By Andy Alexander
When we are obedient to the first principles of the gospel of Christ, we are added by Christ to his body (Acts 2:37-47). This puts us into a saved relationship and to maintain this relationship we must continue or abide in the teaching of Christ (Jn. 8:3 1; 2 Jn. 9). We may deceive ourselves into thinking we are in fellowship with God, but if we are in darkness then God severs that relationship and he ceases to commune with us.
All people who walk in the light or abide in the truth make up the body of Christ. We are all to speak the same thing and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Cor. 1:10). The Lord’s body is not a part of anything else and is not a faction or a sect. A sect is “a division and the formation of a party or sect in contrast to the uniting power of the truth” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 10 17). A sectarian is one who is a member of a sect. The Baptist denomination and the Methodist denomination are examples of sects. The individual members of these sects would be called sectarians.
A sectarian is someone who promotes division in the Lord’s body by teaching a perverted gospel. The Judaizing teachers of Paul’s day were sectarians because they perverted the sound doctrine that Paul had taught (Gal. 1:6-7). Sectarianism can be practiced in several ways. One may emphasize a particular truth and exclude other truths of God’s word. Or, one may twist or pervert the simple teaching of Christ. But, in either case, the whole of God’s word is not taught and practiced. Any person or group of people who perverts God’s word in any form or fashion is guilty of factionalism or sectarianism.
The brethren in Galatia could unite on the sound doctrine which Paul had delivered to them, but the Judaizing teachers brought in a “new” gospel which caused division. These false teachers were the trouble-makers and they hindered the Galatians from obeying the truth (Gal. 1:7; 3:1; 5:7). Paul used his trip to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus as an example for the Galatians to follow as to how long to put up with false teachers and their erroneous doctrines (Gal. 2:1-5). Less than one hour is a short span in history, but is too long to tolerate a compromise with false doctrine. A long historical period of time did not elapse before Paul openly rebuked Peter for the sin of hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11-14). Was it possible that Paul was concerned for the soul of Peter and the people lie might adversely affect, or was he trying to make a name for himself? The Lord left no doubt that sectarianism and factionalism are wrong and those who are guilty of such will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (Gal. 5:19-21).
New Sect Claims to be Non-Sectarian
There exists today in our land a sect of people who claim to be non-sectarian. These people are actually promoting a sect or division in the name of non-sectarian faith. Calling yourself non-sectarian does not make you non-sectarian. A member of the Baptist denomination would call himself a Christian, but that does not make him a Christian. Most sects have a leader and this sect is no different. Charles Holt from Chattanooga, Tennessee is the guru who holds together this diverse band of disgruntled people. The Examiner is the paper which he uses to espouse his false doctrine.
One distinguishing mark of a sectarian journal is its unwillingness to have its views challenged. The Examiner has always been closed to those who oppose its teaching. Someone else will have to foot the bill for both sides to be heard because Holt himself will not publish dissenting viewpoints. Truth has nothing to fear from examination. Holt has repeatedly argued that the church of Christ today constitutes a modern sect. He claims that because members of the church of Christ insist there is a pattern for the organization, work, and worship of the church, we are a sect and have lost sight of Christ. This charge cannot bear the light of open investigation.
Holt and his “non-sectarian” associates who write in The Examiner emphasize being totally committed to Christ, but they claim this commitment cannot be shown by adhering to the pattern given in the New Testament for the organization, work, and worship of the church. These self-styled non-sectarians claim that we ought to be loyal to Christ, but there is no pattern given by Christ in his word as to how we are to accomplish this loyalty. Certainly we must be loyal to Christ, but just what does loyalty to Christ involve? It involves total obedience to the teaching of Christ. We cannot choose parts of his will to follow and exclude other parts. Jesus said, “And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46) What things? Everything Christ commands we must do. When we have done all, we are still to consider ourselves unprofitable servants: “we have done that which was our duty to do” (Lk. 17:10).
Holt claims that men have designed and required the five acts of worship that we engage in today. He states, “These ‘worship services’ are today claimed to be the divinely prescribed times when the obedient church members must come together at the appointed place, to engage in the man-designed and man-required ‘Five Acts of Worship’! Scripture says absolutely nothing about such services” (The Examiner, Vol. V, No. 2, p. 3). Holt and his followers also claim there is no such thing as the local church, elders and deacons, or any organization whatsoever. The pattern they would have us to follow is to do away with the worship we read about in the New Testament, do away with the work that the churches were engaged in, and do away with the local church itself! Does Satan himself want any more than this?
Sects Stumble on Bible Authority
The Examiner group stumbles in exactly the same place other sectarian groups stumble and that is how to establish Bible authority. Those in the denominational world demand a single verse that reads, “You must hear the word of God, believe in Christ as the Son of God, repent of your sins, confess your faith in Christ, and be immersed in water for the remission of your sins.” Since the Lord did not give it in this fashion, they take the part that pleases them and ignore the rest. Holt obviously wants a single verse that says, “You shall partake of the Lord’s supper every first day of the week, give into a local church treasury as you have been prospered every first day of the week, sing without instrumental music in your assembly every first day of the week, teach and pray every first day of the week at 11:00 A.M. in a brick building with ‘church of Christ’ on the front.” Since God did not give it in this fashion, Holt claims there is no pattern. Can Holt and his followers find the whole pattern one must obey to receive pardon from sin in a single verse?
