I don't know how to thank you enough for the opportunity
to come and deliver these lessons on these Sunday afternoons. It has been a
very challenging experience for me, and I hope the lessons have been
challenging to you. To see the number of people who have come each Sunday
afternoon to visit with us, to listen to these lessons, and to study them
and consider them has been an encouragement to me. Thank you so much for
We are on our third of these lessons. Two weeks ago we
talked about the question of the orphan's home, what was the issue? And
then last Sunday, the sponsoring church. We included in that study
questions concerning the Herald of Truth and the more recent "One Nation
Under God" campaign. What was the issue?
This one is a little different in some ways from the
other two in that this one has gained acceptance for the most part in my own
lifetime and in my own memory. There were church-supported orphan's homes
when I was born. There weren't many of them, but there were a few. There
were some sponsoring church arrangements when I was born. They occurred on
a rather small scale, but they existed then. But the general acceptance of
dining areas and kitchens in the buildings owned by churches of Christ has
come, not only within my lifetime, but within my memory.
In 1947, M. Norvel Young, on the lectureship in Abilene,
encouraged churches to build new buildings, to build them in good locations,
and to include in their buildings, among many other things, a large
fellowship room and cooking facilities that would be near this large
fellowship room. He followed that up with some articles in some of the
papers that were circulated, lending his encouragement to the idea of
building fellowship halls and kitchens. Now, that didn't catch on very
well. I remember when I was in high school, one of the churches in the city
where we lived built an addition on their building, and indeed, they put in
it a place for eating. But they felt a little pressure about this and
defensively said, "We're also going to have a Bible class in this room."
That's the way they excused themselves. But they felt pressure in doing
that. And I just couldn't believe that a church of Christ would do that.
In 1954, I went to school in Montgomery. I attended
meetings in churches all around Montgomery. To my knowledge, there was not
a church in Montgomery in 1954 that had a fellowship hall and kitchen in its
building. Now, such might have existed, but I didn't know it if it did.
For a number of years while I was in college and after I graduated from
college, I would indiscriminately either lead singing in meetings or preach
in meetings for churches that supported institutions. I was not aware of it
if any of these churches had a fellowship hall and kitchen in its building.
Few churches had them in those days. But toward the end of the '60s and on
into the '70s, churches that planned new buildings would include a
fellowship room and kitchen in their plans. It became an accepted
practice. But that is something relatively new among churches of Christ,
and I think many people are not aware of that.
Now we raise the question, what was the issue? On what
basis did many object to this practice?
What Was Not The Issue?
Let's first of all ask the question: What was not the
issue? The issue never was whether one could eat something in a building
owned by the church. There were people who said, "Why, if these people are
right, a mother couldn't even give her baby a bottle of milk in the
building." Well, of course we never said anything like that. That was
never the issue.
Second, the issue was not whether or not the building is
sacred. Now, I'm not sure how we are using that word "sacred". The
building is certainly built to be used for spiritual purposes. If it is not
to be used for spiritual purposes, then it has no right to exist in the
first place. But at the same time, if we're talking about the brick and
mortar, the roof, the carpet, and other materials that go into the building
- No, they are not sacred. That was never the issue.
Let me say again, that when differences arise, and it
doesn't matter whether it's over these things that we've been talking about,
or over divorce and remarriage, or whatever, one of our problems is we don't
listen to one another. We either already have our minds made up, or we are
thinking about what we are going to say next, or how we're going to answer
this person, that we really don't listen. And consequently, a lot of times,
we try to answer an argument before we even know the argument. We try to
answer an issue before we even know what the issue is. And we make a very
sad mistake. I may have been guilty of that. Any of us may have been. But
we need to listen to one another.
What Was The Issue?
What was the issue? Well, here basically is what the
issue was: Is there New Testament authority for the local church to plan
and provide materially for social activities in its program of work?
There's the issue. Let's read it again. Is there New Testament authority
for the local church to plan and provide materially for social activities in
its program of work? Now there's the issue.
I want to emphasize what we have emphasized throughout
this series of lessons: Is there New Testament authority? Is there
authority for that institutional board that stands between the churches and
their work with the institutional board taking the oversight of the work for
the churches? That was our question two weeks ago. Is there authority for
one eldership to take the oversight of the work of a thousand churches?
That was our question last week. We keep coming to the question of
We've quoted all these Sundays 2 Timothy 3:16 and 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." If it is a good work, you're going to find the authority in the
Scriptures. If you cannot find the authority in the Scriptures, it's not a
good work no matter how good it looks to us.
