by Kenneth E. Thomas

     There is an attitude or tolerance for those who continue to teach religious error that is frightening to some of us nowadays. While it is great to be longsuffering with folks while they are studying some issue among us, and while we should not prematurely brand folks with whom we differ as "false teachers," still, the time comes (and judgment must be used here) when we must "take a stand for truth" and "let the chips fall where they may." We must "not think of men above that which is written" (1 Cor. 4:6).

     It is sometimes stated concerning who we brand as a false teacher that "Usually our criteria is only that they don't teach what we teach." I deny that with all the fervor of my being! To my knowledge, I have never used that as the criteria for identifying one in error. I have tried to honestly "try the spirits whether they be of God..."(1 John 4:1). I have honestly attempted to do as did the "noble Bereans" of (Acts 17:11), consider what they preach or write in the light of the Scriptures themselves, for they (the Scriptures) are indeed the "standard of judgment" here and now and come that great day as well (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3; James 1:25; Rom. 2:6-11; Rev. 20:12-15; John 12:48; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).

     The fact that good brethren often differ on various matters is now being used by some to try and push the "unity in diversity," (a totally contradictory idea) position on us. The question was recently asked by one of my dear brethren, "Do we really want everybody to "fall in line" and teach what "the brotherhood" demands?" The next statement was "Someone point out for me 2 folks ...who believe exactly alike on every issue." I believe I can point out more than "two" who agree on every "issue where the faith" is under consideration.

     The fact that brethren often disagree doesn't prove a thing except that "brethren often disagree!" When "brethren disagree," can both parties be right? That's what we must come to grips with, brethren! Whether or not weddings and funerals may be conducted in the meeting house was recently used to try and make the point that we must accept one another while in disagreement on such matters. Brethren, both positions cannot possibly be a proper interpretation of the principles of how to determine Scriptural authority! Both parties may be wrong on this matter, but one thing is clear, they cannot both be right! Either the New Testament authorizes the practice of performing weddings and funerals in the meeting house or they do not! The fact that good brethren disagree doesn't change the need for Biblical authority in everything we believe and practice (Colossians 3:17). It certainly follows that brethren who disagree on the "organization, mission and worship" of local churches of Christ cannot differ and all still be in fellowship with God and their brethren. Again, they could all be incorrect, but truth being consistent, they cannot all be correct. The same must be said of morality. Morality isn't situational, it is absolute. Therefore we simply cannot differ on the New Testament's teaching on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage and all parties involved remain in fellowship with God and thus with each other. Why? Because the Bible has spoken and is clear that it is to be "one man and one woman for life with one exception, giving only the innocent part the right to remarry with Christ's approval" (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:1-9).

     I was not aware of the idea stated above that there was such a thing as "what the brotherhood demands." Since when did we formulate a "Brotherhood creedal position" with which one must align one's self to be considered a fit subject for fellowship? If you are in fellowship with God and I am in fellowship with God, based on walking in the light, we are in fellowship one with another (1 John 1:1-10). Then on the local or congregational level where we band together for collective church work, there will still have to be decisions made concerning with whom we may have "joint participation"of course (See Acts 9:26; 3 John 9-10). To be sure, we may make mistakes and reject one whom the Lord accepts as in the case of (3 John 9-10). But then we may also make a mistake and accept one whom the Lord rejects. Much wisdom is needed to be sure we fellowship only those who are in fellowship with the Lord. May we know who they are? I believe the answer is a resounding, Yes! Paul knew when Peter's teaching and his practice did not agree, and called his actions hypocritical (Galatians 2:11-21). Paul knew (and so may we) who was a "child of the devil and full of all subtility (deceit) and mischief" as he tried to turn the deputy away from "the faith" (Acts 13:8-10). If we can't know where folks stand with the Lord, then we don't know who needs converting nor who needs restoration to "the faith" (1 Thess. 1:1-10; Acts 8:4; Heb. 5:12-14; 2 Tim. 2:2; Gal. 6:1-2; Jas. 5:19-20; 2 Cor. 13:5). Using the criteria of some brethren today, we can't even know who is and who isn't a true teacher and practitioner of the true religion of Christ, because there is a possibility that it may be us who is in error, since we can't be all that sure that we are doctrinally correct or "walking in the light" which is "walking in the truth" (1 John 1:6-7; 2 John 4). Brethren, "if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle" (1 Cor. 14:8)?

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