Speaking Sound Doctrine

The Work Of The Church

IV.    A Work Of The Church: Teaching The Gospel

A.           Evangelizing

God divinely appointed the church to be the organization through which Christians work cooperatively to spread the gospel.  Perhaps the scripture that most concisely reveals this function of the local church is among Paul's words to Timothy:

1 Timothy 3:15  But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

The word "pillar" is translated from STULOS {stoo'-los}, which Thayer defines as "1) a pillar 2) a column… 3) a prop or support."  Thayer further explains that the word is derived from STUO, to stiffen, which is properly akin to the base of the prolonged verb form HISTEMI {his'-tay-mee} meaning "1) to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set… 1b) to make firm, fix, establish 1b1) to cause a… thing to keep… its place 1b2) to stand, be kept intact… 1b31) to uphold or sustain the authority or force of anything… 2a1a) of the foundation of a building…" (JHT).  The word "ground" is from HEDRAIOMA {hed-rah'-yo-mah} similarly meaning "a stay, prop, support" (JHT).  God has commissioned the church to hold forth the truth of the gospel to the world and to maintain the authority of God's word.

Correspondingly, in the book of Acts, we see that the church in Antioch sends Saul and Barnabas on a preaching trip, taking the gospel to those who had never heard.  They are sent again by the church to Jerusalem to teach regarding a false doctrine among the church there.  Paul commends the church at Thessalonica for their efforts in teaching the gospel, both near and in far-reaching places.

Acts 13:1-5  Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers….  2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then,… they sent them away….  5 And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews….

Act 15:1-3  2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria….

1 Thessalonians 1:8  For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place.  Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.

The days of the apostles and prophets have passed (1 Corinthians 13:8-13), but for instruction in the word, the Lord has given us evangelists, pastors, and teachers in the churches today.

Ephesians 4:11-12  And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

For example, Titus labored among the churches of Crete, setting all things in order and appointing elders as directed by the word of the Lord through Paul. 

Titus 1:5  For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you --

1 Thessalonians 5:12  And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.

Hebrews 10:25  …not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Admonishing and exhorting are synonyms for teaching.

B.           Edification And Evangelism

Gospel preachers have traditionally identified edification as a work of the church separate from evangelism.  This nomenclature was pronounced around the middle of the last century when gospel preachers were speaking out against churches cooperating with human institutions and engaging in social and recreational activities.  However, they defined "evangelism" as preaching the gospel to non-Christians and "edification" as building up Christians by instruction in the word.  Though these explanations rightly express the work of the church, a fundamental misuse of terms resides herein.

To explain, the English verb "evangelize" is defined simply as "to preach the gospel to" (M-W).  This comes directly from the Greek EUAGGELIZO {yoo-ang-ghel-id'-zo}, a combination of EU {yoo} (good) and AGGELOS {ang'-el-os} (a messenger, from whence, "angel").  EUAGGELIZO means "1) to bring good news, to announce glad tidings 1a) used in the [Old Testament] of any kind of good news…" (JHT).  It indicates the proclaiming of any good tidings (Luke 1:19) regardless of the faithfulness of the hearer (1 Corinthians 15:1, 2).

Curiously, none of the New Testament writers use the Greek noun form equivalent to "evangelism," which in English means "1: the winning or revival of personal commitments to Christ" (M-W).  Herein lays the source of the word misuse.  The English noun "evangelism" speaks directly to the desired effect of making believers out of unbelievers.  Though one brings about the other in this case, "bringing good news" does not actually mean "making converts."  In contrast, the New Testament Greek noun forms speak not to the reaction of the hearers but rather to the cause: the message and the messenger.  Specifically, EUAGGELION {yoo-ang-ghel'-ee-on} (often translated "gospel") means "good tidings" (Matthew 4:23), and EUAGGELISTES {yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace'} means "a bringer of good tidings" (JHT) (2 Timothy 4:5).  So while the earlier preachers use the noun "evangelism" true to its English slant toward winning the unfaithful, it is a diversion from its true Greek origin: "good news bringing." 

