Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 8, 1951
NUMBER 39, PAGE 1,13

That Bible Example

Cled E. Wallace

The editor of the Firm Foundation has found "a Bible example" which he thinks should settle the controversy over "centralized control and oversight" in current mission work. As an aid to such a happy consummation he recommends a long article by the elders of the church in Lubbock, and three long articles by brother J. D. Bales, all carried in the Firm Foundation, and "containing more information directly to the point in this discussion than I have seen" etc., etc. All we are given credit for, if it can be called credit, is "loosely written criticisms of what is being done." He thinks we ought to be fully satisfied with what he, brother Bales and the elders of the church in Lubbock have offered us.

What more do you want than a Bible example? That should be sufficient! Why ask for more? If God has spoken, why should we not heed?

A Bible example ought to satisfy everybody. As far as I am concerned that sort of authority not only "should be" but is sufficient! I have read many times all the references the editor cites that make up "a Bible example" and I believe them and accept the "example." An emergency arose in the form of a "famine," which put "the brethren in Judea" in dire need of "relief." Many churches, sparked by Paul and others, arose to the occasion. Several interesting angles become apparent in an examination of the situation. Gentile brethren were deeply indebted to Jewish brethren for "spiritual things," and it was only right that they should respond to their need in "carnal things." The "gift" offered and accepted would cement closer fellowship between Jewish and Gentile disciples. This was a vital need. Paul entertained the fear on one hand that the Gentiles would not give as liberally as the case demanded, and on the other hand that the Jews because of racial pride and prejudice would not accept it when it was offered. One reason I know that Jerusalem was not "a sponsoring church" such as we have now is that it did not ask for any help, and Paul was afraid they would hesitate to accept help when it was offered. Modern "sponsoring churches" have given no occasion for such fears.

Read all the references the editor cites and what "example" do we have? The independent congregations all sustained an equal relation to the emergency. They entrusted their contributions to properly chosen messengers and sent them directly to the work where they were needed. They sent them "to the elders." Of course the funds are "administered" by those to whom they were sent. Who has suggested otherwise?

The editor flashes this rare gem in our direction:

If Titus and other brethren, (II Cor. 8:16, 22, 23), became "administrators" of funds that had been given by different churches for a specific work, why would you deny that the elders were "administrators" of funds that were given to them from other individuals and churches for the same purpose? Now is the point clear?

The point is clear that the editor either does not know what the issue is "in this discussion" or else he is ignoring it. It looks very much as though we "have been misunderstood and misrepresented. All this gets us nowhere in a search for truth, or in doing the Lord's work, in an acceptable and scriptural way." If I understand the matter, the extent of "Titus and other brethren's administration" of "these funds" was the service they rendered in seeing that they reached their destination. They were not a benevolent society. They delivered "these funds" to "the elders" where the need existed. "Now is the point clear?" It would be too bad if the editor in his bumbling around to justify "centralized control and oversight" among us, should forget an argument in favor of an out and out missionary society. It looks a little bit like he would not oppose it too much, if Lubbock started it, and brother Bales endorsed it with enough articles "directly to the point."

The editor's suggested proposition for a debate that discusses the issue" is almost as amusing as it is amazing. It is also revealing.

He offered a proposition for debate that does not discuss the issue. A proposition that states what he believes is: "Resolved, That it is unscriptural for one congregation to receive, spend, or administer funds that have been contributed by members of other congregations."

If our brother will affirm this proposition, which states his belief, I am sure that we can find many gospel preachers who will debate the issue with him. If he is unwilling to debate this proposition he should give up his false belief and confess that he is wrong.

If he were as sure of his ground as he would like for us to believe, and were as logical as brother Bales, who writes endless articles "directly to the point," insists that I be, he would not suggest that we affirm a negative. When sectarians and digressives want us to affirm negatives, we know what ails them. I know what ails the editor of the Firm Foundation in his present dilemma. He happens to be wrong in his contention. The proposition he submits does not "state" my "belief." "If he is unwilling to" frame and submit a "proposition" which affirms what he is editorially scotching for, then "he should give up his false belief and confess that he is wrong." We suggest that he is just about in a position to affirm that "It is scriptural for the eldership of a church to become a centralized board of benevolence or a general board of foreign missions." This proposition "states what he believes," or at least it will if he heads a few more editorials in the same direction as the last few.

