The Word Abused: the Sunday Morning Rip-Off

By Mike Willis

In reviewing these articles by Leroy Garrett, I have become progressively impressed at how wide-spread our differences are. I think the article presently being reviewed will demonstrate the utter incompatibility in our ways of approaching the Scriptures. In perhaps the most significant statement of this series, the editor of Restoration Review wrote, “I do not accept the view of patternism.”1 No little attention needs to be given to such a statement. If Garrett denies patternism, he denies that there are any patterns of organization, work, worship, etc. Paul wrote, “. . . but where there is no law, neither is there violation” (Rom. 4:15). Where there are no patterns, there can be no violations; therefore, God has given no rules with reference to the church if there are no patterns.

The consequences of no patterns are far reaching. With reference to the organization of the church, if there are no patterns, any kind of organization is legitimate. Thus, though we may not prefer any of these organizational arrangements, the papacy, synods, councils, associations, mother church, sponsoring churches, etc. are not unscriptural organizational arrangements. With reference to the worship of the church, if there are no patterns, any acts of worship are legitimate. Therefore, although we may not prefer any of these types of worship, using light bread and water as emblems in the Lord’s Supper, observing it monthly or annually and on any day of the week, counting beads in prayer, using “holy” water, using choirs in singing, accompanying our singing with mechanical instruments of music, etc. are no unscriptural forms of worship. The only reason why we do not use these forms of worship is our own prejudices, if there are no patterns of worship. My brethren, remember that where there are no patterns there can be no violations of those patterns. Garrett has categorically stated, “I do not accept the view of patternism” and, therefore, puts himself in the camp of those who deny rules for the church. In former years, such a position was called antinomianism; I know of no reason why it should be called anything else today.

Denying that there are any patterns, Leroy Garrett certainly has no appreciation for the assertion that the churches of Christ “are a true representation of the primitive church in name, organization, doctrine and practice.” Thus, he wrote,

“In no way have we abused the scriptures so grossly than in our claim that we are a true representation of the primitive church ‘in name, organization, doctrine and practice.’ The Sunday morning assembly especially illustrates this abuse of the scriptures. We can only conclude that it is a rip-off, being hardly a faint likeness of what it claims to emulate. Moreover, it is in some instances a rank denial of what the scriptures reveal as crucial in the corporate worship of the early church.

“The rip-off comes when any of us presume to be the church to the exclusion of all other believers. We are only playing the counterfeit role when we claim to be the exact reproduction of the primitive church at work and worship, when in fact we take as many liberties with what is actually in the scriptures as the next people. No group today is the New Testament church in the sense that it is an exact likeness of what the scriptures reveal-if for no other reason because the scriptures yield no one, composite picture of what that church was. We all choose what we like, and then reject the other fellow because he selects things that we neglect.”2

To illustrate the way in which we “ignore some of the things practiced by the primitive churches,” although we claim to have restored the New Testament church, Garrett cited the following items: (1) the love feast, (2) speaking in tongues, (3) deaconesses, (4) holy kiss, (5) kneeling in prayer. For,one who writes so extensively about abusing the Scriptures to boldly assert that the early church had a love feast and deaconesses-matters concerning which biblical students are quite unwillingly to categorically assert existed-is rather ludicrous. The other matters have been treated frequently enough that they deserve no reply. Garrett is obviously grasping for straws to prove his untenable position.

On the other hand, he denied that the five acts of worship, which we say were the acts of worship of the New Testament church, form a pattern at all. (I would surely have expected for Garrett to admit that all of the early churches prayed and studied God’s word; however, no such admission appeared in the article.) Thus, regarding the collection, Garrett wrote,

“There was almost certainly nothing like our `Sunday morning offering’ and probably no collection at all in the assemblies, except perhaps occasional gestures toward the poor-though it cannot be proved that this was done ‘at church.’ The collection in 1 Cor. 16:2 was provisional, which means that they had not been doing this before Paul asked them to and probably did not continue it after he came and took the money away. It was for a special emergency. Besides, it was laid aside at- home, not in the assembly, as most every Greek scholar will point out.”3

In reply to what Garrett wrote, I would like to quote the comments of the Calvinist commentator, Charles Hodge on 1 Cor. 16:2,

“Every one was to lay by himself, i.e. most commentators say, at home, par’ heauto. Compare pros heauton in Luke 24:12; see also John 20:10. The direction then is that every one should, on the first day of the week, lay aside at home whatever he was able to give, thus treasuring up his contribution. To this interpretation it may be objected that the whole expression is thus obscure and awkward. ‘Let every one at home place, treasuring up what he has to give.’ The words do not mean to lay by at home, but to lay by himself. The direction is nothing more definite than, let him place by himself, i.e. let him take to himself what he means to give. What he was to do with it, or where he was to deposit it, is not expressed. The word thesaurizon means putting into the treasury or hoarding up, and is perfectly consistent with the assumption that the place of deposit was some common treasury, and not every man’s own house. If Paul directed this money to be laid up at home, why was the first day of the week selected? It is evident that the first day must have offered some special facility for doing what is here enjoined. The only reason that can be assigned for requiring the thing to be done on the first day of the week, is that on that day the Christians were accustomed to meet, and what each one had laid aside from weekly gains could be treasured up, i.e. put into the common treasury of the church. The end which the apostle desired to accomplish could not otherwise have been effected. He wished that there might be no collections when he came. But if every man had his money laid by at home, the collection would be still to be made. The probability is, therefore, Paul intended to direct the Corinthians to make a collection every Lord’s day for the poor, when they met for worship.”4

Garrett’s position regarding the collection has been answered on a number of occasions. First of all, no one has said that 1 Con. 16:1-2 gives the exclusive pattern for spending the funds of the church; therefore, his comments about the purpose of the collection at Corinth are beside the point. Secondly, we know that churches had funds from which they carried on their programs of work (Phil. 4:15; 2 Cor. 11:8). Thirdly, the passage in 1 Cor. 16:1-2 was given to the churches in Galatia as well as to the one in Corinth, thus, leading one to believe that this was a universal practice of the early church. Fourthly, the passage in 1 Cor. 16:1-2 is the only passage which shows how and when the churches raised funds. Thus, it constitutes the pattern: for raising church funds (and not for spending them).

