Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 6, 1952

What The Christian Does, The Church Can Do? Not So!

Roy E. Cogdill

I want to point out in this lesson the difference between the mission of the church, as such, and the obligation of individual Christians. I think there is no point, perhaps, upon which people today are more confused in the church as a whole than that one. I hear the ridiculous idea being advanced nearly everywhere I go that "whatever the individual Christian does, the church is doing," and "whatever the individual Christian ought to do, the church ought to do." They argue that anything and everything permissible to the individual Christian is also permissible to the church; it is the business of a Christian, then it is the business of the Church.

That is a ridiculous idea, and it simply is not the truth. A simple diagram should clear the question for everybody: a circle can be divided and subdivided into a number of various sectors or parts. That complete circle represents a man's whole "life." One sector of the circle, one division of it, can be labeled "Church Membership"; another division of it can be labeled "Home"; while still another division is labeled "Citizenship." There are other sectors, variously labeled — "Business," "Social relationships," etc. When you look at that complete circle, you are looking at Christianity. A man is a Christian in every relationship, but not every sector is "Church membership."

The Bible even teaches what a man's obligations and responsibilities are in each relationship. The Bible tells me my obligations toward the government; I am to pay my taxes, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." The word of the Lord is also explicit in describing my business obligations and responsibilities. I am to "work with my hands, "that I may have to give to them that are in need; I am to be "not slothful in business." I am to engage in individual enterprise in whatever trade I know or whatever profession I have chosen that can honorably and righteously be followed. I am to render whatever service I can to the world, earning whatever compensation can be legitimately and honestly made. Out of that compensation I am to provide for these who have the right to look to me for support, and likewise I am to relieve or alleviate some of the suffering of humanity about me.

Furthermore, the Bible teaches me that in society I am to conduct myself in such a way as to exercise proper influence upon those about me, that wherever I go, whatever I do, and with Whomsoever I associate, they, seeing my good works, may be constrained to glorify the God of heaven and to recognize the reality of the religion that God has provided. In like manner, the Bible teaches me that in my home I have obligations and responsibilities that are peculiarly mine. Of course the gospel of Christ is not a textbook on domestic relations in general, neither is the church a domestic relations institute. I do not believe the church has any more business trying to teach domestic relations in general than it has trying to teach domestic science or home economics in general. The gospel is no more a textbook on domestic relations than it is oh matters economic, or political, in their nature. I can read as much in the gospel about what kind of citizen of the government I ought to be as I can read about what kind of home I ought to have. I can read as much about the principles of conducting my business affairs as I can about conducting my home affairs.

The gospel is not a textbook on these personal relationships, yet it does lay down the basic principles of Christianity that have application in all of these fields. But while principles are laid down in God's word to govern me in all these relationships, who will say that it is the business of the church to run the affairs of my home? to make a living for my family? to keep my children, in subjection to me? and to provide for those who have the right to look to me for support? These things are my individual duty as a Christian, and it is not the business of the church in any sense to look after them. Here is a field in which it is not the obligation of the church, or even the privilege of the church, to do that which the individual Christian is under absolute obligation and responsibility to attend to.

The ridiculous argument that "whatever a Christian en can do, the church can do" will simply have to be surrendered. Yet preachers, who ought to know better, continue to preach it from the pulpits and to write it in the papers. It is not so! It just is not true! I can engage in business and make a living for my family. Is the church an economic or business institution? Is the church to go out into the world of business and engage in commerce and manufacturing and buying and selling in order to make money to carry on her work? Some denominational institutions have worked on that principle, but I have never been willing to charge my brethren with believing such. I may have to revamp and modify some of my notions about some of them, however, if they keep arguing that "what a Christian can do, the church can do."

The Christian sustains a relationship to his government, but would one say that the church is both a political and a religious institution? The Roman Catholic thinks so; that is a cardinal tenet of Catholic doctrine. But simple Christians have never believed it. Surely we are not now willing to admit that Catholicism has been right all these years.

This but emphasizes to us the fact that there are some obligations that a Christian owes, that he cannot be a Christian without discharging, which it is not the business of the church to perform, in any sense whatsoever. God did not intend for the church, as such, to invade those fields of private and personal enterprise and obligation. We need to recognize that.