to Recognize God's Organization a
Fruitful Cause of Division Among Christians
A CANDID DISCUSSION OF A VITAL MATTER
JEHOVAH'S visible organization, as it pertains
to the Church of Christ, began at Pentecost, along very simple lines; but under this
arrangement God's people were laden with the stupendous commission to preach the gospel to
all nations as a witness until the final end comes. Would it not be presumptuous on the
part of anyone to say that God failed back there to provide His people with an appropriate
arrangement by and through which they could carry forward the work of the ministry in
harmony with the commission He had given them? Unquestionably it would! Yet,
notwithstanding this obvious fact, men soon insisted upon making various
"improvements" in His simple, divinely instituted organization.
Naturally, all such changes have been attended with disastrous results to the spiritual
life of God's people. These humanly devised innovations have fostered the spirit of
bigotry, in-tolerance and hatred, instead of the spirit of true Christianity, in all
epochs of the church through-out the age until now.
The First "Falling Away"
The first such "change of work" and of
organization began to be heralded by ambitious leaders shortly after the death of the
apostles. Even before the apostles fell asleep some of the early church were beginning to
advocate the mystic doctrine that 'the Kingdom is already established.' This early
fantastic error grew and grew, until it gained a real foothold in the church; and finally
it was taken so seriously that Christians thought it expedient to appoint their foremost
leader, the Bishop of Rome, as a sort of dictator, and to call him the vicegerent of
Christ. Then this mighty leader whom 'the Lord had appointed, began to exercise kingdom
authority over the earth in God's name.
There followed in the wake of this unauthorized
"change" in God's simple arrangements an organized campaign of intolerance,
hatred and persecution of all who dared to say that the change was unscriptural.
Christians who op-posed the "Lord's organization," as thus humanly misconceived,
were relentlessly tormented in Christ's name, on the pretext that they were
"opposers," "disrupters," and "wicked enemies of God" and of
His work in the earth.
Thus were those who were loyal to God's true
organization of the early church kept in subjection until the Reformation. Then, each of
the reformers in turn, made a noble break for Christian liberty, and a sincere effort to
return to the simplicity of the early church. But alas, nearly all of these, or some of
their immediate followers, soon decided that God had authorized them to bring about a
"change" in His original method's. Many of these, like the early Papists, also
decided that the Kingdom is al-ready established; and, even though many of them had been
relentlessly persecuted by the "Mother Church," they now turned persecutors of
all who had the courage to deny the validity of their presumed divine authority and
Same Mistake Over Again
History thus has repeated it-self again and
again since the earliest days of the "falling away." Not merely on the part of
Papacy, but in the wake of practically every reform movement has come the claim that God
has "changed" His work or methods, that their way is now God's way, and
gradually this has paved the way for the malicious operation of that evil spirit of
intolerance toward all Christians who were loath to change each time some dogmatic leader
gave the word.
In the dark ages, as well as in the early days
of the reformation, those who joined the "opposition" were often literally
tormented and put to death. The law does not permit such a cruel course today; so the
"loyal" organizationists are now taught to simply "hate" their
enemies. They are reminded that God hates His enemies, and that they should do likewise;
and they are told, of course, that their worst enemies are those Christians who do not
favor "organization" rules.
Have we any reason to suppose that if the laws
of the land now allowed it, the organizational leaders who thus teach their followers to
pray for the destruction of those whom they define as enemies of the Lord, would not just
as gladly instruct that all such be burned at the stake, even as did their predecessors of
the dark ages?
It is because we thoroughly believe that a
failure to recognize what constitutes God's real organization has been one of the most
fruitful causes of intolerance and division among the saints, that we deem it important to
here take up the subject for candid discussion.
Ye Receive Not of Her Plagues."
Coming Out of Her, Means What?
Babylon's Early Rise
Jesus, in His parable of the wheat and tares,
and the Apostle Paul, in his discussion of the "Man of Sin," which was beginning
its development even in the fact that there was to come a great falling away from the
faith and practice of the believers as originally instituted; and that this would result
in a gigantic growth of organized error among the saints, which in turn would produce many
spurious Christians; and that in the organized assemblies of this greatly inflated type of
"Christianity" the -true Christians would be-come very obscure-choked out as it
were-or held in bondage to the organizations and opinions of ambitious men.
