Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 14, 1958
NUMBER 15, PAGE 8-9a

Division Why Had -- Unity How Obtained

Billy W. Moore, Nimmons, Arkansas

Much has been said in recent years on the subject of division. Much more will be said, for the Lord's church is suffering division NOW, and faithful men everywhere are encouraging brethren to stand for the truth and seeking to unite God's people on the foundation of God's word. Denominational people have long cried "We can't all understand the Bible alike." But if we understand the Bible we must understand it alike, and if not alike then we do not understand it at all. This men can see in every field but religion. God commands us to "understand what the will of the Lord is." (Eph. 5:17.) To say that we can not understand the truth is to say that God commands us to do that which is impossible for us to do. Would our God do this? Who would dare limit God's power by saying He could not give us a rule (book) that we could understand? But, if God could give a book that we could understand and would not, yet commands us to understand His will, what kind of a God would he be?

That unity is taught in the holy scriptures is recognized by all. Jesus prayed that all believers be ONE. (John 17:21.) Paul condemned those of Corinth for following men (1 Cor. 1:10-15), and taught unity to the Ephesians. (Eph. 4:3-6.) Since we recognize that we should be united the qeustion is raised:

How Can Unity Be Obtained?

There are many things about God and His ways which men cannot understand. Moses declared, "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deut. 29:29.) Therefore, if unity is to be had we must forget about secret things and deal with the "revealed". God has long condemned men who would "add to" or "take from" his word. (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18,19.) Peter commanded that we "speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11), and John said the transgressor of the doctrine of Christ "bath not God." (2 John 9.) Methodists and Baptists cannot unite for one follows their Discipline and the other their Manual, and I cannot unite with either of them. Unity can never be had on the writings of men, but must be within the scope of revelation or inspiration. We will be united only as long as we "walk by the same rule." (Phil. 3:16.)

For as long as I can remember I have heard brethren pleading with the denominational world to unite upon God's word — on inspiration, on revelation. It has long been the cry of faithful men "Speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent". In this way and this way only can we stand united.

Things Upon Which We Agree And The Point Of Division

When we stand on grounds of "revelation" it is easy to agree or unite. Here are some things that every Bible reading and believing person could unite upon:

1. The Lord spoke to Moses out of a burning bush. All believe this. There could be perfect unity upon this point for it is "revealed." (Exodus 3:2.) But should I ask, What kind of a bush was it? and you reply "Hickory" we could not have unity. Someone else might think it was sassafras. We suffer division when we transgress revelation, but can unite as long as we stay within the scope of inspiration.

2. Nicodemus went to Jesus by night. I believe this. You believe this. Why? It is revealed. (John 3:1,2.) But, WHY did he go by night? One says, It was because he was afraid, wasn't it? I don't know. Another says, It was because he worked during the day. I don't know. But one thing I do know, he went to Jesus by night and everyone can unite upon this fact. But the reason for his going by night is not revealed and therefore we cannot unite on the answers of men.

3. Paul had a thorn in the flesh. I suppose all Bible readers believe this. And why? It is revealed. (2 Cor. 12:7.) But what was Paul's thorn in the flesh? Someone says, It was his eyes, they were weak. Others think it was his speech. I don't know. But this I do know, he had a thorn in the flesh, and we can stand united on this for it is revealed. But upon that which is not revealed we can never unite. Isn't it easy for us to have unity on that which is "revealed"? And can't we see that to leave the scope of "revelation" causes division?

4. We are saved by grave. All agree. Apart from God's grace there could be no salvation. (See Eph. 2:8; Tit. 2:11; Rom. 5:8.) But when some teach that salvation comes "wholly by grace" they have transgressed the revealed and with them we could not unite. They have caused division.

5. Salvation comes by faith. I believe this. The Methodist believe it. The Baptist believe it. Why? God's word teaches that we are "justified by faith." (Rom. 5:1.) But when the Methodist teach salvation by "faith only" and the Baptist teach justification "solely by faith" there can be no unity. Why? God's word teaches that salvation is "not by faith only." (James 2:24.) We could unite upon the doctrine of salvation by faith, for this is "revealed". But to go beyond the inspired account and teach salvation by "faith only" brings grounds impossible for unity.

6. Baptism is a command of God. This all believe. We have perfect unity on this point. The reason, this is "revealed." (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:28.) All agree that immersion is baptism. There is not a religious group in all the world that could not unite upon this point. Then why do we have division? Because many have gone beyond "the revealed" to teach baptism is non-essential, and sprinkling for baptism. The moment we leave inspiration we leave unity.

7. Brethren all agree that there should be "elders over every church," for this is God's arrangement (Acts 14:23). We agree too that elders should "feed the flock of God which is among you." (1 Pet. 6:2.) We could stand united from now on upon these principles. But division has come — WHY? Men have left the realm of revelation! Some teach evangelistic authority, while others teach that elders can have oversight over those outside the flock which is among them, and over the monies of several congregations. Brethren, all of us want unity hut we can never have it outside the scope of "the revealed". There was a time when we proudly proclaimed, "We give book, chapter and verse to authorize EVERYTHING that we do". But Brother Harper (and many others) has boldly proclaimed that there is no command, example or necessary inference to authorize the Herald of Truth type cooperation. Brethren now are "talking out of both sides of their mouths". When talking to the denominational world they say, We speak where the Bible speaks. But when being pressed to give authority for some current practice they say, "We do many things without authority". Brethren, we are divided because some have gone beyond the realm of "the revealed".

8. The church is to make known the manifold wisdom of God. There could be perfect unity here, for this is "revealed." (Eph. 3:10.) But when brethren set up the Missionary Society through which to preach the gospel of Christ, they left the scope of inspiration and took their stand upon the grounds of human wisdom where unity is impossible.

9. It is further agreed that the church is to engage in the work of benevolence. Many false charges have been made in an attempt to "muddy the waters" but the truth is that all believe that the church has a responsibility in the realm of benevolence. We stand united in proclaiming that the early church did its work of benevolence — relieving the distressed, caring for its orphans and widows. (Acts 6; Acts 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1,2; 2 Cor. 8,9.) But division has crept in. WHY? Brethren have decided that the church is not its own Benevolence Society, that it cannot do its work of benevolence. They tell us that the church can only supply the money for human organizations and let them do the work for us. These brethren deny the all sufficiency of the church (in action if not in word) and have transgressed the scope of "the revealed", and have taken their stand upon the grounds of human wisdom. This is why we are divided.

Who is causing the trouble, the division, that exists? Is it those who teach salvation by faith, or those who teach salvation by faith only? Is it those who teach immersion for baptism? or those who teach that sprinkling will suffice? Who has divided the body of Christ, those who contend that the elders should have oversight over the flock that is among them, or those who have assumed oversight over other works? Is it those who contend for the sufficiency of the church in preaching the gospel, or those who built the Missionary Society? Is it those who preach the sufficiency of the church in the realm of benevolence, or those who build Benevolence Societies? Surely we can see that those who have transgressed the scope of "revelation" have caused the division. Unity can be obtained only when we leave human ideas behind and return to the realm of "the revealed". May God help us to understand his will, and understanding it to stand for it.