Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 18, 1956

Reason For Delay


We owe our friends an explanation for the long delay in delivery of the "Harper-Tant Debate" to so many who have ordered. The explanation is simple: we cannot get the books from Brother Harper as yet. When the Chronicle Publishing Company collapsed into hopeless bankruptcy, Brother Harper bought the entire stock of the debate book (which was to have been published no later than June 30, but which was not published until August). We finally received one-half of our order; but as of this date have been unable to get the rest. Telephone calls, letters, and telegrams to Brother Harper and the book-binder have thus far brought only promises and no books. But we still have hopes. We believe Brother Harper is legally bound by the contract we had with the Chronicle Publishing Company, and that he intends eventually to fulfill it. But remind your friends who may want the book that the ONLY book containing the "Supplement" is the one they order from the Gospel Guardian.

— F. Y. T.

"Unknown By Face"

Certainly one excellent feature of the controversies which have been among us for the past few years is that thousands of us have given a far more diligent and careful study to the Bible than ever before. In this particular we are especially appreciative of the efforts of Brother J. W. Roberts of Abilene Christian College in appealing to the scriptures for the final authority in settling of the problems now before us. Where others have tried to carry their point by an appeal to tradition, or by ridicule, sarcasm, and inflammatory and flagrant invocation of prejudice, Brother Roberts has, for the most part, tried to justify the "centralized cooperatives" by finding authority for them in the Scriptures. He has 'attempted to find a "pattern" for the sponsoring church in Philippi; and another in Jerusalem. However execrable and tortured his exegeses, we do appreciate his evident desire to find Bible authority for the modern practices.

One point vigorously defended not only by Brother Roberts but by a number of ether brethren is that Jerusalem was a "sponsoring church" in the matter of the distribution of the benevolence of Acts 11:27-30. It is contended that Paul and Barnabas delivered Antioch's bounty "to the elders" of the Jerusalem church only; and that these elders, in turn, distributed the gift throughout the other churches of Judea as their judgment and careful study of the needs might dictate. This position is defended by arguing that Paul and Barnabas could not have traveled among the Judean elders generally delivering the benevolence because Paul says that he was "unknown by face unto the churches of Judea" until the time of the conference in Jerusalem. (Gal. 1:22 - 2:1.)

It was in this connection that we pointed out some months ago that so far as the Bible record reveals, Paul made five and only five visits to Judaea after he became a Christian. They were:

1. First visit. Fifteen days spent in Jerusalem with Peter. (Gal. 1:18-20; Acts 9:26-30.)

2.Second visit. The occasion of the "famine," when Antioch sent relief "unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea" by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. This visit apparently lasted for some little time. 'Some scholars estimate six months. That it was longer than would be required merely to deliver the bounty to the Jerusalem elders is implied in "fulfilled their ministration" (plerosantes). (Acts 11:27 -12:25.)

3.Third visit. The Jerusalem meeting, which probably lasted not more than a week. (Acts 15; Gal. 2.)

4.Fourth visit. Scholars are somewhat divided on this one as to whether Paul ever got to Jerusalem at all or not. It was at the end of his second missionary tour. All the Bible says about it is summed up in one verse: "And when he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and saluted the church, and went down to Antioch." (Acts 18:22.)

5. Fifth visit. This is the time of Paul's imprisonment in Jerusalem. (Acts 21:15 -27:2.)

It was during his fifth and final visit that Paul declared to Agrippa that he had preached the gospel of Christ "throughout all the country of Judea." (Acts 26:20.) The point of a former editorial on this passage was that the only time Paul could have done this, so far as the record shows, was on the occasion of his second visit — at the time when he and Barnabas delivered the gift from Antioch "to the elders" among "the brethren that dwelt in Judea." That being true, we have conclusive evidence in this passage that Paul did not remain "unknown by face" permanently to the Judean churches; there was a time when he had preached "throughout all the country of Judea."

