Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 27, 1958
NUMBER 46, PAGE 1,12b-13

The Course Of Division

H. Osby Weaver, Kilgore, Texas

An article entitled, "The Course of Division" has been making the rounds in church bulletins published by some of our brethren who seem to be frantically seeking some sort of justification for unscriptural, promotional schemes. The article seemingly has more interest in creating prejudice than in instilling truth. Apparently aware of having espoused a cause that cries in vain for scriptural support and being unable to meet the arguments of those opposing such unscriptural practices, these brethren evidently have felt that the next best thing to do is ignore the real issue, impugn the motives of those who differ with them, and attempt to get the less informed to close their eyes to the mystery of lawlessness that doth already work by calling it all just "a preacher fuss." They must know by now that their failure to establish scriptural precedent for their practice cannot be white-washed so easily. Good brethren, no doubt, will consider such an article a reflection upon their honesty as well as their intelligence to be accused of knowing so little about the Bible and being so void of love of truth to blindly follow a politicking preacher with no higher ambition than to hold on to his job. Furthermore, the article impugns the motives of good elders, who seek to keep the church free from human innovations, by inferring that they have become nothing but little stooges of designing preachers who have cast some sort of hypnotic spell over them.

That divisions have and are occurring in the body of Christ is a well known fact, but who is responsible for the division? Obviously there are those who think the ones actually bringing about the physical separation are always responsible for the division. If this be so, then one could never withdraw himself from a congregation regardless of how ungodly and corrupt it might become without being responsible for the separation. If those doing the withdrawing, in regard to fellowship, are also always responsible for the division, then when a church withdraws from a disorderly person and division is effected to that degree, the church can be charged with it, even though they were following an apostolic decree. (2 Thess. 2:6.) Division is actually commanded in this passage — a division that separates the orderly from the disorderly. Suppose one-half the membership of a congregation walks disorderly and division results, who is responsible, those withdrawing of those walking disorderly?

There are those who think that the ones retaining possession of the church building must be in the right and those leaving the building must be in the wrong. Of course such shallow thinkers have forgotten that their forefathers of less than 100 years ago had to give up church buildings and start all over in order to maintain scriptural worship. Were they in the wrong? The scripturalness of one's position is not dependent upon retaining possession of the church building. The church at Corinth was ordered to "put away the wicked man from among yourselves." But suppose we turn that around and imagine for a moment that there was only one righteous and all the others were wicked. Would the one righteous have any less responsibility to put away all the wicked away than all the righteous did to put one wicked away? If the one righteous man had put all the wicked away, who would have to do the leaving, and who would have retained possession of the church building?

The Lord wants his people to be a separated people. (2 Cor. 6:17.) The very word "church" means "called-out." When the church fails to maintain that separated, called-out state; when it mixes up with the world, a division is inevitable if the Lord is to be pleased. If a division is not brought about, that church will lose its candlestick — its identity as the Lord's church. It may remain a church, but it will not belong to the Lord. If part of the membership of a congregation insists upon maintaining that separated state, and the rest are just as determined to mix-up with the world, a division is bound to occur in that congregation. But it is the kind of division which the Lord wants. Jesus said, "Think ye that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you nay; but rather division." (Luke 12:51.) The Lord never intended for his people to make peace with the devil either in the church or out. We must maintain that division which he came to give. To the Corinthians Paul said: "I hear that divisions exist among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also factions (heresies) among you, that they that are approved may be manifest among you." (1 Cor. 11:18.19.) While division is sinful for those responsible for it, Paul here says God will use it to His glory. Division is God's way of pruning the church; His way of testing, proving, and making known those who are steadfast in the faith. Those who love truth will uphold it at all costs; even at the price of being slandered, lied about, having character assassinated, defamed, vilified, and every other curse which can be heaped upon them by Satan's ministers who fashion themselves into ministers of righteousness. (2 Cor. 11:15.) In order to respect the truth of God and their own consciences, lovers of truth have freely given up comfortable buildings which in many instances have been paid for largely by themselves, desiring rather to be a door-keeper in the house of God acceptably among such corruption, they have walked out empty-handed materially but with hearts overflowing spiritually. When the separation was complete and the smoke of the battle had cleared, there could be no doubt as to who stood approved. The weak; those who lack conviction and travel the road of least resistance; those with whom human opinions carry more weight than divine oracles; those more interested in material wealth than in heavenly riches; those more concerned about being enrolled in the social register than in the book of life; those who love prominence and prestige more than they love prayer and the preservation of truth, and more than they love the salvation of souls, will have been purged out. Then for the faithful people of God a new day dawns and a day star arises in the hearts of all those who insist upon a thus "saith the Lord" for all they teach and practice. Love abounds as never before, both for each other and for their persecutors. The singing of "Blest be the tie that binds" takes on a new meaning. Indeed, "they that are approved are made manifest."

Shall division be encouraged that good may come? God forbid. Though sinful actions of men can redound to God's glory, their actions are not less sinful. Division is sinful, but for whom? For all involved? No, in nowise, unless all involved are guilty of causing the division contrary to the doctrine." Romans 16:17 says: "Mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine . . ." What shall be done with those who cause division, not contrary to, but in harmony with the doctrine? Preaching the whole counsel of God frequently causes division. Shall we then charge sin to him who preaches the whole truth if such preaching results in division? Certainly not. That is the kind of division Christ came to send. To whom then shall the sin of division be charged in such cases? All cannot be held guiltless. It must be charged to those who are more interested in following the ways of the world than in doing the will of God, who stubbornly refuse to repent of their ungodliness until those intent upon upholding truth and righteousness can no longer walk with them.

