Recently, the brethren here at "Oak Tree By The River Church of Christ" in Bugtussel, Alabama, had their faith severely shaken by a group of Mad-Dog Antis. This bunch of reprobates came to one of our Bible Studies on Wednesday night intent on spreading their damnable heresy among the peace-loving people of God at "Oak Tree." Now, please understand, I love these heretics but I must report truthfully that they are the most dangerous folks alive.
In a style that was sarcastic, caustic and arrogant, these peddlers of destructive heresies set forth their teaching which is designed to arouse rebellion against the authority of the elders and to destroy the Oak Tree Assembly as we know and practice it today. Never mind that we don't have elders, it was a shame and disgrace that these people had the audacity to designate themselves as an "Oak Tree By The River Church of Christ."
And what is this perverted teaching that is being propagated by these malicious, macerating, machinating, maculating, maligning mess of maladjusted malcontents? I will tell you, my dear reader, and let it ring forth throughout the kingdom of God and strike fear into every good and honest heart: these perverts teach that it is sinful to take money out of the Lord's Treasury and spend it on fertilizer for the old oak tree! Yes, THEY ARE THE ANTI-FERTILIZER BRETHREN, whose despicable doctrine would ultimately lead to the shriveling up and eventual decease of every Oak Tree By The River Church of Christ in the land. Then, where would we assemble to carry out Hebrews 10:25, my brother and sister? It would be impossible to practice New Testament Christianity in this century without oak trees under which to meet. Can you imagine what it would be like, trying to center our minds on spiritual matters and all the while knowing down deep inside that our lovely oak tree was dying of malnutrition? Can you see that it would eventually destroy what the Lord himself built and died to save, "The Oak Tree By The River Church of Christ"?
Now don't get me wrong, I DO love these erring brethren and pray that they will be saved. But, they must repent and give up this silly hobby of denying us the fertilizer that makes the oak tree grow, or their mouths must be stopped no matter what. They are wrecking havoc with the only true church of God.
In the event you are not convinced that a genuine apostasy is in progress and that it is detrimental to the faith of so many of our brethren, I humbly submit a reconstruction of that terrible night that we all now remember as "Wailsome Wednesday." R. Preacher Bob was teaching the adult class.
R. PREACHER BOB: We welcome you here tonight. We have with us a few visitors, all Antis, two of which are C.A. Antidote and R.J. Antitoxin. They are all of the Anti-Fertilizer Group, who also call themselves the "Oak Tree By The River Church of Christ." (Addressing the group of visitors.) You may not actively participate in our class discussion, but we do encourage our own people to have free and frank discussion on our lesson. We pride ourselves in maintaining an open and honest heart.
We are beginning a study of the book of Philippians. What is the significance of verse one, "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons"?
TILLIE TOPWATER: The verse is teaching that we must have an organized Church of Christ, that meets under an oak tree down by the river, just like we're doing here at Bugtussel.
R. PREACHER BOB: Alright, and how do we know they met "by the river"?
"DAWG" MATTICK: In Acts 16 we read where Paul established the church at Philippi "by a riverside." Look at verse 13: "And on the sabbath day we went forth without the gate by a riverside," etc. That's where he started the Church of Christ in Philippi...down by the riverside.
OLLIE GARCHEY: What we have here is a classic illustration of Apostolic Example. You know, we obtain our authority by Clear Command, Apostolic Example, and Necessary Inference. Hebrews 10:25 is our Clear Command to assemble and Acts 16:13 is our Apostolic Example of where we are to assemble to start a church. Therefore, it becomes a must that we assemble by a river, just like Paul and those first converts did.
LUCY WAGINTONG: Of course, it has to be called "Church of Christ," right? I mean, Romans 16:16 teaches that. I mean, it could be called "Church of God," but then, somebody else is using that name, and "Church of the Firstborn" sounds too Pentecostal. I mean, like, it's way out there, you know what I mean?"
E.Z. PROBER: I can't see why we have to call ourselves by any exclusive group name. After all, God didn't reveal a name for His people to rally around, unless, of course, it is the name, Christian. The practice of using exclusive group names divides the people of God, and that IS contrary to the will of Christ, John 17. There are many designations that we should use: child, saint, disciple, priest, and the new name, Christian. But, none of them should be used exclusively.
