Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 6, 1962
NUMBER 18, PAGE 7,14b

Church Benevolence Is For Baptized Believers Only

Robert L. (Bob) Craig

In May 31 1962, number 5 issue of the Guardian, we go back to an article written by Warren Rainwater, titled, "Is Church Benevolence For Baptized Believers Only?" Since my article titled "Who Are Our Own?" was about the most direct which has been published in the Guardian, taking the position brother Rainwater criticizes, I suppose he might have had me in mind. Several others thought so, too, and have asked that I say something in reply. Also my article has been used twice by W. L. Totty in his bulletin and was introduced by Guy N. Woods in the Newbern debate, so I suppose I am almost obligated to defend my position or back down. So I have taken the component parts of Rainwater's title and rearranged them, thus stating a Bible truth.

I could, like brother Rainwater, quote from several of my "bigger" preaching brethren who hold the same position I do, but that would prove exactly nothing. The question is, "What does the Bible teach?"

Also, for brother Rainwater to class us with the sectarians and their "faith only" doctrine and with the anti-class and anti-women teacher brethren, doesn't prove a thing in the world and is not worth the time it took to make the accusation. When will brethren learn? I wonder if this brother has ever taken a stand for the Lord's Day "only" doctrine; or the singing "only" doctrine or a hundred other "only" doctrines I could point out. The reason "faith only" is false is because the Bible does not sustain it, not because the word "only" is used.

Brother Rainwater compares Matt. 28:19 and James 1:27. (Please go back and read his article so I will not have to quote it.) He says Matt. 28:19 is directed to the individual, but has a collective or church application as well. If Matt. 28:19 is directed to the individual, and for now I'll grant that it is, then the only way we could get collective action into it would have to be with another passage of scripture. The way we know the church is to preach the gospel is by many passages such as 1 Tim. 3:15, Phil. 4:15, 16; 1 Cor. 11:8, etc. If it were not for these and similar passages, we could not know that the church, collectively had the obligation or authority to preach the gospel. Brother Rainwater assumes his argument and then parallels James 1:27 to his assumed proof. We must have authority for what we do, individually or collectively, and not mere assumption.

He says, "James 1:27 does not tell anything about how the visiting is to be done. Of course, we all know that one of the first laws of proper interpretation is when a passage is directed to an Individual, it must apply to him unless there is something in the context that will demand another action." I don't know where this law came from, but it sounds pretty good, so I'll buy it. But, what is there in the context, brother Rainwater, that indicates a thing in the world other than individual action? He jumps plumb over to Acts 6 to get his context and in doing so jumps clean out of his law of interpretation. If anyone doesn't know, context is the verses preceding or succeeding the verse or passage or text under consideration. Now, what IN THE CONTEXT shows anything other than individual action?

Brother Rainwater does exactly like Guy N. Woods when he says that since the individual of Jas. 1:27 was to relieve widows and orphans and we see "that the church relieved widows, then the conclusion must be reached that the church can relieve the fatherless." Well, that's HIS conclusion and there is not an ounce of logic or scripture in it. But notice how he has completely departed from his discussion. He was discussing whether or not the church had any obligation to those who were not "saints." So he reaches an unwarranted conclusion that the church can help the "fatherless." Well, who said it couldn't? The question under consideration is: "Where is the authority for the church to relieve 'fatherless' who are not 'saints'?" Yes, the church can relieve "fatherless saints" just like it can help "widowed saints." Brother Rainwater, James 1:27 is authority for the individual to act. Now where is your authority, not a conclusion reached by assumption, for the church to engage in "unlimited" benevolence?

He says, too, that we will not "take the consequences of the position." He says that we will help an outsider "indirectly" by working them in through the saint. I'll take whatever consequence is necessary in connection with my position, but I'm not willing to accept the underhanded slur that I am playing the hypocrite. It would do brother Rainwater good to go back and read my article on "Who Are Our Own?" in which I dealt with the contingency he presents. Why didn't he show where my reasoning was fallacious, rather than to make his assertion that we are inconsistent? Actually, if we were inconsistent and the worst kind of hypocrites and would not take any consequences in connection with our position, all those things still would not prove his position to be true to the Book. But here's my explanation again briefly. The church has an obligation toward a "saint" who is destitute, that is, cannot meet his obligations. (I might add just here, that these cases are extremely infrequent, but that is another discussion.) His obligation is to care "for his own." (1 Tim. 5:8) The church may help him to relieve this obligation, call it "indirect" if you like. But the church's obligation is to the destitute saint (only), and his obligation is "to his own." If he had no obligations at all, then he would not be destitute. Now, you find a verse that teaches that the church is to take over "his own" even if they happen to "outsiders." That's what you believe.

Brother Rainwater says that this "saints only" doctrine is of recent origin. Well, that's what the liberals say about the fight against institutional orphan homes. You can read it in nearly every article they write. But just to say it doesn't make it so, and, once again, isn't that a good strong argument? But I am persuaded that this "saint only" doctrine is as old as the church itself for we find it beginning right in Acts 2. Read it.

He also slants another accusation at us when he says that it "smacks of accomodative interpretation." He means that we have been forced into the position. Not so. I took this position a good long while ago even back when my brethren were having good success in whipping the liberals by admitting an obligation to other than saints "under certain circumstances." No, I didn't have to take the position at all, except to be true to my conscience which had been instructed by God's word.

Finally, brother Rainwater says, "I have never taken the position that the church could not care for orphans and that the church could not under any conditions help a person who was not a baptized believer."

Well, if it means anything, I have, as long as I can remember, taken the position that the church had no obligation to anyone other than saints. It just took me a little longer to realize that the child who was not a member of the church was not a saint. Remember that "saint" does not mean "sweet and innocent" but "set apart" or "separated" and that takes place in gospel obedience.

Some say that this is no issue, but I think you can see now that it is. The church has a "limited" or unlimited" obligation in benevolence, one or the other. If limited, that limitation must be the lines drawn by scripture and "he that goeth onward and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." If unlimited, then there are not boundaries and that would thus make of the church something like the Red Cross or Salvation Army, and if so, then we had better get busy because we are far behind. Where are your scriptures, brethren, for UNLIMITED benevolence? Bring us something except your human reasoning or else stand with us as we fight the battle against this branch of liberalism.

— Lometa, Texas