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How Christians and Churches Prioritize Going About the Doing of Good

Galatians 6:10 gives a concise statement that prioritizes our personal giving as believers and guides the church’s stewardship of its resources. This verse states, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10 ESV).

In examining this verse, let’s first build some context. In Galatians 6:6, Paul commands believers to “share all good things with the one who teaches,” by which he means a church remunerating its pastor for his labor in study and teaching (cf. Rom 15:27; 1 Cor 9:11). This command is but one expression of how a believer can sow to the Spirit and thereby reap eternal life (Gal 6:7–8). To clarify, sowing to the Spirit does not earn someone eternal life, but the absence of sowing to the Spirit indicates the absence of the Spirit Himself in the individual and thus the absence of eternal life. Whether it be the remuneration of one’s pastor or any other Spirit-led activity, the believer should not grow weary in such well-doing but persevere, knowing his reward in heaven will one day come (Gal 6:9).

Getting back to where we started, Paul concludes with an admonition to “do good to everyone” and prioritizes one’s good-doing as “especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). In context, the remuneration of pastors is the nearest example of doing good among the household of faith, but Paul’s principle of sowing and reaping has broader applications than this one act of goodness. Doing good could include any Spirit-led act of goodness that one carries out towards another, believer or not.

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What is unpopular to many today is that individual Christians and churches should prioritize their good deeds “to those who are of the household of faith” over “everyone” in general, that is, society at large which includes unbelievers, those outside of the church (Gal 6:10). But this prioritization is just what “especially” in Gal 6:10 means.

I sympathize on the surface with those who practice other than I do as an individual and how I lead my church. I live in a city that is riddled with poverty, crime, drugs, and domestic abuse. Our country has issues involving racism, sex trafficking, and political corruption. The list could go on. Who doesn’t feel the pull to pour out one’s individual and church’s resources into these problems and thus show our love to our neighbor?

What I am not saying is that an individual or church cannot in some way do good to those who are unbelievers, whether in an informal or formal manner. What I am saying is that the NT both here and elsewhere presents the church as having its own needs to address, which takes first consideration when making a choice to meet the needs of either believers or unbelievers. Here are some examples along these lines:

  • When meeting the financial needs of others, the early church had many who sold houses and land so that “there was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:34), “them” being “the full number of those who believed” (Acts 4:32) and not society at large.
  • When famine struck “over all the world” (Acts 11:27), “relief” from the believers in Antioch was sent “to the brothers living in Judea” and not the entire region (Acts 11:29).
  • While James commands us to keep our religion from being worthless and meeting the needs of orphans and widows (James 1:26–27), the application seems to be among believers as Paul elsewhere clearly prioritizes widows who are believers (1 Tim 5:5–6) who cannot eventually provide for themselves (1 Tim 5:14). And even then, if the individuals of the church can tend to these needs (especially family; 1 Tim 5:16a), these individuals should take on such a ministry so that the church’s resources can be unburdened and reserved for other ministry (1 Tim 5:16b). Likewise, in Acts 6:1–6, while the church struggled to feed its widows, the widows in consideration were only those among the flock.
  • In relieving poverty in Jerusalem, Paul coordinated giving from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia to go to “the poor among the saints” and not the surrounding society in which they lived (Rom 15:26–27; cf. 2 Cor 8–9).
  • When speaking of providing for others the basic needs of life such as clothing or food, both James and John command help and use the language not of society in general but “brother,” “brothers,” and “sister” (James 2:15–16; 1 John 3:16–18).
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Again, none of this is to say that there are not exceptions in which a church may make disciples by providing for the needs of unbelievers along the way. I think of how my own church taught Mexican immigrants to read in the 1920’s, used the Bible to do so, and how this ministry eventually led to the planting of a Mexican church. But when it comes to doing good to everyone, as we can see from the examples above, Galatians 6:10 puts the burden on the individual Christian to help meet the tangible needs of his unbelieving neighbors and not the church as a church. Moreover, when faced with the dilemma of providing for the needs of greater society or those within his church, the Christian should follow the examples above and give first priority to the household of faith, beginning with his local church. And if a Christian is truly one who desires to show the love of Christ to all, he will heed the command to “do good to everyone” and attempt to show this love to his unbelieving neighbor as well.

