"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.VI No.X Pg.14-16
May 1944

Ancient Evils -- In The Church Today

T. B. Wilkinson

The Evils Of Compromise

Brother Witty is still working faithfully trying to mix oil and water, and in the last issue of his quarterly he repeats his same stale arguments in which he takes no position on anything, and really says nothing. Sometimes I think he is trying to prove that wrong is just the same thing as right, and then he shifts over and appears to be trying to show that right is wrong. He says it is a matter of zones, and there are three zones; the zone of faith, the zone of expediency, and the zone of vain worship.

He says some of us stand in the zone of faith and give answers that apply only in the zone of expediency; others stand in the zone of expediency and give answers that be long in the zone of faith; others, and these are the worst kind, stand in both of these zones and give answers which belong in the zone of vain worship. I do not argue with Brother Witty over his zones, he is just playing with words to keep from saying something that might alienate some of his tender conscienced readers, and perhaps to hoodwink some on the other side. What I want to know is in what zone he means to place instrumental music in the worship, missionary societies, and the human inventions practiced by the digressives?

I agree that in matters of pure expediency the law of love should govern along with sound judgment, but now just which matters of those which have caused the divisions between us does he place in the zone of expediency? If he places instrumental music and the human societies, and other human agencies, in the zone of expediency, then he has joined hands with the enemy in this fight, and does not belong with the people he pretends to fellowship. If he places them in the zone of faith then he has forsaken Murch and his plea, and condemns those who use them, and proves that they are human innovations, and therefore vain worship, since they are not mentioned in the book of faith, the Bible.

He says, some of us who stand in the zone of faith give answers which belong in the zone of expediency. Just who are the "us" and what are those answers he has in mind? Does he by any chance have in mind instrumental music, and the human societies, the things which divide the two bodies? I want to understand Brother Witty if I can, and learn what this thing is that he proposes to the churches of Christ. Does he mean to say that in our opposition to these innovations we are opposing only expediencies, and they are not matters of faith? If he does then he should not include the churches of Christ in his "us"--himself maybe, but not those who are informed on the grounds of our opposition.

Brother Witty does not represent the churches of Christ in this mess in which he has entangled himself, he is really representing the other side, and working in their interest, and the only possible effect his efforts can have is to weaken confidence in the stand we have taken. On its face the Quarterly pretends to be a joint effort of the two bodies of people to find a common ground upon which they can unite, but the pretension is a fraud and a cheat. Brother Witty may be the victim of too Murch cunning on the other side, but if has set out to deliberately work upon the churches of Christ to cease their opposition to Instrumental Music in the worship, and the societies, he could not do a better job.

Of course, he does not personally place these innovations in what he calls the zone of expediency, he leaves that for numerous other writers in the same quarterly, and in the same issue, to do for him. As a sample of what is found in various articles in the quarterly, aside from Brother Witty's own contribution, I note that a large percent of the writers began their work in the no-organ branch, or they got their education in the no-organ schools, but immediately abandoned their connections with that wing when they got into the work actively. There must have been a reason for this change of sides, and whether expressed or not the plain implication is that they are not progressive enough to suit them.

One writer, a Mr. B. H. Miller, is certain that the Lord has given no divine pattern of worship, public worship he calls it, except in the one item of breaking the bread. He says all forms of worship, except the breaking of the bread, both private and public, are almost entirely left without mention. Yes, he admits, we are commanded to worship; not in Jerusalem, or Samaria; but time and place, and just how, or under what circumstances, this "spiritual worship," which he admits Jesus enjoined, is nowhere given by uniform divine pattern, and then remarks that we may have made a great mistake at this point.

He admits that the early Christians returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God, and that they continued "steadfastly in the apostles doctrine, and fellowship, in breaking of the bread, and in prayer, and in singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, but whether as public, or private devotions, is not stated." Thus it appears from this writer that the little matter of "spiritual worship," was left entirely to the individual, as to when, or what, or how, the Lord left it wide open for man to choose his own.

But that is not all he says in that same issue, he says of that singing of spiritual songs, whether this worship is to be public or private is not stated, and whether with or with out the customary use of instruments is not specifically stated. Notice the skill with which he slips in that word "customary;" as if the fact is well known that they used such instruments in their singing. Just how he thought they sang with instruments is just a little mystifying, too. I mean, of course, mechanical instruments, like an organ or a harp, or fiddle. Paul said, sing spiritual songs, but said nothing about playing them. And we can be positive that they did not sing with a musical instrument. Even the dance is not mentioned in connection with their singing, or a brass band. They were just told to sing spiritual songs, and to teach and admonish each other in so doing. I suppose it must have been in public if they were to mutually edify each other.

Now when we consider Brother Witty's connection with the movement, and the article which he wrote in this issue, going no further than he did, and add to it the further arguments contained in these other articles, there is only one conclusion possible: those who oppose the use of instruments, and the human societies are just a faction of old cranks who are making a big to do over nothing, and all that is needed to secure this much-to-be desired union is for them to close up shop, and come over and join in the good work.

