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And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

Notes On Benevolence
As It Relates to The Church

By Louis Rushmore

Sundry Passages

Acts 2:44-45
  1. Christians in Jerusalem sold possessions and distributed to needy Christians (who had remained in Jerusalem after their conversion beyond the preparation they had made to attend the feast of Pentecost).
  2. The manner of the distribution is not here cited.
  3. The recipients of the benevolence, called "all" in vs. 45, were the needy ones of those "that believed" of vs. 44.
Acts 4:32, 34-35
  1. Christians in Jerusalem are again noted for selling possessions and generally sharing their resources.
  2. The proceeds were presented to the apostles for distribution to the needy.
  3. Individual Christians practiced benevolence through the church.
  4. The recipients, called "every man," were the needy ones of "them that believed" of vs. 32 and "among them" (referring to saints) of verse 34.
Acts 5:2-5
  1. This incident pertains to the same occasion of Acts 4:32, 34-35 above.
  2. The proceeds were presented to the apostles for distribution.
  3. The money was no longer possessed by the individual after it was given to the church through the apostles.
  4. The contribution became church property for use (distribution here to needy saints).
  5. Christians practiced benevolence through the church.
Acts 6:1-4
  1. The benevolence here was conducted by the church through selected Christians who represented the church.
  2. The recipients of the benevolence were Christian widows in this context.
  3. The benevolence was administered in this context DAILY ("daily ministration").
  4. The context does not state HOW the widows were provided for or whether they resided in their own homes.
Acts 11:27-30
  1. Gentile Christians were moved with compassion to send financial relief to brethren in Judaea who were suffering from famine.
  2. The relief was sent for saints throughout Judaea.
  3. Barnabas and Saul delivered it.
  4. The elders in Jerusalem received it on behalf of the church for distribution to needy saints in Jerusalem AND JUDAEA (verses 29-30; 12:25).
    • The Lord charged the apostles to spread the Gospel from Jerusalem to Judaea to Samaria to the rest of the world (Acts 1:8).
    • The preaching of the Gospel was rewarded with numerous conversions (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14).
    • Philip alone converted souls with the Gospel in Samaria (Acts 8:5-12) and Judaea (Acts 8:26-40).
    • A church already had been established in Damascus by Acts 9.
    • There were a plurality of churches in Judaea, Samaria and Galilee (Acts 9:31).
    • There was a church at Lydda which is in Judaea (Acts 9:32-35).
    • There was a church at Joppa which is also in Judaea (Acts 9:36-43; 10:5, 45; 11:12).
    • A church was established at Caesarea (Acts 10-11).
    • The Gospel was preached throughout Judaea (Acts 10:37) and Christians lived in Judaea as well as Jerusalem (Acts 11:1).
    • Churches were established in Phenice, Cyprus and Antioch (Acts 11:19).
1 John 3:17-18
  1. Compassion commanded toward a "brother" as a demonstration of the "love of God."
  2. Is the church prohibited from demonstrating the "love of God" toward non-Christians?
Romans 12:13
  1. Benevolence commanded toward "saints."
Romans 15:25-26
  1. Christians in Macedonia and Achaia purposed to send financial relief to "poor saints" in Jerusalem.
  2. Saints in Judaea were previously the recipients of benevolence as well when relief was sent to the elders in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30; 12:25).
  3. This is a different occasion of relief than the citation in Acts 11:27-30; 12:25.
2 Corinthians 8:1-4
  1. Churches in Macedonia sent money through Paul for needy "saints."
  2. Churches sent money to another church for benevolence in Jerusalem AND JUDAEA (Acts 11:30; 12:25--though this is a different occasion from Acts 11).
2 Corinthians 9:1-5
  1. The Corinthian church (addressee of the epistle, 2 Cor. 1:1) and saints (same verse) were urged to make a contribution ready.
  2. The New Testament does not always make a distinction between Christians and the church (2 Cor. 1:1).
  3. In this context, the contribution was being collected for saints.
  4. This is not the same occasion cited in Acts 11:27-30.
1 Corinthians 16:1-3
  1. Paul commanded churches in Galatia and Corinth to make a benevolent contribution to be taken to Jerusalem.
  2. Benevolence was the basis of a church contribution.
  3. This money was to be sent to another church for distribution in Jerusalem AND JUDAEA (Acts 11:27-30; 12:25—though this is not the same occasion found in Acts 11).
  4. If 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 and similar passages are PATTERNS and entertain SPECIFIC COMMANDS and BINDING EXAMPLES:
    • The first-day-of-the-week contribution can only be used for benevolence.
    • The first-day-of-the-week contribution cannot be used Scripturally for paying the preacher, utilities, mortgages, lawn care OR ANYTHING ELSE!
    • Then, these passages would authorize benevolent distribution to SAINTS ONLY.
  5. If 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 and similar passages contain principles and entertain GENERIC COMMANDS and NON-BINDING EXAMPLES:
    • The first-day-of-the-week contribution can be used for any legitimate work of the church (including benevolence, supporting a preacher, utilities, etc.).
