Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 20, 1958
NUMBER 26, PAGE 6-7b

The Devil Changed The Script

S. R. Tipton, Hope, Arkansas

God said to the first couple, "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Gen. 2:16-17.) In process of time Satan came along and "changed the script", by saying, "Ye shall not surely die." (Gen. 3:4.) Since the dawn of creation man has fallen prey to the "wiles of the devil", many times because he "changed the script". This study is to point out some such instances.

As we read in the second chapter of the book of Arts, in fulfilment of divine prophesy, the church of the Lord was established. In the body, or the church, God set the members in as it pleased him. (I Cor. 12:28,18.) God's order from the beginning of the church was that there should be "elders in every church" to "oversee", to "feed", and to "watch for our souls". That there was to be no exception to this divine rule is evidenced by Acts 14:23: "And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed." Later, when the apostle Paul wrote to Titus, he said, "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:" (Titus 1:5.)

The divine order concerning the jurisdiction and the authority of the elders was, and is, limited to the congregation of which they were elders. Paul said, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28.) Paul was here instructing the Ephesian elders, and the fact is stressed that they were over the flock at Ephesus; they were to take heed to themselves, and to the flock at Ephesus, to feed it. This passage limits the authority of the elders TO THE FLOCK OF WHICH THEY HAD BEEN MADE OVERSEERS! The Apostle Peter shows the same thing to be true, by saying, "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind." (I Pet. 5:1-2.) Who will deny that this was God's order for the church from the beginning ?

That, my friend, is God's divine order for today. "Elders in every church", "taking the oversight thereof", because they are made "Overseers of that flock", their authority begins and ends there. When they attempt to exercise authority over any other congregation they are "going beyond the teachings of Christ and have not God." (II Jno. 9.)

This divine order, however, was to be changed, NOT by the will of God, but rather, BY THE WISDOM OF MEN!

Paul gave warning to the Ephesians elders, by saying, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:28-30.) Thus, according to inspiration, a departure from God's order was to soon take place. Paul further shows the greatness of that departure in II Th. 2, and shows that the departure, however minute it might seem, was to finally culminate in the "man of sin". "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." (II Th. 2:4-5.)

It is a matter of history that "men did arise, speaking perverse things", and that God's order concerning the elders was changed. Elders were no longer content to be "overseers" simply of the "flock of God that was among them", but began to extend their authority over other congregations. There were "territorial bishops", "metropolitan bishops", "national bishops", "inter-national bishops", and finally one bishop who was over all the churches everywhere — the Pope. "Romanism" is the result of a departure from God's divine order! Perhaps there were many in the beginning of the departure who cried out against it; and perhaps there were those "liberals" who referred to them as "hobbyists", "fanatics", etc. Nevertheless, the apostasy, though it was gradual in its beginning, culminated in the "man of sin", even as Paul had said.

In the sixteenth century when men began to "seek the old paths", and made a valiant effort to return to God's way, many left "Romanism" never to return. It was here that modern denominations had their beginning. Finally in the seventeenth century, there were the Lutherans, Baptists, and many others. They being filled with a zeal to spread the gospel, began to conceive ways and means, also out of harmony with God's way. They, however, were too smart to fall prey to the "wiles of the devil", at least this is what they thought. The devil also was smart, and once again showed his subtlety, as he had done in the garden of Eden. He merely "changed the script." He knew that Luther, Knox, Calvin, and others would never permit such a departure as they had known in "Romanism". In place of their departure being the "Vatican", theirs was simply known as "conventions", "conferences", "associations", and "synods". The departure was the same, only the "Devil has changed the script." Congregations were no longer independent, and "autonomous", but were governed by "boards", and "conclaves", having "centralized control and authority." Some of these, such as the Baptists had a "voluntary" surrendering of "autonomy", but nevertheless, it was and is a surrendering of "autonomy". Others, such as the Methodists, was a "forced surrendering".

Among our own brethren a plan began to be formulated by which the congregations of the Lord's people could, they thought more effectively, engage in preaching the gospel, in this country and in foreign lands as well. This plan, started gradually through movements known as "county cooperation meetings", "state cooperation meetings", and finally "inter-state cooperation meeting." These for the most part were more or less localized, and from the very first opposition to any movement toward organization was not voiced generally by everyone. However, even to these "cooperation meetings" objections were made by some, who no doubt realized the danger that was involved. These good brethren were honest in their convictions and had seen the mistakes made by the various denominations around them which had led into councils, associations, and "centralized control." In spite of this opposition, however, the "cooperation meetings" continued. On page 137, Attitudes and Consequences, by Homer Hailey, we have this statement: "In 1835, a Mr. Winans wrote the Editor of the Harbinger, reporting the meeting of churches in Ohio for the purpose of selecting one or more evangelists and raising his support by mutual cooperation. He was forced to conclude the report, however, by saying, 'But I regret to add that some of the brethren are opposed to the measure. They so much fear that we will fall into some of the old sectarian tracks, that they would prefer idleness to the doing of anything.' "Others also thought there was too much warnings of danger being attached to the "cooperation meetings", and in the matter of "how" cooperation among churches of Christ should be carried out. These fears were well founded, as time and history have well pointed out.

These "cooperation meetings" continued with growing momentum, until in October, of 1849 the American Christian Missionary Society was formed. That day in 1849 has been, and will be well remembered, by all who are content to "walk in the old paths."

As we look back now on the gradual development of the American Christian Missionary Society, we can well see that many good and honest brethren fell prey to the "wiles of the devil." Centralized control and oversight is the result whether flying under the banner of the "Vatican", the "associations", "conventions", "synods", or the "American Christian Missionary Society", only THE DEVIL CHANGED THE SCRIPT!

When we of today begin to drift away from God's order of things in the New Testament Church, and when elders begin to exercise control, begin to plan a brotherhood work, receive and disburse funds for many congregations, such as has been done in the Herald of Truth, and other brotherhood projects, the church is in for the same thing now as in time past, only THE DEVIL HAS CHANGED THE SCRIPT!

Let us ever be content to "speak as the oracles of God", and let God's order of "elders in every church" planning and overseeing their own work, limiting their authority to the "flock among them" be followed by all today. Let us not impeach the wisdom of God by devising and enacting plans and schemes of our own wisdom and choosing out of harmony with the will of Jesus Christ.