Dividing the Word and Dividing the Brethren

by Pastor J. C. O'Hair

For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.

Print This Article

All believers who are in Christ are members of the one true Bible Church, called “the Body of Christ”. In Christ there is neither Gentile nor Jew. But “sectarianism” bears witness to the fact that in Christ there are Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Plymouth Brethren, Nazarenes, Pentecostalists and hundreds of other “ites” and “ists”. This sectarianism, which is so much to be deplored here below, will not exist when the Head calls the Body to appear with Him in glory. In the mind and purpose of God there is no denominationalism in the Body of Christ. There is only one God, the Father. To this all true Christians are agreed. If they bow to the authority of the Word of God, they are also agreed that there is one Body, and one faith; and one baptism; and one Spirit. And they are agreed, because of the plain Statements in the Bible, that salvation is by grace and through faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Is there not some way by which all brethren in the Body of Christ can reach unanimous agreement as to just what that one faith is, just what that one baptism is, and just how to receive that one Spirit? And were it possible to agree on this unity, would we then have settled that very perplexing question; “when did the Body of Christ begin historically and just what part of the kingdom program of Jesus of Nazareth and just how many of the signs, religious ceremonies, supernatural visitations, visions and gifts of the apostolic church, during the Book of Acts period, should be incorporated in our church creeds today?” My, how many problems we have!

We know that we should obey II Timothy 2:15 and rightly divide the Word of truth. But judging from the present-day unpleasant controversies and ungracious and uncharitable treatment of fellow-saints among Fundamentalists today, all of whom claim to divide the Word of truth, the question is, who is doing it “rightly”? Rightly dividing the Word of truth seems to be a “major operation”. Whether it is “rightly” dividing the Word or “wrongly” dividing the Word, something has divided the saints of God into many different religious camps. Paul might well ask again, “is Christ divided?” Surely Father, Son and Holy Spirit are grieved with this schism in the Body; but, knowing the Adversary and the weaknesses of man, they are not surprised.

Some brethren suggest that the very best way to deal with our doctrinal differences is to forget them, agree on a few points and labor together in unity. This doesn’t even sound well, as a theory, to a faithful saint of God who desires to be a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. But even an earnest attempt to adopt and practice such a plan will result in failure.

How can a zealous, religious Churchmember, who believes in the sign gifts for the Church, the imposition of hands for the power of the Holy Spirit, speaking with tongues, visions and tarrying meetings, compromise with his fellow Church-member who so divides the Word of truth as to eliminate all of these from the program of the Lord’s Body today? Then, how about a halfway position for the sake of harmony; select a part and let the rest go? That creates the problem of an expert selector and unanimous consent as to the ceremonies and gifts selected and those rejected.

If it can be proved that the Body of Christ began on the day of Pentecost, that Paul continued with the ministry begun by Peter and the Eleven, and that on the day of Pentecost and during Acts our heavenly Father established for the Body of Christ the ideal order and spiritual program to be carried right through this age until the return of Christ, then no true and faithful saint of God should surrender any part of that program or compromise with any fellow-saint for the sake of unity. If this is God’s program for the Body of Christ, then contending for the faith means contending for the “Acts” church program.

Surely, as God’s redeemed children, we want to do that which pleases Him and as members of the Body of Christ we shall do our utmost to obey our risen Head. Surely God’s will for us is in the Bible, scattered all through the Book. We must believe that there is a definite, Scriptural method of interpretation and application as well as a Godgiven plan of appropriation.

We are instructed in Philippians 1:10 to test the things that differ. We do want to be careful not to imagine things differ when they do not differ. But this should not keep us from faithfully obeying this command.

If representatives of every denomination of Fundamentalists should be called into conference, they would unanimously agree that there can be no intelligent Bible study, if the principle of “testing the things that differ” or “rightly dividing the Word of truth”, is ignored. Yes, the conference would break up in disagreement, because of some honest differences, but principally because of denominational creeds, personal preferences, opinions and experiences, and preconceived ideas and prejudices rather than through an honest, prayerful, spiritual thorough searching of the Scriptures.

Surely it is without Divine authority or permission that different sects of the One Body adopt and practice different creeds and, different religious programs. If it is Scripturally proper, according to rightly dividing the Word of truth, for one assembly, made up of members of the Body of Christ, to anoint with oil, to have tarrying-meetings for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, to teach that speaking with tongues is the Divine evidence of that baptism, to proclaim baptism unto repentance for the remission of sins, to pray the “Our Father” prayer, to cast out demons, to preach the gospel of the kingdom, to teach the eradication of the old man by the second blessing, to proclaim for Gentile sinners today Peter’s Pentecost message, to exercise the sign gifts of I Corinthians 12:8 to 11, most assuredly it is the Scriptural duty of every such assembly to carry on the identical program. This is one way of having unity, whether or not the unity would be the unity of Ephesians 4:3 to 7.

It is obvious that so long as some assemblies, made up of the members of Christ’s Body, teach that it is Scriptural to sprinkle with water little children, as the seal of the covenant, while other assemblies of saints declare that water baptism should be by immersion for the remission of sins, and still others say “no, not for the remission of sins, but after salvation as a witness to the world”, and still others say, “no, simply as an act of obedience and as a door of entrance into the local church”, and still others say, “you are all wrong; it is a burial ceremony to indicate that you have died with Christ”, and others and others express their varying views, divisions, controversies, even strife and contention must continue. God intended that agreement concerning “baptism” should be the basis for Divine unity among members of the One Body. No unity except on the basis of “one baptism”. Ephesians 4:5. It must be certain that the Holy Spirit was not speaking of water.

In Philippians 3:17 we find these words of instruction, the Holy Spirit speaking to us by our apostle Paul

“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”

In the verses immediately preceding this verse you will observe that Paul had changed his former religious program; in fact, he had had two programs before the close of the “Acts” period, one his program as a Pharisaical Jew under the law, and then his two-fold program during the “Acts” period before God’s judgment was pronounced upon Israel in Acts 28:25 to 28; I Corinthians 9:20 to 22.

About one dozen times Paul emphasizes the fact that he is the Christ-appointed messenger, apostle, teacher and preacher of the Gentiles. In his Epistles, written after Acts 28:25 to 28, he emphasizes the fact that he is the custodian of the mystery, the one apostle responsible to Gentile believers for the truth and gospel and spiritual program for members of the Body of Christ. We are members of that Body, if saved. Our hope and calling, our position and possession in Christ, are set forth in those writings, which we call the Prison Epistles of Paul. It does seem that God’s will for us, and our safe, sane, intelligent, Scriptural method of appropriation and application of Divine truth, rightly divided, is to thoroughly study the Epistles to the Romans, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, to Titus, and to Timothy, and adopt those messages, altogether unmixed with religion, for our faith and practice, for our spiritual guidance; and then in the light of these messages from the Holy Spirit concerning the Church, which is Christ’s Body, appropriate and apply the truth of the Four Gospels, the truth and church program of the “Acts” period and all other Scriptures in the Bible, never forgetting God’s division, even during the “Acts” period, the Jews, the Gentiles, the Church of God.” I Corinthians 10:32. Surely there is a Scriptural answer to the question, is Matthew 10:5 to 8 or Mark 16:14 to 18 or Acts 2:38 or Acts 8:5 to 16 or Acts 19:1 to 10, or James 5:14 for members of Christ’s Body in this age?

For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.