Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 27, 1952
NUMBER 30, PAGE 5,10b

Evangelism — The Apostolic Pattern

Roy E. Cogdill

All of us recognize that there is a personal influence which the Christian must privately and individually exert in the proclamation of the gospel of Christ. There is a field of "personal evangelism" which has been, and is being, sadly neglected. But I am interested in how the church of the New Testament carried on its program of work. How, aside from personal evangelism, did the church as such, fulfill its obligation? How did it operate in preaching the gospel of God's Son throughout the world?

In Acts chapter 11, we begin to see how it was done. When the persecution arose about Stephen, the Jerusalem brethren were scattered from the city, and some of them traveled as far as Phenice and Cyprus and Antioch, preaching the gospel. A congregation was begun in Antioch, and when the church in Jerusalem heard that Antioch had received the word, they sent forth Barnabas to help in that field. The congregation in Antioch seems to have been pretty largely at the beginning the result of work done by individual Christians, who were not sent, but who just went. Being scattered abroad because of the persecution, they went everywhere "preaching the word." And when Barnabas came to Antioch to help, that city gradually became the radiating center for the gospel rather than Jerusalem. Barnabas went over to the neighboring province, and got Paul and brought him back to Antioch, and the two of them together labored in the city of Antioch for a whole year.

Passing on into Acts, Chapter 13, we read "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon, that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." From this moment on, we read about the great work that Paul, along with others did as the gospel was carried to the nations of the earth. Sometimes I hear the idea advanced that Paul recognized his amenability to the church at Antioch, and that he came back there from time to time to make an official report to them; and that hence, Paul was under the elders of the church at Antioch. That has the New Testament in reverse. Paul was an inspired apostle of Jesus Christ, not a whit behind even the chiefest of the apostles. And apostles were not subject to elders.

The truth of the matter is simply this: when the Antioch church understood that it was God's will that Barnabas and Saul should go forth to preach in other places, they sent them forth without hesitation. They prayed and laid their hands on these two men, and may have contributed in some very definite and material way to speed them on their journey. The Bible does not say as to that. But as Paul continued his work, he was no more "subject" to the elders at Antioch than Peter was "subject" to the elders in Jerusalem. We ought to remember that as an apostle of Christ Paul is nowhere said to have been under, or subject to, the elders at Antioch. To be sure, he came back now and then to visit the Antioch brethren; but he did not call the elders together and give them some "official report" of his activities. Rather, the whole church came together to hear "all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles." (Acts 14:27)

Cooperating Churches

When Paul preached the gospel in Corinth, Divine providence led him to do so without accepting any support from the Corinthians. Later on, when false teachers came along and attacked Paul trying to destroy his influence, they accused him of preaching only for money. Paul reminded the Corinthians they were witnesses of the fact that the changes were not so. He had labored with his own hands to support himself, and was "chargeable to no man." He says also, "I robbed other churches, taking wages from them, to do you service." (II Cor. 11:8) I call your attention to the plural "other churches." While Paul labored in Corinth, more than one distant church contributed to his support. Here we have an example of church co-operation — several churches cooperated in Paul's support. Now, I want to know, how did they do it? How was such "co-operation" carried out? What were the arrangements?

Why, brethren today would say that all these supporting churches sent their money to Antioch, and then the church at Antioch sent the money on to Paul at Corinth. Antioch, they would declare, was Paul's "sponsoring church," and Paul was subject to the Antioch elders. Now where in the world did anybody ever get such an idea? You cannot find it in the New Testament. There is nothing there that even looks like a hint of a thirty-second cousin to that notion. It just isn't there!

Well, if not that way, then how was it done? Fortunately we do not have to guess about it. The Bible is very clear on the matter; it is as clear and precise as baptism for the remission of sins, or as observing the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week. There is no doubt or question as to how the cooperation was done. Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity." (Phil. 4:15,16) Later on other, churches helped; but "in the beginning" the Philippian brethren were alone in such support. Well, how did they send? Where did their contribution go? They sent their money TO PAUL. Not to the elders at Antioch? Of course not. The money came directly to the preacher.

Well if there were many churches later on sending to him, how could they know but what Paul was getting too much money? That is a well-worn question we hear today. If a congregation doesn't trust a preacher, they should not send him ANY money. Don't support him to start with. And if, after supporting him, it is discovered that he is, not dealing fairly and honestly, they stop the support. It is as simple as that. Personally, I am not any more afraid of the preachers than I am of the elders. When brethren turn over two or three hundred thousand dollars to one eldership, and I don't care which one it is, how do they know that some of those elders are not going to have sticky fingers? There isn't any way of knowing that some money won't be misused, whether sent to elders or to a preacher. And the New Testament example is to send it to the preacher. That looks good enough for me.

There is the definite record and the necessary conclusion that many churches did have a part in supporting Paul in his work. They cooperated in it, none of them being responsible for all he received, and several of them contributing partially to it to make up the sum total. And they sent to Paul in the field where he was working. Really, there is very little reason today, with all our modern means of communication, why a dozen or more churches should have any ignorance of what is being done by cooperating congregations in the matter of support to a man in a distant field. If twelve churches are sending to him, why could not each of the twelve know what the other eleven are doing, and how much each of the eleven is contributing? By doing that each church could send directly to the needy preacher — and follow the New Testament pattern in doing it!