Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 10, 1955
NUMBER 43, PAGE 1,9b-11

The Apostle Paul, Chairman Of The Board

James W. Adams, Beaumont, Texas

(No. 7 in a series reviewing Brother Guy N. Woods' articles recently appearing in the Gospel Advocate.)

"Human nature is such that we are much more prone to be influenced by objections offered to a position than we are by affirmative support in its behalf; long ago we learned in debate with the advocates of the use of instrumental music and the anti-Sunday school hobby riders that it is of little consequence how much positive evidence is presented, those who subscribe to opposing views on these matters are much more inclined to be influenced by objections which they entertain. Such we believe is also characteristic of this matter; and, for this reason, we shall deal at length with the objections which, in the opinion of those who oppose orphan homes and homes for the aged, weigh heavily against them." (Gospel Advocate, Nov. 18, 1954.)

Thus does Brother Woods lamely excuse his negative approach to the question of orphanages and homes for the aged. Three things are worthy of note in these statements: (1) Brother Woods betrays the weakness of his position by his unwillingness to sustain an affirmative relation to the question. His position is logically affirmative. He chooses rather to offer a rebuttal to negative arguments (?) which he imagines are made by representative men. Actually, they are of his own creation. (2) He reflects on the intelligence and sincerity of those who differ from him on the matters under consideration. We are ready to concede that our brother is a man of considerable ability. In fact, we have already done so a number of times in this series. However, we are not quite ready to accept his estimate of himself — that he is the only man who has written or spoken on these matters who has intelligence and sincerity enough to recognize the force of an established affirmation. (3) He reflects on the intelligence of the readers of the Gospel Advocate by supposing that they have been taken in by the puerile objections — to orphan homes — of his own creation and lack the necessary intelligence to weigh and evaluate affirmative arguments from his "scholarly pen" on the controverted points under consideration.

Simplifying The Issue

So simple is this matter of "cooperation" and "benevolent organizations under boards and conclaves unknown to the New Testament" according to Brother Woods that one would almost have to border on idiocy not to see that they are unquestionably authorized by the New Testament. The general spirit of our brother's articles impresses me with the fact that a preacher from a distant state (with whom this writer is not personally acquainted) may be justified somewhat in forming an impression of Brother Woods. He writes, "I think also that he has found out that he is smart." The so called "cooperation controversy" through the years has always been characterized by men who could and can make its solution extremely simple. The proponents of the missionary society of a century ago excelled in picturing those who opposed them as tottering on the brink of imbecility. They, too, like our brother, found "cooperation" in the New Testament which authorized their "human expedients" (as they called them), and, incidentally, found them in the very proof texts proposed by Brother Woods. How strange it is that a matter so simple of solution should create such a furor, and how doubly peculiar that so many men of equal and even superior ability to Brother Woods should fail to see it.

In seeking to establish the scriptural character of institutional orphan homes and homes for the aged, three supposed allegations of the opposition are introduced and answered (?).

"It is, for example, alleged that cooperative efforts in behalf of the needy are unscriptural; that a congregation is responsible for the poor only in its own vicinity; and, that the practice of sending funds to an orphan home to provide for the children which the home has gathered from throughout the country is without New Testament sanction."

