Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 26, 1951

Brother Cecil N. Wright On Cooperation

C. F. George, Brownwood, Texas

In the Firm Foundation dated June 9, 1951, brother Cecil N. Wright makes some statements that I wish to review in light of the scriptures.

Quoting from brother Roy E. Cogdill's book as a proof text he made the following assertions: (1) Missionaries were sent out by a local church and reported to a local church. (2) Other local churches could and did cooperate with the local church that sent out missionaries. (3) But such cooperative work was always under the supervision of a local church and its elders—presumable the local church sending out missionaries and to which they reported. If these statements were true there would be ground for his further assertion that the "sponsoring' method is 1900 years old. But I shall show that these statements are without scriptural backing.

The first proof text used in brother Cogdill's book and referred to by brother Wright was Acts 13:1-3. "Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers, Barnabas, and Symeon that is called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." But we need also to include verse 4 in the reading. "So they being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from thence they sailed to Cyprus." These verses state that the church sent them away under the instructions of the Holy Spirit. Verse 4 declares that it was the Holy Spirit that sent them forth. The church had nothing to do with making the decision for them to go.

We have shown that Acts 13:1-4 does not teach that a local church sent Paul away on his journeys in the sense that churches today are sending missionaries. I shall now show that churches did not cooperate in this endeavor as churches are doing today. First, let me say there is no record of any communication of any kind taking place between the church at Antioch and Paul while he was on this journey. If they sent one piece of money to him from any source, the record is silent on the subject. Philippians 4:15-16 states that while at Thessalonica the Philippian church was the only one that contributed to his needs. There certainly was no cooperation between Antioch and Philippi in this instance. Philippi was doing all of the operating as far as support was concerned. This Philippian church sent directly to Paul. If Antioch had been performing in the way that Lubbock and Memphis are doing, Philippi would have had to send their contribution to Antioch for them to supervise to keep Paul from making merchandise of the church. Incidentally I would hate to send a man out to convert the world that I had no confidence in.

I have now shown that Antioch did not send in the sense that churches now send, and there was no cooperation with Antioch in the sense that it is done now because Antioch was not operating. I shall now show that Paul was not under their supervision. First we have already noted that Paul departed on this journey under orders of the Holy Spirit and not Antioch. There is no record of the elders at Antioch telling them where to go or what to preach. On the second missionary journey Paul was forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. (Acts 16:6-7) "And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and when they were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia; and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not." These verses show that Paul was working under the supervision of the Holy Spirit and not some local church.

I have shown that all three premises upon which brother Wright seeks scriptural proof of the "sponsoring' congregation are false, and therefore is no scriptural proof for any such arrangements.

The above arguments are primarily in reference to the preaching of the Word. We shall now notice one in reference to cooperation in helping the poor. "And the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea: which also they did sending it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul." (Acts 11:29-30) The question has been raised as to what elders were referred to. In acts 14:23 it is stated that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every city on their return trip while on the first missionary journey. From this and other scriptures we know that it was the Lord's plan for each congregation to have its own elders. Paul and Barnabas simply carried the relief to the elders of the churches where it was needed.

There was another gathering of help for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem recorded in 1 Cor. 16 and 2 Cor. 8. This contribution was collected by each congregation and sent by messengers to the church at Jerusalem, where it was to be used. There is no record whatever of any elders in apostolic days assuming oversight of any activity outside of their own community. Peter commanded the elders to "tend the flock of God which is among you." (1 Peter 5:2) "Among" certainly does not mean across the ocean.

I have endeavored in this article to show what the Bible teaches upon this subject. It makes no difference what men of the past or present have taught as to whether these things are true or false; the Bible is our standard and not the teachings and traditions of men.