Does Acts 19:9 Justify Church Support of Schools?

Gary L. Fiscus
Indianapolis, Indiana

I recently read a sermon outline by a preacher who used Acts 19:9 to try and justify church support of schools. This passage states: ". . . He departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus."

Paul had just spent three months teaching in Ephesus in the synagogue. He "spake boldly disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God." Luke then records that, ". . . divers were hardened, and believed not . . ." Paul then ". . . departed from them, and separated the disciples . . ." The scripture continues to say that he, then, "disputed daily in the school of one Tyrannus." This teaching continued for two years in the school. Many heard the gospel preached, and the scripture leads one to believe that much good was done.

Now that the setting is clear, let us analyze some points concerning this question: Does Acts 19:9justify church support of schools?

(1) Paul left the synagogue due to Jewish indifference and obstinacy. He then went to the school of Tyrannus. Question: Who was supporting the school financially? It certainly was not the church. The school of Tyrannus was already established and evidently self-supporting. Most likely science and related subjects were being taught. Just because Paul -taught the gospel does not mean the church supported the school. I might preach in the courthouse basement, but this would not authorize church support of the courthouse! I might speak at a school auditorium (just as Paul did), but this would not scripturally allow church support of the school!

Contrary to some men's belief, God has given the scriptural way to finance the preaching of the gospel. Philippians 4:15-16 says, "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity." This, my concerned reader, is an example of how preaching was supported financially. Is not the example still scriptural and binding today? Paul said in 2 Tim. 3:16 that, "All scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for . . . instruction in righteousness." I cannot believe that God would leave us with a "guide book" that fulfills only part of His work, and only a portion of its execution.

It should also be noted in this first point that the church at Philippi did support the man (Paul), but they did not support an institution of higher learning! There was no missionary society involved. The church at Philippi sent directly to Paul -- just as God had ordained that it be done.

To answer therefore the question: "Who supported the school financially?" I would have to say that most likely the school was already supporting itself. In any case there is no indication that the church of Christ supported it, or any other school.

(2) There is a difference between renting a place to worship and supporting an institution. The church could rent the room a Lions Club was meeting in, but they, as the church, could not support the Club. Likewise, the church could have rented the lecture room at the school of Tyrannus, but they would not be supporting the institution as such.

W. R. Walker in his Studies In Acts, p. 53 says, ". . . Whoever he (Tyrannus) was, he was broad-minded enough to provide auditorium accommodations for Paul for two years...

Adam Clarke states that the disciples held their meetings at a schoolroom, which no doubt they hired for this purpose (Adam Clarke's Commentary, p. 1010). Clarke continues to say that Paul most likely taught the gospel as Tyrannus taught languages or sciences.

The above statements confirm my analysis. The school was not supported for religious discussions, but for science and languages; and the church did not financially support it! They simply rented (even this is questionable since the place may have been provided free), from Tyrannus a place to teach the gospel.

(3) Remember, Paul had just left the Jewish Synagogue where he had also been preaching. Would those who support the theory that the, church can finance a school today also allow the church support of a Jewish Synagogue? Again, let me emphasize the difference between the rental of a material building, and the support of its secular practices. Because a building is used for a school, does not necessitate or even allow church support of it!

(4) Paul had also spent some time in private dwellings in Corinth. Would this make it scriptural to support a household, (one not in need of benevolent assistance), from the church treasury?

Let us all remember that the word of God must be taught everywhere. But, let us also remember, all things must be done with scriptural authority (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Matt. 28:18-20).

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 7, pp. 10-11
December 16, 1971