Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 21, 1957
NUMBER 29, PAGE 1,11b-12a

Modern Problems Confronting The Church - - No. VI.

J. P. Lusby, Amarillo, Texas

Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and earth. Apostolic authority is simply another way of saying the authority of Christ. The New Testament is the standard of authority given by Christ and ministered by the apostles. In it the church as God would have it is revealed.

What Is The Church?

The church is the sum total of all that God has done in this world. His plan culminated in the church. When the scheme of human redemption was revealed there was the church representing the immeasurable wisdom of God, "the manifold wisdom of God," Paul described it. The church is God's plan of salvation.

The church is sufficient because it is the fullness of Christ, Eph. 1:22,23. Christ is sufficient because he is the fulness of God, Col. 2:9. An effort to circumvent either is evidence of a lack of faith in the manifold wisdom of God. When men go beyond the church as God designed it, as Christ established it and as the Bible reveals it, it is because they are not satisfied with the fulness of Christ. The effort to organize the church universal and to attach to it extra-organizations is prima-facie evidence of this fact.

The church universal is an organism, not an organization. It emphasizes relationship, not organization. The local church is an organization. It is not only an organism, but it is also an organization, and that emphasizes work. The whole church cannot work through the local church. No local church can become the voice of or for the whole church. The local congregation is the divinely authorized unit of function. There is no other. The church has no right to build anything but the church. The church is without authority to operate any kind of institution other than itself.

No church has a scriptural right to operate farming enterprises, dairies, cattle ranches, sheep folds, pigsties, and chicken houses. Elders are not to take heed to barnyard fowl. They are to take heed to two things only: themselves, and the church in which they are elders. "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops . . . "Acts 20:28, A.S.V. There is no other "heed" they are to take than this.

Suppose we have a section of land. A quarter of it is in irrigation, fine farming land, so we have a farm on that portion. And we have some of it in pasture, and we have a herd of cattle on it. And we have a school on it, and we place a dispensary and a hospital on it. And we have an entertainment center and all kinds of recreational facilities. I want to know, can the church operate that? You reply: "No, no, the church cannot operate that!" Let us build an Orphan Home right in the middle of it. Can the church now operate it? "Oh, yes, they are doing a great work for the Lord." Take it off, can the church operate it? "No, the church cannot operate it." Now, what kind of reasoning is that? The church can operate it when there is an Orphanage on it, but the church cannot operate it when the Orphanage is removed. Yet some talk about a double standard and two laws.

The church is sufficient to do all God wants done. The church is without authority to build and to maintain human organizations and business enterprises. I never thought I would live to see the day when a gospel preacher would affirm in public debate that the church has authority to build and to maintain human organizations through which to operate. To my chagrin I sat and listened to that very thing.

Brother Guy N. Woods, who has long been a personal friend of mine and with whom I have been associated in gospel work, affirmed in public debate that the churches have scriptural authority to build and maintain human organizations to do a part of their work. He tried to justify it by the following argument:

The Federal Government has its Post Office Department, but the Post Office Department does not usurp the functions of the Federal Government, and there is no rivalry there. The State Government has its Highway Department and there is no rivalry between them. The Masonic Lodge has its Old Folks Homes, and the Old Folks Homes do not rival the Masonic Lodge. The Catholic Church has its Orphanages, and they do not conflict with the Catholic Church. Therefore, the church of Christ can have its Old Folks Homes and Orphanages, and they do not rival the church of Christ, and are therefore scriptural.

Such was the reasoning of brother Woods in the Indianapolis debate with brother W. Curtis Porter.

(I suggest you obtain a copy of this debate and study it.) Of course, the Post Office Department does not rival the Federal Government, and the Highway Department does not rival the State Government, and the Old Folks Home does not rival the Masonic Lodge, and the Orphanages do not rival the Catholic Church. But the Catholic Church also has its Missionary Societies, and even its Foreign Missionary Societies, and they do not rival the Catholic Church. Does that scripturally authorize the churches of Christ to build and maintain a Missionary Society? The very idea is astonishing that a gospel preacher would attempt to justify practices of churches of Christ by the practices of the Federal Government, the State Government, the Masonic Lodge, and, of all things, the Catholic Church! A single New Testament passage would be more appealing to the taste of one who respects Bible authority.

