Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 3, 1956
NUMBER 1, PAGE 22-23,26b

The Church And Human Organizations

Homer Hailey, Tampa, Florida

This article is submitted in the hope that it may contribute something toward a better understanding of the scripture teaching of matters before us today. It is presented in a non-partisan spirit and in the interest of love and unity among the brethren.

An organization is a body of persons formed into a whole, consisting of independent or coordinated parts, especially for harmonious or united action. A human organization would be such a body formed by man, and governed by man, apart from divine origin or authority. The point at which a coordinated effort passes from the realm of a divine organism to a human must be determined by scripture.

By all its faithful members, the church of the Lord is defended as a divine institution, having its origin in the mind of God, and established in fulfillment of His eternal purpose. It has the deity of Christ for its foundation, the glorified Christ as its head, and a covenant sealed by His blood for its rule of faith and practice. Its divine origin bespeaks for it a divine purpose and mission in the world, and a predetermined divine destiny for its end. It is believed by all who hold to this premise that the church needs no additional adjuncts in the form of human organizations in order to achieve this purpose, but that it is all-sufficient for the carrying out of God's purpose for the needs of man, in all generations from Pentecost until the end of time.

In this paper only one proposition is discussed and defended: The church, being divine in its origin, needs no human organizations through which to do its work, and that the innovation of such organizations violate the divine will, and thereby become sinful. The exact point at which various methods of doing the work of the Lord become human methods and develop into human organizations comes not within the scope of this paper, but is being discussed by other writers in this series. It is the purpose of the writer to make this a study, rather than a dogmatic statement of opinion.

The Divine Wisdom

The first- assumption in determining any position religiously is: God is infinite in all His attributes. He is infinite in knowledge, infinite in wisdom, and infinite in His power. This means that God knows His own mind and knows man and man's needs. It means that He has the wisdom to provide perfectly for those needs as they contribute to the accomplishing of His divine purpose. Further, He has the power by which to bring to man the remedy for his needs, and through man to carry out His divine purpose to its triumphant end. Being infinite in these attributes God makes no mistakes, nor does He experiment. He knows the end from the beginning, and knows what He can do and how that which He wants done should be done. This should be axiomatic and accepted by every Christian.

Another attribute of God is immutability: He is unchangeable. All that God does is based on His own character and infinite nature. Principles are as eternal as God; they never change. Therefore, that which reflected the wisdom of God yesterday, reflects the wisdom of God today. The covenant through which God may act toward the desired end may change, but the principles of conduct do not change. Through the ages God has acted on the principle of eternal righteousness and justice. (Psalm 89:14.) Men accepted of God have been men who acted on the principle of faith in that divine wisdom to guide them aright. Faced with the apostasy of his day Jeremiah was made to cry, "0 Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jer. 10:23.) This is as true today as then. God reveals His knowledge and will and power through His chosen means. He calls upon man to submit and follow through faith.

Human organizations, created for the purpose of doing work God designed His church shall do, reflect the wisdom of men, and in so doing, reflect upon the wisdom of God. From the beginning such organizations have been efforts on man's part to do God's work man's way. When Israel asked for a king that they might become like the nations about them, they were reflecting upon the wisdom of God. This came when a common faith, which was to have held the nation together, was disintegrating, and some form of human organization must be effected in order to have a semblance of permanence. The same was repeated in the era following the apostles. Again God's people were to have been one in faith, held together over the world by a common faith, each individual functioning as an individual in his personal relation to God, with congregations caring for certain needs as stipulated by the Spirit through the apostles of the preceding generation. Again faith became confused, God's way was forsaken, and human organization supplemented and supplanted the divine arrangement. Apostasy followed. And strangely enough, with this example before them, the restorers of a past century followed the same pattern, falling into the same error.

On the premise that God is infinite in His knowledge of man's needs, and that His wisdom provides a way that is right sand cannot be wrong, and. that His power is able to accomplish His work through the provisions of His wisdom, then it follows that any substitution on man's part reflects on that wisdom. Every effort on man's part to improve on the wisdom of God, or to depart from it, has led to dire consequences.

