By Mike Willis
About the most appropriately two named series of articles written by Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett were the series entitled “Twisted Scriptures” and “The Word Abused.” In both of these series, the respective authors abused the word and twisted the Scriptures! The two series of articles were supposed to be detailed studies of texts which brethren have used against false teachers. The major thesis of both series of articles by these false teachers was that these texts cannot be applied to those who have introduced church supported missionary societies, mechanical instruments of music in worship, premillennialism, church sponsored recreation, the sponsoring church arrangement, and church support of benevolent societies and colleges. However, to apply these Scriptures to those who oppose the introduction of these innovations into the worship and work of the church is a legitimate usage of most of these Scriptures, according to Ketcherside and Garrett. A more obvious example of twisting and abusing Scriptures cannot be imagined than that which has been done by Ketcherside and Garrett.
2 John 9-11
Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the docrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring you this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
This text has been one of the battlegrounds for tile grace-unity brethren. With all of their energies, they have sought to convince brethren that this text cannot be used to apply to those who have introduced innovations in the work and worship of the church.
The argument with reference to this verse hinges on whether “doctrine of Christ” refers to the doctrine which Christ taught or the doctrine about Christ (the objective or subjective genitive). Ketcherside, Garrett, Fudge, Hardin, and others made the “doctrine of Christ” mean “the thing taught about Jesus.” This limited amount of doctrinal instruction they call “gospel,” extending the right hands of fellowship to everyone who has accepted seven facts of the gospel which they arbitrarily have chosen and has obeyed the one act (baptism). Consequently, they teach that this passage has nothing to do with current doctrinal apostasies in the churches of Christ. Consider these comments.
I have heard the expression “this doctrine” applied to every item of controversy among the various factions calling themselves “The Church of Christ.” Depending upon the particular party whose champion quoted it, the expression has been related to individual cups, Bible classes, colleges, orphan homes, the pastor system, fermenting wine in the Lord’s Supper, a method of breaking the bread, the pre-millennial viewpoint, instrumental music, missionary societies, and a diversified host of motley issues which have made “the restoration robe of righteousness” a Joseph’s coat that puts the rainbow spectrum to shame (Ketcherside, “Receive Him Not,” Mission Messenger, XXXVII, p. 89).
And I was led to muse upon what we have done to 2 John 9-10 all these years, and what we have allowed that intrepretation to do to us. One wonders how the notion ever got started, that we can’t invite a brother into our home and thank God for him if he differs with us on cups, classes, colleges, organs, organizations, or the millennium. Or that we’d have to turn from our door the likes of Keith Miller or Francis Schaeffer. It is complete idiocy (Leroy Garrett, Restoration Review, XVI, p. 230).
Both Garrett and Ketcherside restrict this passage to apply to only those who deny the doctrine about Christ. Hence, if one denies either the humanity or the deity of Christ, 2 John 9-11 applies to him. However, it can never be used to apply to those who introduce instruments of music in worship, take money from the church treasury to support human institutions (missionary societies, orphan homes, or colleges), pervert the organization of the church through the sponsoring church arrangement, or any other division in the body of Christ.
Even this admission however is fatal to their gospeldoctrine distinction. The phrase “doctrine of Christ” is here applied to what the grace-unity movement labels “gospel.” Hence, there is no difference in doctrine and gospel as they assert, if we grant their own usage and definitions of terms. Secondly, assuming that there is a difference in gospel and doctrine, 2 John 9-11 states that the fellowship of the saints should be broken over a doctrinal matter, something which both Garrett and Ketcherside deny.
When one considers the context of 1 John, he will see that those who were teaching their false doctrines which John was opposing, in many respects, resembles that of the modern grace-unity movement. For example, those who John was opposing taught that one could walk in darkness and remain in fellowship with God (1 Jn. 1:6). That is exactly what Garrett and Ketcherside teach about those involved in the sins of using mechanical instruments of music in worship, church support of human institutions, the sponsoring church organization, or church sponsored recreation. They say that brethren can remain in these sins without breaking their fellowship with God. Hence, John revealed that one cannot continue in sin and remain in fellowship with God; as a matter of fact, the one who continues in sin is not born of God (1 Jn. 3:9). Those who came and brought this doctrine were the ones who went beyond the doctrine of Christ and had not God whom John revealed that we should not fellowship.