Two of these allegations, as construed by Brother Woods, have never been made. The third has been made. It has never been argued that "cooperative efforts in behalf of the needy are unscriptural." This charge is a misrepresentation. Its design is to prejudice and to deceive. We hesitate not to say that Brother Woods is too intelligent and well informed not to know better, and unless correction is made, we hardly see how it will be possible for us to continue to have any confidence in our brother's integrity. Any man who has ever read the New Testament knows that the churches of Macedonia and Achaia cooperated in assisting the Jerusalem church to relieve the needs of her poor (saints). To charge that one has alleged "that cooperative efforts in behalf of the needy are unscriptural" is tantamount to accusing me of "infidelity." According to our brother, all who disagree with him are "blatant infidels." We have known Brother Woods a long time, and it grieves us that he should thus unjustly charge his brethren. We hasten to confess that, through all the years we have known and known of our brother, we did not suspect that beneath his cloak of affability and gentility there existed a heart capable of such duplicity and injustice. It is also untrue that anyone has alleged "that a congregation is responsible for the poor only in its own vicinity." The churches of Macedonia and Achaia certainly recognized a responsibility to the "poor saints in Jerusalem." Brother Woods is guilty of propagating falsehoods when he makes such charges as those just quoted from his pen. However, it should be noted in this connection that the church in Corinth did not organize a Home For Indigent Saints, transport the poor from Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, and Thessalonica to that place, and circulate the brotherhood with appeals that the churches send their contributions to Corinth for the support of the work accompanied by strong allegations that it was their (the churches universally) work and responsibility. This is that which Brother Woods must find in the New Testament. Will he try? We think not. The churches cooperated in sending their contributions concurrently by their own "messengers" directly to "Jerusalem," the place where the need existed. More about this later. Let us note the treatment given

Acts 11:27-30

Our readers are requested to read these verses in their Bibles. It will suffice for us to say that in this passage is found an account of the church at Antioch in Syria sending relief to the distressed saints among the churches of Judea. They sent it to "the elders" and "by the hands of Barnabas and Saul." Brother Woods uses this incident to establish that it is "(a) right for congregations to cooperate in benevolent activity; (b) send their funds to other communities to assist (c) those beyond the area of the cooperating congregation." None of these points is denied. Our brother would like to leave the impression that this is the issue, hence, presto! it is settled. Good brethren who read only the Gospel Advocate, will probably be deceived by such propaganda. Brother Woods sins against them and against those whom he opposes in so presenting the proposition. Having advanced the points mentioned, our brother then supposes an organizing or arranging of a system by the elders of the Judean churches for the disbursing of the benevolence among the members of the churches which they served as overseers. It is assumed that if such is granted, a case for the orphan homes and homes for the aged in the brotherhood is made out. This is by no means true. Such organization or system essential to the performance of any scriptural work inheres in the command to do the work. This is not the issue. Let no one be deceived by Brother Woods' sophistry. No orphan home or home for the aged in the brotherhood whose scripturalness is questioned parallels in its organization and function the example of Acts 11:27-30, even granting a "system" of disbursement supposed by Brother Woods. More will be said along this line when we note the attempt made to parallel "our benevolent work" and the Bible schools of the congregations. This brings us to the portion of the article under review which is the inspiration for our caption; namely,

"The Apostle Paul, Chairman Of The Board."

Brother Woods is a great one to seek to place the burden of the proof upon the negative by asking leading questions. He seeks to establish conclusions without presenting argument by the implications of questions. Only one with a feeling of insecurity would pursue such a course in argument. He reminds me of an ignorant Baptist debater who introduces a passage, makes no argument upon it, and complains because his opponent will "not answer his scripture." Surely Brother Woods does not think he will be allowed to put over such upon unsuspecting readers. He cannot introduce a scripture as a proof text and challenge those who sustain a negative relation to the question under discussion to show what it teaches and expect to escape exposure. His numerous debates to which he calls our attention should have taught him as much. He has placed himself before the churches as a champion of "our benevolent work." He must, therefore, marshal his arguments, buttress them with proof texts from the Word of God, show that faithful exegeses of the passages indicted unite to establish the scripturalness of his arguments, and establish beyond question that his arguments logically cumulate to make certain the truth of his proposition. We shall now note our brother's handling of the case of the churches of Macedonia and Achaia sending relief to the saints in Jerusalem. (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:18, 19, 22, 23.)

Let us note first the statements of Paul concerning this matter and then notice the unfounded deductions and inferences of the article under review.

"For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. When therefore, I have performed this, and sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain." (Rom. 15:26-28.)

"And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much mere diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you. Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow-helper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf." (2 Cor. 8:18-24.)

