Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 15, 1959
NUMBER 23, PAGE 8-10a

Obiections To The "Newspaper Articles" Committee

Wilson Wallace, Houston, Texas

(Note from Wm. E. Wallace. The following article written about two years ago by my brother Wilson is a good one, worthy of wider publication than it received in "The Norhill News" where it appeared. I ran across the article in browsing through old papers and am submitting it for publication in The Gospel Guardian.)

Organization of the New Testament Church Churches of Christ, as set up in the New Testament, are entirely independent and self-governing. Each congregation is to be organized with bishops to oversee and deacons to serve as helpers to the bishops. (Phil. 1:1.) These bishops, or elders, are limited to overseeing the flock, the congregation, in which they are appointed. (I Peter 5:2, Acts 20:28.) They cannot function scripturally outside of these bounds. When elders of a local church oversee the work or any part of the work of other congregations, they cease to function as New Testament elders and have become an unscriptural board, similar to those found in many denominations.

It is objected that those elders among the churches who are sponsoring certain brotherhood projects simply receive funds from other congregations to be applied to a certain specified work. It is, however, a fact that these elders receive such funds, making the final decisions concerning their use and overseeing the preachers, and in some cases, the churches, to which the funds are sent: Thus, the elders of one church are placed in the position of overseeing funds and work of many churches: If such elders may scripturally oversee the funds and work of many congregations in respect to evangelism in one foreign country, then why could not the same elders oversee all the evangelistic work of all the churches? And if such elders may oversee the evangelistic work of other churches, then why could not the same elders handle the disciplinary work of all the churches?

In this way, we would soon have a "mother" church to direct the affairs of all congregations. The fact that those who "cooperate" in such projects do so voluntarily and may withdraw at any time does not change the unscripturalness of the arrangement. In the majority of examples of central control among the Protestant denominations, the participating churches have entered the association voluntarily and have the right to withdraw.

The power exerted in such a situation is not of physical duress, but rather of influence and conformity.

Paul told the elders in Acts 20:28 to take heed to themselves and to the flock over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers. The word "heed" is similar to the word "sponsor." New Testament elders are to sponsor, first, themselves, and second, the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers; they have no "heed" outside of those two things.

When God organized the churches, he gave only the organization of the congregation. He did not give an earthly organization to the universal church, or to the whole church. Lacking such an organization, the churches of Christ cannot embark upon a regional or national or worldwide work, except as each congregation in the region or nation or world does the work of evangelization and benevolence to the extent of the scriptural oversight of the elders of the congregation.

Churches As Candlesticks

Jesus set forth the churches each one a separate candlestick. (Rev: 1:20:) The Jewish figure was a seven-branched candlestick, but not so the churches of Christ. It is neither a picture of a common base and each church a branch of it nor of the churches placing the light into one candlestick to create one powerful glow to shine throughout the world, but it is rather a picture of each a separate candlestick, holding forth the light to illumine each community. As the churches cover the world, the illumination of the whole world will be accomplished through the actions of local congregations.

Suppose that in New Testament days, the present system of centralization were found. Suppose that the churches all "cooperated" through the church at Pergamus. The doctrine of Balaam which had contaminated that congregation would have infected scores of congregations, which it would not have the opportunity of doing so easily if it remained a scriptural self-governing and self-working congregation.

God did not give a brotherhood organization; he limited the work of the elders to overseeing the congregation over which they are elders. It is evident that God did not provide for the churches to combine to produce a brotherhood project or work of any kind. When the elders of a local congregation embark upon a general work for many churches, receiving the funds from other churches to accomplish it, they cease to be New Testament elders. They no longer function as elders, but have become a brotherhood board — little different from those found among Methodists and Presbyterians. They make themselves a human board to do a work not authorized by God's word.

The Houston Newspaper Committee

Just as it is wrong for the elders of a local church to perform for many churches, it is also unscriptural for a group of men who are not elders to do the work for or speak for the churches of Christ. In the city of Houston there exists just such a board, or group, or committee of men. These men are said to be devout and zealous men — I do not impugn their motives — but as much can be said of the bishops of the Methodist Conference, the elders of the Presbyterian Synod, and the officers of the United Christian Missionary Society of the Christian Church. The issue is that these men have formed a committee — a committee to present newspaper advertizing concerning the church and its teaching to this area. This committee is represented as open to any who wish to sit in one its meetings. I could not do so, for my conscience would not allow me to be a part of such an association who set themselves up to speak for the churches of Christ in this or any other area.

I do not believe that the Bible authorizes the existence of such a body. The Norhill congregation has the right to place an advertisement in the papers concerning its stand, but it has no right to speak for other congregations. Furthermore, there is no newspaper group or committee, outside of the congregation, nor can any such group scripturally speak for the churches in a given area. A group of men have the right to form a company to publish a religious paper in which they set forth their convictions. We all know that the men who write are not speaking for the churches of Christ. They sign their names, and we know that the article is their belief, to be accepted or rejected as we compare it with the scriptures to see if it is the truth. But these men in Houston do not sign their names, nor do they specify the churches they claim to represent. The public believes that they speak for churches of Christ. The churches of Christ cannot so speak, i.e. merge their candlesticks into one flame, but must individually, as separate candlesticks, spread the light.