The aged editor throws the whole weight of his position and influence in defense of the Broadway church of Lubbock, Texas.

Those who should like to know the position of the Broadway church of Lubbock, Texas, should carefully read the article by its elders, appearing in this issue (see page 1). They have been charged with things that are not true. They have been misunderstood and misrepresented. All this gets us nowhere in a search for truth, or in doing the Lord's work, in an acceptable manner.

No details are cited, and no names called, but whoever is misunderstanding and misrepresenting the Lubbock brethren ought to quit it. My impressions are gathered largely from headquarters and official sources and what is published in the Firm Foundation. It is rather obvious that the editor of the Firm Foundation is having plenty of trouble making all the parts of the Lubbock setup fit into the New Testament pattern, even with all the help he can get from "its elders" and the "three articles by brother J. D. Bales" which contain so much "information directly to the point." Since the Firm Foundation, brother Bales, and "its elders" out at Lubbock appear to be permanently set up in their ways, it seems that we will have to change the pattern, if we have much of a fit. I am offering my services for what they may be worth along that line. So get out your New Testament and turn with me to one of the key passages in the pattern cited by the editor of the. Firm Foundation.

Now in these days there came down prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be a great famine over all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius. And the disciples, every man according to his ability determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea: which also they did, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30)

The elders in Antioch decided that this was not enough, and they did more. The church in Antioch became '"the sponsoring church" for a wider movement. "The field is the world" and the famine extended "over all the world." There were a lot of people in it who were not "brethren" and they got hungry too, and it is right to "do good unto all men." Another thing, it is more important to feed their souls than their bodies, so "sponsored" provision was made to preach the gospel "over all the world" in their generation. Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas and with others they were able to pick up here and there to stir up interest among the churches. Since it was proper and right for both individuals and churches to send money to a church to be "administered" by it, Antioch became a great center of benevolence and missionary work. Both individuals and churches were urged to send gifts of money to Antioch to be "administered" by the church there "for a specific work" in various places "over all the world." The general idea was to feed 'em first and they'll listen better when you preach to 'em. Paul and Silas and Titus were so zealous in prosecuting this plan and advertising it among the churches that huge funds of many thousands of dollars soon accumulated in Antioch to be "administered" by "its elders" wherever they decided it would do the most good. Some mass meetings were held and the idea spread rapidly. Other churches were encouraged to adopt the same plan in their particular regions and the result was that in "their generation" the gospel "was preached in all creation under heaven" and nobody had any occasion to go hungry.

There was a little opposition at first by some "good meaning brethren." Old brother Srygley reminded Paul and the elders that an individual can send his means directly to the preacher who is in the field preaching the gospel, and so can a church, provided it sends it directly to the preacher. If two or more churches put it into the hands of any kind of a board, though the board may be made up of the elders of one of the churches, we have a very nice beginning for a missionary society to take charge of the churches. Much of the missionary machinery of this country started exactly that way.

The elders reminded the old brother that "We recognize the autonomy of the War church and we oppose anything that threatens it." Besides. "Several churches can combine their contributions sending by one person whom they have selected." "One church can send direct to another church to be expended in a particular work of the Lord" This stumped the old brother, as Paul did not seem to be alarmed and he had a lot of respect for Paul. So with that advantage, the elders in Antioch decided to make the plan a permanent basis for operation in both benevolence and missions. The churches continued to send "funds" for them to "administer" wherever emergency, or other needs might arise. So there it is, right in the New Testament. If you have any doubt of it turn and read (Acts 11:30; I Cor. 16:3; It Cor. 8:19, 23).

The editor of the Firm Foundation refers to the editor of the Gospel Guardian twice in one editorial as "the young man" and "this young brother." Now, let's not have any "belittlin'." "This young brother" is forty-three years old and doesn't have much hair on the top of his head where the hair always ought to grow, and if he is ever going to have any sense, "by reason of the time," it ought to be showing up on him. "All this gets us nowhere in a search for truth, or in doing the Lord's work in an acceptable and scriptural way."