Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 7, 1950

The Church Question

Thomas Allen Robertson, Mclean, Texas

In the past 1900 years the church of Christ has suffered many reverses. It has suffered much by the hands of evil men, by false teachers, by men who loved the preeminence and often by the hands of those who meant no real harm, but were just careless about that which they started and espoused within the brotherhood. Quite often ambitious men, ambitious for the church, have hit upon a plan which seemed to be plausible and workable for the spreading of the gospel of Christ, and with disregard to, or ignorance of, the plan of God, as set forth in his word, have set in motion something that has ultimately worked evil to the cause of Christ. Every reverse, every evil, that the church has suffered came from within the church. The world is, and has always been, the known enemy of the church of Christ. But, with all of their opposition they have not been able to hinder the church. Their opposition has rather fallen out to the furtherance of the church. Every time the church is opposed from without the church grows. Its periods of greatest growth have also been the periods of greatest opposition or persecution.

Once again, as in every age of its history, the church stands in danger. Once again the danger is not from without, but from within. Much of the trouble and infringement on the truth is coming from those who avow that they love the church and want to extend its borders. The church stands today in danger of being broken up into a number of sects by the same thing which has divided it in times past. The party spirit, an attitude of indifference toward the authority of the written word and a disregard for the Bible way of doing the work of the Lord, as a result of this, speculative theories, institutionalism, various digressions and denominationalism within the church have become more than just a threat to the church, they, to a certain extent have become a reality.

Today we definitely stand at the cross-roads. Is the church to continue as God's family? Or is it to become just another one of the denominations? Our only excuse for existing is that we are a peculiar people, not like those round about us. (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9) Our only claim to distinction is that we speak as the oracles of God speak. (1 Peter 4:11) If we cease to be a peculiar people, if we cease to speak as the oracles of God speak, we have become simply another denomination. It has reached the point that we are deeply alarmed. This drifting away from the Bible and Bible usage is the one thing that can harm the church of Christ. And the drift is becoming more apparent every day.

It was just such a gradual drifting away that brought on the "Great Apostasy." And we fear that we are becoming increasingly indifferent about this matter. We notice more and more, on the part of Christians, an attitude that change is only natural and inevitable. Such is not true, especially if the change is a change toward liberality and laxness. We notice that a number of gospel preachers are teaching that we should fellowship the denominations even to the extent of calling on them to take part in the services of the Lord. Brethren, one cannot play with fire without getting burned. This, the apostle knew when he said, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you." (2 Cor. 6:14) Several times lately members of the church have introduced us as our "Pastor." A few have even said "Reverend Robertson, our pastor."

It is quite common to hear members of Christ's body say, "our church." It is not our church, it is Christ's church. Some come to us and say, "what does our church teach on a certain matter." The church of Christ doesn't teach anything. They should say what does the Bible teach. One could rightly ask what the Baptist church teaches, or what the Methodist church teaches, because they have a church manual or discipline that tells what their church teaches. But the church of Christ doesn't have any such formulated manual or creed setting forth church doctrine, hence, the church of Christ doesn't teach anything. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth, it is through the church that the manifold wisdom of God is made known. (Eph. 3:10) But this is done by the word of God. The Bible teaches and we believe and obey it.

There is also a growing feeling in the church of Christ that we want to be like the churches round about us. Quite often we are asked, "why can't we do this or that? So and so does this." We should remember the mess Israel got into when they wanted to be like those round about them. Another evidence of drifting, and the one many of the churches are going overboard on is: "our young people's problem." People say, "if the church doesn't take care of the young people we will lose them." Consequently, churches are spending millions on providing young people's programs, providing recreational halls and entertainment equipment, teaching them to depend upon the church for their entertainment, teaching them to be like the people round about them. And they are raising up a generation that has been taught that the church owes them something, instead of teaching them that they owe something to the Lord. This money should be spent in preaching the gospel to the lost, after the Bible plan. Entertainment is not the business of the church; that with feeding, clothing and educating the children belongs in the home. If we will give our children more gospel and less foolishness we won't have to worry about losing them.

The church stands in danger, and that, as I see it, is the danger. Brethren, let us study, let us pray, let us stop the drift and remain tied securely to the anchor. Let us do God's work in God's way.