R. PREACHER BOB: Now, brother Prober, you have taken us off the subject. What else can we get from verse one?
D. OTT TROPHIES: We can conclude that the local church is an institution, highly organized with bishops and deacons, who are over the saints. The bishops are given Divine authorization to oversee the complete business operation of the church. That means, they must make sure that the oak tree is healthy and that it provides protection from the elements for the people who meet under it. In order to accomplish this, money must be budgeted for the fertilizer used to nourish the tree from time to time. Also, they are to cut away all dead branches, paint the knots, and otherwise, see to the general welfare of the tree. The deacons are to physically spread the fertilizer, cut the branches, and paint the knots. With whatever time they have left, the bishops are to watch for the spiritual needs of the people.
I.M. SEAKIN: It seems to me that brother Trophies is assuming a lot when he gets all that out of verse one. From this verse, I understand that Paul and Timothy simply addressed this letter to "saints in Christ Jesus" who were "with the bishops and deacons." Nothing is said of an institution and an organization. Further, not one word is said about bishops or deacons being "over" the saints. All this verse teaches me is that there are saints in Philippi, some of which were bishops and some were deacons. Anything beyond that is mere speculation.
TRAD DISHON: You are forgetting, brother Seakin, that brethren have understood and taught that the church is an organized institution for a long, long time. We should not question something that has passed through so many brilliant minds over the last 100 years or more. If R. Preacher Bob believes that it is so, there is a good chance that it is. After all, he has studied at the Right School University and understands the technicalities of Bible Interpretation. Isn't that so, Preacher?
R. PREACHER BOB: Yes, that's about right, and I might add that I just attended the RSU Lectureship Series a couple of months ago, and this very subject was discussed at the "Almost Open Forum." It was concluded by the majority of preachers present that Philippians 1:1 does teach the concept of an institutional, organized local church. In fact, it was also decided that the local church is a functional unit as well as a corporate body, to which one must attach himself if he wants to be saved. The handing down of this clarification will mean that we will be on pretty solid ground when we begin to withdraw from those who see it any other way. We must keep the doctrine of Christ pure!
OLLIE GARCHEY: And don't forget, Preacher, it was decided also that the elders DO have Divine authority to make all final decisions on matters of judgment, and that they rule over the local church.
MARY MINDSET: I don't understand all those big words but I can tell you this: I have believed it for thirty years, believe it now, and will continue to believe it 'til my dying day. Just like you said it, Preacher Bob!
E.Z. PROBER: I want to go back to what Brother Seakin said a while ago. You all are overlooking the simplicity of the verse. There were Christians, called "saints," some of which were overseers and some servants. They lived in Philippi. It seems to me that is all Paul intended to convey. We must not go beyond the scriptures.
R. PREACHER BOB: Shall we move on? How can we be sure that God wants us to meet under an oak tree?
"DAWG" MATTICK: Ollie said earlier that we obtain our authority from God by Clear Command, Apostolic Example, and Necessary Inference. He covered the first two very nicely. We are not told what kind of tree Paul, Lydia and the rest of the Church of Christ met under, in Acts 16:13. In fact, we are not even told they met under a tree! That is where the Necessary Inference principle of establishing Divine Authority comes into play. These saints had to be protected from sun, rain, etc., right? They had to have some kind of shelter.
E.Z. PROBER: What about their houses?
"DAWG" MATTICK: Hear me out, please, Prober. What would be growing along the river that would provide adequate shelter and protection? Trees, of course! Necessary Inference! Now, what kind of trees would provide the height, and have spreading branches to provide a large area for assembling? Oak trees, you are right! By Necessary Inference, we have established Divine Authority for our use of oak trees. In fact, no other kinds of trees may be used, now that we have established God's Will by Necessary Inference! Anyone who teaches a different tree, or attempts to eliminate meeting under an oak tree, should be branded a heretic and written up in all the brotherhood papers as such!
OLLIE GARCHEY: And all the churches should cancel their meetings with them, too!