To explain further, "edification" translates OIKODOME {oy-kod-om-ay'}, which means literally, "(the act of) building, building" (JHT).  When used metaphorically, as is the case in reference to churches and Christians (Ephesians 4:12), it means "promoting the spiritual growth and development of character of believers, by teaching or by example" (W E Vine).  The word is used repeatedly in Romans 14:19 - 15:2 of a brother building up a weaker brother by refraining to eat certain meats and thus avoiding actions that lead a brother into sin.  Conclusively, the original word does not indicate a building up by word alone but also by our kind and considerate deeds.

Some preachers have suggested that OIKODOME in Ephesians 4:12 indicates evangelism, that is, making converts in order to increase membership numbers, like adding bricks to a building under construction (Matthew 26:61).  This is a misapplication of the term.  The metaphorical use of OIKODOME is not about literally building but an up-building: encouraging, supporting, and uplifting.  We ought to be careful not to alter the meaning of words.  It is the seed of false doctrine.

We will note some potential pitfalls of calling evangelism "the making of converts" and of considering edification a categorical work of the church, when we later discuss things which are not works of the church.  Let's now observe in scripture how edification is accomplished among individuals and within the church as a corporate body.

1.       Edification within the church

Accepting that edification is broadly an upbuilding and encouraging by any and every means or methods of words or deeds, we must observe carefully that the scripture has not yet been found that actually states the work of the church is edification, generically.  Remarkably, in every case recorded in scripture where corporate church action results in edification, teaching the gospel is the specific cause.  Consider some examples:

Ephesians 4:11, 12  And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:15, 16  But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ -- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

1 Corinthians 14:26  How is it then, brethren?  Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification.

Regarding the work of the church as a body, the statement "Let all things be done for edification" does not mean "Let all edifying things be done."  Paul is not ordering any particular actions, but his point is that, whatever the church is doing, it ought to build up, not tear down.

2.       Edification among individual Christians

Equally remarkable, in every case that the scriptures do command us to edify others in the broad sense, the instruction is to individual Christians exclusively, not the corporate church.

Romans 14:19  Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.

Romans 15:2  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.

1 Corinthians 10:23  All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

1 Thessalonians 5:11  Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.

Therefore, individual Christians have the authority to edify or encourage others by sending fruit baskets to newcomers, birthday or anniversary cards to those celebrating, or flowers to those grieving, but these activities are not the work of the church as a body.

In the final analysis, the work of the church is teaching the gospel, specifically, whether to Christians or non-Christians, which coincidentally results in edification in every case.  If a preacher is preaching the gospel to an assembly of both Christians and non-Christians, it is unreasonable to consider that the same action is "edification" to the Christians but "evangelism" to the non-Christians.  When properly understood, the distinction is unnecessary.

C.           Baptizing

The making of disciples is described in scripture with a different word: MATHETEUO {math-ayt-yoo'-o}, "to make a disciple" (JHT).  A disciple is not only a learner or pupil but an obedient follower (John 8:31).  Jesus explains how to make disciples: teach men and baptize them:

Matthew 28:19, 20  "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  Amen.

Hearing is with the ears, belief is with the heart, repentance is with the mind, confession is with the mouth (Romans 10:9-17), but baptism requires water.

Acts 8:35-37  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water.  And the eunuch said, "See, here is water.  What hinders me from being baptized?" …38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still.  And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

Consider that when an individual submits himself to baptism, his participation is passive, meaning that he receives the action.  However, for the one baptizing, his participation is active, meaning that he performs the action.  The scriptures consistently indicate this active and passive cooperation in baptism, as noted in the following text:

John 3:23  Now John also was baptizing [active voice] in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.  And they came and were baptized [passive voice].

The questions of whether an individual can legitimately baptize himself or whether the legitimacy of his baptism depends upon the faithfulness of the baptizer is to be discussed in a separate study.  For our present purposes, we only note that baptism is fundamentally a shared experience.  Baptism is not merely individual action; others also have joint participation in this.  The work of the church is to teach individuals that they need to be baptized, and the work of the church as a body is also to baptize them.  We will further examine baptism when later discussing worship as a work of the church.

D.           Church-supported Gospel Preachers

Scripture indicates that men who devote their time to preaching the gospel deserve to be paid for their time by the church. 

1 Timothy 5:17, 18  Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. 18 For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer is worthy of his wages."

In 1 Corinthians 9:3-14, Paul goes into great detail to explain that it is the Lord's will that evangelists might be adequately compensated monetarily for their labor by the churches.  He conclusively states:

1 Corinthians 9:14  Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.

The scriptures show examples of churches in the first century cooperating with evangelists to provide their financial support.  This is another way that a local church as a corporate body can participate in gospel preaching. 

