By Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
(When the Gospel Guardian began in 1949, Foy E. Wallace, Jr. surveyed “The Issues Before Us” in two articles. Excerpts are given here from those articles which originally appeared in the Gospel Guardian for 5 and 19 May 1949, pp. 3 and 2-3.)
The issues confronting the church today are neither vague nor uncertain. Anyone with any ability at all to discern the trends or with any understanding of the course of history in the past cannot be mistaken in the portents of the present . . . In a dozen obvious ways and in unnumbered subtle and hidden ways “the mystery of lawlessness” is already at work. The development of institutionalism, centralized elderships, doctrinal weakness in the missionary situtation are but a few of the more apparent issues crying for correction. There are others.
No one claims that these institutions are divine organizations; no one denies that they are secular and human; yet their proponents want to bed them up in the treasuries of the churches and thereby subordinate the divine church of the Lord to the human organizations of men. So much emphasis in fact has been put on these institutions by various papers and in many congregations that when people are baptized in some of these places one may be led to wonder if they know whether they are being added to the church or just joining some college. Some brethren need to learn all over again what the church is and what the church is for; and we humbly hope to be able to help them learn it.
History is repeating on ecclesiastical organization. It comes now in the form of the little church working through the big church – which is centralization. It amounts to little elders turning the responsibility of their work over to big elders – which is diocesan in principle. Thus hierarchal and ecclesiastical centralization is growing – elders over elders, bishops over bishops. Remember, the pope of Rome is just an overgrown metropolitan bishop. With one eldership of one church taking over the work of many elders of many churches, and with this centralized eldership overseeing workers by the dozens who are not even members of the church where these elders are supposed to elder, what will be left of the local autonomous organization of the New Testament church? And to think that it has happened in Texas.
Promoting a Program
And another thing on the missionary situation-are we preaching the gospel and saving souls in foreign fields, or simply promoting a program to finance the building of schools, orphanages, and human institutions? If it be argued that through these human organizations and institutions the church can be established better, souls saved the more, then why is it that Jesus Christ did not order it done that way when he gave the Great Commission? And why did not the Apostles do it that way when they went into various countries of the world? And why was it not reported that way in the accounts and records in the Acts of the Apostles?
Shades of all the giants of the past generation who fought to their dying day the encroachments of missionary societies and human organizations in their early inroads within the churches of Christ! Between this and that, we had as well accept the missionary society and be done with it.
That we shall not do. The fight against societies, organizations, centralization of authority, and all that belongs to digression in general, so valiantly made in Tennessee and Texas fifty and sixty years ago, shall be fought all over again. The Lord has many thousands yet who have not bowed the knee to Baal – and shall not! From every point of the compass they shall rally to the call for truth and right. Our fathers have not fought in vain; their sons shall catch the torch of truth and hold it high. Let advocates of error be fully warned; there are a mighty host who say with us, They Shall Not Pass!
The Fellowship Question
While some of the brethren are becoming exercised over withholding fellowship from theorists and errorists among us from whom they think fellowship is not and should not be automatically withdrawn, let us suggest that Romans 16:17 covers the case and Titus 3:10 prescribe the procedure. Extending fellowship is a singular way to mark and avoid and reject teachers.
If these appeasers among us who are trying to decide whom to fellowship and not fellowship, what to tolerate or not tolerate would stop compromising anything and start preaching the truth on everything, the fellowship question would take care of itself like it did in John’s day: “They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 Jn. 2:19). The same attitude was commanded by Paul and the same procedure enjoined in the case of the Corinthians: “There must also be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest” (1 Cor. 11:20). And Titus was charged accordingly: “A man that is a heretic (factious), after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted” (Tit. 3:10). This inspired injunction runs quite counter to the policies of appeasers among us who attempt to push their fellowship with everything and everybody upon us. They have themselves become factious in fostering a false fellowship. It is time that these prescriptions should be extended to them as well, who foment strife in their spacious pleading. They are propagandists for error. The pressure of the preaching of the plain gospel, if it is constant, will drive heresy and heretics out – they will not stay long enough to be fellowshipped. And that is exactly what John and Paul meant by what they said.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 13, pp. 395-396
July 5, 1990