The church of the Lord is divided again. Except for a few congregations in remote areas which are not strong enough financially to be of any help to the various projects and institutions, nearly every congregation has now been influenced or pressured to take a stand one way or another. It is not the purpose of this article to discuss at length the innovations that have precipitated the division. My concern just here is who divided it.
You could get a lot of different answers to that question. But bad you ever considered that perhaps the Lord did it? You say, "That is crazy." Is it? God divided the people in Noah's day. When men bad become so degenerate that they were no longer fit to live, God put Noah and his family in an ark and drowned the rest.
About 450 years later he "separated" Abraham from his kin and his countrymen became they were idolaters (Josh. 24:2) and because he wanted to start a nation through which to execute his plan. I The Old Testament, from Genesis 12 to the close, is the history of this one nation. It was God who divided the Kingdom of Israel.
The smart-alec Rehoboam and the ambitious Jeroboam were the tools through which God worked to divide the kingdom, but He bad told Solomon way back in I Kings 11:11-13 that he would rend the kingdom from him except for one tribe. Many of the Benjamites went along also, but it was called the kingdom of Judah
In the New Testament Jesus told his disciples, "Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own house." (Mt. 10: 3436). Jesus does not arbitrarily create disunity in families. He simply demands undivided loyalty and obedience. He knew that not all men would accept this and that it would therefore divide families. It will also divide churches. Next time we are tempted to quote Prov. 6:16-19 to someone for insisting on scriptural authority for everything, let us try to remember Mt. 10:34-36.
Ever since the church began there have been those who have sought to change it by changing the laws that govern it. The first major issue was Judaism. The Jews thought of Jehovah as a Jewish God and tried to make the church into a Jewish affair by demanding that the Gentiles be circumcised and keep, the Law of Moses. The early preachers and especially Paul fought this with all the power of truth. He said concerning the Judaizing teachers in Galatia, "to whom we gave place by subjection, no not for an hour that the truth of the gospel might continue with you." (Gal. 2:5). (Read the Galatian letter with Acts 15.) But until this day the so-called "Christian" world is still beset by Judaism. Every shade of pre-millennialism, frown Herbert W. Armstrong both ways is built around the idea that God has something special in store for the Jews. (Armstrong thinks that the Anglo people are the Israelites now. That's a new twist). There was trouble in the church at Corinth, at least three factions, and maybe four. And there it is a strong implication that the church "divided." Paul said to them, "For there must be also heresies among you that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." (I Cor. 11: 19). Paul is saying that even heresies do some good. They serve God's purpose to make manifest
There are too many good people who will not face up to the fact that as long as the church stands and the truth is preached, there will be fighting and division from time to time. I can't count the times that I have been told by well meaning people that "we shouldn't have all this fighting -- we ought to love one another more." I knew this before I was told the first time. But I know of only one way that we can stop it, and that is by ceasing to oppose false teaching and teachers. Is that what you would recommend? He has read his Bible too little profit who thinks that either a church or a Christian can please the Lord by compromising with error to preserve peace.
A hundred years ago some "wide-awake", "far-seeing" brethren thought the church wasn't growing fast enough, so they invented some human machinery to help it along. First the missionary society; then the organ. There were some "antis" (only they were called "non-progressives" then) who thought that the local churches were all the organization the Lord needed to preach the gospel, and that just singing would please the Lord more than an expensive organ, so the church divided. In this case as in all others, the "non-progressives" were blamed with the trouble, but the thoughtful Bible student knows that Christ divided the church just as He said he would divide families.
Well, we "non-progressives" finally struggled back into respectability in the eyes of the world. Then some became intoxicated with "our" importance; others were misled and the church again has divided. There are many people who do not know what is involved in this trouble. They believe what their preacher has said about the opposition. The preacher got his message from the college lectureship or some paper that allows only one side to be published. As a result many actually think that there are some of as who do not believe in taking care of orphan children, and in churches cooperating. They do not say much about somebody not believing in providing for old folks. More prejudice can be aroused over the orphans. I have a notion too, that this may be because too many of them have packed their old worn-out parent off to a "Home" where somebody else can be bothered with them and the church or the government can pay the bill; where these old people can spend their last days making excuses for the neglect of children for whom they sacrificed their best years; where they can stare at the walls until death relieves their hurt and loneliness.
But orphan "homes" and old folks "homes" and "antis" did not divide the church. God divided it by requiring that things be done his way. And perhaps to save a remnant.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 45, pp. 4-6