Paul suggests, in 2 Thes. 2:7, that this
"falling away," this sinister unchristian apostasy, began in a small way in his
day; and that it would continue to grow into a fully developed "man" of sin, by
which the whole system would be corrupted and become apostate. His prediction has been
literally fulfilled At first this spurious organization held almost an exclusive monopoly
over the affairs of the church; but later, beginning with the Reformation, other rival
groups sprang up, each challenging the authority of the "mother church" and,
themselves boastingly claiming to be the specially appointed favorites of heaven.
Today there are many such organizations, all
making essentially the same erroneous claim; though some are more and some are less
arrogant in flaunting their presumptions before the public. All of this egotism and
confusion-reflecting as it does the selfish spirit of the world, and of Satan, the god of
this world-God calls "Babylon"; and therefore to His people as individual
followers, He still is issuing the command, "Come out of her, My people, that ye be
not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." - Rev. 18:4
When Jesus prophetically portrayed this nominal
organization of professed Christians, in His parable of the wheat and tares, He pointed
out that in the extreme end of the age the wheatwould be separated from the tares. It
seems quite clear, therefore, from a proper comparison of the various Scriptures on the
subject, that there would come a time, ere the full end arrives, when oil's true people
would recognize the necessity of freeing themselves from every vestige of
"organization" which goes beyond the simple arrangement that God originally
instituted for His people through Jesus and the apostles In other words, it is evident
that the full separation of wheat and tares-that is, the complete corning out of
Babylon-really calls for a complete return to that simplicity of church organization and
practice under which God's spirit was so abundantly manifested in the beginning of the
It is for this reason that we believe this frank
discussion of the subject is of prime importance to all consecrated Christians at the
present time. All true disciples now will conscientiously heed the divine instructions
when understood, regardless of how such obedience may affect their standing with others
whom they love and esteem. We must be prepared to act as we believe that God would have us
act, even though it meant the severance of every social or earthly tie, and bring upon us
the taunts and sneers of those still blinded by prejudice, and who have allowed the
glamorous display of human organization and pretended authority to displace in their minds
the blessed simplicity and
Christian spirit of the early church.
No Central Control in Apostolic Days
The only authentic record we have which reveals
to us the method of procedure in the early church, and the characteristics of church
organization as constituted by the apostles, is that which is given us in the book of
Acts, and later reflected in the epistles of the various apostles. A study of the facts
thus made available for us reveals that then there was no central group or organization of
believers whatsoever, to which the local congregations were supposed to look for
instruction, guidance, or spiritual food. Nor does the Lord's Word anywhere indicate that
there ever would come a time when such an arrangement would be divinely authorized.
Neither do the Scriptures indicate that any organization formed by fallible men to preach
the gospel should be recognized as having a monopoly over the spiritual interests of
Christians; although by the use of Old Testament prophecies, and other obscure passages of
the Scriptures, attempts have been made to prove such a theory.
Each local congregation in early days, was an
individual unit and governed fully and only by the vote of its own members. The teachers,
variously styled pastors, bishops and elders, elected by the local congregations, had no
jurisdiction outside of their ecclesia. Through their failure to recognize this limitation
many of the teachers later, after the death of the, apostles, united, and sought to
control the congregations, instead of continuing to be themselves subject to the ecclesia
that elected them.
The Jerusalem Conference
The nearest we find to any centralized action,
was when, on one occasion, an apostolic conference was arranged for at Jerusalem. But this
was called for a very special purpose, and was not a continuous "organization,"
or permanent council. It was, at the most, merely a convention during which thoughts were
compared in regard to a matter that had become a very important issue amongst the
believers of that day.-Acts 15.
The apostles, and for a time, all of the early
church, were Jews; and as such they had be-come accustomed to thinking that God had no
special blessings for any except their own nation, unless others became proselytes to
Judaism and kept the Mosaic Law. But now the time had come for the gospel to go freely to
the Gentiles, and naturally the matter presented some very serious problems to those early
There was no central authority to which these
early Christians could look for authentic instruction; and even some of the apostles, for
a time, were uncertain as to what was the proper course to pursue. So they gathered at
Jerusalem, and there discussed the question in detail. A definite decision was reached
when James stood up and recalled to his brethren how God had appeared to Simeon (Simon
Peter) in a vision and had given him specific instruction to visit Cornelius, a Roman army
officer, and tell him about the gospel of the Kingdom. -Acts 10 and 15.
