Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Correct Division

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on January 4, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Like most of God’s people, I have often been dismayed at the divisions within the Church of Christ.  This statement by pastor Mark Dever is very helpful:

“Denominations, as they are known today, arose largely in the seventeenth century, though their roots are earlier.  Protestants did not look upon dividing the visible church lightly, but the Protestant principles of Scripture’s clarity and authority gave them warrant, or even required them, to divide from false teaching.  As Calvin said, “We acknowledge no unity except in Christ; no charity of which he is not the bond; and … therefore, the chief point in preserving charity is to maintain Faith sacred and entire.”  This meant that the Reformers recognized that the cost of unity at the price of truth was a bad bargain.  Correct division should be preferred over corrupt unity.  For these reasons various groups on the European continent struggled free from the control of established churches and began pursuing their own understanding of faithfulness to Scripture.”

Reformed Baptists put a premium on the Truth of Scripture, and therefore are often thought as being unnecessarily narrow.  Let us “pursue peace with all” yet recall Mark’s choice words; ” Correct division should be preferred over corrupt unity.”

David Charles, Pastor
Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Toledo, OH
  1. It is true that when Biblical convictions formed by the Scriptures take form in a Christians mind and heart,a decission must be made when they are contrary to the Church one belongs to. If those truths are rejected and even called heresy the only right thing to do is leave that group. Being a former Roman Catholic and coming to saving Faith while in that tradition I could not long remain when the Scriptures overruled Traditions as a groung of my Faith and practice. The moves did not end there many Denominations later I came to the Reformed Baptist understanding of many things in 1993. It has not been easy Reforming my Theology and practice of the Faith but it has been very profitable for me and my wife. I will close in saying this that my Journey through many different Churches and Denominations has helped me see and know that many of my true Brothers and Sisters who know and love Christ are still where I once was. I fellowship when I can and support and encourage them where possible even though I cannot with a good conscience join them. John Newton is a good role model for us all when dealing with those who hold different understandings and true convictions. May we humbly seek to be at peace when possible we might even learn we have weak spots as well.

  2. It is not an occasion for sadness, but simply the evidence of the great falling away we have been told must come. I rejoice to see each rise of a new false teacher, a new mega-church or a new movement into apostasy. FEW will find the narrow Way, because FEW are those who stay the course! When the large denominations throw out the Word of God (the TR/MT/KJB) and start ordaining gays and holding worship services with Mormons, Catholics and Muslims, it is time to look up! The Bridegroom cometh…

  3. I agree with what you are saying except for the part about RBs being known as “unnecessarily narrow” but maybe that is a reflection of who I read/listen to. Gasp…maybe I am narrow! What rubs me the wrong way is the emphasis. It seems to almost fuel the fire of those who would label RBs as narrow. How about Correct Unity instead? I just like that better. We can draw imparative lines in a way that attracts the nay-sayers or we can speak in a way that confounds the critics presuppositions. Two final thoughts that came to mind and I wonder how they may be applied to this paramount topic:
    In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.- Augustine
    They were not able to catch him in what he said but marveling at his answer they became silent.-Luke20:26

    Thanks for writing. And provoking good thought!

  4. I can’t say I “Rejoice” over the rise of more false teachers and cults nor apostasy of once faithful churches who are going in the way of error. I agree that the Scriptures warn of the falling away and threaten damnation on preachers of another Gospel.Galatians 1:8,9. I am Grieved by it if anything but should we rejoice over something that will do so much harm to the weak and vulnerable? I do not believe the Elect will be fully and finally lead astray but we can see true Brothers and Sisters harmed by the poision of False Teachers. I personally would like to see a reversal of these trends and a Great Awakening in our generation that would be greater in scope than past moves of GOD. We can write off the generation we live in or do the hard work of being used of the Lord to win these in error to Christ. I hesitate to believe the end is so near that we as it were sit back and watch it all come to ruin like Jonah waiting for the destruction of Nineveh. I have seen this in the Churches who believe the end times are coming in our generation and we will see Christ come in our lifetime. I will rejoice in the reality that GOD will be vendicated in the end by the utter destruction of His enemies,we all will rejoice on that day in Heaven. Christ wept over Jerusalem and the things coming upon it and had pity upon the many Sheep who had no Shepherd. I know he also pronounced Woe’s on many as well. Judgement of sin in the Camp and in the World is sure for we know GOD will not be Mocked. Let us rescue as many as possible from error and those who persist in their error will be divided from us most surely. Jude 20 to 23

