Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 19, 1964
NUMBER 33, PAGE 3,12-13

The Church And Her Benevolence

John W. Collins

Man is a fallible creature, he makes mistakes. There is no realm in which this stigma is not attached, including the religious. This is evident by the fact that there are so many different religious organizations holding conflicting doctrines and teachings, not all of which can be in accord with the teachings of the New Testament.

Realizing that this trait of fallibility falls upon all of us, we still must strive to weed out error and cultivate the truth. Therefore, if those in error be saints or sinners, we must refute the error at every opportunity as well as present the truth.

This article is written sincerely and in love with a desire to let the truth stand alone. It is not motivated to hurt feelings, be sarcastic, or ridicule. We beg each sincere person to read carefully the following and weigh it it, the light of the scriptures — nothing else!

In the Teacher's Annual Lesson Commentary on Bible Lessons - 1963. (published by the Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee, pages 268-273), there is a lesson titled, "The Great Contribution." It is based on 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8:1-11. The author presents some fine thoughts that Christians need to consider and practice; however, we believe that the writer is mistaken in one point and that is where our discussion will center. We will summarize the arguments as we understand them, but because of a lack of space, will not be able to quote every scripture. Therefore, please turn to these references and read them yourselves. Do not take our word for what we say. Prove all things from the scriptures!

On page 271, second column, we find in the first full paragraph of comments the following stated and implied teaching:

(1) Churches may send money to needy children or others in a home. We therefore conclude that the author has in mind the practice of supporting an orphan home organization from the Lord's treasury.

(2) The following is offered as proof for this teaching:

(a) That Paul provides for the autonomy of the contributing congregation in 1 Cor. 16:1-4. The contributing churches had the responsibility to see to it that the money reached its destination, but they had no responsibility in distributing this money to the needy saints.

(b) Then he makes the statement that the same principle applies today, Churches who desire to assist needy children in a home do not lose their autonomy in so doing. If a church does not like the way the money is spent, then it may stop the contribution.

(c) The author then calls forth an example for parallel comparison. Churches give money to a preacher but do not tell him how to spend his money. There is no autonomy lost in this case.

(3) We may summarize his proof as follows: A comparison of the situation in 1 Cor. 16:1-4 to churches making contributions to "homes" today. The churches giving to a preacher as a parallel.

Before we begin a discussion of the points of argument let us note a brief background of the situation mentioned in 1 Cor. 16:1-4. Please read these four verses along with 2 Cor. 8-9 and Romans 15:25-27. These scriptures tell us that for some reason there were saints in Jerusalem who were in need. It is implied that the church in Jerusalem could not meet this need, therefore Paul was calling on congregations to send them relief. In 1 Cor. 16:1-4 he is telling the Corinthians when to take this collection and how to arrange for it to get to Jerusalem.

The author of the lesson is using this incident in the history of the early church for support of his proposition.

Let us state the issue clearly. It is as follows: Is it scriptural for churches to use the Lord's money to support these human organizations? The issue is not whether the needy should he cared for. All agree that they should be. The issue is not whether these organizations have a right to exist. Please keep the proper issue in mind.

As we begin we must first understand one very important Bible principle. This is the principle of authority. The Bible teaches us that we must have the authority of God's Word for all that we do. Please read the following scriptures — 2 Timothy 1:13, Colossians 3:17, Matthew 7:21-23, 2 John 9, Galatians 1:6-9. In summation, these teach that there is a pattern of sound words we are to follow; this pattern is doing all in the name of Christ; this implies not just saying the Lord's name, but doing all with the authority of the Father behind it; if we go beyond the teaching of Christ, God is not with us; to go beyond and teach an additional gospel is actually to pervert the gospel of Christ and thereby bring damnation to our souls. If this is not clear to you please read the above mentioned scriptures again.

The authority of God's Word also extends to matters of judgment. In 2 John 9 (mentioned above) John does not qualify his statement. If we go beyond the teaching of Christ in any way, God is not with us. Matters of judgment must be tempered by faith. In 1 Corinthians 16:12, Paul tells us that all things are lawful but not all things are expedient. We have seen by Matthew 7:21 what a lawful thing is.. It is one authorized by God. Thus Paul tells us that in matters of judgment the things must still be "lawful." We cannot defend an innovation on the grounds of judgment just because it isn't authorized in the scripture. It then is not a matter of judgment, but a matter of sin. We may exercise our judgment in the realm of "general" authority; that is, when God authorized our making a judgment. He does this when He gives us authority but does not specify as to its completion. For example, in Gen. 6:14-16 God told Noah to build an ark out of gopher wood. Noah could not exercise his judgment in the area of wood because God had specified a certain type. However, God told him to make rooms in the ark. In this area Noah could exercise his judgment as to the number of rooms because God had not specified a particular number.