    • The first-day-of-the-week contribution can be used for benevolence toward non-Christians, too.
Acts 24:17
  1. Paul makes a public defense in which he professes he brought money to his "nation."
  2. Recipients of benevolence according to Paul’s statement were Jewish; he stipulated no other restrictions (i.e., that the recipients of benevolence must be exclusively Jewish Christians).
Galatians 6:10
  1. This verse specifies special consideration of needy brethren among all needy people that capacity and opportunity to help might otherwise confront.
  2. The epistle was written to and circulated among several churches in Galatia ("churches of Galatia," 1:2; "brethren," 1:11; 3:15; 4:12; 5:13; 6:1).
  3. The context of this verse IS NOT usually considered applicable to individual Christians to the exclusion of the church (i.e., Gal. 6:6 is commonly understood to teach congregational support of Gospel preachers).
  4. Simply, two categories of needy are cited: Christians (the "household of faith") and non-Christians (the part of "all" not the "household of faith").
  5. The word "men" is supplied and is not necessary to the understanding of the passages (i.e., "all" pertains to mankind, not goats, dogs, etc.).
  6. "Household of faith" is comparable to "household of God" (Eph. 2:19).
  7. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 also makes a distinction between Christians and the balance of humanity ("yourselves" and "all men").
2 Corinthians 9:12-13
  1. Though the contribution was motivated by needy saints in Jerusalem, the context admits that both "saints" (verse 12; "them" verse 13) and non-Christians, styled "all" in addition to the "saints" were the beneficiaries of this financial relief.
  2. "Household of faith" is comparable to "household of God" (Eph. 2:19).
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 also makes a distinction between Christians and the balance of humanity ("yourselves" and "all men").
James 1:27
  1. This verse encourages the performance of benevolent activity without specifying whether the recipients are to be Christians.
  2. James 1:27 is a GENERIC COMMAND.
  3. Neither does the verse specifically treat whether the benefactor should be an individual or a congregation.
  4. The address of the epistle uses the plural ("twelve tribes" and "brethren," Jam. 1:1-2).
  5. The context in which verse 27 appears speaks to a plural number of Christians ("souls" verse 21) and therefore could include one or more congregations.
  6. The church performed this type of benevolent activity (Acts 6:1-4).
  7. Galatians 6:10 and 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 treats benevolent treatment of non-Christians, too.
  8. Benevolence is both the responsibility of the church and Christians (who may perform this benevolence through the church, Acts 4:35; 2 Cor. 8:4).
Acts 8:3
  1. Christians do not cease to be the church when they are not assembled.
  2. The church is made of saved souls (Acts 2:47) or Christians and Christians are the church all the time.
  3. It is fallacious reasoning to distinguish between the work of the church and the work of Christians. What the church does is done by Christians; what Christians do, the church does.
  4. Christianity is not subdivided by works (or worship) between the Christian and the church.
  5. It is the mutual responsibility of the church and Christians to evangelize the world (and practice benevolence toward the same recipients).
1 Timothy 5:3-16
  1. Taking care of some widows is the responsibility of the church.
Ephesians 4:28
  1. Honest labor is encouraged by which Christians can practice benevolence toward the needy.
  2. Ephesians is addressed to the church at Ephesus in the vein of "the saints which are at Ephesus" (1:1).
  3. A GENERIC COMMAND is found in Ephesians 4:28 without reference either to HOW it is to be performed or a prohibition of helping non-Christians.
Matthew 5:43-48
  1. Obviously the "enemies" and "neighbour" in this context are not limited to brethren. The parable of the "Good Samaritan" also teaches that one’s neighbor is not confined to Christians (Luke 10:25-37).
  2. Verse 45 explicitly says that God bestows physical blessings on the unjust as well as the just.
  3. The context encourages disciples of Christ to extend benevolence toward non-Christians and by so doing they can imitate God.
  4. If either the church or Christians do not act benevolently toward non-Christians then the lost world will perceive NO DIFFERENCE between itself and the church or Christians (but God wants the world to be able to perceive the difference, Matt. 5:16).
  5. If either the church or Christians fail to practice benevolence toward non-Christians, then neither the church nor Christians will be "perfect" as God is perfect (verse 48).
Matthew 7:12
  1. Is the church under any obligation to practice what is commonly called "the Golden Rule"? If so, what in PRINCIPLE applies (regarding work) to the Christian applies also to the church.
Romans 13:1-7
  1. This context teaches that Christians are subject to civil law. However, if the principle specified for individuals does not apply with equal force to the church, then the church is not required to abide by civil law at all.
Romans 13:8-10
  1. If this PRINCIPLE applies exclusively to individuals then the church is not bound by the law of love which prohibits adultery, murder, stealing, lying and coveting.

