By John Shadowens
From the New International Version (NIV), Galatians 5:15 reads, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” These verses are the opposite of verses 13-14 where Paul tells these Galatians to serve God and love one another.
Often, a congregation is destroyed by internal strife. By this I mean the brethren are self-seekers and they wear their feelings on their sleeves. They wait for something to happen so they can quit, go somewhere else, or jump right down the throat of another. They also serve as judge, jury and executioner. Such characterized the early church in Corinth, and maybe at Galatia, as might be implied from the words written by the apostle Paul when referring to biting and devouring one another.
Let us think about the church for a moment. The church is the called out body of people to receive eternal life, and to set forth a good and proper example for the world to see. The church is the most blessed of people. The church should always strive to eliminate the self-righteous and critical spirit. Where there is always strife, self-righteousness and perpetual criticism, it is difficult for a local church to make any progress. When people leave for reasons that are not friendly, they may take these feelings ot other places or quit going all together. They may talk about brother and sister so-and-so who said or did something to them. The work that they leave is going to suffer tremendously. In fact, the church may never recover from the reputation it has received over the years. Thus, we should be able to see the wisdom of God when the apostle Paul wrote these brethren that biting and devouring one another can result in destroying the entire church.
“What can I do?” is a fair question. It is obvious that anyone who has come on the scene, after the church has received the damage done to it, that the road is a difficult one, but not impossible. If all brethren would cease being critical of one another, quit speaking evil to and about one another, then this would be a great start. We are often a people who have forgotten the meaning of Jesus’ words about long-suffering. Do you remember what Jesus said about the woman taken in the very act of adultery in John 8? He told those who were doing the accusing, “if any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” At this time those who heard began to go away one by one. Why is it that brethren want to destroy the unity of the local church? Why do brethren want to continually fight and cripple the work? There is in the church personality differences. There will always be, and if that is the case, then make sure all is done to work toward peace (Rom. 12:18), and continue to worship God in an acceptable manner. Why open your mouth and bite and devour another causing a terrible mess and wreck of the work? Now, if sin is involved, that certainly needs to and must be dealt with. It must be exposed and done away with and the perpetrator must face the consequences. This though, is not what this article is all about. This article is about getting along with brothers and sisters in Christ and worshiping God together so we can all get to heaven. This writing is about doing the Lord’s work in an acceptable manner so the Heavenly Father will be pleased and will bless and give increase. This is about conducting oneself as Christians should. This is about encouraging brethren to see that internal actions can cause external harm. What each of us ought to resolve to do is: To love their neighbor as himself. Apply James 1:19, “My dear brother, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (NIV).In so doing, we might be surprised at what God would do for us. Another benefit is that righteousness breeds righteousness. But if brethren continue to bite and devour one another that church will sit dormant for years to come and may possibly cease to exist. We do know that a church can lose its candlestick (Rev. 2:5)!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 15, p. 467
August 6, 1992