Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 6, 1960

Shall We Ride A Stolen Horse?

W. Glyde Poplin, Santa Rosa, California

In Matthew 28:19 Jesus said to his apostles, "Go.... teach ....baptize." These three things are essential to obeying the command given in the commission. We believe that the responsibility of carrying out this command in this generation falls upon us who are his disciples today. Further, we believe that we can no more obey this command without doing these three things than could the apostles.

But in the carrying out of these essentials there are certain incidentals — incidentals that are necessary to carrying out the essentials, but which present an optional choice. For example, the apostles, in carrying out the command to "go," must of necessity, have some means of transportation or locomotion. But the specific means of locomotion was not prescribed, hence they were free to use any available means. The same is true of us today. We have, indeed, more choices than did they, for there are means of travel today that were then unknown. We may walk, ride a horse, drive a car, charter a plane, or utilize some other means.

But while we may ride a horse if we choose, we are not at liberty to steal a horse to ride. Even though the "how" is not specified, we dare not use a "how" that violates the teaching of the word of God in other places. The passages of scripture which forbid stealing limit the "how" in Matt. 28:19 to honestly procured means of travel.

James 1:27 states that, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." Every day someone says orally or in print, "It tells us to do it, but it does not tell us how. We are therefore free to choose the 'how'. Any one who says we cannot do it this way is making a law where God made none." Well, suppose we grant that it does not tell us how. The New Testament authorizes and makes provision for no organization other than the congregation. The New Testament provides no agency through which the church may work except the individual members and the congregation. This being true, the scriptures do not authorize the churches to build and maintain organizations for caring for orphans and widows. The New Testament, then, limits the "how" of James 1:27 to methods and means not prohibited elsewhere in its pages. We had as well ride a stolen horse as an unauthorized institution.

Actually the limitation is in the very verse: "And keep himself unspotted from the world." Since the Bible does not provide an organization other than the church, such must have its origin in the world. How can one keep himself unspotted from the world while building and maintain a religious institution of worldly origin?

Again, if there being no "how" in James 1:27 grants the privilege of building a benevolent society, why does it not follow that since there is no "how" in Matt. 28:19, we have the privilege of forming a missionary society?

Brethren will have to do better than make the bold unfounded and inconsistent statement that "the church is its own missionary society, but not its own benevolent society." Really, neither the missionary society nor the benevolent society is a "how."

"Go ....preach ....baptize," but remember, "Thou shalt not steal."