Question #17

May the church help a non-member?

I have a question. I have always heard from my family that a church of Christ that supports orphan homes is a “liberal church of Christ.” I haven’t found anywhere in the scripture where it says that we should support things such as orphan homes or any one particular person outside of the church. Tonight I heard a lesson on the good Samaritan. The preacher said that people take this passage the wrong way. We are only supposed to love others in the church, he said. He also said that the love that we have to all the “world” is just agape love. That is love like I hope the best for that person. He said that all three people mentioned in the story of the good Samaritan were Jew. That would have made the god’s people. So that is saying that we should love all the members of the church. We love the people in the world differently. Please tell me your perspective on this.

The Answer:

Although the question is lengthy, it basically asks if it is scriptural for the church to give aid and assistance to one who is not a member. The short answer to the question is “yes”; the basis for the answer is a bit longer.

A number of years ago a division arose in the church contending that it was sinful (contrary to scripture) to take funds from the treasury of the church in order to provide benevolence for those who are not Christians. It is difficult to see how such a question could ever arise. God himself bestows benevolent blessings on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45-47). Benevolence is a form of evangelism (Matthew 5:16) and evangelism is directed toward the non-Christian. The churches in Galatia were instructed to do good unto all men, especially unto the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). These brethren, however, used strained interpretations of these and other scriptures to avoid this obligation. One such strained interpretation is the example in the question of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Even agape love gives. “Loved” in John 3:16 is agape love. The lesson of the Good Samaritan is that compassion is shown only by doing something for those in need. According to these brethren it is sin for the church to show compassion to the needy.

Paul commanded the churches in Galatia and Corinth to make a benevolent contribution to be taken to Jerusalem for benevolent purposes. This money was to be sent to another church for distribution in Jerusalem and Judea (Acts 11:27-30). If 1 Corinthians 16 and similar passages are PATTERNS and SPECIFIC COMMANDS and BINDING EXAMPLES, exactly what is it that is commanded and bound? First, the first-day-of-the-week contribution can ONLY be used for benevolence. Second, the first-day-of-the-week contribution CANNOT be used scripturally for paying the preacher (even the one who provided the above application of the Parable of the Good Samaritan), utilities, mortgages, lawn care OR ANYTHING ELSE. In fact, not a penny can be spent on the local congregation, but must be send elsewhere for saints in need.

It is amazing that “saints only” brethren can come up with Biblical rules for the church treasury when the Bible says nothing, not a word, about a church treasury. The “saints only” brethren will take money from the treasury to pay the preacher, build a building and pay the mortgage, pay the utilities, and take care or the building and grounds. If their position is correct, it is scriptural to take money from the church treasury to buy fertilizer to feed the lawn, but it is unscriptural to take a single penny from the church treasury to feed a hungry child or provide care for needy orphans. Bottom line, they care for the grass that today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, but they care not for the human soul which is of greater value (Matthew 6:30).

Many other passages could be and have been used to demonstrate the falsity of the “saints only” doctrine, but surely this is sufficient. It certainly is sufficient to establish that the doctrine is far from the example and the teaching of Christ who died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8) and taught us to love our enemies and do good to those who spitefully use us (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-36).


God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)