Philippians 1:3-6  I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 4:10-18  But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

However, we learn about churches supporting preachers only through approved examples; we have no direct recorded generic commands concerning this.  In the recorded examples, the only method in use is that funds from one church are sent directly to the evangelist as his wages.  As these examples are uniform, we are forced to conclude that the authority must have been specific and follow the pattern to the same degree.  Scriptural funding for gospel preachers can therefore be illustrated by this simple diagram:

Church  —$–>



Church  —$–>
Church  —$–>
Church  —$–>



Church  —$–>



As it is lawful for one church to send funds to one preacher, then it is also lawful for multiple churches to independently send contributions to one preacher or for one church to send to multiple preachers.  In every case, there is effectively no other action than a church sending funds directly to a preacher.

2 Corinthians 11:7- 9  Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. 9 And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied.  And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no one shall stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia. 11 Why? Because I do not love you?  God knows! 12 But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast.

When Paul says "I robbed other churches," we are forced conclude his language is figurative, as it is certainly not God's will that Paul be a thief.  Instead, using hyperbole and irony, Paul explains that though he could have accepted financial support from the church at Corinth, he chose not to in order to not be a burden to them.  It seems reasonable that the church among whom an evangelist labors would be the body financially supporting him.  However, since this was not the case when he was at Corinth, Paul describes it as robbery for the churches in Macedonia to send support to him instead of to other preachers, all while Corinth was capable of supporting him.  Nevertheless, Paul does this as a demonstration of integrity and in order to help prevent some from becoming jealous of him in the matter.

2 Corinthians 12:13-16  For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you?  Forgive me this wrong! 14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you.  And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you.  For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. 16 But be that as it may, I did not burden you.  Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning!

1 Corinthians 9:9-11  For it is written in the law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain." Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes?  For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?

2 Thessalonians 3:7-9  For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.

Each church has the authority to financially support gospel preachers.  However, note that funds delivered to a preacher are called "wages" in scripture: the compensation for his time.  It is thus his money when he receives it, and he can use this money for anything he wishes.  He can use this money for groceries or to buy a boat, the same as those who receive wages in secular occupations.  Conclusively, it is unscriptural for a church to send money to a preacher "earmarked" for a specific purpose.  They cannot mandate that he use the money only to buy teaching aids, printed material, or the like.  Moreover, a church has no scriptural authority to send money to another church to help them pay for their supplies, teaching materials, utility bills, or any other such thing.  Support in the form of wages alone only goes to the preacher.  This is the only New Testament pattern.

The point to all this is that every church has the responsibility to be doing all it can with the resources available to preach the gospel locally and support men in other places who do the same.

1.       Missionary societies

It is crucial to note that New Testament churches never funneled their contributions to Paul through a man-made missionary society that managed the work for them.  Instead, each church sent their contributions to Paul directly.  This way, as each church knew the character of Paul, then each church knew that their money was going to support a sound preacher.  If the money had been channeled through a secondary distribution entity or a missionary society, this verification would be lost; the responsibility God gave the church to manage its own work would be surrendered to others for them to manage.  Then, if the funds end up in the hands of a heretic preacher, those churches unwittingly become partakers in his false teaching.  Any church involved in such comes under the Lord's condemnation.  Their ignorance is no excuse, because they have violated the divine pattern in the first place.

When man forms missionary societies and human organizations to pay preachers, he supplants the divinely instituted organization for this task: the church.  We are effectively telling God, "Your church is okay, but we think there are better ways of getting the job done."  Remember, God's ways and God's thoughts are higher than man's (Isaiah 55:8, 9).  Man forms an unscriptural arrangement when he inserts another organization or institution into the process.  Such arrangements as shown in the diagram to follow are unauthorized:

Church              —$–>    Missionary Society     —$–>   Preacher

Many Churches  $–>   Missionary Society     —$–>   Many Preachers

2.       Sponsoring church arrangements

Even if the inserted organization is another church, there is no authority for it.  It is simply a church functioning as missionary society.  Scripture nowhere supports the practice of one church sending money to another church for them to send to a preacher.  We might call this a "sponsoring church" arrangement, and it is unscriptural:

Church  $–>  Sponsoring Church  —$–>  Preacher

Whereas a number of small churches might not have much to contribute each on their own, human reasoning would suggest that if many small churches funnel their money through a single large church, more support can be accomplished with greater efficiency.

