Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 16, 1970
NUMBER 10, PAGE 3,5b

"As We Have Opportunity"-A Review

(No. I)

Hoyt H. Houchen

A few years ago there came across our desk a pamphlet entitled "As We Have Opportunity" and was written by some brother out in Prescott, Arizona whose name does not appear on the material. The gist of the tract is an effort to prove that there is no distinction between an individual and his work and that of the church.

Those of us who have for years been enmeshed in a controversy over what the scriptures authorize churches of Christ to do, and how these churches are to function have carefully tried to impress upon the minds of our hearers and readers that there is a difference between the work of the church and that of the individual Christian. A failure to realize this distinction accounts for much of the confusion among brethren and the promotion of unscriptural practices. This has been and is one of the main issues.

Christianity is universal in its nature, in that it embraces all nations (Matt. 28:19, 20), and yet it is an individual religion in that its propagation is dependent upon duties to be performed by individuals. Although collective action is included (the spending of funds from the treasury of the local church to accomplish the work that God has given the local church to do), much of Christianity is based upon individual action. Individual responsibilities are required (Phil. 2:12) and the more we read the New Testament the more evident this fact becomes.

Individual responsibility is apparent when one becomes a Christian. The steps of hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, and being baptized are taken by the individual and they are obligations that cannot be performed by proxy. The acts of worship performed by the Christian are individual and they cannot be engaged in by someone in place of the individual who is required to worship. Each individual Christian is responsible to worship God; it is an obligation that is enjoined upon him. Much in the life of a Christian is individual and his duties are set forth in numerous passages in the New Testament. Individuals, not churches as such, will be judged before God (Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10). There will be no proxies at the judgment. These truths should be self-evident to all, but a failure to distinguish between the work of the church and the work of the individual is a reason that scores of churches all over the country are engaged in practices not authorized by the word of God.

It is our purpose to review a few statements in the booklet referred to at the outset of this article, observing some blunders and misapplications of scripture.

Interestingly, the author portrays Paul Bunyan on the front of his pamphlet, smashing a house with a mallet. We suppose that this represents those of us who oppose the church support of human institutions and who contend that the church is all-sufficient to do the work that God gave it to do as tearing up the church. According to him, we are church splitters! In the first place, he has used the wrong illustration because the church is not a material building (Acts 7:48; 17:24), and if a man does not know the difference between a material building and the church, then we could expect him to know the difference between the work of the individual and that of the church. It is no wonder that he is confused.

He refers to the split in the church that was caused by the Missionary Society and he admits that those who introduced the Society were those responsible for driving the wedge, but he fails to see that history is repeating itself, that the same principle that divided brethren over the Society is the same principle that is dividing brethren today. It is a failure to respect divine authority! Every argument made by the advocates of the Missionary Society is made by the advocates of church supported benevolent societies. When brother W. W. Otey debated J. B. Briney in 1908 on the propositions of the Missionary Society and mechanical instruments of music in worship, Briney attempted to justify the Society upon the ground that it was a means and method of doing the Lord's work, and that it accomplished good. Indeed we continue to be mystified by those who admit that the Missionary Society is unscriptural but who will contend for the church support of benevolent societies, and in defense of their contention make precisely the same arguments that have been presented in defense of the Missionary Society. Such glaring inconsistency should be obvious to all.

The confused author of the booklet under consideration mentions splinter groups such as the one container group, the no class group etc., and states that they refuse to fellowship brethren who do not espouse their hobbies.

Of course, he means that those of us who refuse to go along with the church support of human institutions such as benevolent homes and sponsoring church arrangements such as the Herald of Truth have espoused a hobby and we refuse to fellowship those who do not espouse our hobby. We wish to inform the author that we affirm that the scriptures authorize the use of more than one container at the Lord's table and divided classes according to ages in which the Bible is taught. We ask: where is the Bible authority for a sponsoring church or churches supporting human institutions out of their treasuries? If he believes that we are in the same category as the brethren who contend for the one container etc., and that we are binding where the Lord has not bound, then we call again upon him and those associated with him to produce the scripture that authorizes the practices that we oppose. One scripture is all that we ask for and if he will produce it we shall humbly concede his point and repent for having opposed these "good works." Appeals to prejudice, such as his comparison of us to the one container hobbyists and others are much easier for him than getting down to the "nitty — gritty" and producing the passage that authorizes that for which he is contending. We remind our scribe too that the proponents of the Missionary Society relegate those who oppose it to the camp of hobbyists and those who oppose good work. Brother, welcome to the club! And, does he fellowship those who do their work through societies and who use mechanical instruments of music in worship? As to fellowships whom is pretty well answered. Is he so naive as to believe that we have not been ostracized, refused fellowship, and ridiculed because we have not bowed down to the idols of unscriptural promotions? The matter of fellowship takes care of itself and is evident by where we preach and where we do not preach. (More to follow)