The Divine Pattern

The divine wisdom has provided a divine pattern in all his ways. The doctrine which men obey is 'a "form" or pattern, a mold, such as metal is poured into, in which the life is fashioned. (Rom. 6:17.) This pattern of doctrine was from God by Christ, who did and taught as the Father had showed him, thus following a pattern given him of the Father. (John 5:19; 7:16; etc.) Christ gave the words to the apostles (John 17:8, 14), which the Holy Spirit was to bring to their minds. (John 14:26.) The apostles in turn committed these words to uninspired men as a mold or pattern, instructing them to hold fast the "pattern of sound words" (2 Tim. 1:13), and to commit them to faithful men who should be able to teach them to others. (2:2.)

Jesus Christ is the pattern of moral conduct in all things. (1 Peter 2:21-24.) To the saints at Philippi Paul was an "ensample" (tupos: pattern) (Phil. 3:17), which they were to follow. (Christ was his pattern, 1 Cor. 11:1.) The elders, as they follow Christ, are likewise a pattern (tupos) to the flock. (1 Pet. 5:3.) This pattern of conduct revealed by Christ, is actually God himself, since Christ is the declaration, the "exegete" of God. (John 1:18.)

The organization of the church, so far as its arrangement for service under elders can be called an organization, was after the same principle of following a divine pattern. Elders were first appointed by apostles, "elders in every church." (Acts 14:23.) Titus was instructed by Paul concerning the church in Crete, "to set in order the things that are wanting, and appoint elders in every city, as I gave thee charge." (Titus 1:5.) The word "charge," diatasso, meant "to arrange, appoint, ordain, prescribe, give order." (Thayer.) The word is used of soldiers under command. (Acts 23:31; 24:23.) It was used of Paul concerning the walk of Christians: "as the Lord hath distributed to each man, as God hath called each, so let him walk. And so ordain (give order, command) I in all the churches." (1 Cor. 7:17.) If Paul was so ordaining in "all the churches," then the walk was after a pattern, a universal arrangement. Paul's charge to Titus concerning the appointment of elders was a "charge," a command; and if a command by an inspired man, then a law of God. That law becomes a pattern, a mold, for all who follow after. This is further enforced by the fact that Timothy was also to assist in the appointment of elders (1 Tim. 3), and Paul said of him, he "will put you in mind of my ways . . . . even as I teach everywhere in every church." (1 Cor. 4:16-17.)

There was also a pattern for the collection of money for the support of the needy, as is clearly shown by Paul's instruction to the church at Corinth, which was identical with that given to the churches of Galatia. (1 Cor.16:1-2.) Since Paul was following a pattern (2 Tim. 1:13), and since instruction to all congregations was the same, it must become a pattern for the church dedicated to the doing of the divine will.

The Lord "ordained" (diatasso, as above) "that they that proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel." (1 Cor. 9:14.) At this point there can be no argument as to the right of such support. The pattern for this support is found in Paul's taking wages of churches that he might preach in certain localities. (2 Cor. 11:8.) In every instance recorded of Paul's receiving this help it was sent directly to him. (e.g., 2 Cor 11:8-9; Phil. 2:25; 4:18.) The passages that reveal to us what local churches did also reveal that they acted through no human organization nor through another congregation. (Acts 11:30; 1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 8:2; 11:8; Phil. 4:15ff.) Every church of which we have record did the same kind of work in the same way.

These examples show that the pattern of all doctrine, conduct, organization, and method of doing certain things was for the whole church, therefore for us. Congregations acted as a body of believers in one locality. Messengers were selected to deliver certain funds, but they did not constitute an organization apart from the local church they served, nor was ecclesiastical authority committed to them. They were what the word declares: messengers of the churches. There is no instance where either an organization or a congregation became a messenger for another congregation.

