2:32, 33) No virgin forgets the ornaments that adorn her; a bride, no matter how long married, never forgets her wedding attire. But in her conduct Israel had cast off and forgotten the righteous ways that adorned her as God's bride.

To the extent that the church forgets New Testament principles, the bride is forgetting her attire. Let us conduct an introspection—look into the things which the church of Christ should not forget.


The provisional organization of the New Testament church was the order of super-naturally endowed men, for the guidance and edification of the church while the will of God was in the process of revelation and completion. This order of apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, teachers, was designed to safeguard the church against error in the absence of the revealed word, that the church be not "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error." These endowments were to continue only until the church should "attain unto the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God." (Eph. 4:1-16) The word of God was then in the man—the supernaturally endowed man—and not in the book; and being in the man was what Paul called "knowing in part," as no inspired teacher gave the which is perfect" (1 Cor. 13) was come, that is, when all the parts and fragments of God's revelation were put into the whole of God's word; it was fragmentary. But when "that which is perfect" (1 Cor. 13) was come, that is, when all the parts and fragments of God's Revelation were put into one perfect whole— the New Testament—then that which was "in part" ceased—the supernatural provisional order ended.

The permanent organization of the church is that of elders, deacons and members. Elders, with the qualifications set forth by Paul to Timothy and Titus, to rule by enforcing the teaching of the word of God; deacons, as assistants to the elders, to serve the church in benevolent ministries; members, subservient to the divine arrangement to Work out their salvation, God working in us "to will and to do" as we keep ourselves useful. As for preachers, their humble god-fearing task is to faithfully proclaim the gospel of Christ, leaving the executive administration of the affairs of the church with the elders where God put it. If this divine plan fails to function, the fault is not with the plan, but with our failure to respect it and work it. The plan is perfect because it is God's and any substitute will prove a failure because it is man's.

The organization argument has been concisely stated in one sentence, which is eminently true, and is a safe rule of action, namely: Any organization larger than the local church or smaller than the local church is an unscriptural organization through which to do the work of the church. Indeed, there are methods of doing what is commanded, but they must be the church's methods and within the scope of the thing commanded. The church has no right to do anything, as a church, that God has not commanded the church to do. Nor does a Christian have the right to do through another organization that which God has commanded the church, as such, to do. Organizations are not methods. The missionary society is not a method; it is an institution. A Sunday School, a class or classes on Sunday, may be a very effective arrangement for teaching; but they often extend into organizations. It seems that nothing can be done these days without being overdone. It is not infrequent now that we find classes in the churches organized; children's classes, young people's classes, women's classes, men's classes, all with their presidents, secretaries, treasurers, operating as organized groups in performing the precise functions of the church. This perverts the very purpose of a class from that of teaching to a financial auxiliary, a miniature organization. It becomes an infringement upon the divine arrangement. As a matter of fact, if one group has a right to so function, every group has the same right, which if exercised would destroy the oneness of the church and its unified work. For the same reason that there can be no outside organizations to vie with the church, there should be no inside auxiliaries of like nature to function in the same way from within. The church, like the human body directed by its head, should function in unison.

The autonomy of the local church—its free, independent, self-government— is opposed to all forms of ecclesiastical control. Nor can congregations be scripturally tied together by inter-organization. If churches of Christ were so tied together, the mistakes and errors of one would affect the whole body. But in the autonomy of the local church, the mistakes and errors of one church affect only that church, and the others remain free. The wisdom of God so ordered it. The fallacy of man changes it.

Ii. Teaching The Church As The Pillar And Ground Of The Truth

Being the pillar and support of the truth (2 Tim. 3:15) the church cannot be too careful to maintain soundness in doctrine. So important is sound doctrine that Paul told Timothy to preach it "in season; out of season." That evidently means all of he time for it is either in season or it is out of season all of the time. There is doctrine, or teaching, that fits every occasion, and while its application should be made according to the fitness of things, the preacher who preaches on baptism at a funeral is to be preferred to the one who does not preach on it when he should.

Indifferentism is the order of the day. People are unconcerned about doctrine. They think that gospel preaching is only "questions about words and names" (Acts 18: 14, 17) and like Gallio who "cared for none of these things" they are indifferent. This sentiment not only prevails in the world, it gains currency in the church. When Paul said, "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine" he did not refer to the world; but to those who "having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts." Who heaps the teachers? That is evidently the church. Then Paul forecast conditions in the church, when the ears of the members would itch for something other than sound doctrine, who would seek teachers whose teaching would have the same soothing effect on their desires that scratching has on the spot that itches.

