By Robert Jackson
We are grateful for the space and opportunity to continue to study these issues that we believe are important issues that divide us. I want to say in the very beginning of this study that I find no joy in division, and I find no joy whatsoever in having to discuss the issues that divide us. I had rather be united. I had rather for all of us to be one, so there would be no division. But when there is division among our ranks, we cannot duck our heads in the sand and say, “There is no division,” and just hope that it will all pass away. What we need to do is to get down and study and examine and find out exactly why there is division within our ranks.
First of all, I have established the principle that I believe there is division as a result of not understanding Bible authority, understanding that we have a generic command and a specific command. That is given by a direct command, the necessary inference, and approved example. Also, that when we speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where it is silent we must recognize these principles, in order to be speaking as God would have us to speak. Today, we find a lot of people saying that you can do things without Bible authority, but any time you do things without Bible authority, you are going to cause division. You are going to divide yourself and separate yourself from God, and there is no other way to get around it. The reason there is division within our ranks is simply because we have got some brethren who lack respect for the word of God.
Then in our last article we discussed a misunderstanding of the church. I tried to bring to your minds that the church is the universal body of Christ. It has no universal organization. It is composed of all of God’s people all over this world, and every man that obeys the gospel of Christ is added to the church, the family of God, people who are separated, called into the kingdom of God out of the kingdom of darkness. And this is done when people believe that Christ is God’s son, when they repent of their sins, and upon the confession of their faith, they are baptized, as the Bible teaches in Acts 2:38.
Then we studied about what is a church of Christ. A church of Christ is a local church of Christ in a specific locality where Christians come together and form themselves together in a local congregation. They are organized or arranged by having elders to oversee the flock of God among them, deacons as special servants, and then money raised upon the first day of the week by the saints of God in order for the local church to do what God has authorized the local church to do. In our next study we will be talking about the work of the local church, and you need to keep this in mind. In the churches of Christ, the local churches of Christ, we do not beg for money by having pie suppers or rummage sales. We simply believe in following the pattern, and that is by the saints of God giving upon the first day of the week. Now then, we have established the church, and we have established the local churches of Christ.
Now then, today we have division within our ranks , but yet we ought not think this is strange because it was prophesied in the very beginning that division would come in the body of Christ. If you have your Bibles handy, I want you to note with me some scriptures that plainly warn the people of God about division. There should not have been division within their ranks because the men of God warned them about division. Open your Bible to Acts 20-this is a very important chapter. You will find the apostle Paul talking with the elders of the church of Ephesus over at Miletus. Keep in mind that he is talking to the elders of a local church, men who had the oversight of the flock of God which is “among them.” Listen to what he said, beginning at verse 28-“Take heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Now there we find that the elders have the oversight of the flock of God which is “among them.” Keep this in your mind. Then he said, “For I know this.” Now, he did not say there was any doubt in his mind, or that “it might be.” He said, “I know this, that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.”
It is a rather strange thing that these wolves did not come while the apostles were there. They waited for the men of God to get away, then these false teachers sneaked in and divided the body of Christ. This is the same way they will do it today. You can let a devout man of God, a faithful man of God, stay there and preach the truth, and very seldom will you ever find a false teacher that will challenge him. But yet you let that man get away from the flock, and then these wolves will come in and try to divide the body of Christ, and that is a shame and a disgrace.
But notice what he said inverse 30-“And of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” What a shame! What a tragedy! But, yet, the truth. Paul said, “But even of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things.” Sometimes people say that this has reference to elders, which I would not deny. I think even of the eldership there would be men to arise who would “speak perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” But likewise, it could be true of preachers in a local congregation, where they would arise and start speaking things contrary to the word of God. Also observe that he said, “To draw away disciples after them.” Now then, when they teach things contrary to the word of God, they are going to draw away disciples. When they “draw away disciples after them,” that is going to bring division within the ranks of God, and there is no way to get around it. That is exactly what the man of God said. He said that division would come, that “even of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things.”
But now then, turn with me to 2 Thessalonians 2, and listen to what he said in verse 3-“Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” Now space will notpermit us to get everything out of these verses that we should, but I want you to get this: Paul said there would come a “falling away.” He said the “falling away” would come as a result of somebody setting themself up “as God”-showing themselves to be God, playing God, taking the place of God, acting as if they were God. And, when they speak they say, “This is it because we said it,” and they desire to be worshipped. Paul said they would divide the body of Christ, there would be a “falling away,” there will be division within your own ranks. That, my friend, is exactly what happened.
