"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.III No.XI Pg.3
June 1941

"There Will Be No Such Secession"


The above caption is taken from an editorial in the Firm Foundation by Brother G. H. P. Showalter in reference to the efforts of James D. Murch and other digressive leaders, aided by Claud F. Witty, to "beguile" churches of Christ by their so-called, but mis-named, National Unity Meetings. Brother Showalter's editorial is a strong statement of the right attitude toward the unity question— the Bible attitude. It is characteristic of the writings of Brother Showalter covering more than a third of a century when he takes up his pen to deal decisively with a vital issue.

"The Unity Movement"

In another column (see page 2) the Firm Foundation is giving space to an article offered by Claud F. Witty and James DeF. Murch proposing a consideration of the question: "What Is This Unity Movement?" Brother Witty sent to me the manuscript some weeks past and I am aware that it has not received the prompt attention that its authors might reasonably expect. Brother Witty in a personal letter accompanying the article says, "I know that you have not shown much interest in the movement, but I would like for you to let your readers know what the movement is." To the contrary I am interested. I am, at all times, deeply concerned in any and all practical and Scriptural' effort extended toward the unity of God's people. "Movements" are sometimes dangerous. If one is, religiously, in the right place the less "movement" the better. If he wiggles about he is in danger of getting off the position that God desires and requires, and which alone is acceptable to him.

It is, of course, accepted without argument that God's people should be united. No one will deny that. But it is quite a different thing to say that anything unscriptural should be tolerated in order to unity. Any unity consummated at the expense of a recognition of and acceptance of either the teaching or practice of things not authorized in the New Testament is clearly a unity not of the kind for which the Lord prayed. To believe on Christ clearly cannot mean an acceptance of a part that he requires, and a rejection of the rest. It seems not to have occurred to some who are enthusiastic for "unity" that the really safe road to unity is the elimination of a lot of things that God has not required at our hands. Unscriptural teaching and practice connected with or introduced into the churches is responsible for the divisions that have separated and in many instances alienated a once united and happy people. To say that we can be united as long as these departures from God go uncorrected is to say that convictions must be stifled and compromised, and God's word disregarded if only it may result in unity. The best way to bring about the unity that God desires and that our Savior requires is to set about to eradicate from the churches and from the practice of professed Christians all of those things that are without divine authority and that are hence sinful in the sight of God.

The Pauline teaching on unity was addressed to the local congregation. He nowhere talks of a unity that would bring about an ecclesiasticism. He does not call for that type of consolidation that would merge the different local churches into some sort of an organized brotherhood. The rebukes of Paul in chapter one of the First Corinthian letter had to do with individual and personal notions and opinions and not with the sound doctrine of Christ. The teaching of Paul and Apollos and Cephas and Christ was one and the same thing. And the church of Christ at Corinth was not divided on matters of doctrine. It was a matter of choice of preachers who were all sound in the faith. But the whole situation would have been different entirely had it been a dispute arising from following after false teachers who are introducing heresies. Paul would never have advised the brethren at Corinth to disregard such cause of division. He did not fail to approach problems of this order and to declare himself in no uncertain terms. "False teachers" have always been the bane of the church. They have always— from the earliest history of the church— brought about division for the simple reason that truth has no part with error, Christ has no part with Belial, nor he that believeth with an infidel. Paul may be quoted: "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what communion hath light with darkness? Or what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? For we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God and they shall be my people. Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be yet separate, saith the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be to you a Father, and ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1). To be acceptable to God we must rid ourselves of (a) defilements of the flesh all fleshly lusts that war against the soul— all sins of the body that pollute, corrupt, and destroy, and (b) of all defilements of the spirit, that is all false doctrine. Paul teaches that we should cleanse ourselves of all teaching and practice that is after the doctrines and commandments of men and not after Christ.

The church to be united must be purified. The cleansed, purified part of it is united already in Christ. They are calling for peace. But purity must precede peace. The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable (Jas. 3:17). Purity first, then peace. We ought to be anxious for peace, but not so anxious for it that we would compromise the truth or unite with those who do. In the days of Jeremiah the prophet the ancient people of God had rejected him and his word so that of them it is said, "from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest very one dealeth falsely." And just there it turned out that there were appeasers who were wanting peace. Of them the Lord said: "They have healed also the hurt of my people slightly, saying Peace, peace, when there is no peace" (Jer. 6:13, 14; 8:10, 11). There are times when God wants war, not peace— opposition, not submission—separation, not unity. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, and nothing unauthorized in the New Testament can be, to us, a matter of faith.

The Christian church people are not themselves united. In fact they are hopelessly divided. And with what particular section, branch, schism or faction do they want us to unite? Dozens of their churches now practice the so-called "open membership" doctrine. They accept into their full-fellowship people who have never been immersed. Into their membership are enrolled persons who come from the various sectarian religious bodies who practice sprinkling and pouring, and "are satisfied with it," and have never been baptized— just been sprinkled or had water poured on them. I wonder if Brother Witty expects his cloak of unity to be big enough to encompass them. I believe Brother Murch himself does not endorse such practice. If he does he will correct me. And if he does, Brother Witty is certainly tying himself up with a most shameful corruption of the sound doctrine of Christ. And does he expect the churches of Christ who are earnest contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, to be beguiled into a realm of religious practice that operates without the support of faith? There will be no such secession among the loyal churches of Christ— of that I am certain— and all the unity meetings and love feasts of misguided brethren will fail.

Paul said, "We have the mind of Christ "(1 Cor. 2:16). Also, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ" (Phil 2:5). This shows that when Paul says, "Be of the same mind in the Lord" (Phil. 4:2, et al), this can be effected only by all having the mind of Christ, and this is the possible basis for unity. If we are going to be united, and all be of one mind and one heart, it can be effected only by all having the mind of Christ and this can be, only when we accept what he says and do as he requires. Unity must have a foundation on which to rest, and this, to believers, is, and necessarily must be, the word of God.— G. H. P. Showalter, in Firm Foundation.

The above words of Brother Showalter will carry weight. We recommend that Brother Witty read them to his next Unity Meeting. For instance this passage: "There are times when God wants war, not peace-opposition, not submission-separation-not unity." Then another passage: "Brother Witty is certainly tying himself up with a most shameful corruption of the sound doctrine of Christ." And yet another passage: "There will be no such secession among the loyal churches of Christand all the love feasts of misguided brethren will fail."

That editorial will do great good and we put in our bid for more of the same order.-F. E. W.