Is it true that all financial giving by a believer should go through the local assembly?
Undoubtedly, believers have a responsibility towards the local assembly concerning corporate giving. The word “collection” used in 1 Corinthians 16.1 infers that “every one” (v 2) in the assembly makes a contribution to a common pot which is then distributed, in this case, to needy saints.
Acts 11.29-30 provides instruction for such an exercise: only disciples contributed; every disciple contributed; the contribution was not uniform, but according to “ability”; the giving was thoughtful (they “determined”); they implemented their exercise (“which also they did”); Barnabas and Saul were the carriers of the gift: financial matters should never be in the hands of a single individual (see also 2 Cor 8.16-24). The elders, not the deacons, were responsible for superintending the funds. However, the fact that we have a duty to make our contribution to the financial undertakings of the assembly does not exclude personal giving. Cases of urgent human need may come to our attention, providing the opportunity to evidence our personal faith by ministering to such need (Jas 2.14-17). To await organised corporate action would only extend the misery.
All of the foregoing has had reference to ministrations to needy saints, but possibly the questioner had the support of the Lord’s servants more in mind. Is it legitimate and Biblical for individual believers to help provide for them, or should all funding instead be through the assembly? Bible teachers can be supported by “him that is taught in the word” (Gal 6.6); clearly an individual exercise. Gaius was instructed to aid those who “for his name’s sake … went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles” (3 Jn 5-8). The usage of the singular pronoun “thou” throughout the section indicates that it was a personal responsibility. Some may feel that, because personal donation destroys anonymity, it runs counter to the spirit of the Lord’s teaching about not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing (Mt 6.1-4). In reality, what the Lord was condemning was the Pharisees’ propensity for self-advertisement, and their craving for adulation: motive was being highlighted. If the motive for personal giving is sincere, with only the donor and the recipient aware of the transaction, there is no violation of His teaching. It is then only a case of the right hand knowing what the right hand is doing!
2 Thessalonians 2.7 says “only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” Who is the “he” that is referred to here, and what is the meaning of the passage?
Over the years this passage has been much discussed, and different ideas have been advanced as to the person who is in view. It is important to note that the Greek word translated “withholdeth” (2 Thess 2.6) is the same word that is translated “letteth” in verse 7. The word will also bear the meaning ‘to restrain’, so that the passage might rightly be rendered “Only he who restrains at present will, until he be out of the midst.” It must be remembered that the Holy Spirit is here in this world as the restrainer of evil (Jn 16.8-11), and for the gathering out of the Church, the Bride of Christ. It would therefore appear that the “he” referred to in this passage is none other than the Person of the Holy Spirit, who hinders the manifestation of the man of sin, the antichrist.
The Holy Spirit is not only gathering out the Bride of Christ but, when the Church is complete, He will conduct her out of this scene into the presence of the Lord Jesus, who comes to meet her on the way, as set forth in the words “caught up” (1 Thess 4.17). This thought is illustrated by the action of the Holy Spirit when He “caught away” Philip from the presence of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8.39), and will be the fulfilment of the passage “until he be taken out of the way.” However, though the Holy Spirit will be removed with the Church at the Rapture, it must not be thought that He will cease to work. The Spirit will continue to be active during the tribulation period; operating in the nation of Israel to bring about their restoration as a nation (see Zech 13.1), and empowering the two witnesses in Jerusalem (Rev 13.11). Thus, there is clear evidence of the work of the Spirit in the world following the translation of the Church to Heaven.
John J Stubbs