The Benevolent Work of
What is wrong with Church Supported Benevolent Societies?
The lesson is presented in an effort to emphases the importance of benevolence, and to clarify matters concerning institutions supported by some churches of Christ. Statements are being made both publicly and privately which misrepresent and tend to bring into disrepute loyal congregations and faithful gospel preachers. It is now being implied and suggested by some that those who oppose the support of these institutions are disloyal and unfaithful to the Lord. Questions are being asked by many honest people about the scripturalness and advisability of giving to these projects. Every gospel preacher should “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asked you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Disparaging and incriminating statements have no place in this discussion; prejudicial terms and epithets will not be hurled at those who may take a contrary view. The movies of those who engage in and sponsor these institutions are not being impugned, neither their morals nor integrity are being questioned. But an honest effort is being made to determine just what the truth is concerning these matters. With malice toward none, with charity for all, with love for the truth and firmness in the right, this answer is given.
Many honest people are interested in, disturbed about, and have a right to know the truth concerning the question of the church contributing to benevolent institutions, such as orphans homes, old folk’s homes, etc. It is hard for some to understand just what the discussion is all about. Many statements thrown about leave the wrong impression and tend to confuse. Someone says, “I believe in caring for orphans,” as if others do not so believe. Another says, ”You know, John Doe is anti-orphans homes,” implying that he opposes orphans have a home. Some sigh and say, “I just don’t see how anybody would be opposed to caring for little orphan chil-dren,” of course, everyone would add, “Neither do I.” Other may say, “We are being criticized because we are helping some needy orphan children in a home.” It is not hard to see how people are confused when they hear such expressions without fur-ther explanation.
No Christian or reasonable person would be against---that is what “anti” means--- helping a little needy orphan or a poor needy widow. The Bible clearly and emphati-cally teaches the importance of caring for the needy. But the question deals with the church doing its benevolent work, this is collective, or group action. Now, the point at issue is not whether it is right to care for needy widows and fatherless children, but whether “churches of Christ should build and maintain” and contrib-ute from their treasuries to, benevolent societies, or organizations to care for the needy. It is scriptural and right for Christians to help those who are in need, widows, fatherless, etc.; and it is sinful to refuse to do so (James 1:27; Galatians 6:10). It is scriptural and right for the church to support and care for the needy of their congregation who are worthy and deserving of such; and it is sinful for it to refuse to do so (Acts 4:34, 35; 6:1-6; 11:29-30, Eph 4:12; 1 Timothy 5:16). Now, it seems that all can see that there is no argument whatsoever that the Bible teaches that it is necessary for the needy to be cared for by Christians. But the system of church related, and church supported benevolent societies or organiza-tions for relieving the needy is something different, and that is the issue. Now, let us weigh the matter carefully without prejudice, enumerate and examine some of the objections to this system.
Supporting Separate Benevolent Organizations from the Treasury of the Church is Without Scriptural Authority.
When Jesus gave the great commission He charged His disciples to teach those who were baptized “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20). There is no commandment, or directive from the Lord for such a practice or system. When the church sends money from its treasury to an institution separate and apart from the church to care for the needy it is observing that which the lord has not commanded. In (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Paul said that every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work. But there is no statement, command, example or no necessary inference concerning such a system or practice in the scriptures. Therefore, if a church puts a benevolent organization in its budget it has something in it that the inspire scriptures did not furnish. Peter tells us (2 Peter 1:3) that “His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us…” But nothing is made known (or given) unto us concerning these institutions. We must conclude, therefore, that the support of such do not “pertain unto life and godliness.” We are admonished to make all things according to the patter (2 Timothy 1:13; Hebrews 8:5-6) and are warned not to go beyond Christs’ teaching (2 John 9) or add to or take from that which is written (Revelation 22:18-19). Now, if this system is not authorized in the scriptures by (1) a direct statement, or command, (2) an apostolic approved example, or (3) a necessary inference, it surely has no place in the practice of the church.
Binding These Institutions Upon the Church is Making a Law Where God Has Not Made one.
