- IS EVERYONE OBLIGATED TO HONOR THE COLLECTION PLATE EVERY SUNDAY?
- IS THE SYSTEM FAIR TO THE EVANGELIST?
- IS IT WISDOM TO HAVE THE PASTOR GIVE OVERSIGHT TO MOST OF THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE SAINTS?
LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
Romans 8:14: as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
One of the attributes of sonship is a willingness to be directed by the Holy Spirit through all life’s happenings. The New Covenant person must submit himself to the Spirit of God in his financial affairs if he hopes to be fruitful. There is no alternative.
Throughout history man has proven to man that he can’t. He is unable. His lot is pain and failure. “There is none that understands…there is none that does good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:11,12). Man is deficient to bear good fruit.
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mat. 19:26). It is possible to know, to be able. With God it is possible. The Holy Spirit makes the impossible possible.
John 16:13: when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth:
Twenty-four hours a day, every day, the Holy Spirit is leading into truth. He never rests. And He never leads into error. If a person miscalculates, misappropriates, overemphasizes, neglects or falters, it is because that person has not been sensitive to He who leads “into all truth.”
Gal. 5:18: if you are led of the Spirit, you are not under the law.
This is a very definite statement. Who cannot understand? These words should be memorized. They are two-edged. It should be wielded against those who would impose laws and regulations.
This “law” in the above verse is the Mosaic Law, the Law given to the Israelites through Moses. The “foolish Galatians” were submitting to the Mosaic Law due to subversive teachings of certain Jews. Now if one “led of the Spirit” is not under this God-given Mosaic Law, he certainly is not under any other law [other than the laws God has “put…into their hearts, and in their minds”], written or unwritten, old or new. If one is submissive to a law, a code, an ethic, or someone’s vision, that person is not led by the Spirit. If he must ask another, “May I?” he is not led by the Spirit. If he calls another ‘captain,’ ‘leader,’ or ‘shepherd’ he is not led by the Spirit.
Romans 8:16: The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
The same Spirit who “bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” also “bears witness” where to give, how much and how often. It is a fact the Holy Spirit does give witness to the will of God. It is the Christian’s obligation to recognize or ‘pick up’ this witness of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit does not force. He simply leads. One must be tuned in to the Holy Spirit or he simply will not arrive at truth. He will miss the will of God.
Only God knows. Man does not know. The Christian does not know his neighbor is in financial difficulties. Or a certain evangelistic campaign is doomed for failure and therefore should not be supported financially. Or God wants a certain young man to be sent to Bible school. Or how much of his income should go into the Great Commission. The Christian does not know, but God knows. And the Holy Spirit is continually leading the Christian into that knowledge.
Gal. 3:1: O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth,
The “foolish Galatians” are prime examples of Christians who were not led by the Spirit. They had entered into spiritual bondage. Spiritual bondage is simply lack of freedom to be led by the Holy Spirit. They had lost that freedom when they yielded to the Law, the Law that was replaced by the New Covenant.
A foolish Christian is one who, like the Galatians, has entered into bondage to a law or an accepted mentality or a traditional pattern. A man who submits to the regulation of tithing has much in common with the “foolish Galatians.” He needs to repent and recommit his financial affairs to God. He must learn to be led by the Spirit of God.
It is difficult to stand against the opinions of the majority. Peer pressure is just as real within the body of Christ as in the world. It is not always necessary to stand against public opinion, but it is always needful to be willing to take a stand.
The majority is often wrong. Winds of doctrine come and go, and the body of Christ has proven itself susceptible. Such was the case with the Galatians. They were united in error. It would have taken real courage for an individual Galatian to declare before his peers, “It is not right to yield to these regulations, and I refuse to be a part of it.” Such a person would risk persecution and even expulsion, accused of spiritual arrogance and declared guilty of causing division. There is a price attached to discipleship.
The apostle Paul wrote, “I am free from all men”(1Cor. 9:19). Paul was free from being swayed by peer pressure. He had no need for man’s approval or man’s applause. He was free to stand against public opinion. He was free to be led by the Spirit of God.
Gal. 2:11-14: when Peter came to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before certain men came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those which were of the circumcision. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, If you being a Jew, live after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as the Jews, why compel the Gentiles to live as the Jews?
