Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 17, 1949

Organization Am The Successor To Unity

Homer Halley, Abilene, Texas

That history follows a general pattern seems to be evident. Yet, one generation learns not as it should from those who have gone before—at least, it learns not as thoroughly as it should. In the study of religious movements and digressions, humanity has followed similar patterns through the ages. From these human errors and God's judgments let the church of today take warning, even though it should fail to learn the lesson perfectly.

The Pattern Set By Israel

When God entered into a covenant with Israel at Sinai, Israel was to be unto him a possession from among all the peoples, "a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." (Ex. 19:5, 6.) The kingdom was to be a Theocracy, ruled over by God as their king. The bond by which they were to be held together was that of a common faith, implicit and complete in God. There was to be one central place of worship: the tabernacle and later the temple, located in the place where God should choose to put his name. Thither the people were to come at appointed seasons of the year, and here they were to offer their sacrifices. Their battles were to be battles common to all the nation; the land was not to be sold in perpetuity, but to return to the original heirs at set times. In all things they were to act toward one another and others, and were to be held together by the underlying principle: "For I am Jehovah your God."

So long as Israel followed this pattern, and were held together by the principle of common faith, they were a unit, and they were strong. But when they began forsaking God, and the unity of faith was disrupted, they became weak, and an easy prey to neighboring peoples. The time came when it seemed as if they would be consumed of those about them. They must do something! The unity according to God's plan was ebbing, slipping away. As a substitute they proposed organization: "Make us a king to judge us like all the nations." Notwithstanding the warnings of Samuel, they insisted that they have a king over them, to judge them and to fight their battles.

But such action was imperative if they were to continue the semblance of a nation with their unity under God now gone. It was a substitute to bolster a tottering nation. There were three choices: God's way, organization, or disaster. They have rejected God; therefore the dilemma was between organization and disruption. They chose the former.

The Church Followed The Pattern

The church after the first century followed the same pattern. It was God's divine plan that the church in the aggregate should be made up of individuals banded together in local congregations throughout the world. They should be united and held together in the unity of a common faith. With faith centered in God, each Christian disposed to do his will as set forth in Christ and revealed by the apostles, forging ahead under the kingly leadership of the Messiah, the church should be united by its faith, and it should be strong.

For a while this principle prevailed. But the time came when the church was invaded by foreign doctrines and practices; it became sectional, dominated by outside influences and teachings. This invasion disrupted the unity, weakened the cause, and threatened the very existence of the church as an outward body. After thus departing from apostolic doctrine, the dilemma was death or organization. The pattern of Israel was followed. Organization succeeded unity of faith. Two great human superstructures arose, the Roman and Greek Catholic Churches. Man bowed to human leadership and human doctrines, from which he dared not rebel, nor even think for himself. Outward organization, patterned after human wisdom, succeeded unity of heart, based on God-centered thinking and conduct.

The Issue Before The Church Today

Then came the great movement of the nineteenth century, a movement to restore the primitive church and the ancient order. Everywhere men responded to the simple plea of the gospel Churches sprang up over the country. Hardy pioneers pressed forward in every direction to carry the newly discovered gospel story, a story long hid beneath the debris of human theology and sectarian exclusiveness and bigotry. Brethren were united by a common faith. They needed no outward organization other than that prescribed by the New Testament. Their unity was one of faith, centered in God and Christ, derived from the inspired word; and that faith was the source of their power.

But again the spirit of the age seems to have overcome, for ere long as unity of faith began to wane in sections, clamors for organization began to arise. Then came departure and a disruption of unity, with organization in its stead: Regional meetings, societies, local bosses—till history had repeated itself. Organization, the great substitute for unity, had saved the day, so far as concerns outward appearance.

The Divine Prescription

Shall the church of today follow the pattern, or shall it weather the present storm? is the question on the hearts of many. With rumblings of modernism coming out of the west; with the threat of discord and apathy, of softness and worldliness, of growing indifference to doctrine and the New Testament pattern arising in other sections, what shall be the result; disruption of the divine plan with division into sectional and doctrinal factions—or organization?

It need not be either. God's assurance of the divine unity, oneness as he and the Son are one, is indoctrination —a taught membership. To Timothy, Paul wrote, "If thou put the brethren in mind of these things, for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee." (1 Tim. 4:6, 16.) With the church taught the truth; with its heart centered in God and his son; its aim that of doing God's will, the church will be one, a unit, from Maine to California, from Canada to Mexico, Without this unity of faith, it will fall into factions, disunited and warring; or it will yield to the trend of history, and seek refuge in a human organization, which will save the outward appearance as a people, but it will be a people in rebellion against God—not the church which the Lord established. The answer rests not with another but with each individual Christian, teacher, elder, preacher and it will be found in the response of the heart to God's divine teaching and government.