Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 29, 1954
NUMBER 50, PAGE 1,5b

The All-Sufficiency Of The Church -- No. 2

Granville W. Tyler. Pampa. Texas

A Demonstration of Sufficiency I believe the sufficiency of the church for doing its work today can be established by observing in the New Testament an actual demonstration of such in the first century. Yes, the church had the obligation of preaching the gospel back in the first century just like it does now. Did it do the job? Well, in Colossians 1:6, speaking of the gospel, Paul said: "Which is come unto you: even as it is also in all the world bearing fruit and increasing, as it doth in you also ......In verse 23 he adds: "If so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and sted fast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation (to every creature) under heaven." In less than forty years after the church was established an inspired man could say that the gospel had been preached to every creature under heaven. How was this done? Why it was done by, and through the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was done within the frame-work and with the equipment given by the Lord as the Holy Spirit inspired those men who guided and directed the work of the church. To the church at Philippi Paul wrote in Philippians 4:15,16, "That in the beginning of the gospel when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving but ye only; for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my need." The church at Jerusalem sent preachers to Antioch, and the church at Antioch sent preachers over into Asia Minor. The church at Philippi and the church at Thessalonica sent support to gospel preachers in other fields. Thus, the work of evangelizing the world was done in New Testament times by and through the church; no other organization whatsoever was used in doing this work. Some of those people might have said — they could have truthfully — God did not tell us in detail how to travel and just what method to use always in our work. But they recognized that their work was to be done through God's sufficient organization as revealed through his sufficient law.

In Acts the sixth chapter and in 1 Timothy 5, we learn that there were some needy widows worthy of support in the early church. We not only read that the condition existed but we likewise learn that the church recognized the fact, and that it moved to solve the problem. A complaint was brought to the attention of the apostles that the Grecian widows were being neglected in the daily ministration. According to the record the apostles did not criticize those who murmured, but rather gave instructions that "this business" be looked after. Those people were murmuring because their widows were being neglected in the daily ministration, which shows that the church had already been helping widows. In 1 Timothy 5, Paul teaches that the church should be careful and cautious in caring for widows. Deserving widows who are in need should be supported, but the church is not to be unnecessarily burdened by caring for those who have relatives who can support them. The point is, the church had the obligation of relieving widows indeed, and it was sufficiently equipped to perform its duty.

There were fatherless children in the early days of the church, and people who were destitute of food and clothing. There were calamities and famines that made relief work imperative in those days just as there are now. I ask this intelligent audience, was it the responsibility of the church to relieve the suffering and supply the needs in such cases? Did the church discharge its duty to the suffering and the orphans? Did it discharge its duty toward those who were in need? Somebody says, "Yes, but we are not told how it was done." Well, let's see. When the famine came in Judea the Bible says in Acts 11:29,20, "And the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judaea: which also they did sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul." The church did the work without organizing anything outside the church, or inside either as to that matter; it was done through the divine organization of the church itself. But somebody is sure to fall back on the idea, "I know, but you see, we have so many things that are different, so many complicated problems now that they did not have then." That idea is just about as plausible as the one advanced by a man recently with whom I discussed some Bible statements. "Why," said he, "do you mean to try to bind on me, a man of the twentieth century, a book that was written in the first century?" God was able in the first century to give a gospel adequate to supply the needs of people in the twentieth century, and in all centuries to follow. But let me add with emphasis, we need a new streamlined twentieth century gospel just as much as we need a streamlined twentieth century church. God Almighty is responsible for both as they are and He has made them sufficient to accomplish that whereunto he sends them.

Safeguards of Sufficiency God Almighty has not only made the church sufficient but has thrown about it some safeguards to guarantee its sufficiency throughout all ages. If the church is to remain as God would have it, fill its place and adequately do its work while the ages roll these safeguards must be respected, protected and kept intact.