David Huffstutler

About David Huffstutler

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.

9 Responses to How Christians and Churches Prioritize Going About the Doing of Good

  1. Hi David, You wrote in part, “In examining this verse, let’s first build some context. In Galatians 6:6, Paul commands believers to “share all good things with the one who teaches,” by which he means a church remunerating its pastor for his labor in study and teaching (cf. Rom 15:27; 1 Cor 9:11).”

    I’m just wondering how you have come to the conclusion which you have?
    (1) The “communication” is between 2 individuals “him that is taught” and “him that teacheth”. It is not “the church that is taught” and “him that teacheth”. You seem to infer that “the pastor” is the only teacher!

    (2) A scriptural church is guided by a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23; 20:17) and they are all required to be “apt to teach” (I Tim.3:2)

    (3) All elders are scripturally instructed by the apostle Paul to work with their own hands as they share the co-operative enterprise of shepherding the flock. (Acts 20:33-35)

    (4) All elders are counselled by the apostle Peter to “feed the flock and take the oversight thereof not by constraint but willingly, not for filthy lucre but of a ready mind.” (I Peter 5:1-3) How many pastors today would do what they do if there was no salary but they had to work with their own hands to meet their own needs and be able to support other weaker ones, and share the work of shepherding with a group of fellow pastors who all did the same?

    (5) In most modern day articles about shepherding God’s people, the word “pastor” is usually in the singular. Why is it that in the NT, every time the word is in the singular it refers to Christ alone, but when it refers to mortal men who do the work of shepherding it is always in the plural?

    I hope, brother, that your perspective on pastoring/shepherding will be derived from scripture itself rather than from religious traditions we see around us.

    Your brother in Christ (who was once a sole, salaried, “Reverend” pastor) who realised how far from the New Covenant pattern he had been lead astray.

  2. Hello Bruce. Thank you for the note, but I think you’ve assumed something from my words that wasn’t really there. A church can certainly have a plurality in its leadership. If my singular language concerning a pastor reflected anything, it was the language of Paul who spoke of the “one” who teaches. I really had no goal of implying anything or leaving my words for others to infer anything concerning the topic of how many elders a church should have, whether one or multiple.

    As to the singular “him” who is taught, the same kind of thought carries over. It’s not so restrictive that it absolutely must refer to a one-on-one situation. Galatians was written to many, and the command was for all to hear, each applying the command to share. The parallels between this passage and 1 Cor 9 (remuneration, sowing, reaping) seem to be pretty clear indicators that Paul is speaking of each individual within the church sharing good things with those who teach as set aside by the church to do so (i.e., pastors). Most commentators would agree (e.g, Moo, Schreiner).

  3. Brother David, Thanks for your response.
    I’m still puzzled how you conclude that I Cor.9 is a parallel to Galatians 6:10.
    Does not I Cor.9 have to do with the work of apostles which is preaching, or announcing good news to the unconverted? But the work of pastors/shepherds/elders/overseers is teaching the saints who are the sheep. Traditionally these two ministries and roles have been horribly confused! Paul taught that those who preach the gospel are to live of the Gospel, i.e. had the power or right to do so, although he, himself, recognised dangers in demanding that right and so did not use it personally! None of the apostles who did use that right ever taught elders to do so! Evangelists are not pastors (shepherds of sheep). Evangelists are fishermen working out where the unconverted are found of their own accord. And the primary task of pastors is the care of the flock or believers gathered together. Paul, who was not qualified to be an elder/pastor/overseer, as he did not meet the scriptural requirements of (I Tim. 3 and Titus 1), specifically instructed elders/pastors/overseers (Acts 20:33-35)to follow his own example of consistently working with his own hands to meet his own needs and the needs of those who were with him.