Consider Colossians 3:17, which we have just sung:
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord
Jesus." But you can't do anything in someone's name unless that person has
authorized it. 2 John, verse 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." Is it in the doctrine of Christ?
Can we do it in the name of Jesus? Is it authorized by the Scriptures?
Those are the questions that we must constantly ask.
I have before me a list of activities that brother
Franklin T. Puckett gave in the Arlington meeting concerning what a local
church, a local congregation, ought to do. And I've just borrowed that. I
have looked over it and agree with it, and I don't know of anything else
myself that a local church is to do. Let me just give you some of the
things that a local church is authorized to do.
He says, first of all, to have an assembly of the
saints. And he gives us a Scripture, Hebrews 10:24 and 25. I might
add Acts 20:7. The local church is to provide an assembly for the
saints. Now, in keeping with that, the Pepper Road church has a comfortable
and commodious building. Where is the authority for this in which we're
sitting right here today? Well, it is in the fact that the church is to
arrange for assemblies of Christians.
Then he says, number two: In such an assembly, the
saints are to observe the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week; Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 11:33. All right, in keeping with that, the
church here has provided a table, bread plates, a tray with glasses, and
buys bread and fruit of the vine. Why? Because that's one of the things
that the church is to do.
Number three: They are to sing psalms unto the Lord and
with spiritual songs teach and admonish one another; 1 Corinthians 14:23,
Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16. All right, in keeping with that, the
church here has furnished song books. Where's the authority for the song
books? We answer: One of the things the church is to do is to arrange for
singing. They arrange for Tony to lead the singing. Where's the authority
for that? The church here is providing for singing.
Number four: They are to pray together.
Number five: They are to preach and attend to the
teaching of God's word; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 14:26. In keeping with
that, a pulpit is provided and an overhead projector as an aid for our
teaching. There is a board here and a public address system. What's that
for? To enable us to efficiently teach the word. Over on this other side
there are some classrooms with various types of equipment there to help in
the teaching of the word. Where is the authority for these classrooms?
It's in the fact that the church is to provide for the teaching of the word,
and so this church has furnished an auditorium that is comfortable and
commodious and classrooms where the teaching of the word can take place.
Number six: They are to lay by in store on the first day
of the week as they have been prospered to finance their collective
responsibilities; 1 Corinthians 16:2. I don't see them, but
somewhere around here I guarantee you there's a hat or something that can be
passed around to collect some money. Where's the authority? It is the
command to give of our means.
Number seven: They are to support the preaching of the
gospel. I suspect you've got a treasury, and you not only support Bruce,
you support men in other places. I think I know some of them that you
support. Where's the authority for that? Well, that's exactly what the
church is to be doing.
Number eight: They are to provide for the fulfillment of
needs of certain destitute saints; Acts 4:34, 35, 2 Corinthians, chapters
8, 9 -- we went through all those two weeks ago. And we made the point
two weeks ago that in keeping with the care of destitute saints, the church,
under the oversight of its elders -- let me emphasize that -- the church
under the oversight of its elders, could buy a house, pay somebody to
supervise, buy groceries. Where would the authority for that be? It is in
the command to care for the destitute saints. Now, they wouldn't send it to
a board of directors, who in turn would take the oversight, but under the
oversight of the elders they could furnish such things. Are you getting the
point? When we see what the Lord has authorized the church to do, then that
gives us the authority for providing whatever is needful for the efficient
carrying out of what God has told the church to do.
Now, if we could just find the Scripture where the church
is to plan and provide materially for social activities, then, in this
building, we need to provide a room for eating together with a kitchen
nearby. How did Norvel Young say that? A large fellowship room with
cooking facilities near this room in order to facilitate this particular
activity. But if the authority is not there for this activity, then the
authority is not there for building the nice fellowship room and the kitchen
to go with it. There's the problem. So in order to have our kitchen, and
in order to have the large fellowship room, what we've got to find is the
authority for the local church to plan and provide materially for social
activities in its program of work. That's what we've got to find. The
issue is simply this: Do we add a ninth activity to the eight we have just
listed, the ninth being that the local church is to plan and provide
materially for social activities? If so, we have authority for kitchens and
dining areas. If not, there is no authority for them.
The Water Cooler
Well, somebody says, "Surely somebody came up with some
arguments that would favor that." Yes, that's right. Now let me just say
that, as far as I'm concerned, at least the first argument should never have
been taken seriously. But some tried to compare the fellowship halls and
the kitchens with a water fountain. Those of us who were living back at
that time will remember an article, and it was circulated widely, on "Willie
the Water Cooler". Does anybody remember "Willie the Water Cooler"? It was
a satire type of thing. Willie the Water Cooler in this article was getting
very concerned because Willie had learned that some of the people thought it
was wrong to eat in the church building, and if some of the people thought
it was wrong to eat in the church building, they might decide it was wrong
to drink in the church building, and therefore Willie the Water Cooler might
be moved out of the church building. That was the argument they made. They
missed the point.
