Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 22, 1954

The New Testament Church-- Apostasy And Its Causes

Jack L. Holt, Indianapolis, Indiana

The church as God gave it is completely sufficient to do the work that God has authorized it to do. The New Testament is the perfect guide for the New Testament church. Jesus Christ is the head of the church and is over all things to the church. He is its foundation and lawgiver. Jesus rules the church through his word. The church is his kingdom and he governs it from his throne which is in heaven. The church is heaven's rule on earth.

The New Testament furnishes us completely concerning the work and worship of the church. (2 Tim. 3:16-17) When we follow the teaching therein we please our Heavenly Father. When we depart there from we rebel against Him, and are displeasing. We must always be exceedingly careful not to depart from the divine guide in the work and worship of the church. We depart whenever we leave God's way and follow our own.

True worship consists of five items, Viz: singing, teaching, prayer, giving, and observing the Lord's Supper. We are to observe the same in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24) Would any Christian dare say that these acts are insufficient? Would any be so bold that they would add thereto? Those sincere in heart, and who desire to please God will not entertain such thoughts. They know that God has given us the acts of worship that please Him. All other acts are vain and empty. God cannot be pleased with any worship unless that worship is offered as He directs. This is true regardless of how sincere the worshipper may be.

God's plan concerning the work of the church is to be followed as carefully as His plan for worship. The work of the church is twofold, (1) to preach the gospel and (2) discharge benevolent responsibilities. The church is fully adequate within itself to do this work. It needs no help from the government, or outside forces. The kingdom of God is not to be made a dependent of the kingdoms of this world. It is to be completely independent of human organizations. The New Testament nowhere authorizes the church to delegate any of its responsibilities to some human institution. To do so is to depart from God's word and is to sin. As God can be worshipped only as He directs, even so can the church work only as He directs. The church is not to work through human institutions in caring for orphans or in preaching the gospel. If the church may hand over its benevolent responsibility to some home, why can it not also hand over to some society its evangelistic responsibility? Wherein does the difference lie ? Both are human institutions supplanting the divine.

The New Testament also fails to reveal that one church may work through another. Certainly if the New Testament does not teach that such can be done, then to do such is wrong, and constitutes a departure from the divine plan. Underlying every plea for orphan homes and super organization of churches is a wrong attitude toward the scriptures, brought about by a lack of faith. We often term ourselves, "a Bible loving and Bible following people." We claim to, "be nothing, practice nothing, and do nothing except as the word of God authorizes it." This is the proper attitude, and as long as this attitude predominates in our thinking there is no reason for alarm. It is only when we, "do something, practice something and become something" that the word of God does not allow that we have the wrong attitude. This has been done in establishing human institutions to care for orphans, and in the Highland Avenue Church in Abilene, Texas, setting itself up as a medium through which the church universal may work.

The chief cause of the first apostasy is said to be the desire for organization other than that provided for in the word of God. Underlying that, however, was the wrong attitude toward the scriptures. The desire today for cooperation on a human plan comes about for the same reason. The modern attitude is that the scriptures do not "furnish unto every good work," or "give us all things that pertain to life and godliness." "If we follow the Bible we can never do any great good ... we must not be men of limited vision, and tied down to a thus saith the Lord in religion. This will get us nowhere." This modern attitude may not be expressed in these words, but "Theme the sentiments."

We are often urged to look at the Catholics, Methodists, and even the Judaizing Adventists as examples of work and zeal. It is a pity when men, who supposedly believe in the all-sufficiency of God's work, will turn to the denominations for an example for the New Testament church to emulate. Once again it seems that Israel "desires to be like the nations about them." I have long been under the impression that if I wanted to find an example of work and zeal with which to stir up Christians I only had to turn to the New Testament. I still believe this to be true. Look at the Jerusalem church. Notice how the word of God grew and multiplied in that city. The Thessalonian church sounded out the word of the Lord. (1 Thess. 1:8) They did this so effectively that the news of their good works preceded Paul into the various cities in which he preached. (1 Thess. 1:9) In a short period of time the gospel was preached to every creature under heaven. (Col. 1:23) Here are the examples to stir us today. The way they did it is the way we are to do it. How did they do it? Each church working independently, preached the gospel and cared for the needy. In so doing it cooperated with every other New Testament church. Thus the gospel spread, "Throughout Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth. These are our examples; this is our pattern. Shall we follow it?

It would be wise to stop this "looking at" for awhile and begin to "Look for." If the advocates of centralized control will brush the admiration for the Catholics out of their eyes I would like for them to do some "looking for." Look for one New Testament example of where any New Testament church ever worked through another. I give the following quotation to cheer them along in their search.

"I do not find in the New Testament a single example of two or more churches that cooperated in mission work." — J. W. McGarvey.

If the example can be found, then I am willing to join hands in an effort to centralize control of the churches so that we may "join hands across the sea."