Topical Sermons                                                                                                                                               Power Point Show


(Examining proof-texts of Liberalism)



1.     Liberal:  “not restricted to the literal meaning; free and unconfined” (Webster).  Liberalism is going beyond God’s word (adding to it) or otherwise changing God’s prescribed rule.  (2 Jno. 9)

2.     The need for scriptural authority stands in spite of men’s appeals to other standards to approve their religious doctrines & deed - Col. 3:17.

3.     This lesson will briefly look at some of the major appeals made by the liberally-minded to defend & promote their ongoing innovations in the work & worship of local churches of Christ.



    A.    In the Bible:  Direct Statement (Command), Approved Example & Necessary Inference (Acts 15):

        1.     Approved example – 15:6-11.

        2.     Necessary inference – 15:12 (14:3).

        3.     Direct statement of Scripture – 15:13-19.

        4.     In the Cogdill-Woods debate (Birmingham, 1957), Guy N. Woods agreed with brother Cogdill when he discussed how to establish scriptural authority:

“With much of brother Cogdill’s speech I am in complete agreement. In fact I should say that the first half of it was largely a waste of his time. No one calls in question these matters which he discussed regard­ing the authority of the scriptures (emp., jrp), the all-sufficiency of the church of our Lord in the matter of performing the work which God gave the church to do. That is not an issue in this debate and will not be. And so he’s wasted his time in so far as his discussion of those matters in this particular debate would be concerned” (The Cogdill-Woods Debate, Lufkin: The Gospel Guardian Co., 1958, 26).

        5.     Not so today! 

    B.  A New Hermeneutic Has Surfaced Which Rejects This God-Approved Way of Establishing & Applying Bible Authority.

        1.     “But there is no (emp., his) infallible method for interpreting Scripture.  There is no heaven-given system of Bible study.”  (Rubel Shelly & Randall J. Harris, The Second Incarnation, p. 19)

        2.     “Thus we reject a rigid ‘pattern theology’ that simply proposes to transplant religious-cultural forms from the Bible to the 20th or 21st century.”  (The Second Incarnation, Shelly & Harris 31)

        3.     “Our hermeneutic is therefore theological and Christocentric.” (Ibid., 28, emp. his)

        4.     “Is the activity or methodology under contemplation consistent with the person and work of Jesus Christ?  If we do this, will the people who see it think we reveal Christ?  Will we be doing what people would expect to see Christ doing in this situation?”  (Ibid., 29)

        5.     “This principle (Christocentricity, jrp) has broad consequences for ecclesiology.  It says, for example, that the church need not have either explicit mandate or permission for everything it wishes to do.  The church may confidently ground its activities of compassion and service in the character of its head.”  (Ibid., 29) 

        6.     “Whatever love for God and man dictates, is the law of God for the church.”  (Gaston D. Cogdell, The Cogdell-Turner Discussion, 90).

    C.    The Result.

        1.     Less and less among institutional/liberal churches of Christ will attempt to defend their practices using the Bible as a pattern - 2 Tim. 4:3-4 (3:13).

        2.     Nevertheless, we wish to analyze some efforts, past & present, to support & defend the innovations re. work & worship of the Lord’s church which have divided God’s people for the past half century.



    A.    The Charge:  We are Against Churches Cooperating in the Work of Benevolence &/or Evangelism.

        1.     Anti:  “opposed to a given proposal, policy, etc.”

        2.     Liberals do not think there is a binding pattern in congregational cooperation:

            a.     “So it becomes necessary to raise the question:  is there an exclusive pattern of church cooperation taught in the Bible?  My answer.  No.”  (Guy N. Woods, Cogdill-Woods Debate, 196)

            b.     “The Bible does not provide an exclusive pattern for evangelism.”  (Jackie M. Stearsman, “Church Cooperation and Evangelism,” The Harvester, Feb., 1997;

    B.  We Are Not Against Church Cooperation, But We Are Against All Forms of Church Cooperation Which Do Not Conform to The NT Pattern!

        1.     Where is the Bible authority for:

            a.     Support human organization to do the church’s work (Missionary Society, orphan’s home…)?

            b.     Support of one church’s work by another church (Sponsoring church – H.O.T.)?

            c.     Oversight of one church’s work of evangelism &/or benevolence by a sponsoring church?

            d.    One church asking other churches to support (fund) its work?