The point is not whether we can drink some water in the
church building. The point is: Can we plan and provide materially for
social activities as a program of the local church's work? Lynn Headrick,
my brother-in-law, who, of course, passed away a little over a year ago,
made a very astute observation when he said, "When we find the church
planning social activities around the water cooler, then we'll take the
water cooler out." Now that gets right to the issue.
May I make another point with you: Nothing is right (and
let me make sure we say this right) -- nothing is right because it is
consistent with something we're already doing. A thing is right or wrong on
the basis of whether it agrees with this book. Do you know how churches get
into apostasy? They don't go into apostasy in one giant leap. They take
just a little step, sometimes it's only a half step, in the wrong
direction. And then the first thing you know, they get to thinking, "Well,
I don't see any difference in that and this." And so they take another
step. "And I don't see anything different about this and this." And they
take that step. "Well, what's the difference in this and this?" And the
first thing you know, each thing they do, they justify on the basis of
something they have already been doing. That is not how you establish
authority for anything. Everything we do in the Lord's work must be
established on the basis of what the Scriptures teach, not on whether it's
consistent with something we've already been doing. If the water cooler
argument proves anything, maybe it proves that the water cooler ought to
have gone out. But I don't think it is the issue. That was not a serious
Now, there were at least two serious arguments that were
One had to do with the love feasts that the Bible talks
about. If you have your Bible, turn to 2 Peter, chapter 2. You remember
that the book of 2 Peter is written to a great degree to combat false
teaching that had arisen, and apparently these false teachers were just as
corrupt as men could have possibly been. And in describing them, Peter
says, verse 13 of 2 Peter 2, they "will receive the wages of
unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime.
They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they
feast with you." While they feast with you. Now turn to the book of Jude.
The book of Jude is almost a repeat of 2 Peter 2. Look at verse 12.
In Jude verse 12, the writer says, "These are spots in your love
feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves."
Now, some looked at that and said, "Now, here are love feasts that people
had back in the first century, and that's basically what we have in our
fellowship halls, so here is the authority for it -- it is in the love
In the first place, I don't know that anybody knows what
these love feasts were. It's interesting to me that Albert Barnes just says
it's the Lord's Supper. And he makes his argument as to why this just has
reference to the Lord's Supper. I don't know that that's correct. Others
have said that they were dinners that wealthier people in the church gave
for the sake of the poorer people in order to show their love for those who
were poorer in this world's goods. That may be correct. I don't know what
these love feasts were. The one thing I know is, there is nothing in 2
Peter 2 or Jude that suggests that they were activities planned by the
church. And I seriously question that they were the same thing that's
taking place in the typical fellowship halls and kitchens of our day. But
that is one of the arguments that was made. One thing is certain: We do not
have enough information concerning love feasts for them to serve as
authority for kitchens and dining rooms in our buildings.
Probably the argument that most of us who are sitting
here are wondering about is simply: "What about fellowship?" Doesn't the
Bible teach that the church is to have fellowship? Indeed!
The Bible does teach that the church is to have
fellowship. But what a lot of people have overlooked is the fact that the
word "fellowship" in the Scriptures has to do with spiritual activities. I
have before me a photocopy out of a book that I have which contains every
Scripture that uses the Greek word for fellowship, koinonia. An interesting
thing about this is: not one time does it have reference to social
fellowship. Here really we're getting to the basics: fellowship. What does
the word fellowship mean? Sharing, communion, participation in, joining
together. The very definition itself suggests that we have to decide what
we're "joining in", what we're "sharing".
One interesting thing is the word "fellowship" in the
Scriptures -- that is, the Greek word -- is used for a business
partnership. Turn to Luke, chapter 5. Let me show you this usage. Do you
remember the time that Jesus told Simon to launch out into the deep, and let
out the nets for a catch -- "a draught", I believe the King James version
says -- and they caught so many fish that their nets began to break? Now
look at verse 10 of Luke chapter 5, "and so also were James and John
the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.-- Partners. This is the
same word that is translated "fellowship" in other places. Business
partnership. They were having fellowship in the business of fishing.
Now, another usage of "fellowship" is social fellowship.
