Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 12, 1963
NUMBER 32, PAGE 1,12-13

Things That Make For Peace - (No. 2)

E. L. Flannery

Peace In Family Affairs

God is interested in family affairs. He instituted the family, and has expressed His will in various matters pertaining to this wonderful relationship. The Christian will want to learn all that God has expressed on this affair.

Peaceful relations in this matter again depend upon the concord of man's will and God's will to make the home what God would have it to be. God wants one husband and one wife being faithful to death to each other; each fulfilling his or her responsibilities of this relationship; bearing and rearing children in the fear and "admonition of the Lord." (Eph. 5:22-6:4) The Devil teaches polygamy, adultery, no headship in the home, but that both are "equal partners"; desertion of duties; harshness; divorce for many (almost any) reason. Of course the individual cannot follow God and Satan both in his family affairs.

But there is an area where God has not expressed Himself. How old should one be to marry? How much money in the bank? Should a man small in stature marry a tall woman? Should a poor man marry a young woman raised in wealth? God has not said. Now, some have "strong opinions" about some of these matters, but God didn't express His will concerning them. They are matters of indifference.

We realize there may be certain things wherein one brother believes God has designated His will while another brother differs with him about it. For example, has God limited the marriage of a Christian to a Christian? (We are speaking of a limitation, not of what might be the best or most expedient.) Is marriage a spiritual relationship or a physical relationship? If marriage is a spiritual relationship then explain how all spiritual blessings are in Christ? Will there be marriage in heaven? Then marriage must be an earthly relationship, not a "kingdom" relationship. (We realize the relationships in life may affect our spiritual life in Christ. I Peter 3:1-7) Is the mother-daughter relationship physical or spiritual? (Do not confuse spiritual with emotional.) Does the daughter, in relieving her widowed mother, provide physical or spiritual relief? (Again, do not confuse spiritual with emotional.) Is the daughter's good work in this case spiritual work (pertaining to the spirit) or physical (pertaining to physical need)?

When the church provides relief for the "widow indeed" is this relief physical in nature or spiritual? Is this a "spiritual work" on the part of the church or is it a work pertaining to physical relief of a widow indeed? If a physical work, belonging under family affairs, why is the church, which was instituted to deal in the spiritual realm, engaging in this realm, physical relief? We believe the benevolent work of the church does deal with physical needs, that it is secondary to the basic mission of saving souls — "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4) — and that it is to be done only because of an existing spiritual relationship, to help "poor saints," Christian "widows indeed."

Does God permit divorce and remarriage for any cause? We say Ifor the one cause, fornication, God permits the putting away of the fornicator, then marrying another. Evidently the reason this one can "marry another" is because he is no longer married; he is without a wife. (Matt. 19:9) Then, can the one who committed fornication repent of that sin, and marry another? She is not married now. Will God forgive fornication? Restitution? What restitution can this party make for the sins against her first husband who put her away and is now married to another? Is celibacy "restitution"? Did God forgive the fornicator in the church at Corinth when he ceased having "his father's wife"? (1 Cor. 5:1-5; 2 Cor. 2) Is there anything in the Scriptures to indicate that his repentance demanded henceforth a life of celibacy? Suppose before one ever heard the gospel he had been guilty of fornication, stealing, drunkenness, etc., what would constitute repentance? Certainly a change of mind, heart, will and action. But would the fornicator, the adulterer (the guilty party in adulterating a marriage) have to remain unmarried through life as a condition for pardon of his sins? "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Emphasis mine, E.L.F.) God forgave these sinners. Did He demand celibacy? Where is the Scripture?