    Paul, an apostle and evangelist (fisherman), did not refuse to receive gifts that were sent him by those whom he had pointed to Christ through his Gospel preaching, but only one company of saints did so! (The Philippians.)

    Did the Lord Jesus or any apostle ever teach pastors/elders/overseers/teachers to expect, demand or require remuneration from those they taught? Paul definitely does teach the saints to communicate/have fellowship with those who taught them. But I am not aware of any scripture which teaches (as you suggest) that a church “sets aside” certain ones to teach and certain ones of those to pay! If you would respond that the church is scripturally instructed to “ordain elders”, then why is only one such elder usually remunerated??? And does ordination involve or ever require remuneration?

    Would we not stand on much safer ground to found each and every church practice on the very words of scripture rather than on the opinions of “most commentators”? Where in the NT record would we find a lone “teaching elder/pastor/shepherd” who was “hired” by the flock? “paid” by the flock? or “fired” by the flock? Do we have any example of such “handing in their resignation” to the flock?

    Rather NT elders are appointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), recognised by the saints by their scriptural qualifications (I Tim 3 and Titus 1) and are promised rewarded for their service by the owner of the sheep who had called them (I Peter 5)!

    Trust these remarks may be helpful in evaluating religious traditions by inspired scripture.

  4. Bruce, just as Paul ministered the Word as his calling in life and had a right to remuneration (1 Cor 9:11), so do pastors whose calling is to minister the Word as well (Gal 6:6). That’s really all I’m saying. Apostles obviously differ from pastors in other ways. Please don’t read anything into my statements beyond that. Paul, an apostle, quoting Jesus, teaches as much elsewhere (1 Tim 5:17-18; cf. Luke 10:7). If you disagree, I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree. Thanks for the interaction.

  5. Hi David, You speak of “ministering the word” but your texts do not! It is those who preach the Gospel who are referenced in I Cor.9. Preaching the Gospel has never been on the scriptural job description of pastors! Their responsibilities are caring for the sheep (believers). “preaching the gospel from pulpits” is a far cry from NT evangelizing! Scriptural gospel preaching is always taking the message to the unconverted in places where they are found of their own accord (market places, riversides, beaches, street corners) No NT evangelist ever invited the unconverted to come onto his turf to hear the message. They obeyed the command of the Lord to “go into all the world”. Your assumption that “double honour” to be given to elders is a monetary salary makes Paul contradict himself in his specific instructions to elders in Acts 20:33-35. If it really is remuneration then when honour is commanded to be given to others it must be half of the pastor’s salary! Brother, a paid pastorate is as foreign to the NT as a pastorate that is hired by the sheep! Before you “sign off” with “agreeing to disagree”, would you give a clear rebuttal to Paul’s instructions to elders in Acts 20:33-35 in the midst of his address to those (a plurality of elders)who are appointed by the Holy Spirit to feed the flock of God? Also are any elders exempt from “ministering the word”?

  6. Bruce, the passage you reference from Acts is Paul’s description of his own choosing to forego his right to remuneration, something he explains as well in 1 Cor 9:11-12. All elders must be apt to teach (Titus 1:5, 9) and hopefully teach the flock in some capacity. I hope this helps. Thanks again.

  7. Hi David, I’d respectfully disagree with your take on Acts 20:33-35. The apostle clearly instructs elders that they “ought to” do the same! Nor is there any scriptural distinction among elders as “one who ministers the word” and “others who teach the flock in some capacity.” Such a treatment of the text is clearly forcing present day religious traditions back into the NT record which was entirely free of such a line of demarcation. Thanks for your willingness to interact on this vital issue. Many others simply refuse to address it at all.

  8. Bruce, I see where you’re coming from, and I think our applications would look the same in some instances, though we obviously disagree on whether or not a pastor is entitled to compensation. For me personally, I understand that, as Paul does in Acts 20, pastors today are obviously welcome to forego their right to compensation. Congregations may even expect their elders to do so. I think the interpretive difference between us is how each of us respectively uses one passage or others as a filter through which to view the others on the topic. Thanks again for the discussion!

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