James then cited some Old Testament prophecies
as further proof that the time had come for the Gentiles to receive the gospel. The others
concurred, as James thus summed up the matter; and the results of the conference were
thereafter made known to the various groups of brethren beyond Jerusalem.
Apostles Recognized no Head
The apostles being divinely inspired, this
decision was of course binding upon all the church. After this conference adjourned we
have no record of any further efforts being made, either by the apostles, or by the early
ecclesias, to reach a united conclusion on matters that pertain to the affairs of the
various local congregations; and certainly no effort was made to set up a central
headquarters with authority to control the ecclesias or the minds and acts of individual
believers. It was the antichrist, or "man of sin" who did this, after the
"great "falling away" from the faith and simplicity of the early church had
Analyzing the Bible record still further, we
find that even among the apostles themselves there was no recognition or claim of special
or super-authority on the part of any one of them. It was after the apostles themselves
had died that the apostate church set up the claim that Peter was the visible
"head" of the church, and that the right of "papal succession" existed
from his day onward. Peter thus became the first generally recognized human
"channel" of truth. But Peter never made any such claim for himself, nor was he
so regarded by the other apostles, or by the early church generally; only a few in those
early days made the carnal claim, "I am of Peter !"
Paul certainly did not regard Peter as his
"infallible head'," when he, on one occasion, "rebuked" him publicly.
There was no central authority among the apostles, or among the first century ecclesias,
except the supreme authority of the Lord Himself. It should have remained so throughout
the age even to this day; but alas, how easily can ambitious leaders lead God's people
It appears that most of the missionary efforts
put forth by Paul and the other apostles were undertaken and carried out without even
particularly consulting with each other. The church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas on a
missionary tour to visit the other churches, as well as to do pioneer work where no
churches had as yet been established. There is no record to indicate that the other
apostles or ecclesias were consulted before undertaking this evangelistic tour, or that
the brethren in general were given a vote in the matter. And why should such be thought
God, Not Man, Commissions You
Certainly there is no Scriptural or other good
reason why any individual Christian or ecclesia, if the opportunity presents itself,
should first petition other groups for permission to go forth and preach God's Word;
though if other ecclesias are served it is, of course, important to obtain the permission
of such ecclesias, and not force one's service upon them.
An outstanding example of the liberty that
existed in the early church is given in the experiences of the Apostle Paul. When this
great apostle first entered the ministry very few of the believers even knew that he had
been converted. It was not until sometime afterward that a few saints heard that he who
had persecuted the church of Christ was now proclaiming the glad tidings. (Gal. 1:16-23.)
How different was his procedure from that which has been the custom of many religious
leaders and organizations since that time! Many even now continue to place human
ordination or authority above the sanction of our one true Head, Christ Jesus.
Improving on God's Ways (?)
Imperfect human reasoning would say that such
apparently haphazard methods as were used in the early church would be very ineffective
today; and that in order to accomplish great things it is now necessary to have a
centralized system of control to function as overlord in directing the thoughts and
activities of the saints everywhere. The facts of history, however, reveal to the
contrary. Never, at any time during the entire Gospel Age, has the truth flourished and
increased more rapidly and more effectively than under the simple arrangement which God
instituted for the early church.
But when the apostles fell a-sleep, and
ambitious leaders began to "organize" the ministry and put it upon an
"efficient business basis," with centralized control, the truth soon became
throttled, and ere long the pure gospel of Christ was fully buried in the rubbish of
ritualism and human tradition. The same thing occured in the days of the great
Reformation. It too, did its most effective work at its beginning, while the reformers
were unorganized but dominated by love for truth and simplicity. But soon the leaders
began to form organizations to "control" matters, and forthwith the true spirit
of the Reformation was quenched, and zeal for truth thereafter took a secondary place.
