By Ray Ferris
Recently some questions were submitted to this writer to be answered from the pulpit where he regularly preaches the word. The following is submitted as an outline of the material given from the pulpit in reply to the questions. It is hoped these printed copies may be studied profitably by all who will read them; that they may encourage us to pursue a course that is safe, and that can not be wrong.
I. The New Testament teaches us in four ways.
A. By commands–either negative or positive.
B. By statements of fact–either negative or positive.
C. By examples–either divinely approved or disapproved.
D. By NECESSARY inference–note the emphasis on necessary.
II. When we have every commandment, statement of fact, example, and necessary inference concerning any subject we have all of the mind of God on that particular subject. It is the complete pattern set forth in the Bible. Everything we teach and practice on that subject must be authorized in the word of God by one of the above-mentioned ways. If not, we are acting in presumption and without the approval of God. We have a pattern to show us what God desires. When that which we desire is not a part of the picture (pattern) given in God’s book, we must not deviate from the pattern simply because God has not expressly forbidden it, but must change our desires and plans to fit the pattern set forth.
III. Five questions that have been asked concerning current controversies among brethren (Note: This is not to indicate that these controversies are the only ones prevalent. However, they are the issues that are causing the greatest disturbances among the Lord’s people in many places the world over. The only way we can ever hope to gain peace with regard to them is by a careful study of the principles involved as measured by the scriptures, and a resolution to have peace with the Lord and all who will be united on the pattern He has given.)
A. Can we distinguish between the individual and the church in our responsibilities and privileges?
B. For whom and what is the church responsible; that is, for what can the Lord’s money be spent?
C. Who shall do the work of the church– the church or some man-made institution?
D. To whom can the church make contributions?
D. Can one church perform its work through another church in such arrangements as the Herald Of Truth, the “Lubbock plan of mission work,” Orphan homes under the “sponsorship” of an eldership, etc.?
IV. Can we distinguish between the individual and the church in our responsibilities and privileges?
A. Read 1 Timothy 5:1-16.
1. Note the responsibility of the home in verse 4.
2. Note the seriousness of the offense “if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house;” note that “he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (Verse 8, Emphasis mine, REF).
3. “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old…” is a statement to prohibit the enrollment of such a widow as a permanent responsibility of the church. Verse 9. (This is not to be taken as a prohibition of the church ever helping any widow at all who does not meet the qualifications, as demonstrated by the accounts of help given in Acts 6:1-8 to widows, and in many other places to needy saints in general.)4. Verse 16 specifically forbids the church to be charged with the sustenance of widows who have relatives as described, who can provide for them. “Let not the church be charged” is the commandment of the Lord by Paul. Before the church could possibly help such an individual disciplinary action must be taken against the Christian who “is worse than an infidel” in this matter.5. The distinction between the church and the individual is clear in this passage. God made it for us.B. Acts 5:1-11 also makes this distinction clear.
1. Review the situation in this context. Many disciples were in need and individuals were selling their possessions and bringing the money to lay at the feet of the apostles that it might be distributed to those who were in need (Acts 4:34-37). Ananias and Sapphira also sold a piece of land and pretended to bring all the proceeds to the apostles, but in reality withheld part of the funds received. Now notice the words of Peter.
2. “Whiles it remained, was it not shine own? ” (Verse 4.) Who owns your car, washing machine, radio, house, etc.– you or the church? We can all distinguish between the church and the individual in this type of matter, can we not?3. Peter continued, “and after it was sold, was it not in shine own power?” (Verse 4.) How much money will be the church’s money after we complete our Sunday worship–what is in the collection plates, or that plus all that is in our pockets?
We do not have a bit of trouble seeing the difference between the church and the individual here either, do we?
4. From these passages, and many others that could be cited, it is manifest that privileges and responsibilities of the church and the individual are two entirely different fields of study. There is, of course, much overlapping. The church has obligations, as the church, to preach the gospel, edify the saints and help needy saints with material things, as we shall notice in greater detail later. The individual has obligations and privileges along these same lines. However, this does not mean that anything the individual can do the church can do, and that anything the individual does the church does. For example: Each individual has responsibilities in purity of life. No Christian can go to heaven who dies as a drunkard, fornicator, thief, idolater, etc. — Note 1 Cor. 6:9-10. Individual Christians have died in each of the sinful conditions mentioned. Does that mean the church will be lost because certain Christians sinned? Who can believe it? Paul teaches parents to train their children (“bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”), which would include discipline as needed. Who can believe that this makes the church responsible for, or gives her the privilege to, discipline my children and yours? Aren’t you glad there is a distinction made in the word between the church and the individual?
5. How do I determine the responsibilities and privileges of the church and the individual? Do I try some complicated reasoning process such as that of brother Monroe Hawley who theorizes that anything the Christian does because he is a Christian the church also is authorized to do? Must I struggle with a reasoning process, such as that in which brother Foy Vinson answered brother Hawley, by trying to determine just what the individual Christian does only because he is a Christian? No! As we noted in the beginning, we need only study all that God has taught us in His word on each of these two subjects and we will have the mind of God on it.V. For whom and what is the church responsible; that is, for what can the Lord’s money be spent?
A. The church is to preach the word–the gospel of Christ.
1. In 1 Timothy 3:15 we read that the church is “the pillar and ground (stay) of the truth,” which would surely indicate the responsibility of the church to uphold the teaching of the truth. Jesus said God’s word is truth–(John 17: 17).
2. In Philippians 4:15-16 we have approved example of the church supporting a preacher of the word in material things so that he might be able to live while he preaches.
