Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 7, 1957
NUMBER 27, PAGE 1,10b-11

Modern Problems Confronting The Church -- No. IV.

J. P. Lusby, Amarillo, Texas

To bring into the worship of God a practice not authorized by what the word of God says is transgression. To teach doctrine untaught by Inspiration is sinful. To commit the church to work unauthorized is going beyond what is written. To wear religious names and titles unknown to God's book is folly. To depart from New Testament organization in religion is disastrous. To act where the scriptures are silent is presumptuous.

David prayed: "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression." Psa. 19:13.

We are now ready to consider the question:

What Is An Innovation?

What constitutes an innovation? God charged the priests: "Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed differences between the un-clean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them." Ezek. 22:26. To prostitute holy things to secular ends is to profane them. To wrest the law of God from its true meaning that it might seem to sanction our preferences is to desecrate it. To use that which is sacred for secular purposes is sacrilegious. To use that which is unclean in religious service is to defile the temple of God. It is calamitous to bend that which God has authorized in religion to our own advantage; it is catastrophic to attempt to incline God to accept that which he has not authorized. We must make a distinction between the sanctified and the common. The priests were required of God to "teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean." Ezek. 44:23. They not only failed in this requirement, but were chief in ignoring the distinction.

The two sons of Aaron the high priest and nephews of Moses "offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not." Lev. 10:1. It was not the presence of a prohibition that made the fire strange, it was the absence of a command. It was strange fire and rejected of God and brought the wrath of the Almighty down upon those two young men, not because of the presence of a prohibition, but because of the absence of a command authorizing that fire. The fire they should have used was the "fire from off the altar before the Lord." Lev, 16:12. It was a perpetual fire. It should not be allowed to go out, an act of negligence; and it should not be put out, a deliberate act; but it should ever be burning before the Lord. Lev: 6:12,13. The reason the fire Nadab and Abihu used was "strange" was because it did not come from off the altar. They might have reasoned: "Fire is fire and will burn regardless of where it comes from. It is the condition of the heart that counts, and not the outward ceremony anyway. To restrict us to this particular fire makes it a little too legalistic, and we have liberty — to get fire from any place we please. This fire is just as hot as that fire. Moreover, it is conveniently near. It appears to be the part of wisdom to use it. Besides, where did God say thou shalt not use it?" They could have reasoned like that.

God punished the sons of the high priest and nephews of Moses the lawgiver. God is no respecter of persons. He reached right out into the royal family, "and there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." Moses said to Aaron: "This is it that the Lord spoke." Aaron, this is the very thing that God said. Here is the application of the law that God gave when he said: "I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace." Aaron was about to complain. He had seen his sons die a horrible death for the insignificant reason, as men view it, of getting the fire there instead of here. Moses stopped the complaint of Aaron before he could express it, and said this is the very thing God was talking about. The lesson to you and me is that we cannot get within worshiping distance of God without doing what God commands to be done.

Nadab and Abihu introduced an innovation into the service of God. They made no distinction between the sanctified and the common. They paid the supreme penalty.

Any practice in worship, any designation in name, any doctrine in teaching, any act in work, any structure in organization unauthorized by the word of God is an innovation.

Some one exclaims: "We are doing great things for God!" Friend, you cannot do anything for God that he has not authorized to be done. The New Testament concept of the church is full and complete. It does not need a lot of things humanly authorized which are going on today.

We have had innovations in doctrine — the premillennial heresy. We have had innovations in worship — mechanical instruments of music. We have had innovations in work and organization, and are experiencing the same again in our day — the Missionary Society in days gone by, and the Benevolent Society and the Sponsoring Church in our day.

The Sponsoring Church

The Sponsoring Church sends a representative to make a survey, then makes a report to the brotherhood, then rents a suite of offices and employs a bevy of secretaries, floods the brotherhood with propaganda of all kinds and calls upon the churches to assume, as they put it, the support of its program. Next come mass meetings working up emotional fervor. Superior intelligence is claimed. The implication is: "We have the ability to do it from the standpoint of wisdom, but we do not have the ability to do it from the standpoint of money, and therefore with our brains and your money we will do a great work for the Lord."

