Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 24, 1955
NUMBER 29, PAGE 8-9,11b

"Church Cooperation" (Cont.)

Cleon Lyles, Little Rock, Arkansas

Now the argument is made sometime that 2 Cor. 8:14 mentions this as a temporary affair. Well, it does. But I don't believe there is any argument there, because I don't believe that anybody would accuse my God of doing a thing wrong regardless. God wouldn't do a thing wrong just because it was temporary. God doesn't do wrong to make right, and anything that God would allow to be done that is temporary, God would allow to be done, PERIOD! For, God doesn't make a law for temporary affairs, and a law for a permanent affair — God doesn't do wrong in order to do right. So, I leave that, because, as I say, I don't believe there is any argument there. I don't believe that my God — and I don't believe that you believe that my God would allow men to do wrong just because a thing is going to be done only for just a few months or for a year. Go ahead and do wrong just so you don't do it for more than six months. Or go ahead and do wrong as long as you don't do it more than a year — God doesn't operate that way. But I don't believe we really believe he does. Whatever God will allow, God allows. And all that I know here is that they gather the funds, that the funds went to the church, that they gathered it for the purpose of benevolence, that it went to the church, was given to the elders. There's the end as far as the Bible is concerned. And I dare not legislate where God has not legislated.

Now God or the Bible has given us a pattern regarding the faith that we have — "we walk by faith and not by sight." Rom. 5:7, and Rom. 10:17, "So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God."

Now here is the application that I find here. In giving the bread and the fruit of the vine, Christ excluded all other elements in the Lord's supper. Now that's right. He did. Therefore, you can't have anything but fruit of the vine and bread. But how many cups are you going to serve the fruit of the vine in? How many plates will you use in which to serve the bread? And how many people shall you serve at a time? The Bible doesn't say. The Lord told them what to do but he didn't deal in a method. He didn't tell them how to use it. He told what it's for, and the frame of mind we ought to be in, all of that, discerning the Lord's body, but the method of taking care of it the Lord didn't say. And that's where the trouble came. When these men came along who said one cup, and believe unless we got rid of these individual cups that Zion would sink for sure, and tried to destroy the peace of the body of Christ.

For number two under that — in specifying singing in our worship, God excluded every other kind of music. Well, that's right. That makes instrumental music wrong. But as we said awhile ago, how are you going to sing? What kind of songs, other than psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs — I mean how written? How many verses? He didn't say. And when I try to legislate in the matter of method, I do the very thing that I learned earlier that God doesn't allow me to do. I can not go beyond that which is written.

For number three: In designating the first day of the week as the day for observing the Lord's supper, God has excluded the other six days. That's right, But he didn't say what time of day to have it. Now, what time shall we have it? There are some brethren who believe that it is wrong to have it Sunday night. They aren't trying to cause any trouble over it. There are some who believe it's wrong. I don't believe it's wrong. But there are some who do. And there are some churches who do not have it. How shall we have it?

You know there are a lot of things that go on about this. Somebody goes away from Little Rock to visit other congregations and they come back and they say, "Brother Lyles, you know over there they have the Lord's supper first. We have it here last." Sometimes they say, "I don't like it," sometimes they say, "I do." But we always have it last. And then somebody goes and visits another congregation. And they say, "Brother Lyles, on Sunday night they had everybody come up and sit on the front seat while they sing a song and they serve them there." Some of them like it. Some of them don't like it. We go on doing it our way. And then somebody goes off and then comes back and they say, "Sunday night they had them all go off in a room by themselves, and they ate the Lord's supper." Some like it. Some don't like it. But the Lord didn't say anything about it. What time of day? Sunrise? Sundown? Middle of the day? When shall we have it? He didn't say: Now brethren that's the thing I want you to hold on to tonight. It's a matter of legislating where God didn't legislate. I can't legislate where God didn't legislate. I know that the Lord's supper is to be had on the first day of the week. I know it is to be bread and I know it is to be the fruit of the vine. That's all God said in that matter. When you have it, he didn't say, as far as the hour and the day is concerned — and when I legislate that I go beyond that which is written.

Then, in appointing elders, in every church, God has excluded majority vote or rule on one hand and ecclesiastical hierarchy on the other. Well, that's right. But as we said awhile ago, there a lot of things that God didn't say in the matter of method. Now I go as far as the scriptures go in that matter, then when it come to method God didn't say. So I don't know how many elders. And I don't know how they operate, as said just a little while ago.

Now here's another argument, concerning baptism. That is, in making baptism and cooperation parallel. Action — immersion. Subject — penitent believer. Design — remission of sins. Stops right there. Well, that's where it ought to stop. As far as the Bible is concerned, that's it. Now, what method? Shall we have a baptistry? Shall we do it in a creek? Shall the water be warm? Shall the robes be ready? How shall we do it? He didn't say. He just merely said we are buried in baptism. We are baptized in water. And that's as far as I can go. Now, shall I legislate? Say brethren, you can't have a baptistry. Shall I legislate and say you can't have a robe to be baptized in — or in which to be baptized? Shall I legislate and say you can't have warm water? No, I can't afford to do that.

