Does Galatians 6:10 Authorize The Church to Give to Non-Saints? Part 2

February 26th, 2003

Based upon the definitions upon which we agree about general and specific authority, I argue that the church has general authority to give to non-saints from Galatians 6:10. The reasoning that I would offer on this behalf is that Paul is writing to the churches of Galatia (1:2) and so the epistle is addressed to these churches. The instruction he is giving within the epistle is addressed to these churches in order for them to deal with the problem of Judaizing teachers. Paul expected each and every church in the region of Galatia to deal with these problems as the church. While chapters 1-4 of this book contains theological argumentation regarding the problem of being justified by the old law and how that idea is incompatible with the faith that is in Christ, chapters 5 and 6:1-10 deal with practical instruction to the churches regarding how to deal with the problem within their own communities. So in chapter five Paul’s discussion centers around remaining in the freedom of Christ and yet, not using that freedom as an excuse to engage in fleshly desires. Chapter six discusses the methods that the churches were to use to engage and correct the problem of the Judaizing teachers. They were to take five steps to do this. 1) by restoring the one who is overtaken in the trespass (vs.1) (the Judaizing teacher presumably in this context [I am not limiting the passage to only that one problem, because I think the principles apply to other problems as well, but in this context no doubt that is the problem with which these churches would soon be engaged if they properly followed Paul’s instruction]) 2) By bearing others burdens (vs. 2, 3) which shows the dependence one person has upon the church. For when we bear one another’s burdens, individuals are less likely to think of themselves as “something.” This does not discount the individual responsibility that all Christians have, however, to work (vs. 4, 5). 3) By “supporting the local leadership” (vs.6); this builds unity among the saints and dissuades false teachers from sowing discord. 4) By not being deceived about the implications of false doctrine (vs.7, 8, sowing to the flesh in this context probably refers primarily to the Judaizing teaching of circumcision. I am not limiting it to that because the principle is true regarding a whole host of things, but likely it is referring to circumcision and thereby, doctrine, as opposed to lifestyle, in this context). 5) By continuing to do that which is good (vs.9, 10). It would have been easy for them to be discouraged by these false teachers (as often occurs even today when false teachers cause discord in churches) so Paul urges them not to give up doing good–not to be weary in well doing and doing good unto all men especially toward the household of the saints. Verses 11-18 is Paul’s closing to the epistle and exhortation with his own hand and as such is more loosely related to the whole epistle in general and is not specifically associated with verses 1-10 as continued practices the church needs to observe to deal with the problem of the Judaizing teachers.

So what we have in Galatians 6:10 is instruction to the church to do good to all men. This is general authority for the church to give money to all men including non-saints with the purpose of benevolence in mind. That the phrase “do good” includes the idea of giving monetarily is supported by 1 Timothy 6:18 and Luke 6:35. (I am merely suggesting from these other passages that the phrase “do good” means to give money; I am not suggesting that 1 Tim.6:8 and Luke 6:35 teach that the church can give money. I am suggesting that Galatians 6:10 authorizes the church to give money.) I am also arguing that the phrase “unto all men” includes non-saints. I suggest this from the use of the word “especially” or “specially” in this context. We see from other contexts that this word is used to narrow the focus from the general to the more specific where the specific is emphasized, but the general is not excluded. For example, in 1 Timothy 5:17 Paul tells Timothy to give double-honor to elders that rule well, but especially to those who labor in the word and doctrine. The idea is that ALL elders who rule well are to be double-honored, but those who labor in word and doctrine are particularly emphasized for consideration. No elder who “rules well” is excluded, but the focus should be upon those who labor in word and doctrine. Notice also in Titus 1:10 Paul writes about vain talkers and deceivers but especially they of the circumcision. Titus was to be warned regarding ALL vain talkers and deceivers, but the emphasis was upon they of the circumcision. Notice also 1 Timothy 5:8 where Paul talks about taking care of one’s own and especially towards those in his own house. Christians are to take care of all of their own family whether they are in the same location or not, but especially if they are in the same location. Notice that this is not exclusive of the family that may live in a different place. Additional arguments regarding the word “especially” could be made from 2 Timothy 4:13, Acts 25:26; 1 Timothy 4:10; and Philemon 1:16. In each case, the word “especially” is used to narrow in on a category similar, but different from the broader subject and in each case, both categories are included in the force of the main thought under discussion. So in Galatians 6:10 the main thought is “to do good.” The object of that thought is “all men.” The second and more emphasized object of that thought is “the household of faith” but this does not exclude the first and less emphasized object. The church is authorized to do good to all men.

