Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 1, 1951

"The Pattern Of Sound Words"

N. W. Allphin, Tahoka, Texas

Early in the nineteenth century the great leaders in the restoration movement prudently adopted a course of action regarding religious speech that was meant to restrict us all to the use of Bible expressions in stating and defending our faith and practice. It is a paraphrase of the divine injunction in I Peter 4:11, expressed as follows: "Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent." For all gospel preachers this has been through all the intervening years a cherished aphorism, as it should be, for it maps an eminently safe course. Out of it grew the other maxims that are worthy of all the emphasis men place upon them; and these are: "Call Bible things by Bible names," and "Do Bible things in Bible ways." These are all closely allied in sentiment; and the adoption and practice of them ought to result in bringing all religious students nearer to an agreement or what the Bible teaches.

But it is surprising to note the number of times the principles expressed in them are violated by the very men who have avowed them. Almost weekly in one or another of the religious periodicals that come to me, somebody writes about, "e;the church that Jesus built," or "when the Lord built His church," and other similar expressions. From such statements one gets the idea that their conception is that the church is a separate entity, a thing long ago completed, unto which people later are added or into which they are inducted. There are no such expressions as the above in the New Testament. Not a serious error, maybe, but it is in violation of the "pattern of sound words." The Lord said, "I will build my church," (future tense), but the past tense, built or builded, is not found at all, save in Eph. 2:19-23, where Paul told the Gentiles (former strangers) that they had been "built upon the foundation of the apostles and Prophets." Church is from the Greek word ekklesia, and means "called out. The Lord's church is His called out, His people; those who have been and are being called out by the gospel (II Thes. 2:14), called to be saints (I Cor. 1:2); it is the house or family of God (I Tim. 3:15; Eph. 3:15), those who are translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col. 1:13), or the body of Christ. (Eph. 1:22, 23) This Greek word is sometimes rendered assembly or congregation. See Acts 19:41 and Heb. 2:12. It is not a system of ethics; it is not a compendium of principles, rules or commands; it is not the sum of Christian doctrine or precepts. It is all the subjects of the Lord's kingdom, all who have obeyed the gospel, and have thus been added to the "body of Christ. In any case, it is still growing numerically, hence, still in building; and the building of it will continue till the consummation of the age. To state this matter in other terms, the foundation facts and principles of the gospel system were complete, finished at the first; but the building of the church continues. It seems to me that this is a conclusion with which every one should agree.

Again, on the currently discussed question of institutionalism—financial support of colleges and other organizations by the churches, it is noted that in arguing against it some say that those in favor seem to consider that Christ "did not build much, but left it to man to complete the institution by adding to it such human organizations as would complete the church." But the schools, homes, boards, etc; are not "additions to the church." They do transgress the bounds of a divinely authorized sphere of action; they are in violation of New Testament precept and example; they are additions to the Lord's prescribed purposes, plans and objectives of the church; but I would not call them additions to the church. Neither would call the church "an institution"—the Bible doesn't.