The New Testament, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the complete sufficient and immutable law by which the church is to be guided and regulated in all of its wor-ship and work. Christ having all authority (Matthew 28:18-20) as the head of the church (Ephesus 1:22-23) and king of His kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:25) has authorized and approved the New Testament as His law (Hebrews 2:3). To add one ordinance or directive to alter in any fashion any part of this inspired law is to usurp the authority of the lawmaker and to bring upon the guilty the anathema of God (Galatians 1:6-12). When men bind their traditions upon the church and imply that they compose a divine arrangement—thus making them law—strife, discord and division will follow as surely as night follows day. Those who insist upon these practices, forcing conscientious members of the congregation to either comply or get out and stigmatize and mark those who oppose them are duty bound to find such in the Bible or admit that the law is of human origin. To the apostles Jesus said: “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19; 18:18) That which the apostles taught as they were guided by the Holy Spirit was bound or ratified in heaven. When those responsible for the direction of affairs in a congregation put human institution in the budget it becomes necessary for those contributing to give to these things not because God’s law orders it but because men have bound it upon the church. God’s law is found in the scriptures. It is not sufficient to argue that others are doing things without scriptural authority. Even if this is established it would still be necessary to show from the inspired law where such is authorized. Neither will it suffice to try to show the complications of following apostolic ap-proved examples. There may be many difficulties along this line but the fact re-mains that any and all practices bound upon the church must be taught in the scriptures or they originate with men. We should learn, respect, obey and teach the law of the Lord but never be guilty of making laws for the Lord’s people where God has made none. Making laws and binding traditions upon people in the service of God will displease the Lord and bring about division and strife among those who strive to follow Him.
Such Institutions Violate Scriptural Organization for the Collective Action of God’s People.
The unit of action for the church in worship and work is the congregation. God has provided, authorized and set forth clearly in the scriptures the organization of a congregation which is the unit of action for this group or collectivity of His people. In Acts 20:28, Paul addresses the elders of the church at Ephesus (v17): “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called to him the elders of the church.” “Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28) In 1 Peter 5:1-3: “The elders among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Tend the flock of God which is among you, exer-cising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God; nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock.” This is the teaching of the New Testament not in some isolated cases but for all fully developed con-gregations of the Lord’s people. (Congregations which are not fully developed must not form or do their work through an unauthorized organization). In Acts 14:23 it says: “And when they had appointed for them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had be-lieved.” To Titus Paul said, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city, as I gave thee charge;” (Titus 1:5) In 1 Timothy 3:1-13 the qualifications of bishops, or elders, and deacons are set forth. In Philippians 1:1, Paul addresses his letter to “All the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” Therefore, the unit of action for the church—group or collectivity of God’s peo-ple—is the congregation of saints with its elders, overseers, and deacons. Any ac-tion taken or work done by the church as an organized group must be through this unit.
No organization is provided in the scriptures for the universal church. There is no earthly headquarters for the church of Christ. Each congregation is independent of every other congregation. Elders (plural) are to oversee the flock, congregation (singular). The elders are responsible for and limited to the oversight of the con-gregation of which they are members. There can be no combining of these congre-gations under a district or city board, or group, for any action whatsoever. There should be no pooling of the resources of congregations under a board of directors in evangelistic, edification or benevolent work. All of these resources and activities are to be directed by the elders of the respective congregations which are equal, independent and autonomous in their organization and operation. It is begging the question to argue that went the church supplies the needs of a destitute person that it is working through the home (another institution) simply because this person is connected with a family. In New Testament days the church through its organization made distribution “unto every man according as he had need (Acts 4:35). Most people are connected with a family in some way but this does not prove that when the church helps a needy person that it is working through another organization. This is a far cry from that of forming organizations different from both the church and the home---benevolent societies---and putting them into the budgets and treasuries of the churches. When the church surrenders its funds to another organization and such as an authoritative board of directors different from the organization of the church to do its benevolent work it violates scriptural organization for church action.
This System of Supporting Benevolent Organizations Involves the Church in Activities Which do not Devolve upon, and are no Part of the Work of The Church.
Transacting business for gain such
as farming, raising cattle, hogs, poultry, etc., and all the buying and selling
connected therewith are proper and legitimate for men and firms in business
but the church is not and should not be engaged in such business. Conducting
schools, printing and publishing papers (with subscription prices) and pamphlets,
and lending money on interest and many other such endeavors are practiced by
many of these church related institutions. Certainly there is nothing wrong
for secular institutions to engage in these things when properly done. But the
thing being here questioned is; should the church build, maintain and support
these institutions through which to do her benevolent work? Some seeing this
are now going to the extreme and taking the position that this is not church
work at all but the work of the home. But they contend that the church is aiding
the home in its work. While others contend that this is simply a method of the
church doing its work. But whatever view is taken should the church contribute
from her treasury to do these things which most people admit are not part of
the work of the church? Any system which ties the church to and implicates it
in activities which are no part of the mission of the church is wrong. When
the church relieves the needy as the New Testament teaches through its own organization
it will not be entangled and involved in these secular matters.
