Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 26, 1960
NUMBER 4, PAGE 1,13b-14a

What Would Jesus Do?

John H. Tull, Grand Prairie, Texas

We heard the bold assertion recently that some members of the church don't know as much about Jesus as a Methodist does; and we are inclined to agree with it. The idea is that we are taught so much about obeying a system of commands that many of us are converted to a system or plan instead of Christ. We stress obedience to the simple plan of salvation — faith, repentance, confession, baptism — (and its simplicity itself, the Lord chose the foolish things to confound the wisdom of the wise, 1 Cor.1: 27) to the extent that many people have merely gone through a form of obedience. The emphasis has been placed on baptism so strongly that people have not come to believe on Jesus Christ and him crucified and have not genuinely repented of their sins, but they have come to believe in baptism. We are not to believe in baptism, but to believe in Jesus Christ, and because we do, we will do what Jesus told us to do. We point our finger at the denominations and tell them that obedience from the heart brings about freedom from sin — and let us by all means continue to do this. But, "Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? "Rom. 2:21. The emphasis should be placed on Jesus Christ, not a plan. However, we are not to swing to the opposite extreme — to "faith only." We must obey that plan, and christians should work and worship with a local congregation of God's people, and in this also they must follow a plan or pattern. But they follow the plan because they are converted to Christ. We repeat, too many "of us" are converted to a plan, and we are persuaded that this is one reason why we are confronted with church trouble today. We are filled with half-converted people, who still want to follow their own dictates and live the same kind of life that they lived before they obeyed that plan.

Returning to this idea that "we" don't know much about Jesus, we would re-late this incident, One sister was shocked when she found out that Jesus called Herod a fox (Luke 13:32). Lately, even many of our brethren have arrived at the conclusion that it is wrong to debate. Have they not read the debate Jesus conducted with the Pharisees in John chapters 7, 8, and 10? Jesus is pictured as being meek and lowly. When it came to attacks on His own person, He wouldn't raise His hand to defend Himself. But when it came to dealing with the various religious leaders of His day, He was bold to speak out. In fact, He did more name-calling than many preachers are permitted to do today. Notice Matthew, chapter 23 — "hypocrites," "blind guides, "fools and blind," "whited sepulchers," serpents," "generation of vipers," etc.

Jesus, meek and lowly, but on two occasions He drove out the money-changers and those that sold doves, in protest against those who would corrupt the physical temple of God (Matt. 21:12, John 2:15). We have often wondered what would happen if Jesus returned to this earth in bodily form and visited in some of the assemblies that wear His name? How many would He drive out? Or would he even recognize them as local congregations of His church? We are persuaded that many of our brethren are corrupting the Spiritual house of God today. Even Paul feared that the minds of some of his contemporaries would be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3).

The mission of the church is four-fold: (1) preach the gospel of Christ, (2) edify the saints, (3) worship God, (4) supply the needs of the destitute within her ranks.

The gospel of Christ is designed to work on the heart of a man, lead him to obey Christ and gradually become full-grown or mature, spiritually, so that he may eternally live with Christ after awhile. The apostles were not concerned about providing recreational facilities, youth camps ball clubs, kitchens "fellowship" halls, "Christian" schools, etc. for the church. They recognized that the church had a holier mission than this. They didn't busy themselves trying to develop the "whole man", or the physical side of man; neither were they busy trying to make the community a better place in which to live. But they were preaching the gospel to the lost, and edifying the saints, encouraging them to grow spiritually, and strive for that maturity that God expects of them, in order that they may be better prepared to live with Him. Away with the "social gospel" — let's preach and teach the simple gospel of Jesus Christ and develop the inner man, and let the outer man take care of himself. People often get the idea that "edify the saints" means to build up the physical body. But God does not look on the outward appearance — He searches the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7, John 7:24) Paul recognized but little profit to bodily exercise, "but godliness is profitable unto all things — " (1 Tim. 4:8). Peter lists some things that, if added to our faith, will build up the inner man (II Pet. 1:5-7). But the emphasis today is on the physical, the outer-man.

Most denominations corrupt the worship to a greater or lesser degree. Some worship the wrong objects, burn incense, etc.; most add a mechanical instrument of music and omit the Lord's Supper. But there is a way in which many "of us" corrupt the worship also.

We are to worship God in spirit and in truth. The emphasis has been placed on worshipping God in truth (according to the plan or pattern set forth in the New Testament), to the extent that some "of us" fail to worship Him in spirit. By all means, let us not give up the pattern. However, while we are performing the various items of worship, our minds are to be centered on God. When singing, we are singing praises to God. When eating the Lord's Supper, our minds should be centered around Christ and Him Crucified, not on the affairs of this world.

Many of our brethren have perverted the fourth item listed — supplying the needs of indigent saints. Some have elevated this work to a position of pre-eminence. We have even heard from some pulpits that the benevolent work of the church is just as important as preaching the gospel! The apostles didn't seem to think so — they had the church choose seven men to look after this work (Acts 6:1-6). They didn't want to be turned aside from the most important "ministry of the word" by devoting all their time ministering to the physical needs of the saints.

Some of our brethren have become excited at II Cor. 9:13, and claim that, in the field of benevolence, the church is obligated unto all men! They overlook verse 12, which limits the church's benevolent work to saints (it "supplieth the want of the saints," and also causes "many thanksgivings unto God"). Keeping this principle in mind, the "all men" in Acts 2:45; "Every Man" Acts 4:35, were limited to the saints — "those that believed," Acts 2:44; "any among them" Acts 4:34. These two examples, together with Acts 6, give us examples of the church providing for the needs of its own needy. In Acts 11:27-30, the church in Antioch sent relief to the churches in Judea. Why? because the churches in Judea were in need. This is our authority for one church helping several churches in need. Rom. 15:26 tells us that the churches in Macedonia and Achaia sent relief to the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. (See also II Cor. Chapter 8 and 9).

In the realm of evangelism, the church at Philippi, upon at least four different occasions, supplied Paul's needs (Phil 4:10; 15-18;) and upon still another occasion, Paul took wages from several churches to serve the Corinthians (II Cor. 11:8). Some of our brethren try to combine these occasions, saying that the "other churches" in H Cor. 11:8 sent to Philippi, and Philippi in turn sent those wages to Paul. Had this been true, Paul would not have said what he did in Phil. 4:15 — "no other church communicated (or had fellowship — R. V.) "with him, "but ye only."

Yes, many of "WE who BE BRETHREN" are perverting spiritual Israel today, departing from the simple Bible arrangements. And why not? After all many have only gone through a form of obedience, being converted to a plan and not Christ. They have taken a preacher's word for every act of their obedience, and consequently, they feel no guilt when they follow a human plan instead of the New Testament plan.

If we are going to continue calling ourselves New Testament Christians, and the New Testament church, we had better remain within the confines of the New Testament (II Tim. 3:16-17 and II John 9-11).

The simple pattern is given in the New Testament. The epistle to the Hebrews shows that the tabernacle was a type or shadow of the church, and contrasts both systems. As Moses was admonished to make all things according to the pattern shown him in the mount (at the beginning of the Mosaic dispensation), so we also are to make all things pertaining to the work, worship, and government of the church, according to the pattern given in the apostolic days.

However, let us not follow this plan or pattern merely because it sounds good to us, but because we are converted to Christ, and are content to follow Him and abide within His doctrine, the New Testament. For only in doing this can we be pleasing to God, and only in doing this can we have the unity for which Christ prayed.