Church Responsibility in The Field of Benevolence
An anonymous discussion pertaining to the extent and limit of the church's responsibility toward needy people.
RESOLVED: "The scriptures teach that the church, from its treasury, is authorized, in the field of benevolence, only to care for needy saints (brethren)."
THIRD AFFIRMATIVE by Adelphos Dzeton Alethinon
Brother Gratis, the editorial staff of TRUTH, and readers: This being my last paper in this discussion, the first portion will be used to comment on some of Gratis' last negative. His opening list of ten "untenable positions" he ascribes to me are mostly products of his wishes and imaginations. They are positions he wishes I would have taken, so he argues against them as though I had. Reader, if you will notice, nearly all of them are things that have no real bearing on the issue we are discussing. The love of the collective church is the sum total of the love of the individuals in it. The same is true of faith and patience. The collective church takes communion only to the extent individual Christians do. The church withdraws from the ungodly to the same extent, unless we start practicing some sort of "closed communion and fellowship" in our services of worship. On and on we could go, but we are not discussing payment of debts, buying flowers for the dead, or for funerals" (I am not sure which denomination Gratis is using as his guide when he uses for in this instance, but it doesn't matter). Neither are we necessarily concerned with flowers for the sick. Our discussion may involve orphans, and we have shown clearly where church responsibility rests in such cases.
Gratis attempted to make a big point of specific authority regarding a meeting house. He leaves the impression that the spending of "many thousands of dollars" is of great significance. The amount spent will not necessarily justify or condemn the action. That is in the realm of lawful expediency. Heb. 10:25 is admonition to individuals. Gratis, you walked right into that one, didn't you? How did you tell it was "a scripture telling individuals to assemble! Now regarding the point for which I used the passage: it necessarily implies a place to assemble. It is lawful for Christians to have a place of assembly. Now, if you will place Eph. 4:11-16 right beside that I believe you will see collective responsibility of the body (the church) to edify itself in such assemblies. Thus we have authority for the collective church to provide a place for self-edification.
This whole matter would not be pertinent to our discussion, except that the reader may thus see the difference in what is authorized, and Gratis' so-called freedom and right. The amount of money spent, whether we rent or buy, and where it is spent do not change the authorized practice of assembling for exhortation, edification, and preaching to the lost. If we make the building a community house for the use of people of the community for community projects we have left the field of lawful expedience to exercise "freedom and right."
Gratis, the reader can see the fallacy of your accusation regarding my supposed admission that the church treasury may be used for many things for which there is no specific authority. I repeat, the church treasury should not be used for anything that is not an inherent part of what is specifically authorized. That leaves plenty of room for buildings, baptistries, songbooks, etc. It leaves no room for gymnasiums, swimming pools, organs, nor helping all people of the world just because we are authorized to help saints.
A great deal has been said about 2 Cor. 8:24 and how this teaches the church is to love "as a rule." When I cited a passage showing love does not inherently demand physical help, Gratis came forth with the gem of wisdom that this is just an exception! Gratis, should the church love Christians who will not work, using your claim of collective church love? You have said the collective church must not help them, but that the collective church must love all men. 2 Cor. 8:24 is talking of individual contributions being the measure and proof of one's love. He is speaking of this "proof" while it was still in the "pockets" of the Corinthians. We have noted that love is an individual matter, and that the argument is worthless in our discussion.
I Tim. 5:16 was used to show a restriction upon church aid and a distinction between church action and individual action, not as Gratis pretends. Paul does forbid the church being charged with the help of those who are my responsibility. The church cannot legally help those I am charged to help as long as I am able to help them and will. If I am able and will not, I am to be considered worse than an infidel, and should be marked as such before the church can legally help.