Bible authority is established in one of three ways. We learn by direct command, necessary implication, or approved example. We learn in the secular world by these same three ways. A child learns the stove is hot by a direct statement from their parents, “The stove is hot, do not touch it.” Or, the child can witness one of the parents burn himself and then jump, holler, and scream. This would be an example to the child. Or, the child can watch what happens to meat cooking in the pan, taste the warm meat, and necessarily infer that the stove made the meat hot. This same process is used in learning what God would have us to do.
Mark 16:16 is a direct command that we must believe and be baptized in order to be saved. Acts 8:38 clearly teaches by example that baptism is done in water. In the same text we learn by necessary implication that preaching Jesus includes preaching about baptism. The Lord expected the Jews to learn by necessary implication that there is life after death. He quoted the statement of God in Exodus 3:6 (“1 am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”) to show they should have deduced or inferred that “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:23-32).
We are taught by Christ that we must worship God in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24). How are we to do this? Did God command something and then not give us a form or pattern as to how we are to carry out his will? Of course not! We are to learn from the direct statements, the inspired examples, and the necessary implications in his inspired word.
Consider the contribution on the first day of the week. Holt deplores the idea of Christians giving of their means weekly to support preachers, to teach the gospel, and to help needy saints. He would rather you send that money to his “worthy” organization (“Truth and Freedom Ministry, Inc.”) so that he can teach against organizing the Lord’s body in local areas and taking weekly contributions. This is sectarian to the core.
The Lord wants his people to preach the gospel and he commended churches that were active in their support of faithful gospel preachers (Mk. 16:15; Phil. 4:14-18; 2 Cor. 8:1-5). How did they raise the money to accomplish this commendable deed? Holt demands a single verse that says, “Thou shalt give on the first day of every week to support the local preaching of the gospel and gospel preaching in foreign fields.” Because no such passage exists he claims there is no pattern.
However, God commanded the church both to support gospel preaching and to care for needy saints. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Paul taught the church how and when to raise money to perform its work. He wrote concerning the collection of the saints and told the Corinthian brethren the same thing he told the churches of Galatia. They were to take a collection “on the first day of every week.” A separate passage on raising money for the support of gospel preachers is not needed. God’s command for the church to support gospel preaching requires raising money. We know by necessary implication that this money is to be raised in the same way it was raised to support needy saints because there is no other pattern on how to collect money (2 Cor. 11:8; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). To raise money in some other way such as car washes, cake and rummage sales, or mid-week collections is to operate in the realm of silence. “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17).
Leaving God’s pattern for worship, The Examiner group has now accepted those who use instrumental music in their worship because it is not specifically forbidden in God’s word (The Examiner, Vol. V, No. 2, p. 5). This is another blatant error made by those in the denominational world, many liberal churches of Christ, and now by The Examiner sect. They ask, “Where does God say not to?” Christianity is a positive religion: We are to do what God says. Christ says that those who will enter heaven will be those who do the will of the Father (Matt. 7:21). Acting without positive divine authority is sin. In Acts 15:24 we have an example of some men who were guilty of subverting the souls of men by teaching doctrines which the Lord had not commanded. The Lord commanded Israel to have priests from the tribe of Levi and God expected his silence concerning the other tribes to be respected (Heb. 7:14). God commands his people to sing and make melody in their hearts in their worship to him. If we are going to respect the silence of God, then we will sing and not use instrumental music in worship.
Moral error often follows doctrinal error. Cecil Hook, a writer in The Examiner, openly taught that remarriage after a divorce for any reason is acceptable to God. Hook states, “When we contend that the divorced wife cannot remarry, we are laying the same cruel burden on the woman,” i.e. the burden of supporting herself without a husband. Hook’s “wise” advice is “divorce her instead of just separating, and let her remarry” (The Examiner, Vol. IV, No. 5, p. 25). The authority of Christ means nothing when such human philosphies are advocated (Matt. 19:9). God hates divorce but the Examiner recommends it (Mal. 2:16).
If there are no patterns in the Bible, such as for the organization, work, and worship of the church, then we must conclude there is no pattern for the marriage relationship. One man with two women, or one woman with two men, or two men with no woman would be pleasing to those who reject God’s pattern of one man for one woman for life. To insist on one man and one woman for life as God’s pattern for the marriage relationship would be to Holt “pattern theology,” a concept which causes Holt to tremble. When we leave the form of sound words, the sound doctrine of lesus Christ, we spiral headlong into disaster.
Sectarianism Gone to Seed
Holt’s doctrine would have us quit assembling in a regular manner and stop worshipping God as per the pattern laid down in the New Testament. He would have us stop our regular contributions to the Lord, quit serving under qualified elders, and tolerate playing the instrument instead of singing only and compromise with moral error. All the things God has designed to strengthen us, Holt would have us give up or compromise. This is heresy, a damnable doctrine, sectarianism gone to seed. A sect as defined by Webster is “a dissenting or schismatic religious body: esp. one regarded as extreme or heretical; a group ahering to a distinctive doctrine or to a leader.” If the doctrine of Christ is the standard for truth and unity, Holt and his followers are sectarian in the purest form of the word!
Jesus prophesies that false teachers would come and seek to devour the flock of God (Matt. 7:15-20). He commands that we test the spirits to see whether they are of God (1 Jn. 4:1). False teachers exist! Do not be fooled by a false piety or phony grin. Study your Bible and test their teaching.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 19, pp. 596-598
October 4, 1990