We are told, concerning the ecclesia in Antioch, that
they ministered to the Lord and fasted. Fasting was usually
engaged in when people were in trouble. In what difficulty did
that ecclesia find itself?
The answer is found, I think, in the statement,
"prophets and teachers, both Barnabas and Simeon, called
Niger, and Lucius the Cyrenian, besides Manaen, the tetrarch Herod's
foster brother, and Saul," Acts 13:1. In plain American
language, they had too many preachers.
And what confusion a surplus of preachers can cause!
Let us never forget that "God is not for
turbulence, but peace, as in all the ecclesias of the saints,"
First Corinthians 14:33.
I have been blessed. Through hard work, God has
enabled me to gather saints into several ecclesias, and to now minister
to them as teacher. No one has ever tried to root me out, and take
over the work.. We have visiting teachers from time to time, but each
one has regarded himself as a guest, and not as "pastor" of
the ecclesias where I serve. I am grateful for this. It
could be otherwise. Almost any man could get his eye on my work, and it
would not be hard for him to create in the minds of some, a feeling of
discontent. By sly insinuations he could show some of the saints
that they need another teacher. I thank God that no one has tried
Not every ecclesia or class has been thus
fortunate. My work is too small for anyone to covet. But
there are places where surplus teachers desire to have a finger in the
pie, and they have caused sad dissensions.
There is no harm in a class or an ecclesia having
more than one teacher, if they respect each other, and neither one tries
to monopolize the work. I am thinking of the situation in Los Angeles,
California, where both Brother A. E. Knoch and Brother David Mann speak
at practically every meeting. Each supplements the other, and one
keep up a certain grade of teaching, and the other another, and there is
never any conflict in what they are doing. In that case each needs
the other, and the saints are benefited. Perfect love and trust
exist between them, and neither tries to supplant the other.
Evidently this was not the case in Antioch.
There is evidence that confusion reigned. Else, why were they
fasting? This can be the case anywhere, when one thinks he is
"called" to supplant the teacher, or to succeed
In this economy fasting is not in order, but prayer
is. And seeing that the Lord answered the prayers of the Antioch
saints, (for prayers were always connected with fasting), it would be in
order for saints in every place where there is a surplus of
"preachers," to call earnestly on the Lord to stop the
However, in the case of ecclesias today, the answer
is ready. It is recorded that the holy spirit said to the ecclesia
in Antioch, "Sever, by all means, to Me, Barnabas and Saul for the work
to which I have called them." And the ecclesia sent them
away. Much as we love Saul, there is reason to believe that, in
Antioch, he and Barnabas were a curse, rather than a blessing, to the
saints. After the ecclesia sent them away, and they began the work to
which they had been called, Saul became Paul.
Ecclesias have the same authority today. When a
teacher persists in serving in a place that is already supplied, thus
causing confusion, the holy spirit has already said, in the passage just
quoted, "Send him away, and tell him to get to work somewhere
else." This principle of not having many teachers, James 3:1,
while enunciated in the Circumcision writings, is good for any time and
people. Its wisdom is evident.
There is great need for evangelism. Much
valuable time is lost when teachers congregate in one place and squabble
over the matter of speaking to congregations already supplied. Certain
ethics should be considered. Who built up the ecclesia in this place? Do
the saints want him to continue speaking to them? If any are
opposed to him, did I cause the dissatisfaction? Can I feel
comfortable, building on another man's foundation? Would I not
feel better if I built up a work of my own, if i want to be a
"pastor?" Does not both the Scripture and common
courtesy demand that seniority be considered in such matters?
Millions of people need the truth. Can a
teacher think he is pleasing the Lord if he neglects them?
When it comes to teaching, God works through one mannot
through many in one place. The itinerary of Barnabas was at an
end, (or should have been), when he and Paul had finished their first
missionary tour. When they tried to continue the alliance they got
into confusion, Acts 15:39. what ever alliance Paul formed after
that, was of a different order. He chose Silas to accompany him,
but both recognized that Paul was to be the dominant figure. Silas
was his helper, not his boss. A helper can be a helper, only if he
is helpful. What Paul suggested, Silas did. There was no
stubbornness about it. Never did he get the idea that he knew more
than Paul, and the thought of being Paul's "successor" did not
enter his mind.
I have said many times that I need helpers.
What I mean is, there is call after call for evangelistic work, and I do
not have time to respond. I need other teachers, not to take over the
work I am doing, but to go out and do work like it, in other
Then there is the matter of succession.
Outstanding leaders have no successors. Others can come after them
and work according to what light they have, but no one can carry on the
work of another. When he dies his job is finished. Brother C. T.
Russell was a seeker after truth, and brought out many pleasant facts
that had been hidden under the pile of rubbish and tradition that
religion had heaped on the scripture. But Russell died. Did
anyone continue him work? His "successor" made havoc of
what had been done. But many who were blessed under the
"pastor," have been doing work of their own, trying to be a
blessing to humanity.
God is greatly blessing Brother Knoch in his search
for truth. He has given us the very best translation of the
"New Testament," and is at work on the Hebrew
Scriptures. No one will succeed him in this work. He who
tries will probably play havoc. Thousands will be benefited
through Brother Knoch's work, and will use the Concordant Version to the
blessing of others. Evangelists, pastors and teachers, who cannot
make the Version, can use it the glory of God, if they will be content
to be just humble users of the grand work that God used Brother Knoch to
In the matters of helpers, let it be noted that,
while Paul sometimes used the names of others, coupled with his own, in
the beginning of his epistles, he, nevertheless, signed his own name at
the close, as in Second Thessalonians 3:17. Not he and the others,
but he alone, is the author. Those who object to "one
man," should take this into consideration.
And as to succession, no one succeeded Paul in the
sense that he did the work the apostle had been doing. This is
true of lesser leaders. Who took up and "carried on" the
work of Luther, of Wesley, or Whitefield, and Knox? Many have used the
works of these great leaders, and have, as teachers, been of much
benefit to others. But when these leaders died, their work was
There is need for spreading out. The same
blessing that came to us when we first became aware of the doctrine of
the reconciliation of al, will come to others if we go out and tell the
story to them. I plead for evangelism. It is one of the
great needs of the hour.
I am sometimes met by the remark, "God places
His teachers where He wants them to be." Well, He didn't in the
case of Barnabas and Saul, until the saints said to them in effect;
"Get out and get busy! Too many in one place breeds
It is not a crime to beg teachers to spread
out. Those who are thus implored ought not to take it as a effort
to control them. We have the word of God on our side, when we ask
them to "Go." The word of God is against them when they
persist in staying where the need is already supplied.
In our great cities, in small towns, in rural
districts, meetings could be held in halls, in cottages, in the woods,
if teachers were willing to endure privations and do some real laborious
work. I have a right to say this, for I have done it. Here
in Glennville the ecclesia is the result of holding meetings in the
open, under a brush arbor, for many weary months. The thriving congregation
at Midway in Emanuel county started with meetings in the woods. We now nave
a meeting house, which is filled to capacity at almost every
In Augusta, we have used a hired hall all the
while. In Hagan we use whatever building is available.
Knowing the value of evangelism, I again plead with
the brethren, to not congregate where they cause trouble. Go out
and have the satisfaction of starting at the bottom.