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. The last two articles reviewed his arguments on Galatians 6:10. The second passage Deaver used to support his position that the church may provide financial assistance to those who are not Christians is 2 Corinthians 9:13.
“All” in 2 Corinthians 9:13
Deaver writes, “Paul refers to the great contribution and makes specific reference to ‘. . . the liberality of your contribution unto them and unto all. . . .’ We stress the ‘unto all.’ The contribution under consideration went to saints, but it was not restricted to saints. ‘Unto all’ is the translation of the Greek eis pantas, a preposition used with a form of the Greek word pas. . . . we have listed five parallel constructions (he lists only four including 2 Cor. 9:13, wg) involving a Greek preposition used with the word pantas (all): (1) Acts 5:11, epi pantas; (2) Galatians 6: 10, pros pantas; (3) 1 Thessalonians 3:12, eis pantas. Our opponents have always admitted. . . that the first four (sic) instances clearly and obviously refer to persons who are not Christians. ” Therefore Deaver concludes that “unto all” in 2 Corinthians 9:13 must refer to those who are not Christians.
Deaver’s argument contains a large unmentioned assumption which he carefully avoids. Deaver’s argument assumes that the Greek pantas meaning “all” always refers to those who are not Christians. Thayer indicates that pantay is a general pronoun which refers to “all of a like kind” not all humanity, and the context determines the kind (Thayer, pp. 492-493). Below are listed four passages using the Greek pronoun pantas in which the “all of a like kind” are saints! (1) Acts 2:44, “And all that believed were together. . . “; (2) Ephesians 4:13, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith. . . “; (3) Galatians 2:14, “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before all. . . “; (4) 1 Timothy 5:20, “Them that sin rebuke before all. . . “
Putting “All” In Context
We must first understand the context of Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 9:13, “The liberality of your contribution unto them and unto all,” to understand of whom Paul is speaking. Repeatedly, Paul explicitly says the contribution he was preparing to carry to Jerusalem was for “saints.” The money Paul took to Jerusalem was. . . . . . raised for “saints” (1 Cor. 16:1-3)
. . . to be contributed to “saints” (Rom. 15:26)
. . . to minister unto “saints” (Rom. 15:25)
. . . to be accepted by “saints” (Rom. 15:31)
. . . a contribution for fellowship with saints (Rom. 15:27)
Paul was one of the chosen messengers of the contributing churches entrusted to carry their contributions to Jerusalem “for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem” (2 Cor. 8:18-24; Rom. 15:26). Yet Deaver would have us believe that Paul lied and breached the trust of the churches who sent him by delivering the contribution of the churches not only to saints, but also to those who were not saints! Who shall we believe, Roy Deaver or the Apostle Paul?
When Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, he had already discharged his responsibility to the churches by delivering their contribution to Jerusalem. In writing to the church at Corinth, Paul explained to whom he had delivered their contribution. Again, repeatedly Paul explicitly says the contribution he delivered to Jerusalem was given to “saints. ” The contribution Paul delivered to Jerusalem. . .
. . . ministered unto “saints” (2 Cor. 8:4)
. . . provided fellowship with “saints” (2 Cor. 8:4)
. . . supplied equality between “saints” (2 Cor. 8:13-15)
. . . ministered unto “saints” (2 Cor. 9:1)
. . . supplied the needs of “saints” (2 Cor. 9:12)
. . . caused “saints” to glorify God (2 Cor. 9:13)
. . . caused “saints” to pray and long for givers (2 Cor. 9:14).
Paul confirms throughout 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 that he had delivered the contribution to the needy saints in Jerusalem. What presumption for Deaver to come along and assert Paul delivered the contribution to those who were not saints! Deaver tries to squeeze non-Christians into the Greek pronoun pantas, “all, ” in 2 Corinthians 9:13, not by a sound examination of the context but in order to justify his practice and false doctrine.
The Fellowship Of The Contribution
Paul wrote of the Corinthians’ “liberal distribution unto them and all.” The meaning of the word “distribution” excludes the possibility that “all” refers to non-Christians. Thayer defines koinonia, translated “distribution” in the King James Version, as a “benefaction jointly contributed, a collection, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship. . . for the benefit of one, 2 Cor. 9:13. . . ” (Thayer, p. 352). Vine bluntly says, “The verb does not mean to distribute; hence R.V. ‘communicating.’ Similarly koinonia, fellowship, communion, is translated ‘distribution’ in 2 Cor. 9:13. . . ” (Vine, pp. 327-328).
