Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 12, 1956
NUMBER 35, PAGE 1,11b

A Review Of Brother J. W. Roberts Articles - (IV.)

George P. Estes, Maplewood, Missouri

In the Gospel Advocate, October 27, 1955, Brother Roberts insists that conclusions are drawn from unnecessary inference to prove that the Judean elders received the relief instead of the Jerusalem elders alone. He sets forth three premises to support his contention: (1) "Neither this (Acts 11:30) or any other passage says or necessarily implies that the churches in Judea ever had elders." (2) "Secondly, even if it were granted that it is necessarily to be inferred that these churches had elders, it would not necessarily follow that they had been appointed at this time." (3) "Thirdly, these brethren infer that this relief was sent directly to the elders of the Judean churches." He goes on to say that infant baptism is founded upon the same inferences; that it is assumed that Lydia was married, had children who were with her and constituted part of her household. He finds a parallel between this and the belief that the Judean churches had elders.

In refutation to Brother Roberts' erroneous thinking the following may be said: The Great Commission was designed and given only to those capable of faith. (Mark 16:15, 16.) This would exclude children. They were not included in the plan of salvation for the simple reason, they had no sin. It is not necessary to infer that any of the households referred to in Acts included children, for a census of the households in this country would show that a great part of them would be without children. On the other hand, it is God's appointed order that a local church have its own elders when men are qualified. Paul and Barnabas returned to the congregations they had started after a brief period of time and appointed elders in each of them. (Acts 14:23.) Pastors (elders) in Ephesians 4:11 must be understood in the light of the "gifts" Jesus gave. Since it was a time of spiritual gifts and before the written word was completed, that may account for the appointment of elders in so short a time after the beginning of a congregation.

The one who is guilty of doubting the divine order for congregational organization and of applying unnecessary inference is Brother Roberts. In the very verses under consideration, he infers that the elders of Acts 11:30 are the Jerusalem elders and, furthermore, he infers and assumes a function and a position for the Jerusalem church which is contrary to and violates God's appointed order for the scope, the function, the limit, and the work of a congregation. No church in the apostolic era expanded itself to the proportions which Brother Roberts ascribes to the Jerusalem church.

Brother Roberts has joined the ranks of the theologians; he places his own interpretation upon passages of scripture and thereby teaches his sponsoring church theory. There is a great difference between interpretation and exegesis. Interpretation is placing a certain construction upon a word, a phrase, a passage of scripture. Exegesis is drawing forth from the text that which is there. The former originates in the mind of man; in the latter, the meaning originates in the Bible text itself.

An example of Brother Roberts' interpretation is seen in the construction he places on "eis" in Romans 15:25, 26, 31. If it was intended for Jerusalem only, the text would have the dative of indirect object instead of eis (for, unto, to). Brother Roberts thus sets up a hard and fast rule which is at best arbitrary and prejudiced. He really accuses inspired men of using wrong language. (Advocate, September 15.)

In the New Testament, eis with verb of motion means "direction toward." Thus, in Acts 2:38, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ "eis" (unto, for, in order to obtain) the remission of your sins." Here eis looks forward to a goal, namely, the remission of sins. According to Brother Roberts it should have been in the dative case. In Romans 15:25: "But now I go (verb of motion) eis (unto) Jerusalem, ministering unto the saints (dative case). Eis (unto) means toward. Jerusalem means either the city itself or its inhabitants. (Thayer: Lexicon, pg. 299.) Brother Roberts' interpretation says it means more than the city. The dative case of "the saints" tells to whom the ministering was to be done, as in Acts 11:29 "the brethren that dwelt in Judea," (dative case). In Romans 15:26 it is "eis (for) the poor." In verse 31, it is: "eis (for) Jerusalem." In two of these verses, eis (unto) qualifies the noun "Jerusalem." This city is the destination or the direction toward and the place the ministering is to be done.

Jerusalem limits and localizes as to where the relief was to be ministered. In the other verse, eis (for) qualifies "poor" among the saints. So Brother Roberts' statement that, "unto all" (2 Cor. 9:13) means more than the saints is false. This is a fine example where the preposition "eis" serves in the same capacity in Romans 15:25, 26, 31 as the dative of Acts 11:29.

Another typical interpretation is seen in the construction he places on "alla" (but) 2 Corinthians 8:14. (Advocate, June 23.) He says it expresses the adversitive idea and "but by equality" means that both the giver and the receiver would be blessed equally. Only one with the sponsoring church theory in mind would make such a fantastic interpretation. If "but by equality" is taken with verse 13, it refers to the giving churches: Corinth and Macedonia. None is to be burdened and other eased. If taken with verse 14, it means the abundance of material prosperity in Corinth would relieve the lack of material wealth in Jerusalem. That the Corinthians would receive spiritual blessings from the Jerusalem church if they did this (according to Roberts) is a most unwarranted and unfounded interpretation.

His interpretation of Philippians 4:15, 16 brought forth as much comment from brethren, or more, than any other. He interprets "dosis and lepsis" (giving and receiving) in the literal sense and says they mean receipts and disbursements which the Philippian church carried on as the sponsoring church for all the other Macedonian churches. In other words the Philippian church kept books and an account of all the transactions. But Brother Roberts is very unsure of all this, for in the Advocate of October 27, he writes concerning his own interpretation: "In this instance the conclusion rests upon an inference." Thus, he doubts his statements of the September 1 Advocate. In the latter mentioned Advocate, he wilfully separates Philippians 4:16 from the preceding verse.

This is contrary to the text, the context and common sense. One wonders how far these brethren will go in their twisting and perversion of the text to try to prove their pet hobby. "Giving and receiving" are metaphors; if not, we must reject all metaphorical language of the Bible.

Brother Roberts uses the words "interpretation" and "inference" all through his articles. This really proves the weakness and fallacy of all his conclusions for every false doctrine which has ever been promulgated is based on these two: interpretation and inference drawn from the interpretation. Consider the Roman Catholic doctrine of the vicarship of the pope: Peter is the rock upon which the church is built in Matthew 16:18 (interpretation). Proves the primacy of Peter, (inference). Apply the same as the sectarians do to the plan of salvation: Baptism is a symbol and seal of the fact that one is already saved, (interpretation). Baptism is therefore a non-essential, (inference). Modernism: the Bible is uninspired, (interpretation); thus, it is a collection of folklore and myth, (inference). Brother Roberts: Dosis and lepsis mean receipts and disbursements (interpretation); therefore, the Philippian church was a sponsoring church and functioned in the same way as a sponsoring church of today, (inference).

Brother Roberts has fallen into a serious and grave error. Common sense, reason, good judgment and fair exegesis are cast aside when one becomes infatuated with a theory. Such a one has already made a decision pertaining to his hobby and he sees it in every verse of scripture, when in truth the Bible does not teach his doctrine at all. It is related how Martin Luther when he came to the conclusion of justification by faith alone, lectured on this, when he was supposed to be teaching the Psalms to a class of students. He saw his doctrine everywhere he looked. The same is true concerning the sponsoring church brethren. They have forsaken the scriptures and seek to prove their practices on the grounds of expediency, good works, interpretation, and inferences.