Many Smaller Churches  $–> Large Sponsoring Church  —$–>  Many Preachers

Although this might seem expedient from a human reasoning perspective, it is not a mere matter of expediency.  This is because the pattern of direct church-to-preacher support is uniform in all recorded examples.  Therefore, the authority is specific, and we do not have the liberty execute it differently.  Remember that for a thing to be an expediency, it cannot be specified; expediencies apply to generic commands only.  If a command is specific, our only choice is to do it in obedience or not do it in rebellion.  Moreover, this arrangement changes things.  This unlawfully creates an additional management level, breaks down church autonomy, and also relieves the small churches of their responsibility to manage their own work.  Mere expediencies do not add, subtract, or otherwise change anything.

This arrangement is not a better idea than God's simple plan.  We may think the matter is insignificant, but it is still action without God's authority.  Besides, the biblical pattern will work; there is no reason to depart from it.

3.       The divinely appointed institution

As some churches unlawfully function as man-made missionary societies, man-made missionary societies unlawfully function as churches.  A missionary society takes free-will contributions in order to preach the gospel without charge and give relief to the needy (discussed later), as similarly a church does.  Consider that if members of this society now only meet together and partake of the Lord's Supper and sing and pray, there is practically nothing different between their work and that of the church.  This is effectively a man-made church.  It is a human institution assuming the work God has ordained for the collective church as a body: the divine institution.

As individuals, we have complete authority to go about preaching the gospel anywhere and anytime, free of charge (Acts 8:4).  However, if we would desire to cooperatively preach the gospel freely through an organized institution, we need to recognize that God has already ordained such an organization for this purpose: the local church.  "Teach the gospel" does not mean "form an organization."  A human institution is not an expediency for teaching the gospel, because something more is added.  It is completely possible to teach the gospel to the whole world by no other organization than the Lord's church.  However, when people believe, repent, and obey in baptism at the gospel preaching presented by a man-made organization, the organization gets the glory.  It does not matter how much the organization claims that the glory belongs to God, the honor unavoidably goes to the organization.

Consider this from a secular perspective.  Suppose a group of people recognize a need to save a certain endangered animal species from extinction and decide to work together to that end.  They realize they do not have the necessary resources for the work, so they organize fund-raisers and obtain free-will contributions.  With their acquired funds, they launch advertising campaigns to acquire more funds and more people to join the effort.  They lobby government bodies to spare the animal's natural habitat from development.  They employ scientists to study the animals and develop captive breeding and release programs.  When the species makes a recovery, the praise naturally goes to the organization and its founders, no matter how much they might deny their worthiness.  Still others seeing this result are encouraged all the more to join their cause, enlarging that organization and growing its notoriety and respect.

In like manner, any man-made organization which wins souls to Christ through preaching the gospel will inevitably receive praise and honor from men for their work.  Any such human organization which does the work that God designed the church as an organization to do discredits and supplants the divine organization and robs it and its Founder of the glory and honor they rightfully deserve.

2 Corinthians 8:18-24  And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches, 19 and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind, 20 avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us -- 21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. 22 And we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, because of the great confidence which we have in you. 23 If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.

Ephesians 3:21  To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 5:25-27  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

The scriptures make clear that all the glory for the shared work in the gospel is to fall upon Jesus Christ and His church alone.  Our Lord did not die to establish a human institution.  Any missionary society, college, religious publishing company, or other man-made corporation today which accepts free-will financial contributions and preaches the gospel without charge is essentially operating as a church: executing the function of the divine corporate body which God has appointed for this work.  As much as we might suppose that some other institution or foundation is a better arrangement, any such organization is unnecessary, and it over-shadows the church which cannot be improved upon.

When previously discussing the distinction between individual and corporate action, we observed that scripture authorizes individuals for social, economic, domestic, and political activities.  Concerning our collective action in these realms, God has not ordained any specific corporations.  We may therefore form any kind of numerous community, business, domestic, or civic organizations as we please, as long as we otherwise adhere to wholesome, ethical, upright behavior.  Individuals have the right to incorporate and establish social clubs, schools, parent-teacher associations, hunger relief foundations, human rights organizations, trade unions, manufacturing companies producing goods for sale and profit, service institutions such as hospitals, or any other kind of secular organization.

