Can A Congregation Help Orphans Collectively Or Only Individually?
Yes, a congregation can help orphans collectively as well as individually.
Some make the claim that Christians as individuals can help orphans, but the church as a whole cannot. Such a position is binding where God has not bound. The church or individual Christians helping needy orphans is a matter of opinion or expediency and NOT a matter of faith worthy of disfellowship.
James 1:26,27 says that pure religion is (1) to show compassion by visiting/taking care of the needy orphans and widows and (2) non-contamination - by keeping yourself unspotted from the world.
The false "pattern" that these brethren have failed to establish is that all religious duties which are singular grammatical constructions and which utilize the singular form of speech are religious duties which refer exclusively to the individual. James 1:27 states a religious duty in the singular number - "oneself". Therefore, according to their false position, James 1:27 states a religious duty that applies exclusively to the individual. They then go further by stating that all religious duties which refer exclusively to the individual are religious duties from which the church is excluded. James 1:27 states a religious duty which applies exclusively to the individual. Therefore, according to their false position, James 1:27 refers to a religious duty from which the church is excluded.
This is a wrong view for several reasons.
First, there is the use of the term "brethren" in James. It is found 15 times throughout the epistle (James 1:2,16,19; 2:1,5,14; 3:1,10,12; 4:11; 5:7,9,10,12,19). James is writing to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, representing spiritual Israel, the church (Galatians 6:16). He is writing his letter to congregations, not just to individual Christians.
Second, James is distributing the duties mentioned in his epistle expressed in the singular that are at the same time connected to a command in the plural - duties that may be exercised by either the church and/or the individual Christians.
For example, in James 1:19-25 notice where I have placed an (s) for singular and a (pl) for plural:
James 1:19-2:4 states: "So then, my beloved brethren (pl), let every man be (s) swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man (s) does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore, lay aside (pl) all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls (pl). But be doers (pl) of the word, and nothearers (pl) only, deceiving yourselves (pl). For if anyone is a hearer (s) of the word and not a doer, he (s) is like a man (s) observing his natural face in a mirror; for he (s) observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he (s) was. But he (s) who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer (s) but a doer (s) of the work, thisone (s) will be blessed in what he (s) does. If anyone among you (pl) thinks he (s) is religious, and does not bridle his (s) tongue but deceives his own (s) heart, this one's (s) religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself (s) unspotted from the world. My brethren (pl), do not hold (pl) the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly (pl) a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention (pl) to the one wearing the fine clothes and say (pl) to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say (pl) to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you (pl) not shown partiality among yourselves (pl), and become judges with evil thoughts?"
The chapter divisions in our Bibles were made by human beings as an aid to more easily locate Scriptures. In light of the fact that there were no chapter divisions between James 1 and James 2when James was written, it becomes more evident that James is writing about duties that are expressed in the singular which are at the same time connected to a command in the plural; thus authorizing duties to be fulfilled by both the church and/or individuals. This is why it is the case that a congregation can help orphans collectively as well as individually.
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