Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 22, 1955
NUMBER 33, PAGE 8-9,11c

"Church Cooperation" (Concluded)

Cleon Lyles, Little Rock, Arkansas

On the other hand, the matter for caring for orphans, I never, I don't remember hearing any objection to it in the manner in which it is being done until just recent years. We've cared for a lot of orphans. I am sure there have been brethren who have objected to it but not on the scale that you hear about it now. And those orphanages were being operated by brethren, children were being brought in there, and cared for and churches were sending money.

I don't know of any church that believes in sending money to a college. And I don't know of any church that is doing it. But there are a lot of churches that are sending money to support orphans. I know that's being done. And what we are doing we have been doing a long time, but we become larger now, homes are getting larger, they are expanding. Now whether that is the reason for objections I wouldn't say. I can't impugn anybody's motives but I say that in that a few years ago we were all working at it and some who were working at it are now against it — which neither makes it right or wrong — but there hasn't been a new thing grow up in the church — we are doing the same thing we have been doing. We are just doing it a little bigger. And I think a little better. So the Lord said, "go into all the world and preach the gospel unto every creature." Now he didn't say whether to use the radio, whether to do it by the printing press, or whether to do it in the pulpit or whether to do it privately. He didn't say how to do it. I've got to confine myself to the gospel and beyond that the method of doing it — God doesn't deal in methods in that respect. And that's why I say brethren need to investigate.

Now I want this to be held in your mind always. That I do not believe in a church losing its autonomy but I do not believe because this church sends money to another church to help in a radio program that it loses its autonomy, anymore than it does when it sends money anywhere else. These elders still have control of that money. They send it for a purpose. It is being used for that purpose. Did those early churches lose their autonomy when they sent the money to the elders in Jerusalem? No. Have the churches lost their autonomy in the last twenty years then they were cooperating in radio programs just like this. I have never heard of a one losing it. Anyway, they were doing the same thing, only smaller. And I don't believe that in this matter there is any more danger of a church losing its church autonomy than it was when it was smaller. And I don't believe that when these elders sent the money to cooperate with another church in a radio program they are not losing their autonomy. The church is not losing its autonomy. Those elders are still operating. They are still determining where the money goes and what it is being used for, just like they will determine where the money goes and what it is being used for when they pay my hotel bill after this night's over. Though I wouldn't make those as a comparison — I say they will determine where the money is going. And just as much they will determine where the money is going and what the money is being used for. So I honestly, I don't know of a thing that's going on in that respect where churches are actually losing their autonomy. Now if you do, then you tell me that it is true and I'll investigate and if I find that it is true I'll be against it as much as you.

Now to the matter of orphan work. Now caring for the matter of the orphans, we will only be there a minute. Psalms 68:5, "A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation." Jer. 5:2630, "Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have with holden good from you. For among my people are found wicked men: they watch, as fowlers lie in wait; they set a trap, they catch men. As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxed rich. They are waxed fat, they shine: yea, they overpass in deeds of wickedness; they plead not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, that they may prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge. Shall I not visit for these things? saith Jehovah; shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" Isa. 10:1, 2, "Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and to the writers that write perverseness; to turn aside the needy from justice, and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they make the fatherless their prey'." Mal. 3:5 "And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against the false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the sojourner from his right, and fear not me, saith Jehovah of hosts." Now all that gets before us the Lord's attitude in the Old Testament, and that is that the orphans are to be cared for. — As he said, the fatherless and the widows. Now as to anything that God said in the Old Testament as to how they did it, I don't remember reading it. Now, in the New Testament, we find one statement that deals with it primarily. Of course, there are others but this one more than the others, and that's Jas. 1:27, "Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." Now I hear men say. "Well that applies to an individual." Well then, if it does the church is anti-religious, and the church cannot have pure and undefiled religion. Therefore, the individual only has pure and undefiled religion and the church is anti-religious, if that's so. But how does a man know that that applies to an individual? Well, someone said, that in verse 26 it says, "if any man among you seems to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, that man's religion is vain. Now pure religion undefiled before God is this. . ." Now, the argument is made because in verse 26 it says "if any man," verse 27 means still if any man. Well, that being true, let's go on down to the second verse of the second chapter. The twenty-seventh verse is the last verse of the first chapter, and this idea of dividing into chapters was man's idea and not God's idea in the first place, so as one said my brethren have not the faith of my Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of Glory with respect of persons if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring and so on, now I say that if verse 27 means that only the individual can do it, because an individual is mentioned in verse 26, then verse 27 means that the church can do it because the assembly and brethren are mentioned in verses one and two in chapter two. But the argument itself doesn't hold water. He said if any man seemed to be religious and bridleth not his tongue. Well, surely in the matter of a tongue the man is going to have to bridle it. The church doesn't have a tongue in that sense. But pure religion undefiled before God the Father is this: "To visit the widows and the fatherless in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted before the world." Now, the thing I say to you tonight is God didn't say how to do it. He just said do it. As we learned in the very beginning of our lesson where God has not legislated I can not legislate.