But keep in mind that the brethren were warned that division would come. They should have been on the alert. They should have realized that it would come, because the men of God did not keep them in secret about the matter. The men of God warned them in plain, simple language that there would be division, that men would try to take the place of God, they would try to establish authority by human reason and human doctrines and by human philosophy; and, as a result, would divide the body of Christ. But listen again! The apostle Paul said in verse 7, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” Why Paul said this thing has already started! What is started, Paul? The mystery of iniquity, the dividing of the body of Christ! This thing was already started in Paul’s day. There was this division within the body of Christ already taking place. What’s causing the division, Paul? A man trying to take the place of God!
Alright now, keep that in mind and turn with me again, if you have your Bibles, to 1 Timothy 4. Listen carefully to these verses and measure what I say by the scriptures, beginning in verse 1 — “Now the spirit speaketh expressly.” Now this is the Holy Spirit expressing Himself, listen . . . “expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith.” Now he did not say that all would, he said some would. “Some shall depart from the faith.” Well, my friend, when some depart from the faith, there is going to be division. The man of God is warning people that division would come. How are you going to know about it, Paul? “Giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared as with a hot iron.” Why Paul said that division would come by men speaking lies; trying to take the place of God, instead of establishing the truth. They are going to deceive people, and they are going to divide the body of Christ! And Paul said this mystery is already started working. He said that “some would depart from the faith.” He did not say all of them would, but he said that some would. And, my friend, when some do, then you have got division within the ranks of the body of Christ. Now there was not anyone who could say that they had not been warned about this division. They had been warned, and Paul pleaded with them and begged with them to realize that division would come.
But let us note again in the book of Jude. If you have your Bibles, turn to the 4th verse and read it. “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation . . . .” Now watch it! “. . . ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now what are they going to do? They are going to turn “the grace of God into lasciviousness.” How are they going to do it? By denying the only Lord Jesus Christ. Pepole are not going to recognize Christ as Lord. They are going to try to take the place of Him, and they are going to try to be the Lord; and when they do, they are going to “turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.”
Now my friend, I want to challenge you to read any historian you want to, and you will read the following things that took place. Alright, first of all, in a local congregation we begin to find one elder saying. “I am going to be the bishop and you other fellows are going to be the elders.” “I am going to be the chief bishop and you are going to be the elders.” Well; now, that might look like a simple thing. Somebody might say, “Well the title bishop is scriptural. Why can’t one man be called the bishop and the other men be called elders?” Because they all have the same authority! They are either bishops or elders, and no one takes the place as the chief bishop or chief shepherd or chief elder. Christ is the chief bishop and the chief elder and chief shepherd in 1 Peter 5. Elders and bishops must be identified as such.
But here is a man who said, “I am going to be the bishop. I am going to be the elder. I am going to take over this congregation.” That seems simple. But what happened? It began to spread. They began to say, “Well now, I’ll take over this diocese, and you take over that diocese.” And, do you know ‘something? As the years went by, they had five patriarchs set up. They had one in the city of Alexandria, they had one in Constantinople, they had one in Rome, they had one in Jerusalem, and they had one in Antioch. Each one of them said, “I will take the oversight of this diocese.” Five patriarchs overseeing local churches-that is already departure from God’s order. And then you know what happened? They began to clamor over who was going to take over all of them. Finally, as the years went by, in about the year 606 A.D., we find that one man by the name of Boniface III identified as this man, became the first universal bishop of all the churches and took over the authority in this manner. Thus we have the complete departure and the forming of Catholicism-as a result of division within the ranks of the body of Christ.
This should have been a lesson for the people of God. We should have learned to stick with the Bible and do exactly like Paul and the others said. But no, brethren decided they would become as God, and as a result of it, divided the body of Christ, and the Roman Catholic Church was born. And that is exactly how she got into existence-as a departure within the ranks of the body of Christ. Division within our ranks: a shame and a disgrace, but true! But enough for this article, and we shall continue our study in the next.
Truth Magazine XXI: 15, pp. 232-234
April 14, 1977