A Weekly Bulletin Published by the:
BUTLER CHURCH OF CHRIST
201 Fifth Ave. ~ Butler, PA 16001 ~ 724-287-0628 or 724-282-9417
Edited By: Brian A. Yeager
Volume IV Issue XXXI June 6th, 2004
They Swing and Miss
on Galatians 6:10
By: Brian A. Yeager
It is sad that articles such as this need to be written, and that such elementary principles as we will be discussing must be taught to those who are supposed to be students of the Scriptures. It is not uncommon to find a group of people who are in error on some biblical issue taking some Scripture or a group of Scriptures out of the written context wherein they were listed. This article will deal with one such area of the word of God that is often taken out of it’s context. We will be limited in length, but the lesson should be able to be understood. It would be great to find someone who misapplies this specific verse that would be willing to meet in public discussion. However, as the old saying is “don’t hold your breath”. On this specific error, if you held your breath you would soon begin to look like a Smurf. Let us get to our topic of this article.
Many make an appeal to Galatians 6:10 in an attempt to argue that a local church can supply, from her treasury, things such as money, food, clothing, housing, etc. to saint and sinner alike. Many believe that, since the book of Galatians was written to the “churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2), this means collective provision to saint and sinner alike can be done from the treasury of a local church. I am writing to refute these absurd claims and I am suggesting to anyone reading this article, that brethren who appeal to Galatians 6:10 are doing so to justify their actions, not authorize their actions. You might ask; “what is the difference?” The difference is this: one who reads Galatians chapter six and studies the context would never see authority for collective provision for saint and sinner from the treasury of a local church. However, when one looks to find authority for something AFTER they have practiced it - I suppose they can see anything in any context to justify their unscriptural practices (I use to do that with this verse as well).
Answering the “It’s Written to the Churches of Galatia” Argument
The book of Galatians is written to the “churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2). To that claim there is no disagreement. However, to suggest that something written to the collective means that everything in that letter applies to the collective is a faulty hermeneutic. The epistle known as Galatians was written to multiple congregations in the area of Galatia. This letter was written to individuals who had put on Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:27), which is an individual action. The churches were addressed and issues like circumcision were dealt with showing that such was not binding on saints under the Law of Christ (Galatians 5:2-3; 6:12-13). This in itself shows that everything in this epistle does not apply to everyone and most certainly not to the collective. The ladies could not be circumcised and the church would not be furnishing anything wherein circumcision could be provided as a work of the church.
Furthermore, to suggest that everything written to the collective means that collective provision can be made for those things is not only a faulty hermeneutic, it is an ignorant suggestion. For example, the church at Corinth was addressed by Paul in the like language of the churches in Galatia (I Corinthians 1:2). However, the church has no authority to provide from her treasury that which will support a man rendering due benevolence to his wife or the wife to the husband (I Corinthians 7:3). Now, if one argues that since the book of Galatians is addressing the churches and that authorizes collective provision, consistency demands that benevolence includes giving money for hotel rooms and babysitters so that a husband and wife can fulfill I Corinthians 7:3 when they cannot afford such from their own pockets and privacy is not possible for them in their homes. After all, the physical relationship between a husband and a wife is a biblically authorized relationship.
Finally, if we will again realize that the church at Corinth is addressed (I Corinthians 1:2 and II Corinthians 1:1) in a like manner as the churches of Galatia, we can see some other things that help clarify this issue. The church at Corinth is addressed, however marriage is discussed (I Corinthians 7). Is marriage a work of the church? The church at Corinth is addressed, however a man is to examine himself (I Corinthians 11:28 and II Corinthians 13:5). How can a collective body examine “himself”? The church at Corinth is addressed, but the individual will stand before the Judgment seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:10). Where do we ever read of a local church standing at once before Christ in the Judgment Day? The church at Corinth, and the churches of Galatia both are addressed in dealing with the individual sins of fornication, adultery, covetousness, etc. (I Corinthians 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:19-21). When did a church collectively practice physical fornication? Really, can any claim that since the church is addressed all things within those letters apply to the work of the church and authorize collective provision? NO!
