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The Care of God, Part 3

February 12, 2006

This sermon was presented before the Load, Kentucky, Church of Christ, on February 12, 2006. God cares for His people, and has set forth the means to provide that care. I pray that we shall all learn His methods in caring for His children.  Bernie Parsons

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The Care of God, Part 3

A sermon by Bernie Parsons

Part 3 in a series of five, presented at the Load, Kentucky, church of Christ on Sunday, 02/12/2006

We first studied how that the Israelites were given a system whereby the priesthood, the widows, the fatherless, the poor, and the strangers among them had their needs met. Next, we studied about how the lust for riches is destructive, and how that the rich Christians are charged with the responsibility of meeting the needs of poor Christians, and others. Now, we want to study the mechanism whereby the ordinary Christians could help the poor among them, as well as to help the needy in the local community.

1 Timothy 5:3: “Honour widows that are widows indeed.
4: But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.
5: Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.
6: But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
7: And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.
8: But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
9: Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,
10: Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.
11: But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;
12: Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.
13: And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.
14: I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
15: For some are already turned aside after Satan.
16: If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.”

Acts 6:1: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
2: Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
3: Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”

The ekklesia (called-out assembly) has an obligation to help its elderly widows. The younger widows are expected to remarry to meet their material needs. The first duty was for Christians to relieve the needs of the widows in their own families. The collective local body of Christians meets the needs of any older widows who have no family members to look after them.

Acts 2:41: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
42: And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43: And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
44: And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45: And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46: And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47: Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

Acts 4:32: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
33: And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
34: Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35: And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
36: And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,
37: Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.”

These early Jerusalem Christians expressed their love for one another by pooling resources and sharing as each member had need. Likely, the sale of houses and property was of excess holdings, since that there is no record that they sold residences and lived in the streets. The point is that they unselfishly shared resources, rather than hoarding. It is important to note that this unselfish sharing attracted the admiration of non-Christians, and caused many to convert to Christianity. It has long been my contention that if the modern church were to exhibit similar love, we might persuade others to come to us.

Acts 5:1: “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2: And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
3: But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
4: Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
5: And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
6: And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
7: And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
8: And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
9: Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
10: Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
11: And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.”

The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not that they held back part of the money obtained from the sale of their possessions, but that they lied, saying that they had donated all of it. Lying is not acceptable to God, while the retention of part of their personal resources would have been acceptable to Him.

Galatians 2:9: “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
10: Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.”

Romans 15:25: “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.
26: For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.
27: It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.
28: When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.”

Hard times can come to any of us at any time, as the author of Ecclesiastes points out.

Ecclesiastes 9:11: “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
12: For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.”

Even so, I am struck by the fact that the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, having sold all of their extra possessions, later found themselves in poverty. Some have said that this is because many of the visiting Jews from other countries, having become Christians, remained in Jerusalem, over-burdening the area’s employment system, and bankrupting the Jewish Christians. This may well be. It may also have been short-sightedness, because when the Apostle Paul asked the Gentile Christians to come to their aid, he did not ask them to put their own welfare in jeopardy, but to give of their excess.

1 Corinthians 16:1: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
2: 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.
3: And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
4: And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.”

Some preachers, teachers, and lay members, not properly acquainting themselves with the scriptures, teach this as a commandment for all Christians, for all time. They are willingly ignorant of the circumstances surrounding this “order to the churches of Galatia”. We have seen that this collection was for the needy saints in Jerusalem, as is further evidenced by what Paul later wrote in his second letter to the Corinthian ekklesia.

The reason for this collection was to relieve the needs of the saints in Judaea. In Romans chapter 15, Paul reasons that, since Jewish Christians had put their lives on the line to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, it is only fitting that the Gentiles share of their material goods to relieve the suffering of their Jewish Christian brethren. We can also see by this passage of scripture that Paul intended to personally accompany the gift to Jerusalem.

He writes to the Roman Christians that those in Macedonia (where churches like that of Berea, Thessalonica, and Philippi were), and those of Achaia (where Corinth was), were going to assist the needy saints in Jerusalem.

In his letter to the Corinthians, he mentions that he is giving them the same instruction, or order, that he has given the called-out assemblies of Galatia (where churches existed like Ephesus and Laodicea), regarding the collection for the needy saints in Jerusalem. He instructs them that, upon the first day of the week, they are to put aside a portion to be sent to the needy saints.