3. 2 Corinthians 11:3 states that Paul took wages of churches to preach the word to the people of Corinth.
4. 1 Corinthians 9:1-14 establishes the principle laid down in the last verse of the passage: “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”B. The Church is to edify itself and maintain worship for the saints.
1. Ephesians 4:11-16 emphasizes the works set in the church by the Lord, and their purposes. Note verse 12 — “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Note that the body is the church–Eph. 1: 22-23; 5:23; and Col. 1:18.) Verses 13-16 express the purpose of growth of Christians as that which is to be accomplished by the church, and concludes with the thought that the whole body if functioning properly “maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
2. Hebrews 10:23-25, although addressed to the church in its distributive capacity necessarily involves the collective church, as it expresses the necessity of assembling of the saints. This necessarily implies a place for the assembly.
3. Acts 20: 7-8 gives us an approved example of such a place for assembly, including the provisions of such expediencies as lights. We do have authority for a building and those things needful to provide a comfortable place for our worship. Whether we buy, rent, or borrow, and how much we pay are matters of judgment and expediency.
C. The church is authorized to help needy saints.
1. We cannot note in detail every passage that provides such authority, but the reader is encouraged to note and read all of these passages.
a. Acts 2:44-46–Believers were together and had things common. (verses 44-45.)
b. Acts 4:32-37–Distribution was made to those among them, verses 34-35. Note the word believers in verse 32.
c. Acts 5:1-11–Illustration of statement of giving in 4:32-37.
d. Acts 6: 1-8–Widows in the church were helped.
e. Acts 11:27-30 Relief was sent to the brethren in Judea.
f. Romans 15:25-33 — Note these statements: “Minister unto the saints; “
“contribution for the poor saints,” “service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints.” (Verses 25, 26, & 31.)
g. 1 Cor. 16: 1 -4–“Now concerning the collection for the saints . . .” (verse 1.)
h. 2 Cor. 8:1–9:15 Notice 8:1 and 9:1, 12. “Receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints;” “For as touching the ministering to the saints; ” and “supplieth the want of the saints.”
2. Every time there is a record of money being spent from the treasury of the Lord’s people–the Lord’s money — for the purpose of helping those in material need, the scriptures specify that such help was for the saints. (Note that Peter and John, who were two of the leading men in the early church– apostles at whose feet money was laid that money might be distributed–refused financial assistance to the lame man at the gate of the temple–Acts 3: 1-11. Why? The scriptures do not say in so many words except to say, “Silver and gold have I none…” But the disciples were living out of the common fund given by Christians–Acts 2:44-46 and 4:32-37! This man was a deserving man in need who was refused help from the common fund of the saints by the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 3:1-6).
3. Misuse of passages applicable to individuals will not prove anything concerning the responsibility of the church. Note prior points on this matter.
a. Galatians 6:1-10 manifestly applies to individual Christians. Note such expressions as thyself, thou, a man, he, himself, every man, his himself alone, and another. All are singular in their form.
(1). The letter was addressed to churches of Galatia, but it is manifest that these expressions contemplate all in the churches as individuals. We can all see the difference in the church and the individual Christian in verses 7-9. We reap as we sow as individuals — vs. 7-8. We must not be weary or faint in well-doing for our reaping depends upon it–v. 9. Aren’t you glad your reaping does not depend upon the weariness and faintness of the church as a whole? The same subject and the individual is spoken of in v. 10. Note the word therefore which ties these verses together.
(2). Verse ten authorizes every Christian to do any good for any man, but places special emphasis upon responsibility to the Christian. If this verse applies to the collective church it would authorize the church to do anything good for any men who have need and as the church has opportunity.
b. James 1:27 is also a passage that contemplates action on the part of the individual rather than collective church action.
(1). Begin reading with Jas. 1:18. Were churches or individuals begotten with the word of truth? Note the expressions of a singular nature again–every man, any, he, a man, his, man, whoso, this man, any man, and himself.
(2) The sentence in Jas. 1:27 says religion is to visit and to keep. Whoever it is that is involved in keeping “himself” unspotted from the world is the same one contemplated in the visiting of the fatherless and widows, for this sentence has only one subject and one verb. Can the church keep me unspotted, or is that something I must do myself? This verse also teaches individual Christians to visit the unfortunate of the world. (As we have noted already the New Testament teaches the church [collective] to relieve the needs of saints under certain circumstances.)
c. Passages such as Matt. 5:43-48 do not apply either since they are manifestly to the individual, and were addressed to individuals before the church was ever established.
d. 2 Cor. 9:13 is sometimes claimed by some to indicate that help was given to all men, since the expression “for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men . . .” is found in the latter part of the verse. However, note first that in every place this gift is mentioned it is specified that is was collected for and sent to the saints. (See again section V., C., I., a-in.) Verse twelve indicates that two things would be accomplished by the gift–supply the want of the saints and bring about thanksgiving unto God. This thanksgiving and the prayer mentioned in verse 14 would manifestly be that of Christians rather than people of the world. The word all (Note the word men was supplied by the translators and is not found in the original language) is used here to indicate all of a class or kind; that is, those who were in need of help in the church. These Christians would glorify God for two reasons–the subjection of the Corinthians to the gospel and for their help to Christians in need, both those in Jerusalem who received help and all other Christians who needed and received such help.
D. There is no authority in the scriptures for the church (collective body) to engage in social recreation and pleasure, physical recreation, secular education, hospital care for the world, etc.
(More to Follow)
Truth Magazine VI: 5, pp. 7-8, 21-23