Understanding Baptism – Acts 22:16


“And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts 22:16

"And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Acts 22:16

The words of Ananias in Acts 22:16 are simple to understand. There’s nothing complicated about them. Nothing complex or ambiguous; “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” And yet the religious world of today, has taken baptism and they have twisted it and made it into something that is so confusing. One group says that baptism is the pouring on of water. While another says, it’s just sprinkling with water. While a third says it’s immersion into water.

If arguing about the mode of baptism isn’t enough then there’s the whole debate about why a person needs to be baptized. One group says that you don’t have to be baptized. While another says it’s to join a certain church organization. While a third says you have to be baptized to be saved.

What’s a person to do? Where are they to turn to find the answers to their questions about baptism? The best place to find answers to your Bible questions is the Bible itself. Let’s allow the Bible to provide the answers to our questions concerning baptism by looking at Acts 22:16.

URGENCY – The need to be baptized is of an urgent matter. Paul was asked, “Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized.” Paul didn’t wait to be baptized. We learn in Acts 9:18 (another account of this same event) that as soon as Paul received his sight he arose and was baptized.

In the Bible there was no baptism services, there was no waiting weeks after one was saved to be baptized. Baptism was so important to the believer’s salvation they didn’t want to wait. Looking at the conversion accounts of Acts, you can see that baptism was something that a believer urgently wanted to submit to: (Acts 2:41, 8:12, 8:38-39, 10:44-48, 16:14-15, 16:30-34, 18:8, 19:15). Why this sense of urgency? Because the act of believing is not complete until a person is baptized (Mark 16:15-16).

MODE – As Paul arose to be baptized he was not sprinkled, nor was water poured on him from a pitcher or cup. Rather, he was immersed in water. How do we know that? The Greek word translated baptized is baptizo which means to dip, immerse or submerge (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). Since baptism is complete immersion, Paul would later relate baptism to being buried with Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12).

With the proper understanding of the meaning of the word baptism Acts 22:16 reads this way, ““And now why are you waiting? Arise and be immersed [buried with Christ], and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Doesn’t that make is much easier to see that baptism is immersion?

WHY – Why was he baptized? It wasn’t because he was joining the church at Damascus; nor was it because he was already saved. For the answer let’s look at our verse again, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Paul was baptized so his sins could be washed away. As Paul went down into the waters of baptism he went down into them as a dead man, full of sin; but as he came up from those waters his sins were washed away (he was forgiven) and he was made alive with Christ (Colossians 2:13). Paul also said, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:5-6). It is only through baptism that the believer’s sins will be taken away.

We’ve seen that Paul was urgent in his being baptized. His baptism was administered by being immersed into water as if being buried. He was baptized so that his sins would be washed away. But what part did faith play in his baptism? Was it in himself and his baptism or was it in the Lord and what the Lord was doing through the baptism?

FAITH – Paul did not put his faith in the man who baptized him to save him, or the water that he was buried in to purify him. Instead, Paul put his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by “calling on the name of the Lord.” For Paul to call on the name of the Lord at his baptism meant he was putting his faith in the Lord and not in himself (Titus 3:5), recognize his baptism as a working of the Lord (Colossians 2:12), and he was confessing his belief that Jesus is Lord and Son of God (Acts 10:20; cf. Mark 16:16, Acts 8:37).

I hope that by using the baptism of Paul from Acts 22:16 you better understand the role baptism plays in the life of a Christian. Perhaps you’ve looked at your own baptism and have seen that it doesn’t fit what the Bible teaches. Maybe you were sprinkled, or told baptism was to join a church or whatever it was, you know it wasn’t the truth. “Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Ask your preacher or pastor to baptize you today so your sins will be washed away and put your faith in Jesus and confess that He is the Son of God.

I want to hear from you. Make a comment or drop me a note at clay@claygentry.com. God bless as you strive to serve Him.

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Limited Benevolence


"Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common." Acts 4:32

When a natural disaster strikes, here or abroad, the question usually comes up “Why doesn’t your church give money to org’s that do good works for others?” Or “Why doesn’t your church operate a food pantry or help people who walk in off the street?” It’s true as a congregation we do not offer benevolence from the churches treasury to just anybody who ask and we don’t give money from the church’s treasury to support benevolence organizations, whether it be the Red Cross, or a local community outreach organization. But why? Why do we practice limited benevolence from the churches treasury? Why do we only use the church’s treasury to only help a limited number of people? Since it’s a Bible question, we’ll give it a Bible answer.

The New Testament Is Our Authority – In order to properly answer our question we must first establish what our standard of authority is going to be. Is our standard going to be the ever shifting thoughts of man or is it going to be the unchanging wisdom of God’s word? It’s quite clear, we need to establish our authority of the unchanging wisdom of God’s word. And for us as believers in His church that’s the New Testament. So let’s look at church benevolence in the New Testament and learn how we as churches are supposed to help the needy around us today.

From the New Testament we learn two principles that guide us as a church in distributing benevolence. The first principle is Families Help First. And the second is The Church Helps Its Own. Let’s take each of these in order to learn how they govern a church in practicing limited benevolence.

Families Help First – The principle that Families Help First comes from Paul’s instruction to Timothy to practice limited benevolence at the church at Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3) by only helping widows who were truly in need.

In 1 Tim 5:3-16, Paul discusses benevolence toward widows. To alleviate the church from becoming “burdened” (1 Tim 5:16) with caring for many widows, Paul instructed Timothy to teach, Families Help First. That’s why in 1 Tim 5:4 he said, “But if any widow had children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.” What is good and acceptable before God? A family helping first is what is good and acceptable before God. This principle was so important to Paul that he restated it in 1 Tim 5:16 say, “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.”

When the church follows God’s word it will practice limited benevolence from it treasury by requiring families to help first. Now there are cases when a widow does not have family that can care for them (Paul calls them “those who are really widows” or “widows indeed”). In those cases the church would but the exception proves the rule that a church is to practice limited benevolence. The church wasn’t to care for every widow that didn’t have a family, only its own widows that didn’t have families.

The Church Helps Its Own – Whether the need for relief came from a famine (Act 11:27-30) or from poverty (Acts 2:44-47, 4:32-37, 6:1-7); whether it was a local need (as in Jerusalem) or one abroad (Antioch sending relief to Jerusalem), the church of the New Testament practiced limited benevolence by only helping its own.

As soon as the church in Jerusalem began there was a need for the group to help their own. Notice what is said in Acts 2:44-47:

“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, (45) and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. (46) So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, (47) praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

Who is the subject of this passage? It is those who believed; those who made up the church there in Jerusalem. It was those who believed that had all things in common. It was those who believed that sold their possessions and goods. It was those who believed that divided them among all who had need. And who were those in need? Go back to Act 2:44, it was those who believed and were worshipping with the church as seen inAct 2:46-47. When the church at Jerusalem wanted to help needy people did they help all the needy people in Jerusalem? No, the church at Jerusalem practiced limited benevolence by only helping its own with the funds that the church had.

Again in Act 4:32-37 we have reference to the church at Jerusalem helping the needy by distributing benevolence, but again the focus is on the church practicing limited benevolence by only helping its own from the monies that were contributed to the church.

Later in Act 6:1-7 we read that the church at Jerusalem had a daily distribution of benevolence that was given to widows. Was it given to just any widows? No it wasn’t, look at the subject of this passage, it is the disciples; the passage begins and ends with the emphasis being on the disciples. So we see that the church at Jerusalem practiced limited benevolence by supporting its own widows.

Are we to suppose think that the only needy people or needy widows in Jerusalem where Christians? Of course not, there would have been many needy people in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, these examples show us that the New Testament church practiced limited benevolence by using money from the church treasury to only help its own.

