The Parable of The Tares and The Commandments re Fellowship
Our friend of the “open door” pamphlet divides his effort into two parts:—First, his address or opening remarks on the situation in general, in which he tries, by the aid of capital letters, to put Dr. Thomas into antagonism with a movement which he would certainly have espoused with all his heart; and, second,the so-called “correspondence” with brother Sulley, consisting of one brief note of courtesy from brother Sulley, and two prolonged epistolary elbow-jerks from our friend, in attempted justification of his attitude, from a Scriptural point of view. “Open the door” is the cry. It is a good cry on the face of it, and it is unpleasant to appear so ungracious as to seem opposed to such a good thing.
An “open door” suggests hospitality and kindness; and no man of sense and goodness would desire to be identified with anything else. But there are times when the friends of God have to submit to a wrong appearance in the case. It is one of the hardships of their position in the present evil world, that they have often to act as if they were unsociable, and illiberal and cantankerous, and even conceited. They are hampered by considerations of right and wrong that do not trouble the lovers of pleasure.They have accepted rules of action and a policy of life that are absolutely unintelligible to those who live for the present life merely, in whose eyes they are liable to appear morose and censorious cynics. In the very first century, they wrongly acquired the reputation of being man-haters, because they strove to obey the apostolic injunctions: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world;” “Come out from among them, and be ye separate;” and because the ordinary relations of life did not weigh with them when incompatible with their enthusiastic fealty to Christ and his Father.
Well, there is pure reason at the bottom of their action, however unfavourable that line of action may appear in the light of popular maxims. For this reason they can submit and wait. There is a time to accept the odium of the narrow way, and to appear in men’s eyes far other than the man of God is in his own inner self, and it is such a time when men are shouting for an open door where God has closed it. When a man comes in the name of the truth and consents not to the truth, John says, “Receive him not into your house.” If a man even consents to the truth but disobeys the commandments, Paul enjoins that with such an one we are “no, not to eat.” This is very unpleasant; but there is no alternative if we are to submit to apostolic law which will outlast all law. Our friend of the open door pamphlet says he will not be a party to disunion. In this he is disobedient, if men seeking union are disloyal to the truth, which is the basis of union. Christ commended the brethren in Ephesus for finding out and discarding unfaithful professors: he condemned the brethren in Pergamos and Thyatira because they suffered false teaching and false teachers in their midst( Rev. 2:2 , 14 , 20 ). Had our friend been at Thyatira, and carried out his policy of refusing to be a party to disunion, he would have been on the side condemned by Christ.
He quotes scripture in defence of his policy,but it is with a want of discrimination which we may hope time will correct. He quotes from the parable of the tares: “Let both grow together until the harvest”—both the tares and the wheat. We cannot understand such a quotation unless our friend means to argue that we are not to obey the commandments which direct us—1,to treat a lawless brother after proper warning “as a heathen man” ( Matt. 18:17 ); 2, to avoid those who walk contrary to the apostolic doctrine ( Rom. 16:17 ); 3, to put away from among ourselves a wicked person ( 1 Cor. 5:13 ); 4, not to keep company with any man that is called a brother if he be a fornicator or a railer( 1 Cor. 5:11 ); 5, to withdraw from every brother that walketh disorderly ( 2 Thess. 3:6 ); 6, to have no company with any man who refuses to submit to the apostolic writing as to the commandments of the Lord ( 2 Thess. 3:14 , 1 Cor. 14:37 , 38 ); 7,to withdraw from perverse disputers who consent not to the wholesome words of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness ( 1 Tim. 6:3–5 ); 8, to turn away from men having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof( 2 Tim. 3:5 ); 9, to reject a man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition( Titus 3:10 ); 10, and to receive not any who bring not the doctrine of Christ (2 Jno. 10 ).
It must be evident that there is something wrong in a construction of the parable of the tares that would have the effect of nullifying these reasonable commandments (reasonable because unanimous submission to the faith and practice of the gospel is the very basis of association in Christ). The parable and the commandments are not in collision at all. They refer to two different things. What the commandments refer to is self-evident. It is to the discipline of ecclesial life. What the parable refers to is the seed-sowing operations of the Son of Man in the house of Israel,as shown in Nazareth Revisited, page 138. In this operation it was needful that the tares should not be uprooted till the wheat was grown, otherwise the ripening development of the wheat would have been prevented. The development of the righteous requires that the wicked prosper contemporaneously with them for a time.
