Testing Time in Nigeria (IV)
This is the fourth and final article in response to charts and lessons that were authored by Brother Jim Massey and were widely distributed in Nigeria. They were especially used to, try to defend sponsoring church arrangements, church support of human institutions and the use of "missionary messengers," who are men in Nigeria who have power to decide who gets support and even how much he gets.
Brother Massey argues that the churches should support Orphan Homes because "What all Christians must do, the church must do, because the church is all Christians." Then he shows that Christians must help widows and orphans (Jas. 1:27), which, Of course, is admitted by all. Let us divide our consideration of this matter as follows for simplicity:
1. Christians are indeed obligated to help all needy people of the world as we have opportunity (Jas. 1:27; Gal. 6:10; Titus 3:1). This is taught and practiced by all faithful brethren everywhere.
2. And what all Christians do, the church indeed does distributively. This is the concurrent action of Christians. It is the action of a group, considering each participant individually. To illustrate: If all the members pass a beggar on the street and each gives him a coin, it may accurately be said that the church gave to him. This was" distributive action-the concurrent action of all of them. But this is not collective action. In like manner, then, this is the way the church takes the Lord's Supper, gives into the treasury, prays, teaches and sings. It may be said, for instance, that the church sings, but it does so distributively s each one sings.
3. But it is not true that the church may use its treasury, in a truly collective action, for everything for which a Christian may use his own money. Neither is it true that "what all Christians" do with their own money, the church may do with the treasury. (1) Christians are to care for their own families and the church is directed not to do this when the Christian so acts (Read I Tim. 5:16). Notice that the church is not to be charged with such because it is the individual duty of Christians. (2) The Christians are to give into the church treasury (1 Cor. 16:2). Surely no one would say that the church is to write checks on its own treasury to give into that same treasury!
4. The fact is, it is the duty of Brother Massey and others of his belief to find a passage that teaches that the church treasury is to be used to support human societies, or a passage that shows that the churches did so when they were led by living apostles. He cannot do it. There is no such passage. Therefore we must conclude, since the scriptures completely furnish us unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:16, 17), that it is an unscriptural action for any church to give money as a gift to any school, hospital, orphanage, etc.
5. Christians are to help all people and engage in every good work, but the church is directed to engage in work that is altogether and only spiritual in its nature. We are built up a "spiritual house, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" Q Pet. 2:5). In other words, since the church is a totally spiritual body, its total collective activity is to be spiritual. This is done in helping needy saints -- those with spiritual relationships -- and in supporting the teaching of God's Word (I Cor. 16: 1; 2 Cor. 11:8). And all of this must be under the authority of Jesus Christ-not simply in harmony with human wisdom. (Col. 3:17).
Prove All Things, Hold Fast
Gospel work has been so very fruitful in Nigeria because the people of that largest of all African nations have proven very receptive and responsive. It has always been their characteristic to accept a truth when it is pointed out as indeed a Bible truth. Over and over again we have pleaded, "Read it in your own Bible." And over and over again when Nigerians read it there, they obey it immediately. Thus every preacher, whether he is American or Nigerian who has preached extensively there, has baptized hundreds of people simply because those people respond to proven truth.
Now I make the same appeal to all Christians in Nigeria, as all of us have made before the people became Christians. Let the Bible speak. Read it in your own Bible. Let no human wisdom be exalted above Divine truth. You just as well have stayed in the denominations as to have come out of them and then have a part in turning the Lord's church into another sect. If you wanted to follow human wisdom why did you leave the denominations anyway?
But you do not want to follow human wisdom. I believe you will still cherish truth as much today as when you became a child of God. And if you do thus honor and respect truth today, you will find the following:
1. Truth never authorizes one church, to oversee a work beyond the very flock (membership) of that place. One church cannot oversee even one member of another congregation, nor can one church oversee even one shilling's worth of work of another congregation (I Pet. 5:1-3).
2. Truth never authorizes any church to engage in work with its treasury just because a Christian may do it individually. Authority for the individual and for the collective church is not the same in detail. The scriptures authorize each and every action and through the scriptures God reveals fully all of his will for us in every area of spiritual activity (2 Pet. 1:3).
3. Truth never authorizes one man in Nigeria (whether he be an American or a Nigerian) to have the right to receive funds from churches and administer them at his discretion for wages to preachers whom he chooses and as he decides. Epaphroditus (Phil. 4:18) was only a delivery-man. He did not decide who would get the money and how much.
The Bible teaches that some would turn away from truth (see I Tim. 4:1-3 and 2 Tim. 4:14). Then Paul said, "But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (2 Tim. 4:5).
Most of you in Nigeria are now being tested by Satan's ways and by man's devices. We have no desire to force you to follow truth and turn from error. We simply plead with you today to follow truth with the same devotion you demonstrated when you first obeyed the gospel. And I believe most of you will do this. If you have turned into error, turn back to truth again (Ac. 8:22). God will forgive you and will bless you. To this end we pray that God's will be done.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 9, pp. 6-7