Contributorial Facts About The Factions
When the Horse Cave, Ky., tragedy reared its ugly head in our midst a notion about factions was circulated in that community. The faithful few who set about courageously to re-establish apostolic worship and practice were stigmatized by the digressive element as a "faction." This attitude is not peculiar to that community, but sectarian and subversive elements everywhere so condemn the worshippers of the apostolic order. This being true it is deemed expedient to review some facts about factions in the hope of lending encouragement to the faithful in those fields where the unadulterated gospel is least popular. In one sense it should be encouraging to all loyal brethren to realize that the truth is generally unpopular.
A faction is a party in opposition to another group; a party unscrupulously promoting its private ends at the expense of the public good; discord; dissension. Factious ness is a disposition to clamor and raise opposition. We may sum up the matter thus: a faction is a party split off from the main group in order to promote its own interests in opposition to the main group. The size of the faction is irrelevant. Question: In the Horse Cave affair; what constituted the main group, upon what was it founded, and who has departed from it? This question is just as pertinent relative to the so called unity conferences. This is a live issue and not even the smothering effect of the unity conferences can stifle it.
There are no less than nine occurrences of the word, "faction," or "heresy" (Hairesis), in the New Testament. There are other words used synonymously, but this one furnishes enough facts for this brief dissertation. 1. Acts 5:17. Luke applies the term to the Sadducees. There can be no misunderstanding as to the factious nature of this group of Jews. 2. Acts 15:5. Here the term is applied to the Christian Jews who were of the Pharisees. The baneful effect of the factious spirit manifested in this party is evident even after conversion to Christ. It took the combined efforts of the apostles and the elders in Jerusalem to hold them in check. They caused Paul a world of trouble. 3. Acts 26:5. Here Paul admits his former affiliation with the Pharisees, showing his intense party zeal in persecuting the church. 4. Acts 24:5. In this instance the term was applied to the Christians by their persecuting enemies who sought to destroy the cause of Christ. There can be no doubt as to their use of the term. 5. Acts 24:14. This text occurs in the same context with Acts 24:5. Paul here admits that he is among the accused, but without admitting that the Christians were a sect. He refused that name. 6. Acts 28:22. In this case the Jews of Rome applied the name to the Christians, but in ignorance. 7. 1 Cor. 11:19. Paul names the parties of opposition in Corinth, "heresies," and that in condemnation. 8. Gal. 5:20. This text alone ought to settle the matter for in it Paul lists factions as a work of the flesh. The very fact that heresies fall in this list of sins presupposes the exclusion of the faithful in Christ from the designation of a faction. The application of this term to loyal believers, in view of its use by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:20), and the curse resting upon those so designated by the Spirit (2 Pet. 2:1), is closely akin to blasphemy. 9. 2 Pet. 2:1. Who needs explanation here is without understanding.
In these occurrences the word is translated, "Sect," six times; "factions," one time; "parties," one time; and "heresies," one time (American Standard Version). The King James translation renders it, "sect," five times, and "heresies" (singular and plural), four times. Now it is evident that in every occurrence the word has an odious meaning. It goes without says, then, that when one stigmatizes others with this term one ought to be prepared to prove his right to do so and have the courage to put his, proof forward in challenge to any objection. We might add another text carrying a different form of the word under consideration. "A factious man (a heretic) after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned." Ti. 3:10-11. This statement contains a well-defined injunction, its reason, and the ground of that reason. Our care is not in understanding it, but in applying and obeying it, for it is plain.
In 1 Cor. 11:18-19 the word, "factions" or "heresies," is used synonymously with the word, "divisions." In 1 Cor. 3:3 Paul stamps the motives and open rifts of this condition as carnality— worldliness. Without being further tedious we briefly note several self-evident facts which show conclusively that the church of the Lord is not a faction.
- The apostle Paul refused to admit that the church was a faction (Acts 24:14.)
- Paul and Peter both condemned factions (1 Cor. 11: 19, Gal. 5:20, 2 Pet. 2:1).
- Paul commanded to turn away from factionists or opinionative persons who refuse admonition (Ti. 3:10-11).
- A faction is a split off of the main body; but the church began as a new body. Modernists call it a development of Judaism; but believers know that the law of Moses; the authority of what is called Judaism, was nailed to the cross, and that the church was purchased with Christ's blood (Acts 20:28). Judaism now has as much authority for existing as any other 'ism—none.
- Factions are begun and maintained by men (2 Pet. 2:1); the church by Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:18, Eph. 4:16).
- Factions rest upon the authority of men (Col. 2:18) ; the church upon Christ's authority (Col. 1:18).