This is where we smell the doughnuts and coffee. Friday night a bunch of us
got together and had some elk stew, and I tell you it was all right. We had
a good time together. We socialized together. We shared in the eating of
elk stew and a few other things that some of the people brought. Are you
aware that the Bible never uses the word "fellowship" in reference to such
Now, another use of "fellowship" has to do with spiritual
things. Every time, every time the word is used in regards to the church's
activity, it is always this. And to my knowledge, there is not one
Scripture in the Bible that uses the term "fellowship" in regards to eating
elk stew, or whatever socializing we do together. Not one Scripture that
uses the word "fellowship" like that. Let me show you, for instance,
Corinthians 1:9 (We'll not turn to these). We were "called into the
fellowship of His Son." In Philippians 1:5, Paul commends the
Philippians for their "fellowship in the gospel." Fellowship in the
gospel. He says in Philippians 2:1, "if there is any fellowship in
the Spirit..." Philippians 3:10, he wants to know the "fellowship of
the suffering of Christ." Notice none of that has anything to do with
having a good time together. It has everything to do with our relationship
with God and our relationship with one another as Christians.
1 John, chapter one. I want to turn to that one
with you. Look at 1 John, chapter 1. Here is the fellowship that the Bible
emphasizes. If we could ever learn this, then we're going to realize that
this term "fellowship hall" is really a misnomer. It may be for social
fellowship, but it's not for the fellowship that the Bible talks about.
Now, 1 John 1, beginning with verse 1. John says, "That which was from the
beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we
have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life --
the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to
you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us --
that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have
fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His
Son Jesus Christ." John says, I am writing these things concerning Jesus
Christ that you might have fellowship with us. I want to tell you, there's
not a thing in the world you can read in 1 John that has anything to do with
doughnuts and coffee and elk stew. It has everything to do with our sharing
together in spiritual things. And then he says our fellowship is with the
Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
What has happened to us, brethren, when every time we
hear the word "fellowship" we immediately think in terms of fun and games
and eating and drinking together? What has happened to us that we see that,
every time we see the word "fellowship", when it's never even used in the
Bible that way?
No, you cannot find the authority for a local church, as
a part of its program of work, planning and providing materials for social
activities in the word "fellowship" in the Bible, because it doesn't use the
word "fellowship" for that.
May I make this point? The church at Pepper Road has a
fellowship hall. Let me say that again. The church at Pepper Road has a
fellowship hall. You're in it. We're in it right now. We are sharing in
worship to God, in the study of His Word. We are learning what John wrote
to us, that we might have fellowship not only among ourselves, but that we
might have fellowship with the apostles. And indeed, our fellowship is with
God and with Jesus Christ. We must learn that this is the kind of
fellowship that the Bible talks about.
May I make another point? The Pepper Road church has a
fellowship meal in this fellowship hall. It's called the Lord's Supper.
Turn to 1 Corinthians, chapter 10. Look at verse 16: "The cup of
blessing which we bless, it is not the communion of the blood of Christ?
The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"
What is the word communion? Same word. You know, sometimes we just refer
to the Lord's Supper as the "communion". I don't know how we got started
doing that. That's the same thing as saying "I'm going to go prepare the
fellowship for Sunday." That's what the word communion means. And what
that passage is saying is when we eat the bread and drink the fruit of the
vine, we are having fellowship, communion, with the body and blood of Jesus
Christ. Now, let's read further, verse 17: "For we, being many, are
one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread." Oh, now,
that's not just communion with the body and blood of Christ, but there's
communion among all of us within the one body. And let me tell you, that
one body is not a local church. That one body is God's people. When we
partake of the Lord's Supper, we are having not only communion with the body
and blood of Jesus Christ, but we are having fellowship around a fellowship
meal, if I may use that term, with all of God's people, all over the world,
who can legitimately eat of that bread and drink of that fruit of the vine.
There's one bread and one body, and we all partake of one bread. You may
have five or six pieces of bread. At New Georgia, we may have four pieces
of bread. But there is one bread, one bread, and all of us partake of
that. What a fellowship!
One of my favorite passages in the Scripture is that
passage that talks about us all sitting together in the heavenly places in
Christ (Eph. 2:1-7). It is as though this building were one huge
building that is constantly expanding, and we look over here and we see Paul
and Peter and Stephen and Barnabas and Lydia and Dorcas, and we see faithful
Christians we've known in our lifetimes who've already passed on, and there
are the faithful of our present generation, and all of us are sitting
together. And the central figure with whom we sit is Jesus Christ. And we
have a fellowship meal; it's called the Lord's Supper. And what a
fellowship! And then somebody comes along and every time he sees the word
"fellowship", he thinks in terms of having a good time. What we have done
is just missed the whole principle of Bible fellowship. But somebody says,
"Doesn't the Bible talk about people eating together and enjoying one
another?" Yes. Before the church was ever established, I remember Jesus
went to a feast that Levi gave -- Matthew. A great feast. Publicans and
sinners were present. I remember another time when Jesus went to a feast,
and apparently Martha gave the feast. Lazarus sat at the table, John,
chapter 12. You might want to look at Acts, chapter 2. Here were
Christians eating together. In Acts chapter 2, verse 46, we read
concerning the activities of some of those early Christians. We are told,
"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."
