Ephraim’s Idols: The Church’s Mission Beautifully Expressed

By Ron Halbrook

The original Gospel Guardian was short lived, consisting of only eight issues from October of 1935 through June of 1936, but its call for sound doctrine rang loud and clear, far and wide. The editor was Foy E. Wallace, Jr. (1896-1979), who turned the subscription list over to the Firm Foundation in the summer of 1936. From 1939 through early 1949 Wallace-edited the Bible Banner, with much of the load being carried by Roy E. Cogdill during the last three years. In May of 1949 the new Gospel Guardian commenced through the consultation and cooperation of Wallace, Cogdill, and Yater Tant. Finally, in January of 1981 the journal joined hands with Truth Magazine under the banner Guardian of Truth. The call for sound doctrine, loud and clear, far and wide, still goes out!

Someone has compared the gospel journal to a blackboard – it is a place for the gospel preacher to write. The paper is no better or worse, no more helpful or harmful, than the individual Christians who write in it. Gospel preachers and papers should emphasize the spiritual nature of the gospel (it is a message for saving souls in eternity, not for social and political reform) and the spiritual work of the local church (the work is to establish saints in the gospel and to convert sinners to the gospel). The Gospel Guardian’s power for good can be seen in its emphasis upon purity in faith and practice, the spiritual nature of the gospel, and the spiritual work of the church. Those themes were written large and often on the pages of the Gospel Guardian – and need constant emphasis in the Guardian of Truth.

C.A. Norred sounded the needed theme in an article entitled “A Homily on Benevolences,” which appeared in the Gospel Guardian, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Mar.-Apr. 1936), p. 39. At the article’s head appeared the following words in large print: “The Evils of Begging Created a Multitude of Eleemosynary Institutions Established by the State and Sustained by Revenues Derived from Taxation. The Church Is Not Divinely Pledged to Public Material Benevolence; It Is Not a Glorified Relief Agency; Its Resources Relate to Spiritual Values and Lie in the Realm of True Benevolence.” Norred expressed “The Mission of the Church” beautifully in the excerpt reproduced below:

But what is the church to do in the field of benevolences? When we not only encounter the everpresent call of the needy but fall under the influence of epidemics, and general calamities – what shall we do? Is the church to have no part in general benevolence? We should do well just here to take notice of the truth that the church is not divinely pledged to public material benevolence. To say the very least that could be said, the church of the New Testament period lived in the midst of catastrophes and general calamities as numerous and pressing as we experience today. Yet if the church ever undertook to function in the field of public benevolence the fact is not stated in the inspired record. Also, it must be admitted that we are without the general machinery necessary to such a general function. The individual therefore who would employ the church in the field of public benevolences undertakes a work for which there is no inspired example and for which there exists no divinely approved machinery.

And, secondly, we should bear in mind that we are called to a benevolence supremely above that possible with this poor world. When the world gives its silver and gold it has given all it has to give. It may fill the hungry mouth, it may cover the shivering frame with warming garment, and it may work the hope of a well-fed and comfortable tomorrow – but this, in very large measure, is all it can do. But the church of God can break the bread of life to those who perish spiritually, it can clothe with the garments of a likeness of Christ, and it can fill the heart with the peace that passeth knowledge and a hope of life where life is life indeed. Ours then is the true benevolence, a benevolence in the real values of life.

This field of true benevolence is worthy of our most serious consideration and thoughtful discrimination. In times of distress and major disaster the world is quick to turn to the church for things of material sustenance. And such is easily understood; for the world thinks very largely in terms of food and raiment, even as the multitudes at Capernaum sought Jesus that they might again have bread to eat. And it is disappointing to find even some Christians falling victim to the notion that the church is a glorified relief agency. To be sure, we may share our bread with the hungry and our covering with the needy – but this is regulated by distinct statute; but we have a ministry far beyond this poor field. And it is in this higher field that our real resources should be looso. Silver and gold are not our gifts to bestow but such as we have, and our resources relate to spiritual values, we can give in profusion and unto eternal life.

Ours is the true benevolence!

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 20, pp. 632-633
October 20, 1983