        2.     We must appeal to & apply the Bible pattern for the collective work (action) of the saints.



    A.    The NT Pattern Concerning the Work of the Local Church.

        1.     Preaching – 1 Ths. 1:8; Acts 11:22; Phil. 1:5-7.

        2.     Edification – 1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 4:11-12; Acts 11:22-26; 13:1-2.

        3.     Benevolence – Acts 6:1-6; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8-9; 1 Tim. 5:16.

        4.     Social?  Medical?  Secular education?  (Heb. 8:5)

    B.   The Local Church is All-Sufficient To Accomplish Its God-Given Work.

        1.     Overseen by its own elders, doing its own work – Acts 14:23; 1 Pet. 5:2.

        2.     The issue re. Evangelism:  May churches of Christ build & maintain missionary societies to do the work God gave the local church to do?

        3.     The issue re. Edification:  May churches of Christ build & maintain colleges to do the work God gave the local church to do?

        4.     The issue re. Benevolence:  May churches of Christ build & maintain benevolent societies to do the work God gave the local church to do?



    A.    Liberalism Fails to Distinguish Between Individual Action & Church (collective) Action.

        1.     Gal. 6:10 – Misapplied to general benevolence.   (context)

        2.     Jas. 1:27 – Misapplied to church support of human organizations.  (context)

    B.   A Distinction Exists in ScriptureMatt. 18:15-17; 1 Tim. 5:16; cf. Acts 11:22.



    A.    The Compassion of Jesus Authorizes It.

        1.     The argument:  Jesus’ compassionate miracles allow the local church to engage in relief assistance to saints & sinners alike. Matt. 4:23

        2.   Matt. 25:35-40 is used to support the case:

“In his passionate appeal for simple acts of caring (cf. Matt. 25, et al.), Jesus not only releases but compels the modern church to find incrementally more effective ways to feed the hungry, cloth the needy, minister to the outcasts, and provide homes for the homeless.  Otherwise, we may discover that Jesus himself has become the castoff of our society.  Literacy programs, soup kitchens, drug dependency programs, and prison outreaches need no other justification than that, in such activities, the church takes on both the heart and demeanor of the one she calls Lord and Master.”  (Shelly/Harris, 29)

        3.     Matt. 25:35-40 is used to support the case, but this is a scene of judgment of individuals, not churches!  (Matt. 25:31-34, 41, 46)

    B.   2 Corinthians 9:13:  “Churches Relieved the Needs of Saints & Sinners. “

        -The argument:  Churches sent funds to relieve “all men” in Jerusalem, not just needy saints.  (Liberalism sees two mutually exclusive groups here:  Saints & All Men.)

        1.     Problems:

            a.     Construction:  cf. Matt. 3:5 (Jerusalem and all Judea).

            b.     Translation:  “All men” (KJV, supplied).  Jerusalem saints, and all the saints!

            c.     Context:  Saints (2 Cor. 8, 9; Rom. 15:26-27); prayers of the recipients, 9:14.

            d.    Fellowship Koinonia (sharing; distribution, KJV; cf. Eph. 5:11; 2 Jno. 10-11).

        2.     Liberalism has churches having fellowship with sinners!




    A.    Church Support of Benevolent Organizations Such as an Orphan’s Home Jas. 1:27.

        1.     The argument:  The end (helping needy) justifies the means (homes, etc.).

-“The church has a primary mission to perform and work to do - saving souls and keeping them saved. But any activity that will contribute to that end which is not of itself sinful, is permissible for the church to en­gage in, as long as it is done with that end in view.  Furthermore, the church can use any means and methods that it sees fit to accomplish this end so long as those means and methods are not in and of themselves sinful.”  (Gaston Cogdell, op. cit., 91-92)

            a.     Rom. 3:8 – End does not justify the means!

            b.     Heb. 13:21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17 – Must please God to be “good work!”

        2.     The argument:  Pure and undefiled religion allows a church to build, fund &/or maintain such organizations as a method of benevolence.

