'Contending for the Faith'
'My Days and My Ways', by Robert Roberts
I was told that I ought not to judge, as Christ had forbidden it.
My answer was that while we are not to judge in the sense for-
bidden by Christ (i.e. deciding in advance who are and who are
not worthy of eternal life), there is a sense in which we are to
judge, as Christ indeed expressly enjoins in saying, "Why do ye
not of your own selves judge that which is right", and "beware
of false prophets,ye shall know them by their fruits". I contend-
ed that we were called upon on our own behalf to decide where
fellowship should be given and where it should be withheld.
If this is not a true principle,whence arises the true distinction
between the ecclesia and the world? We come out of the world;
we separate from the Apostacy; we withdraw from the fellow-
ship of both, and would one and all refuse to resume that fell-
owship by admitting parties belonging to either class into the
ecclesia, and we would even, without dispute, refuse to counten-
ance a disobedient brother.
Paul says to the Corinthians (I Epistle v. 11), 'I have written unto you not
to keep company if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or co-
vetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with
such an one no not to eat'. Again, to the Thessalonians, he says (2 Epistle
iii. 14), 'if anyone obey not our word by this epistle, have no company with
him that he may be ashamed'. Again, verse 6, same chapter, withdraw
yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the
traditions he received of us'. Again (I Tim. vi. 3), 'if any man teach other-
wise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord
Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is
proud, knowing nothing. . . . from such withdraw thyself '. Here are plain
Apostolic injunctions which cannot be carried out without forming a
judgment on the matters involved. For how shall we know when to with-
draw from another, unless we concluded that a state of things justifying
it exists? And how can we come to this conclusion without observing and
considering the matters related to it. The mental act is the very basis of
the withdrawal enjoined…………
John had said (2 Ep. 10, 11), 'If there come any unto you and bring not
this doctrine, (that is, the truth concerning Christ's manifestation in the
flesh), receive him not into your house neither bid him Godspeed: for he
that biddeth him Godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds'. Paul indicates
the same duty in several places. He speaks of certain 'false brethren
brought in'. He says, 'to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an
hour'. Judaistical believers taught the necessity for being circumcised
and observing the law. He says of them, 'A little leaven leaveneth the
whole lump. I would they were even cut off that trouble you' (Gal. vi. 9-12).
There is nothing more conspicuous in Paul's letters to Timothy, than his
jealousy of those in the ecclesia, and his opposition to those whose influ-
ence was detrimental to the truth. He says, 'hold fast the form of sound
words which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Je-
sus. . . .The things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the
same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. .
. .Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not
to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and
vain babblings, for they will increase unto more ungodliness, and their
word will eat as doth a canker. . . .evil men and seducers shall wax worse
and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But continue thou in the things
which thou hast learned. . . .Preach the word; be instant in season, out of
season; reprove, rebuke with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time
will come when they will not endure sound doctrine: but after their own
lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they
shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables'
(2 Tim. i. 13; ii. 2, 15-17; iii. 13, 14; iv. 2-4).
The same anxiety about preserving the truth in its purity from the corr-
upting influence of its loose professors is manifest in his letters to Titus.
Defining the qualifications of an elder, he says he must be a man 'holding
fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by
sound doctrine to exhort and convince the gainsayers. For there are many
unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision,
whose mouths must be stopped. . . a man that is a heretic after the first
and second admonition reject' (Titus i. 9, 11 : iii. 10). To the same purpose
are the words of Jude, 'It was needful for me to write to you that ye
should contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the
saints: for there are certain men crept in unawares', etc. (verses 3, 4).
The Aberdeen brethren and the Dowieites themselves had shown their app-
rehension of these apostolic precepts by separating from the sects and deno-
minations of the orthodox world.
It was said that the Dowieites had a great part of the truth:
this is not enough. There is no authority for making one part of the truth
less important than another. A reception of the truth on one point will
not condone its rejection on another. Can we suppose that the Judaizers
had no part of the truth? Did the Gnostics who denied that Christ had
come in the flesh, reject the kingdom of God? Did not the unbelieving
Jew hold the truth in great part? Yet Paul counseled withdrawal from
them all. Nothing short of fidelity to the whole truth can be accepted as a
safe policy. 'The things concerning the kingdom of God', and 'those
things that concern our Lord Jesus Christ', in their scriptural amplitude
must be the measure and standard of fellowship. Those who go for less
than this must be left to themselves; in this they are not judged, they are
only subjected to the action of another man's conception of duty, and are
left at perfect liberty to organize themselves on whatever they may con-
ceive to be a scriptural basis.
By what means shall a community, based on the truth, pre-
serve the truth in purity in its midst? Obviously by the means
indicated by Paul and John, that is, by exacting of all who are
in it an implicit adherence to the things, facts, principles,
points, tenets, or whatever else they may be called, which go to
make up the truth in its entirety and by refusing to associate
with those who oppose or refuse to endorse any of its elements.
Some recommend in opposition to this the employment of argument with
those who may be in error. As a preliminary process, common wisdom
and humanity would dictate this course; but if an ecclesia is to go no fur-
ther than argument, how could its existence continue? An effort would
doubtless be put forth to reclaim those who are in error; but, where
those efforts fail, dissociation by withdrawal is natural and inevitable.
The ecclesia is not a place for argument; it is for worship in
agreement. When a man requires to be argued with, his na-
tural place is outside, and if he will not go outside, separa-
tion must be enforced by withdrawal on the part of the rest.
Division is the inevitable concomitant of an uncompromising
adherence to the truth. Peace purchased at the cost of com-
promise is doubly dangerous.
The truth is the standard and must alone be allowed to rule.
All doubt ought to be solved in its favour. This is the principle
of action to which study will ultimately lead.
The action of separation is not an act of judgment against those from
whom we may separate. It is an act of self-vindication, an act by which
we discharge a duty and wash our hands of evil. The truth has gradually
emerged from the fables in which for centuries it had been lost, and only
an inexorable policy on the part of those receiving it will pre-
serve it from a recurrence of the disaster which drove it from
among men shortly after the days of the Apostles.
The above article was re-printed & fully endorsed in
'The Christadelphian', July 1945 - link to
'Words from Sounder Days' for more details.
This site has been created for the promotion of 2 objectives-
SOUND DOCTRINE AND SOUND FELLOWSHIP