Sundry Observations

  1. There is no exclusive PATTERN of church cooperation taught in the Bible (Acts 6:1-4; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9:12-13; Gal. 6:10; Jam. 1:27; Eph. 4:28).
  2. The New Testament does not specify HOW benevolence was administered. The Gospel does not specify HOW goods and services might be provided. (Possibilities include taking poor into one’s home or providing payment for goods, services or lodging for the needy).
  3. No one has the right to impose on other Christians and churches a single way of enacting benevolence.
  4. How benevolence is enacted and to whom is not a God-approved test of fellowship.
  5. Benevolence administered by a church may be performed daily (Acts 6:1).
  6. Christians may practice benevolence through a local congregation by contributing money (Acts 4:34-35).
  7. Recipients of church benevolence included able bodied persons who were temporarily unable to provide for themselves (Acts 2:44-45), orphans and widows (Acts 6:1-4; 1 Tim. 5:3-16; Jam. 1:27) and people suffering from famine (Acts 11:27-30).
  8. First-century churches sent money to a single church for relief of its needy saints and needy saints of other congregations (Acts 11:30; 12:25).
  9. The New Testament does not support the artificial distinction between Christians and the church (Acts 2:47; 8:3; 2 Cor. 1:1). It is fallacious reasoning to distinguish between the work of the church and the work of Christians. What the church does is done by Christians; what Christians do, the church does.
  10. The New Testament church and Christians both practiced benevolence toward Christians and non-Christians (Gal. 6:10; 2 Cor. 9:12-13; Acts 14:17), though preference for brethren is emphasized.
  11. The church cannot practice "pure and undefiled religion" (Jam. 1:27) toward the world if it cannot practice benevolence toward non-Christians.
  12. The church cannot practice the "love of God" (1 John 3:17-18) toward non-Christians if it cannot practice benevolence toward them.
  13. The church cannot be "perfect" as God is perfect if it does not practice benevolence toward non-Christians (Matt. 5:43-48).
  14. The church cannot practice "the Golden Rule" (Matt. 7:12) toward the world if it cannot help non-Christians.
  15. The church is not obligated to obey civil law if Romans 13:1-7 applies exclusively to individual Christians. If it applies to the church, then principles concerning benevolence that include non-Christians (Gal. 6:10; Jam. 1:27) apply to the church, too.
  16. The church is not obligated to practice the law of love and refrain from adultery, murder, stealing, lying and coveting if the principle of Romans 13:8-10 applies exclusively to individual Christians. If it applies to the church, then principles concerning benevolence that include non-Christians (Gal. 6:10; Jam. 1:27) apply to the church, too.
  17. If 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 and similar passages are PATTERNS and entertain SPECIFIC COMMANDS and BINDING EXAMPLES:
    • The first-day-of-the-week contribution can only be used for benevolence.
    • The first-day-of-the-week contribution cannot be used Scripturally for paying the preacher, utilities, mortgages, lawn care OR ANYTHING ELSE!
    • Then, these passages would authorize benevolent distribution to SAINTS ONLY.
  18. If 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 and similar passages contain principles and entertain GENERIC COMMANDS and NON-BINDING EXAMPLES:
    • The first-day-of-the-week contribution can be used for any legitimate work of the church (including benevolence, supporting a preacher, utilities, etc.).
    • The first-day-of-the-week contribution can be used for benevolence toward non-Christians, too.
  19. If Galatians 6:10 applies to Christians to the exclusion of the first-day-of-the-week contribution, the church is not authorized by Scripture to support a preacher (Gal. 6:6) but he must be supported by individuals within a congregation.
