Vol. 7, No. 12
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It is important to emphasize biblical fundamentals, especially when they differ from contemporary religion. The churches of Christ belong to Jesus Christ, and consequently, they are obligated to conduct themselves according to what Jesus authorizes (Romans 16:16; Colossians 3:17). People living in the Gospel Age must heed the words of Jesus Christ rather than Moses or the Old Testament prophets (Matthew 17:1-5; John 12:48). Jesus Christ is the Lawgiver and Mediator of the New Testament, to which people living today must turn for religious instruction (James 4:12; Hebrews 9:15). Jesus Christ condemns alteration of the Gospel with "the commandments of men," and the apostle Paul condemns false Gospels and the human will (when substituted for divine will) (Matthew 15:9; Galatians 1:6-9; Colossians 2:23). One must turn exclusively to the New Testament to learn what God has authorized respecting Christianity.
The contemporary religious world funds itself in a variety of ways. The manner in which the religious world funds itself is entirely owing to preferences of the human will. Gambling is one popular way that some denominational churches finance their religious activities (e.g., bingo, raffles). Food sales is another popular way that some manmade churches fund themselves (e.g., pancake suppers, steak dinners, bake sales, etc.). Car washes, carnivals and various sales help fund some churches. Some churches rely on commercial enterprises to raise money (e.g., investments in sugar or insurance, owning distilleries and bottling companies, operating tourist attractions, etc.). In addition, most contemporary churches adopt tithing from the Old Testament as a part of how they finance themselves, but the Old Testament is no longer the religious law governing mankind, and tithing has not been reinstated in the New Testament (Romans 7:6-7; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14).
Contemporary religions completely ignore the divine will respecting the funding of religious activity. If contemporary churches were interested in seeking biblical authority for the way they finance themselves, they would not raise money in any of the ways just mentioned. However, if contemporary churches were truly interested in biblical authority, they would not wear names and adopt doctrines, etc. that are foreign to the Bible. Clearly, few in the religious world make the least pretensions of interest in biblical authority for the way they conduct themselves.
The churches of Christ, though, are obligated to follow the divine will for funding religious activity. There are a number of religious activities indicated in the New Testament that may require the church to spend money. The New Testament authorizes the Lord's church to financially support preachers of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:4-14, direct statement). The New Testament authorizes the Lord's church to financially support elders (1 Timothy 5:17-18, direct statement). The New Testament authorizes the Lord's church to financially support widows who have no other recourse for their livelihood (1 Timothy 5:3-16, direct statement). The New Testament authorizes the Lord's church to financially support evangelism in its own community or other communities (2 Corinthians 11:8; Philippians 4:14-16, direct statement). The New Testament authorizes the Lord's church to financially provide for its own edification (1 Corinthians 14:12, 26, divine implication). The New Testament authorizes the Lord's church to financially assist Christians and non-Christians who need benevolent relief (Galatians 6:10; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Matthew 5:43-48, direct statement). Anything not specifically stated in the New Testament, not a part of evangelism, edification or benevolence and not otherwise authorized by direct statements, approved examples or divine implication is not something on which the Lord's money may be spent.
Freewill giving is the only means authorized in the New Testament for funding religious activity. In addition, only the religious activity authorized in the New Testament for the church to perform can avail itself of the money collected by the Lord's church. Any activity that does not relate to one of the three missions of the Lord's church or that is not otherwise specified in the New Testament is not an appropriate expenditure for church funds. Generally, the Lord's church requires funds for evangelism, edification and benevolence (Mark 16:15-16; 2 Corinthians 11:8; 1 Corinthians 14:12, 26; Galatians 6:10; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Matthew 5:43-48).
There are two related ways in which Christians are authorized to practice freewill giving. The primary New Testament prescription for funding the Lord's church is weekly freewill giving on the Lord's Day as a part of worship (1 Corinthians 16:1-2, a command). Freewill offering is characterized by purposeful giving according to one's prosperity or commensurate with one's resources (2 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). An additional New Testament prescription for funding the Lord's church is through spontaneous freewill giving (Acts 4:34-37, an example). There is no stipulation in Scripture that the freewill giving of Acts 4-5 was during Lord's Day worship, in view of the coming and going of Christians as well as presenting the money to the apostles in Acts 5:1-10.
Since the churches of Christ belong to Jesus Christ, they are obligated to finance themselves only in the way the New Testament authorizes. Further, the churches of Christ may only spend money on things that are authorized in the New Testament (i.e., through direct statements, approved examples and divine implication). No church is authorized to fund religious activities through any means other than freewill giving. Further, no church is authorized to spend money on things not indicated in Scripture. Incidentally, many churches exist in direct opposition to what God through the New Testament has authorized in virtually every aspect of Christianity.
Penitent souls also must turn exclusively to the New Testament to learn what God has authorized respecting human redemption. Unbaptized believers need to be baptized for the remission of their sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Erring Christians need to repent and pray (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).