One such example of a church (Antioch), contributing to the needs of “brethren in Judea” is recorded in Acts 11:27-30.
The help was in response to a famine. The money was raised by the disciples (church) in Antioch when “every man according to his ability” gave into a common fund. I Corinthians 16:1-2 later supplied specific instructions and authorization for the method of raising such a fund in a congregation. Paul and Barnabas were chosen as messengers to take the fund to the “brethren which dwelt in Judea.” The money was delivered into the hands of the “elders” among the “brethren in Judea.” Since there were a number of churches or congregations in Judea (I Thess. 214; Galatians 1:22) we conclude that the funds were delivered into the hands of the elders in each church, who then made distribution among the needy saints of that church.
Another example is provided when the congregations of Galata, Macedonia, and Achaia contributed to the needs of the poor saints in Jerusalem. (Romans 15:25-28; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8 and 9) We do not know what precipitated this need, but we do know that the need was so great that the congregation in Jerusalem was unable to take care of it. Hence the help of other churches was needed. Gentile churches were called upon to help in Romans 15:25-27. Paul instructs the churches in Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia regarding the need in I Cor. 16:1-4 and 2 Cor. 8 and 9. Those in Macedonia were willing above and beyond their ability to help in this matter 2 Cor. 8:1-5. Each church raised its own funds by the individual members making a contribution, on the first day of the week, as each had prospered I Cor. 16:1-2. Each church acting independently, chose its own messenger to whom it entrusted its contribution that it might be taken to Jerusalem I Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:19, 23. Since we have no information to the contrary, we conclude that when these messengers arrived in Jerusalem they delivered the funds to the elders, as Paul and Barnabas had previously done, and the elders made distribution to the needy saints. From these two examples, a number of very important facts emerge:
1. Each church gave their contribution to their own selected agent or messenger and he became responsible to them and the Lord for faithfully delivering it to the Jerusalem church. There is no hint that these separate contributions lost their identity in a pooled or combined fund. The receiving church could identify the gift as coming from a certain church and the amount sent by that church. Neither was not lost in some centralized fund. Such a fund simply does not fit the pattern.
2. No church sent its money through another church. There was no “sponsoring church” arrangement, where a church received funds and then forwarded the those funds to the church in need.
3. Since churches who participated in sending help, contributed directly to the church in need, that the need might be supplied, they avoided centralization of funds and power.
4. We today should not adopt what they avoided.
Brethren this pattern needs to be followed just like any other. There is a pattern for the mode of baptism. That pattern involves immersion Acts 8:35-39; Romans 6:3-4. The fact that someone wants to be baptized on the desert doesn’t give me the right substitute sprinkling or pouring. I am duty bound to honor the pattern and find sufficient water in which to immerse the individual. There is a pattern for the Lord’s Supper I Cor. 11:23-26. 1 am duty bound to honor this pattern also. The fact that someone does not want to drink after someone else does not give me the right to break the pattern and use a plurality of drinking vessels. The same is true in sending funds to other churches who have needy saints or in supporting evangelistic efforts. There may be difficulties in honoring the Bible pattern but those difficulties do not justify breaking the pattern revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Published in the OPA October, 2003