Why Be A Baptist?
Chapter 10: Baptist Cooperation
"We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain" (2 Cor. 6:1).
As a citizen I can and do cooperate with other good citizens, even though they are not believers, in support of the Anti-Saloon League, law enforcement, humanitarian enterprises like the Childrenís Home Society of Kentucky and other worthy causes. We work together there because we are agreed as to the needs and the righteousness of their appeals. But we work together in these things because we are in agreement as to the principles of cooperation. The principles on which we agree to cooperate are that the cause is worthy; that all good citizens ought to help a worthy cause; and that our cooperation shall be as citizens and shall be voluntary. No compromise is made in that kind of cooperation.
In the work of the Lord Jesus Christ I do not cooperate with anybody but Baptists, because nobody but Baptists even try to do the Lordís work in the Lordís way.
Here are three concrete examples. "Now it came to pass when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner. Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; Wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together. Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart. For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, 0 God, strengthen my hands. Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee. And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in. And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me. My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear. So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God" (Neh. 6:1-16), Sanballat Tobiah, Geshem and other enemies of Israel asked the privilege of helping in building the walls of Jerusalem. Why not? Were they not all citizens of that goodly city? Why should there not be cooperation in that building enterprise? Nehemiah refused to meet them for conference and maintained his separateness, because there could be no cooperation even in building the walls of the city, without compromising both the Jewsí separateness and their teachings.
Again Jehoshaphat made an alliance with Ahab to fight the enemies of Israel. They were all Jews and the alliance was not for worship but for fighting the Lordís enemies at Ramoth Gilead. God helped Jehoshaphat and delivered him, but after he got home, God sent Hanani to him with these words: "And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD. Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God" (2 Chron. 19:1-3). "And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly: And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Eziongaber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the LORD hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish" (2 Chron. 20:35-37).
In all of these ventures the Lord refused to work with His own servants because in each case Godís servants were in cooperation with those who were His enemies. Even when the proposed cooperation was for the purpose of helping to build up the Lordís work, the Lord refused to let His servants go into the cooperation or destroyed their works, when they entered the cooperative work without consulting Him. The New Testament plainly forbids all such cooperation, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:14-18). No cooperation where there is no fellowship, no concord, no agreement, no communion, but a clear and ringing call to absolute separation.
Baptists cannot work with God, if they go into partnership with anybody but Baptists. Let us look into the Word of God and see if we can find out some principles of cooperation laid down in His Book.
I. Working Godís Way.
That is what the text says. "Workers together with Him." The only way we can work with Him, is by finding what He is working at and what His plans are and do it His way. We have failed in all the plans we have made from the Seventy-five Million Campaign and all succeeding campaigns up to now (1928) because we have made our own plans, instead of finding out His plans from His Word and working with Him. Instead of working with Him, we have gotten the cart before the horse. We have made the plans and wanted Him to work with us. God does not work that way. It is His work. He has very definite and clear plans as to how He wants His work done. He will not bless it unless it is done His way. When we give up our plans and accept His plans and let Him be the potter and we nothing but clay, His work always succeeds. Our cooperation is not primarily with each other. Our cooperation is primarily with God. When we cooperate with God, we work together in harmony and unity and accord. Then the work goes gloriously and it looks so easy we wonder why we failed. We failed for the same reason Moses failed, "Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased. And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat. I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness. And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt? And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them? And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORDíS hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not. And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease" (Num. 11:10-25). Moses had been trying Jethroís plan. He failed and wanted to die because he had made such an inglorious failure. Then he was ready to turn things over to God and God brought enlargement and victory. The price of cooperation is giving up your own way and going Godís way. The method of cooperation is tracking the Book. The Book contains the blue prints of Godís work. His instructions are to make all things according to pattern showed us in the Book.
II. The Local Church the Center of Cooperation.
We are not discussing details of cooperation but principles of cooperation. The very first principle of cooperation is that we must work with God. He does not cooperate unless we work His way. His way means that He is in the lead, makes all the plans, decides all doubtful questions, furnishes all finances, supplies both wisdom and power: "Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God forever and ever: for wisdom and might are his" (Dan. 2:20), "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8), "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:14-16), "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God" (2 Cor. 3:5). Hudson Taylorís shibboleth still works: Godís man in Godís place doing Godís work in Godís way for Godís glory never yet lacked Godís supplies."
