Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 15, 1956

Brother Lemmons' Deductions

C. F. George, Brownwood, Texas

Under the caption, CAN A CHURCH ENGAGE IN A WORK LARGER THAN ITS LOCAL CAPACITY, Brother Reuel Lemmons, the new editor of the Firm Foundation, speaks his mind upon the subject of cooperation among churches. Many of us have suspected just what his position upon these matters was from the time he was appointed to the task he is now undertaking, but he has finally come out in the open.

Brother Lemmons is disturbed because "much unnecessary abuse has been heaped upon good churches engaged in a work so large that no one church could do it alone." Brother Lemmons, the work of preaching the gospel to all the world is a work too large for any one church to accomplish alone, and I know of no one objecting to any church engaging in this work. What some of us object to is for one congregation to assume the oversight of al] this work, when all congregations are equally related to it, to the limit of their ability. What you are obligated to prove to establish some of the present practices is that the Bible teaches either by command, approved example, or necessary inference, that the elders of one church may oversee the work of many churches either in the fields of benevolence or evangelism.

The burden of Brother Lemmons' attempted proof lies in an attempt to link the famine recorded in Acts 11:28-30 with the collection that Paul was helping to collect as recorded in 2 Corinthians 8 and other places. He says that "no one told the Jerusalem church, You have no right to appeal to the 'brotherhood' to 'send us your poor, and we will take care of them'." Of course they did not because that is not what they did. Let us be a little more accurate in stating what happened. "Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world; and this took place in the days of Claudius. And the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea; and they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Paul." (Acts 11:27-30.) In this passage notice that the famine was foretold, that it took place, and then the disciples determined to send aid to the brethren who lived in Judea, each one according to his ability. There is not one word to indicate that Jerusalem sent for help after the famine started, or before, for that matter. The brethren lived in Judea who were in want, and that is where the relief was sent.

He says further "no brother corrected the apostles, telling them that each local congregation was obligated only to the poor among its own number. These ideas have sprung up too far this side of Jerusalem!" Now just where did you ever hear an idea like that taught, Brother Lemmons? Why do you not call the names of the ones who have taught this doctrine? There is a vast difference in helping another congregation care for its own needy members, and in helping another congregation to become a medium for the care of the needy members of all churches. Helping a congregation to care for their own members when they are unable to care for themselves is taught in the New Testament. Helping a congregation to help other congregations to care for their needy is not taught. It is an arrangement of man.

Let us examine Brother Lemmons' conclusions. (1) "Jerusalem found itself engaged in a project too large for one congregation to finance." Before going farther in this discussion let me say that it is inaccurate to link the famine which was the occasion requiring a contribution from the church at Antioch with the destitution in the church at Jerusalem for which Paul was helping to obtain a contribution from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia as recorded in the Roman and Corinthian letters. The Bible does not link them together, and it is assumption to state that there was one continuous famine. The wording of the above statement is such as to leave the impression that Jerusalem planned a program of relief among the churches of Judea and then called upon other churches to help them. The facts are that a famine was thrust upon the Jewish world which involved all the churches of Judea and the idea of sending assistance to these originated in Antioch. (2) "It asked for help." This statement is another assumption. (3) "Help was extended by other congregations." But the aid was sent to the church or churches that were in want, not to some church to dispense at their pleasure. "And the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea; and they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul." (Acts 11:29-30.) "At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem with aid for the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem." (Rom. 25-26.) The help was sent direct to the church in want. (4) "Help was received." But it was received by a church in want, not by one better off than the contributing churches. (5) "The work was not an emergency for it continued for several years." As far as I am concerned it makes no difference whether you call it an emergency or not, the haves were giving to the have nots. "I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, that there may be equality." (2 Cor. 8:12-14.) (6) "Men who were neither members of the Jerusalem church nor the contributing church raised funds for the project." As far as I know no one objects to this being done now. What many of us object to is the setting up of institutions for the purpose of centralizing the work of all the churches because they do not believe that congregations acting as independent bodies can accomplish the work that God ordained for them to do. I believe that if it had been necessary for the church to have a centralized organization to accomplish its purpose in the world that God would have set it up in the beginning. I have not yet reached the state in which I believe that man has become smarter than his maker. At first the promulgators of these arrangements denied that they were doing the work of the church as a whole, but they are beginning to try to prove that they have a right to do so. At least we are getting closer to the issues. It is now a matter of faith. Do we believe in God, or not?