One should also see this conclusion by a consideration of 2 John 9-11. Whatever “doctrine of Christ” means in this context, one should notice that the one who abided in the doctrine. of Christ had God. If Garrett and Ketcherside’s definition of “doctrine of Christ” (“doctrine about Christ”) is correct, anyone who believes the right things about Jesus has fellowship with God, regardless of whether or not he has been baptized or faithful in his walk after being baptized. Brethren, are you ready to admit that whoever believes the right facts about Christ is in fellowship with God? If not, you need to consider whether or not “doctrine of Christ” might mean something other than the “doctrine about Christ.”
As a matter of fact, the grammatical construction of this passage is similar to that which appears in Matt. 7:28; 22:33; 16:12; Mk. 1:22; 4:2; 11:18; 12:38; Acts 2:42. Each of these constructions in Greek have “doctrine” (didache) followed by the genitive construction. They never mean “the doctrine about . . . .” They consistently mean “the doctrine taught by” or “originating from” the persons discussed. Similarly, in 2 John 9-11, the “doctrine of Christ” means the doctrine which Christ brought (first in His own persons and later in His followers).
The usage of the personal genitive to qualify the noun (the doctrine of Christ) is used in such a way as to refer to “the doctrine which Christ brought, and which He brought first in His own person, and then through His followers” (see The Doctrine of Christ and Unity of the Saints, Ron Halbrook, pp. 34-36). It refers to the body of doctrine revealed to us by Christ and His apostles. Inasmuch as this is its usage in the context of 2 John 9-11, the teaching of this passage is that anyone who denies the doctrine revealed to us by and through Christ cannot be fellowshipped.
2 John 9-I1 continues to be a roadblock in the path of the grace-unity brethren who would extend the umbrella of fellowship to those who have gone beyond the revealed word of God’s grace. Because it condemns them for doing what God has prohibited, they will continue to try to dismiss its most obvious meaning from the minds of brethren.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you, than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
The grace-unity brethren leave no doubt that they consider it an abuse of this passage, a twisting of this passage, to apply it to those who are introducing innovations in the worship, work and organization of the church.
This passage is abused in our day in such a manner that the effect is as much a perversion as it was with the Judaizers in Galatia. One is preaching “another gospel,” we are told, if he holds some doctrinal error, or what is presumed to be an error, such as maintaining a TV program like Herald of Truth or using an instrument in congregational singing. One is not a true gospel preacher if he believes in Sunday Schools or if he uses a plurality of cups at the Supper. Indeed, he comes under the same curse of heaven as would an angel that proclaims a different gospel if he is other than a faithful Church of Christ minister after the Gospel Advocate or Abilene Christian College. If that doesn’t out-Judaize the Judaizers of Galatia, it runs them a close second (Leroy Garrett, “The Word Abused . . . If We Or An Angel Preach Any Other Gospel,” Restoration Review, XVII, p. 42).
A quotation of a similar nature could be given from the pen of Carl Ketcherside. Though these brethren believe that applying this passage to those who introduce things not authorized in the worship, work, and organization of the church is an abuse of the passage, they have no hesitation in applying it to those who stand against these innovations, calling for a strict adherence to the old paths. Allusions -to this can be seen in the above quotation; however, Ketcherside wrote as follows:
When brethren make a test of union and communion out of an attitude toward the use of instrumental music in expression of praise to God, their creed is no longer simply Christ but conformity with a factional pattern.
To make one’s right standing with God depend not upon surrender of himself to Jesus, but upon standing right on other things, is dangerously near to perverting the gospel. This was the mistake of the circumcision party in the days of Paul (Another Gospel,” Mission Messenger, XXVII, p. 10).
It is a strange usage of the Scriptures indeed, a twisting of them or an abusing of them, when warnings such as Galatians 1:8-9 cannot be legitimately applied to those who are introducing unauthorized items into the worship,. work and organization of the church but can be applied to those who are faithfully calling for Scriptural authority for the introduction of these things!