I would further argue that the specific authority we find of the church giving to saints does not limit the general authority in this passage. Using the example of the great commission, we see that the apostles were generally authorized to “Go.” We see specific examples of them “going” by walking and boating, but this does not exclude going by automobile, airplane, or train. So also with Galatians 6:10, we have general authority to “do good” to all men. We see specific examples of the early church “doing good” to saints, but this does not exclude doing good to non-saints. For one to argue that the specific authority of the examples of the church doing good to saints limits the church to saints only would be to argue similarly that since we only see the apostles going by walking and boating that we could not use a car or train or airplane to go. When we are authorized to do something generally, examples of doing that thing do not militate against other things of the same class (in the great commission the class is “modes of transportation”; in Galatians 6:10 the class is “men”).

Now, I could be wrong in anticipating what you are going to say about Galatians 6:10, but I am going to go ahead and say that I think that you are going to say that Galatians 6:10 is only addressed to individuals, and not the church. IF this is what you are going to say (and I have heard others say this and that is why I am assuming that. If you are not going to say this, then I apologize in advance), I don’t believe the context of Galatians 6:10 supports this conclusion. The epistle as a whole is addressed not to just one church, but to multiple churches and thus I don’t believe that you could argue that it is merely talking about individual behavior–corporate behavior must be involved in the epistle somewhere. So, you have to suggest in some way that Galatians 6:10 within the context of being addressed to the church corporately is referring to individual behavior. This would certainly be true regarding Galatians 5, but starting in chapter six a contrast is drawn between individual behavioral instruction and corporate behavioral instruction with the opening of 6:1. Paul clearly addresses the brethren (plural) in verse 1. Again in verse 2 the instruction is to the church corporate and the plural indicates this. In verse 3-5, Paul is discussing particular individual responses to the corporate action of verse 2. This is indicated by the connecting words of “For” in verse 3, “but” in verse 4, and “For” in verse 5. This is all one thought explaining and answering the attitudes of individuals regarding the corporate action in verse 2. Verse 6 begins a new thought and that is corporate in application as well, but in the universal particular, i.e., Paul expects every member of the church to do these things and in so doing they will be acting corporately. This is also true regarding verses 7 and 8; these are universal particulars; they apply to individuals as well as to churches. Both individuals have the responsibility not to be deceived and the church (as a collection of individuals) has the responsibility not to be deceived. Both individuals and churches (as collections of individuals) who sow to the flesh will reap the flesh. And while I could understand the possibility that verses 7 and 8 are referring to individual behavior, verse 9, in clear contrast, brings the discussion back to corporate action with the inclusion of the first person plural, “us” and verse 10 also uses the first person plural in the word “we” and “us.” The action in verses 9 and 10 is corporate in nature. Verse 9 emphasizes the need for the church not to get discouraged and verse 10 gives the method of preventing the church from getting discouraged–do good works! The context is also corporate in its scope; Paul is giving instruction to the church on how to handle the problem of Judaizing teachers. I think I explained this clearly in the discussion above. I believe that the burden of proof in this context is upon someone who would affirm otherwise to show that Paul was NOT giving corporate instruction but instruction regarding individual behavior given both the context of the book of Galatians and the immediate context where the plurality of the personal pronouns is clearly used by Paul. I just don’t believe that a clear and convincing case can be made in this context to show that and without a case against, one is left with a clear counter example of a command for the church to “do good” to non-saints.

In short, my basic argument is this:

(1) The action of “doing good” is an action that is authorized for the church to practice toward non-saints (per Galatians 6:10).

(2) The action of giving money is an action that is “doing good.”

(3) Therefore, the action of giving money is an action that is authorized for the church to practice toward non-saints (per Galatians 6:10).

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