Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 28, 1955

The Jerusalem "Conference"

C. R. Mansfield, Pittsburg, Texas

The inspired speaker, James, in Acts 15 establishes the fact that the report of Peter in verse 14 agreed with the prophecy of old time concerning the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David. (See Isaiah 11:10; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11; et al.) When such an inspired man has thus spoken, to preach that the tabernacle of David is yet to be rebuilt is to contradict God. The doctrine, then, that we must look for a future rebuilding of a kingdom on earth in which the throne of David shall again be the seat of power certainly implies no inconsequential matter, but must be rejected with all vigor. Those who preach such a doctrine cannot remain in the fellowship of faithful Christians because it directly denies what James emphatically stated. It denies, in effect, all that was procured for man by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; in fact, denies the very fundamentals of the gospel of Christ.

Let us again look at that "conference" in Jerusalem. How did it come about? Why was it necessary? Does it authorize "conferences" today to settle for the "brotherhood" any question or issue that would trouble the churches?

First, it is evident that many Jewish converts in that day had not, or would not, come to recognize the fact that since the death of Christ the old law had no more effect, but insisted that it was still in force; and that, as in days past, no one could be pleasing to God who failed to keep it. They had not left their former religious activities and had not turned wholly to the authority of Christ. Many in the churches today can't seem to banish the philosophy of denominational sectarianism. The "love of wisdom" peculiar to the ways and means employed by sectarianism to advance toward its objectives holds an enticement before them that they seemingly can't resist. Since no one could rightly claim that the early Jewish brethren, who were so badly in error, were all insincere even though further New Testament records prove that some were, it is quite evident that one thing alone was needed to remove the dissension that had sprung up over circumcision. That one thing was no more or less than the TRUTH concerning this matter. Even though Paul was not one whit behind the other apostles, he did not insist upon his authority among brethren who evidently wanted more the decision of others. This seems contrary to what appears to be the attitude of some today who would insist that their "decision" should not be questioned. Paul gladly went along and submitted his teaching to the scrutiny of other apostles and inspired men. Truth has nothing to fear, and he who desires only the truth will not fear to learn it. There was no complete written revelation at that time. Hence, it is completely understandable why the brethren acted so as to ascertain with certainty the truth upon the matter. Thus we learn both the necessity of the conference in Jerusalem and how it came about.

We do not have men inspired as these were today. To this we all agree. If any believes otherwise, I have not heard of it as yet. It is also clearly evident that the brethren from Antioch were not seeking the wisdom of the men in Jerusalem. Only because they were apostles and the Spirit of God governed their teaching did they desire to hear them. Hence, it was the teaching of the Holy Spirit that they desired, and this alone. It was, then, necessary that they get together with the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. This constitutes a conference as recorded in Acts 15. It is impossible to duplicate such a conference in our day and any attempt to do so would deny the authority of the scriptures; for the New Testament as we have it completed and written today contains every wisdom that the brethren of the first century had to obtain directly from inspired men. Brethren in every place today have the same Spirit to whom they must appeal at all times for the TRUTH on any matter. There can be no example, therefore, in Acts 15 for any assembly today of brethren from many places gathering in a "conference" for any purpose. Since there is no example that sets precedent for such in the New Testament, we simply must not practice it in our day. Thus the three questions we have raised in this study are answered.

It is true, as one writer recently set forth, that we may be able to understand a truth and teach it as true, yet be unable to an amazing degree to apply that truth to specific cases, being unable to recognize, in many cases, violations of the very principle that we teach.

It is understandable that hundreds of ex-students of the colleges conducted by brethren enjoy a get-together at least once a year; nor do I see anything wrong in such. Such a congregating can, however, be abused and become a sinful attempt to influence the faith and practice of the churches, even to the point of determining the ways and means of their work, the "fields" of work for local congregations. When the "program" for such a gathering is designed to "lecture" those attending upon such "certain" matters, those responsible can be attempting nothing short of trying to impose upon the churches their "decisions" regarding the matters in hand. Especially is this true when certain issues face the churches and such an assembly deliberately favors and encourages one popular view to the exclusion of adequate discussion of the matter upon the part of any who oppose that view. The institution involved in such procedure is certainly committed to a certain "view" concerning the "issues," lending its tremendous influence to enforcing "conformity" to its decisions" among all the churches and in the life of every member of the Lord's body. Such constitutes a "conference" which is in complete harmony with the conferences of sectarian bodies. Being wrong and anti-scriptural in its very concept and purpose, it is no wonder that it disallows the "disputings" necessary to the "considering" of matters that even the apostles and elders in Jerusalem allowed. How, therefore, can any institution allowing such to be annually connected to its activities, openly sponsoring it, claim the desire to be separate and apart from the church and with no desire to interfere with the autonomy of local churches?

The answer to this last question needs no stating by this writer. However, let it be remembered that to attempt to teach that the tabernacle of David is yet to be rebuilt is revealed as a denial of God. What, then, about the business of having "conventions" (that isn't what they are officially called) to encourage conformity to a popular view on matters facing the churches today? What constitutes a denial of the authority of the scriptures, yea, even a denial of the Holy Spirit?