The second principle of cooperation in the Lordís work is that the local church must be the center of cooperation. Thereís a reason. Each local church is a body of Christ. If we cooperate with the head, the Lord Jesus, we must cooperate with His body. That is the weakest place in Baptist cooperation. There is no cooperation with the Head, the Lord Jesus, because there is no cooperation with and through His body, the local Baptist church, to which we belong. The appeal that is being made everywhere is for cooperation with a program. The facts prove conclusively that the Lord Jesus is not cooperating with us. Receipts have been falling off year after year. Something is radically wrong. What is it? Southern Baptists are off center. They have put a program of menís or mostly womenís making at the center instead of putting the body of Christ, the local church at the center of our cooperation. No board, no schools, no W. M. U., no south-wide or statewide conventions, no executive committee, no body of men or women or both, however wise, can be the center of Baptist cooperation. The only thing the Lord Jesus is the head of is a local church. He is the head over each local church and also He is the head over all things to each local church. "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:21-23). Some Baptists will cooperate with any body and any thing; because they themselves are off center and not rightly related to the Head, the Lord Jesus. But most Baptists, in their hearts are loyal to the Lord Jesus and will not continue to cooperate except with Him. And no Baptist can or will long continue to cooperate except with the Lord Jesus and through His body, the local church.
What saith the Scriptures? "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23). Jesus is the head of the body. The body is the local church: "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (1 Cor. 12:27). Jesus is the head over all things to each local church. That means He is head of all cooperation and all cooperation must be through the local church, if He is head over all things to the church and the church is His body. If cooperation is through the W. M. U. then Jesus is not head over all things to the church. The W. M. U. is the head over the church in cooperation. Whatever is included in that cooperation is taken out of the hands of the church and is done independent of the body of Christ. If done independent of the body of Christ, it is done independent of Christ the head also: for there can be no cooperation with the head without cooperation with the body.
Here is another Scripture that is equally clear or more so: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me" (1 Cor. 16:1-4). The orders of Jesus the head, not only to the church at Corinth, but to the churches of Macedonia also, included weekly giving of every member. This giving was for the poor saints in another continent. Corinth was in Europe and Judea was in Asia. It was not a local budget, but a benevolence budget. This benevolent budget was not a charity gift but proportionate giving, according as God had prospered them. But the two main things about this giving was that the giving was to be done through each local church: and each church was to choose one of their members, through whom the gifts were to be sent. That covers the very point at issue in this discussion, namely, the giving to be done through the church as a body of Christ: and the various churches were to select one each of their own members to go along to carry their cooperative gifts. This cooperation was under the headship of Christ and through His body, the local church. Church cooperation, under church control is scriptural cooperation. The local church, as the body of Christ, is to be the center of Baptist cooperation. No other cooperation honors either Christ the head or the church, which is His body. That is why He is not blessing our so called cooperative work. It isnít scriptural cooperation. The church as a body has nothing to do with it. Our present plans of cooperation head up in the convention or the executive committee of our boards.
The churches have no say so in the cooperation, except to pay the bills. The budget ought to be made by the churches. The budget ought to be put on by the pastors and the churches. The money ought to be disbursed by the churches. Biblical cooperation is cooperation with Christ through His body, the local church of which the donor is a member. In these churches, who had a part in this cooperative work, in the passage we are studying, all dividing of funds was done in the local church; and all gifts were designated gifts, when they left the local church. That way every church knew exactly where their money went and one of their members went along to see where their money went and came back and reported. With our mail facilities now the church can dispatch their funds: but the principle that the local church should divide the funds and report back to the church where every dollar of their money went still holds good. That is one fundamental principle in Biblical cooperation. The churches decide where the money goes and when it leaves the church treasurer every dollar of it is already designated. That is the way to do away with big salaries and overhead expenses. Let the churches say where the money goes.
