By Ernest Udom
(Brother Ernest Udom sent this article to me, requesting that I help him publish it. Brother Udom attended classes taught by brother Billy Moore, when brother Moore visited Nigeria. Brother Udom has sent me a letter of recommendation from brother E. J. Ebong. Brother Udom’s article speaks well for his soundness in the faith. He has requested support for his work of preaching the Gospel. Since I have no personal, first-hand knowledge of the work in Nigeria, I recommend that any churches interested in assisting brother Udom contact Billy W. Moore in Butler, Missouri or brother Udom personally.-Keith Sharp.)
In the world we live in we see that things occur in pairs, or two by two, i.e., truth and error, faithful and unfaithful, right and wrong. No one can be both right and wrong at the same time in his belief. Whether one preaches truth or error, usually some people will follow that teaching. If some even preach that Satan is a savior, there will be those who will follow. This means that all over the world people are now believing either truth or error.
Going to the authority of the New Testament scriptures, we read that, when the church was in her infancy, it was the apostles who had the whole truth (Jn. 16:13). They taught that in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail (Col. 5:6) and that the Law of the Old Testament, given to the Israelites by Moses, had been taken out of the way and nailed to His cross (Col. 2:14). But what did the false teachers of that time say? In Acts 15:1, we read that some came from Jerusalem, saying they were sent by the apostles themselves, to tell the brethren in Antioch that Gentiles could not be saved unless they also obeyed the Law of Moses and were circumcised. Were they right? Of course not. They lied to teach their own belief. The apostles were right because they spoke for Christ and had the whole truth of God. The false teachers were wrong because they still wanted to be saved by the old Law, which was out of date since the death of Christ.
In Thyatira a woman calling herself a prophetess taught Christians to eat things sacrificed to idols and to practice immoral acts (Rev. 2:10). These teachings were against the Law of Christ, but people still practiced them. Did that make them right? Of course not. They were unfaithful to Christ. Other places in the New Testament where Christians were warned about error are: (1) Peter warned about false teachers in the district of Asia Minor who would arise from their midst (2 Pet. 2:1-3). (2) Paul, in his farewell message to the elders of the Ephesian congregation, warned them that men would arise from among their own selves, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:28-30). (3) Paul warned the Corinthians about false prophets disguising themselves as apostles of Christ (2 Cor. 11:13). (4) Christ warned that many false prophets would arise and lead many astray (Matt. 24:11). (5) Paul warned Timothy about those who would hold the form of religion but deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5, 8). People like this can be found in the church today, claiming to be members of Christ’s true church but denying the saving power of the gospel of Christ. Instead they seek their own method of saving souls. (6) The Holy Spirit warned clearly that some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1).
Today in the church there are many faithful preachers teaching the whole word of God. However, there are also many false brethren who support false preachers teaching false doctrines. False doctrines are those which cannot be found in the New Testament Law of Christ. Some of the false teachings of today, not found in the New Testament, are: (1) That a local congregation can take money out of her treasury to help build schools, colleges and universities to teach secular education. Did God intend for the church to teach secular education? (2) That the Lord’s money can be used to build hospitals to care for the sick and to possibly convert them. Is this the method of caring for the sick God revealed to us or how to convert souls? (3) That the church can assume the responsibility of caring for orphans outside its own congregation, ask for help to feed them from the whole brotherhood and set up an organization in addition to the church, complete with a board of directors, staff and labor. Some orphanages are still under an eldership, but in both cases one congregation sets itself up to care for orphans that are not its responsibility then pleads for others to allow them to discharge a work that is not their responsibility. (4) The church can give college scholarships to help young men go away to learn to preach. Many scholarships have been given to Nigerians to go to America to learn to preach. How many have come back to preach to: Nigerians? Are they not taking care of their own business now, instead of God’s business? Education is fine, and anyone who can ought to get as much as possible. However, nowhere in the New Testament can it be found where a church paid for secular education. Christ’s church does not need seminary preacher factories, but Bible education should be taught in the home and in the church. (5) Church owned farms are a good way to raise crops, sell the produce and get money to preach. But there is no scripture to back up this teaching. (6) Other false teachings include donating money to help in community development, using the Lord’s money to care for all needy people whether they are Christians or not, sending support to preachers through certain men called middle-men or representatives and building Bible colleges with the Lord’s money.
False teachers and false brethren try to justify their sinful practices by saying, “Whatever the individual Christian can do, the church can do.” This sounds good from the standpoint of human wisdom, but where is the scripture that authorizes this? In fact, as we will see later, there are some things the church cannot do that individuals are commanded to do.
