Bible Answers to Massey's Charts (III)
This is the third in a series of responses to charts and lessons recently used extensively in Nigeria. In regard to the benevolent work that is described in Ac. 11:29, 30, Brother Jim Massey argues very strongly that Paul and, Barnabas actually delivered the funds from Antioch to the elders in Jerusalem and that they then became the sponsoring church for the relief work throughout Judea. He says the Jerusalem church began its sponsoring work by sending prophets to Antioch to urge brethren there to respond to the needs of all the churches of Judea. But the Bible does not say the prophets were sent to Antioch by Jerusalem elders. It is true that their residence seems to have been Jerusalem, and when they traveled to Antioch they did stir up the brethren there in behalf of relief for the suffering that would occur in Judea. But it does not say that the Jerusalem church sent them on this mission.
He quotes Ac. 12:25 to show that when Paul and Barnabas had completed their work they "returned from Jerusalem." From this he concludes that they only went to Jerusalem and that the elders to whom they gave the funds were only the Jerusalem elders (Ac. 11: 3 0). But the scriptures do not verify this opinion of Brother Massey's. It is true that they departed from Judea via Jerusalem. This should not surprise us. For instance, we may say, "Brother Massey went to Nigeria, and when he had completed his work he returned from Lagos." It may be quite natural that he would leave by that route. And quite naturally after touting Judea Paul and Barnabas would leave from the metropolis of that area.
Brother Massey tries to prove his sponsoring church concept by saying that throughout the Book of Acts, "So common was the use of 'elders' meaning Jerusalem's elders that the letter from Jerusalem's elders merely said 'elders', assured that all would understand that Jerusalem's elders were meant." But it was not the word "elders" that identified their location in that letter (Ac. 15: 23). The very text of the letter would identify them, as well as the fact that the letter was to be carried by members of the Jerusalem church. Nevertheless we shall admit that the Jerusalem elders were well-known throughout the evangelized world then. But it is still the task of sponsoring church advocates to show that the Jerusalem elders ever assumed oversight of anything except the flock there. In no sense did they become district elders. Never, never, never did they direct the affairs of any other congregation or even of a Christian in another place.
The false teachers who were troubling the Antioch church had gone out from Jerusalem (Ac.15:24). Consequently it was only right that their evil action be repudiated by the elders there. This they did as they concurred in the decision of the apostles, but they did not go beyond the scriptural realm of local oversight (I Pet. 5:1-3).
Brother Massey says Paul and Barnabas did not go "to the various Judean churches because Paul was unknown by face in Judea and that he remained thus unknown until the Acts 15 meeting. But let us see what the record shows:
Three years after his conversion Paul went to Jerusalem to see Peter (Gal. 1: 18). Or it may have been somewhat more than three years (see Gal. 1: 17). Then he began his preaching tours and was yet unknown in Judean churches at that time (Gal. 1:22). Some three or four years later he went into Judea with Barnabas to deliver the funds from Antioch (Ac. 11:29, 30). At that time he certainly became known to those brethren. "Then fourteen years after" Paul went again to Jerusalem (Gal. 2: 1). This evidently refers, to the incidents of Acts chapter 15. So it is no mystery at all. Paul simply meant that though he had gone to Jerusalem he had not traveled throughout Judea on his first trip to that area after becoming a Christian. But later he became known there, for he helped deliver funds to them.
It is significant that the inspired Word says the relief from Antioch was sent "unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea" (Ac. 11: 29) and that this was accomplished when Barnabas and Saul delivered it "to the elders." The natural, proper grammatical interpretation of the whole context is thus: If "brethren in Judea" necessarily means several congregations there, then "elders" must mean the elders in the same congregations. Furthermore, if "elders" means Jerusalem elders only, then "brethren in Judea" must mean only those of Judea who constituted the Jerusalem church.
Incidentals and Essentials
Brother Massey asks, "Why bind one detail of an example and not bind all details?" Then in the arguments following this question he fails to distinguish between things that are incidental and those that are essential. For instance, all of us recognize this necessity in reference to Acts 20:7. The upper room, the many lights, some of the seating arrangements, etc. are strictly incidentals and are variable. They do not set forth any necessary procedure. But the day of the week (the first day) is an essential. Jesus had said, "As oft as ye drink it" (I Cor. 11: 25) and "as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup" (I Cor. 11:26). We would naturally ask, "How often, Lord?" We had to have an answer to that natural question. Thus the example in Ac. 20:7 gives the answer. The frequency is "on the first day of the week." That illustrates the difference in incidentals and essentials in examples.
Brother Massey lists many incidentals. But I believe the sending of wages directly to the preacher and the sending of relief directly to the destitute church, in both cases without a sponsoring church between the senders and the receivers, is an essential feature of the Bible examples. My reasons are thus:
1. All New Testament examples agree. There is no variation. In each, case the invariable procedure was direct sending.
2. The examples agree precisely with all other instruction on this matter. Ac. 20:28 and I Pet. 5:1-3 show that the elders' oversight is strictly limited to the local flock. The examples of "sending" fits perfectly into this procedure. Furthermore, any centralization of authority or oversight such as is found in the sponsoring church arrangement positively violates Ac. 20:28 and 1 Pet. 5:1-3.
In next week's Truth Magazine I shall have one more concluding article regarding Massey's thrust in Nigeria.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 8, pp. 8-9