But says some one, suppose the church has no budget or includes all things in its budget, which are not scriptural, what must we do then? The answer is easy. Cooperation is with Christ the head through His body the church. If the church is out of fellowship with the head and the body is not in cooperation with the head, then your first allegiance is to Christ. He is the head of every man, as well as the head of every local church: "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor. 11:1-3). The Lord Jesus never made a woman the head of anything. Headship belongs first to God, then to Christ and then to men. No man is under any obligation to cooperate with anything that has a woman as the head of it. If your church is run by women, then do your own cooperating directly with Christ the head and wait until His body, the church, acknowledges the headship of Christ before you cooperate with them. To cooperate with a church out of cooperation with Christ would be to be a party to and partaker of their rebellion against the authority of Christ, the head. No member of any Baptist church is under any obligation to cooperate with any organization that puts a program instead of the Lord Jesus as that for which an appeal for cooperation is made. No Baptist is under obligation to cooperate with an executive committee or board or anything else, that makes itself the center of cooperation, instead of making the Lord Jesus and His body, the local church, the center of all cooperation. Baptists have no need of an executive committee, such as the Southern Baptist Convention now has. It has not a single scriptural function. There is a place for district state, home and foreign boards, who receive and disburse funds for the objects given by the churches and employ workers and direct the work entrusted to them by the churches. The very fact that God the Spirit has so many missionaries ready to go to the foreign fields and no money to send them speaks volumes as to the ability of God the Spirit to get the funds we need, when the getting of the funds is under His sovereign control, just as the calling out of the workers now is. The heart of cooperation is the cooperation of each member of each local church with the body of Christ of which he is a member as thus described by Paul: "From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:16).
III. No Cooperation Except on the Book.
The first principle of Baptist cooperation is that it must be cooperation with Christ the Lord in the lead. The plans must be His. The power must be His. The work must be financed by Him. The workers must be of His choosing. His Spirit must be acknowledged as His vice-general and His authority must be unquestioned. He must be given the benefit of the doubt on every question that comes up. No quibbling with Him; but on the contrary unquestioned obedience to Him in all things. He brooks no rivals. He divides honors and authority with no one. He must in all things have the preeminence. There can be no cooperation with Him except on His terms. That is the very first principle in all cooperation in the work of Christ.
And then, in this cooperative work, the very center of it is that the individual cooperates as a member of the body of Christ, with the body of which he is a member. The head and the body and each individual member work together. That is scriptural cooperation. Each member cooperates with and through the body of Christ, His church, and not through any other body, inside or outside of the church. Biblical cooperation is with the Lord Jesus and through His body, the local church. You may work some other way, but you are not cooperating with Christ and His church if you work by yourself and independent of your church, you may be operating, but you are not cooperating with the church, which is His body. Cooperation, if Biblical cooperation, is Christ the head and each member of His body working together to carry out His plans. Biblical cooperation is church cooperation, not independent nor individual nor society, nor class cooperation. Baptists never learn to work together until they make the local church the center and heart of their cooperation. The letter to the church at Ephesus, which is the great church epistle, is full of cooperation, through the local church as the body of Christ. That is where Southern Baptists are weakest; and our leaders are responsible. They do not magnify the local church; neither do they magnify cooperation through the church, as the body of Christ. Baptists ought to magnify Christ the head, and each local church a body of Christ. That is the only way in which Baptists can or ever will cooperate. They are too individualistic to ever cooperate with any plan, except the Bible and Baptist plan, which is church cooperation.
The third essential in Baptist cooperation is that there can be no cooperation except on the Book. Baptists are a people of one Book. If you read it out of the Book, they will believe it. If you cannot read it out of the Book, they will be shy of it. That is why five-sixths or perhaps nine-tenths of our Baptist people in the South are not cooperating with our mission work. Our leaders have too many things in our South wide program, which the common people cannot find in the Book. And in many states, the number, who are cooperating, grows beautifully less all the time, instead of growing and multiplying. The reason is that cooperation is not asked on the Book. Too many things are in the cooperative program, that are not in the Bible. Make our programs read like the Book and Baptists will take to them, just like they now take to the other things, preached to them out of the Bible. Without discussing them at length, here are some of the things in our cooperative program, that are not in the Bible. They are the flies in the ointment. They are neither Biblical nor Baptistic. Unless you can find them in the Bible, Baptists are always shy of taking hold of anything they cannot read right out of the Bible. Baptists will sooner or later reject anything they do not read about in the Word of God. And no man has to be educated in order to find the truth on any question in the Bible.
