Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 3, 1955
NUMBER 26, PAGE 8-10a

"Church Cooperation"

Cleon Lyles, Little Rock, Arkansas

I certainly am happy to be here tonight at the invitation of the good elders of this congregation and to be associated with you in a service that I hope and pray will be an honor to our God, and that only the name of our Father will be glorified in our coming together tonight. It is very fine to see Brother Overbey again, and of course, I appreciate the kind introduction, and the fact that he is here and that all these preachers are here, who have come from wherever you have come, along with all the rest of you. We are here tonight because we love the church, and I am quite sure that what I say there, I say about every person who is here. That is our own hearts there is a deep and abiding love for the cause of Christ.

As I look around the environment where we are tonight I see that through the years that love has manifested itself in a lot of ways. I well remember years ago — thirteen years ago — being in Tulsa — maybe a little longer than that — when in this city there were only three or four congregations and only one that had a building that would even begin to equal this one. I don't know how many you have now, but I know you have several. You have a number of lovely buildings — you have strong congregations. And I know that you know the road over which you have come; the sacrifices that have been made; the dreams that have come true; all the money that has been spent; and the souls that have been saved. And I certainly congratulate you tonight on the fine advancement you have made, and I hope and pray that somehow our coming together will help in future advancement for the cause of Christ here, and that certainly it will do nobody any harm.

The subject that I have been asked to discuss tonight is a subject of "cooperation" as it is being practiced, of course, in the brotherhood; as well as that of taking care of orphan children. You and I, of course, when we think about the church of our Lord, our minds go back to more than 1900 years ago when she had her beginning on the day described in Acts 2. That according to all previous arrangements by the Holy Spirit and by those who had prophesied, by the Lord himself, the fulfillment of heaven's plan became a reality and the church of our Lord had its beginning. On that day that climaxed all days that the world had known to that time, Isaiah said that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established at the top of the mountain, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and when a Jew was saying that a thing was exalted above the hills, he was using his most eloquent language to get over the idea; and there is the sum and substance of God's benevolence on man's behalf. We read in the Colossian letter that God summed himself up in Christ, and then in the Ephesian letter that Christ is summed up in the church. Consequently, in the church which is the body of Christ you have the sum and substance of God as well as the sum and substance of Christ, with all the benevolence and all the kindness and all the goodness of God. When the day of Pentecost was fully come they were all with one accord in one place and suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind that filled all the house wherein they were sitting and there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as fire, and sat upon each of them and theywere all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues as the spirit gave them utterance. The record says that there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews and devout men from every nation under heaven and when this was noised abroad they came together and they were confounded, because they heard every man in his own language, and in their amazement they asked what it's all about. Peter said "It's the fulfillment of the utterance of Joel, that God said in the last days I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh — and here is the fulfillment of it." He went on and told them how that God had planned for these things; that our Lord had died in order that they might be redeemed and that they themselves were guilty of causing his death; in spite of the fact that they had come to redeem them from all iniquity. And when they realized what they had done they cried out, "What shall we do?" The answer was, "Repent and be baptized for remission of sins, in the name of Christ," and they did that. And the Bible said that there were added unto them that day about 3000 souls. A little while afterward, there were 5000 in Jerusalem and from there on the Bible left off numbering as far as we know and just used the term multitudes or great numbers.

We are told by various writers that there were from 25,000 to 30,000 members of that one local congregation in the city of Jerusalem; that up the road a piece at Antioch, there was more than 15,000, that merely is not, of course, Bible history, but men have told us, and that in the Roman Empire alone, before the close of the first century there were more than six million members of the churches of Christ.

Now, very early in the work of the church, when it had gained momentum, and multitudes were being added to it, why trouble began to happen. I read over here in I Timothy 4:1-4 where Paul said, "The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." Now, what attitude there was in the hearts of these people, I don't know — the Bible doesn't say. Of course we do know what they were after and what they did, but as to what motivated what they did we can certainly only tell by what happened. But I am sure that they believed the church would be better off by what they were doing, and that's why they did it. Consequently, there were began in Zion, or the church of our Lord, a growing up of a disposition that was ultimately to lead to an apostasy. Students of the Bible, of course, are familiar with that, and it needs no explanation from me. I am sure that I have no right to impugn the motives of anybody who might have been in that class, but I a quite sure that they felt what they were doing was best for the church, or otherwise they would not have done it; but they felt like that the organization of God could not be operated in the way that it was appointed to operate. And the result was an organization that God himself did not establish — they were contrary to the organization of God, which ultimately led to the man which we call the "Pope," or the head of the church, and the full development of Catholicism.

Now, students of Bible history, as well as other history, realize that days of bitter sorrow followed for the faithful. There were many of them who were killed in various ways. Some of them, of course, by the Roman government, but perhaps more than that by Catholicism — instigated by Catholicism — and that men were literally put to death as a result of what they believed, because they did not go along with the idea that Zion needed to be saved by the theories that were advanced by the men who believed that the church needed their theories.

