On July 23, 1865, William Booth and his wife founded the Salvation Army. This organization is one that ever since its creation has set out to do good in the world. However, we ﬁnd that they are in error when we look at some of their tenets. There are many things we can address, but we will focus on some of the falsehoods that stem from the Salvation Army’s work as a church. Some of these we will look at are the role of being both a church as well as a charitable organization, and we will also look at some of the discrepancies in what they preach.
One of the biggest errors of the Salvation Army is the misunderstanding of the role of the church versus the role of the individual for benevolence. The church has the authority to perform acts of benevolence, just like the individual. The diﬀerence however, is that there are speciﬁc guidelines for how a church can use its funds, while the individual has more freedom. The use of funds from the church treasury is only used for the saints. In Acts 2:44-45, as well as Acts 4:32, the church in Jerusalem used its funds to take care of only the saints who were in need. Later, in Acts 6:1-10, there are widows within the congregation that are not taken care of, so men are appointed to do so. Paul gives speciﬁc qualiﬁcations in 1 Timothy 5:3-16 that a widow must meet in order for the church to support her, one of those being that she must be a Christian. The church also can use its funds to help saints elsewhere. We see the example of that in Acts 11 as well as 2 Corinthians 8-9. With these examples, we also see that the church never uses some form of a missionary society, benevolent organization, or sponsoring church to distribute the funds. The only authority shown is the church sending its funds directly to another group of saints for them to use.
Furthermore, the Salvation Army does not fully teach all that God has commanded. Some of the things the Salvation Army does not preach is baptism as a work of salvation; as well as communion being a commanded part of worship. When Jesus commissioned His apostles to spread the word in Matthew 28:19-20, He told them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” So Jesus explicitly says baptism is necessary, but He also tells them to teach ALL He commanded, including the Lord’s Supper that was instituted in Matthew 26:26-29. Years later, even Paul recounts the Lord’s Supper being instituted in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way, He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” At this point in Paul’s letter to Corinth, he is breaking down the elements of worship, including the oﬀering of the Lord’s Supper. Therefore to refuse oﬀering it in worship is to deny Christians the opportunity to worshipfully as they have been commanded.
As stated before, there are other examples that show the Salvation Army is in error. The biggest example is taking the silence of the scriptures as permission to fulﬁll the commandments of God as they see them. Furthermore, they do not teach the full commandments of God with respect to baptism or the Lord’s Supper. We, however, should make sure that we do not follow suit. When the New Testament is silent, we must be also. When we come together to worship, we must be sure that we observe all that is commanded of us, and do so in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). It may not be the same shortcomings as this organization, but if we violate the law of Christ, we are just as guilty as they are.