By A. C. Grider
Christ said he would build His church (Matt. 16:18). That he built it is evidenced by the fact that Luke says He added people to it day by day as they were being saved, (Acts 2:47). This church is the body of Christ and He is the head of it, (Eph. 1:22-23). The church which Jesus built is essentially the “New Testament Church.”
This New Testament church was the “pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15). It had fellowship in the gospel (Phil. 1: 5) and sent to have the word proclaimed (Phil. 4: 15). Thus the church fulfilled one of its main obligations by sounding out the word so sinners could be saved by the gospel, the power of God (Rom. 1:16).
This New Testament church also engaged in the work of edifying the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12). The members of the church were “fed” and led by the elders as the borders of the kingdom were spread (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5: 13). Thus the church fulfilled another of its main features or obligations by teaching and admonishing the members (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
This New Testament church engaged in benevolent work among its needy members as circumstances arose which made it necessary for them to have some assistance (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35; 6:1-7; 11: 27-30). And so the church fulfilled its obligations in this field.
Aside from the work of evangelism and the work of edification and the work of benevolence, the New Testament church did nothing (Eph. 4:12). To be a New Testament church, a congregation today must engage in these three works to the extent of its ability and must not go on and do other things that might seem to be “good works.”
All of the work of the New Testament church was done under the oversight and supervision of the elders of the local congregations. Acts 20:28 and I Pet. 5:1-3. At no time did a group of elders in a local church attempt to do a work for all of the churches. And at no time did any group of local elders take possession or charge of any of the work, resources, or oversight of any work except the work they did as a local congregation. There was no pooling of resources to pay for any work in evangelism, edification or benevolence. No church planned work it could not pay for. No church solicits money to carry on a work it had planned undertaken.
At no time and under no circumstances in evangelism and edification did any congregation send any aid to a sister congregation. Only in the field of benevolence (and that when a local church had more indigent saints than it could, care for) did one congregation send help to another congregation. This help always ceased as soon as the need was met. The idea of permanent works by congregations requiring continuing assistance from sister congregation is not found in God’s word.
No congregation is a New Testament Church that is not doing all of the work of evangelism can do and that under the oversight of its own overseers. No congregation is a New Testament Church that is not doing all of the edification work it can do and that under the oversight of its own overseers. And no congregation is a New Testament Church that is not looking after its own indigent members and assisting sister congregations with their poor saints (if the latter cannot care for them themselves).
Churches pooling their resources to preach the word have “gone on and are not abiding the doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9). Churches sending contributions to colleges have “transgressed the doctrine of Christ.” And they “have not God” (2 John 9). Churches engaging in benevolent work among people other than needy saints are not walking in harmony with the word of God. May we strive to be New Testament Churches!
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 23, p. 2
April 13, 1972