Clergy-Laity Division Was Never
Sanctioned by God
Every departure from the simplicity of the
apostolic church has had a tendency to produce and accentuate unauthoirized carnal
separations of the Lord's people, at least into two general groups - the servants and the
served. In nominal 'Christian circles this division is proudly recognized, and dignified
by distinctive names-clergy and laity. Such carnality should not be tolerated amongst
God's free people. All are on the same footing in Christ Jesus; and through the anointing
of the holy spirit every footstep follower of the Master is authorized to be a minister of
God and of righteousness.
Every attempt to "organize" the
church, and to appoint by a general vote of the saints or otherwise, special
representatives endowed with authority beyond that of their own local ecclesia, is
certain, sooner or later, to create the impression that those thus specially appointed are
somehow just a little superior to the rank and file of the brethren, and that any who
presume to serve independently of their jurisdiction are not duly recognizing "the
Lord's arrangements," hence should be looked upon with suspicion if not downright
History has repeated itself along this line many
times. The early reformers refused to bow the knee to Papacy, and as a result they were
branded as "wicked," "disloyal," "heady," or
"ambitious," simply because they refused to recognize the authority of the
self-styled "Holy See." We may be hastily inclined to congratulate ourselves
that we no longer live in a day when sincere efforts to serve the Lord are thus throttled
or branded as heresy and disloyalty by any one of the present-day organizations called
Christian; but let us not be too sure that such congratulations are in order.
The struggle f o r Christian liberty, and
against the carnal spirit of special class-interest, is a lifelong one on the part of
every individual saint of God, and is going on today just as it did in the far distant
past. Nothing will overcome it but the true spirit of divine love ruling in the heart.
Baneful Source of Intolerance
Every attempt t o centralize control of the
Lord's work, irrespective of the good intentions represented in those efforts, almost
invariably has had the tendency to produce a selfish, bigoted; "ecclesiastical"
frame of mind on the part of those elected to control; and this attitude seems to hinder
the ability of many such to appreciate the fact that there can be such a thing as a
sincere and selfish desire to serve the Lord outside of their particular organization or
Because of this all such independent efforts are
condemned as being due to sinister "ambition" or "disloyalty." The
Lord understood human frailty along this line; and this evidently explains why He and the
apostles held to so simple an arrangement, and the reason also, why He did not provide for
any elective offices in the church higher than that of local eldership.
Why God's Way is Best
The wisdom of this simple arrangement for the
church is apparent. Should a teacher in a local congregation become heady, and insist that
he alone must be considered the head of that congregation, it could cause no trouble
except locally. But, if an individual, or group of individuals should receive the general
recognition of many, or all of the churches and then assume a monopoly over the Lord's
work, as sometimes happens, a serious situation is thereby created. In such a case either
one of two things must happen, both of which are carnal:
First, it may be that all the local
congregations will be willing to submit to such unwarranted control-or at least enough of
them to make of no avail a protest on the part of a small
minority in which case there develops a
condition of sectarian bondage. This means a throttling of the free interchange of
thought. All who express ideas aside from those that emanate from the recognized channel,
or who may make bold to call in question some point that is sponsored by the organization,
are looked upon with suspicion; and if they continue to exercise their Christian liberty
they soon are branded as "heretics," "opposers of God," and the
faithful are warned not to have anything to do with them because they have "gone out
of the truth."
Second, if only a portion of each congregation
is willing to recognize the lawless attitude of the elected or self-styled leaders, and
the others prefer the simplicity of the early church, and insist on remaining free to
cooperate with and fellowship all who love the Lord, the result is inevitably a
"division." Then the cry goes forth to "mark those that cause divisions,
contrary to the doctrines, and avoid them."
But the important question that is often
overlooked is, Who caused the division--those who adhered to the simplicity of the early
church, or those who introduced the unscriptural innovation of lordship and centralized
control? The organizers are usually horrified at the "rebellious" ones who
insist upon apostolic simplicity and Christian liberty, and if there is no hope of
bringing a good majority of them "into line," they usually advocate, f o r
"principle's sake," withdrawal f r o m them. Thus they become bound all the
tighter with the cords of organized exclusiveness.
