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God's Way is Sufficient

God's Way is Sufficient

by Irvin Barnes

Originally published in
The Christian Informer
June, 1998


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Last updated:
June 18, 1998.

[The following is taken out of the last pages of the tract "Bible Classes and Women Teachers" written by brother Irvin Barnes].

GOD'S WAY IS ALWAYS BETTER! His way is always sufficient.  It has already been proven by command, statement, example and inference that the church is to gather in a single assembly for public teaching.  This is the Bible arrangement.  This is God's way.  In regulating the gift of prophecy, Paul sets forth the one assembly concept in 1 Cor. 14:31, "For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted."

It is noteworthy how the word all appears three times in this short passage.  Please note the primary concept set forth.  One speaker speaking at a time to one undivided assembly so that "all" may learn!  Laying aside the matter of spiritual gifts or other questions about the passage, please understand that Paul here confirms that "all" can learn in an undivided assembly with one speaker doing the teaching.  This being true, there is positively no need whatsoever for classes.

An interesting prophecy concerning how God's word will go forth is found in Isa. 55:8-11, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord,  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."

When rain falls the same measure of water falls on the giant oak as on the small sprout growing beside it.  The oak absorbs perhaps hundreds of times more moisture than does the tender sprout.  The young plant absorbs what it can use and grows year by year until it may eventually take in as much or even more than does the giant oak.  This illustrates God's plan for the public teaching of His word and His people.  Preach all of the Bible to all of the people, continuously.  The babes in Christ will absorb as much as they need for proper spiritual growth and development.  The mature Christian will absorb the truth in ratio to age and ability.  This is a way that is scriptural, simple, safe, and workable, and should have never been tampered with by adding the class arrangement.

ARE CLASSES IN THE CHURCH?

The expression, "in the church," is used a number of places in the New Testament.  1 Cor. 11:18, "...when ye come together in the church..." 1 Cor. 11:20, "...when ye come together therefore into one place..." 1 Cor. 14:19, "Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding..." 1 Cor. 14:23, "If therefore the whole church be come together in one place..." 1 Cor. 14:28, "But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church." 1 Cor. 14:35, "For it is a shame for women to speak in the church."

When a local congregation of the church of Christ comes together for a public service there is a point at which the audience is called to order and a point at which it is dismissed.  All that transpires between this calling to order and dismissing the crowd is to be considered as in the church.  Imagine people gathering for a church service at an appointed time of ten A.M.  The people, men, women, and children, may converse, exchange greetings etc., until the appointed time arrives.  At some point a brother will call the audience to order.  It may be with an announcement, a song, a prayer etc.  Once the audience is called to order, the women cease to talk.  Tongue speaking is regulated in the event that foreigners are present and wish to speak.  Simultaneous teaching is forbidden.  Confusion is not allowed.  Common meals must not be eaten.  Why? Because the Scriptures teach that such is not to go on in the church.

Are Bible classes then in the church?  Does the church, when it is assembled in classes constitute some form of church assembly?  If so, they clearly violate restrictions placed on the, "in the church," capacity.

The first problem we might consider is that of women teachers.  In some classes women direct or teach the class.  In others, women read scripture, ask and answer questions.  If classes are in the church then the women who participate in them are guilty of speaking in the church which violates 1 Cor. 14:35.

Secondly, if classes are a form of church assembly then when two or more classes are in session at the same time with a teacher speaking to each class the church is guilty of endorsing simultaneous teaching.  First Corinthians 14:30-31, forbids two speakers to speak at the same time in the church.

Classes are either a form of church assembly or they are not!  Classes are either in the church or they are not in the church.  Obviously, those who use classes must take the position that classes are private and not public, that they are not in the church and do not constitute any form of church assembly.  They must so argue in order to escape the problems of women teaching and more than one speaker speaking at a time.  They often argue that since each class excludes the presence of all the others the teaching is private and not in the church.  Since the grownups do not attend the children's class then the children's class is private and vice versa.  The position stated in another way is to say that, when the church is divided into classes, the classes are not in the church.  It seems that the only time they recognize the "in the church"capacity is when the church is assembled in an undivided assembly.