Proponents of institutionalism argue that as God does not forbid the formation of human institutions in secular matters, He also has nowhere in scripture forbidden the formation of human institutions in spiritual and religious matters.  A study of authority in religion demonstrates that the question is not over what God expressly forbids but over what He expressly ordains.  Concerning collective activity in secular matters, God has specified nothing.  In spiritual or religious matters, God has indeed specified the organization through which He intends that we act cooperatively: the church.  Where God specifies, we have no right to substitute.  For example, since God specifies that we sing in worship, we cannot substitute playing an instrument because He doesn't say not to.  Likewise, since God specifies that glory to Him is to be in the church (Ephesians 3:21), we cannot substitute a human institution because He doesn't say not to.

4.       Publishing companies

Those who defend institutionalism in the church will claim their sponsoring churches or missionary societies operate the same as publishing companies.  They argue that if their arrangements are unlawful, then only churches can lawfully print Bibles and study booklets, since such are also technically forms of teaching.

In first response, authority for our actions ought to be established upon scripture, not upon the actions or presumed inconsistency of others.  Now let us examine whether missionary societies really do function merely as publishing companies.

The difference should become obvious when we compare this to an analogous secular example.  Suppose a group of people have the printing equipment, knowledge, and savvy to go into corporate business publishing books of recipes for whole grain muffins.  They sell these books for profit; customers pay a certain price and receive the book in equitable trade.  This company is in the business of making money, not educating people.  Even though their product is useful for instruction, they are still just a manufacturing company making money.  Now suppose another group of people understand the health benefits of eating whole grain muffins, and they form an association, buying large quantities of these books with their own pooled or solicited financial resources at their own volition for free distribution to spread the good word.  This company is in the business of educating people, not making money.  Clearly, the work for profit of the publishing company is not the same thing as the work of the non-profit distribution group.  At this point in the reasoning process, this is all we are trying to establish: the two corporations are not merely doing the same thing.  If the publishing company begins soliciting and accepting free-will contributions not for fair equitable trade and begins the distribution of their product to others without cost, they cease being a publishing company and become the same thing as the other educational company; they are simply making their own instructional material rather than buying it from some other source.

The reasoning process that is accepted in secular matters is often somehow rejected when applied to spiritual matters, due to preconceived ideas.  Let's try to make unbiased application in the spiritual arena.  As noted earlier, if God nowhere in scripture specifies the divine corporate enterprise for a certain group endeavor, we are free to form such business corporations and associations as we wish.  Conversely, where God does specify, we cannot substitute.

Consider now a manufacturing company that publishes religious material, such as tracts and Bibles, and sells them at fair trade as a business for profit.  God has nowhere in scripture specified the divinely appointed corporation for producing paper, manufacturing ink, and publishing religious material for profit at equitable trade.  We are free to establish such money-making enterprises.

Now consider something altogether different: a corporation for collecting free-will financial contributions from concerned parties for the open distribution of religious teaching material without charge.  In contrast, God has indeed ordained His divine institution to which He has precisely assigned this task for His glory: the church.  We have no authority to substitute a human institution to perform the task God has specified for His church.

The following diagram illustrates the scriptural relationship between a publishing company and a church.  Here the publishing company is making money and the church is teaching the gospel:


<– payment $ <–


–>  booklets  –>


 –> booklets –>



The diagram to follow illustrates an unscriptural arrangement and function.  Here the church is no longer doing the work of teaching the gospel but has passed that responsibility and management to others:


–> contributions $ –>


–> booklets –>



In the illustration above, the publishing company is no longer acting only as a lucrative business company but also as a missionary society.  If a church can sponsor a so-called publishing company to distribute tracts and Bibles, then a church can also sponsor a missionary society to send preachers:


–> contributions $ –>



–> preachers –>



To the contrary, both arrangements are unauthorized and therefore sinful.  They strip the church of her responsibility to teach (1 Timothy 3:15) and deprive God of His glory (Ephesians 3:21).  We will examine human institutionalism further when we discuss the work of benevolence of needy saints.

