By Wayne Greeson
Roy Deaver, in a recent article in Firm Foundation, attempts to prove that the church as a collective body may provide benevolent assistance to those who are not Christians using Galatians 6:10 and 2 Corinthians 9:13. As indicated in the previous article, Deaver attempts to support his doctrine by creating a “rule” under which he can “find” authority for the church to provide benevolence to non-Christians by inserting the church, via his rule, into Galatians 6:10.
“Deaver’s rule” is as follows: “All passages which authorize the performance of an act – based upon the peculiar grounds of one’s being a Christian – are passages which apply with equal force both to the church and to the individual Christian. . . . If Galatians 6:10 authorizes individual Christians to render physical assistance (benevolence) to a deserving, needy, non-Christian, then Galatians 6:10 authorizes the church to render physical assistance (benevolence) to a deserving, needy, non-Christian.”
Confusing Individual Action and Church Action
“Deaver’s rule” of interpreting New Testament instructions fails in the final court of appeal, God’s Word. The principle he boldly asserts is void of scriptural support or proof. His argument runs in a circle. He tries to prove the validity of his rule by analogy, arguing that “we” use many passages to individuals as authority for the church to act, then he uses his rule to “prove” that instructions to individuals are also instructions to the church!
In Deaver’s attempts to prove his rule by analogy with the use of passages to individuals, he constantly confuses the difference between individual responsibilities and congregational responsibilities, when it fits his argument. His argument fails to admit and recognize that some responsibilities belong exclusively to individual Christians, some responsibilities belong to both individual Christians and the church.
Deaver writes, “If each individual sings the church sings. . . . Is there any way for a congregation to accomplish any authorized work excepting as this work is accomplished in and by and through its individual members?” and “. . when each individual of a local church fulfills his responsibility, the church likewise fulfills its responsibility.” Deaver uses several examples to illustrate his point but he focuses and expounds on Ephesians 5:19. “As, Ephesians 5:19 authorizes the church to sing, it authorizes the individual Christians to sing. The terminology – ‘speaking one to another’ – is just about as individual as you can get! “
Deaver’s argument is as subtle and deceptive as it is false. It is not true that the local church is acting every time each individual acts. Under Deaver’s argument, if every member of a congregation is involved in a secular business, then the church is involved in secular business. If every member is involved in political lobbying, then the church is politically lobbying. Just because every member sings, it does not follow that the church is singing. If each member sat in his or her respective home and sang, the church as a collective group is not singing.
Deaver is right that the only way a congregation can accomplish any authorized work is through the agency of its members, but this proves nothing with respect to his argument. A congregation can only use individual members as its agents for work authorized by God. The use of individual members as agents to carry out authorized congregational work does not authorize a congregation to act where God has only authorized individuals to act. If so then congregations can run businesses and lobby in the political arena.
Contrary to Deaver, Ephesians 5:19 standing alone does not provide authority for congregational singing. Clearly, Ephesians 5:19 is an instruction to individual Christians, not to the church. While Ephesians 5:19 does not provide authority for congregational singing, other New Testament passages clearly do provide authority for such (i.e. 1 Cor. 14:15, v. 23, “when the whole church comes together in one place”).
Again, Deaver conveniently confuses the responsibilities of individuals and the church in a vain attempt to support his rule that passages to individual Christians also apply to the church. The command to sing is given to individuals in certain New Testament passages such as Ephesians 5:19 and congregational singing, thus it does not support “Deaver’s rule.”
Further, Deaver fails to consistently apply his rule that authority for individuals to sing is authority for the church to sing. Under his “Question/Answer” column of the November 26, 1985 issue of Firm Foundation, Deaver responded to the queston, “Is it wrong for a congregation to have a singing group that travels about?” Within two paragraphs Deaver draws a line and distinguishes between Christians, as individuals singing and traveling, and the “church” singing and traveling “by and through its individual members.” Deaver says “there is nothing wrong when people who love to sing get together to sing. And, there is nothing wrong with traveling. James says: ‘Is any cheerful? let him sing praises’ (Jas. 5:13).”
By Deaver’s own rule since James 5:13 “authorizes the performance of an act – based upon the peculiar grounds of one’s being a Christian -” then James 5:13 applys “with equal force both to the church and to the individual Christians. ” Thus, one would expect Deaver to be consistent with the application of his rule and say that James 5:13 authorizes a congregation to have a singing group that travels about. Unfortunately, Deaver applys his rule only where it suits his argument, in debates against “antis.” Deaver flatly says that a singing group representing a congregation has “no scriptural right to exist.”