Gratis quoted what I said about the implication of 2 Thess. 3:10-11 and thinks this proves I was "dishonest" in saying I had not used it in the way he wishes I had. It sure is odd that since he is on the negative end of the discussion he can suddenly tell without any difficulty when a passage is directed to the individual, isn't it ? Gratis, I will not question your integrity in this matter; but on the other hand, you may be sure you will not be called a "logician" either. I did not say anything about this passage proving anything as church action. I did say it implies something. What does it imply? It implies that hard-working Christians who are in need deserve the help of other saints. Other passages supply the proof that such help may at times come from the church treasury. This was simply an effort on Gratis' part to cast reflection upon my integrity, thinking the reader would not notice his failure to answer the arguments presented. Gratis, you can see that I did not even come near using 2 Thess. 3:10-11 as you used I Thess. 3:12-13, and the reader will see it too. The statement which shows you said the church could help a non-member who refused to work is the affirmative proposition you debated in three issues. We are glad to see you confess it needed some alteration.
Gratis, read Acts 5:1-4 and you will be able "to distinguish between individual and church responsibility during this period of church history." It was Ananias' before he sold it and after he sold it, until he gave it into the treasury of the saints.
Why is it taking a liberty with I Cor. 16:1-2 to say it "it is instructing the individuals to supply a collected fund for the needy saints." Reader, I beg you to read that passage and see if that is taking "certain liberties" with it. Now, read Gal. 6:10 and see who is taking "liberties" when he says "Why may we not with equal force say about Gal. 6:11), 'Paul is instructing the individuals to do collective good unto all men'?" There is no collection or collective action mentioned or implied in any way! Reader, you know who is advocating and taking liberties with God's instructions, and it is not Adelphos!
The fact that the word "men" is not in the original may very well change the meaning of the verse, depending upon what we jump at by it being added. There was no claim that passages giving an example of the type of usage of the Greek pantas as found in 2 Cor. 9:13 were "exact parallels." Furthermore, his proposed reading of the passages I noted would not make of them exact parallels" either. This passage speaks of some saints (those to be helped now), and of all who may be helped, or benefitted, as a result of the generosity of saints at Corinth.
Gratis, it will do no good to pretend I am advocating "Christian people going through a starving community with food and clothing and medical care and refusing to help a man simply because he was a non-member." You know I have not advocated such, and so do our readers. Trying to arouse prejudice does not answer an argument.
After considering this matter more seriously in the past few weeks" Gratis "pronounces it silly, ridiculous and absurd" to confine collective church action to that which was practiced in Biblical times!! He even decides the Lord specified "saints" for good cause. I'm sure the Lord is glad Gratis thinks He had good cause for doing, what He did. Why does Gratis think so? Because "Members of the church are our first responsibility-they hold the preference. Especially in an hour of tragedy or emergency, our brethren should come first." Where do you suppose he learned we are to put brethren first "Especially in an hour of tragedy or emergency.?" Friend, that "especially" is another of Gratis' "certain liberties" with Gal. 6:10.
Gratis says "In the religion founded by Jesus Christ, whatever good point is to be characteristic of an individual follower is also to be characteristic of the entire group!" Now if he means there are some principles which every Christian is to incorporate into his life, that is true. If every Christian does so, it is then true of the entire group, but this is not proof that authority for individual action authorizes collective group action. There is distinction between church action and individual action, but all action in which individuals engage, whether as individuals or in a group, must be characterized by integrity.
I have not insinuated the "do good" of Gal. 6:10 contains something unscriptural. It is Gratis' misuse which inserts something unscriptural. Neither have we suggested anything remotely close to demanding a family of Christians being helped by the church must stop everything except their spiritual life. The reader knows this is not true, Gratis. There is a vast difference in supplying funds for a needy Christian to provide food, clothing, education, and necessary recreation for his family, and in making the expression mean anything good to any man. (As we have noted over and over again, this passage has nothing to do with church action in the beginning.) Is paying a man's doctor bill parallel to making a contribution to the doctor? Would it be wrong for a Christian to make a donation to the doctor? Can the church do so too? Just as surely as Gratis makes this passage authority for church action he claims the church may do any good to any man. There is thus no limit to church action as long as good is done, if this be true.
