Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 2, 1956
NUMBER 13, PAGE 4-5,12c

Patterns And Patternmakers

Bryan Vinson, Houston, Texas

We read and hear a great deal about patterns today, and it is well that we do. God's Word isn't entirely void of some statements suggestive of the need for, and the becoming respect to be accorded, patterns governing properly the actions of men in obeying the will of God. Moses was told to make all things according to the pattern shown him in the Mount. (Heb. 8:5.) For many years gospel preachers have taught that Acts of Apostles affords examples of the execution of the great commission; that we see exemplified in the preaching, and attending results, of the apostles the way this commission is to be executed. Digressives have sought to ignore this and hold to the view that it matters not at all how this commission is executed, just so it is done. In a history of the "Reformation of the Nineteenth Century," edited by J. H. Garrison, we find this statement under the topic of "Lessons From. Our Missionary Work," page 499

"Fifty years of experience has taught us the inutility of wasting time in the discussion of scriptural plans for carrying on missionary work. This is bondage to the letter. Vastly more might have been accomplished than has been achieved during this half century if the time, talent, energy, and space in our religious journals, which were devoted to the defense of this or that plan, had been used for the education of the churches as to the needs of the world and the obligation resting upon Christians to carry out Christ's last and greatest commission."

Hence, can be seen in this statement an utter disregard, or any respect, for the authority of the scriptures.

We should cautiously and prayerfully seek to escape such a disintegration of respect for the word of God as touching what it teaches on the matter of how to do the will of God. If, indeed, we aren't bound by apostolic examples of congregational cooperation at all, then there should be no feeling of astonishment or sentiment of opposition to the ultra-liberalism of the Digressives. Or if, as has been voiced, we have no "pattern" for congregational cooperation, to use a popular expression, then we are free to use any system and employ any means our judgment and wishes dictate.

In the Gospel Advocate of May 3, 1956, Brother G. K. Wallace presents the view we have no pattern. His opening statement is as follows: "There is no one who objects to doing things according to the pattern. But we ask where is a pattern set for congregational cooperation? How may a pattern be violated that does not exist? After completing the body of his article, he concludes with this statement: "We are to have fellowship one with another and the Lord gave no pattern for congregation cooperation. How then can one violate a pattern that does not exist?" The difference between these two statements is found in the substitution of "can" for "may" and the adverb "then" preceding the "may," thus suggesting that something has been said between these two statements that merits the use of this term to enforce a conclusion initially assumed, but evidently, true and therefore inescapable. The evidence he offers for establishing the conclusion initially assumed should be considered. If true and sufficient, we should accept his conclusion; if not, then we should await further and stronger reasoning before doing so.

The general trend of his reasoning is that we have patterns of the saints giving to the congregation, and congregations giving to the saints, but no example of congregations giving to congregations for any purpose whatsoever. With this premised he concludes congregations can give to congregations, simply on the basis, that while we have no pattern for such, we have no pattern at all because of the plurality of patterns cited. In other words we have more than one pattern given, and thus being more than one we have none at all; hence are free to employ any plan desired. To me it seems his reasoning might be well borrowed by Paedobaptists, and employed in this fashion — "We have an example of men being baptized, but not exclusively so; we have also examples of women being baptized. Therefore, since we have more than one classification of humanity being baptized, we are free to baptize whomsoever we will, and, consequently, we will baptize our babies too." If this be not his reasoning, I shall be glad to be corrected. In fact, he extends the examples to three — congregations to saints; congregations to the individual; and saints to the congregation. From all which he concludes we have no set pattern for congregational cooperation. True, we do not have a single pattern, but is this equivalent to no set pattern? May not the exhaustion of the threefold related action here become and be a settled and established pattern for our performance of those duties and the exercise of that fellowship contemplated in this study by him?

However, are we prepared to accept his contention that the church at Antioch as such did not send to the congregations of Judea? He cites the statement to the effect that the disciples (not the congregation) determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea. If the fact that the disciples determined individually that which they, severally, gave, as determined by their respective ability, is to be taken as proof that the church in Antioch didn't do the giving, then, his next citation of scripture would prove that in Corinth the giving was done by the saints and not the church, notwithstanding the order of Paul was to the church. They were to give, every one of them, as God had prospered them. Now if giving, each one in Antioch, according to their respective ability precludes church action there, it would do the same in Corinth, and yet Brother Wallace cites 1 Corinthians 16:1 as an example of the church giving to saints, in exact reverse to his employment of Acts 11:27-30. Also, in Paul's salutation to the Corinthians, he addresses himself to "the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints." Does he mean the church is one thing and the saints another? I think not. When Paul made havoc of the church, and was persecuting Christians was he engaged in two wholly diverse actions and courses? Rather in doing the latter was he not affecting the former?