The Bible was written for the common people. Lincoln said that God must have loved the common people or He would not have made so many of them. Baptists are mostly common people and the Baptist Book God made, He has made so clear and plain, that the simplest of the common people can read right out of the Book the things God wants them to know and do. It takes no long and labored argument to show the truth to the common people. If it is the truth, you can read it to them right out of the Book. For that reason Southern Baptists are not taking hold nor supporting these things in our present denominational program: standardized and modernized schools (which leave the Bible out); subsidized papers; enormous overhead expense: presiding elders under the alias of enlistment men; the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention; an Episcopal budget handed down to the churches instead of a Biblical budget made by the churches and handed down to their servants, the various boards, for there is just as much Bible for handing down pastors to the churches, as for handing down a budget to the churches.
Baptists are a self-governing, self-propagating and self supporting people, when they follow the Bible. Where subsidies thrive, self-support dies. Where enlistment thrives, missions die. Where handed-down budgets thrive, local self government dies. Where overhead expenses multiply, contributions dwindle. Where education is magnified the gospel of grace, which is the child of humility, is unknown. Where standardization is supreme, the Lord Jesus is dethroned. Where education is the standard, the head is the main thing, mind is master, faith is only a form of intellectual assent and Campbellism, Unitarianism and Modernism prosper. Back to the Bible should be the watch word of Baptists everywhere. The Baptists are the people of one Book, the Book, the Bible. They never thrive anywhere unless the Bible is supreme. That is why in so many educational centers spirituality is dead and formalism and infidelity have right of way. If the Bible is the final authority, then Christ is first in all things and the heart is the center of manís being. If education is put first, then the mind is exalted above the heart; intellectualism is first and the Lord Jesus takes a back seat and all things center in the head. If the Bible is the truth, then out of the heart, not the head, are the issues of life. If the Bible is the truth, then psychology, pedagogy, biology and all the other ologies are soulish, but not spiritual. They leave out the real man. They say man is body and soul. The Bible says man is body, soul and spirit. All education, whether simply modern or modernistic, has no appeal and can make none to the spirit of man. All they know is the intellectual or soulish man. James tells us about the wisdom that comes from psychology and the other. "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish" (Jam. 3:15). The word translated "sensual" is the adjective form of the word psuche, from which the first half of the word, psychology, comes. The wisdom that God gives is from above. It is not acquired. It is God given and is received by revelation. The Bible is the only source of this wisdom. The Holy Spirit is the teacher of it. That is why so many children of missionaries, as well as hosts of young preachers in this country, turn out to be confirmed worldlings. They send them to the schools to acquire wisdom from beneath, instead of centering their teaching in the Bible and receiving Godís wisdom from above. The Bible is the true university. The Bible is the only source of wisdom. All other education is from beneath. Psychology takes cognizance only of the body and soul. It knows nothing of the spirit. When a man is born anew Jesus said: "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). The spiritual man is the new man. This new man lives in a world that the psychologist and all other worldlings however well educated, know absolutely nothing about. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
The new man, the spiritual man, feeds and grows upon the Word of God. "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2).
I may have gotten a long way from cooperation. But the longest way around is sometimes the shortest way through. That was true in this case. Cooperation is a matter of the spirit, the new man. "And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children" (Isa. 54:13). Cooperation is one of the things of the Spirit, that Jesus spoke of in these words: "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me" (John 6:45). Cooperation is first of all taught of God. We are workers together with God. Cooperation is with Jesus Christ and His body, the church, to which we belong. Just as Jesus opened the Scriptures and taught His disciples all things from the Scriptures, concerning Himself and His world wide mission program, so all real cooperation today must be based on and grow out of His eternal and infallible Word of truth: "Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:25-27), "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (Luke 24:44-45). John the beloved, in writing to his well-beloved friend, one of the New Testamentís big laymen, Gaius, shows that the heart of all cooperation, is in being fellow helpers to the truth. Note his words, in a rather free translation of 3 John 5-8 "Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: Because that for his nameís, sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth." That is cooperation of the Biblical order, the Lord Jesus and each individual member of His body, the local church, cooperating in the support of His missionaries, as fellow-helpers to the truth.