Now let us note item by item the comments that are made upon these verses by Brother Woods. He says, "(1) These churches cooperated in choosing men to travel together for the purpose announced." If he means by this what many of the brethren mean in the use of the word, "cooperate," (That is, amalgamate) his statement cannot be proved. It seems quite clear that at least a number of "churches" approved (chose) Titus to travel with the company. It is not clear whether each church also selected a "messenger" or whether several churches may have approved the same messenger to serve them. It is, however, a gratuitous assumption to suppose that the churches assembled in some sort of convention and "chose" the "messengers in such assembly by elective or other processes. Such is the clear implication of our brother's statements, and it cannot be proved. No one known to us has ever argued that several churches cannot select the same agent to serve them in some scriptural capacity. If Titus or any other served a church as its messenger, the doctrine of congregational autonomy being true, he was the selection of that church thus to serve and not of a plurality of churches. Other churches may have, independently, selected the same individual to serve them, but he was not selected by a group of churches to serve a single congregation in any capacity.

Brother Woods' next statement is, "(2) These churches cooperated in pooling their resources in the hands of those thus designated." The truth or falsity of this statement depends on the meaning attached to the expression, "pooling their resources." If Brother Woods means that the contributions of the churches were surrendered to these men to be spent according to their discretion in the field of benevolence, it is not true. To fit his case and sustain the operation of a benevolent enterprise under an institutional board made up of members of various contributing congregations this would have to be the meaning of his statement. The work for which the men in question were selected by the churches is clear. They were "messengers" of the churches. Titus was specifically chosen "to travel with us (Paul and messengers, JWA) with this grace." Paul went "to minister to the saints" (Rom. 15:25), "to seal to them this fruit" (Rom. 15:28), to "bring alms to his nation and offerings" (Acts 24:17), and that the "service" ("ministration" ASV) might be "acceptable to the saints." (Rom. 15:31.) We know that Paul and his companions were chosen to carry the money which was contributed by the churches to the saints in Jerusalem. We know that they did this. If they were chosen to do anything else or if they did anything else but this, the Divine Record is as silent as the tomb concerning it. Brother Woods implies that the statement "sealed to them this fruit" implies that he did more than deliver the money to the church in Jerusalem. What does the expression, "seal," imply, Brother Woods? To assume that Paul did anything other than serve as a messenger of the churches to carry funds to the church in Jerusalem and prevail on her to accept them is to "go beyond what is written." The evidence is against his having done more: (1) He arrived in Jerusalem one day; (2) went before James and the elders the next day; (3) the following day, he purified himself and went into the temple with four men to signify to the priest the accomplishment of their days of purification and to provide offerings for them, and was occupied with them for several days; (4) just before their seven days were fulfilled, he was arrested; (5) following his arrest, he was moved to Caesarea, then to Rome. (Acts 21:17-33; chapters 22 to 28.) He did "seal" to the saints in Jerusalem the "fruit" of the liberality of the Gentile churches. He did not oversee and administer the benevolence among the saints individually. He did deliver the "fruit" to the saints. Therefore, "seal" simply signified the deliverance and the acceptance of the funds.

(3) "These churches cooperated in the work of providing for the poor in Jerusalem." They did, indeed, but what does that prove? No one denies this evident fact. However, concerning the nature and function of this group of men, Brother Woods implies many things not true in a series of questions. Let us note them.

(1) "(1) What did this group of men constitute who were thus selected? (2) When the churches put their funds in the hands of this group did they surrender their autonomy? (3) Did this group chosen in the foregoing manner constitute an organization? (4) To what single congregation did they belong while thus engaged? And to what eldership were they answerable? Is it alleged that when Paul arrived in Jerusalem with these funds that he gave them to the elders to disburse? If yes, how shall we explain this statement: 'When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.' (Rom. 15:8.) On what basis have we any reason to infer that he either did or did not? May churches (plural) today select representatives — messengers, if you please — to perform any function obligatory upon the church? Assuming that it cannot be wrong to do what was right in the apostolic age, what sort of organization would such an arrangement entail?"

