A Textual Study of
Galatians 6:10 and 11 Corinthians 9 13
Ronald G. Mosby
Valley Station, Kentucky
In an attempt to justify the practice of congregations taking money from their treasuries to relieve the physical needs of those not members of the body of Christ, various brethren among us, who have been promulgating such a practice, have endeavored to show parallels between Galatians 6:10 and II Corinthians 9:13. The purpose of this treatise is to examine these two passages in their respective contexts and see if they are in any way parallel.
The main argument, in an effort to parallel the passages, is based upon the words "all" and "household of saints" in Galatians 6:10, and the words, "them" and "all" in II Corinthians 9:13. The reasoning usually is something like this: If the word "all" in Gal. 6:10 includes both saint and sinner, then, accordingly, the word "all" in II Cor. 9: 13 would include both saint and sinner. In order to keep these words constantly before us for the sake of comparison, let us arrange them on separate lines as follows:
" Let us work good toward all especially . . . the household of faith" (Gal. 6: 10).
" . . . and for the liberal contribution unto them (Jerusalem saints) and unto all" (II Cor. 9: 13).
The only noticeable difference in the word "all" as it appears in the two contexts is that in the Galatian letter it appears before the saints and in the Corinthian epistle it appears after. But the point of inquiry is does it have reference to the same class of people? Observe these words in their respective contexts. In Gal. 6:10 we know the good to be worked is to be worked toward all men, to both saint and sinner, and especially to the saints. There is nothing in the context that would suggest that the words "all" and "household of saints" are limited to all in some particular locale or to the household of saints in some particular area or city, but the good mentioned here is to be performed toward every creature on earth, anywhere he or she may be found. To make it even plainer, the word "all" here would cover as l many people as the word "all" covers in the great commission of Matthew 28:19 and as many as the word "every" covers in Mark 16: 15.
Now let us observe the words in the Corinthian context. Can the same conclusion be drawn from the same words used in this context as could from the above? Does the word "them" refer to saints all over the world? If so, even though it would be physically impossible, the argument would be granted and the word "all" would of necessity refer to sinners as well as to the saints. But does it? It would take but a moment's reflection for even the casual reader to realize that the word "them" refers to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Read the references that show this conclusively to be so (Romans 15:26; I Corinthians 16:3). Is there any brother among us who would deny that the "liberal contribution" of II Cor. 9:13 is the same as the contribution for the carnal needs spoken of in Rom. 15:26 and the "liberality" spoken of in I Cor. 16:3? Surely not.
Incidentally, the word "distribution" (ASV-contribution) is the same word translated "fellowship" in many passages in the New Testament. It denotes the common association of Christians with one another in the communion that they have with one another in the body of Christ. Thayer comments on the word "koinonia" as follows: "By a use unknown to professional authorities koinonia in the New Testament denotes 3. A benefaction jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship" (Lexicon, page 352). Hence, to assert that the word "all" in II Cor. 9:13 (wherever they were) included persons other than Christians who are partakers in common of the same mind as God and Christ, and of the blessing arising there from, is to assert something contrary to the teaching of God's word. Do Christians, in their joint participation with one another in the local church, with resources from the common treasury, make contributions to people in the world with whom there exists no spiritual fellowship? To practice such is to destroy the very meaning of the word "koinonia" in its New Testament use! Notice the contexts in which the word is used: Romans 15:26; II Cor. 8:4; 9:13. The same things in common which the Corinthians had with the poor among the saints in Jerusalem, they had also with the "all" in II Cor. 9:13 who likewise received a contribution, whenever it was or wherever it might have been. One thing for certain is we know WHO it had to be.
Now here is where the so-called parallel breaks down. We have shown that the word "them" in II Cor. 9: 13 refers only to the saints in Jerusalem who had benefited from a particular gift from Corinth, and not to saints all over the world. Hence, the word "all" refers to other saints having received Corinthian aid than they in Jerusalem. W. E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary, page 46, observes that "in the plural it (pantes) signifies the totality of the persons or things referred to." But we note that Paul had reference only to the Jerusalem saints in II Cor. 9:1, 12, and we notice further that the gift itself was to the poor among the saints (Rom. 15:26). Therefore, who could possibly be the totality of persons referred to but to all other saints? Thayer tells us that the word "all" when used without a substantive (as in the case of II Cor. 9: 13--RGM), and in the absence of the article, consists "of a certain definite totality or sum of things, the context showing what things are meant." (Page 493) cf. Mark 4:34; Luke 1:3; 2 Cor. 6:10. Were it not for the context in II Cor. 9 coupled with the numerous other passages already cited in this treatise which show conclusively that contributions from the treasuries of the various congregations were intended for the saints, then one might conclude that the Corinthian church engaged in general benevolence. But such one cannot conclude without presuming upon the silence of the scriptures. The indefinite pronoun "all" in the Corinthian context becomes a definite pronoun with a specified application to other saints.
