Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 17, 1956

Considering Church Authority

Vaughn D. Shofner, Camden, Arkansas

The present day treatment of the significant inherent in the scriptural teaching of the church as a group is alarming. Seemingly, church members in general have abandoned sincere study of the word Of God regarding the church and her authority, and therefore are unable to "see" many threats and dangers which are abroad.

To make the condition more alarming is the fact that many unscriptural ideas regarding the church come by way of the teachers in "our" institutions of higher learning. Some deadly spiritual disease must have its poisonous talons deep in the heart of the college professor who can not see any difference in the action of a church member and the church as a group — that is, one who thinks the church can do anything the individual member can do. Yet, we hear them say it far too often. Methinks the inordinate desire to justify church supported colleges and the lust for great organizational moves in the church are compounded to produce the anaesthetizing potion.

Coextensive with the history of man can be seen the idea of individual and group activity in God's plan. God has always required his people to assume individual responsibilities, and he also has always required his people to assume group responsibilities. These two requirements are necessarily complementary to each other, but they can not be consolidated.

Friend, please notice this teaching in the Old Testament: "And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings." (Lev. 23:1-3 It is not hard to understand that the Lord here required his people to engage themselves in "holy convocation's," and it is equally as easy to understand that part of their time was not spent in the "holy convocations." Yet, common sense shouts that they were God's people in either of the realms of activity, and reason concludes that God's people are called upon to respect these two realms of activity. "Convocation" is the act of "convoking" (cum: together, plus vocare: to call, and certainly if they could have "seen" no difference in individual acts and acts of the "convocations" they could have eliminated the convocations.

The Passover was included in "the feasts of the Lord." Pentecost was another convocation. Likewise, the day of atonement and the feast of tabernacles were included in the holy convocations. A small amount of sincere consideration presents the fact that there was a difference in individual actions and the actions of these appointed meetings between God and man.

Gentle reader, let's apply the principles to our day. The very meaning of the word "church" presents the idea of a meeting between God and man — called out of the sinful state to become God's people. Now if the individual church member is the church and what he does is the church acting, as some among us teach, then worship programs of a public nature, houses of worship and the act of publicly 'assembling together to break bread on the first day of the week can be eliminated. Such would demand that these things could be done as an individual Christian without assembling together with others.

And, if what the individual church member does is the church acting, over just what does the New Testament give elders the oversight? All who are conversant with New Testament teaching know that the oversight of elders is confined to the group activity of the church and what effects that group as a "holy convocation." The elders have oversight of the activity of assemblies, and that which affects these meetings with the Lord. The elders lead as the New Testament guides, and in this way the acceptable group action, church action is the result.

When we say, "the church of Christ meets at a certain place," we speak correctly, because the church as a group cannot exist until such holy convocation takes place. We are individual church members at our jobs, and influence the world about us as such, but we do not do the work of the church as we engage in secular labors. Anything which is done "in the name of the church" certainly must be according to the organization of the church as a group in some locality and must be agreeable with the New Testament, the law of the church.

When you hear of the Ladies' Bible Class, Young People's Class, Ladies Aid, Circle Two, or other such organizations boasting of their works, you may know that they have departed from New Testament teaching. There is no way a person or group can correctly claim this authority of the church. Elders may send me on a mission, may give the ladies who meet for a certain Bible class a job to do, but when we enter this work on the ledger as being done in the name of a certain group or person within the church, we at that moment have eliminated the need of the church by an organization, or person, which is given equal authority with the church.

The willful and indifferent failure to "convoke," assemble on the Lord's day, and other appointed assemblies, is rebellion against the Lord's plan for church activity, "holy convocation." To claim the right to partake of the Lord's Supper in your home because of your indifference to assemble, or on the beach as you play, is to charge that the convoking, assembling to break bread on the first day of the week is of no value. To claim that you have the individual right to give as you are prospered separate from the group activity and plans of the church is to flatly deny the need of God's plan which includes the church and its activity.

Gentle reader, notice this! When we elect a congressman we understand that his work must be directed through Congress in order to be authoritative and to accomplish. We understand that "Congress," the noun, is the act of congressing, assembling and describes group activity; and that the individual activity of the congressman while Congress is not convened and which is not by authoritative dispatch of that group is not the activity of Congress. We reasonably "see" that there must be group activity and the delegation of authority according to the laws regulating that body before anything can be called an act of Congress! For the Lord's sake and for the peace of his church, let's act as sensibly as citizen's of the kingdom of God Almighty!