The instruction was not that they had to do it at the time and place of weekly assembly for the purpose of the Lord’s Supper. The King James Version wording reads, “let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him”. The Greek-to-English Bible that I have actually gives a literal rendering of this passage as “each of you by himself let him put storing up whatever he is prospered”. In that version, as well as the KJV, the context tells the individual to store up, most likely at home, that by which he has prospered, and intends as a gift for the Jerusalem saints. “Lay by him in store”, or “by himself let him put storing up” both signify that it is a personal putting aside of resources.

Instead, we have modeled our collection on the Roman Catholic model of expecting each member to contribute regularly to what is often called in the Protestant churches, including the Church of Christ, as the “church collection”.


“In the Christian Church, as those who serve the altar should live by the altar (1 Corinthians 9:13), provision of some kind had necessarily to be made for the sacred ministers. In the beginning this was supplied by the spontaneous offerings of the faithful. In the course of time, however, as the Church expanded and various institutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would insure the proper and permanent support of the clergy. The payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law, and early writers speak of it as a divine ordinance and an obligation of conscience. The earliest positive legislation on the subject seems to be contained in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567 and the canons of the Council of Maçon in 585. In course of time, we find the payment of tithes made obligatory by ecclesiastical enactments in all the countries of christendom. The Church looked on this payment as "of divine law, since tithes were instituted not by man but by the Lord Himself" (C. 14, X de decim. III, 30). As regards the civil power, the Christian Roman emperors granted the right to churches of retaining a portion of the produce of certain lands, but the earliest instance of the enforcement of the payment of ecclesiastical tithes by civil law is to be found in the capitularies of Charlemagne, at the end of the eighth century.”

“At first, the tithe was payable to the bishop, but later the right passed by common law to parish priests. Abuses soon crept in. The right to receive tithes was granted to princes and nobles, even hereditarily, by ecclesiastics in return for protection or eminent services, and this species of impropriation became so intolerable that the Third Council of Lateran (1179) decreed that no alienation of tithes to laymen was permissible without the consent of the pope.”


“The proper support of church edifices and church institutions, as well as of the clergy who minister in them, has always been both a necessity and a problem. As the Church of Christ is a visible organization, it must embrace a visible priesthood, worship, and temples. These must be maintained. As a consequence, the Church must acquire property both movable and immovable, and this she cannot obtain without a corresponding generosity on the part of the faithful. To pretend that the Church should be utterly deprived of property, is not only an error, but also an absurdity.”

“The Fathers give these regulations concerning the contributions: ‘The offerings according to the ancient custom of the Church, are to be divided into three parts if it be necessary; so that one part may be applied to the support of the priest, one to the relief of the poor, and one for obtaining such things as are necessary for the Divine worship and the church fabric. If provision has already been made from other sources for the sustentation of the ministers of the sanctuary and for the relief of the indigent, then all the offerings should be used for procuring sacred vessels and other things necessary for the Divine service, for repairing the churches or for building new ones’”.

“What has been said of the obligation on the faithful of supporting their pastors is also to be held concerning the building and the reparation of temples and churches, namely that it binds the conscience of the faithful”

In the Church of Christ, we have adopted the Catholic practice as our own, calling it one of the expected “Five Items of Worship” required by God, and hiding behind 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 as our alleged authorization. However, that passage clearly indicates a collection for needy saints in Jerusalem, gathered from Gentile churches in Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Achaia, to be gathered by the apostle Paul, and taken to the Christians in Jerusalem. This is a fine example of how the early disciples took care of their needy, but is not a commandment for a required “Item of Worship”. We will do well to follow their example, instead of that of the Roman Catholic Church.

We should teach the weekly collection for needy saints as an apostolic example which may rightly be emulated, but we should not call it a commandment. It makes sense to accumulate funds over time, as it is difficult to gather enough on the spur of the moment, when a need arises. Thus, Paul instructed that it was to be done on the first day of the week, rather than waiting until he arrived to begin to gather together the donations.

Next time, we will study how this instruction played out among the churches, especially at Corinth, and the mechanics of how it worked.

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