Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 10, 1955

Brother Lyles Throws Up A Smoke Screen

John T. Overbey, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Inasmuch as this medium is being used by which to answer the arguments presented by Brother Lyles in his speech or lecture on "Church Cooperation," a few words of explanation are in order. The lecture was delivered in the meeting house of the Fifteenth Street church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and under normal circumstances should be answered there; but this writer was not given the privilege of doing so. The eldership of that congregation is divided in their judgment as to whether or not any further discussion should be had in regard to the matters under consideration in Brother Lyles' speech. Were it not for the fact that so many gross misrepresentations are in evidence, this writer would certainly concur in the judgment of those who think that no further discussion is necessary. Brother Roy Cogdill stated clearly the issues involved and a clear statement of them was presented to Brother Lyles. Had he dealt forthrightly with the issues as stated there would be no need for further discussion of them.

As the matter stands, the fallacy of Brother Lyles' reasoning should be exposed, and it would have been exposed in the presence of the ones who heard him had this writer been given the opportunity.

It is indeed regrettable that people will close their eyes to any further investigation of the truth. As stated in my former article, people like to hear what they want to hear; and when they have heard that, they are too often ready to close the case henceforth and forever. When people do that, they go to seed. Because this attitude prevails in the minds of a few who are members of the Fifteenth Street Church in Tulsa, pressure was brought to bear on the eldership of that congregation which precluded the possibility of a free and open discussion of these issues before that congregation.

In my previous article I called your attention to the fact that before Brother Lyles began his lecture he made the statement that he knew nothing about the arrangements by which the Herald of Truth is being carried on. Is it possible that Brother Lyles has not seen or read a copy of, "That The Brethren May Know," an eighteen page booklet published by the Highland Church in Abilene, Texas setting forth the "facts" concerning the management of the Herald of Truth? It was published almost two years ago and made its debut at the Abilene lectures in February, 1954. It was handed out there to those who would take a copy, and I am sure anyone who desired a copy could have obtained one by simply writing in his request. Brother Lyles comes to Tulsa supposedly to uphold the Highland Church in her activity of preaching the gospel through the arrangement of the Herald of Truth. His admitting that he knew nothing of the arrangement by which the Highland Church is carrying on the Herald of Truth disqualified him as a speaker for the occasion. If the speaker did not know what he was talking about, he should have never accepted the responsibility. If the reader will observe the number of times throughout Brother Lyles' speech that he says, "I don't know," he will have no difficulty in seeing that Brother Lyles was hardly the man for the occasion.

Brother Lyles began and developed his "lecture" in the typical evasive fashion that has been so characteristic of those who would dare to defend such arrangements as the Herald of Truth. He reminds me of the boy who went down to the river to shoot frogs. He saw a frog sitting on a log in the middle of the river — he cocked the hammer of his gun, took dead aim, pulled the trigger, and missed the river!

I can see no earthly reason why Brother Lyles should spend thirty or forty minutes of his time relating incidents in history concerning the activity of various ones who, according to him were trying to save Zion. After mentioning the departure that led to the development of Roman Catholicism; the Missionary Society and instrumental music controversy; the "one-cup" controversy; the Bible class controversy; the located preacher controversy; the controversy over educated preachers; the controversy over evangelistic control; he concludes, "as the one-cuppers tried to save Zion, as those who advocated uneducated preachers tried to save Zion, as those who led into Catholicism were trying to save Zion, others are trying to save Zion in our day, because they believe that we are about to apostatize." He had already said that "new converts have been made to old theories." Same theories, just "dressed up" in a new dress.

Now, what is Brother Lyles saying? Simply this: that those who insist on following the New Testament pattern for cooperation among the churches, and doing benevolent work, are in the same category as those who led in the departure that resulted in the forming of ecclesiasticism during the second century; as those who led in the departure which resulted in the forming of the American Christian Missionary Society in 1849, together with the introduction of instrumental music in the worship; as those who led in the "one-cup" controversy; as those who led in the "anti-Sunday school" controversy; etc., etc. If that is not what he is saying, then I am at a loss to know why he should even mention such, seeing that such has absolutely nothing to do with the subject under discussion. Such comes as a "slap-in-the-face" to those of us who have been trying to lead the "Anti's" to a proper understanding of the Truth. It seems now that our job is to extricate ourselves from that inglorious position that has been occupied by so many who have an inadequate understanding of the Scriptures. Such sophistry is beneath the dignity of an honest man, much less a Christian. It is only designed to throw up a smoke screen, and distract the attention of the average person from the real issue.

