Question:

Hello,

I am a newer Christian and love your site. Thanks so much for making it available. While I have much growth spiritually, know that you are helping me to grow.

My cousin and I do not agree on the benevolence work of an individual Christian vs. the Local Church. He wants to study with me so we are going to start with a study of Church Authority. You have several articles as well that we plan to study.

He attends a liberal church of Christ that performs physical work for the needy such as car washes, painting houses, etc. I’ve shared that that is the work of an individual but it is not authorized benevolence for the church. He disagrees.

In regards to where I need your help, it is with this comment that my cousin says: “When I stand before God, I would rather know that I have helped individuals and His grace will cover me.” I contend that we are to help others as an individual but doing it with church affiliation is not authorized. He asked if I thought it was a matter of salvation and I said that we are not to judge but what he was doing was not scriptural. How do I explain to him that helping as a local church is sinful?

We also disagree on where we should do volunteer work. I’ve shared that volunteering for an organization that is church-affiliated is perpetuating sin the same as making financial offerings to churches that teach false doctrine. How do I study this scripturally? What does the Bible say?

Answer:

The direction you are taking your study makes it difficult for your cousin to consider your points.

My question for him is: How important is it to follow God's commands? If it is true that God does not like for men to alter His teachings, should we be careful to stay within the boundaries that God has laid out? Behind your cousin's statements is a belief that careful following of God's teachings is not necessary. Of course, we see that this is not what was taught in the Bible. "Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God" (Deuteronomy 12:28).

The idea that I can make mistakes and trust that God's grace will cover them over is addressed by Paul. "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). It is God who decides if He will extend mercy. It is not up to the one being judged to insist that he is owed mercy.

Your cousin is also making the mistake of rating God's laws. He is saying that only laws in the category of "salvation issues" have to be obeyed and all other laws are optional. But James tells us, "If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not commit murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law" (James 2:8-11). I can hear someone saying being partial is not a salvation issue. But James says that all laws are interconnected and carry equal weight.

Now notice that I haven't said anything about the direct disagreement, but that is because his view is a natural consequence of being off track on more fundamental subjects. It is those fundamental points that need to be addressed first.

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