Following the Pattern in Benevolence

Greg Gwin

As one studies the work of first century congregations, it becomes obvious that benevolence was an important part of the work God authorized them to do. We know that specific commands were given directing churches to provide for those in need.


An important and inescapable conclusion based on a review of this subject is this: congregations always and exclusively used their collective funds for the relief of needy saints. A complete listing of all examples of church benevolence clearly demonstrates this truth:


“all that believed” (Acts 2:44,45)

“them that believed” (Acts 4:32-35)

“the disciples” (Acts 6:1)

“relief unto the brethren” (Acts 11:29)

“unto the saints” (Romans 15:25)

“for the poor saints” (Romans 15:26)

“accepted of the saints” (Romans 15:31)

“collection for the saints” (1 Corinthians 16:1)

“ministering to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:4)

“the ministering to the saints” (2 Corinthians 9:1)

“supplieth the need of the saints” (2 Corinthians 9:12)

“relieve them that are widows indeed” (1 Timothy 5:16)


It must be emphasized that individual Christians can and should use their personal funds to “do good unto all men” (Galatians 6:10), but when acting as a collective body the church can only provide benevolence to Christians in need.


This church assistance can be administered as follows:


       A church may care for its own needy saints (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-35, 6:1-8)

       One church may send to many churches in order to relieve needy saints (Acts 11:27-30)

       Many churches may send to one church to relieve needy saints (1 Corinthians 16:1-3, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 9:1-2, Romans 15:25-32)


In the Scriptures we never read of man-made benevolent organizations that were established or supported by churches. And, of course, no so-called ‘‘sponsoring churches’ existed as they would have been a violation of local church autonomy and the limited oversight of local elders (1 Peter 5:2).


Let us be careful to follow the Biblical pattern in all of our work for the Lord.