Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 10, 1957
NUMBER 35, PAGE 6-7b

God's Greatest Work

W. W. Otey, Winfield, Kansas

From God's point of view there are no greater or greatest works. I conceive of Him as being able to create a world as easily as to make a blade of grass grow. But when speaking of His works as they relate to man, some are greater than others.

God created the starry heavens, so great that what little we may be able to comprehend causes us to bow in humble awe. He created natural law that has governed the heavenly bodies for countless ages. He created the earth, with its animal and vegetable and mineral kingdoms, and made laws to govern everything in each kingdom. These laws have not been changed or modified, so far as the knowledge of man extends. When there is any violation of God's law, whether it be by plant, animal, or man, the penalty must be suffered. Natural law never forgives the transgressor against it.

God created man in his own image, and gave him dominion over the whole earth of created things. He permitted man unlimited freedom of action — with one, and only one, prohibition. Man violated that one prohibition. Sin, sorrow, and death have reigned as a penalty to Adam, and as a consequence to all men. God made man's temporal life depend upon obedience to natural law. Air, water, and food are the basic requirements to preserve health and life. These have never been improved or modified since creation. No one has ever discovered any imperfection, or suggested any improvement, in these basic needs of man. Fail to comply with God's natural law--eating, drinking, and breathing — and the penalty is death. God is gracious and merciful, but He does not intervene to forgive any violation of His unchangeable natural law.

God gave Israel a law of moral precepts and ceremonial observances. It was to serve only to lead to Christ as Savior. He commanded that the priests should burn incense. The fire was to be taken off the altar. But certain priests seemed to think that it made no difference where they got the fire, just so they burned incense. "And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them. And there came forth fire from before Jehovah, and devoured them, and they died before Jehovah. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that Jehovah spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace." (Lev. 10:1-3.)

Who can imagine a lesser violation of what God told them to do, and how they did it? God said, Offer incense with fire. They had the incense and they burned it with fire. But they did not take the fire from the altar. Perhaps they reasoned like many of us reason today; it doesn't make any difference where you get the fire, just so it burns the incense. Denominational churches for years have contended it does not matter how you do things, just so you get them done.

After the New Testament church was restored more than a century ago, many adopted as a slogan: "The plan that works best is the Lord's plan; God is not concerned about 'methods,' just so we get the work done." Take a brief look and note where that slogan landed them. Did it make any difference where they got the fire?

God commanded that the priests must carry the ark on their shoulders, and that no one should touch it except a priest. The ark was in the house of Abinadab. David made great preparations to bring it to the place he had prepared. He gathered a multitude to take part in the great event of moving the ark to its place. He put it on a new cart, and put Uzzah and Ahio to drive the cart, while he himself went before with great rejoicing. The oxen stumbled, and it must have seemed that the ark was about to tumble from the cart and crash to the earth. Uzzah, doubtless with the very best of intentions, put forth his hand to steady the ark and thus prevent injury or destruction to the most sacred object in all Israel. He was not a priest, neither was the ark being carried on the shoulders of the priests, as God had ordained. Uzzah was struck dead. David was greatly alarmed. He put the ark in the house of Obed-Edom, and left it there for quite a while. He then commanded the priests to "sanctify" themselves to carry the ark, and declared, "For because ye did it not at the first, Jehovah made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not according to the ordinance." (See 2 Samuel 6:3, and 2 Chronicles, chapters 13 and 15.)

Referring to things of this sort, Paul wrote, "Now these things happened unto them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come. Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." (1 Cor. 10:12.)

As related to man, the church is God's greatest work. Its purpose is for man's spiritual good, not only for time, but for eternity. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up." (2 Peter 3:10.)

"Then there came to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. And he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your traditions? .... Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you saying, This people honoreth me with their lips; But their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men." (Matt. 15:1-3; 7-9.)

Washing hands as an act of cleanliness was and is right. To neglect to do so could be wrong. To perform such an act as a custom of personal cleanliness is altogether proper; but to perform this same act as a religious rite is "a tradition of men" and is "vain worship." To organize a human association or institution to relieve the needy or to minister to the distressed might under some circumstances be altogether right and proper. But to form human institutions or associations to do the work God has ordained shall be done through and by the church is a "tradition of men" on the same principle that "washing of hands" as a religious rite is a tradition of men.

God's Greatest Work

God purposed and planned the church before the foundation of the world.

It was inspired by His infinite love.

He gave His dearest object, His only Son, for it.

His wisdom devised its form and worship.

His infinite power built it.

Its purpose is to preach the gospel to all the world; save the lost; edify itself and make holy its members, care for its needy.

In it God is preparing a people to dwell with him and the angels in eternity.

Jesus gave himself for it that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.

It is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone.

It is Christ's spiritual body, the household of God, the pillar and ground of the truth; by it the manifold wisdom of God is made known.

The church is the embodiment of God's love, wisdom, and power. It was made possible only by the offering up of Christ Jesus. In short, the church is God's last and greatest work for the redemption of fallen man. Measured by any possible standard, it is beyond comparison. It is sad to contemplate that man has repeatedly tried to "improve" this great work of God by adding to its worship, substituting other organizations and institutions to do its work, carnalizing its government, and debasing and making earthly its holy mission! Let the church be the church, glorious and perfect from God's hand, and unmarred by human tamperings!