The manner in which Garrett and Ketcherside avoid the force of G latians 1:8-9 is by denying that whatever one believes abut the usage of mechanical instruments of music in wo ship, the sponsoring church arrangement, church sponsored recreation, premillennialism, and other doctrinal apostasies are part of the “gospel.” Holding say that these are ma ers of doctrine and have nothing to do with “another gospel” of Galatians 1:8-9.
However, by Garrett and Ketcherside’s definition, not even the Judaizers themselves were preaching “another gospel.” According to these brethren, the “gospel” is confined to the life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, coronation and glorification of Christ. Yet, the Judaizers did not deny any of these points. Neither did they deny that one had to be baptized in order to be saved. They simply sought to teach that a person had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses in order to go to heaven when he dies. According to Ketcherside and Garrett’s definition, this is “doctrine” and the fellowship of saints should not be broken over doctrine!
However, Paul called this preaching “another gospel.” It was apostasy in full bloom. Consequently, he was willing to resist any person who taught that one had to keep the law of Moses in order to be saved, whether he was a blatant Judaizer, a mixed-up Peter or a carried away Barnabas! The truth of the gospel had to be preserved regardless of who stood in its way.
Let us now examine what the Bible says about the “gospel” and the “doctrine.” Didache, the Greek word which is translated “doctrine,” is defined as follows:
1. teaching, ‘viz. that which is taught . . . one’s doctrine, i.e. what he teaches . . . doctrine, teaching, concerning something . . . 2. (the act of) teaching, instruction . . . . (Thayer, pp. 144-145).
Among the Gks. this is used in the sense of “teaching,” “instruction” . . . with a strong tendency to restrict it to the fact, so that didaskein or didaskesthai can normally be used as an alternative . . . . In the LXX . . . . didache is thus syn, with the Rabbinic talmud, which signifies “teaching” in the sense that it might denote according to context either “teaching” or “being taught” . . . . The New Testament follows this usage fairly closely (Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 2, pp. 163-164).
Euangelion, the Greek word which is translated “gospel,” is defined as follows:
1. a reward for good tidings . . . 2. good tidings . . . . In the N.T. spec. a. the glad tidings of the kingdom of God soon to be set up, and subsequently also of Jesus the Messiah, the founder of the this kingdom . . . After the death of Christ the term to euangelion comprises also the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ as having suffered death on the cross to procure eternal salvation for men in the kingdom of God, but as restored to life and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, thence to return in majesty to consummate the kingdom of God; so that it may be more briefly defined as the glad tidings of salvation through Christ; the proclamation of the grace of God manifested and pledged in Christ; the gospel (Thayer, p. 257).
Kittle gave the derivation of the thought of euangelion from “besrah” (Heb.) to demonstrate that the primary connotation of the word is “the good news of victory.” When used in the New Testament, the fact that Jesus died for our sins makes the preaching of Jesus a message which is especially one which might be described as “the good news of victory” (Vol. 2, pp. 721-735).
From these definitions, let us draw some conclusions. (a) The basic idea connoted by didache is “to teach;” the basic thought connoted by euangelion is “the good news of victory.” (b) The content of the message cannot be learned from the words themselves. The didache could as easily be that of Balaam as that of Christ; the euangelion could as easily be that of victory over the Persians as victory over sin and death. (c) The content of the message is not necessarily different when both didache and euangelion are used; that which is taught can be the good news. Obviously, this is the case in the New Testament; that which is taught is the good news of Christ’s victory over sin and death.
If our conclusions are true, then the following should be and are found in the New Testament:
(a) The gospel being preached to both saints (Rom. 1:7, 15-16) and aliens (Mk. 16:15-16), the assertions of Ketcherside and Garrett notwithstanding.
(b) The doctrine being preached to both aliens (Rom. 6:17-18; Acts 5:28; 13:5, 7, 8, 10, 12; 17:19) and Christians (1 Cor. 4:17; Col. 3:17; 2 Tim. 4:2; Acts 2:42).
(c) Things which are called the gospel also referred to as doctrine. That which has freed us from sin is called both doctrine (Rom. 6:17-18).and gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 1:16). That which leads to Christian maturity is called both doctrine (Mt. 28:20; Acts 2:42) and gospel (Gal. 2:14; Eph. 6:15; 1 Tim. 1:10-11).