Principles Used to Justify the Church Supporting These Institutions will Justify and open the Floodgates for Innovations and Practices Admitted to be Wrong.
In matters of determining truth that which proves to much proves nothing. If we can use our own judgment as to the institutions through which the church is to do its benevolent work because the Bible does not specify just how such work is to be done. Why can we not use our own judgment as to the institution through which to preach the gospel since the Bible does not say how it is to be done? This would justify a missionary society—or a preaching society—which is not authorized in the Bible and which most members of the church believe to be wrong. Why not upon the same principle establish Ladies’ Aid Societies, Sunday school boards, etc.? But some says “These are not scriptural.” That is the very point at issue. Good things are done through these organizations for which we are not given details in the scriptures—since the scriptures do not say how they are to be done then these organizations (it is argued by those who advocate them) are used in doing them. If one society can be formed for doing a work God gives the church to do, because we are not told how to do it. Why can others not be formed to do others to do other things required for which the details of how they are to be done are not given? It is clear that these organizations are not in keeping with God’s word but if these does not prove them right (and it does not) then how does it prove the other cor-rect?
We are told that since the Bible says “visit” the fatherless and widows in James 1:27 (but does not say how) we may contribute from the church treasury to be-nevolent societies. But the Bible says that Jesus will bless those who “visited” the sick (Matthew 25:36), this comes from the same word. If the church can contrib-ute to a separate society to relieve the needy because it say “visit” and does not say how, then it can also contribute to a hospital because it does not say how to “visit” the sick. If the churches may build and maintain and support benevolent societies to care for the needy, why can they not upon the same basis build and maintain and support hospitals to care for the sick? That which proves one proves the other; if you reject one you must reject the other.
Many argue that since these benevolent societies are doing a good work and the church is to do good; therefore, the church should support them. But this proves too much, for there are dozens of institutions doing good works which have no claim to church support. Perfectly legitimate corporations or institutions such as publishing houses, hospitals, rest homes, schools etc., not only have a right to exist but serve a useful purpose and do much good. Think of the good done by such or-ganizations as the Polio Foundation, Heart Fund, Red Cross and Boy Scouts etc. But those who understand the place and work of the church would not consider giving to these organizations from the church treasury because they do good. It is one thing to admit that organizations have a right to exist, a place to fill and a good worthwhile work to accomplish and a different thing entirely to argue that all such organizations should be supported from the treasury of the church. Even the Sal-vation Army and the Masonic Lodge, though wrong in many respects, do much good and certainly should not be condemned for the good they do but it would be incon-sistent and wrong to put these in the budget of the church because they do some good. The gate through which innovations and questionable practices enter must be kept closed. If societies are permitted to do the benevolent work of the church then the floodgates are open for innumerable institutions and innovations.
Placing These Institutions in the Church Budget Violates and Repudiates the Sufficiency of the Church.
God in His wisdom designed the church
for a definite purpose, to fulfill a mission that could not be accomplished
by anything else in the world. Let’s see what the Bible says:
“and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in him.” (Ephesians 3:9-12)
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
He understood not only what was to be done by the church but what would be re-quired to do it. He not only knew but had the power and the will to provide the church with everything it needed to do its work. God has therefore equipped and provided for His church that it is sufficient to do anything and everything which He requires of it. Jesus Christ, the perfect and sufficient Son of God, has been made the head of the church. Let’s look at scripture again:
“which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1:20-23)
“for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell;” (Colossians 1:16-19)
The New Testament inspired by the Holy Spirit is the complete and sufficient guide for church action. Let’s see what 2 Timothy 3:15-17 says:
“And that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.”
