Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 16, 1964

Church Splitters?

Robert C. Welch

Brethren are continuing to be charged with the crime of splitting the church by preaching against involving the church in support of human institutions. With such misleading charges the institutional brethren are able to keep sentiment whipped up against those who stand for the sufficiency of the Scriptures and the church. And such sentiment blinds otherwise thoughtful and cautious minds to the rising tide of digressive elements in the churches.

Truth Draws Out

When Paul preached nothing but "Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2), could he have been accused of splitting the church at Corinth? Others were preaching Paul, Cephas and Apollos. (1 Cor. 1:12) Which of these modern epithet hurlers is willing to rise to the occasion and say that Paul was an "anti" for preaching Christ only and, in doing so, preaching against following these men? You say that no man is going to do that? Then when brethren today preach what the Lord teaches about the church and warn against following what men have devised for the church, why should they be called "antis" and accused of splitting the church? The charge comes from men who feel their importance and want all to be united on their schemes and institutions rather than submit in unity upon the Scriptures.

Forced Out

Many of the sects are talking about union and unity. But not one of them has even hinted at seeking for a scriptural basis of unity. Not one has hinted at taking the Bible wholly and solely as the standard. They all are wanting to devise some common ground of faith, communion and practice. Many of them claim to despise passionately the doctrine of justification by self righteous deeds; yet that is the very effort they are making in their overtures for union with other sects. But that is the same doctrine of the brethren who insist upon church supported human institutions. They have devised their own system of righteousness and seek the union of all brethren and churches on their terms. At the same time they, like all sectarians, will excoriate, ridicule, and excommunicate those who refuse to accept their terms and who oppose their self righteous systems.

"Brethren, my heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God." (Rom. 10:1-3)

These brethren, in their mad rush for their human institutions and human devisings of church entertainments, and such like, have begun a campaign of calumny which has brought us to a more full realization of one of the Lord's beatitudes: "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and reproach you, and cast you out as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same manner did their fathers unto the prophets." (Luke 6:22,23)

Walk Out What are brethren to do when unscriptural practices are being enforced upon the church and its members severally? Are they to consider unity though in error as of more importance than truth and right? That is the contention of those who accuse of splitting the church those who oppose church supported institutions, recreation and such like. They have devised a doctrine which they think protects them. They pronounce the doctrine that the elders have the responsibility of overseeing the work of the church, that we are to be subject to them, hence whatever program they set we are to go along with, else be in rebellion to God's appointed overseers. Of course, they overlook the fact that God says that these men are not "lords over God's heritage" (1 Peter 5:3); and that "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)

Where is the Scripture which says that two or more brethren must remain as members of a congregation until that congregation sends them away with its blessings? This is an unwritten article in the "creed" of churches of Christ, and has no scriptural authority. So far as the Scriptures are concerned, a plurality of brethren can begin meeting and worshipping together when they choose, and when they gather together in the name of the Lord he is in their midst. (Matt. 18:20) It would be wonderful if when some brethren begin meeting together it could be done with the Godspeed of every other church. It is tragic that some begin out of ill will and personal differences. It is even more tragic that some begin because they want to have their own way and do things which the Lord has not authorized. It is sad that it has to be so, but commendable, that brethren will begin meeting together because they can thus worship and serve the Lord according to his will, whereas they were not permitted to do so in their former congregation.

Speak Out Call it church splitting if you will, call it what you will; it is doing the will of God for Christians to form churches where they can worship and work as the Lord has directed in his word. It is doing the will of God for such churches to reprove and rebuke error, wherever found, in brethren or in the general sectarian religions. Churches have the responsibility of supporting such preaching. "Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables." (2 Tim. 4:2-4)

— 1932 S. Weller, Springfield, Mo.