Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 4, 1960
NUMBER 13, PAGE 1,13a

Open Forum

James A. Allen, Nashville, Tennessee

The meeting of a New Testament church was an open forum in which all the brethren took a part in edifying and exhorting the church. The worship and services of all New Testament churches were conducted by their own members. Every brother was taught and trained to say something to the church to edify or exhort it. "For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.' (1 Cor. 14:31.) Prophesy means to speak as divinely inspired or guided. It means to predict, to teach, to interpret, to declare, to expound, to exhort. While the New Testament was being written, the different brethren of the congregation were enabled to so do by the bestowal of different spiritual gifts upon them. Since the completion of the New Testament every brother, with the completed Bible in his hands, has everything that was "once for all delivered unto the saints.'

No New Testament church had a "minister," "regular preacher," or one man under any name, to do all its preaching. For one man to do the preaching is to stifle the development and training of the members. It is to prevent the exercise of the talent that God has given every brother. It is to make the church helpless, impotent and dependent upon "the minister" to keep it going.

Are we opposed to preachers? Are we opposed to supporting preachers liberally and well? Let us not be absurd. Nothing I have said would indicate it. How could any Christian be opposed to men who are giving their lives to preaching the faith that he loves better than life itself? How could any Christian fail to be glad and happy to give, and to give, until it is a real sacrifice, for the support of men who are giving their time and labors to this unspeakably great and wonderful work? How can the gospel advance without men preaching it, and how can men give their time and labors to so doing without being supported by the churches? I am aware that some brethren, in their opposition to a hireling clergy, have gone so morbid as to refuse to support men who are giving their time to preaching the gospel. We should endeavor to lead them to a better understanding of the New Testament.

Every church ought to support as many preachers as it can in preaching "publicly, and from house to house." The thing that is wrong, and that should be diligently avoided, is a preacher doing the work of the elders. A preacher's business is to preach, not to run the church. If the elders are remiss in doing their work, and hire him to do it for them, he should entreat them as fathers and call their attention to the fact that there is no example in the New Testament of elders being elders by proxy. The exercise of their qualifications to be elders prevents such a thing. Looking after the members of the church, visiting the sick, keeping up the attendance and the contribution, is the work of the elders, not of a preacher. A preacher, who spends his time so doing, instead of talking, teaching, preaching, and from house to house," is not only stifling the growth of the elders, but is also failing to do the great and wonderful work that it is his business to do.

The fact that, while the New Testament was being written, spiritual gifts were bestowed upon the different brethren shows that instructing and edifying the church is not the work of one man. The fact, also, that there were diversities of spiritual gifts, divided to the different members, shows that the work of all the brethren, each exercising the gift bestowed upon him, was necessary to the edification of the church. No one man could do it. The exercise of one spiritual gift, bestowed upon one man, was not the order, but it required all the spiritual gifts, bestowed upon all the different members. Nothing could be farther from the miraculously ordained apostolic order in the church than for the elders to turn the preaching over to one man.

The order of worship and service in the New Testament churches was conducted and guided miraculously. The miracle showed and certified that it was from God. The preaching of first principles was done miraculously. The apostles spoke, not their own ideas or thoughts, but "as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4) All that passed away, when the New Testament was completed, was the miraculous. The same is true of the work and worship of the church. The things preached, said and done, and the example set, form the pattern for all to follow until the end of time. They are recorded in the New Testament for all people in all ages to follow. To introduce any thing into the worship, service or work of the church that was not miraculously introduced, and recorded in the New Testament, is unscriptural and sinful. That is why we oppose all human institutions to do any part of the work of the church. Those who introduce and promote them, and who divide the church over them, admit that they were not miraculously started, and that there is neither precept, nor example, for them the New Testament.

"But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gift of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." (1 Cor. 12:7-11.) The Spirit divided the spiritual gifts "to every man severally as he will." This shows that "every man" was to have a part in edifying the church.

"How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." (Cor. 14:26.) "For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and that all may be comforted." (Verse 31.) This set the precedent for all churches until the end of time. The only difference is, the completed New Testament, which is "the more excellent way." took the place of the temporary, miraculous spiritual gifts.

Paul said to the church at Corinth: "But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way." (1 Cor. 12:31.) The "more excellent way" is the full and complete revelation of the Christian religion. The full and complete revelation of the Christian religion is given to "every creature" with the completion of the New Testament. Any man with the completed Bible in his hands has all the divine revelation that God has given the world. Nothing came from God that is not in the Bible. Any member of the church with completed New Testament in his hands has all the divine revelation embraced by all the spiritual gifts together. "And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make the wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction for instruction in righteousness: that man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. 3:1517.)

No man can adequately grasp the magnitude of the blessing that God has bestowed upon him in giving him the Bible, containing the full and complete revelation of his will- All who wish to do God's will have the revelation of his will in their hands. A man's salvation, usefulness and happiness is predicated upon his reading and studying God's Word, to learn his will, that he might do it. "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth." (2 Tim. 2:15.) Everyone is commanded to study, and to "rightly divide," or "handle aright" the Word of Truth. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Col. 3:16.)