Should we not, beloved brethren, take careful
cognizance of our relationship to the Lord, and our responsibility toward the work of His
ministry, and determine, regardless of cost, to wrest ourselves free from every possible
cord of carnal bondage that may still be holding us back from full fellowship with Him and
The protestant movement that started centuries
ago is still going on. Even the harvest work, in which we all have been engaged, seems far
from complete. Indeed, it cannot be complete until every grain of wheat - every living
saint of God-is not only gathered out of the grosser forms of sectarianism, but also
winnowed as well from the more subtle forms of carnal bondage; yea, shall we not say,
until every true Christian returns to the full recognition of the fact that God's way of
organizing and conducting His church was, and still is, the best way, all-sufficient.
The outstanding characteristic of mystic Babylon
has been her centralized control over the spiritual affairs of her members, in violation
of the divinely instituted arrangements of the early church. It follows therefore, that
none of us can be sure that we have come fully and unreservedly out of Babylon until we
have cast off all the humanly imposed fetters of bondage that go beyond God's simple
apostolic arrangement for His people.
Why These Tests?
With these facts before us can we not understand
why the Lord has permitted to come to His people the peculiarly trying experiences of the
past few years? Instead of wishing, there-fore, that the latter part of the harvest work
might not have been a period of such confusion and separation, can we not see that what
appears to be a calamity is in reality an act of divine providence, designed t o make
possible a more complete liberation from Babylon, and a still closer union with our one
Indeed, in n o other w a y could the full import
of Christian liberty and freedom from Babylonian bonds have been so well brought to our
attention. A mere glance over the field to-day is sufficient to prove that there is indeed
much yet to be accomplished in assisting many of our brethren in more perfectly heeding
the clarion call to "Come out of her, My people." The earmarks of Babylon are
almost everywhere in evidence. Let us then, beloved, continue, to send out that call to
all His people, and meanwhile also see that we remain free ourselves.
Complete Separation Required The mere separation
f r o m some one or another of the great or small "organizations" now in
existence is not enough, either! It would appear now that such is but the first step in
the coming out process. It is easy, per-haps, to have one's name removed from some church
roll or organizational arrangement, but it is much more difficult not to bring any of the
spirit of sectarianism along with us.
It now seems apparent that "coming out of
Babylon" is something that involves a cleansing of the very innermost recesses of our
hearts and minds from every semblance of the "organizational" complex; from
every secret carnal desire to lean upon some modern Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, whether
these spiritual leaning posts be individuals, societies, institutions, committees, or what
Shall we not, then, institute a rigorous process
of self-examination along this line? Shall we not also, by word and by example, throw our
influence behind this much-needed present-day protestant movement! From the standpoint of
this work that re-mains to be done it is still true that "the harvest is great but
the laborers are few."
At one time there were 1200 independent classes
of the Lord's people in this country alone who had been harvested from the great
tare-field of nominal Christendom, and, were all enjoying the freedom and light of present
truth. But many, if not all of us, in our hearts, were still in a measure of bondage. We
needed a further lesson in order to give us a better vision of what constitutes real
Christian liberty, and the importance of that liberty in the Christian life. Some are
learning that lesson in one way, and some in another.
We Needed the Lesson
It was, by divine permission, and in order to
purify the saints still further, that circumstances developed which have caused very many
of the Lord's people, in present truth, to again become bound. And Satan's efforts in this
direction have never been confined to any one group. True, it may have been more apparent
in one particular quarter than elsewhere; but his efforts to re-enslave us have been felt
by every consecrated child of God the world over. Some have resisted his attempts more
successfully than others. Some may even now think that they are free but are not.
The net result of this unexpected onslaught of
Satan is seen in the fact that now nearly all of those 1200 classes of liberty-loving
Christians are again taking orders from a humanly elected overlord. But many of the
individual Christians now in these classes, are, in their hearts, rebelling against this
unchristian bondage. Indeed, they are again struggling for their liberty-ignorantly so, in
many cases-and they need your help.
Temporary bewilderment has reduced many to a
state o f mourning. They have temporarily lost their spiritual vision. They are
"mourners in Zion" at the present time; and, just as in the past it was our
privilege to point the way to liberty through a proclamation of the truth, so now again
God places squarely upon our shoulders the responsibility of sending out the truth to all
these, coupled with the urgent call, "Come out of her, My people."