Gratis you need to read the story of the Samaritan again. I have not denied that passage, but am advocating it. I am wholeheartedly in favor of Christians doing just as he did. Will you tell us how that story indicates church action? Gratis' question about flowers for the dead being unrelated to our discussion was given an answer to correspond to, the normal "English" usage of the word for.
In his comment on 2 Cor. 9:12-13 he says he has found a passage which says "not only," and also says "Rom. 15:25-31 does not say 'saints only' just as Rom. 5:1 does not say 'faith only'." We showed that the remainder of verse twelve shows the other part of what was accomplished by this service. It "not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God." I do not need one which says "needy saints only" any more than I need one which says "sing only." When we respect the silence of God's word, doing what He reveals we should do, and stop there until we get further revelation from His word, "only" will not be a problem. We are only authorized to baptize believing penitent sinners who will confess Christ, because that is all revelation authorizes. For that same reason we are only authorized to help needy saints (brethren). Many passages show something else is included in our salvation, but no other passage says the money was for the world's needy. Rom. 15:25-31 does not say "saints only" just as Eph. 5:19 does not say "sing only." The church in Ephesus had the same "right and freedom" to add an instrument to Eph. 5:19 that Gratis has to add an alien sinner to Rom. 15:25-31. If not, why not ?
I did not say the collective church cannot withdraw fellowship, but asked Gratis if he was sure about it. My question was "funny enough to provoke laughter," but not funny enough to provoke an answer! When the collective church "withdraws fellowship" from an individual, what does it do, Gratis? If I eat with a brother who is a drunkard is the collective church "fellow-shipping" him then? This is your question, so, suppose you give us a real thorough explanation of what withdrawal of "church fellowship" involves. Could it be that "withdrawal of fellowship," as the term is generally used, is once again done on the individual basis? or do we stand at the door of the building and bar the erring brother from the services? or maybe there is no "fellowship" when we come together for worship ? How about it, Gratis? When you get through laughing, answer it.
Gratis knew the scripture mentioning one body would be broken down into individuals (Rom. 12:4-21), and that is just what Paul did. When Gratis tells me what any true church of God is doing to raise money it can be measured by revelation. I'm not so sure Gratis would measure it thus! He says if I can bake cookies and sell them to provide money for preaching (or building a building) the church can also! He switches from church action to family action by saying Gal. 6:10 means the church is to do good (that means financial help to the needy) to all men, and then saying the men can continue to do anything good. He has been silent about why this "do good to all men" that he uses as authority for church action is limited to benevolence. Why Gratis?
Gratis tried to sidestep my last syllogism. Peter and John were two of the apostles who had charge of the distribution of the common funds. Two apostles are not an individual. Do you suppose the twelve apostles got together every time any distribution was made to someone in need? Unless they did Gratis' point is futile. The second premise was not refuted (just denied). Acts 3:1-11 shows the church didn't help a deserving man. That cannot be refuted. Why?
Gal. 2:10 tells us Paul and Barnabas were told to remember the poor and Paul says he did. In this "remembering the poor" he only taught the church to care for needy saints. This passage pertains to our discussion, for it shows one more time that God's people could perform their duty toward the needy and yet not take money from the treasury to help needy people of the world. Gratis says "if the Bible said 'the Samaritans heard and were baptized, men and women and all'," he would find it difficult to forbid infant baptism. The passage says, "But when they believed (not heard) ... they were baptized, both men and women." Adding "and all" to that statement wouldn't make room for one baby, for faith is a prerequisite to baptism. The collective church is not authorized to support a preacher because of Gal. 6:6, but is by other passages, and thus both church and individual have authority. Gal. 6:10 authorizes individuals to do good to all men, but does not authorize collective church action. There is no "dodge" involved in that; just plain fact. Gal. 6:10 commands individuals to do good to all men as we have opportunity, and the meaning of the word thus translated is a seasonable time. See Thayer, p. 31. It is translated "due season" in verse 9. If, and when, I have nothing left to help another there is no opportunity, or seasonable time. I obey the command even if such destitution comes.