To set up a Post Office Department necessitates a legislative branch of government, and to set up a Highway Department necessitates a legislative branch of government. The Masonic Lodge has legislative authority, so also does the Catholic Church. Where is legislative authority in churches of Christ? Who has the power to legislate in the churches of the Lord? Who has authority to enact laws and to set up organizations in churches of God?

To maintain that we must have human organizations in the realm of religion to do the work God wants the church to do is to deny the sufficiency of the church and to usurp the authority of Christ. That is the thing that is causing division in the body of Christ today. It is a question of authority. Where does authority reside? It is not a big ado about nothing. It has to do with the purity of the church of our God in the realm of organization and work, and is rapidly becoming a point in doctrine.

Jesus Christ has all authority, and the church under him is all sufficient, and an attempt to circumvent either is a manifestation of dissatisfaction with the church and an effort to usurp the authority of the Christ. That is the thing causing division.

The Missionary Society advocates said preaching against the Missionary Society split the church. Instrumental music advocates said that opposition to the organ split the church. Premillennial advocates cried resistance to premillennialism split the church. Now institutonal brethren whine, "You are splitting the church," because we oppose their humanly authorized innovations. The truth is, those who introduced the Missionary Society in work and organization, instruments of music in worship, and premillennialism in doctrine split the church in yesteryears; and bringing into the work and organization of the church institutions unauthorized, which practice bids fair to become a codicil in doctrine, is splitting the church today.

Due to a certain type of preaching brethren have come to the point that they want to know what does the church believe and what does the church teach? The church of Christ does not believe, individuals believe; and the church of Christ does not teach, the scriptures teach. Gospel preachers speak for themselves, not for the church. Elders can elder nothing outside the local congregation. And no group is the voice of the church.

We have the national broadcast, and it is striving to become the official voice of the church via radio and television. We have the national advertising organization, and it is attempting to become an authoritative organ of the church in the field of advertising. Whenever they make a mistake it cannot be corrected. You think it can? Try correcting it. They can put one error in one ad which would fasten itself upon the church for years to come.


The qualifications and duties of elders are clearly set forth in the New Testament, and one of them is not to be the voice for the whole church. They are not ecumenical — speaking for the whole church. There is no scriptural function of elders outside the church in which they are elders. "Feed the flock of God which is among you taking the oversight thereof." 1 Pet. 5:2. That is, taking the oversight of the flock which is among you, in which you are elders. That is the extent of Bible teaching, and should be the limit of their practice. But elders today talk about overseeing a work on a continent, separated by a vast body of water.

There is no example in the New Testament of a Sponsoring Church. There is no coordination of churches functioning through one eldership. There is no example of pressure groups — one eldership pressuring another or exercising authority over another eldership. (You can put that word "eldership" in quotation marks. I only use it in an accommodative sense.) There is no example of mail order groups, mailing out propaganda to all and soliciting funds from all the churches. They say you are free to help or not, but if you do not help they tell the church they have the wrong preacher, and they start a campaign to get rid of him. Brethren at one place tell the brethren at another place to get rid of the preacher. Why? Because he is free to participate or not to participate in our program, but he exercises his freedom and refuses to join in, and therefore it is time for him to leave. That is one of the threats and one of the dangers.

We have the pattern of the church in the New Testament. Every departure had a small-scale beginning, it resulted in a large-scale apostasy. The church once apostatized is never restored, history witnesses. Departures in the past were centered in the abuse of authority, and it is so now. That is the reason we need to restudy these basic facts concerning authority.

No church of Christ has any preeminence over another church. The size has nothing to do with it. No force is to be used except the force which is right, and that is the gospel of Christ. No action of one church, even disciplinary action, is authoritative or binding upon another church. The church of Christ has no authority to establish and operate institutions of any kind — hospitals, farms, hotels, benevolent organizations — the church might patronize, but it cannot operate one.