  20. The New Testament teaches voluntary cooperation between churches (1 Cor. 16:1-3).
  21. If a church is prohibited from practicing benevolence toward non-Christians, then it cannot help non-Christian children of Christian parents. If there is an exception covering these children, it is not an exception about which one can read in the New Testament.
  22. If a church cannot practice benevolence toward non-Christians, then it cannot help needy Christians whose non-Christian family members would also benefit from the benevolent act.
  23. Enacting benevolence implies a place in which the benevolence is enacted. If the natural environment or home is not available, a substitute or restored home is a necessary tool in practicing benevolence (i.e., private or institutional).
  24. The church can practice benevolence through the labors of selected individual Christians (Acts 6:1-4). Similarly, not all members preach when the church preaches the Gospel, but the church nevertheless preaches the Gospel when a preacher preaches.
  25. A home for children or elderly is not comparable to a missionary society. A home is the tool by which benevolence is enacted (the purchase of goods and services), whereas a missionary society is an association of churches which through its central governing body dictates to member churches.
  26. A home for children or elderly is not comparable to a missionary society since it is admittedly sinful to contribute to a missionary society but all grant that a Christian may contribute to a home for children or elderly.
  27. A home for children or elderly is not wrong simply because it may be legally organized. Many churches are legally organized to function within the law.
  28. The way in which benevolence is to be administered is no more specified in Scripture than does Scripture specify where a congregation is to meet for worship (unless one believes the saints are obligated to meet in an upper room, Acts 20:7-12). By implication of a place to worship, the church owns a building in which to worship; by implication of a place and means by which to help orphans and widows, the church may purchase services or even own a building through which benevolence is enacted.
  29. It is obvious that a church cannot provide a home for a needy person without securing by one means or another a suitable PLACE.
  30. It is incomprehensible that brethren would try to bind rules regarding the use of the church treasury on other Christians and churches since the New Testament says nothing concerning the treasury. (If 1 Cor. 16:1-3 is thought to be an exclusive pattern, it is a pattern for benevolence ONLY; nothing else could be funded from the church treasury—including providing a meeting house and paying the preacher.)
  31. It is frightening to think that brethren would defend buying fertilizer for a church lawn but utterly refuse to enact benevolence toward a starving non-Christian child. (That is an inevitable conclusion of the SAINTS ONLY theory!)
  32. In truth, through biblical PRINCIPLES, the church treasury can be used for any good work ascribed to the church (including benevolence, providing a meeting place and supporting a Gospel preacher).
  33. If it be objected that the church may exhaust it funds through benevolence and therefore the Christian individual should practice benevolence, the same irrational objection would apply to individual Christians--who in turn would be destitute themselves and unable to contribute to the church. Prudence, capacity and opportunity will answer the problem for either congregation or Christian.
  34. If the church cannot practice benevolence toward non-Christians, than EACH Christian is OBLIGATED to personally practice benevolence toward non-Christians (Gal. 6:10; Jam. 1:27).

H. A. "Buster" Dobbs, email: had@worldnet.att.net
P. O. Box 690192
Houston, Texas 77269-0192
(281) 469-3540

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