(d) The “word of truth,” which is identified as the gospel (Col. 1:5; Eph. 1:13), should be applicable to both saints and sinners. In keeping with this, the “truth” is that which frees one from sin (Jn. 8:32; Jas. 1:18) and anyone who does not obey it is lost (Rom. 2:8; cf. 2 Thess. 1:8); it is also that which produces sanctification (Jn. 17:17-19). Thus, one must not only obey the truth, he must also walk in it to keep from being lost (Jas. 5:19; Gal. 2:5, 14; 3:1; 5:7).
No one would deny that there is a distinction between becoming a Christian and maturing as a Christian. Undoubtedly, a person must not know every apostolic commandment in order to become a Christian. Therefore, there are some things which are taught before baptism and some things which are taught after baptism (Mt. 28:20). However, to maintain that (1) the former are exclusively called “gospel” and the latter are exclusively called “doctrine” and (2) one can break the fellowship of the saints only over differences pertaining to the “gospel” are false positions nowhere justifiable in the Scriptures.
Hence, the limiting of this passage to applications of the Judaizers alone is an unnecessary limitation to place on the verse. It is contrary to the usage of the word “gospel” in the New Testament. It is limited for a very obvious reason: to restrict the usage of this verse to those who are perverting the work, worship, and organization of the church. This is being done in order to broaden the umbrella of fellowship to those who have departed from the revelation of God in order to walk in the traditions of men.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
As is the usual case with any verse warning against doctrinal apostasy, the grace-unity brethren do not believe it can have application to apostasies which are occurring today.
There is no way that this passage can be applied to sincere, wellmeaning, unity-loving brothers who happen to hold to ideas different from what we believe the scriptures to teach. To apply this to those who support Herald of Truth, divide into classes for study, use a plurality of cups, employ a resident pastor, use a piano or organ, interpret a prophecy in terms of a premillennial reign, or do their missionary and educational work through societies is to abuse the scriptures. In fact the one who so twists the scripui es as to impose this kind of oppression upon his brothers is more guilty of the sin involved than the one he is applying it to, and if anyone needs to be Marked it is he (Leroy Garrett, “Mark Them Which Cause Divisions,” Restoration Review, Vol. XVII, p. 23).
Of course, this passage can be legitimately applied, according to Carl Ketcherside, to those of us who are trying to maintain the purity of the church through calling for a “thus saith the Lord” for all that we do and teach (Mission Messenger, Vol. XXVII, pp. 39-40). Let us look at the passage more clearly.
Whatever the situation was in Rome, Paul advised the brethren to guard themselves against men who caused “dissensions and hinderances contrary to the teaching which you learned.” “Dissensions” (dichostasia) “denotes a state of things in which men are divided, in which feuds flourish, and in which unity is destroyed. Dichostasia bears its picture on its face; it literally means `standing apart,’ that is, a state in which all community, all fellowship, and all togetherness are gone” (William Barclay, Flesh and Spirit, pp. 56-57). “Hinderances” (skandalon) is an interesting word; skandalon is properly “the moveable stick or tricker (`trigger’) of a trap, trap-stick; a trap, snare; any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall” (Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 577).
The ministry of the disciples of Christ was divisive in nature; Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and daugther-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household” (Mt. 10:34-36). Paul added, “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may become evident among you” (1 Cor. 11:19-20). With reference to the word skandalon, one needs to notice that it is applied with reference to the Christ on some occasions. With reference to the Jews, Paul said, “They stumbled over the stumbling-stone, just as it is written, `Behold I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense (skandalon), and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed’ ” (Rom. 9:23-33). (See also 1 Pet. 2:8; 1 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 5:11). “In N.T. skandalon is always used metaphorically, and ordinarily of anything that arouses prejudice, or becomes a hindrance to others, or causes them to fall by the way. Sometimes the hinderance is in itself good, and those stumbled by it are the wicked” (W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. III, p. 129). Where the gospel, correctly presented, produces divisions, as it always will, the divisions are right. We are not responsible for the legitimate effects of the truth.
