IV. THE TEST OF A SHARP CONTENTION BETWEEN
THE TWO CO-WORKERS, PAUL AND BARNABAS,
CONCERNING TAKING MARK ALONG WITH THEM—
Paul proposed that he and Barnabas return to the places where they had worked and visit the brothers there. Barnabas intended to take Mark with them, but Paul did not consider it suitable (vv. 36-38). In their contending, both of them were frank, honest, and faithful. However, in these past two years I have not seen such frankness, honesty, and faithfulness with those who instigated the present turmoil.
The contention among Paul and Barnabas, with no way to revolve it, resulted in a separation between the two co-workers (vv. 39-40). This separation might not be considered a practical division, but it was surely a strong discord that seriously damaged the genuine oneness of the Body. There is no record that the problem between Paul and Barnabas was ever resolved.
V. THE TEST OF THOSE WHO MAKE DIVISIONS
AND CAUSES OF FALLING CONTRARY TO
THE APOSTLES’ TEACHING, DECEIVING PEOPLE
BY SMOOTH AND FLATTERING SPEECH—
I am comforted that Paul put such an item at the end of Romans, which is a book revealing how we sinners can be regenerated and transformed into mature sons of God that we may be the constituents of the churches. This is surely wonderful. However, even among the churches established by Paul, there were those who made divisions and causes of falling, deceiving people by smooth and flattering speech to draw away the believers to follow after them. Paul told the saints that they had to keep a watchful eye on such persons and turn away from them. Paul did not say that because these persons were pitiful, the saints should show them love and sympathy. Such persons damage the Body and offend Christ, the Head. Thus, Paul did not tell the saints to express their love to them. Rather, he exhorted them to keep a watchful eye on divisive persons of this kind and to turn away from them.
The Lord’s recovery has been in the United States for over a quarter of a century. Such a thing as is described in Romans 16:17-18 has never taken place in the recovery in as serious a way as today. What has been going on among us and is still going on is exactly what is mentioned in Romans 16. Among us there are those who are making divisions and causing people to fall. As the Apostle Paul warned in Acts 20:30, these are perverted persons who speak perverted things to draw people away from the church to be their following. In Acts 20 Paul did not tell the believers to turn away from such persons, but in Romans 16, Paul did say that we should turn away from them.
This turning away is to exercise to quarantine the divisive, sectarian ones in order to protect the saints from being contaminated. The divisive ones are very contagious. Anyone who contacts them will be "infected." This would not be good for them or for others. Thus, today we should carry out what is termed in medicine a quarantine. To quarantine a person does not mean that we do not love him. On the contrary, it means that we love both him and many others. If one member of a family contracts a contagious disease, the whole family may need to quarantine him. This is for the benefit of all the members of the family. To cut people off, to excommunicate people, was the practice of the Brethren. From the beginning of the Lord’s recovery we realized that was wrong. However, to quarantine those who are sick with a contagious spiritual disease certainly is scriptural.
(Elders' Training, Book 10: The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way (2), Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)