Where Do You Stand On Issues, Paul?
These days it is not uncommon at all for a brother to ask quite pointedly, "Where do you stand on the issues?" Such a question in other generations would not have meant what it means today. But the informed servant of the Lord immediately understands the implication of the question and answers accordingly.
Thinking along this line, it occurred to me that it would, if Paul were on earth today, be rather interesting to ask this question of him.
"Where do you stand on the congregation-cooperation question, Paul?" It is evident that he believed in it. He taught that contributions should be made from one congregation, having ability, to another congregation when the receiving congregation was in need or distress (I Cor. 16: 1,2; Rom. 15:26; Acts 11:27-30). Paul never approved the sponsoring-church concept, but he did confess to receiving direct contribution from more than one congregation while laboring in another area (II Cor. 11:8). Nothing in the context of his writing indicates that the churches of his day acted in any way other than independently and autonomously. But he admits that he was supported numerous times by the church at Philippi (Phil. 4:15, 16, 18), even though he was at the time preaching the gospel at Thessalonica or Rome and probably other places (Athens and Corinth).
"Where do you stand on the question of the extent of the authority of elders, Paul?" Well, when speaking to the Ephesian elders while he was visiting with them at Miletus, he charged them to "take heed to all the flock over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops" (Acts 20: 28). It should be evident that Paul did not intend these bishops to oversee the wards or work for which other churches were responsible. Their authority was to be exercised only in reference to a particular congregation and its work. His teaching harmonized with Peter's in this respect (I Pet. 5:2) as we would expect it to - both of them being inspired. No eldership under Paul's tutelage (or any other man of inspiration) attempted a collective, cooperative program of evangelism in behalf of the whole brotherhood (as per the Herald of Truth, which we have today).
"What do you think of 'general' benevolence Paul?" When speaking of individual responsibility, Paul instructed the individual to perform "general" benevolence, "all men" (Gal. 6:10). But when urging church action in the field of benevolence, without exception, he indicated that it was to be for the "saints" (Rom. 15:26; I Cor. 16:1, 2; II Cor. 8:4; 9:1; 9:12). So where do we turn to get the idea that some hold that Paul intended the church to expend its resources in the physical relief of the various maladjusted segments of society?
"Where do you stand on church-socials, Paul — making a social and recreational institution out of the church?" We nowhere read where Paul indicated that he regarded the place of meeting as sacred but he nevertheless indicated that the place for us to do our eating and drinking is in our own homes, "What, have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?" (I Cor. 11:22). This instruction will not only keep social functions and recreational activities out of the worship, but it will also keep them away from church facilities. Neither he nor any other man referred to social activities as "fellowship."
If Paul were on earth he would not likely be popular with a lot of brethren but I am sure that he would not be in the fore-front, leading the church into digression and apostasy as many are doing today.
- 718 Lambuth Lane, Deer Park, Tx. 77536