-“There are no instructions in the scriptures as to how the church is to carry on its work of evangelization and benevolence.”  (Gaston Cogdell, op. cit., 95)

        -“Helping the needy is a matter of faith; the how to do this work is in the realm of human judgment.”  (Perry B. Cotham, Anti-ism, The 18th Annual Mid-West Lectures, 2000).

            a.     A method (expedient) must first be authorized (1 Cor. 10:23).

            b.     The local congregation is authorized to exist & to meet such needs among the saints; …but where is the Bible authority for another organization to be established, funded &/or operated by the local church?!

        3.     The argument:  Such is pure and undefiled religion (Jas. 1:27).

            -Context:  Individual Christian.

    B.   The Sponsoring Church Arrangement In Evangelism & Benevolence.

        1.     Philippians 4:15-16:  “Philippi was the Sponsoring Church for Macedonia.”

            a.     Acts 18:5 – Historical setting:  Silas & Timothy came from Macedonia to Paul in Corinth.

            b.     2 Cor. 11:8 – Paul received wages from “other churches” to serve the Corinthian church.

            c.     Phil. 4:15-16 – Philippi was the “accounting” church for the Macedonian congregations.

            d.        Problems:

                1)        Whose evangelistic work would it then be:  Philippi’s?  Thessalonica’s?  Etc.?

                2)        S.C. destroys independence & autonomy of the Macedonian churches:  One church oversees the work of other churches.

            e.     Liberalism assumes what they must prove:  The Philippian church centralized evangelistic support! 

        2.     Acts 11:27-30:  “Jerusalem was the Sponsoring Church in this benevolent action.”

            a.     11:29-30:  Relief to Judean brethren was sent to the elders by the hands of Barnabas & Saul.

            b.     12:25:  Barnabas & Saul returned from Jerusalem after completing their service in this matter.

            c.     Therefore, it is concluded they took the relief to the Jerusalem elders, who made distribution throughout Judea.

            d.        Problems:

                1)        Gal. 1:18-24 – Paul had not preached throughout Judea before this relief trip in Acts 11.

                2)        Acts 26:20 – But at some point, Paul preached “throughout all the region of Judea”.  When?

                3)        Could only have been this trip as he & Barnabas took relief throughout Judea to the elders of the churches there!

                4)        Last stop before returning to Antioch:  Jerusalem (Acts 12:25).

            e.     Liberalism assumes what they must prove:  That the Jerusalem church centralized the relief!

    C.    Church-Provided Social & Recreational Activities.

        “For the church to turn aside from its divine work to furnish amusement and recreation is to pervert its mission. It is to degrade its mission. Amusement and recreation should stem from the home rather than the church. The church, like Nehemiah, has a great work to do; and it should not come down on the plains of Ono to amuse and entertain” (B.C. Goodpasture, Gospel Advocate, May 20, 1948).


        “Building recreation rooms and providing and supervising recreational activities at the expense of the church is a departure from the simple gospel plan as revealed in the New Testament” (Gospel Advocate Annual Commentary, 1951, p. 229).


        1.     Acts 2:42-46:  “The early Christians ate together.  The church can facilitate such social gatherings today.”

            a.     Problems:

                1)        2:42 – This “breaking bread” is the Lord’s Supper, not a meal to satisfy hunger.  (Acts 20:7)

                2)        2:46 – The church met in the temple to worship & learn;  Ate meals “from house to house” -- not “in the church’s fellowship hall”!

            b.     Private homes and church-provided facilities are two very different things!


        2.     1 Cor. 11:17-22:  “Paul was rebuking & correcting the church’s perversion of the Lord’s Supper; not banning social gatherings of the church.”

            a.     Problems:

                1)        11:20 – Purpose of the church coming together was to eat the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7).

                2)        11:22 – Rebukes perversion.

                3)        11:34 – Solution:  Remove common meals from your gatherings!  (houses, home – 11:22, 34)

            b.     Churches have assumed a work the Lord did not authorize!



1.     Liberalism takes one away from the word of God & thus, away from God (2 Jno. 9).

2.     The Bible pattern for the work & organization of the church is revealed & secure in the pages of inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

3.     “Buy the truth and do not sell it, Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.”  (Prov. 23:23; Col. 3:17)