Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 16, 1962
NUMBER 15, PAGE 8-11a

"Faith Only --- Saints Only"

John W. Collins

It is the purpose of this article to review a recent essay in the Gospel Guardian (5-31-62) that sought to establish the following:

"...a congregation can care for orphans under the direction of her elders."

As we begin let us call to mind the following scriptural facts: Colossians 3:17, "And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Also, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, "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." With these, and other scriptures, we conclude that authority Is necessary for all things we practice. We can do nothing "of faith" unless we have "the Word of God" to uphold our actions. (Romans 14:23 with 10:17)

Also, we realize that our authority is established by either an expressed statement, necessary inference, or an approved example. Space does not allow an involved proof of this, but let us say only that the Lord's statement in Mark 16:16 Is most certainly binding authority; the approved example of Acts 20:7 concerning the first day of the week, is also binding authority; as is the necessary inference of every first day in the same passage. Please keep those principles in mind as we study brother Rainwater's article.

Quoting From Paragraph Four Of His Article:

"....some have solved the problem by taking the position the church has no obligation to any person that is not a saint. This position has become known as the 'saints only' doctrine. The question then before us is, 'Is it scriptural for a congregation to take money from the treasury under any condition and use that money for the relief of any person in a material way that is not a baptized believer?' The 'saints only' doctrine will do for the church the same thing the 'faith only' doctrine will do for the religious sects. If we properly apply the position of 'faith only' in conversion, it will eliminate anything else in the plan of salvation."

Let us stop here for a moment and discuss what he said! First, he brings to light the doctrine — "saints only." Then he states his problem. Finally, he makes a comparison between "faith only" and "saints only." With this in mind let me raise the question, "Why is the doctrine of 'Faith only' wrong?" Is it because the word "only" is wrong within itself? Or is it because the addition of the word "only" to "faith" makes the teaching a false doctrine? Naturally, it is the latter. BUT suppose Christ had taught salvation by "faith only"? Would it then be wrong? NO! What makes a doctrine wrong is not the words that describe it, but it is the fact that is contradicts the word of God, our authority. Christ and the apostles taught "immersion" for baptism. Would this be a false doctrine if I added the word "only"? If the word of God teaches that the church has a responsibility to "saints only," it makes no difference how many times it is compared to a false "only" doctrine, the Bible doctrine will still be correct! Brother Rainwater concludes the paragraph with;

"The same use of the restriction as we apply it to the problem of benevolence will leave out any person that is not a baptized believer. Therefore, any child, regardless of its condition, could not be a recipient of help from the church unless it was old enough to be a member of the church."

And again we say, if this is what the Bible teaches, this will then be Bible authority and the violation would be to open the door to all mankind; that is to remove the restriction we note by using the word "only."

Brother Rainwater's statement, "any child, regardless of its condition," reminds me of the liberal brethren who accuse us of being willing to let little children die on the door-steps of the church rather than take money from the treasury to help them. It makes no difference what their condition is, if Bible authority is violated, then the church is wrong in the practice. Brother Rainwater needs to have a long talk with Uzzah of the Old Testament.

Next, Brother Rainwater States The Problem:

"The problem seems to be over when a command must be done by an individual exclusively or when collective action is allowed. There are two thoughts that take us to extremes. One is that any action an individual engages in is the church or can be the church....On the other hand, there are those who have taken the position that any command given to an individual must be carried out by the individual exclusively and that no collective action can be allowed."

Brother Rainwater now begins to prove that "all passages that are given to individuals do not have exclusive individual action," and we will discuss his "authority" in a moment. If this is true, then individual action may be done through the church treasury under the guise of "individual collective action." (I wonder how he would tell the difference between "individual collective action" and "church action." He didn't tell us that standard!) Thus we would have the church using its money to carry out the work of individuals. The individuals would be using another organization, the church, to carry out their obligations. This is neither logical nor a true conclusion! When individuals give money to the church, it ceases to be theirs and becomes the Lord's to be used in carrying out the work of the church. (Acts 5:1-6) There is no such animal as "individual collective action" through the church treasury.

Next mentioned is the "anti-class" brethren and the great commission. He states that they "argued that the great commission was given to individuals and no class work can be done in teaching the gospel." Now, what makes the "anti-class" folks wrong? It is simply the fact that they have overlooked the authority established by Phil. 4:15, 16; and 1 Thess. 1:8. Brother Rainwater mentions these scriptures in his diagram. However, he misses the boat when he tries to make the church action of Phil. 4 and 1 Thess. 1 an application of the great commission. Phil. 4 and 1 Thess. 1, establish authority by approved examples for the work of the church. This is authority within itself, it needs and has no reliance upon the great commission. Brother Rainwater assumes something he did not prove, namely, that Phil. 4 and 1 Thess. 1 depend on the great commission.