In Brother Wallace's discussion with Brother Ketcherside, he accused the latter of asking the churches to support the Mission Messenger, a paper. Listen: "Now, the Mission Messenger, is it an individual enterprise? If so, what right do you have to ask churches to support it? What right do you have to come out here and ask the churches to support it? You do ask brethren to support it. Is it an individual enterprise? If it is, what right do you have to go out here and ask these churches to support it? Why, every time you hold a meeting, I suspect, you ask the brethren to subscribe to your paper. I may be wrong. Do you? (Nods yes.) Thank you. What right do you have to ask them to do it ?" (Wallace-Ketcherside Debate, page 210.) Do you see here the shifting, back and forth, of the church and the brethren? It is altogether evident that in this instance Brother Wallace was thinking that when Ketcherside solicited subscriptions from individual brethren to his paper, he was seeking support for his paper from the church. Why, I make a distinction more pronounced than that, and yet do not see that distinction Brother Wallace strives to establish in his article!

Brother Wallace says, "If the Lord's Supper had been observed on three different days we would have no exclusive patterns for the first day of the week." True. But would such afford a pattern for all seven days of the week, or a monthly, quarterly or annual observance? That is, would we be free in every respect as to the time of our observance of it? If so, would it not destroy the monumental and memorial character of the institution? He says no one denies that we have an exact pattern for observance of the Lord's Supper on the Lord's day. I've read of two brethren who, allegedly, have said so, and they were driven to it by the inexorable logic of their liberalistic contentions. Apparently, Brother Wallace is not aware of this, and it should cause him to pause and give thought to the ultimate and inevitable position his present reasoning will lead him and others to.

Just as an unrestrained freedom as touching the observance of the Lord's Supper could destroy its monumental and memorial significance, even so will his licentious reasoning on the pattern of congregation functioning ultimate in a corruption of the organic structure of the New Testament church. Functional disorders, of continued existence, will inevitably result in organic disorders. A realization of this would go a long way in awakening brethren to an appreciation of the gravity of the developments of our time. The position of Brother Wallace in this article, if generally accepted, will lead to a condition that will fill his heart with sorrow, and cause lamentations to break forth from his lips. He has been too devoted to the church and active in pleading for the apostolic order to find solace and comfort in those conditions which shall be produced by this kind of reasoning.

For instance, in his debate with Ketcherside he castigated with just severity a situation described by him as a three year plan promoted by the latter among the churches of Christ. Hear him: ".... That is what caused this debate. This is his centralized plan to govern and control the church. I can find you where there are congregations that went under it.... They say, 'In adopting the three plan we are now carrying out.' They adopted it. We adopted the three year plan. 'And that system has proved to be the best thing for the church of any arrangement we've ever had.' What is the plan? Everybody, 'Turn everything over to me and let me run it.' Now brethren that is what we are facing." (Page 70-71, Debate.) What do we find here? Why Brother Wallace expressing opposition to a plan for the churches, and yet we find him today expressing himself to the effect that we have no pattern of any binding force. If so, doesn't Ketcherside have as much right to his three year plan as Wallace does to his? If we have no pattern, then one man's pattern should be as authoritative and acceptable as another's. Yes, they each, in this debate, recommended to the other that he either quit writing or debating. 'Brother Wallace continues to write, but I know of no debates of recent time in which he has engaged. Possibly he has taken Ketcherside's advice.

The most pronounced specimen of puerility in this article is his effort to fill the bag with the meetinghouse, the communion cups, or even cup, the baptistry, and finally, the dwelling wherein a preacher resides as furnished by the congregation. Of course with all these mentioned there is still room for all sorts of cooperative arrangements between congregations, according to his intended reasoning, and yet the digressive has been cramming the instrument and society into this same bag all these years. The command to assemble necessarily implies a place of assembling; the command to drink the fruit of the vine necessarily implies a container for this liquid; the obligation expressly recognized to communicate material support to those who preach the gospel necessarily incorporates among those necessities somewhere to live, either as afforded directly or indirectly by those supplying the support. The care of the needy and the evangelization of the world does not necessarily imply the combining of the resources of numerous congregations under the control and disbursement of a central agency, whether a board or the eldership of one congregation. So, then, to endeavor to lump all these unrelated and unparallel matters together is illogical, unfair and misleading.

This premise of looseness by Brother Wallace places him and his associates in these brotherhood programs of activity in a very serious light. It is an inescapable condemnation of the behavior of them toward others today. Let it be noted that, if there is no pattern of congregational relationship and action of force and to be duly respected, then they have no right to endeavor to bind on others one of their own. The very ground on which he predicates his right to make a pattern absolves everyone else of all obligation to accept his; they have the same right to reject one as he has to make one. This being acknowledged, then the brotherhood program advocates stand condemned for an attempt to bind on the children of God, preachers and congregations, those things con corning which he affirms God has left them free, or which He has loosed. To identify himself with a periodical and brethren who openly are recommending quarantining, segregating, marking and branding every brother and church that doesn't accept a pattern they have made and which they now say is destitute of apostolic sanction affords a most arrogant and presumptuous example of high-handed rule, as grave if not more far-reaching than the instance charged against Carl Ketcherside. It certainly looks like he is, himself, disregarding the apostolic injunction of 1 Thessalonians 4:11, which he so charitably tenders to others.