Much of our trouble today is simply this: we find ourselves engaged in some practice that has been continued for some time, but one which someone begins to question; or we make a decision to do or practice something which we have taken for granted is the right thing because it seems good to us. Then being engaged in the practice, or having decided beforehand to do it, we try to read into every verse something that will give some possibility of permission. Brethren, we must accept as our duty and privilege only that which is clearly revealed in God's word, and must never do what we have considered and decided is all right.
As we have already noted, more work of a benevolent nature will be done if we concentrate on doing what we can as individuals to relieve the needs of saints and sinners, and use the collected funds of the church in doing that which is unquestionably authorized.
Reader, let me remind you in conclusion of the real issue in this whole discussion. The issue is not whether needy people are to be helped, but whether the funds in the church treasury are to be used to support needy people of the world. It is not a question of whether we are merciful, compassionate, and kind to the unfortunate, but rather whether we are merciful, compassionate, and kind as individuals or whether this is an attribute of the collective church. It is not a question of my honesty and integrity, but what does the word of God say?
We remind you that the passages Gratis has used have not involved collective church action, but have been instructions to guide our individual actions; that when we make these passages our authority for church action it stretches the scriptures to the extent that even Gratis himself will not allow that which it would thus authorize.
May each of us realize more fully the responsibility the Lord places upon us as his children, and give us courage and strength to do it with all our power. May He likewise give us wisdom as we study His word to use it as a revelation of His will, and never as a prop to support some preconceived idea we may be practicing, or desiring to practice. May we ever have open minds and honest hearts and may we search the scriptures daily to determine if our teaching and practice are according to revelation. Brethren, let us ever prove all things by His word and hold fast that which is thereby seen to be good.
May the Lord help us to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and yet do all that he desires us to do, but may we also remember that the wisdom that is from above is first pure and then peaceable. We pray the Lord will bless this study in these several discussions to the good of all of us. Sincerely, Adelphos.
Adelphos, Editor, friends and readers of TRUTH magazine: One can usually tell the weakness or the strength of a position by the way its advocates meet the arguments of the opposition and answer the questions which are propounded. In this discussion which we are concluding, the weakness of my opponent's position is clearly manifested in the way he has ducked, dodged, evaded, and quibbled about every argument and question he has met. I can't remember an argument or a question he has met squarely except a few isolated ones where he THOUGHT he knew the answer but which he later found led him into a trap. In such cases it was interesting to watch him "back track" and try to get out of it!
Every reader knows that the "untenable positions" I mentioned in my last paper are not imaginary but are very real and damaging to my opponent's position, for when a thing can be reduced to an absurdity we all know that it is not so, since the truth is never absurd.
Adelphos says the love of the church (he formerly said the church cannot love) is the sum total of the love of the individuals in it. He says the same is true of patience and faith. Then we wonder if the same is true of benevolence? Is it, Adelphos? Is the benevolence of the church the sum total of the benevolence of the individuals in it? If this be true, then what happens to your supposed distinction between the benevolence of the individuals and the benevolence of the church? I think, readers, that we are close to finding out that there really is no difference after all and that Adelphos has whipped himself!
Is there any one among all the readers who did not understand my question about flowers for the dead out of the treasury? No, and Adelphos did not misunderstand it either. He understood it only too well and was afraid to meet it squarely. This is an example of evading a question which I mentioned earlier.
He says he has shown clearly the responsibility of the church to orphans. But we fail to find it as "clear" as he wants us to think he has made it. Do any of the readers remember Adelphos squarely dealing with the question about the church's responsibility toward orphans who are not members? Try to find it if you can! I asked for some more of his "legal loop-holes" remember?
We all knew, Adelphos, that the amount of money spent would not make a thing right or wrong, but, I emphasized the many thousands of dollars in order to show that you and those who stand with you "swallow a camel (thousands for buildings) and strain at a gnat" (comparative small amounts spent for needy non-members) ! You could never overcome this in a dozen exchanges!