Could it be that Deaver does recognize the distinction between authority to act for individuals and authority for the church acting as a collective? Deaver writes, “We need to stress that so far as concerns scriptural worship, God demands congregational singing” (emphasis added). And how does Deaver scripturally proves this distinction between individuals singing and the congregation singing? Certainly not by Ephesians 5:19 which “is just about as individual as you can get” (Deaver, July 9, 1985). Deaver proves that the New Testament authorizes only congregational singing in worship by citing Hebrews 2:11-12, “In the midst of the congregation will I sing thy praises” (Deaver, November 26, 1985). Therefore, according to Deaver, individual Christians have authority to sing under the individual instruction of James 5:13 and a church as a collective has authority to sing in assembly under Hebrews 2:11-12.
Just as James 5:13 provides authority for individual Christians to sing, but does not provides authority for the church to sing in assembly, likewise, Ephesians 5:19 provides authority to individual Christians to sing and does not provide authority for the church to sing in assembly. That authority is found elsewhere in the New Testament. Thus, Deaver’s main analogy by Ephesians 5:19, to prove his rule that New Testament passages to individual Christians can be applied to the church acting as a collective, fails.
Deaver’s Rule Violates Bible Principles
Deaver’s rule is clearly a contrived rule, a man-made doctrine used in a vain attempt to create a scriptural proof-text from Galatians 6: 10 in order to support a practice not found in the New Testament. The rule violates one of the most basic principles of Bible hermeneutics, determine to whom the author is speaking. When we read the Bible command, “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. . . ” we understand that the command was given to Noah and not to you and me. When we read the Bible command, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” again we understand by the basic Bible principle of interpretation that God is not speaking to Christians today.
Deaver’s rule proposes to ignore to whom the author is speaking when we read commands in the New Testament which are “based upon the peculiar grounds of one’s being a Christian.” Whether the author is commanding the church or individual Christians is an unimportant distinction under Deaver’s rule. Paul instructed Christians, upon the peculiar grounds of their being Christians, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Eph. 4:28). According to “Deaver’s rule” this command applies with equal force both to the church and to the individual, therefore, congregations must obey this command to individual Christians and go into business to raise money for those in need. To see the absurdity of ignoring the distinction of whether the author is speaking to individual Christians or the church, simply substitute the church in the following passages which concern individual Christians: John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 7:2-6; 1 Thessalonian 4:3; 4:11.
Deaver’s rule violates the silence of God. God’s silence in the New Testament concerning the use of instruments of music in the worship forbids their use. Likewise, God’s silence in the New Testament concerning church benevolence to non-Christians forbids such action. Deaver violates God’s silence in Galatians 6:10 by attempting to insert church benevolence, by way of his rule, in a passage that is clearly an instruction to individual Christians.
Finally, Deaver’s rule presumes to encroach upon the sanctity of the verbal inspiration of God’s Word! “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. . . ” and has been delivered to us “. . not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches. . .” (2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Cor. 2:13). For this reason we are admonished, “Every word of God is pure. . . . Do not add to His words, lest He reprove you and you be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5-6). Deaver’s rule proposes to add to God’s Word by adding the church in every passage in the New Testament directed to individual Christians and “based upon the peculiar grounds of one’s being a Christian.”
Since Deaver admits that Galatians 6:10 is a command to individual Christians, the only way he can get the church in the passage is to add it via his rule and thus add to God’s Word. If the apostle Paul based an argument and his confidence upon the singular noun “seed” in God’s Word instead of “seeds” in Galatians 3:16, then who will presume to add “the church” in Galatians 6:10 where individual Christians are instructed? If Jesus relied upon the very words of Scripture even to the tense of a verb (Mt. 22:23-33), then why does Deaver attempt to add collective singular noun (“church”) in Galatians 6:10 which contains only distributive plural pronouns (“we” and “us”). (A distributive plural pronoun refers “to each individual or entity of a group rather than collectively” and a collective singular noun “denotes a collection of persons or things regarded as a unit” [American Heritage Dictionary, pp. 384, 261].) As one old preacher summarized the subject of the inspiration of God’s Word, “God said what he meant and meant what He said.”
Guardian of Truth XXX: 6, pp. 174-175March 20, 1986
Typographical errors creep into Guardian of Truth in spite of the fact that I personally read every article four times before it is printed. These are generally allowed to pass without comment unless serious misunderstanding is caused thereby. Recently brother Wayne Greeson reviewed an article from brother Roy C. Deaver. On p. 14 of the 20 March issue, I printed
The command to sing is given to individuals in certain New Testament passages such as Ephesians 5:19 and congregational singing, thus it does not support “Deaver’s rule.”
A line was omitted. The article should have read as follows:
The command to sing is given to individuals in certain N.T. passages such as Ephesians 5:19 and congregational singing is authorized by N.T. passages such as 1 Corinthians 14:15. Ephesians 5:19 is not authority for congregational singing, thus it does not support “Deaver’s rule.”
I apologize to brother Greeson for this error.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 9, p. 280
May 1, 1986