But there were two times when the church at Jerusalem could not meet the needs of its own people. It was then that other churches, the church at Antioch (Act 11:27-30) and churches from Macedonia and Achaia (Rom 15:25-27; cf. 1 Cor 16:2-4; 2 Cor 8:1-9:15), sent relief to help the needy saints in Jerusalem. Notice who was the recipient of the benevolence sent from these generous churches:

“And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. (28) Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. (29)Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. (30) This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.” (Acts 11:27-30)

“But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. (26) For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. (27) It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.” (Rom 15:25-27)

The church at Antioch and the churches of Macedonia and Achaia sent benevolence only to the saints in Judea and Jerusalem, or in other words, they sent benevolence to only their own. Are we supposed to think that it was only Christians who were suffering from the famine? Of course not, but since the New Testament church practiced limited benevolence in that they only sent help to other Christians, or in other terms, their own.

Let’s recap: Why do we practice limited benevolence as a church? We practice limited benevolence as a church because the church of the New Testament practiced limited benevolence. They practiced limited benevolence by insisting families help first, and by only helping their own, whether they were local or abroad. Since the church of the New Testament did this, we to should seek to follow their pattern today by practicing limited benevolence from the churches treasury in the same way they did.

Judas – A Man Who Became a Traitor


 

 

 

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When it comes to villains the Bible has its fair share. There’s Cain the brother-killer. The conniving Delilah. The murderous Jezebel. The rampaging Manasseh. And then there’s public-enemy #1, Judas the betrayer of Jesus. Too often we look at the villains and we see people that we can’t relate to. And perhaps that true with some but not with Judas. What I want you to see this morning is that we are more similar to Judas than we care to think. Let’s start by looking at three facts about Judas; then we’ll look at his struggle with sin; his betrayal of Jesus; the aftermath and some lessons we can learn from him.

Three Facts about Judas:

He was a man, not a monster. Typically when we think about Judas we picture him as a monster, sort of like the serpent of the New Testament but only more devilish, more evil. Perhaps this comes from John 6:70-71, “One of you is a devil… He spoke of Judas Iscariot.” The idea in this passage is that Judas was devilish, or slanderous. The word used here is diabolos it’s translated as devil but it is also translated slanderers in other passages (1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3). Essentially this is no difference in Jesus calling Judas a devil and Jesus calling Peter Satan in Matthew 16:23. So let’s not allow this imagine of him as a devilish monster cloud our perspective of Judas because he was man just like us. Just like us, he was a man created in the imagine of God (Genesis 1:26), not for evil works, as some would say, but for good works (Ephesians 2:10).

He was a disciple of Jesus. Often times, Judas is portrayed is being a traitor from the very beginning of his time with Jesus. But in fact Judas was a chosen disciple of Jesus. When Jesus chose His twelve apostles (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19;Luke 6:12-16) Judas is named among them. When Jesus sends out the twelve two-by-two to cast out unclean spirits and preach repentance Judas goes and he reports all that he had done and preached (Mark 6:7-13, 30-31). And when it came to following Jesus, Judas was farther away from home than any of the other disciples. We know that Jesus spent the majority of His ministry in and around Galilee and that His disciples were all Galileans, except Judas. Judas was from the city of Kerioth in south Judah. We know this because he was called Judas Ish Kerioth or Judas man of Kerioth. So let’s realize that we are just like Judas; disciples of Jesus who are willing to follow Him; disciples of Jesus who are willing to go where He sends; disciples of Jesus who are willing to sacrifice in order to be with Him.

He was a trusted friend. Normally we view Judas through the lens of hindsight. Because we know the end of the story we look back on him as not being a trusted friend but when we look at him in real-time, from the perspective of the other disciples, a picture begins to form of Judas being a trusted friends. The other disciples trusted Judas enough to let him carry the money bag for the group (John 12:6, 13:29). The disciples didn’t choose the least trustworthy person like Matthew (tax collectors were know to skim off the top Luke 19:8 ESV) to keep their money but the most trustworthy and that was Judas. But not only was he trustworthy he was also a friend. For three years these men traveled together, lived together, ate together, worked together, and argued together. They were close friends. In fact Judas was seen as such a close trusted friend that the disciples didn’t even question why he left supper after Jesus identifies him as His betrayer (John 13:18-30).

Then if Judas was all of these good things what went wrong, why did he become a traitor and betray the Lord?

What went wrong with Judas? Why did he become a traitor?

Luke reminds us that Judas became a traitor (Luke 6:16), implying that when he was called by Jesus he was a believer. But what happened? What went wrong with Judas? Why did he become a traitor? The answer can be summed up in one sentence… He didn’t resist the devil.

From James 4:7 we learn that if we will “Resist the devil… he will flee from [us].” The idea in this passage is not that if we resist the devil will flee from us and never comeback to tempt us again. James is saying the true way of meeting Satan is by direct resistance. Direct resistance means we steadfastly refuse to compromise even to the slightest degree to what he wants us to do. Direct resistance means we don’t give place to his schemes by somehow thinking that if we go along with his demands we can return back to a right-standing before God once we’ve done Satan’s bidding. Direct resistance means we seek help from our brethren to help us bear the burden of Satan’s attacks. But Judas didn’t do any of these things and so Satan didn’t flee from him.

We don’t know how it all started. Perhaps Judas struggled with greed and materialism before he became a disciple. Or, perhaps it had never crossed his mind; perhaps those temptations had never bothered him until he was selected to carry the money bag for the disciples. I suspect Judas’ sin story is just like everyone else’s…

  • Not long after he started carrying the money bag Satan gives Judas the thought of taking a few denarii for himself. Judas would have quickly offered up the argument “No! I can’t do that to my friends?” So he didn’t take any money that time.
  • But two weeks later Satan would have provided Judas with thoughts about how he could take several denarii and not get caught. This time it takes Judas a little longer to resist these thoughts. He dwells on them as if he’s playing a mental game to pass the time while he was walking from city to city. But ultimately he refuses and he doesn’t steal any money.
  • But after another week passes Satan would have presented Judas with a compromise. Take two denarii for what you need but pay them back next week. Judas would have thought on this proposal for some time, because he would have thought he needed two denarii right them. He would have rationalized it by saying “It would be okay to do that. No one would know because I know how to take money undetected and it really wouldn’t be stealing because I’m going to pay it back.” And so he takes the two denarii with the full intention of paying them back next week.
  • But when next week rolls around and Judas has the full intentions of paying it back but Satan has other plans. With his heart now fully open to Satan’s words, he whispers to Judas, “Don’t worry about paying it back, you deserved it. In fact take some more you’ve earned it. You need to be blessed.” And so the destructive cycle of sin began and Judas became a thief by helping himself to a few denarii here and a few denarii there (John 12:6).
  • Over time Judas’ appetite for more money grew and Satan was all too willing to help him with his desire for more. On the night that Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with an expensive bottle of spikenard (John 12:1-8) Satan puts it into Judas’ sin gripped heart to rage out against Mary because she, took his money by not selling the spiknard and putting the three hundred denarii into his care (John 12:5-7).
  • But Judas’ needed more money than he could get from the Jesus and the other disciples. Once a person goes down the path of sin it takes more and more sin to satisfy their hunger. For Judas he needed more and more money and there wasn’t enough in the bag, he had lost out on a jackpot with the spikenard, so he then turns to the only thing he has of value… Jesus himself.
  • So Satan gives Judas a plan; sell Jesus (Matthew 26:14-26; John 13:2). Judas is so desperate for money he goes to the chief priest says, “What are you willing to give me?” Notice that Judas didn’t say, “I’ll betray him for 300 denarii!”, or “I’ll betray him for 300 pieces of silver!” He has gone so far gone down path of sin he’s prostitutes himself at whatever price he can get in order to get his fix of money. He doesn’t care how little or how much it is all he wants is money.
  • And as soon as he could, Judas betrayed Jesus. So that in the course of time Judas became a traitor.

