Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 15, 1956
NUMBER 28, PAGE 2-3b

Properly Viewing The Church

C. R. Mansfield, Pittsburg, Texas

The New Testament speaks of the church in the aggregate and in a local sense. Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:19-23; Colossians 1:18, et al, speak of the church in the aggregate or "universal" sense. Certainly every saved person is known to Christ; He adds each to His body, the church. Every saved person is "called out" alike — by the gospel preached by the apostles and handed down to us as the New Testament, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14; Romans 1:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, et al. This gospel was to be preached to all the world; first in Jerusalem, and the result was "called out" people. As long as all these were "together" in Jerusalem there was but one local assembly or congregation of "called out" in Jerusalem. No one knows how long this was or eventually how many congregations were in that locality. As the gospel went to other areas the same result came about and the local congregation of "called out" made up the whole church in each case. No brother that I know -of would teach differently.

What is the proper sense in which an individual Christian should view the church? Should we view the church "universal" with the idea of influencing its faith and practice? Since Christ is the sole authority in every matter concerning not only the church in the aggregate but the local "called out" as well, whatever shall guide the individual Christian in his view of the church must be agreeable to Christ. This is revealed in the New Testament. It is nowhere else to be found. The individual Christian is bound to the limits of the doctrine of Christ, to those things which are written, 2 John 9; 1 Corinthians 4:6, et al.

The church "universal" is constantly surveyed by Christ. It is His body. He is its sole head and authority. Had Christ set up an organization consisting of certain qualified members of His body, this side of the apostles for the operation of the church universal, then there would be those in the church universal whose duty it would be to view the church in that sense and with responsibility concerning the activities of the church universal. I can find no such organization revealed in the New Testament. None can find it. It doesn't exist. Whatever commands Christ has given the church, therefore, must be viewed by individual Christians as commands to individual Christians and local congregations of the "called out." Even evangelists are to be concerned and occupied with the opportunities at hand and have no right to consider the church universal as their charge.

The called out in every locality who are as those in Jerusalem, "together," have specific direction from Christ, in the New Testament, in the matter of organization. Elder's, deacons, teachers, evangelists and every other Christian are instructed in what they shall do. Expedients to carrying out these responsibilities are matters of local and individual concern. They must, of course, be lawful according to the plain teaching of the New Testament. Whatever action one congregation may take in regard to another congregation or to individual Christians, or anyone else, must also be revealed by Christ who is head over all the congregations. We are taught to pray for all. We are taught to respond to the physical needs of Christians in other congregations, Acts 11:27-30; 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9, et al. That preachers and others when informed of the needs of this nature of brethren in a certain place should exhort brethren in various places to respond to the need is clearly taught in these same passages. That they may engage in activities that result in the assistance reaching its destination, the congregation where the need is, certainly is authorized. Before a congregation could "assume" as its "work" the administering of the assistance in, or for, the congregation in need there must be authority from the head over all, Jesus Christ, revealed in the New Testament. No such authority exists in the New Testament. It is not needed in order that the assistance be rendered as needed. Eligibility for assistance for any individual Christian is established by the teaching of the New Testament, 1 Timothy 5, et al, under the overseeing of the elders, 1 Peter 5:1-5, et al. The arrangements which Christ has made for the work to be done determine the extent and nature of the work that can be done by His authority. This determines what work is to be done.

The preaching of the gospel is to be done by all, Acts 8:4; Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Timothy 4:1,2, et al. Again we observe that had Christ set up an organization by which the operation of the church universal should accomplish the preaching of the gospel to all the world, consisting of certain qualified members of His body of "called out" people, there would be those in the church universal whose duty it would be to "assume" the oversight of this work and they would be condemned at judgment should they neglect the obligation. Christ did not set up such an organization. Search as we may, it is not on the pages of the New Testament by either command, approved example, or necessary inference. In spite of the fact that Christ set up no such operational arrangement, the gospel was preached so as to satisfy the command of Christ during the first century — Colossians 1:23 — and in the short space of about 34 years. The success of how that was done has not been matched, or even approached, since.

Many have pointed to Acts 13:1-4 as an approved example for a local church to select a preacher, or preachers, and select the "field" for them to go to and preach, then "send" them as the charges of that local church. They, it is said, are amenable to the direction of the elders of the church that sent them. Please read Acts 13:1-4 again carefully. Now, after reading it, just who was it that the Holy Spirit spoke to? What part did the "church" have to do in the matter? Who was told to "separate" Barnabas and Saul to a certain work? Who decided, and when, what the work that they were to do — were "called" to do? Who fasted and prayed, laid their hands on them, and then "sent" them away? Who designated "where" they were to go? Now, seriously, just how much example is herein set for the practice under consideration? NONE.

Evangelists certainly "went" preaching the gospel wherever it needed to be preached. Their needs, in part at times and wholly at other times, were supplied by the "called out" of many places, or by only one place at times, 2 Corinthians 11:8; Philippians 4:14-16. It the very simplicity of this way offensive to us today? It accomplished what the Head of the church wanted accomplished. Why should it be thought that it will not do the same today? Before a local church should "assume" as "its work" the business of doing the preaching of the gospel to the whole world for churches everywhere, that church must find such an arrangement handed down from the Head over all the churches. Such does not exist. Is the trouble this that preachers will not go? Or is it that the "called out" will not send to their needs, therefore they cannot go? In either case, is it not so that which ever is responsible for the failure, those who fail in their responsibility shall face the judgment of sure condemnation? When the Head over all the churches has not only directed the preaching of the gospel, but has left on inspired record the successful example of preaching the gospel to the whole world, where do we get license to do it otherwise? No other way is needed. No other way can succeed. The accomplishments of any other way, though they may seem great to human mind, will not stand before Christ at the judgment worthy of the everlasting inheritance of the redeemed.