E.           Expediencies In Teaching The Gospel

We have noted some things that are not expediencies to teaching the gospel, so let's now examine some legitimate expediencies for gospel teaching.  Remember that expediencies are only convenient means and methods for fulfilling generic commands.  Furthermore, we do not need a specific scriptural example of a thing in order for it to be a valid expediency, as long as it does not add to, subtract from, or in any way alter the activity.   

1.       Printed exegesis

Some Christians believe that Bible study outlines, workbooks, tracts, business cards, flyers, or any other such thing ought not be used.  They claim that since all we follow is scripture, then these things are supplanting that one true source of authority.  However, if that which is taught in the printed material is nothing different than what scripture teaches on a specific subject matter but in a more convenient format, then there is no supplanting, and it is a true expediency.  Printed or projected material can include diagrams, charts, illustrations, or maps.  You can use printed material or not use it at your discretion.  It is nothing more or less than a possible method of gospel teaching.  Besides, we know Paul uses this method.  Not everything he writes for instruction in the gospel is preserved as scripture, but it is no doubt in conformance with it (1 Corinthians 5:9; Colossians 4:16).  Paul also explains the scriptures in his spoken teaching (Acts 17), as does Ezra (Nehemiah 8:7, 8).  If these words can be delivered orally, so can they be in writing.

2.       Classroom instruction

Some Christians believe that separately assembled groups, such as children's, ladies', men's, and young adult, or new convert classes are wrong.  They claim that this is division in the church and that there is no example in scripture of such a thing.  However, if nothing more or less than Bible teaching is being conducted, these things are authorized by the generic command for the church as a body to teach the gospel.  There is no real division here, as long as the gospel that is taught in the children's classes is the same gospel as is taught in the adult classes.  It is nothing other than a possible method of gospel teaching.  We can teach in small groups or in large, groups of old or of young, groups of men or of women.  It is all still just gospel teaching.  Division in the local church is not by teaching in different places or different times or to different audiences but by teaching different doctrines (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).  Moreover, we do not need to have a scriptural example for everything we do.  We have no scriptural examples of church-owned meeting houses or songbooks, but these are authorized as expediencies for worship.

It will be further argued against children's classes that it is the responsibility of parents to teach the gospel to their children (Ephesians 6:4), and they ought not delegate this to others.  Though a parent not teaching the gospel to his own child is supreme negligence, the parent is not necessarily the exclusive instructor God would approve for children.  For example, Timothy learned from his grandmother as well (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).  The apostles were instructed to take the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).  Moreover, the church as a body is not limited to teaching the gospel only by means of the assembly of the entire local body (Acts 15:4-6).  Children's classes are also an expedient way of delivering gospel teaching  that is age-appropriate or aligned with the spiritual maturity of the students (1 Corinthians 3:1, 2).

On the other hand, children's classes are not mandatory; they are only an expediency and matter of judgment.  Anyone personally objecting has the right to not participate if they so choose, and elders do not have the authority to force them against their will.  Notwithstanding, those who object should be careful before condemning others who participate on the grounds of the scriptural reasoning presented.  More on this will be stated when we discuss worship in the church.

3.       Multimedia

The church in the first century had essentially only two media for teaching: speaking and handwriting on papyrus or parchment (2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Timothy 4:13).  It was not until around 1439 when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press that this began to appreciably change.  The church today has many more options for teaching media than the early church could have imagined.  Modern technology has given us personal computers to easily produce not only printed or projected material but digital audio and video recordings on a variety of media that now seems to change on a daily basis.  Live or recorded audio and visual broadcasts are conveniently achievable using radio, television, or the internet.  As long as nothing more than Bible teaching is being accomplished, the church has the authority to purchase and use to that end any and all existing and future communication equipment and services.

4.       Aids and supporting items

Any other device or component that assists in teaching the gospel which does not add to, subtract from, or in any way change the essence of the action is authorized by the command to teach.  A biblical example of such a thing is found in Nehemiah 8:1-8.  Here Ezra preaches to the assembly utilizing a wooden platform (pulpit, KJV; podium, NAU) that had been constructed "for the purpose."  Modern examples include chalk boards, video projector screens, sound amplification systems, and electric lights.  If a preacher uses a microphone or a pulpit, he is still doing nothing other than gospel preaching.