Further evidence of a pattern for churches everywhere is indicated by Paul's statement to the Corinthians, partially quoted above, "I beseech you therefore, be ye imitators of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, who shall put you in remembrance of my ways which are in Christ, even as I teach everywhere in every church." (1 Cor. 4:16, 17.) Not only did Paul teach the same as to his "ways," but he instructed Timothy to teach the same, and that in every church. If this was Timothy's obligation, so is it the obligation of everyone today. If it was the same everywhere, in every church, then Paul's ways in Christ became the divine' pattern for all churches everywhere throughout all time.

Human organizations designed to do the work God ordained the church to do ignore the divine pattern. The church is the realization of God's eternal purpose, which purpose was a plan or arrangement fixed in the mind of God before the world was. (Eph. 3:8-11.) There can be no plan or purpose apart from a pattern of some sort. The very plan is a pattern. A church of Christ is a body of people having obeyed a pattern of doctrine, following a pattern of conduct, and observing God's ways and will in Christ in the carrying out of God's purpose.

The Divine Objective

The divine objective is two-fold: the assisting of those in need, Whether spiritual or material, and the development of the church by the exercise of the individuals who make up the church. The spiritual need, salvation from sin, is supplied through the gospel. The material need is supplied through financial aid or by providing the particular commodities needed. In either case God has seen fit to make the church the agent through which the needs are supplied, and in so doing has thereby made provision for the development of the church through this exercise.

But this raises the question: Can the church act except in a distributive sense? It is that which each several part supplies and does that makes for the building up or the operation of the body. (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4.) Even when a congregation supports a work, either evangelistic or benevolent, the exercise of each member in the matter of giving is called into play. This brings each several member of the body into direct responsibility to the work being done. When the congregation so works, it is always a direct contact with the evangelist or with the congregation in need, never indirectly. When it is a need within the congregation, the congregation meets the need, or is assisted directly from sister congregations.

When the church acts as a lampstand, supporting the truth, it is as each "holds forth the word of life." (Phil. 2:12-15.) Thereby those holding forth the word are exercised and builded up, and hence, the church is builded up. When the church supports a work there is a fruit which increases to the account of the saints. (Phil. 4:17.) Further, there is the matter of fellowship. Paul thanked the Philippians for their "fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first until now." (Phil. 1:5.) This fellowship is a "joint-participation" enjoyed directly with the work, either evangelistic or benevolent.

When this work is done through human organizations, the church is deprived of this direct fellowship with the evangelist or with the recipients of the benevolence. Also, there is the loss of the development of the church through the development of its various members, its deacons and its elders and teachers, whose obligation it is to function in these capacities. Every work done by the church in the New Testament was done directly by the church if the work was outside the confines of its own locality, or by the various members if within its confines. In so doing, it was exercised as a body and built up by that which each joint supplied, thereby achieving this particular objective of the divine purpose. Human organizations defeat this divine objective of the Lord.


It is the conclusion of this writer that human organizations through which men seek to do the Lord's work are condemned on these grounds:

  1. They reflect upon the wisdom of God, which is infinite, by substituting human wisdom, which is finite and fallible. They ignore God's knowledge of what is best for the accomplishing of what He wants done.
  2. They ignore the divine pattern, and by their existence deny the reality of such a pattern, notwithstanding the teaching of such a pattern for congregational activity and life.
  3. They defeat the purpose of God in establishing the church according to His wisdom. The development of the church in all its parts and functions is neglected.
  4. Like mechanical instruments of music, human organizations created for the purpose of doing what God designed the local congregation to do are a substitution for, or an addition to, the completeness of the Lord's arrangement, and, consequently, cannot be an aid to the carrying out of that will. In thus violating the divine will, substituting human will and wisdom for the divine, such organizations result in presumptuous sinning.

God knows what He wants and how best to accomplish that end. Let Christians be content to yield to that will, working in congregational capacities and not creating human societies through which to do the work. This is the only infallibly safe course to pursue.