Inasmuch as the teaching of truth and Jesus Himself can be the source of division, the phrase “contrary to the teaching which you have learned” (para ten didachen hen humeis emathete) becomes all important. Commentators cannot be sure which teaching Paul is referring to in this passage. Ketcherside and Garrett say that the teaching referred to is “almost certainly . . . the teaching on unity in spite of differences which he had just laid before them in the letter, especially Rom. 14” (Leroy Garrett, Restoration Review, Vol. XVII, No. 2, p. 25). Most commentators are not so certain as are Garrett and Ketcherside. Actually, most commentators which I have read say that the divisive men mentioned here are Judaizers who tried to bind the Mosaical law on Christians and, therefore, make the “teaching which you learned” the teaching concerning the Jew-Gentile relationship and the proper usage of the Mosaical law (which items are among the major threats of the letter), as the following quotations demonstrate:
Probably he refers here to Jewish teachers, or those who insisted strenuously on the observance of the rites of Moses, and who set up a claim for greater purity and orthodoxy than those possessed who receive the Gentile converts as brethren (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: Romans, p. 456).
The warning is against a class of persons whose mischievous activity he had had experience of elsewhere, and attempts by some of whom to disturb the peace of the Roman Church he may possibly have heard of. They may have been Judaists, or others who taught views contrary to the received faith, and so caused divisions and offences in the church (J. Barmby, The Pulpit Commentary: Romans, p. 456).
What precisely was the mischief, who precisely were the dangerous teachers, spoken of here so abruptly and so urgently by St. Paul? It is easier to ask the question than to answer it. Some expositors have sought a solution in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters, and have found in an extreme school of theoretical `liberty’ these men of `pious’ language and specious pleas. But to us this seems impossible . . . . In our view, the case was one of embryo Gnosticism (Handley C.G. Moule, The Expositor’s Bible: Romans, Vol. V, p. 622).
. . . the most natural way to understand the reference to those who create dissensions and difficulties is as pointing to the Judaizers (John Knox, The lntrepreter’s Bible: Romans, p. 662).
Additional comments from others could be cited but these are sufficient to demonstrate that no one can be certain as to precisely which teaching was being distorted. Therefore, the best explanation appears to me to be one which makes a general application of the passage: whoever causes a division over any teaching not revealed in the scriptures is to be marked and avoided!
Even if the contentions of Ketcherside and Garrett were correct and reference to Rom. 14 is the teaching which Paul had in mind, the case for those who divided the church over instrumental music, benevolent institutions, and the sponsoring church would not be improved. The very best that could be said for the promoters of instrumental music, benevolent institutions and the sponsoring church is that they divided the church over an expediency! We were forced either to conform or to get out! According to 1 Tim. 4:1-3, any person who so binds his opinions is “fallen away from the faith.”
Romans 16:17-18 still stands as a bastion against any false teacher who is willing to divide the body of Christ through the introduction of his unauthorized additions to the work, worship and organization of the church, the works of men such as Ketcherside, Garret, Fudge, and Hardin notwithstanding!
- Does 2 John 9-11 refer to “the doctrine about Christ” or “the doctrine which Christ taught”?
- Study 1 John to see the nature of apostasy opposed by John. Describe it to the class.
- Can this verse be applied to anyone living today? If so, who?
- Cite some other verses with parallel grammatical constructions to “doctrine of Christ” in 2 John 9-11. What does the phrase mean in those passages?
- What necessary conclusion with reference to the pious unimmersed follows if one limits “doctrine of Christ” to “doctrine about Christ”? Is he saved or lost, according to 2 John 9-11?
- Are “gospel” and “doctrine” distinguishable portions of divine revelation?
- Can the fellowship of the saints be broken solely over gospel matters but not over doctrinal matters?
- Look up “doctrine” in a concordance to see what kinds of teaching are called “doctrine.”
- What distinction in meaning exists in “gospel” and “doctrine”? Can both words apply to the some thing?
- Can Rom. 16:17-18 be applied to those who introduce unauthorized items in the work of the church?
Truth Magazine XXIV: 23, pp. 373-377
June 5, 1980