An appeal to the New Testament to learn the design of the church by God reveals a unity of work, purpose and devotion unsurpassed in any organization the world has known. As men began to trifle with God’s design the party spirit arose destroying the unity intended by God leading to out and out divisions. It is the intent of members of the church of Christ to point all back to the design of God as He revealed the church to men. Presently we continue to point you back to the era of the Apostles. At that time we see God’s greatest design.
The Apostles were commissioned to convert people to Christ by teaching. Then to show them the requirements of the new life embraced by further teaching. (Mt. 28:19-20). In the beginning and in all subsequent ages God has revealed His will so that people would KNOW what He required. Placing man and his mate in Eden requirements were given positively and negatively. (Gen. 2:15-17). Despising God’s will brought havoc into the world. Once the people were delivered from bondage God’s agent Moses gave the people commandments to be kept. Failing to obey brought destruction, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee” (Hos. 4:6). When the church was established God did not overlook ignorance (Acts 17:30), but desired His people to know and grow in knowledge making education in God’s word essential—there can be no spiritual growth without growing and becoming proficient in the word of God. “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Pet. 3:18). It is through teaching Christians are admonished in the duties we are to perform, through teaching that saints are encouraged, through teaching that we learn to revel in the promises of God and through teaching that we are prepared for death. Some question whether teaching is an avenue of worship, but it can hardly be otherwise. When we approach God in prayer our words empty our hearts to God and it is on the same basis that God communicates to us by His word being taught. God emptied His mind to us by means of the recorded word and teaching it to new converts and elderly statesmen in the church alike strengthens and nourishes us to growth and expansion. The more we know of God the greater our devotion and praise. Thus when disciples gather every first day of the week to worship we are not left without instruction as Acts 20:7 reminds us, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.” Before the New Testament was set forth in written form the people were taught by the Apostles and prophets. Since these could not remain in each congregation established certain men were selected and by the Apostles laying their hands upon them they received what I would suggest (for lack of better term), a secondary inspiration so that they could instruct others when assembled. There can be little doubt that this means was a means of glorifying to God as men by thought and word blessed God because He by deed and positive effect showered His blessings upon the church. Now we have the written word to which we can make daily appeal to enlighten our heart and supply information for us to communicate to others—again—so that God can be praised. Hardly can we be thankful enough for the written word—hardly can we find justification for neglectfully rejecting or consulting it in a systematic manner. Elders, deacons, preachers and teachers ought to find it necessary to read it at every opportunity. Fathers and mothers should seek a time of reading it daily for themselves and as an example to their offspring. Christians ought to read it to draw closer to the Lord and fill their mind to be able to converse with others God’s will. There is no excuse—none—for failing to educate one’s self in God’s word. However whether we consider the age of inspiration or these latter times in which we find ourselves, there are certain rules that are to be observed. Men only are to be the instructors. In this way God is glorified and God’s greatest design is respected. Since “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” the manner followed is all the teachers (inspired or not), “may prophesy one by one, that all may learn, an all be comforted.” (I Cor. 14:33, & 31). God’s design is also that women are not to teach, “let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” (I Cor. 14:34). Let me say just here: division has been created among Disciples of Christ because some congregations have instituted separating into classes to avoid confusion when teaching is done. (Some brethren disdain these classes being referred to as Sunday Schools). Well, that’s fine by me because division into classes for teaching is done at other times and other days than Lord’s Day (Sunday). The point is: God did not and does not authorize the practice. The church existed nearly twenty centuries before the practice began. What God has not authorized is sinful!!! But, some brethren declare that classes are a method of teaching like other methods, such as writing on a chalkboard, or using filmstrips, or in these days “power point.” However it does not take a very serious student of scripture to see that classes ARE NOT A METHOD OF TEACHING BUT A METHOD OF ARRANGEMENT IN ORDER TO TEACH. Arrangement into classes does not mean that one is taught any more than all being in one assembly means that one is taught. Gathered or separated it remains for someone to teach. What does scripture say about ARRANGEMNT? The disciples had “come together” when Paul preached to them in Acts 20:7. Furthermore, the church at Corinth came together to be taught I Cor. 14:23-25. There is not a single New Testament example of the church dividing into classes for instruction—not one. Therefore public teaching is done when a congregation comes together. In addition some contend that a woman may teach in these classes as long as she does not teach a man citing first Timothy two eleven and twelve, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” The passage has two commandments in it—not one. It does not say “a woman can teach as long as she is not exercising authority over a man. It does say #1 a woman is not to teach, and #2 a woman is not to usurp or exercise authority over a man. Look at the word nor in the passage, of which Webster says nor “and not; likewise not.” Therefore a woman is not to teach and likewise not exercise authority over a man. God designed it so and we respect His greatest design by following His instruction not by trying to find a way of disobeying.