The intelligence of my readers, I'm sure, will keep them from being misled by the faulty reasoning my opponent does about the matter of Heb. 10:25 and Eph. 4:11-16 being authority for the collective church to provide a place of self edification in the form of a building owned by the church at the expense of many thousands of dollars. Really, Adelphos! Is this the kind of "authority" you expected me to produce to prove my proposition?? Keep in mind, friends, I believe Heb. 10:25 authorizes a church building. But the argument was, that in view of my opponent's reasoning on other matters, he could not justify the practice to save his face in this debate. And, he has not done it either. He says I admitted that Heb. 10:25 referred to individuals. Well, of course. Did Adelphos think that I thought that it commanded an assembly of churches? But the real point was dodged completely by Adelphos! He can only find scriptures telling individuals to assemble. But he infers from this authority for the church to build an expensive building for the assembly, using money from the treasury with which to do so. I pointed out that in line with this kind of reasoning, even if there were no scriptures authorizing the church to help needy non-members, we could still do so out of the treasury if individuals were commanded to do so. Adelphos could not answer the argument!
And Adelphos seems to be confused about the word "inherent." It means, "intrinsic, innate, inseparable, essential." Now, Adelphos, if I can show how Heb. 10:25 could be obeyed without the church building a meeting house at the expense of many thousands of dollars, then this practice is not an "inseparable" part of the command, is it? And if I can show how the command to baptize could he obeyed without the church having a baptistry, then having one is not an "inseparable" part of the command, is it? And, if I could show that the command to sing could be obeyed without the church owning song hooks, then they would not be an "inseparable" part of the command, would they? All of this is over the use of the term; "freedom and right." I believe the church has the freedom and right to have buildings, baptistries, song books, etc. But Adelphos says they must be "Inseparable" parts of the respective commands or the church has no "right" to them. In this he is positively in error!
And, be it understood, we are not authorized to help needy non-members "just because we are authorized to help saints," but, because the Bible says for the church to "Increase and abound in love one toward another and toward all men." I Thess. 3 :12. Alephos said 2 Thess. 3:10 applied to the church, remember?
Naturally, we did not expect Adelphos to accept our explanation of this latter passage being an exception to the rule that the church is to love all and that this love includes the benevolences we are discussing. But we believe the readers call see that this is surely true. Of course, it is not a part of true love to uphold a lazy man in his laziness! But it is true love to share with those who are in need and cannot help it!
And, by-the-way, Adelphos must have known that the story of the Samaritan was not introduced to prove church action, but to show that love for neighbor and physical help are inseparable. He was afraid to meet this squarely, so he evaded it and quibbled about it.
Anyone knows that an honest reading of 2 Cor. 8:24 and its context would mean to the average unprejudiced mind that the church it Corinth was to prove their love by making a donation to the needy.
And, behold, Adelphos finally got around to admitting that I Tim. 5:16 does not "strictly forbid" the church to act in this case (which he definitely stated previously-see the l3th paragraph of his first affirmative) but he says the church would have to mark him and consider him worse than an infidel first. Well, this is alright with me, but, I wonder why he did not say the church would have to withdraw from him first? This, incidentally is an example of Adelphos' "back-tracking" which I mentioned earlier.
I hope that I did not hurt Adelphos' feelings by my use of the word "dishonest" for I did not intend to offend him nor any of the readers. But I did say that it is dishonest to do a thing and then say, "I did not do it" and I will stand by that statement. I still believe it. Adelphos used 2 Thess. 3:10- 11 very definitely to show church action and he cannot get out of it. See the 14th paragraph of his first affirmative. My argument was that since he thus used the scripture, his whole negative on my use of I Thess. 3:12 is shown to be worthless, for they are parallel so far as individual action versus collective action is concerned ! Therefore, all my affirmative arguments on I Thess. 3:12 stand.
And, my favorite "Illogician" blunders into another error: He says that the statement which forces me to the belief that needy non-members who will not work are to be helped by the church is (get it now) the affirmative proposition which I signed. Now friends, as in all other cases my opponent is either right or wrong. But let us suppose he is right. If my proposition which I affirmed forces me to the conclusion that needy, non-members who will not work must he helped, then his affirmative forces him to the conclusion that needy saints who will not work are to be helped! If not,
why not? Maybe his proposition needs some "alteration."
