Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 28, 1955
NUMBER 12, PAGE 1,10-11a

Highlights Of The Lufkin Debate

Roy E. Cogdill

"That There May Be Equality"

In his first speech in the Lufkin debate Brother Tant introduced II Corinthians 8:14 and made an argument on it that Brother Harper tried to overcome in every speech that he made during the rest of the debate and never was successful in even satisfying himself by his efforts. If he had been able to satisfy himself, he would not repeatedly have tried to fix the matter up. And since the debate he has had a lengthy article in the Gospel Advocate still trying to explain. It was obvious to every careful student of the New Testament who attended the debate that either Brother Harper did not know what II Corinthians 8 teaches or that he was having some help and counsel that confused him badly about the matter. Frankly, it is the judgment of this writer that Harper would have done a better job in the debate if he had not listened so much to his youthful counselors. Some of them may be quite accomplished in some lines and I am sure they are. One of them made quite an impressive speech to the preachers in the day service one day on "How to run a mimeograph machine and how to hang your trousers up." It was really enlightening and quite professional in its tone as well as brim full of advice to preachers. I have always wondered just how some men learn so much so fast and "get so soon smart."

In order that our readers may understand the argument and the attempted answer to it we quote a few lines from Brother Tant's first speech in which the argument was introduced:

"Those of you who have your Bibles just open them up to II Corinthians 8 and beginning at the 13th verse, I'll read. This concerns the cooperation of many churches in sending relief to Jerusalem. Paul said, 'I say not this that others may be eased and ye distressed; but by equality: your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality. Just what Acts 2:38 is to the design of baptism, II Corinthians 8:13-14 is in the matter of congregational cooperation. Now look on page 15 of your little booklet. In baptism there must be a proper subject, a penitent believer. There must be the proper design — for the remission of sins. Sprinkling or pouring is the wrong action. An infant or an unbeliever would be the wrong subject. Because of remission of sins is the wrong design. Now look at the next two lines. Scriptural and unscriptural cooperation. The action, a gift from one church to another. We all agree that is scriptural. What kind of churches? Just any churches? Oh no! Oh, no! The subject: Churches having inequality. One with abundance, one in want. Or many with abundance, one in want. The proper design, II Corinthians 8:14, 'that there may be equality.' That is what the Bible says. So far as I know that is the only verse in all the Bible that gives the design, the purpose, for the transfer of funds from one church to another. If Brother Harper can find another verse we will be mighty glad to look at it. So far as I know that is the only verse in all the New Testament that gives the purpose, or the design. Now then let us take a look at the wrong kind of cooperation.

"A gift from one church to another. Churches having equality to start with. There is absolutely no record in the New Testament of funds being passed among churches that had equality, from one to another. And to do a good work? To do a good work? Where is the passage that teaches it? Funds were sent to produce equality. To bring about equality, among churches that did not have equality. To be scriptural baptism must have the proper action, the proper subject, for the proper design. Failure at one point invalidates the whole act. To be scriptural, cooperation must have the proper action, a gift from one church to another; between the proper subjects, a church having abundance and a church in want; and for the proper design, to produce equality. Paul's expression is, 'that there may be equality.' Herald of Truth violates New Testament teaching concerning the proper subjects, and the proper design of congregational cooperation, and is therefore wrong."

On the second night of the debate and in his first speech Brother Harper had this to say about the equality argument made the night before by Brother Tant. We quote his exact words:

"One other thing: On this chart on religious equality. In the book you have that the first argument that he has made. If that argument may be overthrown the rest of the book may be cast aside. Now maybe you thought last night we were afraid to talk about it. We did not have time to talk about it last night. We have time tonight. He has spent eleven pages in making this argument. Now notice this equality argument was based upon his purpose principle — that is upon why they gave this contribution., He urged me to find or give one other scripture showing another purpose other than the one they were giving that to make them equal in their resources. Just one more now, purpose, for giving other than the financial part of it, to make them equal. All right, turn to Romans 15:27, Paul tells why they were debtors. It was not because of a financial inequality. It was rather that the Gentiles having come to share in their spirituality blessings they ought also to be of service to them in their material blessings. He said just give me one other scripture for their contribution. Here it is: These Gentiles had received a spiritual blessing. They are sending now a material blessing. Let me tell you this: the blessing that they received, it was so much greater than they sent down to Jerusalem until even in the blessings that they received there was not equality. That is why they sent it down there. And not just to make one church equal to another. You have misunderstood Paul's meaning here in this equality statement. He simply means that in this collection he does not intend to burden some and ease the others. Why, read it for yourselves. If they will all give as prospered whether much or little they'll be equal in this relationship. Not to make one as strong as the other or financially equal to the other. That isn't his equality argument. Let him come back here and tell you exactly what he means by equality. Brother Tant says the reason for the pattern is to benefit the receiving church 'that there may be equality.' Why he thinks this refers to the Jerusalem church. No, it refers to the churches in Macedonia who were poverty stricken. They were not able to supply this need. Get this now. Corinth's abundance was used to supply their lack of funds to relieve Jerusalem. Had Macedonia possessed necessary funds to relieve Jerusalem they would not have sent to Achaia and Galatia. They sustained the same relationship and responsibility to Jerusalem as did Achaia and Galatia, but they seeing the need. first gave themselves, out of their poverty and beyond their ability, they gave out of their substance. Not having enough, they then sent messengers to Achaia and Galatia to make up what they lack. It was when they gave as they were prospered that they had sufficient funds. And Paul's meaning of equality was perfected. This equality was between the churches of the Gentiles, it was not between the churches of the Gentiles and Jerusalem but this equality was between the churches of the Gentiles. It was the Macedonian churches that were in their poverty when they didn't have enough to support the work in Jerusalem, they sent then to Achaia, they sent to Galatia, that out of the abundance of these provinces that their lack and their insufficiency might be made up, that they could send it down to Jerusalem and feed the poor saints in Jerusalem."

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Macedonia was the promoting church, or churches in this section, were what you call the sponsoring church, because the church in Macedonia was the one that sent their messengers up here to Galatia. They sent their messengers up here to Achaia and they sent these messengers to collect the money that was to be sent down here to Jerusalem, and the question I'm pressing tonight is this: Hear it now — Why didn't Achaia raise its own money? Why didn't Galatia raise its own money? They had the same relationship down here to Jerusalem that Macedonia did. But they didn't raise their money. Macedonia the promoting church, the sponsoring church sent their messengers up here and they raised the money to be sent down here."

It can be seen from the above quotation that Brother Harper thinks that the church of Macedonia (and I don't know just which one he meant or perhaps they had a federation of churches in the province of Macedonia), but at any rate according to him Macedonia was the "sponsoring or promoting church." He has the idea that Macedonia promoted the entire effort to contribute to Jerusalem. Of course, even a casual reading of II Corinthians 8 corrects that idea for verse 10 of the chapter says that Corinth was the "first to make a beginning ayear ago." Corinth had made plans to give to the Jerusalem saints before Macedonia did. It was their readiness to obligate themselves thus to do, their zeal in this behalf that Paul had used to provoke the brethren elsewhere to likewise give to the saints that were in want. (II Cor. 9:1-4.) He had boasted in Macedonia of the forwardness of the Corinthian brethren, that they had been ready a year ago, (verse 2) and now was concerned lest they might fail to carry out their commitment by failing to get their money together. (Verse 3.) So Brother Harper perverted the passage when he tried to make the "church of Macedonia" the promoting church. The fact is that no church was the promoting church. That idea is not in the passage. Paul, Titus and others had taken it upon themselves to stir the brethren in the Gentile churches up to relieve the burden of the Jerusalem church. This is so evident in the passage that it is a marvel that a man like Brother Harper could fail to see it.

Brother Harper missed the passage terribly when he contended that the brethren sent to Corinth to make up the bounty were sent out by the "church of Macedonia."