Paul sums up the teaching of the New Testament on authority in 2 Timothy 3:16,17. Carefully read these two verses. Paul tells us that the inspired scriptures will make us complete or thoroughly furnished unto every good work. If we cannot find authority for what we do in the scripture then the work is not considered a good work by Jehovah. If Paul does not teach this then what is the implication? Read Ephesians 2:10 in connection with this. God has prepared the works He wants us to do. It is not left to our judgment to choose the work. If it is not authorized in the scripture then it is sinful.

We must have book, chapter, and verse for all we do! If you do not agree with this please feel free to show us where the scripture is misapplied! Do not deal in emotion or prejudice, deal with the scripture for after all they will judge us in the last day. (John 12:48)

Keeping the above principle in mind let us continue!

(1) We have authority from the New Testament for one church to take care of its own needy. (Acts 4:34-37)

We have authority for one church to send relief to needy saints. (Acts 11:27-30) We have authority for several churches sending relief to needy saints. (1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8-9; Rom. 15:25-27) But we do not have authority for one church to send money from its treasury to support human organizations such as orphan homes, old folks homes, etc. If we can send the Lord's money to an orphan home organization, why not send money to a feeding organization that they may in turn feed the poor (Salvation Army), to a clothing organization that they may clothe the poor, to a helping organization that it may help the poor in stricken areas (Red Cross), to hospitals (Memorial Mission, etc.) for they do heal the bodies of the poor. If it is right and proper to send to one, how can we logically support one and say that the other is wrong? Think about this my friends!

(2) The writer of the article makes a parallel between the churches sending relief to Jerusalem and a church paying a preacher. But, there is not a parallel! One is a gift and the other is a wage. 2 Corinthians 11:8 states that Paul took "wages" from churches. Did not Paul state in I Corinthians 9:14 that they who proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel? When a congregation gives a preacher money, they do so because of his service. They give him wages! If you cannot see the difference between giving gifts and paying wages for service, simply fail to pay your electric bill. When they turn off your electricity you will see that you have not been giving them a gift each month but that you have been getting something for your money. Think this matter over carefully and I believe you will see the difference and that the supposed parallel is not as the writer would make it appear.

(3) The author would also make parallel the arrangements made to send relief to the poor saints and the support of human institutions. This places the human organization in the category of simply a means or method of carrying out the work. However, this is not the case! They claim to be doing the work of the church (else how could they request church support). They must employ the same methods and means a church would employ to do the same job. They are placing themselves on a parallel with churches and calling on churches to support them in their work. They are not means to the end. They are ends themselves! Let me again ask this! If the organization is simply a means to the end, would it be wrong for churches of Christ in this area to support St. Joseph's hospital (Catholic)? Would it be proper to enter into our budget of work a weekly contribution to a Catholic organization? Think about this my friend! I am not talking about paying bills for a needy member in the hospital, that is a different matter. I mean supporting denominational institutions with the Lord's money just as these other organizations ask us to do. One may answer that these are not "church of Christ" institutions. But, if they are simply means what difference does it make? Do you check into the religious background of the employees of the Post Office before you mail a letter? Think on these things!

They are not means or methods. They are institutions of men calling on God's divine institution, the church, for support. The Word of God gives us no authority to do so. Keep the matter clear and the issue straight!

It is not a matter of helping people who are in need, it is a matter of support to human organizations.

(4) The writer states that the autonomy of the local church is not violated in such situations. Note this definition of autonomous, "independent in government; self governing; also, without outside control." The New Testament teaches us that each local congregation is self governing. When one organization turns its funds over to another organization for that second organization to use in its work, does the first organization lose control of the funds? Answer yourself, it is obvious.

But, what if you earmark your funds for certain work? This simply means that the money is put with all the rest and the percentage for that particular area of work is increased. You do not retain control of the money. If you think this is not true, try to get your money back! They may give the same amount back to you, but you cannot claim it on the grounds that you still retain control over it because you don't.

But, the writer tells us that we may withdraw our support if we don't like the way the money is used. This simply means we control the giving not the using of the money by the organization. I may choose to or not to give to the Heart Fund. But this does not mean that I control the use of the money I give. Think of other examples and I believe you will see that this is correct.

Actually, this is beside the point. It makes no difference about the autonomy if there is no authority for the practice in the first place. There is no authority therefore discussion of autonomy is unnecessary to point out the error of the doctrine.

As we conclude let us summarize briefly.

(a) The author has attempted to draw a parallel between 1 Cor. 16:1-4 and churches supporting human organizations and paying wages to preachers. We hope you see that this is false.

(b) We have shown that there is authority for churches helping poor saints as mentioned in the scripture; for churches supporting preachers; but there is no authority for church support of human organizations.

(c) We hope we have presented the case for Bible authority well enough for you to see the need for such in all that we do.

(d) We hope you see that the question of autonomy is beside the point in this case. The question is one of authority. The writer did not prove by the authority of God's Word that churches may take money from their treasuries and send it to human organizations so that these organizations may carry on their work.

We appreciate your patient reading. We pray that you will read this article again and again until the points we make are clear to you. May the Lord bless you as you "examine the scriptures daily, whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11)

— P. O. Box 2042, Asheville, North Carolina, 28802