"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.X No.XII Pg.1-7
December 1948

Problems Confronting The Church - No. V

Cled E. Wallace

The associations of this week have been extremely pleasant to me, but I can't say that my work has been too pleasant. I mean that there are some things that I would rather talk about than the things that have been assigned me this week to discuss. But we all need to be told once in a while what's the matter with us. This has been a series of criticisms. I'm telling what's the matter with us. There are some things that ought to be said at times, that need to be said; and everybody can't say them; and some who can; won't say them; and it is not extremely pleasant to anybody to say them, and not pleasing to everybody to hear them. There always have been problems, there always will be. The attitude that problems and troubles and things that are alarming, ought to be ignored is not only absurd, it is unscriptural. The idea of always accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative—I believe that's the way they put it—just simply doesn't line up with New Testament teaching. For instance, I find when Paul told Timothy to preach the word, he said, "Be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine." Now just what does that mean? Well, there is a perfect standard of Christian living set before us in the example of Jesus our Lord; there is a perfect standard of what the church ought to be in the New Testament. Since nobody measures up to that perfect standard of individual life, and no church can measure up 100% to the standard of excellency found for the local church in the New Testament, we need to be constantly on the watch. We need to be led into, and sometimes whipped into line. "Reprove, rebuke, exhort." What is that but recognizing and dealing with the problems that arise in the individual life and in the activities of the church? There are some people who don't seem to know or care, but I do, and a lot of you people do; many preachers do. We care very deeply about keeping the church what it was when the Lord designed it and built it.

In the book of Jude, I find this statement: "Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." When some development arises that modifies or changes the faith, or alters the church, it is alarming to some of us, and we don't like it, and we are not going to stay quiet and allow subversive influences to gain headway unopposed. That is the spirit of the New Testament, some compromisers to the contrary notwithstanding. The faith is a definite system of doctrine revealed by the Holy Spirit. Contend earnestly for it. Why is it necessary to contend for it? "For there are certain men" The term "certain men" indicated that they had been marked, classified, and were pretty well known. "Certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our Lord into lasciviousness." If you think that doesn't belong to us; that it is none of our business; that we ought to ignore all such developments, note what Paul told the elders of a local church. "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock," because "from among your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things", contrary things, "to draw away disciples after them." Paul called them wolves, and in another connection he called them dogs. To use language like that now would give some modern degree men in religion creeping paralysis. They consider it very unchristian. But we find these warnings in the New Testament.

I have been dealing with problems, problems, problems, this week, till I feel that just a summing up might be the best thing, but we don't have time to sum up. There are other problems that need to be dealt with, and when I am through, you can say that if I left anything out, I didn't go to do it.


About divisions that arise in the local church, one of the difficulties in maintaining peace in the local church is that there are some people in every one of them that talk too much. James said. "Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that ye shall receive heavier judgment." You know, some crackpots in the church have an idea that everybody in the church ought to be a teacher. That is not so; the Bible doesn't teach it. Some people are not qualified to teach, by intelligence, nature, or ability. There is a responsibility connected with words that is tremendous and awe inspiring. James said that the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. "Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire." I've never seen a church trouble in my life that could not have been settled much more easily if a lot of irresponsible people had learned the lesson of when to talk, and more important still, when not to talk. I've known churches that were enjoying peace and getting along fine, until somebody with a long tongue and an empty head moved in from some other community and started talking. I was in a meeting over in another state one time with a big church. The song leaders I've been associated with are usually fine fellows. This song leader had been imported. I was told by responsible men in the church, that this fellow is a splendid singer, but he is working around like a termite, talking and stirring up trouble, gossiping and agitating, what in the world are we going to do about it? When there are responsible people in a congregation who are capable of saying what ought to be said, it is a pity that some critical, senseless unreasonable gossiper will keep things in a stir by talking too much.


Not speaking locally, but generally, there are some plain downright nuisances in the church—these traveling collecting agents. I remember one time where I was in a meeting, preaching twice a day, one of these fellows who had been traveling around agitating and collecting for various things breezed into town. The preacher came to me and said Bro. So and So is here, and he wants the morning service. You know those fellows feel like when they come to town, they are on the main line and everybody else has to take a sidetrack. Well, I was always agreeable; I am one of the easiest fellows to get along with in the world. I hardly ever say anything that people don't like, so I told this