Answering the “All Men” Argument from Galatians 6:10
Galatians 6:10 reads: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Contention is made that this verse supplies authority for a local church to financially aid from her treasury all men, especially those of the household of faith (Christians). However, to have the term “good” authorize using the treasury of a local church one has to have a good imagination, for the context is silent in this regard. As a Christian I am to love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 19:19; 22:39, etc.). As a Christian I am to love my brethren (John 13:34-35). I am to do good to saint and sinner alike (Matthew 5:43-47 and Galatians 6:2). That is all that Paul is instructing here. He is writing to Christians about their individual responsibilities. Paul is going forth from a context discerning the difference between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19ff.). He is, in chapter six, writing about the works Christians are to do.
The context singles out the individual and lays no responsibility on the body of Christ as a collective in this context. Note: Galatians 6:1 gives a responsibility to “ye which are spiritual”. Verse two says: “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Verse three continues: “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” We find in this context that a man will “prove his own work” (v. 4). We find that a man will sow what he reaps (v. 6-7). Then, we have a verse that ties this context to the works of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit. Verse 8 reads: “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Finally, Paul concludes this context by showing his brethren how they can “sow to the Spirit.” In this we find he uses plural terms such as “us” and “we”.
First, we (those reading this article that may or may not be members of the Butler church of Christ, or Christians at all) need to realize some things. Paul was not a member at a congregation in Galatia, but he included himself in the “us” and “we”. That which ties Paul to the brethren in Galatia is that he is a Christian. That should answer to whom this context applies – Christians. To argue that this context allows for collective provision for saint and sinner from the treasury would lead to activation of the “church universal” concept which is foreign to the Scriptures. Secondly, just because Paul used plural terms that does not mean he made instructions for a work of the local church. Paul used the same terms when he addressed the brethren in Rome about baptism (Romans 6:3-4), but that did not mean that baptism is a collective action. We individually submit to the command to be baptized (John 3:5 and Acts 10:47-48). The application of Galatians 6:10 is to the individual, though that is a minor issue, for the premise that this context deals with money at all is baseless.
To do good unto all men is the work of the individual in Galatians 6:10. However, the church collectively is to do good unto all men by bringing the Gospel to them (I Thessalonians 1:8-9). Feeding the homeless, caring for the afflicted of the world, and all other “good works”, are not delegated to the local church. The local church is limited in its benevolent role (I Timothy 5:1-16 and II Thessalonians 3:10). If God wanted us to do such things He would have supplied us with the Scriptures to authorize it (Colossians 3:17, II Timothy 3:16-17, and II Peter 1:3).
As a Christian I have a responsibility to help those whom have a need when I come in contact with them (Luke 10:30-37). There are plenty of passages to prove that it is a work of a follower of Christ to help those in genuine need (i.e. Matthew 25:31-46). However, when we find examples of the local church aiding the needy from the treasury, we find that it is truly needy saints, and that alone. For example, we find the church in Corinth helped the churches in Macedonia (II Corinthians 8:1; 9:1-2) and other brethren as well (II Corinthians 9:12-14 and I Corinthians 16:1-3). Some get confused on II Corinthians 9:13 asking who the "them" and "all" are in that passage. Titus and the brethren coming to Corinth with him are the “them” while the other churches are the “all” in II Corinthians 9:13 (II Corinthians 8:16-24). It is easy to prove that the church helped Christians. The lack of Scripture (not even one can be supplied) to show a local church helped alien sinners should speak volumes (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32, II Samuel 7:1-7, Proverbs 30:5-6, and Revelation 22:18-19). Let us (Christians – hopefully we will not have to define terms so tediously in the future) do good works but, only by ways that are authorized!
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