In an article in the Firm Foundation last June, "A Footnote to Acts 11:26ff," Brother. Roberts strives valiantly, but vainly, to escape the crushing implications of Paul's statement. By holding so tenaciously to his misunderstandings of Galatians 2, he is compelled to find some way by which Paul could have preached "throughout all the country of Judaea" on either his third (Jerusalem conference) or his fourth (Acts 18:22) visit to Judaea, or by proxy (i.e. through his disciples) while he was imprisoned in Jerusalem and Caesarea. Here are his arguments:

1. "After the dismissal from Jerusalem (15:30) the group could have preached in parts of Judaea."

But look at the facts: There was great anxiety in Antioch over the question that had brought Paul and his company to Jerusalem. Are we to suppose that with such urgency upon them, Paul took a leisurely and round about preaching tour throughout "all the country of Judaea" (not "parts" of it as Brother Roberts says) before returning to the waiting church at Antioch with the glad news from Jerusalem? The Bible simply says, "So they, when they were dismissed, came down to Antioch." There is considerable textual evidence in support of the additional phrase, "in few days." Belser accepts this reading and speaks of it as "more valuable than much gold, as showing their eagerness to bring the good news to Antioch, and the speed of their traveling."

Frankly, in view of the situation at Antioch and the urgency which Paul and his friends would have to get back there; and in view of the simple Bible statement that "they, when they were dismissed, came down to Antioch," we simply cannot find room for the extended preaching tour "throughout all the country of Judaea" which Brother Roberts Thinks he may be able to find in this passage.

2. "A second possibility is at the end of the second tour when Paul landed at Caesarea in Judaea and went up and saluted the church and then went down to Antioch . . . . To say that Paul could not have preached in Judaea at this time or even that it is unlikely that he did is to voice an opinion that has no basis in fact."

Well, what are the facts in the case? Here they are: (i) Paul landed at Caesarea; (ii) he went up and saluted the church; (iii) he went down to Antioch. Now, who can read into that passage an extended preaching tour "throughout all the country of Judaea"? These are the facts as related by the Bible. It is Brother Roberts' "opinion," based on no fact at all, that maybe, perhaps, possibly, Paul made an extended preaching tour "throughout all the country of Judea" during the time covered in the scripture by the phrases that he "went down to Antioch." In those four words he finds room for such a tour! The Bible says Paul "went down to Antioch." Brother Roberts' understanding of that is that Paul "went down to Antioch, preaching throughout all the country of Judaea" as he went! We don't see it.

3. "Another possibility is during the two year imprisonment at Caesarea under Felix. During his detention by Felix Paul "had indulgence" and none of his friends were forbidden to minister unto him. This means he was free to work as he saw fit with only the presence of a guard to insure his remaining in custody. Under similar circumstances in Rome Paul spread the gospel widely. (Phil. 1:22ff; Col. 4:2-4; Eph. 6:19f.) It is well known that Paul's work in one center often resulted in the spread of the gospel throughout the whole province. (Acts 13:49; 19:10.)"

Brother Roberts gives these three possible explanations of Paul's statement. They are all he can think of; else he would have adduced the others. He thinks there is no "necessary conflict" between his position taken on Acts 11:26f and Paul's statement in Acts 26:20. So far as we can see there is an absolute and insurmountable conflict. Brother Roberts' vague, uncertain, groping speculations do not resolve it. They cannot. There is no resolving of it, if the scripture record is complete, other than by identifying his preaching tour with his delivering of the benevolence to the Judean brethren. That is the ONLY time Paul could have done such preaching according to the record.

Thus another favorite argument of the "centralized sponsoring" type of church government is shown to be wanting. Jerusalem elders did NOT "oversee" the distribution of funds to other elderships throughout Judaea; Paul's statement that he was "unknown by face" to the churches in Judea clearly and obviously was limited to the eight or nine years he was preaching in Cilicia and Antioch, and did not remain true of him indefinitely.

Again, we respect Brother Roberts' appeal to the scripture. We would that others in the controversy would show the same willingness to appeal to the Bible as authoritative. We CAN and WILL come to agreement once we are all willing to settle every question by a "thus saith the Lord."

— F. Y. T.