God has properly equipped and given the church all the organization it needs to do all of its work and has so specified in His word. Since God calls upon His people to worship Him, He has made the church adequate as the sanctuary or spiritual tem-ple for the worship. Peter says in 1 Peter 2:3-5:
“if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious: unto whom coming, a living stone, re-jected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
No society is necessary to provide the worship God requires of His people. God re-quires His church to proclaim the gospel to the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 13:1-3; 1 Timothy 3:14-15). That the church is able to do what He requires along this line is actually demonstrated when we are told that it was preached to every creature under heaven in Paul’s lifetime. (Colossians 1:23) Those who claim now that there must be a missionary society to carry out the Lord’s commission are calling in question the sufficiency of the church as God’s own missionary society to preach the gospel. God also requires His church to edify itself (Matthew 28:19-29; Acts 2:42; Ephesians 4:12-16). Now, if the church should turn to some other organiza-tion for its edification it would be indicating that it was not able within itself to do what is required. But faithful gospel preachers have always contended that the church could and that it should through its own organization teach and edify itself without turning to some other institution.
In the matter of benevolence God has charged His church to minister to the needy (Ephesians 4:12; Acts 4:34-35; 6:1-6; 11:29-30; 1 Timothy 5:16). This teaching in-volves supplying the needs of those who are worthy saints. Now, is it reasonable to conclude that the church is sufficient to preach the gospel and edify itself, but is not equipped to actually care for the needy for whom it is responsible? Such an idea is not borne out from what is said in the scriptures. We are told that in the early church “distribution was made unto every man according as he had need” (Acts 4:35) and in Acts 6 we read of how the church actually ministered to needy widows. So, just as the church carried out the commission to preach the gospel and to edify itself without turning its funds over to other organizations, it likewise ministered to the needy, not by simply making a contribution to some organization but actually distributing according to the needs. The church under its elders may buy materials or services from reputable firms such as publishing houses, railroad companies, construction companies, drug stores, hospitals, etc., in doing its work. Such things as literature, a preacher’s ticket, building or repairing the meeting house, medicine and supplies for the sick or a bill for a deserving patient, may be, and often should be paid for by the church. This is not a matter of making a con-tribution to these firms for them to use for the church according to their judg-ment but the church is buying materials and services for use in a scriptural way within the framework of the church. Every faithful member of the church should do his best to lend encouragement and help that the church may fulfill her mission by covering the earth with the gospel, building itself up and ministering to the needy…all of these can and should be done by the church itself. To refuse to do so and to pass the work which belongs to the church to other organizations is to re-pudiate the place of sufficiency that God intends for His church to occupy.
Sending Contributions from the Church Treasury to Benevolent Societies Shifts and Misplaces both Church and Individual Responsibilities.
According to the Bible the church was made responsible for providing care for the deserving needy. Paul refers to this responsibility as “the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). To Timothy Paul said, that it (the church) may relieve them that are widows indeed (1 Timothy 5:16). Of the early church it is said, “and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need” (Acts 4:35). It ministered daily to needy widows…served tables. (Acts 6:1-6) When the church gives its funds to another institution that it may do the actual serving it shifts its responsibilities to that institution.
Bible students understand that the church is limited in its benevolent work; it is not responsible for the support of all widows and fatherless. It is responsible not only for the support of certain needy, but is likewise responsible for determining who is worthy of such support. But when a board of directors determines just who is taken in and cared for with church support this responsibility is taken out of the hands of the elders. It is a known fact that a number of the children in these homes are not strictly speaking orphans. Some are there because the parents are separated and it is not convenient for them to care for their children. In some such cases after placing the children in the institution the parents make donations which they consider payment for their keep. The issue raised here is simply this: Is it scriptural and proper for those who are actually the responsibility of individuals to be placed in these institutions and the institutions in turn put in the budget and supported by the church?
An elderly widow said to her preacher,
“Can arrangements be made for me to get into ‘a church of Christ
widows old folks home?’ My children have their own homes and responsibilities
and I do not want to be a burden to them. This woman had been a faithful member
of the church for years. She had five children, all of them with good homes
and good incomes. Four of them were members of the church. Are widows under
such circumstances the responsibility of the church? Paul answers this question
in 1 Timothy 5:16 when he shows that relatives should relieve such widows indeed.
“If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.” (1 Timothy 5:16)
God has placed certain responsibilities upon individual Christians; responsibilities that cannot be shirked and please God. Parents are to love, support and nurture their children in spiritual matters. Children are to look after and support their parents when they reach the age and condition where they cannot care for them-selves. This principle applies not only to parents but to other near relatives as well. Circumstances sometimes make the discharging of these personal responsibilities difficult but never can they be ignored without displeasing God. It goes without saying that a system or practice which reverses God’s order of responsibilities should not be bound upon the church. It should be kept in mind that a church is not fulfilling its duty simply because it does not support a benevolent society. God has placed the responsibility upon the church of relieving those who need and are worthy of her support. Congregations of the Lord’s people should open their eyes to see the distressed, unstop their ears to the cry of despair and extend their hands of mercy to supply the needs of those who deserve her help. But the fact that many congregations are failing in this regard will not justify others in assuming activities which are not the responsibility of the church.
