Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 5, 1954

The Church And 'Me Individual

W. L. Totty. Indianapolis. Indiana

In the Gospel Guardian of June 17 Brother Robert C. Welch, under the heading "The Church Versus the Individual," labors hard in an attempt to prove that an individual Christian may do things as religious acts that an entire congregation cannot do. He makes some absurd and loose statements to which I shall give my attention.

He says: "Sometimes they even go so far as to say that anything the individual who is a member of the church does the church also does . . . . representative of such statements is the following from a church bulletin of February 14, 1954, by W. L. Totty:

'Allow me to say again as I have said many times in the past that there is not a man living who can show by the New Testament that it is right for an individual Christian to do anything as a religious act and yet wrong for a whole congregation of Christians to do the same thing. `Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for a tree is known by his fruit.' (Matt. 12:33.)' "

Brother Welch missed entirely my application of Matthew 12:13. In the Gospel Guardian of December 18, 1952, he had this statement: "Should we not just as well have kept the missionary society to handle the evangelistic work of the church universal, as to have the . . . . orphan homes for doing the charitable work for the church universal? Where is the difference?" At that time Brother Welch argued that there is no difference between the orphan home and the missionary society. But he argues that an individual Christian may support the orphan home. But if there is no difference, why can't the individual Christian support the missionary society? There is where my application of Matthew 12:13 comes in. If the tree is evil, the individual cannot contribute. If it is good, the church can contribute. Does Brother Welch actually believe there is no difference between the missionary society and the orphan home?

The reader will notice that the phrase "as a religious act" modifies my statement which Brother Welch quoted. He and others, commenting upon that statement, invariably leave the impression that we say that just any act done by a Christian in any business may be done by the whole church. Such looseness in representing a person leads to a misunderstanding.

He thinks he has found a few New Testament examples which put the author of the church bulletin into a "dilemma." We shall give them our attention one by one.

First, he quotes 1 Timothy 5:10 where Paul, speaking of the widow, says, "if she hath washed the saints' feet." Brother Welch, commenting on that, asked, "Will Brother Totty say this act can be engaged in by the church?" My answer is, "Of course, it can." Does Brother Welch think that the church could not employ a nurse or some other person to look after a sick person and administer to his or her needs which might include washing the feet? Paul had reference to service to humanity, and not worship to God. If the church pays the nurse from the treasury, will Brother Welch say that the service rendered is not an act of the church? If he does, then will he contend that the church's giving money from the treasury to an orphan home is not the church doing it?

His next example is where Peter said, "Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight ..." (i1 Peter 5:2.) Brother Welch comments, "But the tending and the overseeing is not the action of the church, it is the action of the elders. Here plainly and specifically is a religious act which is not the action of the church, but is the action of individuals, the elders." Surely Brother Welch will not take the position that the decisions of the elders and their work is not the work of the church. A kindergarten Christian should know that the actions of the elders in the capacity of elders represents the church. If Brother Welch wanted to write to the church at a certain place, would he address the letter to the elders, or would he specify every individual member? When Brother Welch is employed by a church to preach for it, does he consider the decision of the elders in the matter the decision of the church? Or when he is hired by the elders, does he consider he is just preaching for individuals, the elders?

His next point is taken from 2 Timothy 2:12: "But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness." Of course, Brother Welch will admit that the teaching which a woman is forbidden to do is what we usually refer to as preaching during the period of worship. But the preacher, doing the preaching, is acting for the entire church, both men and women, in preaching the gospel. Otherwise, the woman could not have any part in preaching the gospel. It is the obligation of the church, both men and women, to spread the gospel of Christ. We do that by contributing money for the support of the preachers; and any woman who contributes to the church treasury teaches the gospel in the same capacity that the men do who do not publicly preach. Thus his argument on that point falls flat.

His final argument is based on Ephesians 6:4: "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord." What does Brother Welch think the church is doing when it has the children gathered on Sunday morning into the classes for Bible study ? Isn't that "bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord"?

Brother Welch concluded his article with this statement, "The champions of church supported institutions will need to find some better arguments than this to convince people that the church is not sufficient for its work." I don't know of any preacher, champion or not, who wants "to convince the people that the church is not sufficient for its work"; but I am entirely convinced that honest, unbiased people, by just a casual reading, will be able to see that Brother Welch failed in trying to establish the point that an individual Christian may do anything as a religious act that the congregation as a whole cannot do.