The destructive end of Judas’ life…

We all know where the story of Judas ends. Judas put his plan to get more money into action by leading a detachment of troops to the Garden of Gethsemane and there he betrays the Savior with a kiss (Matthew 26:47-50; Mark 14:43-46; Luke 22:47-54; John 18:1-9). Judas then leaves the garden perhaps stunned at how easy it was to arrest Jesus. Perhaps he was a little on edge because of Peter’s actions. Perhaps the adrenaline was still flowing as he went to sleep that night consoled by the fact that he had his money and it was so easy to get.

It wasn’t until the next morning that the full impact of what he had done set in and we find Judas going back to the temple and in one action he gives back the money saying “I have sinned.” (Matthew 27:4) Overcome with grief he rushes out of the temple and hangs himself.

James says in Jams 1:14-15, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” Can’t you see Judas as the living illustration of this passage? He was tempted by his desires for money. His desires for money gave way to the sin of stealing and as his sin grew it intensified in its strength and its need to be satisfied which eventually led him to his death.

Lessons from Judas: A Man Who Became A Traitor…

Becoming a disciple is only the beginning of the journey. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is only the beginning of the journey of faith, not the end of the journey. When Judas started following Jesus the weaknesses he had before he became a disciple didn’t suddenly melt away and he didn’t have to worry about those things anymore. In fact we see that perhaps he struggled with even more because of the position of carrying the money bag. We need to remember two things in regards to our journey of faith: (1) We are to, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) To work out our salvation means to work on our salvation. (2) The way we work on our salvation is to “add to our faith.” (2 Peter 1:5) The faith we had at the beginning of the journey is not enough to see us through to the end. We need to work on our salvation by adding to our faith. If Judas could become a traitor after spending three years with Jesus, see the miracles, hearing the lessons, and being surrounded constantly by other believers then it should be a warning to us that we need to work on our salvation by adding to our faith. Or we too could become traitors to our Lord as well.

Sin blinds us to the consequences of our actions. When a person is living in the grip of sin they are blinded to the consequences of their actions. This is evident in the life and actions of Judas, especially in his betrayal of Jesus. In Matthew’s account of Judas’ treachery Matthew seems to indicate that Judas didn’t think Jesus would be condemned when he betrayed Him. Notice what Matthew says in Matthew 27:3, “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned was remorseful.” In this passage we see that Judas wasn’t remorseful about treachery until he saw that Jesus was turned over to the Romans and was condemned to die. Could it be that Judas thought that he would get his money and Jesus would get set free? That seems to fit the text. In Matthew 27:3 we see that Judas’ sin, his desire for money, blinded him to the consequences of his actions. Are we any different? When we are in the grip of sin do we think that anyone will get hurt by our actions? Does the adulterer think their children will be hurt by their sinful actions? Does the alcoholic think their family will be hurt by the sinful actions? Or does the gossip think anyone will be hurt by their sinful actions? Friends we must open our eyes and see that we are “members of one another” (Romans 12:5) and sins have consequences and by our sins we affect each other.

Turn to God for help. You can’t talk about Judas without talking about his suicide. Perhaps this is the saddest lesson we learn from Judas’ life. He realizes his sin, he confesses his guilt (Matthew 27:1-10) but instead of turning to God for forgiveness he takes matters into his own hands. We need to realize that it didn’t have to end that way. Even Judas could have been forgiven of his sins by the blood of Jesus. Judas failed to see that the answer to his guilt and greif was the very on he had betrayed. I am certain that all of us have found ourselves so overwhelmed with grief and guilt that we feel there is no other way out. So often in those times of need we turn to all of the wrong places for help. We look to friends, medication, therapist, books, seminars, et al. Those things have their place. But everything we do needs to start and end with the Lord. We need to turn to Him first, realizing that no sin is too great for God’s grace, even betraying His son.

Confess your sins to one another. From John’s record (John 12:6) it appears that Judas had been stealing from the money bag for some time. Stealing from the money bag was not a onetime temptation or a onetime sin; it was something that was constant. In fact he carried his greatest temptation with him every day, it was right there on his waist. Let me ask you a question. What do you think Jesus and the disciples would have done if Judas would have spoken up one day and said, “Guys I can’t be in charge of the money bag anymore. I’ve sinned by taking money from it and I need your help.” We know what would have happened. They would have gladly helped their brother by removing the temptation from him because they loved him and they would have helped him bear his burden of sin. But they didn’t know he had that problem until it was too late because Judas never confessed his sins to them. When James said “confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16 ESV) he was giving us a tool to help us overcome sin. You can’t do this on your own your brethren praying for you, you need them holding you accountable, and you need them bearing the burden of this sin with you (Galatians 6:1-2). You cannot receive the help you need if you do not confess your weakness and your sins to the brethren. If you’re here tonight and you in the grip sin then break-free by confessing your sin and asking for prayers from your brethren and ask for their help in bearing your burdens. Judas’ story may have ended differently if he would have done confessed his sin to his brethren. What about your story? Will it be end differently or will it end like his? The choice is yours.

Too often we look at Judas and we can’t see ourselves in him and in his actions. But the apostle Paul warned us to “not to think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think, but to think soberly.” (Romans 12:3) Friends we need to see ourselves in Judas. Let’s not think too highly of ourselves but instead think soberly, think wisely, in regards to our loyalty to Jesus. Because our following of Jesus, our struggles, our sins, our grief, our lack of confession, our lives… are more like Judas’ than we care to admit. Friend if you are living in the grip of sin you too will become a traitor. Our plea for you today is to come to Jesus, confess your sins, seek the help of your brethren so your end will not be like Judas’.

If I can help you with any spiritual need, please email me at clay@claygentry.com.

Restudying the Issues of the 50’s and 60’s


I am reposting Bill Hall’s book Restudying the Issues of the 50’s and 60’s. I have received several request for it.

Also I am posting each chapter in its entirety as well.

In this work Bill explores the need for bible authority and why some brethren strayed from the doctrine of using the bible as our only means of authority.

Here is the book by chapter:

chap-1-orphan-homes

chap-2-sponsoring-church-arrangements

chap-3-kitchen-and-fellowship-halls

And the whole book:

restudying-the-issues

Enjoy.

Church Sponsored Orphan Homes


You can download either this chapter or the whole book in PDF by using one of the links below:

Chap 1 – Orphan Homes or all three chapters Restudying the Issues

Chapter 1 “Church Sponsored Orphan Homes” from Restudying the Issues of the 50’s and 60’s by Bill Hall

It was a difficult time. I don’t know that I could in any way picture for you, if you didn’t live then, just how difficult that time was. Back somewhere in the mid-50s, in the pages of the Gospel Advocate, a quarantine was called for against all those who preached the gospel who opposed any institutional setup. That was about the time I started preaching. Meetings were canceled, churches were divided, preachers were fired. I see one of Irven Lee’s daughters back in the audience; Brother Lee was one of them who was fired. He was one of the best men I ever knew. Families were divided in sentiment. It was such a difficult time.

Oftentimes when we go through issues like that, people are not listening to one another. We’re so anxious to know what we’re going to say next, or how we’re going to answer the person, that we really don’t listen. And I really think that what happened when we went through those difficult times was that many people had no idea what the issue was. And so, what I hope to do today, and next Sunday and the following Sunday, is clarify what the issues were. What were some of the arguments back and forth? My purpose is to help us to look back and say, “Is that really what happened?” I’m going to be as fair as I can be in regard to just exactly what happened.

Now this afternoon, we’ll talk about the orphan’s homes. What was the issue in regard to the orphan’s home? I think it just blows a lot of people’s minds to even think that any church of Christ would have thought that you ought not to support an orphan’s home. What is the issue?

What Was Not The Issue?

Well, let’s talk about what the issue is not. The issue is not whether or not orphans should be cared for. That’s easily answered. James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” Orphans and widows are to be cared for. That was never one of the issues.

