Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 2, 1962
NUMBER 13, PAGE 3,10b

Strife And Factional Motives

E. G. Sewell

"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." (Phil. 2:3, 4) The matter of motive is one of no little importance in what we do as service to God. At the same time let it be understood that in our service to God we must do precisely what God says do in his Holy Word. Nothing that we can do is of any service to God, except as we do what he commands us to do, The inventions of men never have and never will honor God or benefit man in the matter of his salvation; but it is possible to do the very things God commands to be done, and yet do them with an end or motive in view that may vitiate the value of what we do to such an extent that God will not accept the service, and it will do us no good, and will not honor God. "Let nothing be done through strife." The word "strife," in this passage, is understood to signify something wrong, or to do something in a wrong way, through an improper motive. We are told by the Savior to "strive to enter in at the strait gate." In this passage the word is used in a good sense, and signifies the earnest effort we are to make to do the will of God, so as at last to enter heaven; but in the passage at the head of this article it indicates something that must not be done, something that would be wrong, if done, and must not be done, if we wish to honor God by doing his will. While the word may mean sometimes an earnest effort to serve God, it may mean an effort to do something with an unworthy motive, for a wrong purpose.

We are not to strive to do anything in a way, or for a purpose, that would dishonor God or work injury to his cause; we might get into a contention with a brother and do a thing to contrary him, and do it in such a way as to increase the contention or site will that existed. The like of this must not be done. Again,, a man may do, in the main, what God requires to be done, and yet be working all the time to build up or advance the 'interest oil a party or faction. The Revised Version puts the word "faction" in place of "strife" in this passage — that is, let nothing be done through faction for the sake of building up a faction or a party. Thousands of people that have obeyed the gospel of Christ are working all the time to build up a party, something that God never intended should be built up; and yet, in the main, these people may be doing what the Lord requires to be done.

Churches start out to build up certain things the word of God does not authorize — such as instrumental music or some sort of unauthorized Society. When such go to work to hold a meeting, or some work like that, it is not alone for the purpose of saving Souls that they go at this work. If that were the only motive, any man that could successfully proclaim the gospel of Christ and bring people to the cross, and in good standing, would satisfy them. In my early days, these latter were generally the motives that moved churches in holding meetings; and so they could get a good, reliable man, and one that could do that sort of work successfully, it was all they desired; they could then be easily satisfied; but now there are many churches that will not invite any man to hold a meeting that will not ' work for their innovations — not in his preaching, It may be, bull in his private associations. These preachers seldom say anything publicly about organs or societies, but, while in the pulpit, preach the gospel plainly and in its purity; but they talk it in the private circles, so that when they bring in additions, they are willing to work right along in the innovations, and thus their party or faction is strengthened. These churches would not employ any man to hold a meeting for them that they know to be firmly opposed to these innovations, no matter how well he can preach the gospel of Christ.

All such work as this is factional, and is condemned by the pegs. ge quoted. They want to make people Christians, but want to bring them in under such influences that they will work with them In their lino- vations. They know very well that if they were to employ a man conscientiously opposed to all this outside machinery, and he should hold a successful meeting, he would greatly cripple or break up their machine business. Such people would greatly prefer a man from almost any of the surrounding denominations that they know to be in favor of their innovations than the best preacher in all the church of Christ that they know heartily opposes them.

Strife, factional motives, enter as large as life into all such efforts. All such churches work through strife, through faction, or with factional intent. No man that is working fully under he Spirit of God can do anything with a factional intent or say anything that will encourage the building of anything not authorized in the word of God; for Christ himself has said, "Every plant (teaching), which my Heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up," and no man loyal to Christ will ever try to build up something that he knows will be destroyed by the Heavenly Father. Yet, very many of the churches and preachers are full of just this sort of factional work, and are thus helping and encouraging faction and division; and the harm that such people are doing will never be fully realized this side of the judgment seat of Christ.

If a man does not labor purely for the sake of truth and the salvation of souls, although he may preach the truth in the pulpit, but outside works for innovations and factions, he is disobeying the ward of God, and is jeopardizing his own standing in the sight of the Lord. Churches that intend to be loyal to Christ, and to build up and extend his truth only, should be very careful about employing any man to hold meetings for them that is known to favor any sort of innovations or barnacles upon the church of God. Such men will always do mischief where they get a footing. The safe way is not to give them an opportunity to sow tares In the Lord's field. There are preachers in the land who are good proclaimers of the truth and who have very fine persuasive powers in bringing people to Christ, and hold very successful meetings, and have many additions, and are the very sort of men that churches want to hold their meetings; but, at the same time, these preachers never fall to use every opportunity in their private circles to work for organs, societies, and all the modem innovations upon the plain word of the Lord.

Many a congregation that was sound in the faith at the start has been side tracked by such preachers, without intending anything of the sort in the outset. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. The way to avoid such results is to steer clear of all those preachers that are known to favor and encourage innovations upon the word of God; for while the congregation may have the purest of motives to save sinners, the preacher may be at work all the while, privately, to promote faction, to sow seeds that will either divide the church after awhile, or run the whole onto a side track. The command to "abstain from all appearance of evil" will apply very forcibly along this line. There is not only an appearance of evil in the influence of such things, but there is an elephant of trouble in sight when such men are put to holding meetings for loyal congregations. The command, also, to mark them which cause divisions contrary to the teaching, and avoid them, is very strikingly applicable in such cases. Those that would remain loyal to Christ must be very watchful along this line.

The matter of vainglory also enters into this innovation business as large as life. Those who are working on this line are, very many of them, anxious to build up a large and popular body of people, are anxious to reach the wealthy, especially, that they may have the benefit of their wealth and influence, and thus become popular with a modern world. Selfishness also enters very largely into the account of such preachers and churches that get their consent to work on such lines. Preachers of this kind want to work up a sort of money monopoly, that they may be sure of a good support. The only way, therefore, to avoid these troubles is to stand squarely against all sorts of innovations and to stick to the old-fashioned gospel of Christ, Just as revealed in the New Testament, and refuse everything that is not in accordance with the faith practiced and revealed in the word of God.