First: The Bible regulates the church; the church does not alter and regulate the Bible. In spite of changes in customs, practices in society or the whims and fancies of men this principle must remain unchanged. The Catholics reverse the order. They say, the New Testament did not bring about or produce the church, but rather that the church produced the Bible. According to their theory the church has the right to ignore or set aside requirements in to Bible and legislate as it deems wise. To the uninstructed this may seem plausible. The actual writing of the New Testament was not finished for several years after the church was established. But the New Testament, sealed by the blood of Christ has been in existence and in operation since Pentecost day. One of the proofs that this principle is a safeguard for the sufficiency of the church is the Catholic Church itself. It has so far apostatized from the New Testament pattern that it is hard for one to realize that it even claims any connection with it. Having cut loose from God's word as an authoritative guide it is like a ship at sea without compass or rudder. From this living example may the Lord's church be sufficiently warned never to drift away from New Testament teaching.

Second: The church is autonomous. I mean by that of course, that the church — each congregation--is independent in its organization and work from every other church of the Lord in the world. Can you see how this principle becomes a safeguard? Suppose in Birmingham for example, all the twenty-three congregations were interlocked or linked one to the other. Then suppose a great departure comes down the drain would go, not just one but every church in the Birmingham area. But suppose as things are now, each congregation a separate unit, an infection starts here at Berney Points, we hope it never does, but suppose it did. Why it would not affect the Seventy-Seventh Street Church. We are an independent body; we are not dependent upon your decisions. This principle of the autonomy of the church should be highly regarded and scrupulously guarded.

Third: God has ordained that elders, always more than one, be appointed in each church, and not an elder over churches. If Brother Williams here were a bishop or presiding elder over all the churches of this district andhe is misled then all the churches under his jurisdiction are gone. (Of course, a set-up like that is wrong to start with, so they would not have far to go.) But suppose in the congregation where I preach something comes up and one of the elders gets off the track, it isn't likely that the other five would jump the track at the same time. Even if all of them left the truth that would be one congregation and not all of the churches of the area. So a plurality of elders in each church serves as a sort of check and balance affair in the church.

Fourth: The final safeguard I mention is that every united effort of the Lord's people must be through the organization of the local congregation. God never commits the work of His people to human institutions; it must be done by the church and through it alone. As a result of misunderstanding this principle involving the sufficiency of the church we have institutions, religious and secular of every stripe and kind. Many members of the church have gone into these orders and institutions without realizing that they are violating this principle. When a man who claims to be a member of the church enters an institution to do a work that should be done by the church, he becomes a part of something that is a rival of the church and that exists without divine authority. An organization brought about by well meaning men to perform a work that should be done by the church violates this safeguard also. "Oh," somebody says, "they are good men, honest and sincere, they mean to do right and they won't misplace a penny." Yes, that may be true, there are good men in the Catholic Church, but that does not prove that Catholicism is right. It is not a question of misplacing pennies, but rather of doing what God requires within the frame-work provided for such work, that the sufficiency of the church may be preserved. Therefore, the work of the Lord should be done by the Lord's people through the Lord's church and not by some institution brought about even by good men.

Many years ago when Brother Lipscomb was working out plans for the Nashville Bible School some phase of the work was criticized. Brother Lipscomb explained that he did not intend for the work to get out of hand. He said that he and those associated with him would see to it that it was properly done. Some man wrote him saying: "Brother Lipscomb, you can't run an institution on this earth from heaven." I relate this not to suggest that Brother Lipscomb was making a mistake — for I do not know enough about the case to say — but simply because of the statement made. We need to realize the danger of departing from the ancient landmarks even if good men take the lead in such work. These men will be gone before long and they cannot operate the business from heaven. If we start preaching the gospel or doing the benevolent work of the church through an institution, made up even of good men, other than the church we undermine the principle of the sufficiency of the church. In doing this we depart from the pattern set forth in the New Testament. The Lord's church is a glorious institution. It has the tremendous task of preaching the gospel, building itself up and of doing benevolent work. For this work the church is fully equipped and wholly adequate; it is the only institution authorized by the Lord to do such work.

So, if you are here outside of Christ, it is the work of the church to teach you the truth and to plead with you to obey the gospel. Will you come to Christ tonight and become a part of that divine institution and do what you can to lead others to the Lamb of God?