Union in the work of the Lord is very much to be desired, but union without unity would be a farce. Union on the basis proposed by these brethren is the sheerest nonsense, and a wicked farce. It is wicked because it would propose a compromise with the wisdom of man who has placed his puny wisdom above the wisdom of God, and proposes to tell the Lord what he wants of His people.

The things which you propose, Brother Witty, are impossible, truth and error will not mix, and never again will truth compromise with error as it did in the great apostasy. There are too many faithful men of God, standing as watchmen on the walls of Zion, with open eyes, and faith unfeigned, for such a compromise to get by them, and again betray the church of God to Satan's cause.

I am sure that Brother Witty thinks he is doing a good work, but he is unwittingly playing into the hands of cunning men. These men are trying to do by craft, and guile, that which they failed to do in open combat. They are smart enough to know they cannot do in that way. But with the help of Brother Witty, and others whom he can influence, they hope to break down the morale of the opposition, and by playing upon the strings of love, charity, and the desire for union, woo them over to the embrace of the digressives. Yes, it is only because of lack of love, and sweet spirited charity, and brotherly kindness, that these old fogies will not fellowship our innovations, and it is such a small thing, an expediency, over which they (these cranks) have brought about this division. Drop all opposition to these innovations and we can all be one. One--but in whose service?

The Evils Of Human Authority

The evils which trouble our churches today are not peculiar to this age, they had them in the days of the apostles, and that must be the reason we find something in their writings which covers almost any condition that can arise. In the third Epistle of John we read about this ancient church boss, and we also learn what the old apostle thought about him, he says,

"I wrote unto the church, but Diotrephes who loveth the preeminence receiveth us not. Therefore, if I come I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words, and not content therewith, but neither doth he receive the brethren himself, and forbiddeth them that would, casting them out of the church." (3rd John 9-10).

This is one of the shortest books in our New Testament and that might cause some to over look its importance. The Lord preserved it for us and that is sufficient to establish its importance. It appears to be a personal letter addressed to Gaius, a brother in the Lord, and personal friend of John, and a member of the church in Ephesus. It is almost sure that this church was the one in Ephesus, which was one of the most important churches of that day. Diotrephes was probably an important man, and a bishop of the church, and he seems to have constituted himself a "church boss," assuming powers which do not belong to the office of bishop. The apostles appointed bishops in all of the churches, but they constituted no church bosses to Lord it over God's heritage.

It appears from this short letter that the apostle needed the help of this church in some work that he had in hand, and he sent brethren to the church at the time he was confined on the Isle of Patmos, and with them he sent a letter which was addressed to the church, or at least it was meant for the church. It is supposed that this letter was what we know as the first Epistle of John, and it was written to accompany his gospel, and the book of Revelation, written at the same time, and to introduce them unto the churches, and it is supposed the apostle was asking help from this church in circulating his writing among the churches which we know was a difficult thing to do at that time.

They had not printing presses, and there was only a single copy of the books John wrote while on Patmos, and to circulate them, which was a most urgent need at that time, copies would have to be made by hand and this required much labor, and considerable cost. John was very old and realized his days were about over, and the modern errors his books were written to combat were spreading rapidly, and these books needed to be placed in the hands of all the churches. He was simply asking help from the churches, especially strong ones like the church at Ephesus. Some of the members of the church wanted to help in the work, among them Gaius, but Diotrephes, the church boss, turned thumbs down on it. He refused to let the brethren John sent be heard in the church, and when Gaius and others took up their cause he put them to silence, and even put them out of the church.

But not content with this he "prated against" the apostle with malicious words, and used his position as church boss to silence all opposition to his course... He judged the matter himself, settled it to his own satisfaction, and decided there was nothing to bring before the church. He forced the church to accept his ruling, and put those out of the church who wanted to hear the brethren from John. That is the way church bosses work today, and woe betide that brother or sister who questions their usurped authority. Like Diotrephes, they silence them, and even put them out of the church as disturbers of the worship.

Just what those malicious words were that he used against John and what the apostle wanted them to do, John does not inform us, but we can have a pretty fair idea of what they were when we consider all of the circumstances, and also the methods by which the church bosses rule today. His arguments and reasons would be about the same ones church bosses use today to justify an arbitrary course in settling matters that concern the whole church, themselves.

If the business John was asking this church to help in was the circulation of the five books, or three books at that time, which he had written, their contents might give us a pretty clear idea of why Diotrephes refused to let the church have anything to do with the matter. The Ebionites, the Cerenthians, the Gnostics, Nicolaitans, and others, had filled the churches with destructive heresy, and the books John wrote were to combat those very evils which had arisen in the world after the other books of the New Testament were written. The other apostles had died before these heresies came into prominence, and they had written nothing about them, since the evils did not exist.