CONSIDER “LAYING BY IN STORE” OR GIVING
“Laying by in store,” contributing or giving is something every Christian does when the church gathers on the first day of the week as per Apostolic instruction. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” The Jewish converts were instructed to participate in giving from the first, as they continued in the instruction of the Apostles (Acts 2:42 “fellowship”). And it might be added that they were very liberal in their giving. The Apostle sent among the gentiles did not fail (as our text here shows), to instruct the congregations made up mostly of gentiles in this avenue of worship. Some object to the “collection” being called a means of worship on the first day of the week, but I do not know what else it can be, as we have the specifics of it given. Notice the following from the passage.
- When is it to be done? Upon the first day of the week (a specific day).
- Who is to do it? “Let everyone of you.” Specific persons.
- What is to be done? “Lay by in store.” Cast into the collection. Specific place.
- How much? ”As God has prospered you.” Not some arbitrary amount. Specific amount.
- Why collected every week? “That there be no gathering when I come.” When a need arises the funds will be available to supply the need. A specific usage.
How can these specifics not demand that this is an avenue of worship? It is true as some contend that the setting aside may take place prior to assembling for worship, however the letting go of the funds for the benefit of the congregation is done in the assembly—the funds are not keep at home, necessitating a gathering when the need arose.
The only quotation (as far as I know) from the lips of the Lord quoted by an Apostle involves giving when Paul spoke to the brethren in Ephesus. “I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). This sets forth an attitude possessed by Jesus and must be followed by every Christian. Paul enlarged upon this for our benefit. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound in every good work.” (II Cor. 9:6-8). I under scored the expression “for God loveth a cheerful giver” to take your mind back to the quotation from the lips of Jesus. Therefore, the cheerful giver is a person that goes beyond what is demanded as might be true of earthly contributions. The “cheerful giver” is not one who gives grudgingly thinking of the things he could use the gift for that would benefit himself. To fulfill the needs of some brethren various disciples sold their “possessions and goods” without begrudging. Ananias and his wife on the other hand upon selling a possession kept back some for themselves (obviously claiming they had given the entire price, because they lied about it). A lesson by the way side: we must not think that the Lord is blind to our giving. I have heard people say, “I give all I can” when the facts reveal something entirely different. The “cheerful giver” does not give of necessity or because it is imposed upon him—not even because he is commanded to do so, but because he wishes to help or aid in the work of the church. I heard a brother remark prior to taking up the collection, “if we haven’t made anything we don’t have to give.” Well, if we give because “we have to” then we have missed the mark regarding the subject. The “cheerful giver” sows bountifully he does not give the bare minimum. There may be weeks when one does not prosper (receive any money) yet having “purposed in his heart to do whatever he can for the work of the church he can develop the attitude of Jesus and contribute to the cause of Christ. By disciples contributing on the first day of the week is the only way that funds are to be raised for the Lord’s work. In this way by each Christian contributing according to ability all feel an important part of the work (which we are). All in this way are equal—all are needed—all are responsible. Funds are not to be raised by yard or bake sales, raffles, having money in savings accounts or by begging from people on the street. Each Christian must make laying by on the first day a top priority when compiling our budget, remembering that the Kingdom of God is to be first in our giving as well as in other things and in giving we are to seek to please the Lord above all else since this world is not our home. See Mt. 6:19-21.
Scriptures inform us that the collection may be used for the needs of the saints (Christians). “Now concerning the collection for the saints.” (I Cor. 16:1-2). There can be no question when it comes to supplying for the needy. In addition, those who preach the Gospel are to live of the Gospel, which is to say they have their needs supplied by the stipulations of the word of God. “Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corm, Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and he that threasheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing that we shall reap your eternal things.” (I Cor. 9:7-11). When preachers are not properly supported make no mistake about it there will be an accounting someday. Anther passage that bears directly on this matter of supplying the needs of preachers of truth is the familiar, although more often than not is applied to any and every thing other than supporting preachers. Galatians 6:6-10. It would also be profitable to read the letter to the Philippians to learn how they supported Paul in his preaching endeavors. God has designed how the cause of His Son Jesus Christ is to function in a world where finances are necessary, which is God’s greatest design. At the same time we are not to borrow from the denominational world the theory that the collection can be used for anything that we might fancy. The building of recreation halls or kitchen to participate in what is loosely called “fellowship” is a perversion of the Lord’s will respecting the collection and is as sinful as any other innovation.
Barney Owens 1707