Now, of course, there followed a period that lasted for a long time; that in our history we have known as the Dark Ages; during the time we know very little, if anything about the church of our Lord, only a body that had completely apostatized. And then we have the period known as the Reformation, when men like Martin Luther and Wesley and Calvin and others, tried to reform the Catholic Church and then finally came to realize that they couldn't do it--there wasn't anything there to reform and there followed after that the Restoration period, at least these men of the Restoration period realized that they were going to have to lay aside additions to the Bible and get back to the Bible and they did that and as a result we had the Restoration of New Testament Christianity. Such men as Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone and Raccoon John Smith and others figured in the fight but as a result of their fight we gained momentum again. That in the United States, multiplied thousands were being added to the church of our Lord and once more she seemingly has the power to gain the world for Christ.

But not very long after this restoration had taken place and thousands were added to the church, congregations were established throughout the land; there were others who rose up that didn't believe that Zion was what she ought to be and that they needed a Savior, and the matter in which they needed a savior was by the addition to the word of God — adding things that God himself did not say, and as a result we had the addition of instrumental music and missionary societies. Instrumental music that God himself had not appointed. God had told men the kind of music He wanted and the instrument on which it was to be sung, or from which it was to be sung, and men were willing to leave the idea of God and to add things that God didn't add. The result was the instrumental music and the missionary society. A missionary society that was separate and apart from the church of our Lord, that had its delegates that were sent from various congregations and they in turn represented those congregations and were able to speak for those congregations, and thus the forming of an organization that had power that the church itself didn't have. The result of that missionary society and the instrumental music, along with other things caused a second apostasy and the forming of the Christian Church.

Now again, there were great losses. I don't know how it was in Oklahoma, but I know in Arkansas that the majority of our brethren lost their buildings because of it. I know in the state of Texas there were not more than half a dozen buildings saved, that as far as the ground we gained was concerned we lost a lot of it. Not as much as we lost in the first apostasy, but we lost ground.

Multiplied thousands were going to save Zion by trying to make her something that the Bible did not make her; by trying to lay down laws that the Bible does not lay down; and legislate where the Bible does not, and the result was a second apostasy. Now, from that time until now there have been others that have rose up to save Zion.

There was a period of time and some of you people remember it very well, when there were some who believed that Zion had to be saved from her infidelity in the matter of obtaining cups for people to drink out of — more than one cup. There was a great fight over that question. I well remember when I was a boy in the state of Arkansas, up near the Tennessee line that in our community there was a lot of arguing about it. There were brethren who became enemies one of another as a result of it. There were churches that were divided because of it. There were people who claimed that when the Lord took the cup that he was talking about the container, and that as a result any time you have more than one cup in serving the Lord's supper that you are wrong. Some men laid down laws that God didn't lay down, and they in turn were able to split some churches because of it.

There were others, and there are still a few in the land, who rose up with the idea that you cannot have classes. Every time that the church of our Lord has made advancement in any way there have always been men who believed that the advancement was in the direction of, if not all together, apostasy. And we have had to fight those ideas all along.

Now, back when I was a boy in the country where I was reared, we had only a little one-room school house. We didn't have a church building, and met on Sunday afternoons in the one-room school house after the Farmer's Union had met in it on Saturday night. And we moved out their tobacco cuds and their cigarette stubs, and we came in, about twenty or twenty-five of us, to worship God. The day came when churches began to build buildings and the question arose how many rooms shall we have. Are we going to have a Bible school or shall we not have one, and there were men who rose up who believed that if Zion ever had Bible classes that it would be the ruin of her, and therefore, they had to save the church from having Bible classes; that all men young and old, women and children had to meet in one class in one room with one teacher and that beyond that would be apostasy, or at least in the direction of apostasy. And as a result there were a lot of bitter things said, lot of enemies made, congregations were divided; some went on and built their buildings with class rooms, and they were always classed as having apostatized by the other group — going in the wrong direction — while there were others who argued the matter out and stayed with their one room. Now over a period of time, of course, those brethren became less and less until the majority of quarters in the United States, I guess, over the world, that's not a question any more.

In our town we have one little group — they are divided now into three groups — one of them believes that you can't have individual cups, another one doesn't believe that you can. One believes that you can't have individual cups, another one doesn't believe that you can. One believes that you can have women teachers, at certain places, and others do not believe that you can; and consequently in the last two or three years that one group that didn't number more than fifty in the beginning now makes up three groups, and one has more than one cup, one has one cup, one has classes, one has women teachers, and so on. Well that battle of the day is almost gone, but it was a very bitter battle. We had to fight it, and certainly I say I have no right to impugn the motives of anybody; that everybody felt that he was right and honest in what he was doing; no man's going to deny it. And that they believed they had to do that in order to save the purity of the church which I think I understand, but I know it didn't need to be done to save the purity of the church and the history of the church has proved that those things were wrong. (To be continued.)