Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 4, 1958

"It Is The Church -- Assembled Or Unassembled"

Thomas F. Shropshire, Cactus, Texas

Under the above heading, there appeared an article in the Sunny Glenn Reporter, the official publication of the Sunny Glenn Home, Inc., dated October 15, 1958. The writer was Ralph Godfrey, editor of the paper and Supt. and Treas. of the institution. In this article, Brother Godfrey made the argument that since the church is still the church whether assembled or unassembled, the act of one member is an act of the church. Now, Brother Godfrey should know better than that. It would take someone with a consuming desire to justify something to make such a wild argument. I am persuaded that Brother Godfrey would be unwilling to accept the full consequences of his own argument.

I am afraid that he has listened to too much of Thomas Warren's style of logical reasoning. His conclusion does not necessarily follow his premises. I agree with him that the church is the church whether assembled or unassembled. But I deny that an act of an individual member of the church constitutes an act of the church. Let us illustrate it this way: A man named Smith has a wife and five sons. They constitute the Smith family. One of the sons is a "black sheep" and lives up to the title by robbing a bank. He is apprehended and brought to trial. When the court convenes, will the defendant in the case be the Smith family or will it be just this one son? If whatever one of the Smiths does constitutes an act of the Smith family, then the whole Smith family should be tried for the crime! Or, if one of the Smith boys buys a suit of clothes, will the suit be the property of and be worn by the whole Smith family, including Mrs. Smith? But if the Smith family should pool their money into a common fund and purchase a TV set, would not this purchase be an act of the Smith family? The difference is very elementary and for grown, intelligent people to argue that there is no difference, takes something other than a lack of understanding.

We are not saying that the church as a whole is not affected by the action of one member, whether the action be good or bad. But there is a vast difference between the church being affected by an action of an individual and the action of the individual being the action of the church. When the church with whom I am associated pays my week's salary, which they have scriptural authority for doing, and then some brother makes a personal gift to me of ten dollars, could it be said that all of it, the check for the salary and the gift from the individual, constituted my salary from the church? We all know that it could not. The check for the salary was church action. The ten dollar gift was individual action.

Since money used in benevolent work is what Brother Godfrey was writing about, let us raise this question: Is there any difference in money before it is put into the collection of the church and after it has been put into the collection? This difference meant the difference between life and death; heaven and hell to a man and his wife in apostolic times. We refer to the case of Ananias and Sapphira. When confronted with the fact that they had lied about the amount they had given into the fund to supply the needs of some in the church in Jerusalem, Peter asked Ananias this question: "Why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained did it not remain thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thy power?" (Acts 5:3,4.) Before the money was placed in the common fund of the church, it was the property of Ananias and Sapphira and was absolutely under their control. Had it remained that way, whatever they did with it, including benevolence, would have been individual action. But after it was placed in the common fund of the church, it was no longer theirs and they had no further control over it. What was then done with it was church action.

Ananias and Sapphira were not killed because of the money. They were killed because they lied about the matter. It might be difficult to catch a person lying about how much they give today, but it isn't too difficult to catch those who misrepresent the truth about these issues. It looks like Satan is still busy, filling some hearts.

As to the church assembled or unassembled, the act of assembling is not church action. The church assembled is not the church, that is, it does not become the church by virtue of being assembled. The church assembled is a condition or state of the church: the church in the state of being assembled. To bring about that condition or state, requires the individual action of members. This is done by the individual in obedience to the command to assemble. There seem to be some who have the idea that assembling is church action; that if there are enough to constitute the church assembled (according to Brother Godfrey it would just take one), they are not required to be present. But the matter of assembling is an individual responsibility. The condition or state of the church assembled is brought about by the action of individuals assembling. I suppose, according to Brother Godfrey's logic (?), If an individual decided on his own to go to the church building at a certain hour to sing, pray and study the Bible, it would constitute the church assembled. Or, if upon some occasion when the church assembles, some are on time and some are tardy, it would be a case of the church being on time and being tardy at the same time.

The consequences of a false position certainly get one into a mess.