Evangelistic work in apostolic days was upon the basis of personal zeal and congregational activity. Each church chose its own field of labor, selected its own laborers, supported its own workers, and managed its own affairs in general without instruction or interference from a Sponsoring Church. Every church was independent of every other church. There was no tying together under a Sponsoring Church set up — or any other kind of arrangement. The local churches of the Lord Jesus Christ moved in their congregational capacities alone, Go through the book of Acts and see how the inspired men operated and how the churches worked under apostolic supervision. Everywhere the inspired preachers went they preached the word of truth. They disputed with those who opposed. As a result of their disputations and their proclamations of the word of God they established churches, not missions; they were evangelists, not missionaries — preachers of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They did not establish Old Folks Homes and set up Orphanages and call upon a benign brotherhood to maintain them. They did not set up soup lines and kitchens. They did not call upon the churches to send us your clothing, for we cannot preach the gospel with any degree of success without first filling their bellies and clothing their backs. But that is what some brethren were crying ten years ago, and if you didn't subscribe to their theory you were black-balled, but now they have changed their tune, even those who were so loud in affirming it, and now say that it won't work. It was not faith that changed their minds, and it wasn't the word of God; it was the fact they had experimented with it and it failed. Whenever the last can of soup was opened and the last pair of socks was given away those whom they had baptized vanished. Hardly anyone would mind being plunged under the water if he is hungry and cold and he has the assurance he will be fed and clothed,

The churches sent directly to the man in the field in the inspired period. For example, in Philippians 4:10-18 we have record of a church which "sent once and again unto Paul's necessity." There was a church which had fellowship with him, in the Biblical use of the term fellowship. He wrote: "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity," and he thought that was fruit which would abound to their account.

A brother who holds a Ph.D. degree and is a professor in Abilene Christian College, Abilene, Texas, wrote a number of articles attempting to show that there is a pattern in the New Testament for the Sponsoring Church arrangement. Other writers of the Gospel Advocate, in which brother Roberts' articles appeared, affirmed there is no pattern. In his effort to find a pattern for the Sponsoring Church he used Phil. 4:15,16, He could not find what he was seeking in the English, so he went to the Greek and exclaimed, Here it is, hote ekselthon! That proves it! And he talked about "dosis lepsis" and "doseos kai lepseos," When it cannot be found in the English the word of God does not teach it. Whenever one runs to the Greek to find a system which he cannot find in the English. it is an admission that the word of God does not teach it. It is an implication that the one hundred forty eight of the world's ripest Greek scholars, who made the Kings James translation and the American Standard translation, all missed it, didn't know what they were talking about, and he sets himself up as superior to all of them.

Do you believe, brethren, that we have the word of God? Do you believe that we have access to the truth of heaven, that we can learn all that God wants us to do to be Christians now and to go to heaven after awhile? Do you believe we can learn what to do to be saved from sin and eternally saved in heaven? Then the doctrine is found in the English translations, and if it is not there we cannot learn what to do to be saved without becoming Greek scholars — and that from a technical standpoint. Do you think that God so fixed it that my faith must stand in the wisdom of man rather than in the power of God?

When one takes the position that a plurality of churches sent to Philippi, and Philippi kept an account of the receipts and disbursements, and Paul commended them above other churches for it, it becomes an implied reproach to the churches that furnished the money but did not commend them, it is an implied reflection on them because they did not become a Sponsoring Church too and keep a record. The position would have Paul commending the Philippian church for keeping books and censoring the contributing churches who supported him because they did not set up a book keeping agency! To affirm that other churches sent money to Paul when he departed from Macedonia makes him a falsifier, for he said: "No church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only."

Phil. 4:15-18 simply teaches that a church sent to a preacher, directly, and there was no Sponsoring Church in it.

The Thessalonian church "sounded out the word of the Lord" even though they were undergoing affliction and persecution, 1 Thess. 1:6:8. The apostle said they "were ensamples to all that believe." "Ensample" means example, model, pattern.. They were a model or pattern in their loyalty to the gospel and zeal in spreading it abroad. Some say we do not have a pattern. Paul said Thessalonica was a pattern. And a pattern is to be followed, a model is to be imitated. There was a church that was spreading the gospel exactly as God wanted it done. They were not going through any Sponsoring Church — they were doing it. They are a pattern for you and me. God approved them then, and he will approve us now, provided we follow their example.

Where is one example, not two — where is one example of several churches working through the elders of a Sponsoring Church? If some one would just come up with a passage it would stop all controversy and resolve all difficulties on that point. Do you know where it is? If so, please send it to this writer.

There is no example in the New Testament of two or more churches uniting their funds and turning them over to a Sponsoring Church in, preaching the gospel. Cooperation, they cry. Better terms would be amalgamation, consolidation, combination. Church combines, centralization of control, placing the money of all churches under the authority of one church — one eldership, as they style. They forge a chain of churches under one eldership. The result: Piggly Wiggly Churches of Christ! as one brother succinctly phrased it.

Co means with, together, in conjunction, or jointly. Operate means to work, to function, to act. Cooperate simply means to work together. When one church is doing the work of God, and another is doing the work of God, they are cooperating in the work of the Lord whether they know each other is in existence or not. Each church doing its work independent of every other is cooperating with every other church in accomplishing the work of the Lord. It does not necessitate a church combination. It does not mean consolidation, it does not require amalgamation, to have cooperation.