preacher to let him have the morning service, You know he didn't even say much obliged, hope that we would have a good meeting, or even recognize me in my own meeting a bit. He got up and he acted as though his sideshow was the main show, and gave us a skinning because we didn't show interest in his pet project. He had been to Japan and made a failure, came back and had been running around over the country ever since collecting and skinning us preachers because we were not in Japan. We went to the same place for lunch that day, and I was letting him do most of the talking. He turned to me and said, "Bro. Wallace, why don't more of our strong men go to Japan?" I said, "I guess you mean me, but the reason I don't go is because I don't want to". He said, "Bro. So and So is going to Japan." And I said, "Well, what business has he got over there? He is a middle aged man with a family, and if he goes over it will take him five years to learn to say good morning to one of those heathen, what can he do over there?" To call it impractical and idealistic is honoring it too much. Understand me, if anybody wants to go to Japan or anywhere else in the world where there are people that he can teach, and can do any good, and he is qualified to do it, he has my good wishes, and maybe a little of my money, but the attitude that some of these surveyors, assessors and collectors are taking is a public nuisance.

Well, just to be plain about it, we have some beggars. I was over in Mineral Wells a while back, talking to the head man of a radio station with the prospect of using a little time. We just fell to talking about some of the problems. He said these radio preachers are problems, and getting to be not only a national problem, but a national scandal, making a racket out of it, and he said some of them are getting rich at it. It's ''send me a dollar please" for this or that or the other thing. Without calling any names, I'm too nice for that, we have at least one of them. "Send me a dollar please." To help him buy a printing press; then he wants some more money to pay his hospital expenses; and finally if you'll send him a dollar for the annual celebration of his birthday, he will send you his picture, and a picture of his family, and you can hang it up under "God Bless Our Home," and have something to kneel down before when you pray.

You know the problem is that there are so many brethren over the country that are willing to just run over one another to get on a sucker list like that. People that don't have enough money to pay their bills will send a fellow like that ten dollars. And by the way, when he sends out an S.O.S. he wants you to be sure when you make out the check to mark it, whether it is gift or a loan. Are his books audited? Why, of course not. Does anybody know how much he gets? Why, of course not. On the face of it; it is nothing but a racket. Of course a man who will work a racket like that won't be ashamed of it, but folks who will play sucker like that ought to be ashamed of it. I'm ashamed of them. I didn't tell my radio friend that we had one of them. I didn't want him to know it. But some good, honest, sincere, innocent souls send a dollar and think they are doing God's service. You know, well informed and sensible brethren ought to take care of a thing like that—but that is a problem also.


Then, you know, we have the problem of just a few plain nitwits, and I am not going to call any names here. One of them in particular I know is an editor, and I'm not talking about Roy Cogdill. Maybe I can help you identify him. He and the racketeers run together. He recently had an article in which, among the other haywire things he was advocating, he charged that we are unscriptural because we are not practicing the holy kiss, like Paul told the Romans to do. Before I tell you what I think about that, and I don't think it will be necessary because you can think it without being told, he wrote in another article that he had a farm and he gave it away, and he gave it away because they raised tobacco on it; and since tobacco was such a sin, he couldn't afford even to own a farm that raised tobacco, and he gave it away. Being nice like I am, I wrote a little squib and asked him if he put a restrictive clause in the deed to keep that farm from continuing in sin.

When it comes to crackpots, we have too many of them, and when they begin to sound off they vibrate in unison. You know what I mean and it constitutes a problem in the church. In certain sections of the country, you'll find them making tests of fellowship on matters that ought to be strictly matters of personal discretion. You know, some brethren use tobacco. I know a good brother over in West Virginia who doesn't like it, he doesn't like the way it looks, and he doesn't like the way it smells, I know, because I have blown pipe smoke on him. Somebody asked him if a man could be a Christian and use tobacco. He is pretty strict, but he conceded that he could but that he would be a dirty one. But in some places matters of personal discretion are being made tests of fellowship.

In one of the cities of this country, a preacher, a good preacher too, and a good man, came over to my meeting with some of his diet ideas. He ate vegetables and meat was poison to him, just on general principles, he just had "scrutientious scrumples agin it." He wouldn't eat it, but he had sense enough not to try to keep me from eating it, so as to be scriptural and all that. This good brother with his diet ideas got it in his mind that ice tea isn't fit for a hog to drink, and that coffee is not only poison but sinful, and that was one of his main sermons. I followed him in a meeting, smoking my pipe. I went home for lunch with one of the elders of the church. He told me that his wife reacted rather quickly to suggestions, and got the idea when she heard Bro. So and So preaching about tea and coffee being such a sin, that she had better quit. She had been drinking it all her life, and when she quit she got sick, and her nerves went bad, and she finally went to bed, but she wouldn't drink any coffee. This elder got tired of the foolishness, and went to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee. He took a cup and sat down by the bed and said, "Drink this. Forget about that foolishness, that preacher is not running this end of the line any longer".

