Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 26, 1970

Questions And Answers

Send All Questions To: Eugene Britnell, P. O. Box 3012, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203

From Little Rock, Arkansas:

"Please comment on I Corinthians 11:19. Is the apostle simply saying that there were heresies in the church at Corinth, or is he saying that there must be heresies in the church; that God wills that it be so? In other words, is he describing a condition, or is he saying that heresies must exist from time to time for the purity of the church?"

As a part of my reply, may I quote a statement from brother David Lipscomb which I have found very meaningful:

"It is a part of the policy of God in governing the world to test those serving him, and to that end he allows evil men to come into their midst.

"The church of God, like the Jewish nation, will continually fall away from steadfastness in the faith. Those who cannot be faithful to God under temptations to disobey him are not worthy of his Kingdom. So God allows evil men to come among his people who would lead away from God and his order, to try and test who among them are faithful and true to him. Paul said to the elders of the Ephesian church: "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them' (Acts 20:28-30). This was permitted to prove and to show who could stand firm and steadfast under temptations to turn away from God.

"God tests them on the point of fidelity to him in faith and doctrine as well as love of the world, lusts of the flesh, and pleasures of life. One who cannot resist these and give them up for the Lord is rejected by him as unworthy to be his disciples; so every one who cannot stand fast for the truth despite the divisions and the popular currents that sweep through the churches to carry them away from their steadfastness is unworthy of Christ. These are God's tests to purify the churches. He desires only true and tried and faithful subjects in his kingdom. Those who cannot stand the test must be purged out. So divisions come to every church to make manifest those who are approved. It is God bringing the churches to judgment in this world, that those who are approved and true may be made manifest. All we have to do is stand true and firm to God and his word and leave the results with him." (Commentary On New Testament Epistles, Vol., II, Pages 170-171).

Brother Lipscomb understood the verse to mean that God used evil men to purify the church, and I agree. No doubt, God has used wicked men and nations to chasten his people and cause them to serve him faithfully. Verse 18 indicates that there was division in the church alright, but the last part of verse 19 shows the purpose of God in allowing such. The apostle shows that the heresies were used to test and try brethren, and to reveal those who were serving out of sincere conviction and devotion.

If the church had no trials, tribulations and problems, it would become filled — at least from the human standard of fellowship - with unconverted people. In fact, that is one of the problems of our time. Brethren have used something other than the gospel by which to gain members, and therefore many congregations are filled with people who have never known the truth nor been converted to Jesus Christ. I know that the Lord adds the saved to the church (Acts 2:47) and that "the Lord knoweth them that are his" (2 Tim. 2:19) but he often tries to show us who they are. In connection with the verse under consideration, read Romans 16:17-20 and Titus 3:8-11.

Within the past twenty years, problems and issues caused division within churches which I have known, and upon learning of it I could determine almost to the man where each member stood. Those who took the wrong position were people who had never known or loved the truth. The problem of heresy, God's "judgment in this world," as brother Lipscomb expressed it, only revealed that which had been true all the time.

While Jesus was upon the earth he tried his disciples. Those who were offended because of his "hard saying" turned back and walked no more with him (John 6:61,62,66). But his cause was just as well off without them, for even though they were among the number and looked just like the true disciples, they were following only for the loaves (John 6:26). And so it is today. Those who cannot "endure sound doctrine" (2 Tim. 4: 3), will be purged by the heresies that come among us.