This again is so obviously not true from a simple reading of the passage that you wonder how he could have allowed his talented young helpers to lead him astray from the truth. Let us see what the passage actually says:

II Corinthians 8:16-18, "But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you. And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches."

Here we learn that Titus went of his own accord and Paul sent with him another brother whose "praise was in all the churches." These had gone on to Corinth, sent on ahead by Paul to make up their bounty and get it ready so when he came if any of the Macedonian brethren came with him they would find the Corinthians ready and Paul would not be embarrassed. This we learn from II Corinthians 9:3-4. Look at it.

"Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready: lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting."

Why did Paul send these brethren on to Corinth and how were they to get them ready? They were not to stir the brethren up to get them to promise to give or willing to give but they were to actually stir them up to make up the bounty which they had promised a year before. Read verse 5 of II Corinthians 9:

"Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness."

Paul wanted them to have their "bounty" ready when he and others came to take the money to Jerusalem. He had boasted in Macedonia of their readiness to obligate themselves to do it and he wanted to be sure that they carried out the obligation so he would not have boasted in vain and be embarrassed by it. It is so evident that Paul sent these brethren "beforehand to make up their bounty" that I hardly see how Brother Harper could have had the courage to dispute it.

But Harper argued that these men were sent out to Corinth by the "Macedonian church" and based his contention by the fact that II Corinthians 8:19 says this:

"And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind:" And again in verse 23, "Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow helper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches."

From this Brother Harper contended that since these other brethren who accompanied Titus to Corinth were "messengers" of the churches, that they therefore were sent out by the "Macedonian Church" under orders to raise money in Corinth. But here again he so obviously "missed the boat." These brethren were "messengers of the churches" because they were chosen of the churches to take their contribution to Jerusalem not because they were sent to Corinth. The churches chose them to travel with Paul in the ministration of this grace — taking the contribution to Jerusalem. That is what the churches chose them to do and each church selected its own messenger to carry its own contribution. Some of the churches evidently approved the same messenger but they were selected by the churches and approved by them to take the "money" to Jerusalem. Paul is simply telling the brethren at Corinth that he (Paul) 'is sending them on ahead to Corinth so that when he came, with some of the brethren of Macedonia probably accompanying him, the Corinthians would have their money ready also. Paul sent them on to raise the bounty promised by Corinth — the churches selected them to carry their funds. He said in I Corinthians 16:3, "And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem." So Corinth chose their messenger to Jerusalem just like the rest of the churches did. If ever a brother was mixed up and perverted a passage of scripture in an effort to get away from its true meaning, Brother Harper was that brother on this passage.

But what about the equality that disturbed him so much? That is just as easily solved by what the text actually says as the other facts. Look at verse 14 again of chapter 8.

"But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality."

Whose abundance is the passage talking about? Why, the abundance of the Corinthians of course. But whose want is he talking about? Read verse 12 of chapter 9 of II Corinthians:

"For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;"

Where were the saints in want who were the cause of this contribution being raised and the object of the ministration of this grace? Why, in Jerusalem, of course! They were not being called upon to minister to the wants of the saints in Macedonia. The Macedonian brethren were in poverty, to be sure, and without any necessity being laid upon them, because they had given themselves to the Lord, they gave of their own will more than they were actually able to give. They responded to the needs of the Saints in Jerusalem and had a part in "supplying their want" along with the brethren of Achaia and Galatia. They wanted Paul to take charge of their contribution but he declined to accept the responsibility and said "Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also." (II Cor. 8:1-7.)

All of the stumbling, perverting, and wresting that Brother Harper or anyone else can do will not find a sponsoring church plan in II Corinthians 8 and 9. He grossly misrepresented the passage and taught error from it for which he ought to repent in consideration of his own soul. Brother Tant admirably upheld the truth as the passage plainly presents it and it dealt a tremendous blow to the effort to prove "Herald of Truth" scriptural.