He thinks that by reading Acts 5:1-4 we can all distinguish between individual responsibility and church responsibility. But he is again missing the point. Yes it was Ananias' before and after it was sold, but the point is that he did give it to the church, (Ananias lied by keeping back some and pretending to give it all, but the others did not do this) and "as many as" were possessors of lands and houses sold them and gave the money to the apostles to be put into the treasury! What then, happened to their "individual responsibility" to care for needy non-members? Did they cry "Corban," "Corban?"
On the matter of 2 Cor. 9:12-13 a simple investigation of the normal meaning of the language of the passage will reveal that Paul is telling them that many people (not saints only but all who were benefitted) were caused to thank God for the pure religion of the members of the church at Corinth, just as when such is done today all who receive aid will be impressed with our "subjection unto the gospel of Christ and our liberal distribution" and some who are not members will be led to obey the gospel. While if we refuse them aid many will turn to human religions for even pagan religions are more considerate than the kind of religion advocated by my opponent in this debate. Matt. 5:46-47.
Now I would like to give the American Standard Version of 2 Cor. 9:12-13: "for the rendering of this service not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God. Under the test of this service, you will glorify God by your obedience in acknowledging the gospel of Christ, and by the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others". The readers should compare this with the King James and draw their own conclusions. Notice, however, these particular words: "not only," and "overflows." Note too, "for them" (the antecedent of which is "saints") "and for all others." I have no fears as to the honest readers impression of this passage and my uses of it.
It would be interesting to hear Adelphos and Jesus Christ discuss whether or not physical help is "inherent" in the "command to love," particularly on the occasion of Christ's teaching on the Samaritan. Luke 10:25-37.
It amuses me to see Adelphos continually trying to draw a parallel between this matter and instrumental music. Are individuals commanded to use instruments but the church forbidden to use them, Adelphos? Tell you what; you find a passage on musical instruments directed to the church like I Thess. 3:12 and I'll take it and whip the socks off you on the music question, Adelphos!
On the matter of what I said about Rom. 15:25-31 not saving "saints only" no more than Rom. 5:1 says "faith only," Alephos says "many passages show something else is included in our salvation, but no other passage says the money was for the world's needy." But every reader knows that Adelphos could not find any scripture which says the first-day-of the-week collection is to be used for a church building costing many thousands of dollars either, but he will allow it, WHY?
If Adelphos did not mean that the church could not withdraw fellowship then why did he say, "Are you sure it can, Gratis?" Was he just playing around? If so, may I say this is not the setting for it. Was he evading the force of the question? Yea, we believe the latter to be true! He knew he would have to use 2 Thess. 3:6 and HE KNEW what I would say if he did! So, in order to try to avoid an embarrassing situation he chose to try to be funny. He quibbled! When we read his 17th paragraph of this paper we see him back on the side that the church "as such" cannot do anything at all! He preaches it round and he preaches it flat! First he's on and then he's off!
In Rom. 12:4-21 Paul is speaking of the "one body" and the work of the members of the one body. But the term "body" is not used without significance. The body has a work to do and has characteristics of and by itself, so also does the church. The expression "one body" is always used of the church as a universal institution and not of the local congregation. Everything in Rom. 12:4-21 can be characteristic of the church of Christ, and will be if we do the Lord's will. Verse 20 says, "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." This may be done by the church in it's collective capacity. Does the church have enemies, Adelphos? Or do we all just have them as individuals? If she has enemies, how is the church to treat them ? Does Rom. 12:20 tell the church how to treat her enemies ?
On the matter of how the Church of God denomination raises money, Adelphos evaded this with such obvious intentions that it was clear to all that he was afraid to deal with the matter squarely! And I even asked him, What if we changed it to a church of Christ raising money in this manner, what would be wrong with it? And did any of the readers find his answer to this? No, he dodges, evades, quibbles.
