Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 15, 1951
NUMBER 40, PAGE 2-3b

What Is It All About?

Robert Farish, Tarrant, Ala.

This question has been used to launch off into journalistic efforts to try to prove that the current discussions protesting questionable things, which are being promoted in several quarters, is just another case of 'much ado about nothing'—that all the fuss is over a thing which exists only in the imagination of some. Of course, if these things being objected to have no substance, then all who have raised their voices and exercised their pens in protest have been guilty of raising a false alarm—they have been playing at knocking down straw men of their own making. Such is by all sensible people branded as worse than childish. Hence, if people can be made to believe that no New Testament principles are being violated in the 'new missionary zeal,' then the ones who are claiming that there are such violations will be counted as ridiculous and unworthy of serious consideration. This is the old stratagem of discrediting an opponent, thus nullifying the force of his opposition in the present case, if this can be accomplished, misguided zeal will have no effective barrier and will run rampant—departures from the faith will spring up in profusion.

Others have attempted to answer the question in such a way as to discredit those protesting on other counts. By insinuation they have tried to hang an anti-missionary brand on the opposition. They would lead people to believe that the 'much ado' is a camouflaged assault against the Lord's "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel." This too, if successful, would neutralize the efforts of those who rather than trying to stop the tide, are attempting to direct it in proper channels. No gospel preacher would be guilty of trying to stem the tide of properly directed "missionary zeal," but every real gospel preacher will be interested in that zeal being directed in scriptural channels. Zeal alone is not enough; it must be guided by knowledge.

Those who are indifferent to the welfare of the church—those border line cases who have little concern for the divine pattern—will shrug the matter off as just being a lot of noise created by somebody to get attention or to keep trouble stirred up. What is it all about? Is it, as the indifferent would like to think—just an effort to capitalize on an unimportant issue? Here is a hint to help answer this. What issue has ever troubled spiritual Israel but that there were modern Ahabs to brand those contending for the faith as troublers of Israel?' No, those today who have been jealous for the Lord and cried against those forsaking his way are not the troublers of Israel. It is those who 'have forsaken the commandments of Jehovah' who are the troublers of Israel. That personal gain in any form cannot be what it is all about, should be evident to thinking people. None of these is what it is all about.

What is it all about? The question can serve as a means of clarifying the issue which many have failed to grasp. One of the greatest contenders for the faith of our day wrote me pointing out that many sincere, conscientious preachers had utterly failed to grasp the issue. I heartily agree to this. Many brethren whose honesty sincerity and concern is above question are confused. This confusion can be accounted for in part by the fact that some older preachers have lost their bearings and are being carried along with the tide—have wandered by innocent seeming steps into positions and situations that they never dreamed of occupying. Their need is to awaken, summons the courage necessary for the task, abandon their untenable positions and hark back to the ancient landmarks of the New Testament. Everything worthwhile is to be gained by such a course.

Another contributing factor to this failure to grasp the issue is uninformed membership. If more time and thought were given to the matter of having the word of Christ dwelling in us richly and less to promoting monuments to pride, such as costly cathedrals, and powerful and expanding institutions, the membership of the church would have the information that counts.

What is it all about? It is about the autonomy of the church. The New Testament pattern has no provision for inter-congregational tie-ups. Each congregation has the same mission. In nature the mission of the church at Jerusalem was identical with every other New Testament church. Each church was to function to the extent of its ability in the divinely prescribed activities. Consider the following from the pen of H. Leo Boles, "No church has any right to send out its representative, delegate or appointee and lay just claim upon other churches for support or to help carry out its own program." (Gospel Advocate, Feb. 15, 1940) Each church under its elders is to exert itself to the utmost in fulfilling its own mission. It gets out of line when its elders allow zeal to rush them into assuming extensive responsibilities—responsibilities beyond its ability, for no individual or church is responsible further than its ability. This feature of New Testament pattern has been ignored in several instances. These cases have been pointed out in the current discussion—that is 'part' of what it is 'all' about.

The local church as designed by the Lord is adequate to accomplish its work. The preaching of the word can be done to the extent of the ability of the local church and when that is done, all is done that God requires. The local church can do its benevolent work to the extent of its ability, and in case of an emergency situation, sister churches can be advised of its emergency and they can contribute to meeting and caring for the emergency for the duration of the emergency. There is no authority, however, for this emergency procedure to be adopted as a permanent practice in normal situations—no authority for it to be extended beyond the legitimate bounds of the emergency. The church at Antioch upon being advised of the famine determined to send relief—the relief was sent to the elders of the church or churches in Judea. This furnishes an example of how one church can send funds to another church or churches to meet such an emergency. It does not furnish an example for one church arrogating to itself the planning of super programs which require means beyond that church's ability to carry out and then declaring an emergency and attempting to invoke this example as scriptural justification for other churches sending part of their funds to it for it to "administer" in carrying out its program. The emergency must be real not imagined. Some have imagined emergencies—built huge institutions to meet these imagined needs and then called upon the church to support their institution. Such has no support from the Judean famine emergency. This mistake has been made. It is being exposed and opposed. This also is 'part' of what it is 'all' about.

The work of the church is definite, not general, in its character. It cannot be defined by such general terms as doing good.' While all the work of the church is good work, yet not all work that can be characterized as good is the work of the church. Many things in the realm of common things are good but must not be confused with the holy. The distinction between the common and holy must be maintained. Secular education, in wholesome environment, is good—providing clean entertainment and amusements for youth and old is a good thing—but the church is to be burdened with none of these. In a number of cases the brethren have failed to 'make distinction' between the common and the holy. They have confused the two by making provisions to provide for the common things with money that has been contributed to provide for the holy. Some have built buildings to provide for "the assembling of themselves together" and to these provisions for this holy function, have added equipment such as game rooms to provide for such 'common' things as entertainment and social exercises. Others have become so zealous in the interest of 'our schools' that they would claim support for them from the church treasury. These are not just trends but are definite violations of the principle of making distinction between the holy and the common.

Disregard for the autonomy of the local church—reflecting upon the adequacy of the church, as God gave it, to accomplish the work of the church—failure to make distinction between the holy and the common are some of the parts that go to make up the 'all' that it is about.