You know, instead of emphasizing the fundamental principles of the gospel, some preachers are trying to turn the church into a set of Holy Rollers, Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Mennonites, or what have you, and some of us are not going to stand for it as long as we've got barbed tongues and sharpened pencils. (The brethren generally have got enough sense not to stand for that sort of foolishness. There is not much difference between a fanatic and a lunatic—they are both tics. If they want to run in a gang to themselves, all right, but we don't need the church put before the public caricatured as a set of hobbyists, fanatics and extremists.

The First Church

In considering the experiences of the early church, you'll find in the Jerusalem church essentially all of these problems and how to deal with such matters. Let's take half a dozen problems. First of all, three thousand people were added in one day and the first congregation of disciples, known as the church, came into existence—three thousand of them, and three thousand people, newly converted, brought together into the communion was a problem to begin with. Not only that, a short time later the number increased to five-thousand, and the record says "the word of God increased and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly". They multiplied. Well, there was the problem of growth. How are you going to keep a church in line that grows like that? Well, I'll tell you how they did it. You know the 42nd verse of the second chapter says "they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and prayers". The Apostles were busy indoctrinating the people. The only thing that held them in line was teaching, making them acquainted with the principles, the fundamentals of the gospel. They were right there in the white heat of the faith as it was being burned by specific teaching into their souls by the apostles and their helpers.

Later, the problems increased. (There was murmuring and a trouble over the use of fund' The apostles said that they could not forsake the word of God and serve tables, and appointed men for this business. Business was important, but it wasn't as important as preaching the gospel. Nowadays a church thinks that it can deal with all its problems by calling a preacher who is a wonder on wheels. They expect him to do all the visiting, and they expect him to hear all the calls for distress; they expect him to do the work of the elders, and some members of the church expect him to be sitting on their doorstep when they go to bed, and be there by the time they get up in the morning. In New Testament times preachers were preachers. That is a big job, and the apostles told them to select others to look after such matters while they preached the word. That is a big job in itself. They took care of the growth of the church through teaching, through this indoctrinating the people, and all through the New Testament you find that had to be done. The Scriptures are inspired of God, and are profitable for teaching, for instruction, for correction; for instruction which is in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.

The trouble today is that some churches are growing in numbers in various ways, people moving in, or coming in from various sources—growing in numbers, without either the quality or the quantity of the preaching to take care of the growth, to consolidate it. The growth of a church requires a lot of plain Bible preaching, plenty of good sound doctrine. "As ye received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and grounded and established in your faith." Some people are not rooted and grounded. They are just up in the air, roaming the skies, falling for any fool notion that comes along, because" they are not taught.


The Jerusalem church had the problem of finances. It takes money to run the right kind of a church, doing the right kind of work; it takes a whole lot of money. But there is only one source of income for the church, only one place the money can come from where God will bless the work that it does. The members of the church must go down into their pockets and give it. In the Jerusalem church there was an emergency that demanded funds. They met the emergency by selling houses and lands and bringing the money and laying it at the apostles feet.

I find such an outburst of spontaneous generosity and liberality that probably never was and never will be seen in any other church. They did it not because of the demands of the law, they did it through the spirit of generosity. When a man loves the church and the salvation of souls more than he does his money and his material comforts, he displays the primary fruits of conversion. Here is the law on the matter. "Upon the first day of the week, let each one of you lay by him in store as he may prosper". In the II Corinthian letter I find the apostle, putting emphasis on these matters. Among other things, he said this; "He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."

I never did like the idea of using corkscrew methods to get money out of people. If the church has a program that is scriptural, and leaders who are wide awake, who plan work, put it before the congregation, the members of the church will give if they have it. If they don't have it, they are not supposed to give it, and giving is to be done by equality. A man will talk about fellowship in the church. Fellowship means partnership, and if you don't do your part of the giving, if you don't do your part of the attending, if you don't bear your part of the responsibility, what you have in the church is not fellowship at all.


In this Jerusalem church there was the problem of discipline. Somebody must be responsible for people staying in line, and it is the duty of the elders of the church to exercise discipline where such discipline is required. An elder's character is such that when he approaches somebody who is amenable to discipline, he knows that what he is doing is for his good, and not for selfish power or dominance.

