Know Your Bible

VOL. 12                                                                                                                          November 24, 2013                                                                                                                            NO. 39



Back during the Bush Presidential Administration, it was being suggested that the government might possibly give churches money to distribute to the poor and needy. I remember hearing Paul Harvey on his radio broadcast make the statement that churches were better at taking care of the poor than the Federal Government. It is a popular concept among the masses of people that churches have a responsibility to take care of the poor, needy, widows, orphans, the homeless, and the unwed mothers of our society. The government obviously did not follow through with this plan, but if it had there would have been "churches" standing in line to receive money for them to hand over in the form of food and clothing to those who are less fortunate.

When we discuss suffering people, especially children, it is difficult to separate truth from emotions. Still we must ask the question: Has God appointed His church the duty of being a soup kitchen or welfare agency?

BENEVOLENCE IS A WORK OF THE CHURCH. Acts 2:44,45; 4:34; 6:1-8 shows that the church in Jerusalem provided benevolence for her own members. Acts 11:27-30 shows the church at Antioch sent relief to needy brethren in Judea. Romans 15:25 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 shows that churches in Macedonia, Achaia, and Galatia sent money to the church in Jerusalem to help that church provide for her needy members. The church in Corinth was providing relief for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Indeed, benevolence is ordained by God to be a work of the church.

HOW WAS BENEVOLENCE PRACTICED? In the scriptures already mentioned, we see that each congregation provided benevolent care for her own members as was the case with Jerusalem. Of particular note is the fact that the church in Jerusalem did not attempt to care for all the poor in Jerusalem but only those that "believed", meaning Christians. There is no Scripture which teaches the Lord's church ever helped a person who was not a Christian! Certainly, individual Christians have the obligation to help saint and sinner alike (Galatians 6:10; James 1:27) but the church does not. One church may send to several churches to help in the realm of benevolence. This is the case when the church at Antioch sent to "churches" in Judea (Acts 11:27-30). But again, we must note that the contributing church sent the money directly to the receiving church. There is no indication or proof, whatsoever from the Scriptures, that a separate organization was used to receive and distribute the money! There was no separate relief organization or sponsoring church as is so commonly found in use today. There was no organization or institution between the church doing the relieving and the church being relieved!

We also see from Romans 15:25-32 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 that several churches sent to one church. Yet, it must be pointed out once again that the contributing churches sent directly to the receiving church with no "sponsoring church" or "benevolent society" involved whatsoever.

CHURCHES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT PRACTICED LIMITED BENEVOLENCE. This is obvious from ALL the passages to be examined on this matter. Yet, this is where most churches today do not heed what the Scriptures teach. Thus many people believe that the work of any church is to give assistance to anyone and everyone that asks for it without discriminating. The problem with all this is that one way is God's way and the other way is man's way!

There are twelve references to church benevolence in the New Testament. We cannot quote the entire passage due to lack of space but will make reference to the verses and the word used in the verse to describe those who were being helped:

(1) Acts 2:44-45 "all that believed"; (2) Acts 4:32-35 "them that believed" (3) Acts 6:1 "the disciples"; (4) Acts 11:29 "relief unto the brethren" (5) Romans 15:25 "unto the saints" (6) Romans 15:26 "for the poor saints" (7) Romans 15:31 "accepted of the saints" (8) 1 Corinthians 16:1 "collection for the saints" (9) 2 Corinthians 8:4 "ministering to the saints" (10) 2 Corinthians 9:1 "ministering to the saints" (11) 2 Corinthians 9:12 "supplieth the want of the saints" (12) 1 Timothy 5:1-16 "widows indeed"

In an attempt to justify the church extending benevolence to those who aren't Christians, some try to confuse the work of the church and the work of the individual by pointing to such passages as Galatians 6:10 and James 1:27. Yet, when both these passages are kept in their context, it is apparent that individual Christians are being referred to. The church is not under consideration in either of these passages. Instead, these passages deal with individual action and there is a great difference in what the individual can do and what the church can do.

As we have shown that the work of the church is to provide benevolence to those who are needy saints, this is not the primary duty of the church. It's primary work is to "hold forth the word of life" (Philippians 2:16) and to be "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:14,15). The New Testament says nothing about the concept of "You must first feed them before you can teach them".

---E.R. Hall, Jr.

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Theft prevention experts now believe that those loud noise producing alarms on cars are ineffective. In fact, they claim that in­stalling one of those devises on your auto is a waste of time and money.  But why?  Do they fail too often in actual use?  No.  Do the sirens, bells, and horns fail to make a sufficient level of noise?  No.  Well then, what’s the problem?

    The problem is that there are now so many of the alarms, and so many of them are accidentally set off, that no one pays any atten­tion to them any more. How often have you heard one of those, and thought to yourself: “Oh, that’s just another one of those silly alarms going off. Nothing to worry about. I just hope the poor owner finds out before his battery runs down!” It is very much like the little boy who cried “wolf”. After a number of false alarms, no one is ready to respond when a real situation develops.

    We were thinking that there may be a spiritual lesson for us here. God’s word is full of warnings and admonitions. It instructs us in the ways that we should go, and it plainly cautions about sin and its consequences. Preachers, teachers, elders, and faithful Christians are in the business of sounding out these warnings — for their own sakes and for the benefit of all others. However, when these alarms are consistently ignored, they be­gin to lose their effectiveness. People begin to think: “Don’t worry about that. That’s just the preacher doing his thing. No reason to get so upset about it.” 

    Hebrews 3:13 cautions us about the “deceitfulness of sin”, and warns about letting our hearts become “hardened”.  Pay attention to the alarms — your soul is in danger! 

---Greg Gwin

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--- E.R. Hall, Jr.





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