VI. THE APOSTLE’S CHARGE CONCERNING
THE DEALING WITH THE DIVISIVE, SECTARIAN ONES
Now we need to see the apostle’s charge concerning the dealing with the divisive, sectarian ones. There are two strong verses in the New Testament concerning this matter—Romans 16:17 and Titus 3:10.
A. Keeping a Watchful Eye on Those
Who Make Divisions and Causes of Falling
Contrary to the Teaching Which You
Have Learned, and Turning Away from Them
In Romans 16:17 Paul said, "Keep a watchful eye on those who make divisions and causes of falling contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and turn away from them." Some saints may feel that there are certain divisive ones in the church, but that since they are still brothers, we should continue to receive them. But Paul tells us to keep a watchful eye on them, and then he charges us to turn away from them.
Romans is a book that covers the Christian life and the church life. Chapters fourteen through sixteen of Romans are on the practice of the church life. In Romans 14 Paul says that we have to receive all kinds of different, genuine believers, whether they eat vegetables or meat, whether they observe certain days or do not observe certain days. Seventh-day Adventists still observe the Sabbath, and there are some Christians today who will not eat meat. But neither of these teachings and practices are heretical. They are only wrong teachings. In the Old Testament, there is the matter of dispensation. In the old dispensation, God established the Sabbath, which was a type of Christ as the rest for His people (Matt. 11:28-30). The observance of the Sabbath was abolished by the Lord Jesus in His ministry (Matt. 12:1-12). Furthermore, in the Old Testament, a holy diet was established. This diet actually symbolized persons clean or unclean whom God’s holy people should contact or not (Acts 10:11-16, 34-35). This holy diet was annulled by the Spirit in Peter’s ministry (Acts 10:9-20). But we must practice to receive all believers regardless of our doctrinal differences which do not damage our basic Christian faith.
Paul was so generous and broad-minded in Romans 14 and 15 in his teaching of our receiving all genuine believers, saying that we need to receive one another in the principle of love (Rom. 14:13-15). Furthermore, he told us that we need to receive the believers in light of the judgment seat of Christ (vv. 10-12). Paul was so general, saying that we have to accept and receive the believers because God and Christ have received them (14:3; 15:7). We have to deal with them according to Christ, not according to eating, the keeping of days, the practice of baptism, or other doctrinal concepts.
But when he comes to the last chapter, Romans 16, he becomes very strong in his charge concerning how to deal with divisive ones. Romans 16 is a chapter of greetings in love with grace. But after these greetings, Paul tells the saints to keep a watchful eye on those who are making divisions and causes of falling contrary to the teaching which we have learned. Surely we all should love one another, but our love is not without regulation. Love should be practiced in regulation and with discernment (Phil. 1:9). Someone may have been a dear brother for years among us, but all of a sudden, he may now be making divisions. We still love him, but what should we do? What is the priority in our love? In such a matter our love has to be ultimately for the church, the Body of Christ. This is why Paul tells us strongly to keep a watchful eye on those who make divisions and causes of falling. If you contact such ones, you will be poisoned and cooled down in your love for the Lord and for His recovery. You will begin to doubt. We have to look at the result of the work of these factious and sectarian ones. The Lord says that we can know a tree by its fruit (Matt. 7:19-20).
B. Refusing a Factious (Heretical, Sectarian) Man
after a First and Second Admonition
Titus 3:10 says, "A factious [heretical, sectarian] man after a first and second admonition refuse." In order to maintain good order in the church, a factious, divisive person, after a first and second admonition, should be refused, rejected. This is to stop contact with a contagiously divisive person for the church’s profit.
The Lord is burdened to recover the oneness of the Body of Christ, which has been lost among His children. This fellowship should show us that there is no reason for any division in the Body of Christ. The Lord’s recovery is firstly for the purpose of testifying that the Body of Christ should be one. The practice of this oneness has been lost throughout the centuries, but we are a relatively small number of saints who wish to satisfy the Lord’s heart to recover this oneness. We accept all the believers in Christ, but we must turn away from the divisive, sectarian, ones to preserve us and keep us in the oneness of the Body of Christ.
(Messages to the Trainees in Fall 1990, Chapter 17, by Witness Lee)