To set forth the potential danger, let us examine the system represented by this committee. The committee formulates the article to be published, sending the proofs of the articles in advance to the churches concerned. But who decides the validity of an objection to the contents of an article? A local church? All the congregations in conference? Representatives from each congregation? The Committee? One should easily see the validity of the objections to this arrangement. A committee of men, self-appointed men, have the power to commit all the churches of Christ in this area to any doctrine they wish to proclaim, the only deterrent being their conscience, backed by a knowledge which may be imperfect — made evident by the advertisement which have already appeared.

Suppose that these men in charge today should not commit the churches to a false position, who can say that it will not fall into the hands of men who will so use it? For one congregation to fall into the hands of perverters of truth can only cause limited evil, but the work represented by this committee and all such similar efforts are loaded with the potentials of a wholesale error, eventuating in mass apostasy if given sufficient time. The time and place to stop a break in a levee is where and when the leak starts. The time to plug this break-through is now, for this committee in one advertisement can commit all the churches of Christ to a false stand, the consequences of which we could never fully overcome in our generation.

Knights Of Columbus Advertisement

In the much vaunted advertisement in answer to the Knights of Columbus, the committee boldly asks who the Knights of Columbus are, inferring that they were only an insurance company and had no right to speak. Any informed Catholic could have replied that the Knights of Columbus are fully authorized by the Vatican to set forth the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and could further ask who the Box 2580 committee are and by what authority do they speak for the churches of Christ.

The Spiritual Counseling Advertisement

The latest offering of the committee, the article entitled, "Spiritual Counseling Can Help," appearing in the Post on November 9, is a climatic illustration of the doctrinal weakness and ineptitude of these writers. The ten-point program of counseling projects the church into the field of professional services. The ability to perform these services will either have to be included in the scriptural qualifications of elders, if they are the work of the church, or else they will require the elders to maintain a staff of psychologists and psychiatrists. The whole article betrays a Norman Vincent Peale (Look Magazine) idea of "the social gospel," which is the present day approach of the modernistic school to all phases of religion.

Misapplication Of Scriptures

There are many misapplications of scripture such as the reference to James 5:14-15, "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up . ." The passage connects with the 12th chapter of I Corinthians on spiritual gifts, referring directly to the "gift of healing." The men of this central inter-church committee evidently do not know that the age of miracles and of the exercise of spiritual gifts has ceased, or else they do not know how to distinguish in the application of scriptures.

The misuse of 2 Timothy 3:17 in this advertisement shows a dangerous lack of understanding of the basic teachings of the Bible. They reason that since the Bible says that the scriptures thoroughly furnish us unto every good work and since such counseling as they have set forth is a good work, then such counseling is the work of the church. According to such reasoning, any thing that is a "good work" regardless of the authorization of the scriptures would be right for the church to do. The practice of medicine is a good work. Do the scriptures furnish the church unto the practice of medicine?

Surgery, osteopathy, dentistry, psychiatry, and psychology are good works, but they are not the authorized field of endeavor for churches of Christ. "Every good work" in 2 Timothy 3:17 is not a reference to general activities, but refers to Timothy's equipment as the "man of God" for teaching the word of God and for applying that teaching to the phases of reproof — correction and instruction in righteousness, i.e. God's plan of salvation, "Every good work" means every gospel purpose!

The passage from James in which we are "to confess our faults one to another" refers to the one wronged, acknowledging that we are full of mistakes and joining in prayer — nothing about the "art of counseling" in it. The examples used in the article remind one of the death-bed tales of the denominationalists and are far removed from the gospel preaching which has always characterized the true church.

"75 Churches of Christ"

This committee speaks for "75 churches of Christ." "By whose authority doest thou these things?" Is it not an oversize inter-church committee to be so empowered? "Upon what meat has Caesar (this committee) been feeding that he has grown so great?" Not all of the 75 endorse it — by an appreciable number if the facts were known and the protests revealed. It is the duty of every church not endorsing this project to make objection, and to make it effective!

In the light of the misrepresentations of the truths that have characterized the efforts of the committee and foremost, because of the unscriptural nature of the whole enterprise, we cannot keep silent. The nature or character of this newspaper committee differs only in scope or scale of operation from any like denominational body. The principle is the same, for if this inter-church committee can speak for the churches — even stating the doctrine for churches, for 75, more or less — in their present function, then they could do so in any other area of the church. Hence, it is in fact an unscriptural committee, which faithful elders of any church that is truly a church of Christ should repudiate!

Finally, it is not a question of whether the men of the committee agree with this viewpoint — obviously they do not — nor whether elders of various churches does all may not — but the fact is simply that the committee cannot rightly perform their usurped function, legally, morally, or scripturally. And it would remain the same fact, scripturally, even if all 75 churches did endorse it, for the right or wrong of this or anything else does not consist in unanimous consent, but in the scripturalness or unscripturalness of the thing done.