Granted, the Bible is silent concerning any contribution being sent to any other than the Jerusalem saints from the Corinthian treasury; but it is also equally silent concerning any contribution being sent to any who were not saints! But, to put it even plainer, if the advocates of this position would take what God has revealed specifically, and learn to respect the silence of the scriptures, they would learn that only saints received contributions from the treasuries of the churches and brethren would be unified on this and all other points of difference.
Another observation one can make upon examination of the texts is that the two contexts have two entirely different matters under consideration. It is unmistakably clear that the context in II Cor. 9:13 is concerned with a specific contribution from the treasury of the Corinthian church which was taken for the purpose of relieving the carnal needs of the poor saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15: 27; I Cor. 16:1). But with what is the context of Gal. 6:10 concerned? What is the good that can be worked toward all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith? Is it charity? Is the context concerned with the carnal needs of the poor? (Read again Galatians 6:1-10). Is not the concern of this entire context of a spiritual rather than of a material nature? If benevolence is the thing enjoined in Gal. 6: 10, neither the churches nor individuals could work that which is good toward all men, even if they had the opportunity! The Lord rebuked Martha for being filled with care and troubled about so many material things which did not concern her soul, and, at the same time vindicated her sister, Mary, who had chosen to sit at His feet and hear his word (Lk. 10:38-42). The apostles said it was not reason that they should leave the word of God and serve tables (Acts 6:2). Hence, the only real good that can be performed toward all men is to teach and persuade them to hear the word of the Lord and to obey his gospel and be saved!
Brother Gus Nichols argues that if saints means "saints only" in I Cor. 16:1, then it would also mean saints only in verse 15 where it is said that Stephanas ministered to the saints. This doesn't follow, because we find other passages which show the individual's responsibility toward: feeding even his enemies (Rom. 12:20j; but where is the passage that shows where money from the treasury of a congregation for benevolence was ever sent to anyone, save only to the poor saints? Incidentally, if the elders can do any good work with the money in the treasury of the church that I as an individual can do with the money in my pocket (and that's being taught in many churches), then why would not Romans 12: 20 be a much better scripture than Gal. 6:10 to attempt to show that the church may function in general benevolence as well as to the poor saints? It even mentions the word "feed" in the text and thus removes all doubt as to what it has reference.
Even if one could read into the Galatian context some material good that could be performed toward all (i.e. toward both saint and sinner) by the churches in Galatia, surely, the Bible, which furnishes us unto EVERY GOOD WORK, would say at least one thing about it! But does it? Where is the passage? Even when a material service is rendered, whether by a congregation or by an individual, the emphasis is always placed upon the spiritual good which results from the gift and not the material gift itself (Cf. Acts 20:35; Rom. 15:28; II Cor. 9:10,12; Phil. 4:17; etc). When Jesus stopped feeding the multitudes material bread and started feeding them spiritual bread " . . . many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him" (John 6:26, 66). I wonder how many of my own brethren are hanging around the church of our Lord for some material consideration rather than for the pure love of the GOSPEL OF CHRIST? This includes preachers, too! You can be sure the judgment will declare it (I Tim. 5:24).
James tells us: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all (men) liberally and upbraideth not . . ." (1: 5). The next time you hear a brother wresting II Cor. 9:13 out of its context, ask him if the phrase "all men" in James 1: 5 refers to both saint and sinner. It would bell interesting, I'm sure, to hear the answer.
It has always been true that when brethren even those most experienced in the word of righteousness, go beyond what is written and are called in question for so doing, they will almost inevitably resort to illogical reasoning and conclusions in an effort to justify their practice. When a man teaches something for the truth all his life only to find out later that he's been teaching error, unless he is as honest and humble as he ought to be, his pride will be drawn out and will be the cause of his eventual destruction (Prov. 16:18), unless he loses it. We all can take a lesson from the eloquent Apollos, who, though mighty in the scriptures, could be taught the way of God more perfectly by a man and his wife; and, after correcting his error, kept right on preaching j mightily convincing the Jews that Jesus was Christ (Acts 18:24-28).
First of all, we should study to see what the scriptures teach, and then conform our practice to it, rather than to begin some practice only to find out later that our practice is not in harmony with the way of God. We should take our stand constantly upon the word of God and seek His favor rather than the praises of men, knowing assuredly that no one can lay anything to the charge of God's elect, for it is God that justifieth, and if God be for us, who in all the world can be against us?
Truth Magazine VIII: 2, pp. 18-20, 24 November 1963