Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 15, 1967

Follow After Things Which Make For Peace

Roy E. Cogdill

In preceding articles in this paper we have emphasized some of the obligations that rest upon every Christian toward "keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." These obligations belong mutually to all. They are not unilateral in any sense.

In the further consideration of this duty we call particular attention to one of the exhortations of Rom., chapter 14. This exhortation is the heading of this chapter, "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." This is as much the duty of one member as another. It belongs to all. In discharging this obligation there are certain principles to remember, some of which we have sought to emphasize: 1. If God has spoken, there is no alternative but to stand on His revealed will though it makes an enemy of every man. Truth and righteousness cannot be compromised with error and sin for the sake of peace. When we do so we purchase peace with men at the expense of peace with God and that is too high a price to pay for peace anywhere. First of all we must be determined to be at peace with God and that peace can be enjoyed only on his terms.

2. In all matters which are not pertinent or material to righteousness (concerning which God has not spoken or revealed His will) men are to be at liberty to follow their own convictions or persuasions as long as they do not violate their own conscience or lead a brother to violate his by following their example and teaching.

3. In matters that thus concern the individual and that do not affect the faith and practice of the church, there must be proper consideration extended to others, even that which we claim for ourselves. These are not matters of liberty for just one or a few but for all. Our attitude toward one another in these matters must be one of love, generosity, unselfishness, and genuine regard for the souls of others and for the peace that God wills to exist among brethren. Matters of opinion, judgment, private conviction, conscience, or personal preference cannot be allowed to disturb the peace of God's people and the fellowship of brethren. When discord is sown by error, sin, or selfishness, God despises. They who destroy the temple of God will be destroyed. (Proverbs 6:16-19. I Cor. 3:16-17)

When a man thinks himself to be so wise or righteous as to set all others at nought, he is not filled with the wisdom that is from above. This wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17) In the thirteenth verse of this chapter, James admonishes "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good manner of life his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth." Men who would serve God acceptably must follow such instruction as that given by Paul to the Philippians, "Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." (Phil. 2: 2-4) This same instruction can be found in many other passages. (Eph. 4: 1-2. Romans 12: 13, 9-13)

When any man thinks that he enjoys the prerogative of having his own way and seeing his judgment prevail, no matter in what capacity he may be trying to serve, he is deceived (the worst kind of deception — self-deception) and thinks more highly of himself than any has the right to think. Such a disposition will eventually breed trouble and strife. No one has the right to claim the privilege of teaching his own convictions in such matters without granting to others the same right. No one has the right to expect his judgment to prevail or his preference to be respected while denying the same right to others. In matters of private conviction, conscience, expediency, judgment, where God has not legislated, it is hypocrisy to demand respect for ourselves that we are not willing to grant to others. When we do so it becomes impossible for us to work peacefully and unitedly with others. This is the spirit that demands that others bow down before our judgments and opinions and serve our pleasure without regard to others. Men who insist on exercising their own rights without granting to others the liberty which they claim are trouble makers and cause dissension and strife. Again Paul exhorts, "Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceable with all men." (Rom. 12: 16-18) Unless we follow such instruction it will be impossible for us to work with others or for them to work with us for any length of time, certainly we cannot please God. These are the obligations of all in the local church without regard to the capacity in which they may serve.

One of the most noticeable things about brethren and churches that have gone along with recent innovations such as human societies, brotherhood campaigns and combinations, brotherhood elders, etc., is that they claim the privilege of introducing such things into the work of the local churches on the basis of expediency, liberty, etc., but are not willing to grant to those who are opposed even the right to speak their convictions. Elders of liberal churches refuse to have these problems that are dividing churches even discussed in the churches over which they rule. They are demi-gods and completely unqualified and unfit to try to serve the church of God as elders. When such things are introduced into the work of the church and supported out of the Lord's treasury over the objection and against the conscience of others, they cause a breach of fellowship and destroy the peace and unity of God's people and the judgment of God will destroy those who are responsible. The idea that members of the church must go along with elders whether they are in harmony with the authority of Christ or not is unscriptural and unchristian. Elders are not infallible any more than any of the rest. They pervert their "office" or work in the church of God when they rule by their own wisdom and will without regard for others.

This is also true of teachers and preachers, when they claim the privilege of teaching their own convictions without being willing for others to be given the same privilege. But what if error is taught? Then the elders of the church, or those responsible, should correct the error by the Gospel of Christ.