Temporary Failure no Disgrace
The development of all the Christian graces is a
lifelong work on the part of every follower of the Master. We cannot simply add virtue to
our faith today and then suppose that for the remainder of our Christian life we need give
no further attention to it. Nor should we imagine that we can ever attain, in all their
perfection, any of the Christian characteristics enjoined in the Scriptures, or ever reach
a point this side the vail where failure along some line will no longer be experienced.
The same is true in connection with our fight for Christian liberty. Temporary failure to
attain is no disgrace; nor should we now hold any of our fettered
brethren in disesteem if they do not respond to
the call to "come out," as quickly as we think they should, or as soon as some
others have responded. Some have more obstacles to overcome.
The divine commission to lay down our lives for
the brethren is directly involved in the Macedonian cry that is now rising from so many
quarters throughout this entire country and else-where. Shall we, like Cain of old,
dismiss the matter by asking, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Nay verily! Let us
lovingly accept the. responsibility that is ours, dear brethren. Let those still in
bondage, but who realize the true state of their position, arouse themselves t o take a
stand with the Lord. In doing this let them help to awaken others to the awfulness of all
carnal bondage. Wherever possible let every effort be made to start an independent class,
entirely separate from all outside domination whatsoever. Let us all determine to make
every effort possible to sound forth in trumpet tones to all of our brethren the glorious,
heartcheering message of God's unadulterated truth which points the true believer to
Jesus, who is "the way, the truth and the life."
True Church Unity
There is no other way to en-joy real Christian
unity except by a recognition of God's own instituted organization for His people as
represented in the early church. Jesus prayed for unity among the brethren, and surely we
cannot go wrong by insisting that that same true spirit of unity be maintained in our own
hearts; and then using our influence, our talents, our sub-stance, in an effort to
encourage that blessed spirit among others. But true Christian unity is impossible so long
as the brethren permit any outside influence except the Lord to force itself upon the
affairs of their local congregation.
If all the saints in all the world should cast a
unanimous vote for the appointment of one brother, or a group of brethren, to rep-resent
and control them in a general work, and if they then loyally supported those for whom they
voted, that would not constitute the true Christian unity for which Christ prayed; for the
reason that such an arrangement is carnal, and has never been authorized by Jehovah God or
the Lord Jesus.
True Christian unity cannot be voted into or out
of the church of Christ. It exists only where God's arrangements are operative, and where
His spirit reigns supreme. This means that every ecclesia should throw off every fettering
recognition of outside leadership, and govern its own affairs by the laws of the new
creation as laid down in the New Testament. Jesus said that "Where two or three are
gathered together in My name," (not in the name of some organization), there am I in
the midst," and that to bless. Let us, by faith, lay hold upon this promise, and
realize to the full the rich blessings that become the heritage of those who obey the Lord
Nor should the ecclesia impose any tests of
fellowship upon its individual members other than those authorized in the Bible. Where
this true recognition of God and His laws is insisted upon in the local ecclesia there is
true Christian unity the unity for which Christ prayed.
Cooperation Without Bondage
Such independence on the part of each ecclesia
does not mean that there cannot be wholesome fellowship and fullest cooperation amongst
the Lord's brethren everywhere; but the very reverse. In the early church it was
customary, as we have seen, for ecclesias that could do so to send out assistance to
others. Thus speakers went from place to place preaching the message.
At one time the Christians at Jerusalem were in
need of material help, and Paul, because it "pleased" the churches, collected
funds and took them to the brethren at Jerusalem. From this it is plain that there was
full cooperation back there; and there can, and should be such cooperation today. But when
co-operation involves the recognition of one brother, or group of brethren, above others,
as having special or superauthority, it becomes carnal, Babylonish, and unchristian.
As we have already noted, the spiritual needs of
many of the brethren today are very great. We suggest that every ecclesia of Bible
students now enjoying their Christian liberty bestir itself to see what can be done to
help fettered brethren in nearby cities and towns. Conditions are rapidly ripening for a
modern exodus from present Babylonish bondage. Let us all, dear brethren, be continually
on the alert to help direct these dear ones into the green pastures of complete Christian
liberty and unrestrained fellowship with God. Clearly the time is at hand for us to do our
full duty. And what a privilege it is to help God's people who are now in need!