UNITY: Do We Believe in One Body?

By Roy E. Cogdill

My brethren have preached through the years that “There is one body.” They still profess to preach and believe it, but a close investigation reveals that many of them no longer believe it to the point that they are willing to practice it. If we are not willing to carry out every function of the Lord’s church in and through the “one body” or one organization found in the Scriptures, we are hypocrites when we preach and profess to believe in the “one body” of Ephesians 4. The practical application of this divine truth is not confined to denominations but is just as applicable to New Testament Christians everywhere. We have no right preaching that some are bound by it when we are not willing to be confined to the principle ourselves.

More than a hundred years ago, all through this land there was the disposition to cling to the “old paths” in theory but not in practice. Brethren became dissatisfied with divine arrangements yet professed to be believers in divine truth. They preached then, “We will speak where the Bible speaks and we will be silent where the Bible is silent.” This was more than a slogan. It is a Bible principle. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11). These brethren then professed to continue to “speak as the oracles of God,” indeed they still do make that profession, but they were not willing to minister (serve) of the “strength which God supplieth.” They demonstrated that “speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent” was to them just a slogan and not a divine principle at all. They went about organizing whatever they wished in the way of human institutions and societies to accomplish the work that God had designated as the work of the church. When once they had accepted the principle of the “missionary society” they were plunged into dozens of others and a multitude of other departures both in worship and doctrine. It is amazing to hear these brethren who “went out from us because they were not of us” and have formed themselves into the denomination known commonly as “The Christian Church” or as “The Disciples” and -even sometimes yet as “Churches of Christ” but a denomination none-the-less, still talk about “speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent.”

It is even more amazing to hear the modern defectors from truth among our brethren profess to disallow what those then did but who now themselves “doest the same things” (Romans 2:1). The brethren who have accepted the principle of being at “liberty” to affect whatever organizations they deem expedient or necessary to carry out the function of the Lord’s church, still would make one who does not know what is going on among them think that they believe in “speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent.” They still talk about the “sufficiency of the church to do what God gave it to do” and all of the time they preach and contend that it is necessary to build human organizations to do it.

In the Birmingham debate and at Newberne, Tennessee, in the discussions with Guy N. Woods, Gospel Advocate staff writer, he contended that the Lord had commanded the church to do the work of benevolence and then contended that the church could not actually do this work but could finance it. He along with all of the Gospel Advocate disciples argue that the work of benevolence which God has given the church to do necessitates (not just as expedient) the forming of another organization (body), a benevolent society under a board of directors with a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer. Still they would have you think they believe in “but one body.” We deny that they do. They no more believe in “speaking as the oracles of God” than the digressive brethren of the Christian Churches. They talk about it but they are not willing to “serve out of the strength which God giveth.” In fact, they say that God has not given us the means in the Scriptures of carrying out the very thing which God has commanded us to do.

There are others, like the Firm Foundation disciples, who insist that the work of benevolence should be under the elders of the local church. They form their giant combinations like Tipton Home to care for the indigent, put it into the farming business, livestock business, school business, and a dozen others, and then stick that giant institution, board of directors and all, under the eldership of the local church at Tipton. The elders at Tipton say that the work of this institution is under their supervision. Do they have the Bible classes in the real estate business, insurance business, secular educational business, etc.? Do they have these Bible classes set under a board of directors with the same kind of legal arrangement, incorporation, as they have the “home”? If not, why not? The fact is that their claim is not so. They have a separate organization from the church and it is professedly doing the work of the church. Why not this same arrangement for missionary work? There is no scriptural authority for either and both invade the sacred realm of God’s authority and are rebellious against His will.

These same brethren try to justify a perversion of the organization of God’s church, the local congregation, by making it serve as a brotherhood agency. They have a brotherhood eldership, brotherhood treasury, brotherhood work organized as the “Herald of Truth.” It is a sinful perversion of the nature and function of God’s organization and has divided churches of Christ all over the world and disrupted the fellowship of God’s people. When those who go along with it and support it claim to “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent,” they are making a false claim. God has supplied no such human arrangements and the “service” they perform is not by the “strength which God has supplied.”

Paul said, “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (Col. 2:18-19). These liberal and institutional brethten may not “worship angels” but they definitely “intrude into those things which (they) have not seen” and are “vainly puffed up by (their) fleshly minds.” Moreover they are “not holding the Head, from which all the body (has) nourishment ministered . . . and (is) knit together, and increaseth with the increase of God.”

Those who are led astray by such deceptive means while professing a form of godliness have denied the power thereof.” They “say and do not.” They do not respect the divine truth: “there is one body.”

They do not preach what they practice. Then there are those who do not practice what they preach. Sometimes churches say, “We do not contribute to these human societies.” Yet they give them their endorsement and encouragement and will not allow the truth which condemns them to be taught from the pulpit or in the Bible classes. They are even more inexcusable and are “accessories” to the fact whether they contribute their money or not. There is no neutral ground when Bible truth is involved.

Christ is not the head of human arrangements and organizations and has not supplied nourishment unto them in any sense. Neither is God giving the increase. It is not the increase of God (Col. 2:18-19).

Truth Magazine XX: 33, pp. 520-521
August 19, 1976