Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 30, 1968

A Successful Unity Meeting

Cecil B. Douthitt

Some of the disciples in the early church believed and taught that God would receive uncircumcised Gentiles under the covenant of grace on the same terms that he received circumcised Jews. Some others taught that Gentiles must be "circumcised after the custom of Moses" to be saved (Acts 15:1). The issue was clear cut and all who were perplexed and troubled over the division that existed among them understood clearly what the issue was. How did the apostles and others meet this issue and undertake to settle this disturbance of peace, unity and fellowship?

They had a "unity meeting" in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and this one unity meeting must serve as a pattern for all time to come for the Bible gives no other example of such. If the Lord did not give it as a pattern, why did he include it in the New Testament?

The apostles, the elders, the whole church, a "multitude" were mentioned as being in that meeting. Evidently, as far as the apostles were concerned, the meeting was ecumenical.

In their discussion of the problem they went straight to the issue. There was "much questioning." Peter, Barnabas and Paul made speeches. Nobody was suppressed. They were not afraid that the presence of a "multitude" or brethren would in any way hinder the noble purpose of the meeting.

Nobody insinuated that any speaker would make a grandstand appeal to the "audience" in order to win a victory for himself instead of a victory for truth.

After speeches had been delivered and every one held his peace, James, one of the most influential men in the church at that time, made a speech in which he presented a passage of Scripture (Amos 9:11,12) that bore directly on the issue (Acts 15:13-18). The truth of God's word was the only basis of unity to which they gave any consideration whatever; nor did they make any preparation or reference for or to any future "unity meeting." If the disciples would not accept the word of the Lord as presented by James in this ecumenical unity meeting, what good could be accomplished by a continuation of them?

Gospel preachers generally know that church history reveals the danger of repeating over and over again and again ecumenical meetings of any kind since the first great apostasy that led to the development of the Roman Hierarchy, on down to the Witty-Murch back-patting unity meetings which turned out to be a farce.

Certainly this does not mean that "lines of communication" should be closed. I Peter 3:15 clearly forbids that. Every Christian on earth is commanded to get ready and stay ready to give answer to every man that asks for a scriptural reason for the things believed, taught or practiced. As long as this commandment is obeyed the lines of communication are open. The person who refuses to do this has made communication impossible with him.

This "unity meeting" of this divine pattern of Acts 15 was successful, and only by following this divine pattern can one be successful today.

I was not in that recent unity meeting at "a Christian camp near Arlington, Texas," but I have great confidence in some who were there, and therefore, I feel sure they tried to follow the divine pattern given in Acts 15, and that the forthcoming book of things said and done in that meeting will answer many questions that have not been answered yet in the reports in the papers. I noticed that Brother James Adams will be one of the distributors of that book and I want him to send to me a copy as soon as it is off the press and I will send payment by return mail.

Perhaps the book will reveal that somebody in that meeting, like the disciples of that divine pattern of Acts 15, went straight to the issues on which we are divided, and plainly asked a scriptural reason for church donations for orphan asylums, the Herald of Truth, secular colleges, recreational camps, cows for Korea, retreats for unwed mothers, and many other things that are causing division. If no one asked for such a "reason," how many unity meetings will be necessary before that is done? If the passages of Scripture for these things were given, maybe the afore promised book will contain those passages.

John said (I John 1:7), "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another." I know of no other way that we can have scriptural fellowship. If brethren are "walking in the light" while advocating church contributions to the projects listed above, to the dividing of churches, then we who are opposing such are walking in darkness and there can be no scriptural fellowship between the two groups, maybe the forthcoming book will explain which group is responsible for this breach of fellowship.

Brother Lemmons said in his report, according to the Gospel Guardian of April 18th, that the place of this unity meeting was "at a Christian camp near Arlington, Texas." I have never known what a Christian camp is. Maybe the book will tell me. According to Tom Warren's logic, if all the component parts of a total situation are scriptural, then the total situation is scriptural. The total situation relative to the place of the unity meeting was a "Christian camp." A camp might have many component parts. A shade tree might be a component part of a camp. Then that shade tree must be a Christian shade tree in order for the camp to be a Christian camp. If a swimming pool is a component part of that camp the pool must be a Christian swimming pool; otherwise the total situation would not be a Christian camp. If a shuffle board is a component part of the camp, then the shuffle board must be a Christian shuffle board; else the total situation would be a bad one.

The language of Ashdod (Neh. 13:23, 24) is hard for me to interpret. But maybe the book which Brother Adams will send to me will make Brother Lemmons' "Christian camp" expression as clear as a bell.

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