In 2 Corinthians 9:13 Paul was commending the Corinthians for the demonstration of their contribution of fellowship “unto them and all.” One writer explains, “The collections that Paul brought to Jerusalem were a tangible expression of fellowship in the churches. The collection has a religious overtone in 2 Cor. 9:13: ‘by the generosity of the fellowship (koinonias, RSV ‘contribution’) for them and for all other.’ For it arises out of the one gospel that unites Jew and Gentile, and belongs to the same spiritual and material giving and taking of which Paul speaks in Rom. 15:26” (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 1, p. 642). The benevolence of the New Testament church is always exalted beyond the mere gift of money and explained as a matter of fellowship between Christians (Rom. 15:27; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:13).
If Deaver asserts that “all” refers to non-Christians, will he accept the consequences of his position? If “all” in 2 Corinthians 9:13 refers to those who are not Christians, then the church can and must have fellowship with those who are without! Yet the Apostle John wrote, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. . . ” (1 Jn. 1:7). The New Testament is clear, just as the Christian’s fellowship in doctrine, worship and work involves a spiritual sharing only with other Christians, likewise, the benevolence of the church is also matter of fellowship shared only with other Christians in need.
“All” Refers To All Saints Outside Jerusalem
To whom is Paul referring in 2 Corinthians 9:13? Lenski writes, “The saints are seen glorifying God ‘also for the single-mindedness of (your) fellowship with them and with all,’ i.e., for your spiritual fellowship and communion. It is this fellowship of the Corinthians which extends not only to these saints, who are being helped at present but to all God’s saints, whether they are helped or not” (Lenski, The Interpretation of 1 & 2 Corinthians, pp. 1185-86). This Greek scholar and commentator indicates that Paul refers to two groups in 2 Corinthians 9:13, first, to “them,” the needy Jerusalem saints and second, to “all,” all of God’s saints everywhere. His comment indicates that the “all” must be saints because the nature of the Corinthians’ contribution was a matter of fellowship!
Deaver might rightly come along and say, “So you found a scholar who says “all” in 2 Corinthians 9:13 refers to all of God’s saints. What does that prove?” One commentator standing alone might not prove much, but I challenge him to find just one conservative commentator (who is not in his camp and trying to prove his doctrine), who says that 46all” in the verse refers to those who are not Christians?
While Deaver is searching, I will add the following commentators to Lenski, all of whom generally agree with Lenski that “all” in 2 Corinthians 9:13 refers to all saints beyond the needy saints at Jerusalem: David Lipscomb, A Commentary On The N. T. Epistles, Vol. 3, p. 125; Moses Lard, Lard’s Quarterly, Oct. 1864, p. 66; Filson, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 10, p. 379; Plummer, A Critical & Exegetical Commentary On The Second Epistle of St. Paul To The Corinthians, p. 267; The Abingdon Bible Commentary, p. 1202; Bengel, Bengel’s N. T. Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 317; F.W. Farrar, The Pulpit Commentary, 2 Corinthians, p. 220; Tasker, Tyndale N. T. Commentaries, The Second Epistle Of Paul To The Corinthians, p. 129; Bernard, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. 3, p. 94; Meyer, Commentary on 2 Corinthians, pp. 610-611; Lang, Commentary On 2 Corinthians.
I have not been able to find one commentator, who comments on “all” in 2 Corinthians 9:13, who says that “all” refers to those who are not saints. Now, I recognize that human scholars and commentators are not divinely inspired and are fallible. But remember, these commentators have no vested interest, no false doctrine to prove or false practice to support in commenting on this passage.
The virtual unanimity of scholars on 2 Corinthians 9:13 speaks volumes of Deaver and his camp twisting the Scriptures to their destruction in their attempt to justify a practice they cannot find authority for in the New Testament. Neither Galatians 6:10 nor 2 Corinthians 9:13 provides authority for the church to provide benevolence to those who are not Christians. We pray that Deaver and others will stop misusing these passages and stop their unscriptural practice of providing benevolence to those who are not saints.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 7, pp. 201-202
April 3, 1986