What is the course of division in many places? A few bossy, gossipy women decide to rule or ruin. Some may be elders' wives who rule through their hen-pecked husbands. Such husbands must forego any decision affecting the church until they have had time to consult their wives or be faced with the embarrassing position of having to reverse themselves after the wives reach a decision. Among this group are the would-be socialites who insist upon making debutantes out of their daughters, but the gospel is not very conducive to popularity essential to such ends, hence they do not want much of it preached. They decry an attempt to rob their daughters of one single liberty which the world affords. They want to put them in strapless evening gowns and have them attend all the social functions including the school dances. They insist upon their rights to wear shorts in public and frequent the mixed bathing pools. They hope to get nominated for some sorority and get their names and pictures in the papers. The preacher cries out against such ungodliness and they yell for his scalp. It is quite easy for them to gain some backing from a few of the "influential" men of the church, because they like to play the horses, bet on ball games, nip the bottle occasionally, and honky-tonk a little now and then and feel uncomfortable when the preacher condemns such practices. Then, too, there are the business men in the congregation who stress community "good will." Good for business, you know. They don't like strong preaching against sin. It might result in the loss of customers. They cannot afford to take a definite stand against wrong. So, with the sisters carrying the ball, ungodly brethren running interference, brethren who own businesses refereeing, and a few of the disgruntled and unconcerned quarterbacking from the side-line, which doesn't take much effort, the preacher is run off the field along with those who believe in playing the game according to the "rule-book." In bringing pressure to bear to get rid of the preacher, some have been known to withhold their contributions, hoping to "starve" the preacher out. Once the preacher is gone, the group that ran him off lets it be known in no uncertain terms that they will never stand for another preacher in the congregation who condemns their sins. Then to gain all the favor and sympathy for their ungodly cause that they can, they accuse the preacher of not believing in taking care of poor little orphans. They remember very little of what he taught them, but they remember that he said something or other about the church not supporting human benevolent societies which are set up to do the church's work. They feel that in this manner they can create more prejudice and rally more support for their cause than they could if they let it be known that the real trouble was the preaching against dancing, drinking, indecent dress, adultery, etc. This is the real reason the preacher was fired; the other was but an escape hatch. Then a new preacher is imported. One that will slap backs, shake hands vigorously, laughs loud at jokes, preaches sermonettes, condemn nothing and approve everything. If self-respecting brethren can no longer tolerate such an ungodly situation and walk out, they are castigated as "factionists and church-splitters." Again we say such division is the kind Christ came to give. But who is responsible for the separation? Who is causing the division contrary to the doctrine? Is it just a preacher fuss?

In addition to the immorality among the people of the church, human societies have reared their heads as church auxiliaries and are taking over the church's work while confiscating its resources. Less than 100 years ago our brethren were faced with a like situation relative to the societies. They had perhaps less immorality among them. Some brethren then insisted upon the churches building and maintaining evangelistic societies through which the churches could cooperate in preaching the gospel. They were opposed to those who insisted that the church was God's only missionary society; that God specified the church as the organization through which the gospel should be preached, hence it had no right to build and maintain other organizations to do what God had given it to do. Eventually division occurred. Now who was responsible for the division — those who introduced the societies or those who opposed them? Was this just a preacher fuss? The author of the above mentioned article and those endorsing it will not say that it was. They will not charge the division to those who opposed these human agencies. They will say that our brethren then who had to leave their buildings and start all over because of the introduction of these societies were right in opposing them and right in leaving. But today, they tell us we are wrong for doing the same thing. They say it was right then but wrong now. Then grave issues were at stake, but now it is just a "preacher fuss."

Brethren today are insisting that churches can build and maintain evangelistic societies through which churches can cooperate in preaching the gospel and benevolent societies through which to care for their needy. An example of these is the Herald of Truth Missionary Society and the Boles Home Benevolent Society. Such societies are causing division today just as such societies caused division 100 years ago. But strange as it may seem, the proponents of these human agencies say that brethren were right in condemning such human institutions a century ago but wrong in condemning them today. Has God's word changed in the past 100 years? They say those who promoted the societies of 100 years ago were guilty of causing division "contrary to the doctrine," but those who promote them today are innocent as lambs, and those who oppose them are the trouble makers. Who was responsible for the division that instrumental music in worship caused — those that opposed the instrument or those that introduced it? To ask is to answer. Well, who is responsible for the division today — those who introduced the Herald of Truth Missionary Society and the various benevolent societies, or those who oppose them? Brethren who can peer back through the years and see that the society promoters were responsible for the division that occurred then can hardly be excused for not seeing the same thing now.

It is not a question of preaching the gospel or the church caring for its needy, nor is it a question of methods and means in accomplishing this. It is not a question of church cooperation. We all believe in these things. The question is one of church adequacy. Is the church sufficient and adequate to do the work which God gave it to do? Or must it build and maintain human institutions before it can accomplish its mission? It is a question of church organization. God gave the church an organization through which to preach the gospel and care for its needy, that organization is the local church with its elders, deacons and other members. Is this organization adequate to accomplish the mission of the church or does it need to build human agencies to supplant the deficiency? Did God give the church a work and then fail to give it proper facilities with which to accomplish that work? God did not tell the church how to preach the gospel and how to care for its needy, but He did give it an organization through which to do it. If it is inadequate, then God can be charged with inefficiency. To argue that the church can build and maintain a missionary society, such as the Herald of Truth and a benevolent society such as Boles Orphan Home, is an expression of a lack of faith in the all sufficiency of the church and a charge that God is incompetent. We do not envy the man who occupies such a position!