We want to glamorize the church and to impress the world, so we are furthering a program or project "to put the church in a better light." In a better light before whom? Are we not rather seeking to become like the nations round about us?

There is no feudal authority in an eldership. The eldership of no church of Christ has a scriptural right to solicit and hold the funds that belong to others. The government would not let a holding company operate upon the public the way some elderships operate upon the brethren. Hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars passing through their hands annually without their being accountable to anyone. The whole thing will one day fall of its own weight, and there will be a scandal that will rock the brotherhood.

No eldership can function for other elders, and no eldership has the power to say what the church of Christ believes. The Catholic Churches are tied into the Vatican at Rome. The Presbyterian Churches are tied into the Synod. The Methodist Churches are tied into the Conference. God saw to it that the churches of Christ should be tied into nothing! Not even a Sponsoring Church!

No eldership (board) existed in the New Testament. That makes it sort of an operating board. If teaching and example cannot keep the members straight, then the elders, do not have the authority of a sheriff or of the militia. Paul wrote to Titus that the bishop must hold "fast the faithful word as he hath been taught. that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." He said their mouths must be stopped; but that does not mean that one can prevent them from speaking. If it does, their mouths have never been stopped except by death. I have met denominational preachers in debate and have stopped their mouths, but they are still debating. The only way their mouths can be stopped is by sound doctrine — meeting the error they are preaching with sound doctrine and thus rendering it ineffective — showing the people the difference between truth and error so they will not be deceived. But there is presently an effort of a different kind to stop the mouths of preachers.

Elders sometimes become sort of an operating hoard for others and for other things than the church. There were no Sponsoring Elders in apostolic times. There was no concentrated system of communication in the New Testament. The disciples "went everywhere preaching the word." That is the best system on earth. Jesus Christ inaugurated it, and the apostles followed it. There was a concentration in Babel, Gen. 11, but God took care of that. Let two people tell two people the gospel story, let each of them tell two people, keep it up for sixty four cycles, and it numbers more than all the people in the whole world. That is a fine system of communication.

We must recognize these New Testament principles in the organization of the church. Let us not pretend to substitute human principles and human authority for New Testament principles and divine authority.

The Church Perfect

There are only a few kinds, but many varieties. There is no transmutation of species. God's law is "seed after his kind." Gen. 1:11-25. That is why you cannot cross a crocodile with an eagle, or a rattlesnake with a mosquito! Paul said all flesh is not the same, 1 Cor. 15:39.

The gospel of Christ was preached on Pentecost, Acts 2. It produced Christians, and those Christians made up the church of Christ. The same gospel preached today will produce the same thing now as then — Christians, members of the Lord's church. It will not produce a hybrid spiritual monstrosity. God has protected the natural and spiritual realms. Like begets like in both spheres.

God made Adam and Eve perfect. He created man as man, made him in his own image, as he wanted him to be. Man had to have the power of volition, else he would have been a mere machine. God made him perfect. By sin he degenerated.

God made the church, the new man, exactly as he wanted it to be. Eph. 2:14-16. We have criticized the denominations for changing it. God made the church perfect. The New Testament portrays the perfect church perfectly Let fallible man keep his unholy hands off of God's perfect masterpiece!

Peter's teaching was equal with Paul's, but his conduct was not infallible. The New Testament congregations were not perfect from the standpoint of human conduct. Just as we can look back and see man as God intended him to be, so we can look back and see the church as God intends it to be. We have the perfect pattern for the perfect church. Let us follow the pattern for the church as Moses did for the tabernacle. Heb. 8:5.

If ever there was a time when there was no group worshipping and walking after the New Testament order, we can still have the church because we still have the seed, Lk. 8:11. Let us not adulterate it with the philosophies and theories of men.


The church universal is an organism, not an organization. It emphasizes relationship, not function. The local church is an organization. It is the unit of function and service. God never intended it to become promotional. There should be no vying for religious advantage nor bidding for ecclesiastical power.

"Let the church be the church" — and let every church tend to its own business.