Introduction: The church that Jesus built is revealed in the New Testament (Matt. 16: 18, 19). Regarding all biblical subjects, great care must be taken to not distort the truth in any way (Rev. 22: 18, 19, Gal. 1: 6-9). Every facet of the church, including the work to be performed, is set forth in God's word. Let us now determine what is taught relative to the benevolence in which the local church is to engage.
I. Two kinds of benevolence.
A. Upon close analysis, the New Testament reveals two types of benevolence, individual and church action.
B. Paul clearly distinguishes between individual and church action in his teaching in I Timothy 5. In certain matters, the individual has responsibility and the church (involving treasury) is not to be involved (I Tim. 5: 16).
C. Also, Paul shows that in circumstances of family, family members have benevolent priority over the local church (I Tim. 5: 16, 4).
D. However, there are cases where the local church did have a duty (I Tim. 5: 16).
II. Instances of church benevolence.
A. The local church is to have a treasury (I Cor. 16: 2, "in store" is our word treasury).
B. There are three (as some count them) recorded cases of church, as such, financial assistance (Acts 4: 34-37; 11: 27-30; I Cor. 16: 1, 2, 2 Cor. 8, 9, Rom. 15: 25-27).
C. These three instances cover a period of time of about twenty years during the history of the First Century church.
III. Gleaned truths regarding church benevolence.
A. As we have seen in the case of family priority, the church is restricted (I Tim. 5: 16).
B. Also, the local church is only presented as assisting saints. In the case of Acts 11, the dearth was widespread, but only needy saints were helped (vs. 29). In other words, the local church is not designed to be a Red Cross Society (individual action is not so restricted, Eph. 4: 28).
C. The scriptures also determine need as the actual necessities of life, not just an improved life style (I Jn. 3: 17).
Conclusion: Church benevolence is another way of identifying the scriptural local church. The Lord's church today will practice the same as the early church (2 Jn. 9-11).