R. PREACHER BOB: You know, "Dawg," you can be sure that you are right about your logic and conclusions concerning the oak tree. This was the same conclusion reached by the preachers at the RSU Lectureship. Also, l might add, that if you begin with the major premise of saints meeting together, and run it through the formulae of Mechanism For Deductive and Inductive Logical Conclusions Of The Bible, published by brother Tompkins Warandpeace and brother Doy Reevers, you must come to the same conclusion. The system is guaranteed to give the absolute truth on any Bible subject. It has been pronounced...Infallible!
Yes, brother Stamp.
RUB STAMP: I just wanted you all to know that I agree with everything that's been said. I may not understand it, and may not be able to put it in nice words like you all do, but it sounds right, and so I believe it that way.
D. OTT TROPHIES: We really haven't addressed one of the most important issues facing the church today, and that is the use of fertilizer for our oak trees. You know, the Antis say we can't use money out of the Lord's Treasury and spend it on fertilizer for the tree. Churches have been divided on this issue all over the land. "Dawg" has shown in a magnificent way to use the principle of Necessary Inference to establish Divine Authority to use the Lord's money to buy the fertilizer to nourish the tree. It is so simple. I can't for the life of me see why all of our brethren can't understand that. (Turns to Antidote and Antitoxin) Why can't you Antis see that! Preacher Bob, I would like for these erring brethren to answer the question. Why are you against using fertilizer on the oak tree? Do you hate oak trees that much?
R. PREACHER BOB: You may answer the questions.
C. A. ANTIDOTE: Brothers and sisters in Christ, we came here tonight, not to cause you any problems, but to meet with brethren and to study the scriptures together. Let me clear up some things. First, we do not consider ourselves to be "Antis" as you use the term, although we meet regularly with other brethren you have so labeled. We despise labels that divide the Lord's people. We consider ourselves to be simply Christians. Secondly, we do not believe that it is wrong to meet under an oak tree, although we get blamed for that because we do oppose the teaching that we cannot meet anywhere else. Thirdly, and to answer your question, brother Trophies, we are not against the use of fertilizer for oak trees, but more importantly, we question the whole concept you have of the "Lord's Treasury," establishing authority by the so-called "three principles," and the current beliefs among us concerning the church and the elders. Of course, there are other areas where we hope you could be open for study and discussion.
D. OTT TROPHIES: No! We have heard enough of your explanations, and have read enough from your pen to know that you pervert the gospel of Christ and that you are a threat to the "Oak Tree By The River Church of Christ." Your teaching will destroy the church if allowed to go unchecked.
R.J. ANTITOXIN: I understand the scriptures to teach that each Christian is a priest and has a direct line to his High Priest, Jesus Christ. He has the responsibility to search the scriptures and to find the truth that can make him wise unto salvation. We have one mediator between us and God, and that is Jesus Christ, who shall be our Judge and hold us accountable for our beliefs and our deeds. No other man on earth, not even an elder, can come between us. My prayer will be that each one will study the scriptures daily to come to an understanding of what Christ wills for us to know, that we might serve our God acceptably, and that we might break down the sectarian walls that divide us. Surely, we can be one!
R. PREACHER BOB: Ok, I think we have had quite enough on that subject. Does anyone have a final comment?
"DAWG" MATTICK: It has not been good to allow these two Antis to speak. I thought we agreed not to let them have a platform from which to spread their evil teachings. It is not good for our young converts to be exposed to these heresies. It is too confusing for them to hear something different than what we have been teaching them. We have fought long and hard in debates over the past few decades to win the ground we now occupy. We have come too far; there is no turning in another direction. We have determined what is absolute truth, so why consider anything else. Certainly, we must continue to fight the good fight of faith and strive to keep the church doctrine pure!
TRAD DISHON: Yes, by all means, yes! And, we must uphold the sacred traditions of our forefathers, at all cost. Let no one take our blessed oak tree away from us!
R. PREACHER BOB: Our time is gone, and except for the last few minutes, I think everyone will agree that it was good to have been here for our study. Remember, we must continue to "speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent."
There you have it, dear reader, just as it happened that terrible "Wailsome Wednesday." Now you know why I deemed it necessary to file this report with all faithful and sound papers throughout the brotherhood. We wanted you to know the truth on these vital matters. Pray for us, we need all the help we can get!