Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 4, 1969

Things That Foster

Forrest D. Moyer

Factionalism is the result of improper attitudes and actions. If our actions were right and our attitudes were right, we could eliminate most factionalism in the church. It is our purpose in this study to observe some attitudes and actions that foster factionalism.

Making Opinion Law

There are some things on which the Bible is silent. A person may have a strong opinion concerning a matter. It may well be a reasonable opinion concerning a matter. But it is only an opinion unless God Himself has revealed the matter as law in the New Testament. If one teaches his opinion as if it were law, then you have the breeding ground of factionalism. Many will accept what a preacher says as law. For this reason preachers should be very careful when they stand in the pulpit to make sure that they teach only what the Bible teaches. Opinions are out of place in the pulpit. Someone will nearly always regard what he says as law. Hence, the opinion is not only taught as law but accepted as law by some. However, others will not so regard it. If it is pressed and pushed, a faction can be formed and the brethren thus divided and alienated. Many divisions have come as a result of this. Let us never bind something as law that God did not bind.

To illustrate this point; we all know that some (it seems most now-a-days) of the movies are corrupt and are not fit for Christians (whether men and women or boys and girls) to see. Because of this fact some have taken the position that it is sinful to see ANY movie. This being so, they realize that television also falls in the same category so they say that it is sinful to have a television set in the house. This opinion is pressed in some quarters to the point of fellowship. I will agree that some programs on TV are morally impure and should not be seen. Also there is a great waste of time with television — time that could be used in studying the Bible or in teaching others. Yet this is not an indictment against the movies or TV per se. To make a law on this would be just as sinful as watching the corrupt movies. The same reasoning could be applied to books. Some books are not fit to read. But this does not mean that it is sinful to read, period! This same thought could be applied in many fields. So let us not press opinions to the point of fellowship or division.

The Bible shows that the Christian woman is to adorn herself in modest apparel. She is to show the "hidden man of the heart . . . the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit." (I Pet. 3:4) There are some who go to extremes in painting themselves up to be seen of men. This, we believe, is wrong. However, some brethren have taken the extreme position that it is sinful for a woman to wear ANY make-up at all. They are willing to make a test of fellowship on this. They press their opinion to the point of factionalism. This again illustrates our point.

Brethren, if God reveals a thing as law, then we have no choice but to accept it as such. But if it is opinion, let us leave it there.

Another thing that fosters factionalism is

Making Law Opinion

Many reject the law of God on a given subject by saying, "That is your opinion." Sectarians have often said of baptism, "It is your opinion that baptism is necessary." Or, "It is your opinion that instrumental music should not be used." God has given a law concerning baptism. It is plain enough to be easily understood. Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mk. 16:16) God has given a law of praise that we can understand. That law requires singing — the fruit of our lips (Heb. 13:15; Eph. 5:19). We dare not relegate these into the realm of opinion.

Members of the church sometimes become guilty of this. Regarding church support of human organizations (orphan homes, colleges, hospitals), some have said, "This is in the realm of opinion." But is it? Certainly not! God ordained the organization that He wanted — the local church. He has no more authorized the local church to support human organizations than He has authorized instrumental music. One is as scriptural as the other; they stand or fall together. God's law must be followed. Opinion should be left as such.

Perhaps one of the difficulties involved in this is how to determine the difference in law and opinion. It is simple to express the difference, but it is not always easy to make the application. Law is that which God has revealed for us to keep and do. Opinion is that which man thinks about something not revealed. The application of this would surely help solve many of our problems.

The function of the church is authorized by law. It cannot function where there is no law. But we can never take a revealed law of God and say, "That is just your opinion." This factionalizes the church.

We now observe another thing that fosters factionalism:

An Attitude Of Biting And Devouring One Another

There is a proclivity on the part of mankind to listen to evil reports of other people. Often rumors are started and go abroad in the land that have little or no basis of truth whatever. People hear these rumors and form conclusions from them. Then they will verbally or in print "cut to ribbons" a brother because of the "hearsay." If one is going to try to accuse one of heresay, he ought to know what the brother believes before he begins the task. He should not rely on hearsay as to what one believes. After all, it is easy enough to find out.

Through hearsay and a judgment of one because of the hearsay, factionalism often results. Some believe what they hear without checking and draw the lines of fellowship against others. Hence, factionalism and division are begotten. Too often brethren want to "write up" another brother or church far removed from where they are. The only thing they can go on is hearsay. Often they burst into print without even bothering to inquire at the proper source. A sectional factionalism is developed and brethren in other sections become highly suspicious of those from different sections. This ought not so to be and would not be if we would have the courtesy and common sense to know whereof we speak. If a brother is in error (admitting to a conviction or practice which we believe is erroneous) then teach him. But we can do so without name-calling, vilification and impugning motives.

Connected with this is the attitude of some who feel that all are unsound who vary in their understanding of some matters that affect individuals. The tendency then is to treat that one with whom there is disagreement as a "publican and a heathen." This promotes factionalism.

If each of us who are Christians would follow the law of brotherly love, we could eliminate much factionalism. This does not mean that we would not oppose error. But it does mean that we would learn what one believes before we attack him. Then when we oppose his error, we shall do so in such a way as to bring him back to God if such can possibly be done.

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