Brother Woods seems to consider these questions real killers, so we shall neither evade, ignore, or avoid them. Since our brother is now defending "boards and conclaves unknown to the New Testament" which once he denounced (ACC Lectures, 1939), we have every right to conclude that he believes Paul and his companions to have constituted such a board. In such case, Paul would certainly have been "the Chairman of the Board" or perhaps "President of the United Christian Benevolent Society of the Churches of Macedonia and Achaia," hence our caption and, incidentally, our answer to question number one.

Brother Woods assumes in (2) that the funds of the churches were put into the hands of these men as a group to be overseen and spent by them as a group. From whence he deduced such, he alone knows. One might as well ask: When the churches put their funds in the mails do they lose their autonomy, or when they deposit them in the bank do they pool resources and lose autonomy? Churches may select any one of many ways of sending funds from one place to another — bank draft, mails, wire or messenger without affecting her autonomy, equality or independence. She cannot surrender her money to an official board of a human organization to be disbursed according to its wishes either in benevolence or evangelism without surrendering a portion of all three. Question (3) assumes an organization of the group who travelled with Paul. If they had acted as a group in disbursing the funds in Jerusalem they would have had to be organized. It is axiomatic that no group can function as a group without some form of organization. A group of individuals can act as individuals without organization but not as a group. If these men acted as a group in disbursing funds in Jerusalem, we have the authority for a missionary society. J. W. McGarvey thought they did and so argued before the Alabama Convention of the Missionary Society. His speech was later printed in tract form, widely circulated, and every where hailed by innovators as a complete vindication of the society only to have it riddled in a review by Brother W. L. Butler, a copy of whose review adorns our library. Now Brother Woods comes mincing down the old, weather beaten path worn by the passing feet of many digressives as though he were blazing new trails in the wilderness of "hobbyists." Church support of the colleges, centralized control in the eldership of one congregation, benevolent organizations under institutional boards, and missionary societies all depend upon proof that Paul and his companions constituted an organized board through which the churches operated in fulfilling their mission to establish their scriptural character. They stand or fall together in this respect. No, no, Brother Woods, you are not going to wage a war on orphan homes simply because they seem to you to present the best opportunity to enlist the support and sympathy of the multitude. You are going to have to run the gamut. Wisdom did not cease when you acquired your portion — your attitude to the contrary notwithstanding. Brother McGarvey, marvelous logician that he was, saw this fact and embraced all. Brother Woods, do you endorse the missionary society principle?

Under question (4), the brother wants to know why it is assumed that Paul and his companions delivered their funds to the elders at Jerusalem. Here is why: (1) the fact that the objects of the benevolence were under the oversight of the elders of the Jerusalem church; (2) coupled with the fact that the first example of benevolence sets forth the principle of the apostles not "leaving the word of God to serve tables" but rather having the people to look out from among themselves men to be appointed over the matter (Acts 6:1-4); (3) plus the fact that when the church in Antioch sent funds to the Judean churches by Paul some 14 years previous, they were delivered to "the elders" (Acts 11:27-30); (4) and in addition, the fact that the day following his arrival in Jerusalem Paul presented himself to the elders of the church there. (Acts 21:17.) In the absence of any proof to the contrary, and in view of the principles of autonomy, equality, and independence of local congregations taught throughout the New Testament, we believe these facts make such an inference absolutely necessary.

About This Board Of Directors

Brother Woods contends that Paul and his companions are the authority for such boards. Let him take the laboring oar and prove it. He believes these men had authority exceeding that of simply transporting funds. Let him prove it. He must if he defends "our institutions." He must show when, where, and how Paul and his companions acted as an organized group. If they acted as such, who presided, what were their rules of order (they had to have a formula for making their decisions), who kept their records (they had to have them), who kept the common treasury and issued the funds? If they acted as a group, these things would have to be if their work was done "decently and in order." If these things characterized them, what is the fundamental difference between this and a missionary society void of abuses? Tell us, Brother Woods!

Look for our concluding article next week under the caption: "Our Standard — Feasible, Practical, or Scripture?"