Issues That Divide Brethren
mong brethren who first began with the intent of restoring
non-denominational New Testament faith there have been a number of issues
that have arisen in the 19th and 20th centuries that have divided brethren.
Though we appeal to the world to find unity in the simple teachings of the New
Testament, such divisions have hindered the cause of Christ and our own
credibility. In some cases these divisions involve brethren imposing what they
believe to be liberties upon brethren find no biblical authority for a
particular practices In so doing the Lord’s body is splintered brethren bring
disgrace upon themselves.
To resolve this error we must understand the issues
that have led brother to stand against brother and ask ourselves how God’s word
authorizes us to conduct ourselves.
Music. One of the first issues that initiated division in the
19th century was the question of whether the Bible authorizes the use of
mechanical instruments in church worship. The New Testament is silent on the
matter. Though it commands singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), there is
no scriptural authorization for instrumental accompaniment. To insist on using
such additions in worship forces brethren to do what the Bible does not
Missionary Society. Another issue that divided brethren in the
last century was the creation of manmade organizations to coordinate the
support of preachers in other places. Under this scheme different churches
supported a society, which in turn supported and sent out preachers. This
scheme surrendered the responsibility of the local church to a separate
man-made organization. In the Bible churches supported and sent out preachers
themselves with no separate institution between the church and the preacher
(Acts 13:1-3; Philippians 4:10-20).
Classes. Some brethren in this country have had concerns about
whether the church is authorized to support and conduct Bible classes for all
ages. Two of the main concerns about this are 1) Does this surrender parental
responsibility? and 2) Should there be women teachers? The Bible makes it
clear that in the assembly women are to be silent (1 Corinthians 14:34) and
that they must not teach over men (1 Timothy 2:12), yet at the same time women
are instructed to be “teachers of good things” (Titus 2:3). Though it
is clear that the primary responsibility for spiritual teaching of children
rests with parents (Ephesians 6:4), the church is authorized to support the
teaching of God’s word in and out of the assembly (1 Corinthians 14:26;
Philippians 4:10-20). While we must not make Bible classes into anything more
than simply Christians teaching one another, the concept of the church
supporting the teaching of God’s word is authorized.
Cup In The Lord’s Supper. Among
some brethren the question of whether it is right to use multiple cups in the
taking of the Lord’s Supper has led to division. While the Bible does refer to
the “cup of blessing” (1 Corinthians 10:16) it is clear from the events
described at the institution of the Lord's supper that before the supper Jesus
gave them the cup and said “Take this and divide it among yourselves” then
after their meal identified the memorial significance of it (Luke 22:17,20).
Many who hold the one cup view believe that the cup itself represents the New
Covenant. The Bible makes it clear that there are two elements in the memorial
(not three) and that it is a covenant of blood which is symbolized (1
Corinthians 10:16; Matthew 26:27-28).
Of Human Organizations. In
the last century a cause of great division among many brethren has been the
question of whether the church is authorized to financially support
organizations that are set up by Christians to perform worthwhile services.
Organizations that were initially at the heart of the controversy were Bible
colleges and orphans homes. Now the question has expanded to church supported
hospitals, student centers, camps, etc. Unfortunately, this often becomes a
very emotional question rather than a simple question of biblical authority. If
spiritual education and benevolence are the responsibility of the church what
right do we have to surrender this responsibility to another organization? On
the other hand, if the activity concerns something that is not an authorized
work of the church we have no right to support it from the church collection.
Social Gospel. In the late 20th century the church also found
itself confronted with issues about it’s role in the social life of its
members. Beyond acts of collective worship which the Bible authorizes, some
brethren have insisted that the church sponsor meals, “get togethers,” and
young people’s entertainment. While it is clear that Christians should be
involved in each others’ lives beyond the assembly (Acts 2:46), the Bible also
warns that we must not confuse the social and the spiritual (1 Corinthians
11:22, 27-34). This distorts the work and purpose of the church.
Sponsoring Church. Much like the missionary society of the 19th century,
this modern innovation in the support of preaching involves churches sending
money to one central church to support project a single church could not do by
itself. We note again that in Scripture church contributions were used to
directly support preachers (Philippians 4:10-20). The only cause for which
support was sent from one church to another was benevolence (Acts 11:27-30).
This was not passed on through the receiving church to another place. It was
for their own relief.
Discipling Movement. Near
the end of the 20th century some brethren began to take a much more aggressive
posture towards evangelism. In the Boston area this involved the adoption
of an unscriptural organizational structure and methods of accountability that
are not taught in Scripture. This movement allowed a single church to oversee
what it referred to as “home churches.” Regions of the country were divided
into districts of oversight. Converts were required to engage in a set amount
of daily Bible study and confess their sins to special sponsors (who were not
required to confess to them in return). While we want to see the church grow,
if we abandon an insistence upon Biblical authority for what we do, we are
nothing more than just another denomination.