Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 26, 1955

God's Plan And Human Wisdom

Bill Cavender, Nocona, Texas

In the New Testament there is revealed the complete and final revelation of God. We call this revelation Christianity because Christ is its author. Christianity was fully made known by Christ, his apostles, and other inspired men. It is designed to completely furnish men unto every good work, and it contains all things that pertain to life and godliness. Christianity includes all things revealed in the New Testament; it excludes all things not contained therein.

One, in following only the New Testament, becomes a Christian and a member of the Lord's body, the church. The church is the "called out," 'that is, those who are called out of service to Satan to serve Christ in his kingdom or church. The church of the Lord contains all the saved. If one is not in the church, he is not saved from sin; if he is in the church, he has been saved from sin.

The word "church" is used in two senses in the New Testament. It is used in a "universal" sense to include all the saved in all the world. (Matt. 16:18; Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23.) It is used in a "local" sense to include all Christians who live in a certain area, city or locality and who worship and work together. (1 Cor. 1:1-2; Phil. 1:1.) One searches the New Testament in vain to find any organization for the "Universal" church, save that Christ is the head of the body, the church. There is no earthly organization of any kind for the "Universal" church because none is revealed. But the church in its "Local" sense does have organization. The New Testament teaches that every church has its own elders, who are overseers of the work of the local church where they are elders. (Acts 14:23; 20:28; Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1-3.) With the elders there are servants or deacons who assist the elders in the work of the church. (Acts 6:1-6; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8-13.)

The work of the church, given it by God, is threefold: (1) Evangelism (preaching the gospel); (2) Edification of the members of the body of Christ; (3) Benevolence. Since God planned and built the church, and since God gave the church the work it is to do, we must conclude that God fitted the church to do the work he gave it to do. It is absurd to think that God planned and organized the church as He did, gave it the work to do that He did, and then the church not be able to do that work, because of a lack of a "universal" agency through which the "Universal" church may act. God's plan is that every local church do the work He gave it to do, and to do it to the extent of that church's ability and resources. Each church is to do its own work as if it were the only church in existence. For several years the Jerusalem church existed alone, and its members were able to accomplish the work God gave it to do. In times of unusual circumstances and abnormal conditions, one church could help another. (Acts 11:27-30; Rom. 15:26.) Churches sent to Paul in helping him preach the gospel, but no church or no group of elders of one church became the agency or agents through which other churches did their work.

About a hundred years ago many good men saw the great potential power of the "Universal" church. They admitted that God ordained no organization for the universal church, so they believed it was left to man's judgment to form such an organization. They formed the Missionary Society, composed of delegates from churches. Such a system could preach the gospel to a dying world, and all the participating churches could have representation in the society by and through the delegates. Their purpose, preaching the gospel, was good, but the plan of God was transgressed.

For two or three decades, other good men among us have also viewed the mighty potential power of the Lord's people, but they cannot see that this power can be exerted through local congregations only. They have had to devise some system whereby this power can be harnessed, and so the "sponsoring church" system has arisen. The concept of the sponsoring church idea is the same as that of the Missionary Society. It is the idea that to accomplish God's work given to the churches, the churches must pool their resources and the universal church must act through a single agency. In our generation, that universal church agency is the eldership of some local church, instead of a society of delegates from all the local churches that are participating in some given work. The sponsoring church idea is wrong, as was the society idea, because it makes for an unlawful alignment and organization of local churches, and it causes the elders of a local church to go beyond their bounds of authority and become the directors of a work involving more than the local church of which they are elders. Thus, God's plan is changed and a principle is established by which churches could delegate all their work to a single eldership. Such is a perversion of the simple organization of the Lord's churches about which we read in the New Testament.

We live in a day and age of great wealth, projects, plans and organizations. These great projects in the world about us have affected our thinking and doing the work of the Lord. Great promotional schemes in the fields of benevolence and gospel preaching have arisen among us, partly due to the desire on the part of some to do much good fast and partly due to the influence that the world has had upon our thinking.

David once intended to place emphasis upon numbers of fighting men, but God was displeased. (2 Sam. 24:110; 1 Chron. 21:1-8.) Gideon did not need thirty-two thousand men, but only three hundred to defeat the Midianites. (Judges 7.) Thirteen apostles preached the gospel in all the world in a few short years. (Col. 1:23.) A wealthy church was a lukewarm church. (Rev. 3:14-22.) The accomplishment of the Lord's work does not require great numbers, great wealth, and great promotional plans. Numbers, wealth, and plans may help to do the work God gave us if our faith abides in God and His power, a strict allegiance to His revealed will, and a determination to do right under all circumstances. It may be hard for men in their wisdom to see how local churches over the world can accomplish God's purposes. Human wisdom dictates universal church action and sponsoring church ideas and centralized control of projects. God's plan and God's wisdom are that every local church and every Christian do all possible to promote the Cause of Christ. There is great strength in God's arrangement. All of us should have faith enough in God to try His way. It will work if we will let it.