At this point in his "lecture," Brother Lyles introduced Brother Yater Tant's booklet, "How New Testament Churches Can, and Can Not, Cooperate: or, What Is Wrong With Herald of Truth?" He said, "I want to read the very scriptures and all the scriptures that are in this book. I want to talk about those scriptures as they apply to the question at hand..." He then cites 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 1 Cor. 4:6; 2 John 9 (His comment on this verse is so naive that it doesn't deserve any attention, however, in verse six, John suggests that we "walk after his (Christ's) commandments." Now, the commandments of Christ constitute his doctrine, do they not? Well then, "whosoever transgresseth (goeth onward, R. V.), and abideth not in the doctrine (teaching, R. V., or commandments) of Christ, hath not God."); Rev. 22: 18, 19; Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:5, 6; and reaches the following conclusion: "First of all, that the scriptures furnish us unto all good works. Second, that you can not go beyond that which is written. Third, that you can not make a law where God has not made a law."

Next he suggests that the "scriptures authorize a pattern for church organization," and he cites Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; 1 Pet. 5:1-3, with the following observations: (1) "Every church had elders." (2) "It is the duty of the elders to tend the flock." (3) "It is the duty of the elders to tend the flock that he has been (they have been) appointed to tend." To be sure, we learn these things from the foregoing scriptures, but is that all we learn? Bear in mind that these scriptures furnish us with a pattern for church organization.

The organization of the church has to do with its organic structure — its state or manner of being organized. In the New Testament, Christ is said to be the HEAD of the church, (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18) therefore, he has all authority in the church. That is part of its organization, and that is all the organization it has universally, that is; there is no other organization for the church universal spoken of in the New Testament. Should men undertake to give it any further organization from a universal standpoint, they will be guilty of going "beyond the things which are written" (1 Cor. 4:6).

But in the church, Christ has his plenipotentiaries, that is, he has delegated certain authority to various ones who are responsible for carrying out his orders. A list of these is found in Eph. 4:11. They are: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (elders), and teachers. The apostles were Christ's ambassadors; the prophets were those who were supernaturally inspired to foretell things that were to come to pass and to teach; the evangelists were to make known to the people the good news of the gospel; the elders or pastors were to oversee the flocks; and the teachers were to teach.

The elders were to have certain qualifications, and when they met these qualifications they were to be appointed to oversee the flocks. Well now, how many flock were the elders to oversee? Paul answers that question in Acts 20:28, and Peter answers it in 1 Pet. 5:1-3. Now, if any group of elders undertakes to oversee more than one flock, or one that they have not been appointed to oversee, they are guilty of going "beyond that which is written."

The New Testament pattern for church organization is simply this: Christ is head of the church (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18); each church or congregation had its elders and deacons (Acts 14:23; Phil 1:1). Since there is no organization made up of men for the church universal, then it follows that there is no work which requires such an organization prescribed upon the pages of the New Testament. Therefore when men undertake to form an organization through which the church universal can work — whether it is a human organization such as the American Christian Missionary Society, or a group of elders who assay to function in that capacity — they are guilty of going "beyond that which is written." I charge that the elders of the Highland Church in Abilene are doing just that. The scriptures simply do not furnish us with a pattern for the elders of one congregation overseeing a work to which many congregations are equally related.

The pattern for church organization, then, involves only the local congregation. Each local congregation has an equal responsibility toward the lost, and when each congregation fulfills its responsibility in proportion to its ability, then the congregations are cooperating in a scriptural manner. But when one congregation with its elders assays to become the central agency through which all the other local congregations are to discharge their responsibility, then you have an organization that is different from that for which we have a pattern in the New Testament. Those elders have gone beyond "that which is written."

"The definition of 'cooperation' and 'cooperative' in my dictionary is `working together for common ends; concurrence.' Business firms can concur in matters of civic obligations and work together for the same ends without surrendering their identity to one firm and all the others working through it. Nor is it essential to cooperation, 'working together for the same ends,' for all the churches to send their missionary money to the elders of one church to do their work for them." (Foy E. Wallace, Jr. TORCH, Aug. 1950)

Next week we shall consider the following statement by Brother Lyles: "The Bible does not deal in methods, the Bible deals in principles." This is indeed the classic statement of all time! It is the most ridiculous statement that ever fell from the lips of anyone who is supposed to be a student of the Bible. It is a revelation of the absurdity to which a man will go when he sets out to uphold something by the scriptures when he knows full well that such can not be done! Look for it.