Peter allowed himself to be motivated by peer pressure from “certain [Jews which] came from James.” This resulted in an increase of peer pressure upon the other Jewish Christians, and they in turn bowed to group persuasion. With this, peer pressure again swelled, so much so that Barnabas joined in on their hypocrisy. Now Paul stood alone. The pressure to go with the flow must have been heavy. But this was the man who once declared, “I am free from all men.” He was free to do that which was right. He “withstood him [Peter] to the face, because he was to be blamed.” Paul was not a man-pleaser. “Do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
This is an instance when the group was united in error. And Scripture reveals other such happenings. When Jesus was arrested, “all the disciples forsook him, and fled.” In Acts chapter eleven, the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem rebuked Peter for preaching Christ to the Gentiles. Paul wrote to Timothy, “All they which are in Asia are turned away from me.”
The majority is not always right. God never taught majority rule. Rather He demands obedience to His Word.
2 Timothy 3:12: Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
It is possible Paul suffered persecution for his stand against Peter “before them all.” But not Barnabas though it was he who compromised. Barnabas was not [in this instance] behaving “godly in Christ Jesus.”
Much [most?] persecution comes from within the body of Christ. From casual acquaintances and close friends. From relatives. From leadership. Christians, it is sad to say, persecute Christians. Persecution is usually directed against the one opposing accepted unrighteousness.
It is a fact that those who live “godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Sooner or later a sacred tradition or an accepted mentality will be trespassed and some of the group will show their indignation.
A man-pleaser makes a very poor disciple. His master is man. His teacher is man. The spiritual freedom inherited at rebirth is gone. He is part of the problem.
FREEDOM IN CHRIST
Gal. 5:13: brethren, you have been called unto liberty;
The believer has “been called unto liberty” to be “led by the Spirit of God.” Freedom is precious. One should be diligent to protect that freedom. There are many who would snatch it away.
2 Cor. 3:17: where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Many [most?] Christians have lost their liberty to one degree or another. It isn’t easy to remain free. There is always peer pressure to bow to corporate decisions. Many follow the crowd rather than the Spirit of truth. Barnabas is the norm, Paul the exception.
You, the student of the Word, want to be productive. And you can be productive. If you submit yourself to the Spirit of God. And if you purpose in your heart to “be free from all men.”
Proverbs 16:3: Commit your works unto the Lord, and your thoughts shall be established.
“Commit your works unto the Lord.” No, not to a church. Or a project. Or a cause. Or a man. But to God. Then “your thoughts shall be established.” Then, and only then, will one be free to be led by the Spirit.
If one commits his works [time, finances, etc.] to anyone other than God, God will not give direction. Such is a branch not abiding in the Vine. Jesus said, “without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). But Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Php. 4:13). Through Christ and by the guidance of the Spirit the student of the Word can be very productive.
Luke 6:45: of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
A spiritually healthy Christian speaks Christ. If Christ is in the heart Christ is in conversation. Likewise, if ‘church’ is in one’s heart ‘church’ will be the subject of conversation. If man rules the heart man will be spoken of. “His mouth speaks” the overflow of his heart. One can determine what is in his heart by simply monitoring his tongue. An individual’s relationship with Christ is relative to the number of times he speaks Christ.
If Christ does not reign the Spirit does not have lordship over one’s decisions. There is no liberty. There is no fruit. The fruit a person brings forth is relative to his relationship with Christ.
SUNDAY’S COLLECTION PLATE
1 Cor. 16:1,2: Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do.
Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
Some suggest the above verses indicate it was the practice of the early church to have collections every Sunday. Deeper consideration of these verses will show such was not the custom. Why tell the Corinthians to put something aside each Sunday if it was already their habit to do so? Paul wasn’t suggesting they have a weekly collection, but simply everybody lay something aside, on their own, every week. Paul wanted “no gatherings when I come.” But suppose his stay included one or more Sundays? Does this mean the people were to break custom and not have a collection on Sundays? Everything indicates there was no custom of Sunday collections.
This is not to say it is wrong to pass the collection plate every Sunday. The point is that the individual student of the Word is not obligated to contribute to every plate floating by. The above verses cannot be used to suggest otherwise.
Often local church leadership does not encourage the individual to think and discern for oneself. “Trust us”, they say. Leadership calls for commitment to leadership rather than commitment to God.
