Issues of Division among Brethren: Part Two

Introduction. This morning we began to consider some issues that have divided brethren within the last couple of centuries. In this lesson we will continue this study, looking at five final issues.

I. One Cup in the Lord’s Supper.

  1. Some brethren have questioned...”Is the church authorized to multiple cups in partaking of the Lord’s Supper?”
    1. The New Testament does speak of the “cup of blessing” (I Cor 10:16).
    2. The context of the establishment of the memorial shows that the focus is upon the contents not the container (Luke 22:17, 20). Jesus attached significance to the previously divided cup!
  2. Some argue that the container itself represents the “New Covenant.”
    1. The New Testament teaches that there are two elements in the memorial not three.
    2. Further, “the cup” (liquid) represents the covenant of blood (liquid). (I Cor 10:16; Matthew 26:27,28).

II. Support of Human Institutions.

  1. In the mid 20th century division occurred over the question...”Is the church authorized to support institutions set up by Christians to perform various worthwhile services?” This initially concerned...
    • Children’s Homes
    • Bible Colleges, now it includes...
    • Hospitals, student centers, camps, etc, which solicit funds from local churches.
  2. Is this an Emotional Issue? Or a Question of Biblical Authority? Two Questions...
    1. Is the work in question a work of the church? Are things like secular education, medical care or child rearing works of the church or the individual? Some say... “If the individual can do it the church can do it!” Really? Can the church vote - earn a living, -- take a vacation -- have a hobby?
      • Example: Parents are to discipline their children... “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Yet, the church has no right (or charge) to discipline my children!
      If something is a work of the church...
    2. Can the church surrender her responsibility to another? If something is the work of the church we have no right to surrender it to another!

III. The Social Gospel.

  1. In the mid 20th century also, division occurred over the Role of the church in addressing man’s social needs. We must distinguish between the...
    1. “Social Gospel Movement” which effected religious groups all over the nation. This movement (which we can study about in the history books) involved many coming to believe that the real focus of the church should be heal social ills in society. This movement led to many changes in our society (e.g, child labor laws, 8 hour work days, 40 hour work weeks, etc.). Yet this is distinct from...
    2. What could be called the “Social Gospel” approach. This involves groups who still believe that the church has a spiritual purpose, but believe that she can use social means to spiritual ends.
  2. Some brethren have built kitchens and halls to eat in they call “fellowship halls.” This is really a misuse of the term “fellowship.” Peter, Andrew, James & John were “partners” (a form of the word for fellowship) in the fishing business. But that was different from their “fellowship in the gospel.” A room for worship could be called a “fellowship hall, but not a place to eat in.
    1. Others, have built gymnasiums, basketball courts, “youth houses,” etc.
    2. A large church in Kansas City even has a Starbuck’s Coffee Shop in the building! Where does it end?
  3. The Bible teaches us...
    1. Christians should be involved with each other away from the assembly (Acts 2:46).
    2. The Bible warns us not to confuse the social and spiritual sides of things (I Cor 11:22, 27-34).
    3. There are scriptural and unscriptural ways to address these needs. It involves Individual vs. Church action. We should spend time with each other. We should eat together. But we can do this as individuals without compromising the work of the church or Scriptural authority. Example: This very afternoon, several of the members individually chipped in and rented a school gymnasium and got together and ate together. This was satisfied the need to spend time with one another, but did not compromise anything! The “Social Gospel” approach distorts the work and purpose of the church and uses carnal means (rather than spiritual means) to draw people to Christ. We could cite examples of churches advertising “giant hot dogs” to draw people, or martial arts exhibitions. These things are fine on an individual level but if they are used to draw people, they become what is necessary to keep people. The church has a higher calling (I Timothy 3:15). It is the “Pillar and ground of the truth.”

IV. The Sponsoring Church..

  1. We noticed this morning an issue that divided those of the “Restoration Movement” in the late 19th century called The Missionary Society. Through this scheme 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.
         Brethren in the 20th century developed a scheme which imitated this (in essence) called The Sponsoring Church. While this scheme involved no human institution, “sponsoring churches” assumed works beyond their own ability and then solicited funds from other (often smaller) churches to carry out this work. For example, a church might take an interest in the preaching in Panama, Nicaragua or some other country and “take charge” of the work in that country. The other churches send money to support this and surrender their responsibility in teaching the gospel.
  2. What does the Bible teach?
    • In the New Testament churches sent out and supported preachers themselves with no “go between” (Acts 13:1-3; Philippians 4:10-20). This is exactly what we do at this place. We support a number of men directly. They report to us. We have a responsibility to (as far as we are able) make certain they are sound in their teaching.
    • The only examples of church sending to church was for relief (Acts 11:27-30). Note: This is relief in a time of need (not evangelism). And even in this case there is no “go between.”
    1. Some say “So much good is done! It must be acceptable to God!”
      • It is an issue of authority. It is an issue of church organization and autonomy. How can we object to denominational innovations then use our own?

V. The Discipling Movement

  1. In the late 20th century efforts were begun to take a much more aggressive posture in evangelism. This was first called the”Crossroads Movement” after a congregation in Florida which began the approach. It is my understanding that as this movement drifted further and further away from Biblical authority, it was rejected by the Crossroads Church. It then came to be known as the”Boston Movement” or the “Discipling Movement”
    1. Major characteristics...
      • Unscriptural organization. A single church assumed oversight of “home churches.” [Note: Even among brethren who don’t accept this scheme this terminology is sometimes used. The Bible often speaks of churches which met in people’s homes, but this was not a large church, which split up with little “house churches” under the oversight of the “mother church.” This terminology is inaccurate and confuses Biblical concepts.]
             This approach eventually expanded to the point that areas of the country were divided into regions of oversight “overseen” by elders in Boston or Los Angeles.
      • “Sponsor” confessional. Converts were accountable to a “sponsor” to confess sins and the amount of their contribution. The catch was that the sponsor was not expected to confess in return! This controlling approach led to some major investigations of these groups by the mainstream media. Their were features in new magazines and television programs.
  2. The Bible teaches and all of us would agree...
    1. We all want to see souls come to Christ.
    2. Yet, if we adopt denominational techniques to do so how are we any different from the denominations. The elders in the New Testament churches led the flock “among” them (Acts 20:28). We are to confess to one another our faults (James 5:16). But this is a general truth which all of us should practice, not a “mentor-disciple” doctrine.
      • If we stop and think about it, organizational hierarchy & one-way confession are bedrocks of Catholicism! These are as unscriptural as can be, but they have perfected both of these to a science! Are we trying to “out denomination” the denominations?
      • Those associated with this movement eventually formed the denomination called the “International Church of Christ,” rejecting all pretense of being non-denominational. Why not just follow the Bible? It was not given to us as just a vague, general collection of principle. Paul said it teaches us “how to conduct” ourselves in the “house of God” (I Timothy 3:15).