A church needs to carefully monitor the activities that are assumed to be merely teaching tools.  A thorough understanding of hermeneutics and expediencies is critical.  We will now list several unauthorized activities that sometimes creep into the church under the guise of teaching aids.

a.    Not expedient: drama

Drama skits are not teaching expediencies; theatrics are added.  The logical end would include auditions, set designers, set builders, a costume department, stage hands, script writers, directors, and choreographers.  If at the end of such a production, the natural reaction for the audience is to applaud, we are obviously doing more than teaching; we are also entertaining.  However, a mere expediency should add nothing to the action performed.

b.    Not expedient: gifts

Give-away ink pens with a scripture or the church telephone number printed on them are not teaching expediencies; a gift is added.  The logical end would include imprinted coffee mugs, key chains, ball caps, tee shirts, volley balls, baseballs, crayons, rulers, pocket knives, screw drivers, flashlights, or any other such object.  These things pertain to much more than teaching; we are also giving a gift whose primary purpose has nothing inherently to do with Bible teaching.

c.     Not expedient: food

Giving bread for children to eat in a Bible class when teaching that Jesus is the bread of life is not an expediency for teaching; eating is added.  The logical end could include feeding them lamb, grapes, fish, olives, corn, quail, milk, honey, figs, cakes, or any other lawful food or beverage mentioned in the Bible.  Obviously, this accomplishes more than teaching, so none of these things are actually expediencies for teaching.

We will further consider what are not teaching expediencies when we later discuss things that are not the work of the church.

Questions And Thoughts For Review: Teaching The Gospel

1.    Who has the Lord given in churches today for instruction in the word?  How does this differ from the first century church?

2.    What is the literal New Testament meaning of our English words "evangelize" and "evangelist?"

3.    What is the meaning of "edification" as it is used in the New Testament?  Is edification a categorical work of the church?

4.    How are people converted to Christ?

5.    When a church financially supports a gospel preacher by delivering him wages, is it fair to say that such a church is participating in his work?

6.    Is it lawful for a church to send wages to a gospel preacher by funneling them through another church, a missionary society, or a college?

7.    When a church sends wages for the support of gospel preachers through another church, a missionary society, or a college, what is lost?  What is added?

8.    What organization has God ordained to receive all glory for the preaching of the gospel?

9.    In your own words, explain the significant difference between a publishing company and a church.

10.  Are there any restrictions on where, when, how, or to whom the church may teach the gospel?


Some material in this study is derived or directly quoted from the following texts, which are suggested for further study and additional information:

      (BDB) "Revised Whittaker's Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon," 1906, 1997, Logos Research Systems, Inc.

      (JHT) "A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament," Joseph Henry Thayer, 1979, Zondervan Publishing House

      "Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament: Based On Semantic Domains," Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, 1989, New York: United Bible Societies

      "Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament,", Timothy and Barbara Friberg, 1994

      (WEV) "Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words," W. E. Vine, 1966, Flemming H. Revell Co.

      "A Manual Grammar Of The Greek New Testament," 1927, 1955, Dana and Mantey, Macmillan Co.

      LXX Septuaginta (LXT) (Old Greek Jewish Scriptures) edited by Alfred Rahlfs, 1935, the German Bible Society

      "New Testament Words," William Barclay, SCM Press Ltd., 1964

      (TBA) "The Bible Almanac," Packer, Tenney, White, Jr., 1980, Thomas Nelson Publishers

      (OED) Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com

      "The Bible in English: Its History and Influence," 2003, David Daniell

      "Walking By Faith," Roy E. Cogdill, 1957, 1967, The Gospel Guardian Company

      "Old Issues Do Not Fade Away – A Study In Centralization Of Churches And Institutionalism," Gene Frost, 1975, 1976, Gospel Anchor

      (M-W) The Merriam-Webster American English Dictionary Online, 2012

      Wikipedia: web-based free-content encyclopedia, 2012


Bible translations referenced in this work include:

KJV:      King James Version (1611)

ASV:     American Standard Version (1901)

NKJ:     New King James Version (1982)

NAU:    New American Standard Bible (1995)

YLT:      Young's Literal Translation (1862, 1898)

TNT:     Tyndale New Testament (1534)

Bible quotations in this work are from the NKJ unless otherwise indicated.  Anglicized equivalents of Greek and Hebrew words appear in all upper case characters with the approximate pronunciation following in braces.



Copyright 2012, Speaking Sound Doctrine