The strength of the churches of Christ has been in the fact that all error to us has looked alike, from infidelity to every false way. Owen, the infidel; Purcell, the Catholic; Rice, the Denominationalist, all looked alike to Alexander Campbell. And he took them all in their turn. Do we unchristianize people? We cannot if they be Christians nor can we make Christians of those who are not by merely recognizing them. To recognize as Christians those who have not obeyed the gospel is but to break down the very barrier that exists between the church and the world. The church is undenominational, because it is not a denomination; it is non-denominational, because it is not of them; and it is anti-denominational because it is against them. The idea of Christian unity implies that those united are Christians. Imagine one becoming a Christian and entering a denomination at the same time by the same act—and it will be no more than a mere imagination!

It requires the same thing to become a Christian now that it required in the New Testament era—the same faith, the same confession, the same baptism, by which one is added to the same church. Denominations are not back doors nor side entrances into the church of Christ. Shall the church go gadding about so much as to change her ways in doctrine?

Iii. Ordinances-The Church As A Temple Of Worship

Contrary to the general idea, worship is divine, not human. The object of all true worship is God; its purpose is to please God; its acts are the commandments of God. To the woman at the well Jesus announced the two elements of acceptable worship. "God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24) There must be first, the right manner—in spirit; there must be second, the right act—in truth. Neither without the other is acceptable to God. The wrong act in the right manner is void. The right act in the wrong manner is vain. To worship truly, one must perform the right act in the right manner.

Ask an innovator, Why do you want instrumental music in the worship? Did one ever reply, Because it pleases God? They have said everything except that. Some say that it is enjoyed at home, why not in the church? But there are any number of things that are morally right, to be utilized at home, which would be religiously wrong. Anybody can name them. And some have not quit saying that there are instruments of music in heaven. They are uninformed not only on the nature of the church but also on the nature of the place called heaven, that it is a spiritual realm. What could a spiritual being do with a material harp?

Really, does any one think that there are, or ever shall be, actual mechanical instruments of music in heaven? The argument is too far-fetched to even be interesting. Still it is urged that the use of them was permitted in the Old Testament, which can only be taken as an admission that proof for them in the New Testament is lacking. Occasionally yet, some will turn so visionary as to find its use foreordained in the, prophecies, another admission of the lack of a single plain precept or example. If it is thought to be only an expedient, it must first be shown to be lawful; then expedient. Nothing is expedient that is unlawful and some things that are lawful are not expedient... If it is to be adopted as an aid, let it be known that God's commands are not crippled and need no crutches. If an attempt is made to class it with lights, seats, and song books, be advised that in those articles of equipment no element is added to any item of worship, but in the use of an instrument another element of music exists; they are, therefore, not parallel. And, if the final effort is made to "psallo" the instrument into the church, the fatal question is why the one hundred and forty-eight translators, the world's ripest scholars, did not know that the word had any such meaning.

Who wants the instruments—and why? Those who have gone gadding about so much as to "change their glory for that which doth not profit."

Instrumental music in the worship in the relic of an abrogated age. The Catholics borrowed it from the Jews; the Protestants borrowed it from the Catholics; the Christian church borrowed it from the Protestants—but the New Testament church did not use it.

Iv. Names-Designations Of The New Testament Church

In the religious nomenclature of the day one hears a volume of terms and titles which are wholly, foreign to Bible parlance. There is every sort of a church—Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Evangelical, Reformed, Ad Infinitum—the world most surely wonder[s] whether Jesus Christ ever had a church or not. While making and taking names for the church—why not call it after the Head of it? Some will say that it sectarianizes the church to call it "church of Christ"—but can it be sectarian to call the church what it is? It would not help that problem any to call it "Christian Church." Besides, the term Christian is used only as a noun in the New Testament, applied to the individual and never as an adjective, applied to the church. That fact alone should restrain its use as a proper name for the church. If it be asserted that the expression "church of Christ" is not in the New Testament, try Rom. 16:16 on any other name. For instance, the "Baptist churches salute you." Or, "The Christian Churches salutes you." Would that constitute a designation? It is a weak attitude that assumes it to be sectarian to designate the church as the church of Christ, and it indicates a fear of unchristianizing somebody who is not a Christian.

If Christ is jealous of the church's purity (2 Cor. 11:2, 3) and if he is solicitous of her unblemished glory (Eph. 5:25, 26), the unspotted life must be worth attaining. If, then, the church has been gadding about, seeking strange lovers, "Go and proclaim these words to the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith Jehovah; I will not look in anger upon you; for I am merciful, saith Jehovah."