I have never, never stated that Gal. 6:10 and the "do good" in the verse is confined to benevolence, but since we were discussing benevolence why bring in what else it included ? My opponent had a hard time keeping on the issues as it was. Adelphos will not admit that Galatians has anything in it for the church in spite of the fact that it is clearly directed to the church!
On his syllogism on Acts 3:1-11 I will say that it was almost too ridiculous to merit attention but I did not try to "side-step" it. I used ten lines in reply to it and this is ten times more than Adelphos has used in answering of my arguments! If my opponent is right in his reasoning then Peter lied in verse six when he said "Silver and gold have I none." On the other hand, if Peter told the truth then he did not have silver and gold at his disposal. Keep in mind that Peter did not say, "I have some, but I can't give it to you since you are not a saint." He says the church did not help a deserving man and wants to know why. Well, simply because when Peter and John got through with him he did not need any help from the church or anyone else! Besides, my opponent's whole "syllogism" is based on an assumption: could he really prove that this man had not already become a saint? It is absurd to try to make something definite out of this case as regards our proposition. Not only the quibbling and evasion show the weakness of his proposition but the kind of arguments he has used to try to uphold it also reveals much about it's weakness.
Adelphos says Paul "only taught the church to care for needy saints" but he still has not overcome the irrefutable fact that Paul addressed the following words to the churches of Galatia, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." And that Paul directed the following words to the church of the Thessalonians, "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men . . ." And these words will still be a part of the divine record even when we all shall stand to be judged according to our works.
Friends, when I was affirming that the church is authorized to care for the needy of the world, I used several passages of scripture but emphasized in particular the ones in Galatians and Thessalonians which are definitely directed to the church. It seemed to me then and still does seem to me now that if ever we could tell what a church is authorized to do it would be by going to an epistle written by an inspired man to a church. But Adelphos in his zeal to disprove my proposition, brushed aside all this and said that Gal. 6:10, 1 Thess. 3:12 and I Thess. 5:15 as well as other such scriptures all had reference to individual responsibility. Well, manifestly, he was either right or wrong about this. If he were right, then my strongest efforts to uphold my proposition were shown not to be enough, and, whether my proposition were right or wrong it would have been obvious that I was not able to uphold it! On the other hand, however, if it is proved that Adelphos is wrong and that these scriptures have reference to collective action also, then, it would seem obvious to all that Gratis' proposition was the correct one in the debate and Adelphos was in the wrong. Every reader knows that Adelphos himself has done a more effective job of proving that his negative arguments on these passages were in error than Gratis could ever do. What better demonstration could we ask for than for Adelphos to come along in his affirmative and use a scripture in Thessalonians and apply it to church action? This is a beautiful demonstration of two things: (1) Adelphos does not know himself how to decide whether a scripture refers to exclusive individual action or church action. This we tried our best to get him to elucidate upon but he proved he could not do it by failing to even try! (2) And it shows that Adelphos does not really believe that Paul would write to a church and include absolutely nothing for the church! It shows that down deep in his heart Adelphos knew all the time that the things written in Thessalonians really did apply to the church; I Thess. 3:12 as well as 2 Thess. 3:10.
And what better argument could we have asked for to refute Adelphos' contention that Gal. 6:10 could not apply to collective action and that it could not possibly have anything to do with the church treasury, than for he, himself, to come out with Heb. 10:25 as being authority for the collective group to use money out of the church treasury to build a meeting house! Friends, if these things cannot convince you which position is the true Bible position, then, I am afraid that you could not ever be convinced! Yes, I claim victory in this discussion. Not that I did any great thing, but, that Adelphos has whipped himself!
Much of the trouble the churches of Christ a re experiencing today is over preachers! I will not say that they are all dishonest men. But I will say without hesitation that they are all near-sighted! Friends, don't ever take a position just because some preacher you like takes it! And please, don't ever cause trouble in a congregation over some preacher. There is not a one of us worth splitting the smallest church for!
May the Lord cause Good to come from this discussion.-Gratis.
Truth Magazine II:11, pp. 4-12