- Factions boast of certain distinguishing marks and doctrines which brand them as such. For instance, the group which digressed in Horse Cave boasted of their brotherly love and proudly gave as proof their fellowship with sectarians, Boll, and Christian Church preachers and members. There are a good many implications involved in such a position. It is not as simple as it looks, nor is it as innocent as it seems. We hereby challenge, as we did challenge before, that any man prove that such a position as that taken by the digressive and Boll element in Horse Cave (or any cave) is scriptural. Well, in opposition to the boast of factions, the church of God is "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). So it has the Bible only as its rule of faith and practice and can not and does not boast of any other distinguishing marks and characteristics than those set forth in the Word of God.
- Factions, in the very nature of the case, are the exact antithesis of unity; the church of Christ exemplifies unity.
- Factions cause evil (Jas. 3:16) ; the church does good since it is the one support of the truth.
- Factions are damnable (2 Pet. 2:1); the church is glorious (Eph. 5:27).
- Factions destroy men (2 Pet. 2:1, Gal. 5:20, 21) ; the church leads men to salvation (Cf. Phil. 2:15-16).
- Factions will be destroyed (Matt. 1.5:13); the church saved (Eph. 5:25-27).
Now it is pertinent to ask, are faithful churches of Christ factions? In answer we list these facts:
- The church of the first century which was directly under the supervision of the apostles carried divine names only; present day churches of Christ do the same.
- The first century churches of Christ recognized but one Founder (Matt. 16:18); present day churches of Christ recognize no other.
- The first century church rested upon but one foundation (1 Cor. 3:11); the present day church of the Lord so rests.
- The first century church had but one law of pardon for alien sinners (Mk. 16:16, Acts 2:38); the present day church of Christ has the same law and no other.
- The first century church followed one practice, the apostolic (Acts 2:42, Phil 4:9); churches of Christ now so practice.
- The first century church had but one organization to do the work and for the worship of the church, namely, local congregations with their elders and deacons; present day churches of Christ so teach and practice.
- The first century church had but one form of government, the Headship of Christ; the true church today is identical.
- The first century church had but one means of supporting the work of the church (1 Cor. 16:1-2, Gal. 6:6); the church of Christ today has no other means.
- The first century church had but one rule of faith and practice (1 Tim. 3:16-17); churches of Christ now have the same rule.
- The first century church worshipped in public assembly in praying, preaching and teaching, communing at the Lord's Supper, fellowshipping together, reading the scriptures, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; churches of Christ do the same things now.
- The first century church opposed false doctrines and practices under the tutelage of the apostles; the present day church of Christ does exactly the same thing.
- The first century church had a great purpose, viz.; save the lost, edify the saved, glorify God, and earnestly look for the return of the Lord; churches of Christ now have that purpose.
- The churches of Christ in the first century were not factions.
- Present day churches of Christ are identical in doctrine, worship and practice to churches of Christ in the first century.
- Therefore, churches of Christ are not factions today. With these facts before us we are ready to consider certain deductions based up on them.
- That any group (of Christians) that withdraws from any sort of willful disorderliness or perversion of the truth and takes its stand upon the pure Word of God cannot rightly be considered a faction. The loyal brethren in Horse Cave had to do that.
- That any Christian who withdraws from sectarian practice and from the perversion of the truth and takes his stand upon God's word cannot be considered a factionist.
- That any withdrawal from error in affirmation of the truth stamps the group from which withdrawal is necessarily made a faction.
- That any group which draws away from the truth in order to fellowship with error makes itself a faction. This is precisely what the digressive element in Horse Cave did. So they are a faction even if in the majority. What is true there is true elsewhere; the locality is incidental.
- That he who supports a faction is a factionist. (If chips fly in anyone's direction, he is to remember that a hot blade is not far away).
- That no faction can rightly lay claim to being the true church.
- That the very presence of loyal churches of Christ condemns factions as such.
- That churches of Christ have no other choice than to obey the scriptures relative to factions when occasion demands. Cf. Rom. 16:17, Ti. 3:10-11, 2 Jn. 9-11, etc.
- That churches of Christ are scripturally bound to stand in opposition to every kind of faction.
- That efforts of churches to fellowship with and condone sectarianism render such churches factional in spirit, and such practices, if not stopped, result inevitably in schism.
- That any doctrine, practice, or act of worship, introduced into the worship and life of the church as such for which there is no scriptural authority is factional by nature and is to be avoided.
- That the fearful curse divinely invoked upon factionalism in its manifold manifestations should drive every man to his knees in abject humility and complete self surrender to the Lord of Glory who is blessed forever! Such humility will eliminate from the heart those desires and lusts which, when gratified, introduce the elements or factionalism into the church.