Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 1, 1982
NUMBER 26, PAGE 2,14

Isolated Passages And A Modern Perversion

Pete McWilliams

The apostle Peter spoke upon one occasion (2 Peter 3:15, 16) about the writings of the apostle Paul in these words: "....even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unsteadfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, (a modern "for instance," Galatians 6:10 and James. 1:27) unto their own destruction." Paul also spoke of and condemned those who would `pervert the gospel of Christ." (Galatians 1:8,9)

Every child of God ought to know that there is a very basic, fundamental and important rule for Bible interpretation, to wit: Every portion of scripture which is obscure, or is not clear within itself, MUST be interpreted in the light of what every other scripture which deals with the subject under consideration has to say. No one has the right to ignore other scriptures which bear upon the subject under consideration in order to embrace a doctrine that he has a desire to believe and then to rest his case upon a verse of scripture which, by reason of its construction, requires respect for its context as well as other scriptures relating to the subject matter. A very good case in point is that of the Mormon practice of vicarious baptisms, i.e., baptisms for people who are already dead. They rest their case upon 1 Cor. 15:29 which they remove from its context and refuse to consider all of the other scriptures and apostolic examples which enforce upon one who desires baptism for the remission of sins the overt prerequisites of faith, repentance and confession. J. W. McGarvey, in speaking of vicarious baptisms, makes the following thought-provoking statement: "....but the practice grew out of Paul's words, instead of his words being called forth by the practice." (McGarvey-Pendleton Commentary, page 153)

There are many other examples that could be cited of mythical beliefs and scriptural isolations in efforts to scripturally sustain them. For instance, the "faith only" legion and their misinterpretation of such passages as John 3:16; Acts 10:43; 16:31; Eph. 2:8, 9, etc. It is felt that a pertinent principle should be stated just here: One may not know what some scriptures mean from a positive standpoint, but they can know what they do not mean. For instance, how many Christians are there who can list or recite the positive character of 1 Cor. 15:29?

This fruit of sectarianism has not remained in the denominational realm, but has become a growing characteristic within the ranks of those members of the Lord's church who refuse 'to consider the fact that there can be cooperation apart from combination, or in other words, who believe that without combination there can be no cooperation. One such scripture which they pervert in identically the same manner as the Mormons do 1 Cor. 15:29 is 2 Corinthians 9:13. In an effort to scripturally justify the unscriptural idea of including aliens as objects of relief from the chinch treasury, they refuse to accept what the same writer went on record in statement after statement as to what the collection was taken for. Notice that Paul says that this collection was "for the saints" (1 Cot. 18:1); that it was "for the poor among the saints that are at Jerusalem" (Rom. 15:26); that "as touching the ministering to the saints" (2 Cor. 9'1), and that "For the ministration of this service not only filleth up the measure of the wants of the saints...." (2 Cor. 9:12)

The American Standard Version of 2 Corinthians 9:12, 13, reads, as follows: "For the ministration of this service not only filleth up the measure of the wants of the saints, but aboundeth also through many thanksgivings unto God; (13) seeing that through the proving of you by this ministration they glorify God for the obedience of your confession unto the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution unto them, and unto all; " The King James Version supplies the italicized word "men" at the end of verse 13, which indicates that the word did not appear in the manuscripts but was supplied by the translators. Had the translators of both versions considered fully what Paul represented to the people that the collection was for, and had considered also the fact that the context from verse 10 through verse 14 adheres wholly to a specified class ("saints"); representative also of their commendable prayers, realizing also that to insert the plural noun "men" into the contextually certified class of "saints," would do violence to what the apostle intended, they probably would have supplied the plural noun "saints." The revised versions omit "men" from verse 13. Consideration for the context of the passage is probably the reason why.

If this "all" or "all men" of the text means all people, whether in the church or out, then all the commentators whose commentaries this writer has read (This includes all of them that he could lay hands upon since being introduced to this scripture) certainly missed the point. Not a single one of them has even hinted that this passage teaches that this contribution served any purposes other than (1) "Fill up the measure of the wants of the saints," (2) "results in many thanksgivings unto God," thereby glorifying Him, and (3) cement the relationship between Jew and Gentile. Of course, it goes without saying that these commentators were not trying to justify some hobby or brotherhood institutional project. Hardly without exception, these scholars have said that this word "all" refers (potentially) to all saints whether within the membership of the Jerusalem church or elsewhere where there might subsequently exist a like need. If this is not what Paul intended, then this writer must confess that he does not know what is meant. But there is one thing that is certain: One can be sure that he did not mean alien benevolence from the treasury of the church. One who dogmatically supplies and affirms a word foreign to the context of a passage, as some do the word "alien," and injects a doctrine into the church that is sustained nowhere else in the New Testament, places himself just as far from the truth as the Mormon who practices vicarious baptisms. This statement is based upon the belief that to "pervert the gospel of Christ" (Gal. 1:8), or to "go beyond the things which are written" (1 Cor. 6:4) at one point is just as sinful as "abiding not in the doctrine of Christ" at another point. To me, it is much more unbecoming to one that should know the truth and -is dedicated to the proposition of "speaking as the oracles of God" than it is to one who has no conception of what the truth actually is.

In conclusion, this admonition and observation: If J. W. McGarvey were alive today and were writing a commentary on 2 Corinthians 9:13, it would be extremely apropos for him to repeat just here the profound statement that the doctrine of alien benevolence from the church treasury is but another "practice (which) GREW OUT OF PAUL'S WORDS, INSTEAD OF HIS WORDS BEING CALLED FORTH BY THE PRACTICE." One has the wrong attitude toward divine authority when he believes a thing first and then goes to the Bible in an effort to justify it. This constitutes a "grasping for straws" by one who is desperate. One who loves the truth will not operate in this manner, and if one does not love the truth, God will "send them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess. 2:11,12)

To coin and adapt to problems within the church the phraseology of a modern television program, "There are hundreds of stories (fruits of sectarianism) that one observes these days, and this treatise has been about one of them."

— 212 Chandler St., Baytown, Texas