By S. Leonard Tyler
Most religious people will quickly respond, “I certainly will. That is what I want. Our church does that, if it didn’t I would not remain in it.” But what a pity that such is not really the fact. To allow you to observe what I mean — we ask, “where does the Bible teach any group of people to write for themselves a creed, discipline, confession of faith, catechism, or constitution by which they are governed in their church?” The answer is not a straight forward reply. Here it is, “But the Bible does not say, ‘Thou shalt not write a concise document by which to make our doctrine understandable and definite.”‘ We answer, “No, but does it say write them?” They are written for the very purpose for which God gave us the Bible. If this document contains more than the Bible, that is too much. If less than the Bible, that is too little. If it differs from the Bible, it is wrong or the Bible is wrong. If it contains exactly what the Bible does, we have the Bible, hence your document is useless.
Now let us recall the statement at the beginning which was quickly made that willingly and gladly the Bible would be accepted. But what about the response to maintain their creed. It proves unequivocally their failure to accept the Bible only and their determination to persist in having their written document (creed, discipline, articles of faith, etc.) in addition to the Bible. Their creed or church constitution serves the very purpose for which God gave the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:34; 1 Pet. 4:11; Jude 3).
Ask About Baptism
The response usually goes like this, “God, didn’t say, ‘He that believeth and is not baptized shall be lost.”‘ No, but He did say, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Now which do you want to be – saved or lost? Are you going to trust your salvation upon what God says, or upon what He did not say?
“God,” they continue, “didn’t say, ‘Thou shalt not use mechanical instruments of music in worship.”‘ Again, no, but He did say, “Sing and make melody in your hearts unto the Lord.” Which are you going to do? Which is our guide: what God didn’t say or what God said and the New Testament instructs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16-17)?
But The Bible Does Not Say
“But the Bible does not say,” is not confined to those outside the church. The same words are echoed among the saints. There are those within the church of our Lord who will fanatically acclaim, “The Bible does not say ‘how’ to preach the gospel, therefore we may establish an organization through which the gospel can be preached more efficiently and effectively.” The Bible does not tell us how but it does commission or direct the church to teach the word as the “pillar and ground,” support, “of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 4:12). God, through Christ, has given sufficient “organization or divine arrangement” through which the work is to be done. In the first century, under the direct directions of the Holy Spirit no organization was used, authorized or needed in addition to or instead of the church. The local church stood apart from any other organization to serve God’s divine purpose upon the earth. It worked then, why will it not work today? We have no further information from God, no other plan can be of divine origin — only human. What about it I Is man wiser than God today and capable of knowing more about what is required to carry God’s saving message to the whole world than God Himself? If so, don’t you suppose that man will soon come up with a better message of salvation? How vain can man become!
The sponsoring, centralized church is foreign to the work of the first century church of our Blessed Lord. It is also foreign to the New Testament. Therefore, no one or group has any divine right to practice any such set-up with God’s approval.
This same principle is true in edification. The church is authorized of God to so edify itself by practicing and speaking the truth in love so all growth may be unto him who is the head – Christ (Eph. 4:15-16).
The benevolent work was done by the church with no extra organizations, or done individually by Christians. The glory was given to God. The poor saints were the object of the church’s care (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 1 Tim. 5:16). And, so far as we have right to know, this was the practice of the church for some nineteen hundred years – the church of Christ. One must search diligently the history of the Lord’s church to find any sort of a benevolent organization within her framework or to which she contributed before the twentieth century. All of the benevolent institutions or orphanages or asylums associated with or tied to the church – to which the church contributed to enable the institution to do her benevolent work – have been established within the nineteen hundreds. What did the church do before the nineteen hundreds?
Guardian of Truth XXX: 2, p. 51
January 16, 1986