  5. μαρτυς said: “It is not an occasion for sadness, but simply the evidence of the great falling away we have been told must come. I rejoice to see each rise of a new false teacher, a new mega-church or a new movement into apostasy…it is time to look up! The Bridegroom cometh…”

    Why isn’t it an occasion for both sadness and rejoicing? Sadness over the harm men do to their own souls and the souls of others, and when we see God’s laws broken and His person profaned (Paul certainly didn’t see the apostasy of Israel with dry eyes). But rejoicing that our Bridegroom is drawing nigh, and there will be the New Heavens and New Earth, where righteousness dwells.

    Eliza, I think what our brother meant was that we are known for being unnecessarily narrow more than being necessarily narrow. I believe Augustine’s statement is something we all need to remember (and not abuse, as some have). There is a difference between dividing over the Gospel versus over pre- or a- millennialism.

    Also, I’m not getting the application of Luke 20:26 to this…could you please elaborate?

  6. “I hesitate to believe the end is so near that we as it were sit back and watch it all come to ruin like Jonah waiting for the destruction of Nineveh.”

    Well said, brother!!!!

  7. We need an additional post about the sinfulness of unbiblical isolation masquerading as a firm belief in the autonomy of the local church.

  8. Yes Trevor,the days of needless seperation from true Brethren must come to an end when there is no solid grounds for a isolationist mindset. Reformed Baptist Churches have much to offer but we need to humbly learn how to share it. The Reformed Camp as a whole is getting better at communicating the Doctrines of Grace and the Lord is blessing these efforts. If we believe what we teach we must seek for Wisdom from above to communicate it to a feeble Church in the world. This has been done better at times in Church History than at other times. Satan wants us to rip and tare at each other so that he may discredit the Gospel of Grace and keep millions in the error of a works Salvation. Our many Elders in our many Churches need a Jerusalem Council to hammer out a concensus about where we have failed ans how we might advance the good things GOD has given us. This has been a great grief to me since coming into the Reformed Baptist Camp, but there is so much good I hesitate to leave because where would I go? I have been in many different groups and have found more agreement here than any place else. May the Lord move in our midst and raise up the voices most owned by the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures to guide us through these difficult spiritual times. Humility would serve our movement well and biblical GODLY love will cover a multitude of sins and offenses. I share your concern and Pastor Charles’s as well. Caution and true Faith to step out in action will work to His glory and our good.

  9. “We need an additional post about the sinfulness of unbiblical isolation masquerading as a firm belief in the autonomy of the local church.”

    This has been my greatest stumbling block within the RBC movement. The Augustine quote well articulates my feelings on the subject and brings to mind the many frustrations I’ve felt over the apparent readiness in our circles to write off all non-reformed Christians as being weaker, lesser, and less useful for God’s kingdom. I think what our churches need is an increased humility to look at other Christian churches in this world and honestly evaluate whether there are Gospel truths being worked out more effectively in their lives than in our own. Then we will be able to become more “round” in our usefulness and more liberal in our brotherly love in this world, until all the questions and debates are answered in the next.

  10. Amen LEG! I think our Lords comments to the early Disciples who came to Him speaking with great concern about those not in their small circle is a rebuke,reproof,correction and instuction to us all. If they are not against us but for us we can labour on before GOD who they are for as well. Notice He says US not just Him. Mark 9:38 to 41 Christ gives qulifiers in this portion and elsewhere also so there are things which must be agreed upon and warnings in verse 42 in the section on needless Offenses. I have been so guilty of violating this priciple that at times I marvel that GOD did not strike me down in eternal blidness and wrath. Help us Lord to be humble and true.

  11. Jesus Forbids Sectariansim & Warns Against Needless Offenses Mark 9:38 to 48 I think we would all do well to meditate on thes and other passeges which give us guidlines for Biblical and Correct Unity. No true child of GOD desires to compromise the Gospel or weaken Discipleship Standards as layed out in Scripture. May the Lord help us to hammer these things out in humility.