Then In Paragraph Seven He States:

"In James 1:27, we have a command that is general in nature. This command is to visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions. That it is given to the individual is without question as far as I am concerned. The question and problem is — can the individual act in a collective way through the church treasury or must he attend to the demands of this passage with exclusive action?"

Following this statement were two diagrams, one of which is as follows:

Chart Goes Here

Brother Rainwater has made the same mistake as before. He assumed that the collective action (the work of the church) is an application of the command in James 1:27 (the work of an individual). Again, this is something that must be proven. Again we say, the passage concerning the church establishes binding authority. This is authority within itself, it needs and has no reliance upon James 1:27. For his diagram to be scriptural he ought to place the "VISIT (to Ind.); James 1:27" after the "Individual Action." Then remove the connecting line between the two.

Upon assuming what needs to be proven about the great commission and the command to visit, brother Rainwater states;

"This proves that all passages that are given to individuals do not have exclusive individual action."

Again, we call on brother Rainwater to give us book, chapter, and verse for his standard of proving when a command to an individual may be done by the church. Evidently he feels that it is the fact that we may assume that when we find the individual and the church acting in the same realm, then the individual authority applies to the church. In order to apply his principle with authority, he is going to have to go beyond the word of God and latch on to something else. 2 John 9 needs to be remembered in this case.

He further states;

"James 1:27 does not tell anything about how the visiting is to be done."

Amen, but the who is specified! This has been the issue from the very beginning! The command is to the individual, the church is not mentioned, therefore to involve the church is to go beyond authority! Where in James 1:27 is the authority to the church? We want book, chapter, and verse, and not an assumed principle. As he continues;

"We will notice that whatever applies to the widow also applies to the fatherless. Please notice that we have an example of the church relieving the widows in Acts 6. Therefore we must conclude that the Christians were practicing pure and undefiled religion so far as assistance to these widows was concerned just as the Christians in Macedonia were sounding out the gospel when they were supporting Paul."

Later he states:

"In fact, the passage in Acts 6 implies they were helped because they were widows rather than Christians."

Thus the question we now raise is this, 'Were these widows Christians?" In connection with this please note Acts 2:45; ...and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need."

Then In Acts 4:34-35;

"For neither was there among them any that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto each, according as any one had need."

Who was the "them in 4:34? Verse 32 tells us;

"And the multitude of them that believed....

These verses are in the same context, therefore we conclude that only Christians were helped with the money that was brought to the apostles. Also in Acts 2:45 the phrase "as any man had need" refers only to Christians because it was the same time and situation as 4:34-35.

Therefore, in Acts 6:1 when the widows of the Grecians were being neglected in the daily ministration, and when the apostles made arrangements for them to be helped, we must conclude that they were Christian widows, because this again is the same time and situation of Acts 2 and 4, and that money was used only for the needy "of them that believed."

When brother Rainwater states that the passage implies that they were helped because they were widows rather than Christians, he is assuming something that he can't prove. There is more weight of evidence in the texts to support the opposite of what he states. The widows of Acts 6 were needy Christians and were helped for this reason.

Thus, if brother Rainwater's principle is correct, then because the widows that were helped by the Jerusalem church were Christians and because widows are mentioned in James 1:27, then when the church helps orphans they must be Christians too; even as brother Rainwater states;

"We will notice that whatever applies to the widow, also applies to the fatherless."

B. VISIT (To Ind.) James 1:27

"Since the same assistance is to be rendered to both widows and orphans and we have shown that the church relieved widows, then the conclusion must be reached that the church can relieve the fatherless."

But, as we have shown, the widows were Christians, therefore the orphans must be Christians also. By his own arguments, Rainwater defeats himself!

However, he anticipates this argument, thus he states;

-"But, some may say that the example applies to the widows that were Christians and by the reasoning used then only Christian orphans can be cared for. If that is true, then of course as per James 1:27, the only ones who an individual could help would be Christians."