Supporting Benevolent Societies from the Treasury Often Causes People to Violate Their Conscience
In many congregations there are honest people who believe that it is wrong to support benevolent organizations from the treasury of the church. In such congregations elders sometimes feel that such is a matter of opinion decide to place these benevolent societies in the budget of the church. Objections will certainly be raised by those conscientious brethren to that which they believe to be wrong, for with them it is a matter of faith. They believe that all the work of the church should be done through the organization set forth in the New Testament. If the elders refuse to consider their objection but insist that they have the right to rule in such matters then conflict will certainly follow. Though elders have responsibility in matters of judgment and expediency they are neither lawmakers nor judges of the consciences of men. Men are to be governed by the word of God in all realms; we are to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Civil rulers should not be obeyed when in conflict with God’s law even if the rulers think there is no conflict. Parents also are to be obeyed in keeping with the will of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1). When the overseers of a congregation insist upon putting benevolent societies into the budget of the church they are forcing honest and sincere people who believe such to be sinful to do one of two things: (1) get out…separate themselves from the congregations, or (2) do that which violates their conscience. Elders have the oversight and direction of the work of the church including the use of the money contributed. But elders have no right to decide matters when God has spoken except to do their best to see that God’s will is carried out.
It must be kept in mind that elders cannot decide for an individual that which is according to truth; God’s word must do that. It is possible for honest men to disa-gree as to whether or not a thing is right or wrong. One may honestly believe that a thing is a matter of opinion while another honestly believes that it is a matter of faith. An honest man cannot practice a thing which he believes violates the word of God without violating his conscience. An honest man may yield in a matter which he holds as a mere opinion, an optional or pure expediency, out of charity toward his brother for the sake of peace and harmony. But one can never violate his con-science by doing that which he believes to be wrong (therefore violating their conscience) by the influence of others. When this is done those being led and those deliberately influencing them are guilty of sin before God. In Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 Paul discusses the question of eating meats. Some had understand-ing and could eat meats without offending their conscience. Others felt that by eating they would be honoring and idol, therefore, they could not eat without offending their conscience. It is made plain that it would not only be sinful for one who ate believing it to be wrong but also sinful for the one who influenced and caused him to so eat. It is a serious and tragic thing to influence or pressure one into violating his conscience in what we feel is a matter of liberty. Such is not successful triumph but sinful and destructive to one for whom Christ died (Romans 15:15, 21, 23; 1 Corinthians 8: 11-13). Any system which makes things which are (said by those advocating them to be) purely optional or matters of judgment the means of causing honest people to violate their conscience is wrong. Would any person deny that this is true in cases of placing benevolent organizations in the budget of the congregations where there are honest and sincere brethren who object? Many serious blunders would be avoided if we had more men with the attitude of him who said; if meat makes my brother to offend I will eat no flesh while the world standeth lest I make my brother to offend (1 Corinthians 8:13) It is certainly true that believing a thing to be right will not make it right but if one believes a thing to be wrong it is sinful for him to do it (Romans 14:23).
Giving to Benevolent Institutions from the Treasury of the Church Causes Turmoil, Strife and Division in the Church.
Jesus prayed in John 17:20-21 that
all His disciples, those who believed on Him through the word of the apostles,
might be one even as He and the Father were one. Paul Said, “Now I beseech
you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak
the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected
together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
To the Ephesian brethren Paul wrote, “giving diligence to keep the unity
of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even
as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one
baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in
all.” (Ephesians 4:3-6). Add to this the admonition in Romans 14:19, “So
then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we
may edify one another.” Several important things are learned from these
1. Unity among God’s people is desired by the Lord and is taught and enjoined by the inspired apostles.
2. This unity is to result from and to be based upon the word of God. The unity for which Christ prayed can never be had through the theories, opinions and ideas of men.