The church in Jerusalem was going along pretty good, and the people were giving. Barnabas sold a piece of land and brought the money and gave it to the apostles to be used. His liberality was applauded. Ananias and Sapphira saw what had happened, and to buy the favor and applause that Barnabas had won in an unselfish sacrifice in giving, they sold their land, pretending to give it all when giving only a part. Ananias and Sapphira were both struck dead. You know, if the Holy Spirit still operated on liars in a fashion like that it might take care of some of our problems now. But God doesn't settle all of his accounts at the present, there's a future. We need today to recognize that there are matters of discipline in the church. I remember a case one time where there was a woman, and she was a good woman, who talked too much. A lot of agitation started. One of the sensible, dependable, elders in that congregation, who knew his business, took her off to one side, and said, 'You're a good woman, but you're talking too much", and he gave her some good advice. She cried like she was heartbroken. He told her nothing would be said to anybody about his rebuke—it was strictly private. It got results. That is the kind of discipline we need. We need elders in the church that can do that. When somebody in a congregation is crosswise and are about to get things all in a mess, they need talking to—and if they can't take it, why, make them take it.

The church is more important than any one person in it. I've heard of churches dividing over preachers. There is not a preacher this side of heaven that is worth that much. You know Paul said, "Who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom ye believed." And Paul said himself he did not preach himself, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and a Servant for Christ's sake. If there is anybody in the church who doesn't think more of the church than he does his own pride, if he doesn't think more of the church of Christ than he does his own selfish ambitions, until he changes, or unless he changes, he has no business in the church.


There arose a murmuring among certain people in the church at Jerusalem, from the provinces, the Grecian Jews, because they said their widows were neglected in the daily ministrations. Well, whether they were or not, or whether intentional or not, that didn't make too much difference, there was the problem, and the church was about to divide over it. The apostles called the multitude of the disciples together and put the problem before them, explained the situation; and had them to select men to correct the irregularity. We need men like that with plenty of good sense and loyalty to look after all affairs of the church. When that problem was resolved in a righteous way, immediately it is said that "the word of God increased and the number of disciples in Jerusalem multiplied exceedingly, and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith".


Then there was the problem of persecution. Sometimes people think that we couldn't stand persecution today. I'm not wanting persecution but, you know, persecution would test the "wood, hay and stubble," and if we haven't got a lot of wood, hay and stubble built in on the foundation, or stacked pretty close around it, I'm mistaken.

When Stephen disputed with the Libertines--"and they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake," Well, when men that big and that important can't meet an issue, you know what happens don't you? They determined to down Stephen by fair means or foul, and they suborned men, that is they bribed witnesses, and brought Stephen before the council, and made charges against Stephen, partly true. They put just enough of the truth in a great big lie to make it plausible, and when they made their charges, they asked Stephen to speak. He knew he had a packed jury. He knew what the consequences would be. I don't think Stephen was under the illusion that he would ever make another speech, but there were some men back in those days who thought more of the truth and the gospel than they did their lives. We have some men today who are so concerned about their standing that they will compromise the truth for the sake of their reputation. I'm glad I haven't got a reputation. I lost mine a long time ago, and didn't go back to look for it. I propose to say what I think ought to be said, and what God wants said, anywhere, any time, regardless of what anybody thinks, and when I change my mind, I'll do something else besides preach. Stephen stood there and very calmly reviewed the history of Israel, from its glorious establishment by the authority of God and under his providence right through the dismal and pitiful history of apostasy, treachery and compromise, until finally he said, "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears; ye do always resist the Holy Spirit, as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed them that showed before of the coming of the Righteous One; of whom ye have now become betrayers and murderers; ye who received the law as it was ordained by angels, and kept it not". You know, they gnashed on him with their teeth, rushed him outside the city and stoned him to death. There was the first martyr. That's the way they met persecution. They obeyed God rather than men and what they could not take care of, he did.


The problem of controversy came up. You know, you can't keep controversy down among a free people. The Catholics don't have any controversy, but who wants to be one. One time a member of the rotary club made a speech on why we heeded a good strong republican party in the state of Texas. He was from Iowa, a popular man, and a smart fellow. You know now tolerance is supposed to be a major virtue, even in politics. But old Bill Newberry was there, an old Democrat, hard as nails, and he said, "Well, I guess, maybe, it would be all right, but who wants to be one."