PROOF THAT CLASSES ARE IN THE CHURCH

The church is a public body.  All its services, including the teaching of God's word in classes, is open to the public.  The church in classes does indeed constitute a form of church assembly.  An unscriptural form of assembly, in fact!  When women speak in the classes they do indeed speak in the church!  When several classes are taught at the same time the teachers are speaking simultaneously.

To say classes are not in the church is to defy logic.  Would such a position be held with regard to secular assemblies?  Consider a local public school for example.  Would one reason that the fourth grade class is a private class in a public school just because it excludes the other grades?  Or, that simultaneous teaching is not going on in the school just because the teachers over the various classes are divided by partition walls?  Or, that the classes are not in the school because the students are not all in the same room? Or, the women who teach are not teaching in the school?  Or, the only time teachers would actually be guilty of teaching or speaking in the school would be during an assembly in the gymnasium when the entire student body is assembled?

Obviously, a local school is a public body.  Partition walls do not change this fact.  Arranging into classes does not take the students, the teacher nor the teaching out of the school and make their activities of a private and informal nature.  The church is a public body in the assembled sense just as is a school!  Partitions or arranging into classes does not take the students, the teacher nor the teaching out of the church nor do they render the teaching activities of the classes private nor informal!

A glaring inconsistency exists among those who practice classification.  There is a definite contradiction in what they say or claim and what they do.  While they say on one hand, classes are private and constitute no form of church assembly, on the other hand they turn right around and place restrictions on the classes as if they are a church assembly!  If classes are not in the church then why restrict them as though they are? For example, will brethren who provide classes allow the students to eat a common meal while the teacher lectures or instructs them? The Bible places no restrictions on private teaching.  It is totally permissible to teach another across the kitchen table during a common meal in a private situation.  If classes are really private and informal, then why not serve food or refreshments?  If such is forbidden then why not just admit the classes are in the church and are an addition to the divine pattern for one undivided assembly?

In many of the class situations women are restricted as to whom they may teach.  In most Bible classes women are not allowed to teach an adult male.  They are restricted to teaching classes made up of only children and other women.  In Titus 2:3-4, women are instructed to teach other women.  In 2 Tim. 1:5 and 3:15, we have the implication of women teaching a child, and in Acts 18:26, the case of a woman assisting in expounding the way of the Lord more perfectly to an adult male.  These passages prove conclusively that a woman may teach another woman, a child or a full grown man.  Therefore, the Bible places no restrictions whatsoever on a woman as to whom she may teach!

A woman is restricted, however, in where or in what capacity, she may teach.  She may not teach publicly.  1 Tim. 2: 11-12, "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.  But I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."  The word "teach" is translated from the Greek word, "didasko," which is defined in The Analytical Greek Lexicon by Samuel Bagster and Sons, P. 98; "to teach or speak in a public assembly."

The term as here defined forbids a woman to teach in the assembly of the church and in any other public situation as well.  She may not teach on radio, television, nor convene a crowd on a local street corner.  A woman may teach anybody in a private situation.  She may teach nobody in a public situation.  It is no accident that the inspired Luke records how Priscilla and Aquilla took Apollos, "unto them," so that Priscilla might assist in his instruction.

Now, back to the question of restricting a woman who teaches in a Bible class.  If the classes are private and not in the church why then can't a woman teach a man as Priscilla taught Apollos?  Is it not because the classes are recognized even by those who use them as a form of church assembly?  And because they realize the woman will usurp authority over the man by teaching in a forbidden capacity?  Just as she would if she preached on radio or television?  In private she may instruct anyone in public she must learn in silence with all subjection.  Once again, if classes are private why do they restrict the women who teach them as if the classes are public.