A second thing that was not the issue was whether or not the church ought to take care of orphans. That may surprise some of you, but when these problems first began, very few people ever even questioned whether the church should take care of orphans. That question didn’t even arise until quite some time after these things began to be discussed. When these issues first developed and people began to voice objection to the orphan’s home, nearly every church thought that it would be all right to support and take care of orphans even from the church treasury. I think that’s surprising to a lot of people. Now the issue shifted and we’re going to see that this became an issue. But that was not where the issue really lay.

The third thing I think we need to say, and I believe everybody knows this, that this was not a question of who was loving and caring and who wanted to help orphans the most. That’s not what it was. Now in the heat of the time there were those who looked at some of us and said, “These people are just uncaring people. They just don’t believe in caring for orphans.” Well, of course that wasn’t true and history has shown that we who objected to orphan’s homes supported by churches were just as caring and loving and wanting to help as those who stood in favor of the institution. That’s just not where the issue lay.

What Was The Issue?

Well, somebody asks, just what then was the issue? Well, the issue involved what I’m going to call “A Middleman Organization” standing between the church and the work to be done. You know in business, sometimes we talk about eliminating the middleman. What do we mean by that? Well, by the time a product leaves the factory, you’ve got to pay the delivery man, you’ve got to pay the wholesaler, you’ve got to pay the retailer, and by the time all of them get their money, you have paid too much; so go to the factory, and eliminate the middleman. It doesn’t matter about business. But basically, what God did: He did not arrange for any middleman, any middleman organizations.

ORPHAN HOMES:
WHAT WAS THE ISSUE?

The issue was basically this: You have the local churches – if I may picture them as being circles here – and then you had a board of directors. We’ll just call it an institutional board.

Now, this institutional board is made up of Christians from many different churches. You might have two or three from Birmingham, you might have one or two from Jasper, you might have one or two from Athens. All of these come together as a board. And the money goes from the churches to the institutional board which in turn, then, provides housing, supervision, food, and whatever is needful for the care of these orphans. There’s the issue: this institutional board that provides oversight for the work of churches of Christ.

Now somebody will say, “What is wrong with that?” The answer is: There is no authority for this institutional board as an overseeing body for the work of churches. And those of us who objected just raised the question, “Where is the authority for this board that stands between the churches and the work that needs to be done?”

Several passages come to mind when we talk about the necessity of authority. Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Now, if this has the authority of Jesus Christ behind it, then we can do it in His name. But if Jesus has never authorized this, then we cannot do this in the name of Jesus. We can say we’re doing it in the name of Jesus, but the only thing we can actually do in the name of Jesus is that which He has authorized. You cannot do anything in anybody’s name unless that person has authorized that which is to be done. Another passage that was pointed out was 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Consequently, if this is a good work – to have this board of directors providing oversight for the churches – then you’re going to find that it’s in the Scriptures. That’s what we pointed out. Another passage oftentimes used was 2 John 9: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.”

So the question we raised was: Is this institutional board in the doctrine of Christ, or is this outside the doctrine of Christ? If it’s in the doctrine of Christ, we need it. If it’s outside the doctrine of Christ, then we cannot have anything to do with it. So the obligation falls on the shoulders of brethren who support this to show the scriptural authority by which this could be done.

I’d like to correct something that I believe is a misconception. Every once in a while I hear people say, “Well, you know, these people just don’t believe that you have to have authority for what you do.” I graduated from David Lipscomb College in 1958. I sat in the classes of Batsell Barrett Baxter. Some of the best material I ever heard on how to establish Bible authority came from the classes of Batsell Barrett Baxter at David Lipscomb College. He said the same thing I say. Those people who differed with me on this – most of them believed that you had to have New Testament authority. Now I know that there were those who said that we do a lot of things that we don’t have authority for. That didn’t come generally from men who were leaders in the institutional movement. Generally, that came from people who just talked off the tops of their heads. Those who were leaders really were looking for authority and they gave their arguments.

The Expediency Argument

Now there were two basic arguments given in order to try to justify this board of directors. The one that probably was given most was: The Bible doesn’t say how to do it. People would say, “Now, the Bible tells us to help orphans but the Bible doesn’t tell us how to do it. So, it’s just like when the Lord told us, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,’ He didn’t tell us how to go. So we can go by car, we can go by train, we can go by airplane, we can go by whatever means we need to. He didn’t say how. Similarly, the Lord told us to care for orphans and he did not tell us how, so this institutional board is just a method by which the church can take care of its needy.” That was probably the argument that we heard most and it was put in the realm of expediency.

But it was pointed out: No, we’re not talking about methods, we’re talking about organization. Providing food, supervision, etc. has to do with the methods of caring for orphans. The institutional board is the organization. After the money gets to the board of directors, they have to still determine what methods to use in order to take care of the orphan children. So it’s not a matter of how, it’s a matter of whether the how, is to be done under the oversight of the elders or whether the how is to be done under the oversight of the board of directors. That was the question. Let me ask all of you: “Which have you read about in your Bibles, a board of directors as overseers of the work of the local church, or elders as overseers of that work?”

So the money goes to the board of directors – now let me pause to say this: there was this little quibble: it was sometimes said that the board of directors never saw a penny of that money. Well, I suspect; I don’t know how you do it – but it is possible that the elders of this church never see any of the money that is contributed; it’s counted, there is a treasurer, but the oversight is with the elders. I don’t know whether any of these boards of directors ever saw the money, but the money was spent under their oversight. Here’s where the oversight was.

Now, money is contributed and they have to decide how to provide for these orphan children. Now, suppose that we’ve got some children here – let’s just take it out of the realm of children – let’s make it any benevolent work of a local congregation. How is the local congregation going to provide for those that are in need? Well, if the people are mentally capable, then we might just give them a check. Do you know what else we might do? Let’s talk about the Pepper Road church. Suppose you, for instance, had five “widows indeed”. How would you take care of those widows indeed? Suppose they were not able to take care of themselves. You can give them a check, but they can’t take care of themselves. Well, you might buy a house. You might find some good person to provide supervision. You might go to the grocery store and buy food every week. There are a number of methods that might be used. But these are provided under the supervision of the elders of the church. They do not give their money to an institutional board so that they can provide for these things. Do you see the difference between an organization and methods?

So it’s not a matter of method whether it is done under the oversight of elders or whether it’s done under the oversight of the board of directors. This is a question of organization. Either way, methods have to be determined. The methods need to be provided under the oversight of the elders, not under the oversight of an institutional board that stands between the churches and the work to be done. I hope that makes that point clear.

The In Loco Parentis Argument

Now there’s another argument and it is quite an interesting argument, really. It’s called the in loco parentis argument. Have you ever heard that expression? In loco in place; parentis in the place of the parents. Now, that wasn’t just coined in regard to this discussion; that is an expression that you find in your dictionary. In loco parentis, in place of the parents. The argument basically went like this: You have an original home, and they say that the church can help that original home. Then the original home is destroyed. Parents were killed in a car wreck. Then you’ve got these little children. And they say that the orphan’s home is a restored home. And the argument is: if the church can help the original home, why can’t the church, out of its treasury, help the restored home? That was debated over and over in regard to this question. So that the institutional board becomes the in loco parentis. The institutional board becomes the parents, as it were, of this restored home. Do you get the argument?

Now, several things were said about that. First of all, it was pointed out that even those who argued this would not accept the logical conclusion of that argument, because they would say that if there was a Catholic family in the community, and that Catholic family was in need, that the church could help that Catholic family. Whatever you think about that, that was their belief. But now, wait a minute, suppose the Catholic home is destroyed. Mother and Daddy are out one day and an accident occurs and the Catholic home is destroyed. Then the Catholic church’s orphan’s home would be the restored home of that original Catholic home and therefore, by the very argument that is being made, if the church can help the original Catholic home, then the church can actually be making contributions to a Catholic orphan’s home or whatever denominational orphan’s home may be out there. Well, no, they were hardly willing to accept that, and you can understand that. The point was made.

