Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 26, 1956

The Pattern - Benevolence And Evangelism

Connie W. Adams, Decatur, Georgia

In the Abilene debate on congregational cooperation, Brother Tant continued to stress the idea of a New Testament pattern for cooperation. It does not take the greatest sage in the world to determine that there is a pattern. It seems rather ridiculous for one to preach that God gave a pattern for worship, entrance into the church, organization and did not give a pattern for something as important, and in which the greatest dangers lie for the development of a hierarchy, as the cooperation between New Testament congregations. Furthermore, if their is a pattern, which so many deny, then there is a "bound" pattern.

In his effort to escape the force of "the pattern" Brother Harper came up with what he thought was an unanswerable argument that would forever silence the Guardian on "the pattern." He contrasted two examples of cooperation in the New Testament: (1) where Paul received support directly from congregations, (2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:15-16), (2) where a number of churches sent to one church in need, (2 Cor. 8, 9). He argued that according to Tant's contention on "the pattern," the first case applied only to evangelism and the second only to benevolence. He pointed out that according to "the pattern" there never could be a case in which one church sent to another for anything except to feed them when they were hungry. This point was a source of great discussion among preachers present, some staying up far into the night to study and argue about it. Of course, Brother Tant showed that whatever the difficulty, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 still contained "the pattern" and that Highland does not conform to it. The pattern was (1) a church with ability, (2) sending to a church in want, (3) that there may be equality. But, does that pattern apply only to benevolence? If so, what of the common practice of congregations sending donations to various places to help erect meeting houses? If this applies only to benevolence, such would be wrong. If that conclusion is warranted, this writer is ready to accept it for he believes 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 contains the pattern for congregational cooperation. If there is no pattern, there is no limit to what can be done or how, and there is no way on earth to condemn the missionary society. But does 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 limit the pattern to benevolence? Certainly the famine occasioned the need, but was there not more at stake than the feeding physically of hungry saints in Jerusalem?

2 Corinthians 11:8; Philippians 4:14-17 Summarized

It will be to our mutual profit to examine again very carefully the sending of support to Paul. Paul said "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service." 2 Corinthians 11:8, verse 9 shows that he had a "want," a "lack" and said it was supplied by those who came from Macedonia. It is evident then that the "other churches" supplied physical things because Paul "wanted" or "lacked" to the end that he might accomplish spiritual things; i.e. "to do you service." The service referred to was the preaching of the gospel as is shown in verse 7.

In Philippians 4:14-17 the same thought essentially is presented. In verse 14 he said Philippi had sent to his "affliction." In verse 16 he called it his "necessity." Why all this? He "desired fruit" to their account. Verse17. The "fruit" here refers to the same thing as the "service" in 2 Corinthians 11:8, the preaching of the gospel. Here again, we have a physical want supplied in order that spiritual work might be accomplished. The churches provided physical things in order that spiritual work might be done.

2 Corinthians 8, 9 Summarized

The Jerusalem congregation had a need or a "want" occasioned by a famine. Such distress affected them at least two ways. They were destitute, hence unable to meet their own physical necessities and thus unable to accomplish the work the Lord had designed for the church to do. A congregation whose members are thus distressed most assuredly could not carry on its program of work. The object of the supply was that there might be equality. 2 Cor. 8:14. Equality involves the ability to give and to do one's own work. The relief sent certainly filled a physical want, but it enabled them to do their spiritual work. 2 Corinthians 9:10 says "Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness." This supply would put them back on their feet again and enable them to do their work. Here again, physical things were provided in order that spiritual things might be accomplished. If this is not so, then what was the purpose of equality? This relief enabled them to do their work of preaching the gospel.

The Miracles Of Christ

We might illustrate this by thinking of the miracle of healing the blind man in John 9. Nobody could deny that the miracle directly aided the blind man in that it enabled him to see, but it had a deeper significance. It established the deity of Jesus. That was the ultimate object of all his miracles. Surely there were physical results upon those affected, but John said "these are written that you might believe." John 20:30-31.

The Pattern

2 Corinthians 8 and 9 gives us the example of congregational cooperation. Churches with ability sent to a church in want (provided physical needs) that equality might exist. Inequality caused the church in need to be unable to meet its own physical needs and also to do its work of teaching. Physical things were provided that spiritual things might be accomplished. Even now, according to the pattern, a church which is unable to meet its physical needs may receive help from sister congregations that her work of preaching may be accomplished. This fits the pattern. Highland's work does not fit because it is not a church in want. It has the ability to give.

Let us study these matters seriously, prayerfully, dispassionately, that truth may prevail. If this does not set forth the truth, perhaps those wiser will respond and reveal the fallacy. Indeed, if there be fallacy here, I pray that someone will point it out.