Can One Church Be Agent Of Other Churches?
The Case On Barnabas
In brother Showalter's recent editorial in the Firm Foundation, (Dec. 12) Barnabas is cited as proof for one church sending a preacher to another church to teach without the approval of that church. If this is not the point I did not get it. Barnabas was not an ordinary preacher but one "full of the Holy Ghost." He was an inspired preacher. His name signifies "son of prophecy" or "son of exhortation." We have none in the church today like him. A man of such qualifications as possessed by Barnabas would be welcomed in any church. He presented the law, instructed the church at the direction of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament then was in the apostles and prophets; now, it is complete in the inspired volume. The church now is directed by elders. They have the oversight of the flock. They rule and feed at the direction of the law of the Spirit, the New Testament. Every church possesses the identical law. Suppose the church where you preach decided the church in Austin needed some enlightenment. They send you down there without invitation. Upon arrival you insist on doing what the church sent you to do in spite of approval of the elders of that congregation. What could you expect? Surely brother Showalter does not insist that one congregation can control the teaching program of another congregation! Such would throw the church into a constant uproar. Certainly no congregation is to be turned over to a "roaming evangelist" governed by remote control. The apostles were first in rank in the church. (I Cor. 12:28) The prophets were next. Though not one of the twelve, Barnabas is called an apostle, Acts 14:14. Barnabas and Paul were apostles to the Gentiles, Acts 15:12. Can you imagine a man directed by the Holy Spirit teaching false doctrine and being corrected by the church? If that be the case, the Holy Spirit would have to be corrected for directing him to teach the false doctrine. The basis for settling disputes is not a single congregation or group of congregations, but the final appeal—the only appeal the Supreme Court of Heaven has submitted, is the New Covenant. This is the Covenant that some brethren are handling so lightly. This is the New Testament that brethren are ignoring. No longer do some respect the silence of the Testament, but go beyond to uphold their pet programs that cannot be secured in the teaching of Christ.
One Church An Agent For Others?
Where in all the New Testament did one church become the agent or medium through which other churches worked? This is the thing being upheld by many "good Meaning brethren." Acts 11 does not prove it. I Cor. 16 dies not prove it, nor does either passage state it, or even suggest it. In the two passages mentioned, the word Through is not used. Rather the words "to" and "unto" are used. The whole controversy rests upon the difference: between the words "to" and "through." If one church can be the agent of many churches to do work, one church can be the medium of ALL churches. This is nothing short of Roman Catholic teaching. In fact, the brethren borrowed it from them. It is the doctrine of subservience, selling independent congregations into the slavery of one, and bartering congregational rights to a high-handed, spiritual valet! It is a midwife operation that admits a congregation as an independent unit cannot do its work. It is an attempt to help, God out of difficulty. The Roman Catholic Church claims no more than some of the brethren are claiming. It is the "Mother Church" idea, which cannot be successfully opposed by the exponents of the one congregation agent or medium for others campaign. Evidently the brethren who are advocating such an idea think they are going to sell the entire brotherhood on the idea, and that they have virtually defeated those who oppose such an Hellish principle. I fear they are to be sadly disappointed. They cannot steam-roller the truth in such a high-handed manner. If I believed the teaching, I would embrace Catholicism. If one church can be the agent of others in one phase of the work, why not in every phase? And if in one phase, which phase will it be? If one church can set aside God's law in one particular, why not in every particular? That, my brother, is the doctrine of the Catholics. Some of my brethren like it so well it would not surprise me to see them abandon the truth and embrace in full the dogmas of Rome. To say the least, they have started in that direction.
The issue is stated by brother Showalter, hear it and him: "If you choose to give THROUGH the churches in Lubbock or Brownfield or any other place there is nothing contrary to this in the Bible, but rather we have an example in the Bible for such practice." Since brother Showalter uses in capital letters the word THROUGH, we can ask for the passage of scripture that uses the word to teach what he is teaching before the whole church. If it can be produced, the issue is settled. Simply referring to a scripture and asserting that it teaches it, that is not enough. Is the word THROUGH there? If not, the teaching is not there. If the church at Jerusalem received all the money Antioch sent, then distributed it to the other churches, it is admitted that would be a concrete example. But Acts 11 does not teach it. The money was sent to the "e;Brethren which dwelt in Judea." Jerusalem did not compose Judea. The messengers chosen to deliver the help were Barnabas and Saul. The record does not show that Jerusalem was the second agent in the transaction, then they in turn (the record does not show it) scattered the money among the churches in Judea. It would not surprise me to hear some preacher assert that the only elders in the church were the elders in Jerusalem. There is as much scripture for that as for the thing they are upholding. It seems to me that we could easily learn the difference of meaning between "to" and "through." Through means agency, while to means purpose, aim, end. It is an act of duplicity to assert they mean the same.
On Sending Directly
Why give as an individual? Is the individual to be exalted rather than the church? Are we to build up the individual rather than the church? Who said an individual cannot give his money through the church? In everything a person gives, if he so desires, he can give through the church! God has not appointed a "one man missionary society" to be elevated in glory and praise. The local congregation is the only agent or medium of work the Lord has on earth. Acts 11:29 does not prove the church at Antioch did not send the money to Judea. The disciples in Antioch constituted the church there, and, "they" not "he" sent it unto the elders. The individual part was the ability to give; the collective part was the church sending by Barnabas and Saul. A parallel is I Cor. 16:1, 2, where "each" was commanded to "lay by in store." This was done by individuals according to ability, in the church, not at home! III John 5, 8 does not teach how the giving was done. It would be unwise to assert the giving was done independent of the church. I Tim. 6:18 does not teach how the distributing was done, in the church or independent of it: The same is true of Gal. 6:6. Why make a guess? The church was commanded to "lay by in store." The church did send to the "Brethren which dwelt in Judea." The church at Philippi did send direct to Paul. The church is commanded, "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." The church is here addressed, not each individual. We have said this means "by the Lord's authority or command." We are surely safe when we follow express commands; unsafe otherwise. Why assume an awkward position on anything?