Now, the second question that was raised: Is this really a home, or does this institution exist in order to build a home? One of the things that was done in some of this discussion was to read from the charters of some of these homes. For instance, the charter of the Schultz-Lewis Corporation. Here’s what the charter says: “The name of the corporation shall be the Schultz-­Lewis Children’s Home and School.” And then it goes on to say that “the purpose of this corporation is to build, operate, and maintain an orphan’s home.” Then it’s not a home itself. This is not a home, the purpose of the board was to build a home.

Now, the third thing that was pointed out was that if these are really the parents (and many of these are reasonably wealthy men), are not the parents supposed to pretty well exhaust their own resources before they call on churches to provide financial help?

Now, the real key to me in all of this is that the church doesn’t help “homes” anyway. Here is Jay Ogden down here and Litha; they’ve got twin boys. Suppose Jay and Litha were in need. They fall into some financial problems. Let me ask you a question: Who has the first obligation toward Jay and Litha? I’ll tell you who, it’s Jay’s father and mother and Litha’s parents; that’s where the first obligation is. Now, suppose that Jay’s parents and Litha’s parents – suppose they’ve done everything they can and the church then has a responsibility to help. What does the church do? The church doesn’t make out a check to the Jay Ogden home. The church helps a needy: saint named Jay Ogden. Now Jay Ogden can fulfill whatever his responsibilities are. But the idea of the church helping a home – I don’t read anything in the Scriptures about the church helping a home. What I do read is the church helping the needy saints to provide for their responsibilities.

Those were the two major arguments: the Bible just doesn’t say how; and we tried to point out that no, it’s not a matter of method, it’s a matter of organization that we are saying is unscriptural. And the other is that the orphan’s home is a restored home; the directors are the in loco parentis, and we pointed out, no that won’t do. And those were the basic arguments.

The Shift In Issue

Now, in time there came a shift in issue. I do not know exactly when this took place. But somewhere down the way, somebody raised the question: Does the church really have the responsibility to take care of orphans in the first place? Doesn’t the Bible talk about the church helping needy saints? Now, that was an issue that arose after the institutional issue had been fought for quite some time.

Now, in answer to that, let’s get our Bibles and turn to Acts, chapter 2. I’m going to do this very quickly, but I want to point out how many times it’s the needy saints, it’s the brethren, it’s any among them, who were being helped. Look at Acts 2:44 – now, I’m just tracing the benevolent work of the church through the Scriptures. Acts 2:44: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things common.” Go to the Acts 4:34: “Nor was there any among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold and laid them at the apostles’ feet and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” – None among them that lacked. Go on to the 11th chapter of Acts. Read verse 29: “Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.” Go on to Romans 15. So far we’ve seen “among them”, the “brethren”. In Romans 15:25-26: “But I am going to Jerusalem to minister to saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.” Go on to 1 Corinthians 16:1-2: “Now concerning the collection for the saints [incidentally, that’s exactly the same collection mentioned over in Romans 15 – BH], as I have given orders to the churches in Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week, let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.” So the very passage that we talk about in our giving on the first day of the week is in reference to the needy saints in Jerusalem. Go to 2 Corinthians 9:1 “Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you;” And we could just keep on going: it’s the saints, it’s the brethren, it’s any among them. Those are expressions used.

And so the question was raised, “Here we’ve been discussing all this time about orphan’s homes and whether the institutional board is scriptural, and really, does the church have any responsibility for the care of orphans anyway? Let me just say right here that there were differences among those who stood against church support of orphan homes. There were differences about this question. I’m not going to state a name because I don’t have anything in writing to prove this and the man I am referring to is dead now. But one of the leading men among those who opposed institutionalism, one of the leading men said to me one time that he believed the church had an obligation to orphans and he made his arguments with me. I didn’t agree with it, but at the same time it was interesting that he was in the forefront of the institutional battle, but differed on the other question.

And in some ways, this shift of issue was unfortunate. In other ways, it was fortunate. It was unfortunate in that it took the focus of the people away from the institutional issue and put it on something else. And as you would imagine, from that point on, most of those who were going to debate this question wanted to debate the limited benevolence issue instead of the institutional issue. So all of a sudden there was a shift. We’d had discussion after discussion after discussion over this institutional board, but all of a sudden there’s a shift, and most of the discussion then focused on whether the church could help orphan children. But that was a shift in emphasis that a lot of people in this generation do not realize took place. And of course that was a more emotional issue. This shift of issue took the eyes of the people away from the institutional board, an unscriptural organization, and caused them to focus on whom the church should help from its treasury. This left the churches vulnerable to similar institutional arrangements that might arise in the future.

Now, it’s fortunate that it happened in that it forced many of us who never had done it before to say: just whom does the church have a responsibility to help? And I’m glad that I was forced to do that. It forced me to go through the Scriptures, just as I have just now gone through the Scriptures, and to say, “Just who is to be helped by the church?” Anytime we’re forced to look into the Scriptures regarding any question, that of course is good. But the issue changed. A lot of people never understood that shift of issues.

Now to the question: Should the church be helping non-­Christians? To me, there are only two disputable passages in regards to that. Keep your place here at 2 Corinthians, and go to Galatians, chapter 6. Here’s the first of the disputable passages and I want to state again that I want to be as fair as I can be in this discussion. But Galatians 6:10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” People read this and conclude that the church has an obligation to all people, but especially to those in the house of faith. But if you look back, starting in verse 1, 1 think it becomes very apparent that we’re not talking about what churches do here; we’re talking about what individuals do. Verse 1, for instance: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Notice the individual nature of all this down through verse 8. “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Now, here’s a man, reaping and sowing, and the exhortation is not to be weary in doing good; in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore -[What does therefore do? Sends us back to all that’s been said, doesn’t it?] “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

To what does the therefore point back? – “as a man sows, he shall also reap.” A man. We’re not talking here about congregational action. But somebody says, “But the pronouns of verse 9 are plural.” Well, yes, they are plural, applying to a plurality of individuals.  Consider a similar use of a plural pronoun: “we must all appear” (listen to this) “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in his body according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). We’re not going to stand before the Lord in judgment as a congregation and yet he said “we” must all. We. Individual application. So it is in Galatians 6:10. The word “we” points back to the individual principle of a man’s sowing and reaping. Church action is not under consideration.

The other disputable passage is 2 Corinthians 9:13. Before reading this verse, we need to consider the context. Second Corinthians, chapter 9, is dealing with the contribution that the churches of Macedonia and Achaia are making for the poor saints in Jerusalem (we have already referred to this contribution). Contributions for whom? The poor saints. What poor saints? The poor saints in Jerusalem. Now, with this in mind, let’s read verse 13: “While, through the proof of this ministry, they [the Jerusalem saints – BH] glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them [the Jerusalem saints – BH] and all men.” But the word “men” in your Bibles is in italics. This means that the word “men” has been supplied by the translators. Several translations have no word there at all. These translations leave it to us to supply any necessary word. Considering this, you fill in the word: “and for your liberal sharing with them [the Jerusalem saints – BH] and all.” Do you not see the likelihood that Paul is thinking of “all saints”?

I was recently given a quote that should help us to see this point. The quote is from R.V.G. Tasher:

“The Corinthians’ contribution is for the poor saints at Jerusalem only. But the fellowship which was expressed in it was, the apostle assures, felt for all Christians…” (Tyndale Commentary, p 129)

Pulpit Commentary provides an interesting quote concerning a similar passage, Hebrews 12:14: “All men – that is, as required by the context, with all the brethren -” When one looks at the context of 2 Corinthians 9:13, he will be driven to the same conclusion, that “all men” refers to “all the brethren”.

