A gracEmail subscriber asks whether the New Testament restricts the the use of church funds to particular specified activities, making it sinful for a local church to support good works other than those specified.
* * *
No it does not. The Greek word ekklesia, represented by the word “church” in standard English Bibles, appears 115 times in the New Testament, and it literally means a group or assembly of people (though not always physically gathered in one place). Most New Testament references to an ekklesia designate a group with spiritual purposes, but three times the word refers to a purely secular assembly (all in Acts 19). The Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint) uses ekklesia to translate the Hebrew word qahal, which also refers to God’s assembly or people.
This information came as a small surprise to me 45 years ago as a college student, for my religious connection then was aflame with controversy over the proper use of funds from the “church treasury,” money thought to be governed by rules which did not apply to cash we held personally as Christian men and women. Seeking scriptural guidance, I examined every passage in both the Old (Septuagint) and New Testament Scriptures that linked the noun ekklesia with a verb, whether active or passive in voice. In every instance, the action referred to by the verb was performed by, to, or on the people (either separately or together) referred to as the ekklesia.
Obviously, there are individual duties for which the group as a whole is not responsible. However, there is absolutely no difference between “church” action and the action of people who make up the “church.” Scripture does not distinguish between the ekklesia (“church” in an institutional or corporate sense) and the people of God. Rules based on such a supposed distinction have nothing to do with “Bible authority” but are mere traditions of men. Binding such traditions on others is unscriptural. Making such issues a test of fellowship is sectarian. Teaching such rules as the basis of salvation is heresy and a perversion of the gospel of Christ.