This is not true! It would only be true if his principle as shown in the diagram is true; that is, that there is a connection between church and individual authority. Again we say, this is something he assumes and cannot prove by the scriptures. James 1:27 has no connection as far as authority is concerned to Acts 6; because it is individual action and Acts 6 is church action. Acts 6 does not limit James 1:27! Nevertheless, he answers his own objection to the anticipated objection when he states;

"The general command to do good unto all men proves that we can act in areas outside the church " Next he states;

"If it can be said that we are preaching the gospel when we support a preacher from the treasury, then it can be said that we are practicing pure religion when we help a needy person from the treasury. If not, why not?"

To answer this question, we have authority for the church supporting a preacher and we do not have authority, via the word of God, for helping non-Christians from the church treasury! If what we practice has the word of God to back it up, then it will be pure religion; if not, then we are in sin and we have not God. Anything without authority cannot be done in faith.

The word of God limits the benevolent work of the church to saints; therefore, anything else is sin, that is "why not"! Let brother Rainwater produce the command, example, or necessary inference for the church helping non-Christians and then it can be done in faith. God will not accept an assumed principle!

Continuing with the quote;

"Again, if the doctrine is right... then those who are members of families where only the father is a

member would be eliminated from any kind of help."

Let me ask, what does this statement have to do with authority from God's Word? Absolutely nothing! He further states;

'They will work them in through the saints at least indirectly."

By indirectly I suppose he means that the Christians will use the money to help the family and this will be the church helping indirectly. Let me ask this question; If the man used the money to buy groceries, is the church supporting the grocery store? If he gives some of the money to the Heart Fund, is the church supporting the heart fund indirectly??? When the church helps an individual its support stops with him. What he does with the money for his responsibility is his affair and not the church's. There is no such thing as indirect support!

Then he states;

'The scriptures teach that the church helped saints. Some are adding 'only.' The justification has been made by placing restrictions upon Gal. 6:10 and James 1:27 and making them apply to `saints only.' "

Again, brother Rainwater misses the boat. No one restricts these passages. They give the individual the authority to help non-Christians. No one says these passages apply to saints only! These passages have no connection with the work of the church, and the benevolent work of the church is to saints only. He has earlier admitted that both commands are to individuals. However, it doesn't say "only" to individuals, therefore the church can get into the act because of his unscriptural principle. Shades of instrumental music!! We are told to sing but not to sing only, therefore, we can bring in the piano. If he can apply an unscriptural principle to the work of individuals and churches, I should be able to think up one to get the piano in, because it doesn't say "only." If brother Rainwater can go beyond the specific authority in these passages concerning the work of the individual, why doesn't he go all the way beyond the specific authority in Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 and bring in the piano. Perhaps he feels he can apply his principle to the case; however, God will not accept this "of faith."

He finally states that he is not alone in the conclusion that he has reached. He then quotes Robert Welch, Foy Wallace, Daniel Sommer, and Curtis Porter as holding the same position. Even if these men did agree with brother Rainwater, what does this prove as far as Bible authority is concerned? It matters not who said what; if God's Word does not give authority, there is none!

The last quote we notice is this;

"Only recently have we seen the doctrine of 'saints only' come forth with vigor. The restriction to individual action only of Gal. 6:10 and James 1:27 is of recent date comparably speaking and smacks of accommodative interpretation.'

Again we ask, what does this prove as far as Bible authority is concerned? It proves nothing! However, we might note that the restriction to individual action only in Gal. 6:10 and James 1:27 is not of recent date. It actually dates back before the foundation of the world to that time when God ordained the plan of human redemption which includes the church and its activities. This phase of God's plan was recorded by James and Paul!

Brother Rainwater and perhaps others do not agree that James 1:27 and Gal. 6:10 are individual only passages. Perhaps they might contrive situations where a child will die unless the church, by church action under the disguise of "individual collective action" from the treasury helps him. It is very doubtful that such a situation might arise, but suppose they concoct one and then say, "if not, why not?" I do not know all of God's reasons for setting His plan in order as He did, but I'm sure that we must go strictly by His authority or we will be in sin. If brother Rainwater and others can hold their question a little longer, I'm sure that in eternity the Lord will be glad to accommodate them!

In summary, we see that his position depends on an assumed unscriptural principle of church action based on James 1:27. Notice how this principle applies in other situations: A horse eats grass. A cow eats grass and gives milk. Therefore, because the horse and cow eat grass the horse eats because the cow eats and the horse gives milk! "If not, why not?" But, this is not logical and the conclusion is not true. Who would say that a horse receives authority to eat grass and thus can give milk because the cow eats grass and gives milk? No one would. But, brother Rainwater must if he is consistent with his principle.

— 712 North Calhoun St., Perry, Florida