But why do some Christians follow this false doctrine? Because it sounds right by human standards. It is wise to men. But the wisdom of men is not as good as the wisdom of God and will be destroyed (Isa. 29:14; 1 Cor. 1:19; 3:19). Those who teach and those who follow, are they abiding in the truth of God? Have they not drifted from the truth? When we go to the New Testament, we can easily read that the Lord had a purpose for the money that was to be collected. Not only are we told how to collect money into the church treasury, but also how to spend it. Contributions from individual Christians were to be laid by in store, or put into a common treasury, on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1-2). It had to be a willing contribution (2 Cor. 8:12) and one purposed, or deliberately set aside after deciding God’s share (2 Cor. 9:7). All money was to come from individuals. No where does any scripture say anything about money from church farms, schools, hospitals or jails. Why not? Because there were none. All of them have been brought into the church by false teachers and supported by false brethren.
What does the Bible say the money was used for, i.e., money collected on the first day of the week? (1) Needy saints in Jerusalem were helped by saints in Corinth, Macedonia and Achaia (2 Cor. 8:1). (2) The church in Rome also sent aid to the needy saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26). (3) Fourteen years earlier a famine was over all Judea, and the church in Antioch sent relief to needy saints in Judea (Acts 11:27-30). It was sent to each congregation in Judea, because that was where the need was. (4) Much earlier, when the church had just been established in Jerusalem, there was a need, but there were no Christians any where else to help. Instead, Christians who had lands and houses sold them and laid the money at the apostles’ feet, so that the needy saints in the church could be fed. The only record of any being helped says they were needy saints, or Christian. No one else was fed (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37).
This may sound cruel and sinful, not to feed anyone who is hungry, but we must obey whatever God says. God, in His wisdom, says that only needy saints are to be helped by money from churches. An individual can and must do all that he is able to do, especially for those who are of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). But what an individual Christian can do and what a church can do may be different, according to the New Testament.
In the scriptures given above on how the churches can send help to needy saints, take note that they did not send the money through a missionary society or to a sponsoring church. Rather, it was sent to elders of the church in need. They (the elders) distributed the money to the saints. Some have tried to say that the money was sent to the elders in Jerusalem, and then they sent it to other churches. But the need of 1 Cor. 16:1-2 and 2 Cor. 8:1 was 14 years later than the famine in all Judea recorded in Acts 11:27-30. The Jerusalem elders did not run a sponsoring church, but they received help directly from those who sent it and received it for those in Jerusalem who needed it, the needy saints of Jerusalem. Any honest soul who can read or understand the Bible should be able to see that the church was not a welfare society for the world but took care of its own and did its main job of preaching the gospel (Lk. 8:11; 1 Thess. 1:8).
Another use of the Lord’s money, from the treasury of the church, was to support the preaching of the gospel. (1) Churches sent money directly to Paul while he was preaching in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:8). (2) The church at Philippi had fellowship in the gospel which Paul preached, i.e., they supported Paul directly by sending to his needs (Phil. 1:3-,5; 2:25-30; 4:14-20). (3) The Lord commanded that those who preach the gospel should also make their living from the gospel, or be supported by those hearing the gospel (1 Cor. 9:14). (4) Even elders who rule well. should be counted worthy of double honor, i.e., those elders who preach or teach full-time should also be paid or supported by the church (1 Tim. 5:17-18), as well as receive respect as leaders.
In these scriptures we see that the money was always sent directly from the church sending the money to the one the church was supporting. In one case it was Epaphroditus who carried the help from the Philippians to Paul. In no case was the money sent first to a sponsoring church or middle-man to pass on. Did Epaphroditus keep back part of the help for himself? He worked to the point of death for Paul. How many middle-men do that for any preacher today? Today sponsoring churches and middle-men have robbed preachers by keeping back some given by churches. Their evil has corrupted the church of Christ and brought sin to those who follow these evil practices. How much longer are you going to put up with these tricks and cheating going on in the name of religion? It is time to get back to God’s truth and to do His will.
Again, the money given into the treasury by individual Christians was used to teach the gospel in their own area. (1) Paul and Barnabas taught in the Antioch church (Acts 11:25-26). (2) There were other teachers in the church at Antioch who also taught the truth (Acts 13:1). (3) The church is the ground (support) and pillar (upholder) of the truth (1 Tim. 3:14-15). (4) Timothy was a preacher who was instructed to teach faithful men what he had heard from Paul, that they could teach others (2 Tim. 2:2). (5) Paul taught disciples in the school of Tyrannus for two years (Acts 19:9-10). This was not a Bible college built by Paul, as some would have you believe, but only a place used by Paul to teach the gospel for awhile. (6) It was a church in which all kinds of Christians were taught, such as old men, aged women, young men and women (Tit. 2:2-6).