Someone said you got to take them in your home. Prove it to me. Give ma a command, approved example, or necessary inference — give me that and I'll take it. Either one of the three. But it isn't there. God said do it. Take them in your home? He didn't say. Build a place and put them in it? He didn't say; Neither by command, or example, or necessary inference. He didn't. Now if I come along and lay down the law and say, that it's got to be done in a home, a private home rather than in the other home, and if it is in the other home, it's got to be operated in a certain direction or in a certain way, I'm legislating, where God doesn't legislate. One comes along and says it is right to have a home but the elders have to be over it. Well, I don't read that in the Bible either. So I'll not even go that far with it. Even though I know there are lot of brethren who will, I still would not go even that far with it, because the Bible doesn't say. And I just can't legislate.

Well, the last thing I mention, and that's an hour and a half ago, and I should have stopped a long time before this. Someone said well all of this ought to be stopped because it causes brethren to stumble, and if brethren stumble, and I caused them to stumble, Paul said I ought to cease doing it. Well, my answer to that was that nobody was stumbling until somebody got out of line. Why the whole church was marching in one direction until someone decided that the thing they had been doing was wrong. So instead of saying that it will cause brethren to stumble, I'd rather quote Gal. 5, "Ye did run well, who hindered you that ye should not obey the truth." And in other words, let's go on in the same direction. Now if there is anything that I have said that is wrong, of course, I want to always be right, and if as suggested while ago there is a place in the New Testament where there were more than one congregation in one town, then just that one argument turns loose and all the others do not. We investigate that and find out. And if we find out there is a place in the Bible where there is more than one congregation then we'll drop that argument, and we'll go on with the others until somebody finds a scriptural example for dropping those. But the whole thing sums up to this. That the Lord said, "go and preach the gospel," and the Lord said care for the orphans, and when I come along and tell you there is a certain way for it to be done and there is no other way to do it, I am legislating where God did not legislate and I read in the very beginning of our lecture where that cannot be done.

Now sometimes brethren ask the question, "Do you believe that this is going to cause any wide spread apostasy in the church?" I do not. Now that is only one Arkansawer's opinion. I can find you a lot of brethren who do — and it may. I have had brethren write me, honest sincere brethren, friends of mine, who believe that it is, but I don't. Now that it may cause some difficulty in some quarters I know that it has, perhaps it will. But I believe that elders of the church today have their feet on the ground more than they ever had their feet on the ground, and the limited places where I go I find that elders of the church are not necessarily listening to preachers and they are not necessarily listening to papers, but that they themselves are trying to do what the Bible says. That some might, I do not deny. That some might go wrong, I do not deny. That some things we will do may be wrong, certainly no man has the right to say, because we may do some things that are wrong. But I don't believe that the eldership of the church today is nearly as weak as a lot of the brethren believe that it is. And I don't believe that the elders today are any more going to be led aside by this than they were by the one cup theory, than they were by the anti-class theory, and the anti-Sunday school theory, or the anti-located preacher theory, or the anti-educated preacher theory. I believe that our elders have their feet on the ground and although there may be some rumblings here and there, and there may be some disturbance — I may be as wrong as I can be, but the attitude I have for the church of Jesus Christ in the generation in which you and I live, if God lets us live, is one of great optimism, and that the things we are doing, doing right, will lead on to greater things for God. That in the day that is within our own reach, if the Lord lets us live the average age, that you and I will not only see seventy congregations in the city of Dallas, but more than seventy, maybe twice seventy, or three times seventy, not only ten or a dozen here in Tulsa, but we'll see seventy or a hundred or two hundred and that literally hundreds of thousands of people will be added to the church of the Lord, because by the means that men have given us and with the command that God has given us we are circling the globe with the gospel of Jesus Christ every day in the week nearly, and multiplied thousands are hearing it. I believe with the poet, "There are war clouds in the readied waves; I see the promise of the coming days. I see your sun arise new charge with grace, Her tears to dry and all her woes to face. Christ lives, Christ loves, Christ rules. No more shall might though leagued with all the foes of the night, ride over right. No more shall wrong the world in all its agony prolong. Who waits his time shall surely see, the triumph of his constancy. When without let or loss, let us crown some perfect day. Shall sweep the clouds away, and faith be re-plumed for nobler flight and hope for glory radiants bright, and love in loveliness bedight, shall greet the morning light" That's the way I feel about the church of our Lord and the future. If I have an enemy among her I don't know it, and I am the enemy of no man, But I preach what I believe and I believe with all of my heart that these things are right. And that the elders of the church of our Lord as a whole throughout the brotherhood are going to steer her on in the right direction regardless of what men may say or what men may do. Now if I owe you an apology — my wife told me to come down here and by all means don't speak over an hour and I wish you wouldn't talk over fifty minutes — she believes more in thirty minutes. It's been an hour and thirty-five minutes. If I owe you an apology, I apologize. If you tell her, well that's another score. But I had this time to do what I wanted to do, you asked for it, there it is. Now if you are here and you are not a child of God, we invite you to be one. I realize a lesson like this is not designed maybe to encourage people to obey the gospel. There may be none here who are not obedient to the gospel. But if there are we invite you to come. Jesus said, "come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden." We sing one verse while we stand and wait for you.