The following line of reasoning is sometimes offered in favor of women teachers.  "The Bible commands women to teach, Titus 2:3-4. Bible classes merely give her an opportunity to fulfill her duty."  It is true, women must teach.  Titus 2:3-4 commands it.  However, there is nothing whatsoever in this passage or any other which compels the church to provide classes in order for a woman to fulfill her obligation to teach.  If so, then the women who lived in the time before classes were started must have neglected their duty.  The truth simply stated is, a woman can fulfill her duty to teach quite well without classes.

Women are also taught to relieve the afflicted, bring up children, wash the saints feet and follow diligently every good work, 1 Tim. 5:10.  These are qualifications for a widow indeed, however, these are things the woman was to have been doing all her life as a Christian, when she had a husband and children at home.  If the church is to provide classes so the woman may teach, then it must also make some arrangement to help her relieve the afflicted, be hospitable, bring up children, etc.  If she can, on the other hand, bring up children, wait on the sick, and show hospitality without the church making special provisions, or some public program available to assist her, then it stands to reason she can do her teaching duty without the church providing classes.

WHAT ABOUT RADIO AND TELEVISION PROGRAMS?

Since the Bible says nothing about preaching on radio and television, if classes are wrong as an arrangement for teaching why isn't the use of radio also wrong?  Radio programs and classes certainly are not parallel.  Those who have classes must quickly admit classes and radio are not the same for they allow women to teach in some of the classes, yet they would not think of allowing a woman to teach on radio.

The most significant difference lies in the fact that the church assembled in classes is a coordinate to the church assembled in an unclassified assembly.  Classes, not mentioned in the Scriptures, add to the undivided assembly, which is specified by command, example, inference, and statement.  A radio program is not a coordinate to the assembly!  One person projecting his voice electronically over the air waves in no way resembles nor is it equal to a local assembly of the body of Christ.  Since a radio program is not coordinate to the assembly there is no violation by addition as there is in the arrangement for teaching by classification.  In radio teaching there is no assembling of Christians whatsoever.  Classes constitute an unscriptural assembly!

THE CHURCH IS DRIFTING

The church in some areas is headed ever so swiftly towards a female ministry!  Lectureships and ladies seminars are being held across the land.  In a large Midwestern city a lectureship was sponsored by a local church of Christ.  The circular advertising the lectureship listed the subjects, places, and time each topic would be discussed along with a picture of each speaker.  Among those pictured were some women.  Beneath their subject titles appeared the words, "For women only."  In another town, one sister was featured as the speaker in an upcoming ladies seminar.  The advertisement said she had "spoken," various places in the U. S. and several foreign countries.  The only difference between what is being encouraged by some churches of Christ today and going the full route to women preachers is the restriction that our sisters may speak to women only.  How long will it be until we will hear of Sunday morning worship services being conducted by women for women only?  Or, of gospel meetings for women only?  Or, in time someone promulgating a perversion of the Scriptures in an attempt to justify dropping the "women only," restriction and by such a perversion usher in the female ministry.

Who in the church of Christ thirty years ago would have believed some of our sisters would be going on tour, holding seminars and lectureships?  A definite trend is taking hold.  Many seem to no longer be satisfied to leave things as the Bible sets them forth, but are determined to be like our denominational neighbors.  It seems that some are no longer satisfied to deal with denominationalism on the basis of the simple truth found in the Bible but feel it is necessary to compete by introducing into the Lords church plans and programs similar to those offered by modern denominational bodies.

CONCLUSION

Aside from all the turmoil, breach of fellowship, and other complications that have been caused by the introduction of classes into the work and worship of the church, the congregations that insist on continuing to provide them and members of the body of Christ that continue to endorse them by participating in them, must face the inevitable consequences of offering God an arrangement for teaching that He has not asked for and therefore does not want!

Irvin Barnes
3218 East Farm Road 88
Springfield, MO 65803-8447

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