Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 28, 1982
NUMBER 12, PAGE 5,13b

Is Church Benevolence For Baptized Believers Only?

Pat S. Farish

In the May 31, 1962, issue of the Gospel Guardian, there appeared an article by brother Warren Rainwater with the above title. In that article brother Rainwater took the position that church benevolence is not restricted to baptized believers. Our purpose is to examine his position and the proofs he offered to support it.

In an effort to frame the difference between our positions, this observation is in order: in common with brother Rainwater, I believe that the church has responsibility in matters of benevolence to baptized believers. The difference is, I believe that the church is restricted to baptized believers; brother Rainwater does not. He said "It is my conviction that a congregation can care for orphans under the direction of her elders." Conviction is belief; belief is based on testimony; thus, the question: upon what testimony is this conviction based? Inspiration warns that "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ hath not God...." (2 John 9) Within the limits of that verse I base my conviction concerning the restrictions of the church in benevolence; it serves also as basis for objections to brother Rainwater's arguments. For the proposition to be proven that the unbaptized are legitimate objects of church benevolence, testimony — authority — must be produced.

Brother Rainwater attempted to prove his position scriptural by showing that other positions are unscriptural, thus untenable. Depicting those who hold to the "restrictive" view as "saints only" brethren, he said, "The 'saints only' doctrine will do for the church the same thing the 'faith only' doctrine will do for the religious sects." In this effort to parallel the opposition with the "faith only" theory, brother Rainwater is not breaking new ground; in the Gospel Guardian, Volume 12, Number 31, Bob Haddow attempted to defend the instrument of music in worship by saying that "Like so many others who when they see 'faith' conclude 'faith only,' when Donald sees 'sing' he concludes 'sing only? Brother Rainwater finds himself aligned with the "sing only" brethren; why? Does his conviction of the limitation posed in 2 John 9 have anything to do with his stand in this matter? Certainly it does. By the same token and in parallel, this is why we are "saints only" brethren. Brother Donald Ames, replying to Mr. Haddow in the same issue of the Guardian, said, "I have as much authority to add the instrument when all the lexicons agree the word means sing as I do to add sprinkling when all the lexicons agree the word means immerse." In like manner, we have as much right to introduce the unbaptized as objects of church benevolence when the scriptures authorize "saints only" as proper objects, as M. Haddow has to introduce an instrument of music into the service, when the scriptures authorize "sing only."

We read again from brother Rainwater's article: "If we properly (emphasis mine, psf) apply the position of 'faith only' in conversion, It will eliminate anything else in the plan of salvation. Grace is left out as well as baptism, etc. The same (emphasis mine, psf) use of the restriction as we apply it to the problem of benevolence will leave out any person that is not a baptized believer." Examine this: if we desire to prove "faith only," the proper procedure is to ignore all passages calling for more than faith; the same procedure proves "saints only." We put this to the test and see that it is, indeed, possible to use the proper procedure in proving "faith only," for there are myriad passages to ignore. (Titus 2:11; Heb. 5:8, 9; 1 Peter 3:21, to name only a few.) But it is found to be impossible to use the same procedure to prove "saints only," simply because there is no verse from Matthew to Revelation authorizing by command, example or necessary inference church benevolence to the unbaptized. No such passage being found, there is nothing for the "saints only" proponent to ignore; thus he cannot make the "same use of the restriction" as the man trying to prove "faith only."

In the fifth paragraph of his article, brother Rainwater spoke of "two thoughts which take us to extremes. One is that any action an individual engages in is the church or can be the church. (emphasis mine psf) Or, putting it another way, anything the individual does the church does." Unless I totally misunderstood or distorted his argument, the thought le mentioned — "that any action an individual engages in....can be the church" — is that which directed him in paragraphs 9-11, on page ten, as he reasoned from James 1:27 (individuals relieving fatherless and widows) to Acts 8:1-8 (the church relieving widows) and drew the conclusion that the church can relieve both classes, the (unbaptized) fatherless and the widows, because the individual can; because the church can and did relieve some of one class that the individual can relieve, the church can then relieve all classes that the individual can.

Brother Rainwater offered a diagram which urged that, since the demands of a passage addressed to individuals (Matt. 28: 18-20) were carried out by both individuals and the church "This proves that all passages that are given to individuals do not have exclusive individual action"; but how do we decide which demand exclusive individual action, and which as Matt. 28:13-20, do not? Well, look at point "B" of the diagram, "Visit (To Ind.) — James 1:27." Now, how do we know that the church carried out the demands of Matthew 28? Brother Rainwater gave the passages (Phil. 4:15,18; 1 Thess. 1:8) which prove that beyond the shadow of any doubt; because we have those passages, we can know Matthew 28: 18-20 did not demand exclusive individual action. Thus, for James 1:27, a passage admittedly addressed to individuals, to have the same "dual application" as Matthew 28:18-20, we need to find passages which show the church engaged in visiting the fatherless and the widows. Brother Rainwater advanced Acts 8:1, 8 and 1 Tim. 5:18; reading these passages, we find the church relieving, or being instructed to relieve, widows; but what about the fatherless, the unbaptized? I respectfully submit that it is no more presumptuous to use the cases of household conversion as authority for infant baptism, than to use Acts 6 and 1 Tim. 5 as authority for church benevolence to the unbaptized.

Noticing further, brother Rainwater said, "Again, If the doctrine is right that the church cannot help any person that is not a saint from the treasury, then those who are members of families where only the father is a member would be eliminated from any kind of help. Most of those I have talked to who take this position (saints only) will not take the consequences of the position. They will work them in through the saint at least indirectly." Surely It is recognized that supplying the needs of a brother is not confined to satisfying his personal physical requirements; that relief for a brother would involve also enabling him to meet the responsibility he has to his family, unless the brother was to merit the description of Paul (1 Tim. 5:8) as a denyer of the faith and "worse than an unbeliever." Brother Rainwater suggested what he considered the "consequences" of the "saints only" position; but the consequence of his position is to make an indigent child of God worse than an infidel, for he is not providing for his own; he is merely utilizing the "indirect method" for letting the church provide for them, according to brother Rainwater. Who provides for the preacher's children, their father or the church via the indirect method?

There is another consequence to the position defended by brother Rainwater: he has no scriptural stopping place for the church in benevolence; no way of determining just how far the church is to go; nothing but human judgment to guide in saying "thus far — more." This, I believe, is not as insignificant as it may at first glance appear.

Finally "....we all believed a few short years ago that the church could care for orphans and whether they were baptized believers or not was not a consideration" — but couldn't the pioneers have said that a "few short years" after renouncing infant baptism due to its lack of authorization; and couldn't we say the same thing concerning certain works of evangelism which a "few short years ago" brethren who now would oppose them were engaged in? They learned better; quit their sinful practice; taught against it. The same is true in the matter we have been considering here. Past practice is not authority for present or future practice. The onslaught of institutional innovation forced brethren to go into more detailed study of what the Bible teaches on these matters; when they found, as we find, gaps between teaching and practice, they determined whether it was the teaching that had gone beyond the things that are written (1 Cor. 4:8) or the practice that had failed to measure up to the teaching, and made the correction; so we must also. "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9)

— Corpus Christi, Texas