But to contend that because the wicked are tolerated in the land of the living while the righteous are being trained, therefore we are not to obey the commands concerning those who become insubordinate to apostolic requirements in the community of the truth, is not to illustrate a “right division of the truth,” but to perpetrate a glaring instance of the reverse.Our friend’s contention would justify all the absurdities we have heard contended for in our time. We have met those who say there ought to be no withdrawal for false doctrine;and we have met those who contend there ought to be no withdrawal for wrong behaviour,because the Lord is judge. If our friend’s use of the words, “Let both grow together until the harvest,” is a legitimate use, then both positions would be right. If so, there ought to be no separations from a professing body on any ground. Why, then,have our friends separated from the sects and denominations? To be consistent with their contention, we should all return to the churches.
The belief of the truth and submission to the commandments is the true basis of apostolic fellowship. On both heads, the sects and denominations are impossible communions for those who are subject to the Scriptures; and in so far as on either head, any body of people become uncertain or lax, they are in the same position. When they question or leave in doubt the authority of the Scriptures as the infallible work of inspiration, they unhinge that which is naturally, the beginning and foundation of all spiritual truth in our age. This is the mischief that has caused the disunion our open-door friend laments. It is not “the method or manner,” but the fact and effect of inspiration that is in question. This has been reiterated times without number; but our friends choose to ignore or evade the issue. Yet its reality is manifest in everything they write.Even this open-door friend cannot quote Paul’s statement on inspiration without quoting it in the non-committal form that commended itself to semi-sceptical Revisers:“Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable, &c.” He says he never came across anyone claiming to be a brother who denied this yet; denied what? That every inspired scripture is profitable. That is not the question. The question is what is inspired scripture? this or that; all or part? Here is where we part—either because the question is answered wrongly, or because an answer is refused, on personal grounds, or because if rightly answered the questioner wants it not to matter as regards communion with those who cannot or will not so answer.
Then our friend objects to the phrases,“infallible” and “wholly-inspired,” on the ground that they are unscriptural expressions, and, therefore, presumably representative of unscriptural ideas; for what else can the remark mean, that “those who hold unscriptural ideas are obliged to go outside the lids of the Bible to get phrases to convey their meaning.” What is this but saying he does not believe the Bible to be wholly-inspired and infallible? If he said so plainly, he would only say what the more candid of them honestly believe. Some in their blindness deny there are such persons as partial inspirationists among the separated brethren. The editor of the Investigator , who is in fellowship with them, knows better, and candidly avowed the other day in conversation with the editor of the Christadelphian that there are partial inspirationists among them, and that the Bible is not loved among them as it ought to be. This we know to be a true testimony.
To talk as our open-door friend does of such an issue as “a squabble about a non-essential point of doctrine” is only to show that he has not estimated the scriptures aright yet,or the bearing of the controversy that has been raised. To stand up for the scriptures against those whose doctrine would undermine them, is not “wasting precious energy on fratricidal strife,” but employing it in the commendable work of“contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.” And this will not be to their dishonour in the day of final adjustment, but otherwise, if sincerely and humbly done. Those who take this course may be accused of causing the divisions. The accusation is only as true as Ahab’s accusation against Elijah that he was the “troubler of Israel.” Ahab was the true troubler, for it was his course that caused the trouble by compelling Elijah to act his part. The responsibility of division rests with those who refuse to avow their faith in the complete inspiration of the Scriptures, or who while affirming it do so with a reservation which prevents them from avowing belief in its infallibility; or who believing and avowing both, hold on by those who deny both.There can be no open doors with faithful men to such ambiguities. The only open door they can have to do with is the open door of the narrow way that leadeth unto life.
Robert Roberts 'The Christadelphian' September 1891 pg.346-347
ADDED NOTE: the "tares" look very much like the "wheat" until the time of
the harvest reveals the difference. Any body which falsely claims to represent the Truth is thus fitly described as "tares" - link to 'satan'.
This includes Catholic, Protestant(of whatever hue),& those Christadelphian
Fellowships which have departed from Biblical beliefs and practices.
The name itself means nothing if the assembly has no scriptural foundation.
It is only by careful examination of their basis of fellowship that we can
hope to identify the "wheat" assemblies with whom we should associate.
Note carefully the scripturally sound comments of Robert Roberts above:
"The belief of the truth and submission to the commandments is the true basis of apostolic fellowship. On both heads, the sects and denominations are impossible communions for those who are subject to the Scriptures; and in so far as on either head, any body of people become uncertain or lax, they are in the same position".
Robert Roberts also comments:"The only open door they ("faithful men") can
have to do with is the open door of the narrow way that leadeth unto life"-
this door evil men have tried to shut—link here to 'foundation'.
we welcome correspondence - our address is