Well, one more. The idea has been advanced that in the matter of this cooperation in benevolence that it was a matter of equality and that the term equality here destroys what's going on over the brotherhood. But I wonder sometimes if men realize what that term actually is. I want to read it to you. In 2 Cor. 8:13, 14, "For I say not this that others may be eased and ye distressed; but by equality: your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality." I want to read you Moffat's translation. "This does not mean that other people are to be relieved and you suffer. It's a matter of give and take. At the present moment your surplus may go to make up what they lack in order that their surplus may go to make up what you lack." Let me read you MacKnight. "However, in exhorting you to make this collection in a liberal manner I mean not that ease would be to the brethren in Judaea through distress to you, but I do it for establishing equality. I mean that at the present time, your abundance may be a supply for the wants of the brethren in Judaea. That at another time their abundance also when you stand in need of it may be a supply for your wants. So, among the disciples of Christ even as among the Israelites in gathering manna, there may be equality." Now what's he saying? Simply this. Brethren when I'm insisting that you people at Corinth give funds that it might be used in Judaea, I don't mean by that that you ought to become poor while they become rich. I don't mean by that we're trying to make the churches in Judaea rich. That we are trying to exalt them above you. That's not it. But you now have an abundance, a surplus. But they don't have any. Now, while you have a surplus and they don't have any, I'm merely asking you to help them. And I am not trying to make you poor and them rich. That's all there is to it. The idea that he meant for churches to be equal, nobody believes that. Really if they did; if the idea of equality means there that all churches are to be equal, from the standpoint of finance, if you have any more here than they have over yonder, you've got to divide it with them next week. so that you'll all have the same amount. Nobody would carry that thing to that ridiculous place or point. But nevertheless, if the idea means that churches have got to be equal, none can have any more than the others from the standpoint of money — that's what it means — but that is not what Paul is talking about. There is no reference here to the subject at hand anyway. This doesn't have a thing in the world to do with preaching the gospel, but merely the relief of the brethren who are in Judaea. He isn't talking about cooperation in preaching the gospel, but in the relief of the brethren there, that I am not trying to make you poor so they can be rich.

It doesn't mean that anymore than the Bible teaches that we are to go back like they did in Jerusalem and have all things common. I'm just waiting for the day for somebody to rise up and say that. That is, that in the brotherhood you have to have all things common because you've got an approved example for it. You have. That in the church in Jerusalem no man claimed ought to be his own. But they sold their possessions and brought them into the treasury or laid them at the apostles' feet and had all things common. Of course, I'll be the one to benefit if we get around to that because so many brethren have so much more than I have. But nevertheless, I say, I am waiting for the time — there is an approved example, if you want an approved example for something, there it is. But I don't know of anybody that believes that thing must be done.

Same thing, and even more applies to the subject at hand than this does, but I've been taught all my life that God binds his will on men in three ways — direct command, approved example, and necessary inference. (Now ordinarily I don't talk this long. It's been an hour but you will stay with me fifteen more minutes, or twenty. You don't seem to be tired. If I owe you an apology, I'll apologize when it's over.) But I said all of my life I've been taught that God teaches in three ways only — direct command, approved example, necessary inference. Now does that always follow? I am here to say I don't believe it. And I don't believe that I ever have believed it. And I'll prove to you that you don't believe it either. Doesn't really follow. Now hobbyist called for an example, and I'll use that term, I just didn't know of another. I don't mean to impugn anybody's motives but I used that term. The one cup brethren wanted an example of a plurality of containers. Now, where are you going to get it? There is no direct command. There is no approved example, and there's no necessary inference. Where are you going to get it?

Anti-Sunday School brethren want an approved example for a plurality of classes. Where are you going to get it? We've been having them, and I believe they are all right. We're not violating the will of God. But where is there a command? Where is there an approved example? Where is there a necessary inference in the matter?

And our orphan home people want an approved example for orphanages. Well, it isn't there. There isn't even an approved example for taking one into your home. So, if it's a matter of approved example, we don't have any. The Lord said do it, but he didn't say how. So, I say there is no example for taking them into your home. I don't read where they did. So, I have no command in method. I have no approved example and I have no necessary inference, in the matter of caring for the orphans.

And one comparatively new group, folks, want an approved example for a preacher receiving a specified salary. I'm going to fight them hard, because I certainly don't want them to get very far. But if you were trying to find an approved example for a preacher receiving a specified salary, where would you get it? The Bible teaches pay the preacher. And I believe in it, very much. But the Bible doesn't say how much to pay you. And that's what I am always telling my elders when they think I am getting enough. He didn't say just that much. I may need more. So, the Lord didn't say. There is no command, no approved example, there is not even a necessary inference in the matter of amount, unless you would say that they are to live of the gospel.

I want to show you some practices that are going on right here in this church for which there is no command, no approved example, and no necessary inference. Where is the approved example for a meeting house like this? A meeting house at all? Where is there an approved example? There isn't. The early church met in private homes. I doubt there was a place in the Bible where they owned a building. There is no command, no approved example, and no necessary inference. Where is there a command, an approved example, or a necessary inference for a song book? Where is there? Where is there an approved example or a command or a necessary inference for air conditioning. Now, I am grateful for air conditioning. I think all churches ought to have it. Especially when people work as hard as I do when I preach, and get as hot as I do, and as hot as brethren get when I preach. There are very few that are not being air conditioned but I know some that aren't. I preached in one church last year where they have a hot country, and they have the hottest country when it's hot that I have ever been in; and there was one elder's wife holding it up because air conditioning hurt her arthritis. And of course, she could stay down town and shop two or three hours in air conditioned stores but it hurt her arthritis when she went to church, and they were holding it up. But her arthritis got better and they finally air conditioned it, but where is there a command, where is there an approved example, where is there a necessary inference for air conditioning? Or for a preacher's home? These things are serious when you stop and think about it. I say that you are doing things right here for which there is no command, no example, and no necessary inference, and I don't think you are doing wrong at all. That's what I meant when I say that those three ways are not the only ways that we can be taught.