Issues of Division among Brethren: Part One

Introduction. Our lesson this morning and (Lord willing) this evening, are offered in conjunction with the article that is in today’s bulletin. There are some points we will offer in the lessons which are not in the bulletin, but I would encourage you to use it to follow along with the points we will discuss. We will consider three points this morning and then five points tonight. To begin, let’s lay some foundational thoughts...

I. The New Testament Church.

  1. There is one church which Jesus Built. Jesus said: “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). Paul taught: “there is one body” (Ephesians 4:4).
    1. Division is carnal & sinful. Paul taught: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (I Corinthians 1:10). Paul taught: “where there are envy, strife and divisions among you, are you not carnal” (I Corinthians 3:3).
    2. The New Testament is the standard for gospel teaching & practice. Jesus said: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
  2. Yet, the New Testament also promised a “Turning Away.”
    1. Apostasy was promised. Paul promised: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (II Timothy 4:3-4).
    2. Apostasy began very quickly. Paul said to the Galatians: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6,7). After the New Testament period we will quickly see apostasy regarding the organization of the church. From among the group of elders appointed in the NT to lead local congregations, men would pick one “bishop” and presume to give him authority over a church, then a city, then a region until eventually the “bishop of Rome” would presume to have authority over all churches. This was “apostasy” a turning away from the Biblical pattern.
    3. The Lord’s church continued. The Lord said of the church: “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). The church never passed out of existence. It has existed from the day of Pentecost, whether the “eye” of history has recorded the faithful remnant who worshipped God in soundness or not. In America however, we can observe a specific move that led men and women out of apostasy and back to the Biblical pattern...
  3. The “Restoration” Movement in America.
    1. This was a call to forsake human traditions. Men & women left the denominations. It was a move to go back to the Bible alone. “No creed but Christ” was one motto.
    2. Men like Barton W. Stone, Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott & “Raccoon” John Smith sought to look back to the Bible to teach the “Ancient Gospel” and the practice the “Ancient Order of Things.”
    3. Men like Thomas Campbell, coined phrases which stated the objectives of this effort. Phrases like, “Speak where the Bible speaks - remain silent where the Bible is silent.” And the commitment to use “Bible Names for Bible things.” These were great efforts to stand upon the Bible and the Bible alone, in a desire to be Christians and Christians only. Not Catholics, Protestants or Jews - only Christians.
  4. Division & Turning Back.
    1. Unfortunately, from the late 19th Century to the present there have been divisions that have shattered this unity and compromised the goal of going back to the Bible alone.
    2. In our day many are going back to the denominations (in either name or practice). This is sadly, surrendering a hard fought victory. It is as if, after winning that famous battle to place the America flag at the top of the hill in the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, we then replaced it with a Japanese battle flag!
    3. Why Study Such Things? We must understand the issues that have caused division to guard against further division in the future.

II. Instrumental Music.

  1. One of the first issues that divided those of the “Restoration Movement” in the late 19th century was the question... “Does the Gospel Authorize mechanical instruments of music in church worship?”
  2. What does the Bible say?
    1. The New Testament is silent on the use of mechanical instruments of music. Singing is commanded (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
    2. Church history reveals that the introduction of this was centuries after the establishment of the church.
  3. This issue (and the Missionary Society) led to the development of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination.
    1. Some, who were formerly opposed to this innovation have now accepted it.
    2. Others who continue to worship without instruments do it as “tradition” not faith. What is the “human tradition”? Doing something without Scriptural authority? or... Following the simple practice of New Testament Christians? Jesus warned in Matthew 15:8.9 “Vain Worship” as that which involves “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

III. The Missionary Society.

  1. A second issue that divided those of the “Restoration Movement” in the late 19th century was an evangelistic scheme called The Missionary Society.
    1. This was an evangelistic scheme where a human institution was established that sent out preachers to various areas and churches sent funds to this institution to carry out this work. In so doing the church surrendered its own responsibility to send out preachers.
  2. If we look to the Biblical example...
    1. In the New Testament churches sent out and supported preachers themselves with no “go between” (Acts 13:1-3; Philippians 4:10-20).
    2. This scheme has been imitated (in essence) by modern church of Christ in the “Sponsoring Church” arrangement.

IV. Bible Classes.

  1. In the 20th century some brethren became concerned over the question “Is the church authorized to support and conduct separate Bible classes for all ages?” This involved two concerns...
    1. “Does this surrender parental responsibility?”
    2. “Should there be women teachers?”
  2. The Bible teaches...
    1. In the New Testament we are taught that women are to be silent in the assembly (I Corinthians 14:34). In general, women are to have a quiet disposition and must not teach over a man (I Timothy 2:12). Yet, there is a context in which they are to teach (Titus 2:3; Acts 18:26).
    2. It is the primary responsibility of parents to teach children (Ephesians 6:4). Yet the church is authorized to support teaching of God’s word in and out of the assembly (I Corinthians 14:26). The Philippians supported Paul’s teaching work (Philippians 4:15). He did this “publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).
  3. What can we conclude?
    • If the church could support Paul teaching “from house to house”...
    • If Priscilla could help teach Apollos outside of the assembly...
    • If women are to be “teachers of good things” outside of the assembly...
      The church is authorized to support Bible classes outside of the assembly for different ages, topics or genders. This does not mean we should create a “Bible School” (creating some human institution of principals, “board of directors,” etc. But, Christians teaching Christians is authorized.