Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 16, 1956

Concerning "The Pattern"

Harmon Caldwell, Birmingham, Alabama

In the May 3, 1956 issue of the Gospel Advocate there appeared an article by Brother G. K. Wallace entitled "The Pattern" which was a statement in effect that there is absolutely no pattern in the New Testament for congregational cooperation. In Brother Wallace's numerous debates he doubtlessly has utilized the statement, "What proves too much proves nothing" many times, and such adage is most applicable respecting his reasoning in his article under consideration. For him to aver positively that there is no pattern for congregational cooperation, Brother Wallace would therefore prove that churches may cooperate in any way in order to do, (1) benevolent work, and (2) evangelistic work. If there is no pattern for congregational cooperation in doing evangelistic work, then churches may cooperate in preaching the gospel,

(1) by contributing to a missionary society through which churches would do this work. If not, why not? If there be no pattern, then the flood gate is opened, and any way brethren decide cooperative efforts would suffice.

(2) Churches also could cooperate in the utilization of one eldership in preaching the gospel. Two churches could do this; many churches could do this; indeed every church in the brotherhood could funnel its money, in part or all, through one congregation, said congregation being the focal point for the church universal performing the work of evangelism. In the event that either of the two methods stated is used in evangelistic effort, then an obvious surrender, if only in part, of local church independence; for the money of the local church which is to be utilized by that local church in the fulfillment of its own mission and responsibility, is in turn surrendered to the society or the centralized eldership to be used at its discretion. But, because there is no pattern, as he asserts, then despite a relinquishment of control of funds of local churches by local churches and despite a breakdown therefore of the local autonomy, evangelism can be carried out in any way the brethren please, whether through a society or through one particular eldership.

If there is no pattern for congregational cooperation in the work of benevolence, then it follows that any way brethren decide to cooperate in caring for the needy is acceptable before God, whether (1) through a benevolent society apart from the churches, or (2) through a sponsoring eldership, which has imported needy ones to which the congregation of which this eldership is a part has no peculiar relationship or responsibility. If there is no pattern respecting how a church may do benevolent work, or how churches may cooperate in doing benevolent work, then churches on the assumption that they may solicit poor people to be cared for to whom each church is not peculiarly related, may thus assume the roles of local chapters of county welfare agencies or the Red Cross.

Brother Wallace, What Proves Too Much Proves Not A Thing!

Those who assert that orphan homes and homes for aged to which people are solicited from everywhere, and in which said people are furnished opportunity to live and be provided for, may be supported from treasuries of local churches, also claim that there is no distinction between churches and individuals; that what the individual can do "for the furtherance of the cause of Christ," the church can do. Yet, in this article Brother Wallace does unquestionably distinguish the individuals from the churches. He states that according to Acts 11:27-30 disciples (individuals) sent to "a congregation." He states that according to 1 Corinthians 16:1, 1 Corinthians 16:3, and 2 Corinthians 8:1, 4, "Congregations (not individuals) sent money to saints" (individuals).

He stated that "disciples (not congregations) sent money to a congregation," implying that such was not the church in the aggregate in Antioch sending to Judea. In Acts 11:29 it is said, "And the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea." Evidently it is conceded by Brother Wallace that since the money was sent to "the elders," that despite only "individuals" having sent the money, "congregations" were recipients thereof. But from verse 29 we noted that "every man according to his ability" contributed, and that the money was given to Barnabas and Saul, who in turn took it to Judea. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, we find every one according to his ability was commanded to contribute the first day of each week. In the instance concerning Corinth, Brother Wallace does concede such to be "congregational"; that the "congregation" in Corinth, among others, sent to the "saints" in Jerusalem. In other words the effort in Corinth was a congregational thing but the effort in Antioch was not a congregational thing. Yet, in each instance, individuals were contributing to a common cause. On the one hand it was just the disciples sending, and on the other hand it was a congregation as such sending. This is his assertion. However, from the inference obtained by paralleling 1 Corinthians 16:2 and Acts 11:29, and considering the cause for which said contributions were made, the obvious conclusion is that the effort in Antioch was congregational in nature, was collective, and was a church as such doing the work of sending to the needy in Judea.

Brother Wallace implies that since the word "saints" is used in connection with the benevolence rendered Jerusalem, that such was not money being given to the church in Jerusalem, but just to individuals. Yet, in speaking to Corinth, Paul said, "Your abundance being a supply for their want, that there may be equality." Paul's purpose was to see to it that the brethren in Jerusalem were as reasonably supplied with physical sustenance as were the brethren in Corinth. Second Corinthians 9:12 says, "For the ministration of this service not only filleth up the measure of the wants of the saints . . . ." Obviously, Jerusalem wanted, and Corinth could assist others in supplying that want, that there would be of the abundance of Corinth a "filling up" of the needs of the Jerusalem saints. Thus, in 2 Corinthians 8:14 Paul in effect said, "Your (Corinth's) abundance being a supply at this present time for their (Jerusalem's) wants."