We surely agree that this would be at best a doubtful passage on which to base a practice within the church that does not have the support of any other scripture.

Somebody says, “But this is really more of a historical thing; we don’t hear about orphan’s homes anymore.” I would suspect if I were to ask for a show of hands: how many people have heard anything very much about the church support of orphan’s homes in the last ten years, there would be very few hands go up. There are still some churches that do it, but someone might be asking, “why worry about all this?” While the orphan home issue is almost a past issue now, there are other institutions asking churches for help that function under an institutional board. This is true, for instance, of David Lipscomb University, Freed Hardeman, Mars Hill over in Florence, or other schools that we could name. Batsell Barrett Baxter, before his death, wrote a tract called “Questions and Issues of the Day”, and here’s what he wrote: “Some who will agree that the church can contribute to an orphan’s home are not convinced that the church can contribute to a Christian school. It is difficult to see a significant difference. As far as principle is concerned, the orphan’s home and the Christian school must stand or fall together.” This tract argues for the church support of schools, based upon acceptance of church support of orphan homes.

If we lose sight of the institutional issue, and begin to see the whole orphan’s home question as a question of whether the church should help orphans or not, then we leave ourselves so vulnerable to this kind of thing happening again. In the mid­1800s, it was a missionary society. How is a missionary society set up? It is with an institutional board providing oversight for the work of churches of Christ. Then we come to the mid-1900s and we go through a battle again and how were the orphan’s homes set up? Exactly the same way. And then there’s the battle about whether the church can support schools or not. How are the schools set up? In exactly the same way. If we don’t keep our attention focused on the institutional board as the primary issue, it leaves us vulnerable to similar institutions that are going to arise. What will be the institution of the mid-2000s? I don’t know! But let us understand that there is no authority for churches of Christ to do their work under the oversight of an institutional board. Churches of Christ do their work under the oversight of the elders of each local church.

So let’s go back. Is the question of whom the church should support an important question? Yes, that’s an important question. Any Bible question is an important question. But let’s not allow that question to turn our attention away from this issue of an institutional board standing between churches and the work to be done.

I’m reading a book now (I haven’t completed the book) called Reviving the Ancient Faith. I don’t know whether any of you have seen that book or not. It was written by a man named Richard Hughes who is a professor at Pepperdine University. And this man makes no bones about it. He says the churches of Christ have developed through the years into a denomination. He doesn’t question that, and he’s a part of that denomination. And he writes from an historical viewpoint as to what has happened in churches of Christ. He refers to the institutional battle that took place (that’s in chapter 10 and I have read that). And one quote from it, which is an interesting quote – (No, he’s not infallible, but this is a historian who is writing as objectively as anyone could write. He uses terminology that I would never use. But he sure is writing objectively.) – he says, “The mainstream churches of Christ, time and time again, characterized those who opposed institutionalism as unfaithful to the heritage. The truth is that the dissenters [that’s us – BH] stood squarely in one set of the footprints in the 19th century Churches of Christ. And by the time the battle over institutions was complete, it was the mainstream, not the dissenters, that had removed itself almost entirely from its 19th century roots.” Now, I don’t like to think of myself as having 19th century roots. I want to know that my roots are in the Scriptures. But what he is basically saying is, that really it was those who opposed the institutional arrangements who really stood for the old “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent” concepts that were preached so thoroughly back in the 19th century. To me that’s a very interesting statement from a historian who would say he doesn’t agree with me. But that’s his analysis of what took place back then and what has taken place since then among churches of Christ.

Well, I hope that clarifies what the issue was. Now, you might not have been able to follow all the argumentation, but at least I think you know what the issue was. I hope so.

Now, next week we’re going to look at the sponsoring church arrangement. We will consider the Broadway church in Lubbock that became overseers of all the German work. Also the Herald of Truth – what were the objections to the Herald of Truth? That seems like a strange thing. Wasn’t that a great program? Why would churches of Christ, any churches of Christ, have objections to the support of the Herald of Truth? We’ll be talking about that next Sunday afternoon at 3:30 and hopefully we can have a good meeting then.

Let’s turn in our songbooks to the number that Matt has chosen. Obviously our purpose in all of this has not been to talk about what a sinner needs to do to be saved. And if you ask me, “What kind of preaching do you like to do best?”, I like to preach on the atonement; I love to talk about Jesus Christ and His death for us and the atonement He made with His own blood by which we can be saved. We have to get on some of these other things sometimes; but I love to talk about the grace of God extended through Jesus Christ our Lord and His death and suffering on our behalf. And today, you must believe in Christ, you must place your trust totally in Him. You put your faith in Him, repenting of your sins, confessing Him, and when you’re buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him, you then are ready to walk in newness of life, forgiven in Jesus Christ with your sins remitted. And you certainly have that opportunity this afternoon as we stand and sing the song.

Church Sponsoring Arrangement


You can download either this chapter or the whole book in PDF by using one of the links below:

Chap 2 – Sponsoring Church Arrangements or the all three chapters Restudying the Issues

Chapter 2 “The Sponsoring Church Arrangement” from Restudying the Issues of the 50’s and 60’s by: Bill Hall

I can’t say enough about the encouragement it is to me to see your continued interest in this effort that we’re putting forth. Your willingness to come and study with us – it means so much to me. When this was planned, I thought we could educate those who come as to what really look place back in the ’50s and ’60s. But I just didn’t know how much interest there would be. Your presence truly means a great deal to me.

As has been suggested, we’re talking about some of the differences that arose back in the ’50s and `60s that brought about division among churches of Christ. Many people never knew what the issues were about. One of our problems, when controversies arise, is that we don’t listen to one another. We’re so busy thinking about what we’re going to say next or how we’re going to answer this person that we really don’t listen to what he says. And consequently, a lot of people knew there were problems but they didn’t really know where the real issues lay in regard to those problems.

It was a difficult time. I’m repeating what we said last week, but I think we need to do that. It was a terribly difficult time. Anybody that didn’t live back in those days and didn’t go through those things just could never imagine how difficult they were. Quarantine was called for by the Gospel Advocate of anybody who objected to institutions. I don’t think I stressed that enough last week. That was not just a matter of somebody writing to the Advocate and saying, “Well, you know, maybe it’s a good idea if we just quit using these brethren.” It was more than that. It was a call for quarantine with the total approval of B.C. Goodpasture, who was the editor of the Gospel Advocate.  Last week I made mention of a book, Reviving the Ancient Faith, by Richard Hughes, who is a professor at Pepperdine University. He mentions this quarantine as being a very important event that took place among churches of Christ.  Because of that quarantine, meetings were canceled, preachers were fired. I mentioned Irven Lee specifically last week as just one of the best men I ever knew. He was fired, and no longer could preach for that congregation. Churches divided. A lot of mistakes were made. I didn’t say this last week, but I want to say it this week: I made some mistakes. I was so anxious for everyone to know as a young preacher, that I was sound; that I was among those ready to fight the battle for truth. I made some very serious mistakes. I look back and would change some things. Not anything I taught. But some tactics that I used. I don’t know, but it may be that nearly every preacher back in those days looks back and says, “I wish I had done this different or that different.” But it was a difficult time. Now we can look back with cooler heads in a more objective kind of a way, and ask the question, “What was that all about?”

Last week we talked about the orphan’s home, and where the real issue lay in regards to the orphan’s home controversy. The real issue lay within what I am calling “a middleman organization”, a board of directors that stood between the churches and the work to be done. The money went from the churches, but the work was overseen by an institutional board.

That was the issue. A lot of people never knew that. They couldn’t understand why anybody would object to helping orphan children. “How could anyone object to a church helping an orphan’s home?” they would ask. The objection was to an unscriptural organization standing between the churches and the work to be done. If somebody should ask, “What was wrong with this?”, the answer is: there just was no authority for that institutional board. You will remember that we discussed that last Sunday.

