Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 5, 1956

How Will You Teach It?

Herschel E. Patton, Russellville, Alabama

The lesson for Bible classes using the Gospel Advocate literature for Sunday, March 11, 1956 is "Paul Teaches the Church To Support the Poor." In the lesson text (2 Cor. 8:7-16) as Paul urges the church at Corinth to contribute liberally for the poor saints at Jerusalem, he says "For 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." (vs. 13-14.)

Concerning this verse the Annual Lesson Commentary says "This equality is not financial equality between the giving and the receiving churches ...what Paul means is that the churches of Asia Minor and Macedonia are to give equally, according to their ability. The churches of Macedonia were in deep poverty (2 Cor. 8:2), the church at Corinth had an abundance. Equality in giving not only consisted in all churches giving according to their ability, but in the church with abundance now carrying the big part of the load and poor church carrying the light end of the load, while in the future, conditions being reversed, the Macedonian churches would carry the heavy load and the Corinthian church the light part of the obligation.

The Adult Quarterly, however, says "Lest some in Corinth should feel that the apostle wished to impoverish them in order to enrich the saints in Jerusalem, he pointed out that it was not that others might be eased and the Corinthians distressed; the purpose of the contribution was to establish an equality in order that the abundance which the Corinthians then possessed might supply the need of the poor in Jerusalem, that all might have a sufficiency."

In these quotations we have two different things taught in the same literature. Churches using this literature will have some classes learning that the "equality" of this passage was not between the giving (Macedonia and Asia) and receiving (Jerusalem) churches, but between the churches doing the giving. (Annual Lesson Commentary.) Other classes, at the same time, will be learning that "the contribution was to establish an equality in order that the abundance which the Corinthians then possessed might supply the need of the poor in Jerusalem, that all might have sufficiency." (Adult Gospel Quarterly.)

Churches using Firm Foundation literature will probably, if this passage is ever studied, be taught a third way, for the editor of the Firm Foundation recently commented (F.F., Jan. 10, 1956) on this passage thus: "This equality was not financial equality. Both Jerusalem and Corinth were in want. Jerusalem was in want of the relief which Corinth could, and did supply. Corinth was in want of the rewards of liberality that only Jerusalem's acceptance of the gift could supply. Each filled a want for the other and there was equality."

The obvious teaching of the passage is "AT THIS TIME," Corinth had ABUNDANCE while Jerusalem was in WANT. Corinth was to give to Jerusalem's want out of her abundance that there might be equality — neither place in want. As Brother Tant illustrated in the Abilene debate; it is like a see-saw. Corinth is up while Jerusalem is down. Corinth is to give to Jerusalem so that she is brought up from want. There is equality. Neither place is in want. The passage anticipates a time when the order might be reversed, Corinth IN WANT (down) and Jerusalem with ABUNDANCE (up), then Jerusalem's abundance should supply Corinth's want. This is what brethren have preached for years and agrees with nearly all commentaries of note. (People's N.T. with Notes by Johnson, Clarks Commentary, Pulpit Commentary, etc.)

Why these different views? The passage presents a pattern for congregational cooperation which is followed in all Bible examples — a church with abundance may send to a church in want that there may be equality — both free from want. But, today, some churches (not in want) with abundance desire to receive contributions from other churches in order that they might sponsor and promote a brotherhood project. The above pattern would interfere with these Big Brotherhood Projects, so a different interpretation must be given to the said passage in order for these to be continued and brethren still feel that they are acting scripturally.

These things are said, not to discourage, but to emphasize again the importance of looking to the Bible as our standard. Men can be, and often are, wrong. We should always measure what we hear or read, even from brethren, with the Scriptures.