Leadership should always encourage the believer to make his own [prayerful] decisions, to seek for himself guidance of the Spirit, and yes, to make his own mistakes. Because each is accountable for his own choices. No one should be made to feel obligated to anyone except the Lord.
It should be pointed out that it was an apostle and not a pastor who called for “the collection for the saints.” A pastor’s heart is often limited to his own congregation. His shepherd heart does not embrace the world. His pillow is not wet from tears of intercessory prayers for the lost. An apostle also has a shepherd’s heart, but he also has the heart of an evangelist. His scope is broader. This makes him more qualified to direct funds.
In this particular collection the funds raised by the group were channeled outside the group [to the saints in Jerusalem]. The pastor’s collection, however, is almost always used for the care of the local assembly from which the collection came. The local church is simply donating to itself.
Unfortunately it is the pastor who oversees most of the collections within evangelicalism. He not only calls for tithes which he claims belong to the ‘storehouse’ [the local church], but also ‘offerings’ [this, The System teaches, is any donation above ten percent]. Every Sunday the assembly is challenged, not by the apostle, prophet, evangelist or teacher, but always the pastor.
If the apostle and evangelist, in particular, do not receive a share of the collection [and they usually do not], it is really the Great Commission being robbed. And robbing the Great Commission is robbing the unsaved.
The System is the reason why many evangelists ‘turn’ pastor. The pastor is the only one in the assembly on salary. The evangelist is told to “step out in faith.” He may grow weary of believing for milk for the children or transportation to the next town, and seek a salaried position as a pastor even though that is not his calling. Again, the Great Commission suffers. The lost stay lost.
The System is at least partly responsible, in many fundamental circles, for the gifting of apostle not to be recognized, claiming this ministry passed away with the early church. This is not so. Ephesians 4:11-13 teaches each of the fivefold ministries will last “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Yes, there are apostles today. Many are hidden in the ministry of pastor.
The challenge to the student of the Word is to consider all this before encountered by next Sunday’s collection plate.
Acts 5:29: We ought to obey God rather than men.
Barnabas bowed to peer pressure. He obeyed man rather than God. He became part of the problem. If the student of the Word submits to the persuasions of a man or a group rather than to the Spirit and the Word, you too are obeying man over God. It takes courage to stand against The System. But the alternative is to be part of the problem.
IT IS REQUIRED
2 Cor. 5:10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, accordingly to that he has done, whether it be good or bad.
The student of the Word will one day stand before “the judgment seat of Christ” to give an account of your life. It will happen. The day is approaching.
Each Christian is answerable to Christ the Judge for the way he handled money entrusted to him here on earth. Because he alone is accountable it is so very foolish to blindly trust others with this responsibility.
Money, well invested, can do so much. It can bring forth much fruit to be laid at the feet of Jesus. Misspent, it will accomplish little. It is bread gone moldy, milk turned sour. Never before that day will the proverb, “he that wins souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30), be so meaningful.
1 Cor. 4:2: it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
A faithful steward is obedient to God. He does not waste. He does not invest in casual men. He has business meetings with God and ever in his mind is the fact he is accountable. His life is a preparation for that day when he will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. His presentation to Jesus will be more than wood, hay and stubble. His will be gold, silver and precious stones.
A faithful steward is led by the Spirit of God. He can resist peer pressure. He is not easily convinced. He refuses to be governed by the opinions of man. He is a student of the Word
A summary of this chapter may be helpful.
God has decreed the New Covenant person is to be led through life by the Holy Spirit. This takes discernment. Discernment is the ability to determine the will of God. To be led by the Spirit of God, the New Covenant person must resist influences leading in an otherwise direction. This will only happen if one’s relationship with Jesus is healthy. One way the quality of an individual’s relationship can be tested is simply by monitoring one’s own words. If one speaks Christ, it is because Christ is predominate in one’s heart.
It is difficult to resist being swayed by the opinions of the majority. Peer pressure within the body of Christ is a reality. So is persecution. Submitting to the persuasions of the group is not being led by the Spirit. The student of the Word should purpose in his heart to be led by the Spirit of God at any cost. Because he wants to be productive. Because he is accountable. Because “it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Because he loves Jesus.