Now, today I want to get into the question of the sponsoring church arrangement. When you talk about the sponsoring church arrangement, you just erase the words “institutional board” and you put in here instead a “sponsoring eldership”.

Now, many people who could see the error of the institutional board had a difficult time seeing the error of this. In fact, if I may make a personal mention, I remember my father, as soon as he realized what the organizational arrangement of the orphan’s home was, immediately saw the error of that because he said, “The institutional board is an unscriptural organization; there’s no authority for this institutional board.” But then when he saw this, he said, “But wait, this is a scriptural body of people. How could that be wrong?” He understood when it was pointed out that, while this was a scriptural body of people – that is, an eldership – it was an eldership, a scriptural body of people, being put in an unscriptural role. The elders had become overseers of a work of many churches of Christ to which all of these churches were equally related.

Sponsoring Elderships At The End of World War II

Now I think in fairness we need to say that there had been sponsoring elderships through the years on a very small basis, more or less on a local basis. But right at the end of World War II, there was a tremendous interest in missionary efforts and especially missionary efforts in some of the very nations that we had defeated in World War II. And so the Broadway church in Lubbock, Texas, became interested in evangelizing Germany. And what they said to all the churches was, “You send your money here, and the elders of the Broadway church will take on the oversight of evangelizing Germany.” Some of you may remember, Otis Gatewood was the man that was sent to Germany under the oversight of the Broadway elders in Lubbock. So the German work was done by churches of Christ, but overseen by the elders of one church of Christ, the Broadway church in Lubbock.

About the same time, there was interest in evangelizing Japan. And so one of the churches in Memphis, Tennessee, Union Avenue, took on the evangelization of the work in Japan. All the churches sent their money to that eldership and that eldership then for all of the churches took on the responsibility of evangelizing Japan. One eldership overseeing the work of many churches.


Somebody says, “What’s wrong with that?” Well, the thing that’s wrong with it is: there’s no authority for one eldership to oversee the work of many churches of Christ.

Let me remind you of some scriptures we used last week. 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” If this is a good work, then you would be able to establish it on the basis of Scripture, because Scripture furnishes us to every good work.

Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” You can’t do anything in the name of anybody unless he’s authorized it. You may say you’re doing it in somebody’s name, but you can’t do it in his name unless that person has given his authority behind it.

2 John 9: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” If this is in the doctrine of Christ, then let’s do it. If this is not in the doctrine of Christ, we must not go beyond the doctrine of Christ.

Now, let me add to that. Turn with me to 1 Peter 5:11. 1 Peter, chapter 5, gives us a very definite statement concerning the extent of oversight of elders of any one church. Begin with verse 1 of 1 Peter 5: “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” Now back to verse 2, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers.” Overseers of what? Shepherding what? “The flock of God among you.”

The elders of the Pepper Road church have no oversight whatsoever outside of those who make up this congregation and the work of this congregation. They have no oversight of anything beyond this. It’s the oversight of the flock “among you”. Now in keeping with that, I think most of us are familiar with Paul’s statement to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Now you have a flock. What flock do you think he was talking about? The Ephesian flock. The Ephesian elders were to take oversight of that flock, but the Ephesian elders had no oversight of anything beyond the activities and work and people who made up that flock.

Now, there’s no way we can look at this arrangement and say that the Broadway elders in Lubbock, receiving funds from all of these churches of Christ and taking oversight for them for all the work in Germany, were limiting themselves to the work and activities of the flock of God which is among them. They become more than that when they do that. There’s the objection. That’s the issue. We need to make sure that we see what the issue is. It was the same with the elders of the Union Avenue church in Memphis. They took on more than what God had given them as elders.

The “One Nation Under God” Campaign

The most recent really big program along this line was the “One Nation Under God” campaign. The Sycamore, and most of you will remember this, the Sycamore church in Cookeville, Tennessee wanted to send out literature to every home in the United States, and their original goal was to collect 17 million dollars. Do you remember that? Then they brought it down to 10 million dollars. Where was this $10 million going to come from? Well, churches all over the country were asked to send so much money. I was living in Florence at the time, and the Shoals area really got caught up in this, and I think I would not be mistaken in saying that at least a million of those dollars came from the Shoals area. Then the next year they were going to evangelize Canada and the Caribbean Islands, and then the next year another and another.

Now, is that really an example of one church simply taking the oversight of the activities of that local church, or was it more than that? One thing I know is, I was down in Florida, and I passed by a church building that said, “Church of Christ, One Nation Under God”. Now that’s a city in Florida, that’s not Cookeville, Tennessee. Obviously that church in Florida thought that the “One Nation Under God” ministry was a part of its work. They sent money to this Cookeville church for this work to be done. But all of this work being done, including their work, is being overseen by another eldership.

Somebody interestingly pointed out that if some of the evangelistic efforts of some of the churches can be done under one eldership, then why could not all of the evangelistic efforts of all the churches be done under one eldership? Why couldn’t we just place all the evangelistic efforts of churches of Christ under one eldership? Why would we not be able to do that?

But somebody says, “Didn’t churches in Macedonia and Achaia send to the church in Jerusalem?” Weren’t there occasions in the New Testament when funds went from one church to another church? Yes. In fact, we’ll be talking about that more in just a few minutes.

There were funds sent from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia to the church in Jerusalem. But the church in Jerusalem was in need. That’s where the need was. Now the Broadway church in Lubbock wasn’t a needy church; it was a big church. In fact, I suspect at that time it may have been the biggest church in the United States, with a huge contribution. The Union Avenue church in Memphis was not a needy church. They had all the things they needed. Jerusalem was a needy church. Now, if we’re going to make Jerusalem a sponsoring church, then what you would have is: Jerusalem wouldn’t have any needs at all. Jerusalem would be able to take care of all of their needy without any problems. But money would be sent to Jerusalem so the elders at Jerusalem could be the sponsoring church for all the needy in the eastern Mediterranean territory. That would make Jerusalem a sponsoring church. The churches of Macedonia and Achaia were sending to a church in need.

Bible Cooperation

“Surely churches can cooperate”, someone may be thinking. In fact, many referred to these issues as “questions about cooperation”. Churches that objected to institutionalism were referred to as anti-cooperation churches. Yes, churches can and must cooperate. But there are two types of cooperation: collective and concurrent.

Let’s illustrate these two types of cooperation. I live in Rogersville, Alabama in the Comer subdivision. Suppose things were to get somewhat unsightly in the area and an appeal were to be made to clean up the subdivision. There are two ways all the families could cooperate. They might all bring money to Jerry, my next door neighbor, and have him to clean up the subdivision. That would be “collective” cooperation. Or, Jerry could clean up his own yard; we could clean up ours; Steve, across the street, his; Dorothy, down the street, hers; etc. But next to Steve there is an elderly widow who is unable to clean up her own yard. She is needy, dependent. So we who are able and independent go over and provide help for the dependent widow. There is no pooling of funds. There is no central oversight. Each cooperates by doing his own work. This is “concurrent” cooperation. This is Bible cooperation.