There is no controversy among the Catholics--but who wants to be one? There is not any controversy where there is centralized authority. In totalitarian states there is no controversy, but we are a free people, and we say what we please when we please. They had controversy in New Testament times. The Judaizers trailed Paul all over the empire, hounded his every step, and some of them turned up in Antioch and pretended that they were in fellowship with the church in Jerusalem, and represented the views of the church there, and had apostolic benediction. Paul was a nice man, and had the spirit of Christ, and he did things that pleased the Master, and here is what happened. "And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and question with them"—no small dissension with them, that means they had a pretty big row. They said, "Let's go to Jerusalem with this." Paul wouldn't do it at first because it looked like a surrender of his own claims to be an apostle. But in the second chapter of Galatians, he said, "I went by revelation". The Lord told him, Paul, to go, and let the matter be settled there. Paul went, went to Jerusalem, went with Barnabas and with certain other of the brethren, and they had a private meeting of those that were of repute, and came to an agreement on the matter. It wasn't their agreement. They came to an understanding of what the Holy Spirit taught in the matter. The apostles and the elders brought the church together; Peter made a speech, Paul and Barnabas told how the Lord had blessed their work, and James made a speech that knocked the modern theory of premillennialism into a cocked hat, showing that if Christ is not now reigning on David's throne, there is not a Gentile on earth who is subject to the gospel, or can be saved. They drew up a decree which was not the judgment of the church, but what the Holy Spirit revealed, condemning the Judaizers, who were subverting the doctrine, and the controversy was settled. It never would have been settled by the soft non-combatant spirit that we are hearing extolled today.


It is tragic and surprising how little a great host of people know about the church and it work, about the plan of salvation and its essential features. Well, you can't blame some of them. Preachers are partly responsible for it. I picked up a program of George Pepperdine College. A friend of mine was going to deliver a series of addresses, over there where they are supposed to be educating preachers and leaders and teachers in the church in fundamentals, and they spend a whole annual lectureship on love, courtship and marriage. I picked up a program of David Lipscomb College, and their program for a whole lectureship was on such things as honesty, and ethics and things of that sort. What's the matter with that? I'll tell you, a Methodist can beat any of them lecturing on those things. When the church quits emphasizing doctrine and merely teaches morals, it abandons the very source of those things—they grow out of the fundamentals. If a man is not indoctrinated, there is no soil in which those things may germinate and grow. The church needs re-indoctrinating and that means positive, hard preaching that will certainly expose and destroy error in every form. Of course that will be hard on some of the preachers, but I've gotten used to it, it doesn't make a bit of difference to me, I like it. When I preach a sermon that somebody doesn't fall over about, I think there is something the matter with it.


Re-emphasis on the autonomy of the church, the organization of the church, the mission of the church, and the all-sufficiency of the church in organization is imperative. There is nothing in the New Testament bigger than the local congregation. The local congregation is the body of Christ in its community, and it selects its field, it selects and supports its workers, it raises its money, it runs its own business without interference from anybody. When somebody tells me that the life of the church, or even the prosperity of the church, depends on some institution that somebody has built, of a private character, well, that doesn't register with me, or anybody else that knows anything about the New Testament. A man can serve humanity by establishing and maintaining a school on right principles and teaching the Bible, and he can contribute a lot to the education and development of character, and all that, but when he tries to assume that a college or anything else has a monopoly on Christian education, well, he has the thing backwards. It is the church's business to engage in Christian education. It is to teach in its capacity as a local congregation, in its Bible school work, and in all of its educational program. When I read about the schools furnishing 95% of the preachers and the elders of the church, well, that is just not so. If it hadn't been for the background and training that most of them got in the home and in the church, the schools never would have heard of them. We need to emphasize the sufficiency of the church. There is not anything big enough and important enough to overshadow the Bible place that the church occupies. Nothing that threatens its independence, or in any way minimizes its importance can be allowed. Some of the schools have got so big, and become so enormous, with millions of dollars behind them, boasting of furnishing the church with this, that, or the other that they are head ed into digression. Not that there was anything wrong with the school idea, in its right sphere, but it got too big and so important that it furnished preachers for all the churches, in departments of religion that were hotbeds of modernism and heresies, and which the preachers carried right into the churches. That's a matter of history. We are not going to let that history be repeated, if we have to kill a few schools, or put them in their place.

When a false teacher threatens the integrity of the church in its doctrine, in its worship, in its organization, or threatens it in any way, it is my business, whether anybody else does or not, as far as I'm concerned, to mark him and oppose him to the extent that he threatens the church. Too many brethren are putting everything else ahead of the church. The church gets the tail end of their consideration in time, in interest, and in money. I hope that some of the things I have said will stir up some interest and some thought. Let's dedicate our lives to making the church in our generation what God wants it to be by "Contending for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."