In none of these scriptures, nor in any others in the New Testament, can anyone find authority for the church to build Bible colleges with presidents, principals, staff and labor. It means then that, since they are not in the Bible, they never were in God’s plan and are sinful. But false teachers say that Bible authority is not needed, and they bring fighting among brethren, corrupt the church, grow rich at the expense of churches and fight with others for the political power they desire. Brethren, since these things cannot be found in the Bible, let us do away with unscriptural practices. Do you truly believe that a Christian could occupy one of these offices that have brought hatred, jealousy, dishonesty and other malpractice?
The work of the church is to preach the gospel, edify saints and care for needy saints. And that is all! There is no scripture that allows a church to educate anyone. The work of education is for parents and schools that are not supported by churches. If the church took care of all the needy in the world and educated all who wanted it, there would not be enough money or time to preach the gospel, which is the primary job of the church. Let God’s ways be our ways.
Briefly, I have stated the purpose of the Lord’s money in the church as God has commanded. God’s purpose leaves no room for hospitals, farms, colleges, hotels, recreation, printing companies or anything else paid for with money from the Lord’s treasury. The Lord’s money is not to be wasted on things of the world, but is to be used according to God’s purpose. If we do otherwise, we will answer for our sins at judgment.
Do not be like Judas, as some brethren are, as thieves who use the Lord’s money for their own desires and power. They forbid using God’s money as He has directed. To prove they are thieves, more money is spent for human organizations than for preaching the gospel. Nigerian preachers who are supported by churches who support these organizations receive twenty-five to forty dollars a month. Why do they not receive more? One reason is: the money they spend on human organizations which the Lord did not establish. Let us remember the words of David in Psalms 125:5, that those who turn aside upon their crooked ways, the Lord will lead away with evil doers. Those who support human organizations, have they not turned away upon their crooked ways? I have not been saying that individuals cannot engage in gainful work. Christians can even group themselves together and establish an enterprise which is honest and which will bring them gain. But there is no way a church can support a human organization and be pleasing to God.
Brethren desire to be like the denominations around them and leave God, just as the Israelites left God to have their own king. They too wanted to be like others around them. But the Israelites disobeyed God (1 Sam. 8:4, 19-20) in wanting a king, and they finally began to worship idols and went into captivity for seventy years (Jer. 25:12). We should take a warning from this not to disobey God by preaching a social gospel or by living by man’s philosophy (Col. 2:8). But rather we must preach the true ,gospel of Christ to keep ourselves and the church without spot, wrinkle or blemish (Eph. 5:26-27).
The individual Christian can do some things the church cannot do, such as: (1) bless their enemies (Rom. 12:14-21); (2) rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep; (3) not repay evil with evil, but feed their enemies (Rom. 12:14-21); (4) use their hands to work (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:10; 1 Thess. 4:11); (5) be subject to the government of their country to pay taxes and obey authority (Rom. 13:1-8; 1 Pet. 2:13); (6) provide for their families (1 Tim. 5:8, 16); (7) go to a brother one has wronged, or go with another to correct a brother, (8) train children (Eph. 6:4); and (9) visit orphans (James 1:27) and widows. Visit means to go and see and help, not to send someone else. We hear a lot about visiting orphans by building orphanages, but nothing about building a home for widows. Are widows less deserving of our love than orphans?
In 1 Tim. 5:16, God commands that, if any Christian has a widow, he is to take care of her. The church is not to take care of her. But if there are true widows who are qualified (1 Tim. 5:9-10) and do not have relatives, then the church is to take care of them. It then becomes the church’s responsibility to take care of them, not because we think it is a good idea, but rather because it is God’s will. Here is one place where the church cannot do something that an individual can do. That is, the church cannot help a widow who has relatives, but an individual Christian can. This should forever put the lie to those who say that, whatever an individual can do, the church can do.
Are you satisfied with God’s word as revealed in the New Testament, or do you think you can teach God? Job asked, “Shall any teach God knowledge?” (Job 21:22). Are you willing to become free from error? Then come back to God’s word, the word of truth that will set you free (Jn. 8:32). Are you on the side of right or wrong, truth or error, God’s side or Satan’s? If you have supported error, please compare what you practice with God’s word, and come ye out from among them. Examine yourself.
Truth Magazine XXI: 16, pp. 249-252
April 21, 1977