Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 2, 1962

Who Divides The Church?

James E. Cooper

That division among the people of God is wrong, no Bible believing person will deny. Jesus prayed for the unity of all believers, "that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:21) Paul's eloquent plea for unity shows how oneness can be achieved. "Now I beseech you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same things, and that there be no division among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Cor. 1:10) Remember also that God hates "he who soweth discord among brethren." (Prov. 6:19)

The key to the problem of unity is suggested in Paul's plea for the Corinthians to "speak the same thing." As long as we speak the "same thing" no division can exist among us. Doctrinal agreement is the basis of true unity. Unity is more important and more desirable than union, and we must not neglect the underlying agreement on doctrine that must be present.

Since we must speak the "same thing," what shall we speak? This is an important consideration. We are to agree on what is to be spoken before we can speak the same thing. How are we to come to this agreement?

Some evidently feel that the voice of the majority should be spoken. Majority rule is a new doctrine among churches of Christ. We have insisted all along that the church is not a Democracy, but a Kingdom. Since this is true, we are not governed by the voice of the majority, (not even of the majority of the eldership). To be governed by the vote of the majority is a tacit admission that disagreement existed in the deliberations, and they refused to come to complete agreement. To follow the majority, the minority must give up its convictions and acquiesce on the basis of sheer numbers. God's will is not determined by a vote of a majority of men. It is determined only by what has been revealed of God. For this reason we do not depend upon church councils (made up of "the wisest heads" among us) to decide what we shall believe and practice, although some naive church members have suggested we call a council of "big preachers" and "settle the issues."

Peter tells us what to speak: "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." (1 Peter 4:11) If all persons speak the same thing, and the thing spoken be the Word of God, they will be scripturally united. They will be united in speaking the word of God. This is where our plea to "speak where the Bible speaks and to remain silent where the Bible is silent" originates.

"But," supposes one, "Suppose that they don't agree on what the Bible teaches " Then, there is but, one course for them to follow. Go back to the Bible and prayerfully and carefully study together until they do agree on what it teaches. Until they can agree that the Bible says do or believe so-and-such, they have no authority to bind it upon Christians.

Division begins in a church when one person, or group of persons, begin to deviate from teaching as the oracles of God. When men begin to teach different from God's word, division begins, unless the entire congregation follows the falsehood. In that case, it is the beginning of apostasy.

As long as there are two groups in a church taking opposite positions, the church is divided. It may not be separated into two distinct parties, but it is already divided. Separation of the parties involved indicates either (1) reconciliation between the two parties is beyond hope, or (2) continuing in the same fellowship would cause some to engage in things of which their consciences would not approve. (cf. Rom. 14:23) Separation of congregations has resulted from both situations. But, remember, the division existed long before the separation took place and gave rise to the separation.

Who divides the church? The person or persons who introduces anything for which they do not have the authority of the oracles of God. If I resist the introduction of an innovation into the body of Christ, or try to remove it after it has been introduced, I am not guilty of dividing the church, even though my zeal for the oracles of God results in my being excluded from fellowship by those who are wedded to their idols. The wedge that splits the log is foreign to the log. The innovations that splits the church is foreign to the church and its divine doctrine. It is not found in the Word of our King.

You don't have to leave the meetinghouse and begin meeting in the "county courthouse" in order to divide the church. Many have split the church and kept the building used by the church.

— Box 38, Clarkson, Kentucky