A single man and a single woman commit fornication and a child is conceived. Of course they violated God's will. But what must they do now to make things right with God? Be celibate the rest of their lives? Would not God's will demand that they face the responsibilities of their action, that they marry and provide a home for the child they have begotten, even though begotten illegitimately? What greater fruits of repentance could be manifest than turning from irresponsible action to responsible action; from illicit relations to relations that are honorable and undefiled? (Heb. 13:4)

Stealing is sin, for it is taking that which is not rightfully ours. A thief steals food to satisfy his hunger. This is wrong. "Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good...." (Eph 4:28) Satisfying his hunger was not the sin of the thief, but stealing the food — it was not his. Sexual relations are not sinful, for they serve the purposes God had in mind they serve, but illicit sexual relations are sinful, for one only has the right to sexual privilege within the marriage bonds. The food thief, to be forgiven, is not required to fast the remaining days of his life, but to go to work and buy his own food, which he can eat with clear conscience. The adulterer (a sexual thief) to be forgiven is not required to "fast" sexually the rest of his life, but to turn away from illicit relations, marry with the determination to be faithful in the marriage relationship. "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband...." (1 Cor. 7:2) Remember, this advice was given to some who had been fornicators — "Such were some of you...." .1 Cor. 6:11)

We know there are many "unsettled" matters pertaining to this realm, family affairs. The point we are trying to stress is that each should seek to find out what God's will is and join his will with God's. But every matter is not as simple as black and white. There will be areas in private action that we are not agreed upon; proper recreation, modest dress, the head covering, military participation, etc. Let's not fragmentize the church over opinions in this realm concerning individual action that does not bring reproach upon the church; that does not have an expressed answer set forth in the Scriptures (Personally, I do not use tobacco, and would violate my conscience in doing so. I feel it would hurt my influence, my health and my finances. This all seems very clear to me. But I do not make this a test of fellowship for it involves individual action; the world does not view the practice as a reproach; and the practice does not endanger the lives of others. I do speak my convictions on the subject, however.)

Peace In Business Affairs

God has ordained the business affairs of life, the work world. Having instituted work, He expressed His will in certain matters. Man's will should be in concord with God's will as concerns business affairs. God wants the employee to give an honest day's work and He wants the employer to give the worker an honest day's pay. He demands the employer he kind to his servants and that the servants be loyal to their masters. (Eph. 6:5-9)

The Devil would have you believe you should featherbed, steal time and property from the employer, be disloyal. He leads the employer to think it is right for him to grow wealthy from the labor of his servants, while paying them starvation wages and overworking them.

But there is a realm where God has not expressed His will. What kind of work should a man do of the many honorable occupations? He may use his own judgment. Where should he work? It's a matter of indifference. Each must decide for himself. Should he join the union? Should he oppose the union? What is God's will as to this? Are you sure you can determine His will in this matter?

Peace In Civil Affairs

Sometimes we hear it said that there are two divine institutions: the home and the church. If by "divine" one means God-ordained then God ordained more than those two, for he also ordained civil government (Rom. 13:1), the business world (work) (Gen. 1:28; 3:17-19). (Actually the church is the only spiritual institution God ordained.)

God has stated that we are to be subject to the civil authorities because "the powers that be are ordained of God." (Rom. 13:1) We are to pay our taxes, respect them, fear them, pray for them.

Satan wills that we do the opposite: disobey, dishonor, defy, default on taxes.

In civil affairs many things are matters of judgment on the part of the individual. Shall he vote? Shall he accept civil positions? Teacher? Postman? Sheriff? Shall he be conservative or liberal in his political views? What form of government should he desire — monarchy or republic? Democracy or dictatorship? Should he become a citizen or remain a resident if in a foreign land? Is his government better than others in the world? While an individual will make his personal decisions in these matters, he should not disturb the church of the Lord over these matters of indifference.

Peace In Social Affairs

It is God's will that we love our neighbor; that we do him good; teach him; fulfill his rightful desires.

It is Satan's will that we hate our neighbor; treat him badly; ignore him; frustrate him in every way we can.

In dealing with our neighbor there is a wide area where God has not specified His will. Here we must use our own judgment. Shall we fence our yard from his? This could depend on many considerations. When should I mow my lawn? It could depend on what work shift my neighbor is working. (I had a neighbor who preferred 4:30 a.m. for this task. He may not have displeased God, but he surely irked me!) Certainly we should respect noise-abatement laws, zoning regulations, not only for the sake of the law, but out of respect for our neighbor's desires and hoping to retain his goodwill.

