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Frank Jamerson

    The word of God teaches that Christ is the “head over all things to the church, which is His body…” (Eph. 1:22,23). Since the head directs the body, we must not act unless the head have given directions. Did Jesus teach that the church may do what He did? Look at what Jesus taught about individual and congregational action.

    The head taught a clear distinction between individual and congregational action. He said: “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Mt. 18:15-17). Here Jesus authorized individual, plural and collective action. Individual  action  is  not  church action.  When the individual acts alone, or takes one or two more with him, the church has not acted. Is it a good work to restore a brother? Yes, but Jesus said the church has not acted until it gets involved.

    Jesus was a carpenter’s son (Mt. 13:55) and no doubt helped his father earn a living by working. That was “good,” for Paul wrote, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Eph. 4:28). It is good to work to earn money. May the church do what Jesus did?

    Jesus went about doing good (Acts 10:38). He began His miracles by providing wine at a marriage feast (Jn. 2:1-11). He healed the sick,  fed over five thousand men with five loaves and two fish and raised the dead (Mt. 14:14-20; Lk. 7:11-15). He surely has not given these tasks to churches. He also washed His disciples’ feet and taught individuals to do the same for one another. (Jn. 13:1-14). We know this is a “good work” because Paul said so. Paul said the widow to be “taken into the number” was not to be “under sixty years old,” and she must be “well reported for good works: if she has  brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work” (1 Tim. 5:9,10). Are all these things works of the church? In the same context, Paul clearly shows that some “good works” of the individual are not acts of the church. He said, “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows” (1 Tim. 5:16). The distinction is also seen in the fact that churches are not to take younger widows into the number, but this restriction does not apply to an individual Christian (1 Tim. 5:4).

    Paul also taught servants to be good workers for their masters, “knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free” (Eph. 6:5-8). Is the church to work faithfully for some master to earn a good living? In the letter to Corinth, Paul taught Christians to  give bountifully and as they purpose in their hearts (2 Cor. 9:6,7). That is a good work, but congregations are not to purpose in their hearts to give.

    The individual earns his treasury by working, but the church raises its treasury by individuals giving on the first day of the week. When people do not know this distinction, they have churches in all kinds of businesses to earn money. In fact, we regularly get calls and letters with promotions for churches to raise money. Earning money is good. The Head of the church did that, but  He never authorized churches to do so.

    There are many good works that individuals may do. Paul told the Galatians “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). The context shows he is talking to individual believers, not to congregations. “If anyone thinks himself to be something...let each one examine his own work...whatever a man sows, that he will also reap...He who sows to his flesh...As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these try to compel you (plural) to be circumcised...For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised...” (Gal. 6:1-14). It is good for individuals to earn money, wash feet,  provide secular education, recreation and entertainment, but the church has no authority to do those things.



                       Copyright Midway Church of Christ 2014    This page last modified July 03, 2014