The Herald Of Truth

Now, obviously the sponsoring eldership that created the greatest division was the Herald of Truth, where the elders of the Highland church in Abilene took the oversight of the Herald of Truth radio and television program. A huge number of churches sent to the Highland church. An interesting outgrowth of the sponsoring church arrangement that I had never thought of was brought to my attention recently in the book that I have already mentioned by Richard Hughes, Reviving the Ancient Faith.  Whenever you centralize influence and control, you open the door for a lot of problems. Richard Hughes is a professor at Pepperdine University. He and I would be poles apart in our thoughts concerning how to use the Scriptures. But he made a point about the Herald of Truth that I never thought of.  He said in his book that the anti-institution people missed this, and that the Herald of Truth people missed this; it was such a subtle thing that people were not aware of what was taking place. But he says that when the Herald of Truth began, the greatest influence among churches of Christ shifted from the brotherhood papers to the Herald of Truth. People all over the country were supporting it, and people all over the country were listening to it.  He further says that a major change took place in the preaching on the Herald of Truth. He says that when the Herald of Truth first began, the preaching was focused on the one true church, baptism for the remission of sins, no instrumental music, the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week. It was convincing people regarding the idea of restoring New Testament Christianity. That was the first teaching on the Herald of Truth.  But by the late ’60s and early ’70s, they had begun to realize that the radio and TV programs that were really attracting the audiences were those that’s emphasis was more on family relationships, finding inner peace for yourself, how to build a strong self-image. Eventually the preaching of the Herald of Truth shifted from this more doctrinal, controversial type of teaching into this more “finding peace for the soul and a good self-image” type of teaching. Now, he said, all of the preachers of the country were listening to Herald of Truth, and as the Herald of Truth made that shift, the preachers made the same shift, so that by the ‘70s and ’80s you could attend most churches of Christ for months and months and months and months and never hear a sermon on the one true church, restoring New Testament Christianity, or instrumental music.  You might hear the plan of salvation given, but that’s about it.

And let me tell you something. There are some (I’m not going to say a lot. I believe most of the preaching I hear is good preaching) churches of Christ right now that are considered to be opposed to institutionalism that rarely ever get any sermons that are distinctive at all from what you could hear in denominations all over the country. And I want to make sure you hear me and hear me well. If you attend worship at some church where you never hear the question of instrumental music, or baptism for the remission of sins, or the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, or the one true church – if you never hear teaching along some of those distinctive lines, you need to get out and you need to go somewhere else. You’ll lose your conviction. If you don’t hear it regularly, you’ll lose your conviction. We have to give our support to the kind of preaching that helps people see that we’re different from the denominational world around us. Be sure you get that point. That was a shift, and the shift was led by a centralized program. This is not me saying this; this is Richard Hughes, a professor, giving a history of churches of Christ in America.

What Is The Pattern?

Now we ask the question: What is the pattern? When you read your Bible, the funds from churches always just simply went to where the need was. They never sent their funds to some “middleman organization”, whether it was an institutional board or a sponsoring eldership. The funds just always were sent to where the need was. Now, let’s get our Bibles and just take five minutes or so and look at that very quickly.

Go to Acts 4:32: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” At this point there was only the church at Jerusalem. The apostles were acting apparently in lieu of elders (there were no elders mentioned until Acts 11). People were bringing their money, laying it at the apostles’ feet, so distribution might be made within that local church. A problem arose, you remember, in Acts 6. Some of them said, “The Grecian widows are being neglected in the daily distribution.” The apostles didn’t reply, “We need a central organization and we’ll send our money to this central organization so they can see that this is done right.” No. They appointed seven men, within their number, who could see after this matter. It was all done within the framework of the local congregation. The money simply went to where the need was.

On to Acts 11. We’ve already read this but we’ll read it again. Acts 11:27: “And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders…” What elders? The elders where the need was. They didn’t send it to some “middleman organization”, some board of directors, or some wealthy large eldership somewhere. They sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. The money went to where the need was.

Turn to Romans 15. Paul in Romans 15 talks about his plans to go to Spain, but he says in 15:25, “But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.” Where did the money go? Churches of Macedonia and Achaia sent to the elders in Jerusalem. Somebody will say, “Now wait a minute. This doesn’t say anything about the elders in Jerusalem.” Well, go to Acts, chapter 21. A study of the chronology of the life of the apostle Paul helps us. This collection of funds from Macedonia and Achaia for the saints in Jerusalem took place at the end of the third missionary journey. Now keep that in mind. All this took place during the third journey of Paul. Now when we get to Acts 21, the third journey ends. At this point, Paul is coming into Jerusalem. What is he coming into Jerusalem with? The money that has been collected from these churches for the poor saints. Who’s with him? Representatives from all those churches are with him. Now they’re coming into Jerusalem. Look at 21:15: “And after those days we” – we Who’s in the number? Luke? Yes, Luke’s in the number. He must have joined them at Philippi. “We packed and went up to Jerusalem. Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and brought with them one, Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to lodge. And when we had come to Jerusalem…” Who is this “we” that came to Jerusalem? Paul and his company with this money for the poor saints in Jerusalem. That’s what the last of the third journey is about. So they came into Jerusalem. “The brethren received us gladly, and on the following day, [the very next day after they got to Jerusalem – BH] Paul went in with us to James and all the elders were present.” The day after they arrived in Jerusalem with these funds from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia – the day after they arrived in Jerusalem, they met with the elders. Now look at 21:19: “When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.” What had God done among the Gentiles through his ministry? Numbers of things. But one of the things He had done is He had brought them to make this contribution for the poor saints in Jerusalem, and when they arrived in Jerusalem, they met with the elders. This money went to where the need was.

Philippians 4, let’s go to it quickly. Look at 4:15-16: “Now you Philippians know also that at the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.” The church in Philippi sent to Paul. The money went to Paul where the need was. The money just always went where the need was. That is the New Testament pattern.

What should we do today? Find out where the need is and send directly to the need, not to some “middleman organization”. If we do this, we might make some mistakes. We’re going to err in judgment all along. But we will be staying with the New Testament pattern. What is the issue? The issue has to do with “middleman organizations” standing between supporting churches and the work to be done. It may be a board of directors, as with the orphan homes, or an overseeing eldership, as with the sponsoring church arrangement. But wherever you have a “middleman organization”, you have left the pattern of sending directly to where the need is.

All right, you’ve listened well. Next week I want to get into the question of the fellowship halls, kitchens, other things that churches of Christ are doing now that they were not doing when I was a young man. I am amazed at some of the things that are going on now, at some of the practices taking place among many churches of Christ. But you have listened well; we’ll talk about that next week. And if you can come back and study with us that question, we would appreciate your presence very much.

And please, let’s all have the best attitude we can have. I’m certainly not wanting to just cram something down people’s throats and I hope you can see that. I do want to reason with you and help you to see why I take the position that I take in regards to these things.

Maybe there’s somebody that needs to obey the gospel. What we’ve talked about this afternoon and last Sunday afternoon is trying to keep the local church free of anything for which there is no authority. Surely that appeals to you. We want to stay with Christ. We want to stay with His Word. And if you want to be a Christian, then what you need to do is pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ. Put your trust in Him, believing in Him, repenting of your sins, confessing your faith in Christ, being baptized, buried with Him. And then become a part of a local church that is determined to pattern itself according to the teaching of the New Testament. Then serve the Lord faithfully unto death. We invite you to come. Come to Christ and obey the gospel as we stand and sing.

Do the Honorable Thing


This week’s Wisdom Wednesday is: Do the Honorable Thing

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel. Proverbs 20:3 NASB

A36W5JIn today’s proverb, Solomon reminds us that the honorable thing for a man to do is avoid strife and quarreling, not engage in it. Because any ordinary fool can start an argument. We would do well to learn this lesson because too often we think the honorable thing to do is start and argument with someone and in the process crush them with our overwhelming knowledge of the facts. When in reality we only crush them with our over-inflated egos. Whether it’s with your spouse, a family member, a co-worker, a church member, or a friend; remember it more honorable to not start an argument than it is to win an argument.

Using this proverb as a mirror do you see yourself as an honorable man or a fool? If you avoid strife and quarreling then you are an honorable man. But if you like to quarrel about anything and everything then Solomon says that you are a fool. 

Today’s take away thought: Learn to do the honorable thing… pick your battles carefully (yes there are somethings worth fighting for), learn patience in dealing with others, and be a peacemaker.

Related proverbs: Proverbs 14:29, 16:32, 17:14, 18:6, 19:11