When Peace Is Broken

Peace between men can be broken in two ways: (1) accidentally and unintentionally where one thinks he is doing God's will and his brother's good. Such was the case between Barnabas and Paul in their difference of opinion as to whether John Mark should accompany them on the second evangelistic tour. (Acts 15:36-41) God did not reveal His will in the matter. Each man was sincere in his judgment, but the "contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other." (Acts 15:39) Who was right? Who was wrong? Did either sin in this action? Were not they both fine, Christian men, each seeking to do God's will and one another's good?

This case illustrates that peace demands a union of wills but not a union of opinions in matters of judgment, matters of indifference. Both Barnabas and Paul had peace with God and thus with each other, but differed in this matter of indifference. But smaller men than these two, when differing in opinions (in the realm where God has not revealed His will) may permit contention and bitterness to arise, creating an unhealthy climate for spiritual growth. An opinionated brother seeking to have his way in matters of judgment may appeal that his conscience is being offended (1 Cor. 8:1-13); that we should give way to the brother weak in faith. (Rom, 14:1-21) Neither case is discussing the work of the church, but rather private, personal liberties in things innocent. Some claim their "convictions" are being violated in matters purely incidental — how large shall we build, shall we use new furniture in the building, provide a baptistry?

(2) Peace can be broken between brethren by directly and intentionally departing from God's will and his brother's good.

Peace Between Congregations

Each congregation should seek to maintain peaceful relationship with other congregations. This can be done when each follows the will of God, for peace comes and continues when we unite our wills with His will. There are several things that will make for peace between congregations:

1. Each congregation must accept and faithfully follow God's will, bowing to His revealed word, accepting His authority over us.

2. Each congregation must respect the equality and autonomy of all other congregations of the Lord's people. This must not be simply a lip-service, but an actual practice.

3. Each congregation must maintain a spirit of forbearance towards other congregations in the realm of judgments, expediencies, methods selected to do their work. Criticism should be withheld unless there is a real departure from scriptural authority and that departure is having a leavening influence on the other congregation. There has been far too much criticism in matters wherein God has not revealed His will — in matters of indifference.

4. Each congregation should maintain a goodwill toward sister congregations, wishing them well in all faithful endeavors.

5. Each congregation should be careful to avoid doing or saying that which may cause discord and break the peace that is in God's will. Meddling in one another's affairs will do it; false teaching and false practices (unauthorized teaching and practices) will do it; being hypercritical will do it, This conflict will soon produce sharp contention which will either reunite upon truth or will eventually lead to open division. It is honorable to contend for truth (Jude 3), but is heresy to contend for error. (Gal. 5:20; 1 Cor. 11:18-19; Rom. 16:17-18)

In Defining Heresy John Locke Wrote:

....Heresy is a separation made in ecclesiastical communion between men of the same religion for some opinions no way contained in the rule itself; and secondly, amongst those who acknowledge nothing but Holy Scriptures to be their rule of faith, heresy is a separation made in their Christian communion for opinions not contained in the express words of Scripture...." (Locke noted the separation may be by exclusion by the majority or withdrawal by the minority. E.L.F.)

Thomas Aquinas said of heresy:

"....The proximate end of heresy is adherence to one's own false opinion, and from this it derives its species, while its remote end reveals its cause, namely, that it arises from pride or covetousness....Just as heresy is so called from its being a choosing, so does sect derive its name from its being a cutting off (secando)...."

Augustine cautioned, "By no means should we accuse of heresy those who, however false and perverse their opinion may be, defend it without obstinate fervor, and seek truth with careful anxiety, ready to amend their opinion, when they have found the truth...."

Apollos was such a man. He was teaching error, but he was himself teachable, and loved the truth. He was willing to amend his teaching when shown it was in error. Such a fine spirit is commendable.

In conclusion, since God has commanded us to follow after things that make for peace, we should busy ourselves with that assignment. We hope this presentation has been helpful in understanding just what is meant by PEACE, how peace can be obtained, and how peace can be maintained.

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