ONE STONE AT A TIME
February 1, 1997 Issue
by Clovis T. Cook
The old adage that says, "Rome was not built in a day" still holds true in many fields of activity. In construction, several things are to be considered before an idea can come to fruition. Plans have to be made, and may I add they must be followed in every minute detail, and sometimes this requires a considerable length of time.
Alexander Campbell became the recognized leader in the restorative work of the nineteenth century. It may be well to have a word from his pen in the very outset of this article. In a sermon preached in the home of Mr. Buchanan, he gives the following reasons for not being a "party man." He declared that, "Christ has forbidden it." He said, that we are taught to keep the unity of the spirit, to be of one mind and one judgment." He said, "man was not made for the Bible, but the Bible for man--but if I am asked by a partisan, could you not join us and let these things alone?" I answer, "NO! Because the man that promotes the interest of a party stands next in guilt to the man who made it. The man who puts the second stone on a building is as instrumental in its erection as the man that laid the first stone." He further states, "I desire to fight for the faith once delivered to the saints. I like the bold Christian here."
I am entering my sixty-fifth year of gospel preaching. I still believe the Bible means what it reveals, even if we wish it didn't. It is still true, and I believe it. Some time back, Don King, in some of his writings asked a question. I thought the question was a timely one and needs to be addressed. The question was: "When a person steps out of rank, or steps over the line forbidden by the scriptures, why do we keep on fellowshipping him?" This is a good question. Why do we? The Bible is as clear as can be in declaring what our relationship should be towards one who has erred from the faith.
Building a congregation can be a slow process. A day at a time, and even sometimes, a year at a time. It requires dedication and hard work. However, what may have taken years to build, can be torn down or destroyed in a lot less time. From a tiny acorn, mighty oaks grow. The first stone of discontentment is laid (it may be any number of things), then the second stone is placed in the scheme. Usually animosity, ill-will, dislike, a lack of love; so "one stone at a time a schism is created." This word means "a rent, division, (as in I Cor 12:25), which metaphorically means of the contrary condition to that what God has designed for a local church in 'tempering the body together' (verse 24)." W.E. Vine p.326. A "schisma" can exit in a local congregation where they all assemble at the same place for worship, but such it not any part of the doctrine of Christ, and therefore sin. For example, the church at Corinth were all assembling together, but a schism had been created for they had exchanged principle for personalities, for some said, "lam of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ." These men were personalities, and the principles were: "That you all speak the same thing, and that there be no division among you When a schism is not healed, it will most likely develop into a "heiresses" which denotes choice, in which a few begin to form little groups and talk about establishing another assembly for worship. Then eventually a vote is taken and they agree to leave the church. It usually is not something agreed on by the church, but a choice by a few. W.E. Vine says, "Then that which is chosen, and hence, an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects (Gal 5:20; marg. "parties". Such erroneous opinions are frequently the outcome of personal preference..." -Vine. When a separation takes place, they who caused it are to be "marked" and "avoided.' (Rom 16:17).
Jesus prayed in Jno 17:21 that his followers all be one. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God..." (2 Jno. 9) "Not the teaching about Christ, but that of Christ which is the standard of Christian teaching..." A.T. Robertson. Division is not the doctrine of Christ, whether the division is caused intentionally, or unintentionally, purposely or accidentally. The rent or tear should be mended to heal the schism, and reconciliation should be effected to heal the heresies (separation).
Now there is a question that needs to be answered. If a group pulls away from the church, without the consent of the church and not for evangelistic reasons, and they decide they did wrong and make a confession for doing so, does the confession for dividing the church make it scriptural for them to establish a separate assembly for worship? I asked a preacher who has been preaching for four years. I'm sure, if he knew of a Bible example where church ever scripturally divided for any reason except for evangelistic purposes? He said, "Some say the case of Paul and Barnabas" (Acts 15:39). But this was not a church matter. It was a private matter, and Paul knew how to fix a private matter, (Matt. 18). But what I want to know, where is the example, or the scripture that permits a group to pull off from the church and establish another assembly for worship? If there are reasons for a "peaceful division" other than for enlarging the borders of Zion, or establishing new congregations, where are they?
Now since division is no part of the doctrine of Christ, can a person take a divisive group into his full fellowship and not be a partaker of the evil deed of division? Let us look at the word "evil" associated with "deeds" and see where we stand. We know that "evil" belongs to the realm of darkness. John says, "...men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (Jno 3:19-20), there" fore "evil deeds" are the "unfruitful works of darkness" with such Paul said "...have no fellowship" (Eph 5:11).
Strong translates the word 'KAKOS' Gk., to mean "worthiness" while Thayer translates the same word, "of bad nature, not such as it ought to be." W.E. Vine - of the same word says, "which may be broadly divided as follows: (a) of what is morally or ethically evil, whether of persons or (b) qualities, emotions, passions, deeds, etc." Now it is "evil deeds" that John warns against in 2 Jno. 10, II. H.C.R. Linski says, "to receive one into your house, who brings not the doctrine of Christ, and wish him well, or say peace be with you, makes you a partner of their evil deeds." McKnight says, in substance, he who "expresseth his approbation of his conduct... of what ever sort it is in teaching or practice, partaketh of the evils, which his corrupt doctrine may occasion."
Brethren, my concern is this: When are we going to learn that "Two is better than one..." Eccl 4:9. Unity is better than diversity? The eternal judgment makes sense, and it is surely coming. In the judgment many things will be made right that were not made right into this world. Why would one wait for the judgment to settle a matter that could be settled in this life?
I am not trying to be stubborn or obstinate--as I have been accused. Persistent, yes! I base my reasoning upon testimony, without which there can be no faith, and without faith there can be no pleasing God. It's just that simple! I must speak were the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent. I must "Contend for the faith once delivered to the saints" I must not base my belief upon hearsay. "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him" (Prov 18:13). The Amplified N.T. reads, "He that answereth a matter before he heareth the facts..." John Locke said, "He who judges without informing himself to the utmost that he is capable cannot acquit himself of judging amiss."
My final thought is in the form of a question; "Where is the example of a congregation scripturally dividing for any other reason than for evangelistic purposes; or where is the scripture that permits it or authorizes it?" If a congregation is divided, and those who pulled away say, "It was not our intention to divide the church, but that is precisely what has happened" which is a confession of the effect, and not the cause. If such a group goes ahead and establishes another place for worship, rather than go back to the church from whom they separated, does the cause for which they pulled away in the first place, still exist? Does establishing another place for worship remove the "cause"?
I agree with Ronny Wade's reasoning in the April 1995 issue in his Querist Column, where he reasons that it is possible for a man to walk out of rank, in ways other than is mentioned in 2 Thes 3:6-1 2. He lists men who cause division (Rom 16:17). I also agree with Robert Milligan and E.G. Sewell, who limit separations in the body of Christ for only one reason - for evangelical purposes only.
Let those who are much more highly educated than this writer, and those who have a greater knowledge, show how can these things be!
Clovis Cook 1997 OPA Main Page HOME