Edifying Or Institutionalizing?

By Larry Ray Hafley

No disciple doubts or denies the necessity of edification. That Christians must be built up by the word of God that they may “grow up into him in all things” is beyond dispute or discussion (Eph. 4:12-16; 1 Pet. 2:2; Jas. 1:21). Much of the New Testament was written to the saved “that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God” (1 Tim. 3:15).

This is the process of all the natural realm. After the begettal and birth, there follows the long period of nurture and admonition. After the plowing and planting, there is care and cultivation to insure the harvest. Likewise, after the conviction and conversion of the sinner, there is confirmation and exhortation to evade temptation, endure tribulation and enjoy salvation (Matt. 28:20; Acts 2:42; 14:21, 22).

In all arrangements, organizations and institutions, whether human or Divine, there must be constant impartation of information to maintain strength and attain growth. However, when any society or company begins to feed on itself, it becomes a parasite sucking out its own life’s blood. It is as though one began to eat his own body for food and nourishment. He may temporarily feed himself, but the outcome is obvious. “But if ye bite and devour one another take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15).

Is this repulsive self cannibalizing occurring in the kingdom of God? A businessman recognizes the need for staff meetings, for internal reorganization and sales motivation, but if he spends his time waxing and polishing the store and his retail force and fails to attend to the consumer, he will die. If the business has too much refinement, too many inter-personnel memos, though all are designed to improve the company, and neglects the customer, the business will fail. Again, is this happening among the Lord’s people?

Not Now, Not Later, Not Ever

This is not the time, if there ever was such a time to turn and feast and focus our eyes upon an institutional body. The Jews did so. They could see a man healed, but they only wanted to debate the sabbath issue. They could connive and conspire and bribe and lie and put an innocent man to death, but they certainly did not want to be in the judgment hall at the wrong time, “lest they should be defiled” (Jn. 18:28). They could twist His words and with unashamed deceit and dishonesty attempt to discredit His mighty deeds, which they acknowledged as such (Jn. 11:47; 12:10, 11; Matt. 12:24; Acts 2:22), but they could not allow their victim to remain on the cross, “(for that sabbath day was an high day)” (Jn. 19:31).

Word studies and technical, critical examination and consideration of the word of truth are good, but we do not need to know how many angels can reside on the head of a pin. A nation needs arms. Let it produce swords, spears and shields. They must be kept in repair. They must be clean and shining, but they are for use on the enemy, not against one another. Who was it that originally said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand”? Hint: It was not Abraham Lincoln.

The United States was nearly destroyed by civil war. The kingdom of God will not be annihilated or exterminated, but if its citizens turn on one another in wrath, pride, envy and evil surmising, they will be cast out, spewed out, broken off and delivered unto Satan. Diotrephes, men, will not do it, but the One who rules “with a rod of iron,” and “with the sword of his mouth,” and Who walks “in the midst” of the churches will consume them.


The world, our friends, neighbors and relatives are perishing in the clutches of atheism, humanism, sensualism and denominationalism. In this land of Bibles and churches, ignorance, superstition and vain worship prevail. Churches of the Lord suffer from the influence of the world, from the evils the holy apostles and prophets warned us of (Acts 20:28-32; 2 Pet. 2:1, 2; Jude 3, 4). All of these errors, departures and sins must be opposed with meekness and fear. However, we cannot afford internal bickering, backbiting and contention in the name of contending for the faith. Wisdom and greatness in the kingdom of God’s dear Son are not determined by envy, strife and division. Jealousy and selfish ambition “descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (Jas. 3:15). “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 19:21).

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 3, p. 79
February 3, 1983