Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 16, 1962

Galatian 6:10 And The Church

Robert C. Welch

A statement of mine in an article in the Gospel Guardian, Volume 2, Number 41, has received quite a pummeling from friend and foe. One of the institutional debaters (I do not remember whether it was Totty or Woods) in one of the Indianapolis debates used it to show that some of us believe, or had believed, that the church has an obligation to assist the needy who are not members of the church. One of the latest efforts to use it was my friend, Warren Rainwater, in this paper, Volume 14, Number 5. He used it to substantiate his claim that the church is obligated to support the needy who are not members of the church. I had no intention of replying to the article until several inquiries about my position have been received. This is not an attempt to respond to anything in his article except to clarify my statement with reference to Galatians 6:10.

The sentence in question was; "If it can provide for more than its own number in the community let it do so. (Gal. 6:10)." The paragraph from which it was lifted was a study of the extent and limitations of benevolent work of a church, especially with reference to extra-church institutions.

It is unfortunate that the sentence was lifted from its context. Thus lifted, it is made to have an absolute significance which this writer had no intention of giving. I have no intention of proving that it was the duty of the church as an entity to help the impoverished while not members of the church. Recognizing that Gal. 6:10 does require some kind of assistance to those who are not members of the church, I was granting for argument's sake that the church might help them; but arguing, in spite of this, that there was still no proof that the church had any right to contribute to a human benevolent institution. An attempt to give my statement any meaning other than this is a perversion of what I said.

It is highly questionable that the passage cited has anything to do with congregational assistance to anybody. This passage and others (Luke 10:30-37, for instance) show that it is the duty of the Christian with ability to help the unfortunate. The sentence was inadvertently inserted in an argument against church support of human institutions of any kind. Having noted the use made of it, if the article were being written today, both the sentence and the citation would be omitted. Similar expressions have been made by others which would perhaps be placed by the authors in the same category.

The passage and its context in preceding verses is addressed primarily to individual Christians in a distributive sense. Many of the obligations specified, however, can be carried out in and through the church as well as through person to person contact. This is not because the passage in Galatians specifically authorizes it, but because it is specifically authorized in other places as a function of the church. The spiritual ones who restore those overtaken in trespass have the two-fold obligation of personal effort and of doing it through the church as an entity. (See Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Tim. 5:20) Bearing the burdens of other members involves both a personal kindness and doing it through the church by way of contributions of money, goods or service, collected and disbursed. Communicating to the teacher is certainly an individual obligation, but it can be fulfilled scripturally personally or through collection and disbursement of the church. (See Acts 18:15; 2 Cor. 11:8) The good work toward all men is primarily in the distributive sense. And if it is to be done through and by the church as an entity, some other passage will need to be used to show that the church has such a duty or prerogative. When, and if, that is done, then there will be no difficulty in seeing that is could also be included in Galatians 6:10. Otherwise, it is but supposition that the church is included in this duty.

Though the word church is not found in the passage, the letter is addressed to the churches of Galatia; and from this some reason that these instructions are given to the congregation collective. Even where the word or some similar term is used it may refer to the members distributive, who make up the church. This is the case where the subjects of the work done are considered in the verse; as it says, "toward them who are of the household of faith." Here, "the household of faith" is used to signify the church; but the church collective is not the recipient, it is the members distributive.

— 1102 N. Mound, Nacogdoches, Texas