No doubt the plea of this venerable apostle, "brethren we are drifting," fell upon deaf ears in the church where these evils existed. Many of the younger members, and some of the older ones, and some of them men of prominence in the business world, would be saturated with them, and they wanted to be left in peace with their heresies. Diotrephes might not have been contaminated with them, but was interested in holding the church together, and now John was getting old, and he was getting cranky on some points, and what he was advocating in those three books would bring great trouble to the church.

We know that he did prate against the apostle with malicious words, and the things I have mentioned are about the least he could have said, and they are the stock in trade of church bosses against preachers who cry out against evils that creep into churches even to this day. Such preachers soon get on the black list with the strong (?) churches, who are doing things (?) with boy pastors who are wise enough to remain quiet, but do know how to dress well, wear proper ties, and keep their shoes polished, and can meet polite society.

Don't get me wrong on this particular point. I do not object to the preachers wearing clothes, even nice clothes, neither do I object to young preachers, who preach the truth and stand up for it, nor to men who can meet the public. But it takes more than good clothes and a polite manner to make a gospel preacher who will please the Lord in His work. We know that this particular church was honey-combed with these very heresies about which John had written so forcibly. And we know that Diotrephes did love the pre-eminence, did refuse to let the apostle's emissaries be heard in the church, did prate against the apostle with malicious words, and did put the brethren out of the church who wanted to help the apostle.

With this must conceded we can see what a bombshell such books as John wrote on Patmos would be in that church. It would alienate all of those who held to those heresies, and to this church boss they probably loomed as his most prominent members, and he must keep the peace at all costs. No doubt some in the church did not partake of those errors, but Diotrephes had them under control, or he had already put them out, and he meant to keep a tight rein over such members, and these new books by John would encourage them to rebellion.

He had what he considered a most plausible case against John, he had raised questions in these books that no other inspired man had dared to raise, at least no other had raised them, and even the Lord Himself had never raised these questions, and the church had prospered for thirty years without these books. He would not consider the fact that these errors had not arisen in the world until the other apostles were dead, he just remembered that Paul, Peter, and James, had passed them by without mention, and now it ill-became this old apostle to drag them out to disturb the peace of a church which was doing great things for the Lord.

No doubt he considered he was doing well with his church, he kept them at peace by exercising his authority over them, and no doubt some influential people had entered his membership on that very account. Then he no doubt had some fine young preachers, men who could mix with the higher-ups of the city, and some of them held to these new ideas. Even if they were errors, as the apostle was claiming in these books, what possible harm could they do just as long as the church prospered, and the people came, and gave their support?

Besides the apostle had used some harsh language in the books. He called them anti-Christ, said they knew not God, called them liars, and said they were murderers, and Diotrephes could not permit such things to be said of some of his prominent members. Of course, there were some old members in his church who wanted to hold fast to the fundamentals of the gospel, and mumbled in their whiskers about these new doctrines. But Diotrephes was the elder, and had the pre-eminence, and could keep these few old fogies under control. They probably did not pay much anyway, and had little influence in the city, and if they got too hot-headed he could put them out without much loss to the church.

He could probably make the point that his church had its budget made up for the year, and every dollar they could raise was allotted to some particular work already, and this new work would unbalance their budget. He had a place for every dime they could raise, there was the local work to support, and missionary work they had contracted, and then there was the poor, the widows, and the orphans, and the church had all it could possibly handle.

Then the church had got along without these books for a long time, and prospered, and they are so drastic on these new points and the church is already having trouble over these very points, and these books would encourage that trouble, and cause the matter to get out of hand. The church is doing well under my leadership, and we are satisfied to let well enough alone. So he clamped down on the proposition, silenced the members who wanted to help John's emissaries, put them out of the church, and showed them he was still boss.

It was to forestall just such church bosses as Diotrephes that the Lord ordained a plurality of bishops in the churches... It is some harder for men who love the pre- eminence to boss the church where they have a number of men with the same authority, but many times they do manage it. That is also the reason the authority of the bishops is limited, they are not to be lords over God's heritage, but ensamples to the flock.

It was these church bosses that brought on the great apostasy, and the pope of Rome is an outgrowth of this very evil. Then we cannot wonder that the apostle would take this one to task, and would write as he has about the evil he was doing. They have been present in some churches in all ages and, of course, we have them today, and their work always results in evil. It is not always the older men who develop this characteristic, sometimes they are comparatively young men, should not have been appointed to such a position, but who are being pushed forward for one reason or another, who lose their heads with authority, and some to believe that they are indispensable to the church.

Let it be understood that nothing I have said in this article is meant to reflect upon the work of thousands of God fearing bishops in churches all over the land who are carrying out the work of the Lord in a manner that is most gratifying to all real lovers of the truth. Neither would I reflect upon the great work that thousands of young preachers are doing, even boy preachers, without them the church would soon be without preachers entirely. Most young preachers that I know are sound in the faith, and they stick close to the fundamental truths in their teaching, and do little speculating.

If bishops were not necessary in the churches the Lord would not have ordained them, and there is no higher office, or position, in this world to which a Christian can attain than that of bishop over the church of the Lord, and they are due all the honor we can give them.