Benevolence and Evangelism
Two Biblical Patterns
Tim. 3:14-15). In this text Paul teaches that the writings of the New Testament
are intended to serve as a guide for conduct in the church. In much of the world this idea is
either rejected, or qualified.
That is, some will contend that there is no way that a 2000-year-old
document can guide modern circumstances, while others will claim that is does,
but they only apply its guidance to moral issues and general principles, and
not to the organization and conduct of the church. Those of us who worship at this place are in many respects
unique (in comparison to the world).
We believe that Scripture condemns religious division (1 Cor. 1:10), and
yet warns against following human traditions (Col. 2:8). We believe that if those who love the
Lord will establish all practices and teachings upon the authority of the word
God, true, sound, biblical unity can to be attained.
week we studied a lesson on the concept of the “church” in the New
Testament. We considered the fact
that the term church can refer to God’s assembly in three distinct
senses: the church universally, the
church locally, and the church
actually assembled. Tonight I would like for us to focus on
something that concerns the collective work of the local church as it relates
to two important and distinct areas: benevolence and evangelism. We will see two distinct patterns which
reflect both the wisdom of God and two areas in which we must follow
God’s wisdom over man’s innovation.
I. Benevolence in the New Testament
Church. Benevolence is a phrase which refers to doing good as it relates
to the needs of others. The
dictionary defines it as a “disposition to do good” or an
“act of kindness.” It
is clear that the early church was very involved in benevolence.
The early church in Jerusalem. After Pentecost (Acts 2:44-45). In response to those who stayed in Jerusalem (Acts 4:32-37). We note in this individual selling of
personal possessions and laying the proceeds “at the apostle’s
This is not teaching communal property but generosity (Acts
Regular care for widows (Acts 6:1-6).
Qualifications for such regular support (1 Tim. 5:3-16).
Relief from one church to the needy saints in another church (Acts
Paul’s efforts to bring relief (Rom. 16:26-27; 1 Cor.
Principles regarding collective benevolence.
This is “for the saints” (1 Cor. 16:1). While individuals are to help others as
we have opportunity (Gal. 6:10), the church is not charged collectively with
feeding, clothing, or relieving the needy of the world. There is no example in Scripture of the
contribution being used to help the needy of the world.
There are some things with which the church is not to be
“burdened” in order to do what it should (1 Tim. 5:16). Note: The context is talking about
Christian widows who are not qualified.
If the Holy Spirit restricts what Christians should and should not be
supported then it shows us that the church should absolutely not be burdened
with care for those outside the church.
Regarding relief to saints in other places, the church is
authorized to send relief to another church for the elders of that church to
distribute (Acts 11:30). We will
see that this is different from the pattern we will see regarding evangelism.
II. Evangelism in the New Testament
“evangelize” is to tell the “good news” of the message
of the gospel. The noun form of
this word is the word translated “gospel.” The verb form is usually translated
“preach” or “preach good news” (or “preach the
gospel”). 1 Timothy 3:15
teaches that the church is the “pillar and ground of the
truth.” There is no question
that evangelism was an important work of the early church.
The first Christians spread the word (Acts 6:7). This did not always involve a
Sometimes, a preacher spread the word (Acts 8:1-5).
Preachers earned their support in different ways.
Paul on occasion supported himself (2 Thess. 3:7-9).
Other times he accepted support from other churches (2 Cor.
The church is authorized to support preaching of the gospel (1
One church may send support to a preacher working in another
area (Phil. 4:15-16).
Principles regarding collective evangelism.
The efforts to teach may be directed towards unbelievers. The goal is to convert the lost and to
bring them into fellowship with God in Christ. It is the message of truth which motivates this. The early church did not use
benevolence as a lure to teach the truth.
One church may send to a preacher teaching in another church
(Phil. 4:15-16), but there is no example of a church sending to another church
in general (or to a separate organization).
Around the turn of the 19th and 20th
centuries brethren divided over something known as the “missionary
society.” A missionary
society was a human organization established with a board, and human officers
from different churches to coordinate the sending preachers to a certain area. Those who became the denomination known
as the Christian Church or Disciples
of Christ of Christ, supported the use of
the “Missionary Society.”
Those who sought to be simply “churches of Christ” rejected
this as unauthorized and unscriptural.
In the middle of the 20th century brethren who once
stood firmly opposed to the missionary society accepted an alteration of the
missionary society known as the “Sponsoring Church.” Through this arrangement one church
solicited money for a project or to coordinate preaching in an area, and then
sent the preachers out to preach.
The only difference between this and the missionary society was the use
of a church rather than a human organization. Never the less, it is no more scriptural, and does not
follow the pattern taught in Scripture.
Conclusion. (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is tempting to ask, what
difference does it make? We could speculate about some practical
differences. The biblical pattern
leaves it to each congregation to safeguard the teaching of truth. Sponsoring church arrangements
surrender this to one groups.
Limited benevolence guarantees that the focus of the churches work is on
truth, not material needs. But
more than any of these things, the issue is, what has God
authorized! Do we really believe that Scripture gives us all we
need? Or, do we have to add to it
with our ingenuity and innovation?
Let’s trust God that He knew how to reveal His work in His