The point is simply that Paul was comparing Jerusalem with Corinth. On the one hand there was abundance. On the other hand there was need. Brother Wallace stated that "congregations" sent to "saints," and italicized the term "churches" in quoting 2 Corinthians 8:1, so he concedes the fact that the Corinthian church, as such, did send to Jerusalem. Now, if the church at Corinth was by comparison in abundance to saints in Jerusalem, the use of "saints" obviously implies the plurality of Christians composing the church in the aggregate in Jerusalem, or, if you please, the "congregation" in Jerusalem.

Hence, in Acts 11:27-30 we find record of a church sending to a church in Judea, and in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 we learn of several churches sending to the church in Jerusalem, the latter of which furnishes us a pattern for several churches sending to one church, hence a pattern for congregational cooperation.

But Brother Wallace said, "This bounty was to be carried to Jerusalem and used for the saints in Judea. A saint did not have to have his membership. in Jerusalem to receive help." In this connection, where does the Bible say "Saints in Judea," Brother Wallace? According to this, the church (or should we say a "group of saints") in Jerusalem became the dispersing agency of the funds all over Judea for anybody a "saint." Romans 15:26 declares, ".... to make a certain contribution to the poor saints which are at Jerusalem." The contribution was limited to the people at Jerusalem. There is no implication that a person didn't necessarily have to have his "membership" at Jerusalem to receive help. To the contrary, Paul said the contribution was for the saints at Jerusalem.

In Romans 1:17 we find Paul saying: " all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints." He did not here stipulate the fact that he was writing the church at Rome, but only "to all the saints." Does this imply that Paul was not writing to the church at Rome as such, but only to "the saints" there? In Ephesians 1:1 Paul addresses the "saints that are at Ephesus." By Brother Wallace's reasoning, he did not write the letter to the church at Ephesus, only to the "saints." Again in Philippians 1:1 Paul speaks to the "saints at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." He must not have been writing to the church at Philippi, only to the "saints" there, along with the elders and deacons. Paul wrote to Colossae and addresses it: "To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ" in that city. Therefore, since there is no record that Paul ever wrote to the church at Colossae, he must not have, according to Brother Wallace's reasoning, but he just wrote only to the "saints" (individuals) and "brethren" (individuals) there! Since the churches in Macedonia, Achaia, and Galatia sent only to the "saints" which were at Jerusalem, from Brother Wallace's reasoning, these churches did not send to the church as such in Jerusalem, but only to the "saints" there. Hence, as he implies, there is no record of churches any time sending to a church. By the same token, Paul did not write his epistles to the church at Rome, Ephesus, Philippi, or Colossae, but only to individuals in those respective towns.

We wonder where Brother Wallace ever heard anybody say that a meeting house is necessarily inferred. True, a place to worship is inferred necessarily, but not a meeting house. But I cannot understand in the first place why he started talking about a meeting house. Unless, that is, he was trying to place the matter of congregational cooperation on par with the matter of having a place to worship. Since a meeting house is not necessarily inferred, we do not have to have one; and since, as he labors to show, there is no pattern for congregational cooperation, no set pattern or example is necessarily inferred. Seems that there is no pattern for a place to worship, and therefore we can have a meeting house or anything else of our choosing not inherently wrong in which to convene for worship; and also, there's no pattern for congregational cooperation, so, we can use any method we want to in getting the works of preaching and benevolence done! This is the evident trend of reasoning he is attempting.

Brother Wallace implies that since there are at least "three ways by which fellowship was carried on" that this means we do not have to have any set pattern for, said fellowship. If there were fifteen ways mentioned in the New Testament, Brother Wallace, don't you believe we should limit ourselves to the fifteen mentioned, and not branch out into territory unauthorized. Furthermore, there are more than three ways of fellowship, if we would call them "ways." There's five. One church assisting its own, Acts 2, 4; 1 Timothy 5; one church assisting several churches, Acts 11:27-30; several churches assisting one church, Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8, 9; one church assisting one man, Philippians 4:15; several churches assisting one man, 2 Corinthians 11:8-9. There's nothing general about any of this. Each stipulates exactly how such fellowship was manifested. We are as much limited to the inclusions of these examples as we are limited to the inclusions of the five items of public worship.

By the way, Brother Wallace is wrong when he says that Philippians 4:15 is an example of several churches assisting one man. Paul said there was only one church that helped him at the time of which he was speaking, and that was the Philippian church to which he was writing. Some would have it that in coupling 2 Corinthians 11:8-9 with Philippians 4:15 the Philippian church was the central congregation through which several congregations sent to the needs of Paul. But in Philippians 4:15 Paul says he was supported only by the church in Philippi while he was in Thessalonica. In 2 Corinthians 11:8-9, Paul is referring to the time he was in Corinth when several churches supported his needs. The two passages are not to be coupled at all.

We have striven to show the fallacy in Brother Wallace's reasoning; that indeed there is a pattern for congregational cooperation, that pattern being found in the several passages respecting the effort put forth by the Macedonian, Galatian, and Achaian churches to aid, and provide for the needs of, the Jerusalem church. We must limit ourselves to said pattern. If there were no pattern, then we'd be free to do anything we please. And if we today did as the brethren 100 years ago did, we'd start immediately with plans for a "bigger and better church," a greater amount of "evangelism and propagation of the gospel" through a missionary society, for, they too maintained that there was no pattern for congregational cooperation!