May I pause to say that the term "breaking bread" may sometimes refer to the
Lord's Supper, while sometimes it may refer to eating a common meal. You
have to let the context determine. In this case, we're talking about a
common meal. But notice they broke bread from house to house, and ate their
food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God, and having favor
with all the people. But nothing here would imply that it was part of the
church's program of work to provide for that.
Consider also 1 Corinthians, chapter 11. The church at
Corinth was not observing the Lord's Supper as Jesus had instructed. It
seems that there were two problems. First, they had turned the Lord's
Supper into a common meal, and, second, in their divided state, some were
eating while others had nothing to eat. There was total disregard for the
poor among them. In dealing with this problem, Paul writes, "What! Do you
not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God
and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise
you in this? I do not praise you." You have houses to eat and drink in,
Paul said. "But Paul is correcting abuses of the worship", someone may be
thinking. That's right. But he did not say, "You should wait until after
the worship for the church to provide for eating and drinking." He said,
"You have houses for these activities."
Turn with me to 1 Timothy 5:16. Let's bring all
this, hopefully, to a conclusion. 1 Timothy 5:16: "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." Now, I'm going
to take that and enlarge on it. I've got a widowed mother. Now, whose
responsibility is that widowed mother? Well, I'll tell you what, it's not
the church's responsibility. It's my responsibility, and my two sisters'
and Sewell's to take care of my widowed mother. Charlotte has a widowed
mother. Whose responsibility is Charlotte's widowed mother? Not the
church's responsibility. It's the responsibility of me and Charlotte, and
Charlotte's three sisters. Let me do this so the church won't be burdened.
May I just enlarge on that a little bit? Suppose that I
want my children to be educated in math and English. Let me provide for the
education of my children. Don't let the church be burdened with that, so
the church can do the wonderful work that God has given the church to do.
Suppose I want my children to have recreation. Suppose
there are not only my children, suppose there are other young people within
the group, and I want them to have good wholesome recreation. Let me
provide recreation for my children. Don't let the church be burdened with
that, so the church can do those things that God has given His church to
Is there a place for social activities? Indeed. I
enjoyed that good elk stew we had the other day. I wouldn't want to eat it
every day, but that was good! But let me provide for hospitality. Let me
provide for social events. And if others want to join with me in that,
that's fine. But let not the church be charged or burdened with providing
for social activities, so the church can do the things God has told His
church to do. It's just that simple. And nowhere in the Scriptures is
there anything to indicate that the church is to provide materially and plan
for social activities. That is the issue. That's where it lies.
Let me close this series of lessons with this. We are
either going to take this matter of restoration of New Testament
Christianity seriously or we're not. We are either going to take the idea
of "speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent" seriously
or we are not. If we are not going to take the concept of restoring New
Testament Christianity seriously, then by all means let's quit giving it lip
service. Let's just forget the whole thing and do anything we want to do,
whether we have Bible authority for it or not. But, on the other hand, if
we are really serious about restoring New Testament Christianity -- if we
are really serious about making the local church according to the pattern
given in the New Testament -- then let's rid ourselves of these things that
have been introduced into the church for which there is no New Testament
authority. Let's go back and become what the Lord intended His church to
be. It's one way or the other. We can't have it both ways, talking about
restoring New Testament Christianity while accepting all kinds of
innovations for which there is no New Testament authority. It just won't
You have listened well. I appreciate it. And I hope
you've understood where the issue lies. That's been our goal. I hope you
have been able to focus on the issue, two weeks ago, last Sunday, and today,
to know what really caused all the divisions that took place in the '50s and
'60s and created so much trouble among families and among churches --
preachers being fired, churches being divided; it was a sad time.
If there's someone in the audience who's not a Christian,
another thing this church has provided is a baptistry -- a place where you
can be baptized -- and clothes that you can change into so that you can obey
the simple command of baptism. If you have repented of your sins, and will
confess your faith in Christ, and be buried with Him in baptism, you can be
forgiven of sins, and you can go home a Christian rejoicing in the Lord.
Or, if you've fallen back, why not return to the Lord today as we stand and