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Scripture Reading: Acts 4:32-35
Bible Authority, Part 14
The Work of the Local Church: Benevolence
the division among brethren arising over the work of the local church
(1950-60s), a key issue was the local church’s role in benevolence.
2. At issue: "May (is there Bible authority for) a congregation give relief to non-Christians in its benevolence work and from its collected treasury? General or limited benevolence?
3. Since God provides patterns of attitude and actions for His people. We must seek and sustain both, Heb. 8:5.
I. N.T. PATTERN OF THE LOCAL CHURCH’S WORK IN BENEVOLENCE.
A. Consistent NT Pattern of Congregational Action: Local Churches Assisted Christians in Need. (When they functioned as a group, using collected funds).
1. Relief of local Christians, Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-37; 6:1-6.
2. Relief of Christians elsewhere, Acts 11:27-30; Rom. 15:26-27; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:1, 12-13.
B. Consistent NT Pattern of Individual Action: All Men as One has Ability and Opportunity.
1. Failure to distinguish individual from local church leads to misuse of Scriptures and unauthorized work of local churches:
a. “Whatever the Christian can do, the local church can do.” Wrong! 1 Tim. 5:16
b. “We do many things without authority”. Wrong! Col. 3:17
2. Gal. 6:10: Individual action, church action, or both?
a. Individual concerns, 6:1-9. (Cannot funnel)
b. Rebuttal: “Gal. was written to churches" (1:2).
c. Ans. Doesn’t mean we baptize churches! Gal. 3:27 (1:4)
3. Jas. 1:26-27: Individual action, church action, or both?
a. Individual self-control, implant word, doer of word, this man blessed, keep oneself … same man. Jas. 1:19-26
b. Rebuttal: “Prevents church from practicing pure and undefiled religion.”
c. Ans. No it doesn’t, just can’t use this verse! Local church is not authorized to do some things, 1 Tim. 5:16.
THE LOCAL CHURCH’S WORK OF BENEVOLENCE WAS NEVER USED IN THE NT AS A WAY TO
INTRODUCE THE GOSPEL TO THE LOST. (Salvation
Army, Rescue Mission, social gospel)
A. Local Church’s Work of Benevolence is the Fruit of Faith, not the Means of Spreading It, Acts 4:32-35 (Rom. 15:28; 2 Cor. 8:3-5).
1. With compassion, Jesus taught the multitude, Mk. 6:34. Fed 5,000 men, not as a drawing card, but as a personal expression of care.
a. Jesus scolded some for seeking Him for physical food, Jno. 6:25-27.
b. Jesus did not use benevolent help as means of spreading gospel.
c. Many turned away because they had wrong motives, Jno. 6:66.
d. The gospel becomes less attractive when general benevolence is used to draw
2. The gospel draws men to Christ, Jno. 6:44-45 (Rom. 1:16).
B. Yet, Brethren Continue to Practice and Defend General Benevolence by Local Churches on this Basis.
1. Bill Jackson (LaCoste-Jackson Debate, 1984): “We are saying also that in the benevolent work of the church there are some occasions wherein aid is rendered to one who is not a Christian and that this in itself has opened doors of evangelism." (End justifies means, Rom. 3:8)
2. Mac Deaver (Holt-Deaver Debate, 1987): Said the work of church is to “save souls.” Therefore, when benevolence is used to spread gospel, the church is doing its work.
3. Where is the Bible authority? Where is the Scripture? Pattern?
C. Some Defend General Benevolence with 2 Corinthians 9:13.
1. pantas: “all men"
(KJV; NKJV); “all others” (ESV).
a. Who are “all”? Christians in Jerusalem; None left out (context).
b. What proves too much proves nothing: (If actually “all”, then that would
include the lazy, the withdrawn from, false teacher).
c. Context: Saints, 2 Cor. 9:1.
d. The recipients would thank and glorify God while praying to God – Saints, 2 Cor. 9:12-14.
e. Gentile Christians partook of (koinonia) spiritual things from those
who received the benevolence – Saints,
f. Pray that Paul be delivered from the disobedient and accepted by the saints, Rom. 15:30-31; cf. Acts 21:17.
1) Why would disobedient attack Paul if relief was for them?
2) Did Paul misapply these funds? NO.
D. Individual and Collective Distinction, Acts 3:1-6.
1. Funds were available for benevolence,
2. Alien sinner in need, Acts 3:2-3.
3. Had no silver or gold for him, Acts 3:4-6 (yet, Acts 4:35, had $).
a. Apostles did have the power of God (healing) to give him.
b. Apostles had the power of the gospel (salvation) to give him (3:12-26).
c. Did not have benevolent relief from the local church to give him.
d. They did not (could not) use benevolent funds to “open doors of evangelism”, Acts 4:4.
1. Individuals are to help the weak, Acts 20:34-35.
2. The local church must meet its responsibility, 1 Tim. 5:16.
3. We must not alter the roles of either – God has arranged both for His glory.