If 1 Cor. 16:1-2 does not furnish a pattern for the raising of funds for the church, there is no pattern. If there is no pattern, there can be no violation. Thus, the church could begin business enterprises to raise its resources. Hence, the pie suppers, rummage sales, and full-fledged business enterprizes entered into by denominations would not be unscriptural. Brethren, are you ready to admit these things?

Regarding the singing, Garrett said,

“There was probably no congregational singing as we practice it, if at all, though they may have chanted to each other antiphonally (back and forth), as an early historian indicates. They did have solos, for any brother that ‘hath a hymn’ was encouraged to sing it (1 Cor. 14:26). None of the scriptures about singing are related per se to the assembly, but to the personal life of the believer, and they call for addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,’ which is hardly a description of congregational singing. So, If we can’t establish congregational singing, we cannot establish a musical accompaniment. It is likely, however, that if a brother in the early church chose to ‘sing a psalm’ (Col. 3:16), he might well have used one of the many instruments available in that day, especially if he were a Jewish believer,.,for a. psalm to him meant playing as well as singing. The Selahs in the Psalms were probably the cue for a musical interlude. The Jewish. brother, If not the Gentile, would be inclined to ‘Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!’ as Psa. 150 would instruct him. So, in giving his psalm to you in either his home or at the assembly he would likely accompany ft or intersperse it with melodious touches of the harp or the gentle sounds. of a lute.” 5

In reply to this, let me begin by showing the authority for congregational singing. Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 show that singing was for one another; a person speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs demands some kind of gathering. 1 Cor. 14:26 shows that singing was a part of the congregational worship of the church inasmuch as this entire chapter of 1 Corinthians was dealing with the congregational assembly. Brother Garrett is flagrantly in error when he wrote, “None of the scriptures about singing are related per se to the assembly. .: . .” Now, if Garrett believes that instrumental music meets God’s approval, we shall wait to see his proof. The proof from the word psalmos has been answered many times before. I remain appalled at how authoritatively our brother speaks regarding things which outstanding biblical scholars say cannot be positively known such as his comments on selah in the psalms.

After denying patternism, Garrett turned right around to assert a pattern of mutual ministry rather than having a preacher working with a congregation. He said,

“Conspicuously absent would be `the minister’ or `the pastor, a position that we have taken more from our religious neighbors than from the scriptures. The primitive churches were nourished by the elders or shepherds of the flock (Acts 20:28), while evangelists were out breaking new ground for the Lord.”6

Brother Garrett, you cannot have both ends of an either/or proposition. Either there are no patterns or there are. If there are no patterns as you said, the “pastor system” is not unscriptural. (For a refutation of Garrett’s anti-located preacher ideas, see the Humble Garrett Debate. )


Actually, my brethren, Leroy Garrett has the old denominational concept of the church as illustrated by this quotation:

“When I sit with the saints on Sunday morning in a typical ‘Church of Christ,’ my view of things is rather simple. These too are God’s people, I say to myself, They are my brothers and sisters and I love them. But in saying that I realize that God also has some children at the other churches in town, not because they’re Methodists or Baptists, but because they too have been saved by ‘the bath of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit’ (Tit. 3:5). Even if I am non-instrumental music by preference, I realize that the kingdom of God does not consist of such matters. And I allow no one to deceive me into believing that ‘we have restored the primitive church’ in the way we worship. I would have to smile at that, for in a lot of ways I know we haven’t, and that others have done better at this In some areas than we have.” 7

Garrett sees no differences in the churches of Christ and the denominations. This is the theological basis from which he advocates his mini-ecumenical movement. I know of no better passage to describe what has happened to Leroy Garrett than 1 Jn. 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.” Our position differs so radically from that of Leroy Garrett that I cannot understand how he continues to worship with the churches of Christ. Garrett thinks and acts more like the denominationalists than he thinks like us; I cannot understand why he does not go ahead and pitch his tent with them-unless it be that he is bent on taking us with him!

(Note: Once again the editor of Restoration Review attacked the errors of the churches of Christ. I cannot help wondering whether the Christian Church preachers abuse any scriptures! Surely when a man shoots only at those whom he calls his friends and never at the enemy, :someone must eventually ask, “Could this be a wolf in sheep’s clothing?” Indeed, Garrett is!)


1 Leroy Garret, “The Word Abused … The Sunday Morning Rip-Off,” Restoration Review, XVIII (October, 1975), p. 145.

2 Ibid., pp. 142, 145.

3 Garrett, op. sit., p. 143.

4 Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapists: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974 edition), pp. 363-364.

5 Garrett, op. sit. 6 Garrett, op. sit.

7 Garrett, op. sit., p. 146.

Truth Magazine, XX:4, p. 7-9
January 22, 1976