Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 22, 1955

"Which Knew Not Joseph"

Obert Henderson, Pullman, Washington

The story of the fortunes of Joseph in the land of Egypt is so well known to us that it needs no re-telling here. We know of how Joseph saved Egypt, and of the resultant high esteem in which the Egyptians held him. And we know too, of how, because of Egypt's esteem for Joseph, the Israelites were well received in the land.

Later, the Egyptians began to persecute the Israelites. They afflicted them, and made them to be slaves. The story of this affliction and slavery is prefaced by these words, "Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph." The Egyptians had forgotten. The passing of time had erased from their memory the events of past years. They forgot what Joseph had done, and the debt they owed to him and his brethren. The story was no more told in Egypt, so they "knew not Joseph."

Today, with reference to some past events in the history of the church, we are a generation "which knew not Joseph." We have grown up, unaware of some past difficulties within the church, and the disregard of basic, fundamental principles of the New Testament that led to those difficulties. Oh, we know of the fact that these events once took place, and these difficulties were once experienced, but actually know very little about them.

The controversy over the Missionary Society is a case in point. We know that it played a part in the division that occurred in the body of Christ a number of years ago. And we know the Missionary Society was wrong. Haven't we often heard preachers say, "The gospel is not to be preached through a Missionary Society"? But we know very little of the reason why! I have heard men speak against the Missionary Society, but until recently, can't recall hearing anyone set forth with clarity, and in detail, the New Testament principles involved, and show how and wherein the Missionary Society violates them. Until fairly recently, just how many sermons have you heard on the organization, autonomy, work and sufficiency of the church? How often did you hear these matters stressed, and a warning given against digression on this point?

It seems that we had accepted these matters as being finally settled, and felt that there was no need for any further stressing of them, nor for any further sounding of warning. We thought that surely there was no danger of these things arising again. The story ceased to be told. We forgot. That such failure to stress these matters was a mistake is evident. These same problems have arisen anew.

Because of this lack of teaching on the point of the New Testament principles involved in the organization of a Missionary Society and all kindred institutions, and because of the failure to stress the sufficiency and completeness of God's pattern for the church, and because these matters have been generally forgotten, we are a generation "which knew not Joseph." Brethren today are using the same sort of fallacious reasoning as the Missionary Society advocates used, to try to sustain their programs for universal church action, such as the "sponsoring church" set-ups, the "Herald of Truth," etc. Wehave forgotten where such a path will finally lead.

It has been repeatedly pointed out by different writers that there is an uncanny similiarity between the arguments advanced by J. B. Briney and others in their defense of the Missionary Society, and those advanced by brethren today in their defense of, and contentions for, their "universal church arrangements" for carrying on the work of the church. The result of the failure to continually emphasize these fundamental truths involved in such activity is now manifesting itself. The lessons that were learned so painfully three quarters of a century ago are being learned again today, and with equal pain to the body of Christ.

Truly, we are a generation "which knew not Joseph." May God help us to learn. May the story be told again, that brethren may see the end result of all such plans and programs for the whole church to work through one agency.