3. This is to be a unity of the Spirit, a unity set forth, directed and dictated by the Holy Spirit. This is not a peace at any price or unity in error. Sacri-ficing truth and compromising with error to keep peace or unity is the very opposite of endeavoring to keep the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
4. There is to be an ardent desire and an earnest effort to bring about and maintain unity. We need never expect to enjoy the unity for which the Lord prayed as long as seeds of discord are sown and delight taken in the fruits of division.
Congregations are often torn with strife and division because men abuse the prin-ciples of what they themselves call liberty in the service of God. When the truth is involved where God has spoken there can be no compromise even if it means the breaking of fellowship or division. This the Lord Himself recognized when He said in Luke 12:51, “Think ye that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:” When men take the position that things are in the realm of liberty and are mere expediencies but insist upon binding them upon the consciences of honest men who oppose them, strife and division are just as inevitable as that a stone tossed into the air will fall to the earth. In many instances today men are saying of the church supporting benevolent institutions, God tells us to do the work, the Bible does not say how to do it, therefore, we are free to give from the treasury to these organizations. Brother H. Leo Boles (in his booklet The eldership of the Churches of Christ, P. 15) states clearly the principles along this line which has long been accepted by gospel preachers. He Said: “When God tells us how anything is to be done, then the manner in which it is done becomes a part of the will of God and must be followed or rebel against God; but when God does not tell how anything is to be done, then we are left free to use the best means and the best way that may be available which does not violate a principle, but promotes unity.” Many who have had training and experience in this field of benevolent work suggest that the institutional orphans’ home is not the best way to care for children. Many of the welfare departments of state governments are using other methods. Certainly those advocating that the church support these institutions cannot argue that this is the only way to do it. And with the trail of broken and divided churches scattered all over the country where these things have been pushed, surely it would not be argued that giving to these institutions promotes unity.
In the middle 1800s discord, strife and division became the order of the day. Men were pressing their views concerning the introduction of Missionary Societies in the work of the church and instruments of music in the worship which they argued were matters of opinion, expediency or judgment. Faithful men who believed these things violated New Testament principles and to whom these things were matters of faith objected strenuously. But these schemes and innovations were pushed on the grounds that they were in the realm of liberty and expediency and those op-posed to them were stigmatized as cranks, antis and fanatics. The church was rent asunder and faithful men were driven out to worship in school houses, brush arbors or wherever they could find opportunity. Every step toward such a tragic end should be avoided today.
The System of Supporting These Institutions from The Church Treasuries is Unnecessary.
Today when most members of the church are asked what is wrong with the mis-sionary society they answer, it is not necessary. It can be demonstrated that a missionary society is not needed because the church in the first century preached the gospel to every creature which is under heaven without such an agency. Let’s look at Colossians 1:23: “if so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and sted-fast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister.” The New Testament teaches just as clearly that the gospel was preached without a missionary society. God made the church responsible (fully equipped) for preaching the gospel; it is His only missionary society. The New Testament shows that it did effectively preach the gospel within its own framework and through its own organization. The society was, and is, superfluous and wholly unnecessary. God also made the church responsible (and fully equipped it) for the work of the ministry, relieving the needy (Ephesians 4:12; 1 Timothy 5:16); it is His only benevolent society. The New Testament shows in Acts 4:34-35; 6:1-6; 11:29-30 that it did indeed effectively relieve the needy within its own framework and through its own organization. Therefore, the benevolent society was, and is, superfluous and wholly unnecessary. If this proves, and it does, that the missionary society is not necessary it proves just as conclusively that the benevolent society is not necessary.
Let me say in closing that the church has great and fearful responsibilities, grand and glorious opportunities to preach the gospel of Christ to a perishing world. It should exert and assert itself and without schemes and innovations of men cover the earth with the gospel as the waters cover the sea. The church likewise has great responsibilities and wonderful opportunities to relieve the distressed and destitute. It should always be alert and ready to life up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and supply the needs of the helpless and deserving. When the church and individual Christians fill the place and fulfill the mission God has assigned; God’s name will be glorified, men will be blessed and the clamor for extra organizations with be largely hushed. “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:17-21)
NOTE: The elders are responsible only for the widows, orphans and needy of the local congregation for which they serve. If there is a need to help someone that isn’t a Christian; then an individual Christian can fill that need without the local church being involved; for that would not be according to the will of God.
By Granville W. Tyler A Sermon Preached on June 2, 1963 at the Church of Christ On Somerville Road Decatur, Alabama
Return to the Sermons