  12. Amen LEG, I think Mark 9:38 speaks to our attitudes about other Brethren who are in other groups GOD has raisd up and how we should view them. 1 Corinthians Chapters 1,2,3, as well address divisions over exalting men even good men over each other. Surely we can have greater unity with true Brethren if we humble ourselves and walk in the Spirit and not the flesh do the will of our one Head Christ our Lord.

  13. I agree with LEG and Stephen Cox. Sometimes we’ve been so zealous for the truth that we’ve lost our “first love” (Rev. 2:4), which, by the way, is probably a reference not to our devotion to Christ but to our affection for other true disciples. Accordingly, I think it would be helpful to give equal emphasis to the need to cultivate biblical unity (John 17) and to implement more comprehensively the teaching in the 2LBF 27, namely, that “holy fellowship and communion” are to be extended “to all the household of faith, even all those who in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.”

    Nevertheless, I appreciate Pastor Charles’ (and Pastor Dever’s) cautionary words. In some respects, the Reformed Baptist movement has been a reactionary movement. Christian leaders and laypeople have come to understand and appreciate God’s word more fully and have, as a result, lamented the doctrinal shallowness and carelessness that characterizes many professing evangelical churches today. I think it’s a healthy response to feel and express disappointment when God’s people don’t recognize and love the truth of Scripture as they ought (see 2 John 4).

    When we feel and express our disappointment, it’s inevitable that some folks will consider us “narrow” or “bigoted.” Hopefully, we’re striving to express our disappointment with great doses of humility. And I hope we demonstrate lots and lots of patience towards genuine brothers who–for whatever reason–don’t yet see things clearly (John 16:12). Manifesting such humility and patience may remove the reproach of being “unnecessarily narrow.”

    But in the end, there’s a biblical kind of narrowness we must embrace and of which we shouldn’t be ashamed. We’re zealous for the gospel of God’s sovereign grace. We should feel and express disappointment (with humility and patience) when churches and Christians fail to understand and proclaim the gospel of God’s sovereign grace. And our love for God’s revealed truth should deter us from enjoying the highest level of communion and ministry cooperation with professing disciples and/or churches that fail or refuse to acknowledge and preach the gospel of God’s sovereign grace to Christ’s sheep and the world.

    I think this is the burden of Pastor Charles’ post and the citation from Pastor Dever. May the Lord grant us the wisdom and grace needed to strike a biblical balance in our pursuit of ecclesiastical unity (or communion) and maintenance of doctrinal fidelity!

  14. Bob,

    Part of the reason I’ve struggled so much with what I see to be an exaggerated narrowness is that while so much correct doctrine may be preached, I’ve seen emphases made on particular convictions and pet issues that are not really even secondary. It is difficult to have your conscience bound by someone else’s convictions and even opinions, without caveat or clarification to allow for differing Biblical conclusions. I believe I can be in a church (healthily) where I don’t agree with everyone or the leadership on all the fine points, but only if the church allows for a “margin of error” (for lack of a better term) and no one pounds those side issues down my throat. If there are things that are frequently emphasized that I see as being unimportant, and at the same time unbiblical, it hinders my ability to worship and focus on God. I have also seen the elitism and judgmental attitudes this focus can nurture in the membership. My conviction is that while the church must know what it is NOT to be, focusing almost exclusively on that and making very particular statements about how other Christians are getting it wrong (on secondary matters of opinion and personal conviction) can tend to give us a feeling of superiority without having to focus on what we ourselves as a church body need to be working on. When the church’s own practices are discussed periodically, it shouldn’t be within a vague cloud of “the way we do things is the most Biblical” and left at that, with no specific Biblical support even when something is questioned or challenged with regard to principle or practicality. The whole removing the plank from your own eye before getting to work on your brother’s speck is the basic principle I’m trying to focus on here. It’s important to have distinctives and to know what they are, but I hope you’ll agree that not every particular piece of local church practice is necessarily a hard and fast rule to be followed or enforced by all true believers.

    *I should include that my conviction on the subject of primary/secondary issues is probably different than many RB’s. I believe there are some, but very few absolutely essential Biblical doctrines that must be held to for salvation. However, while I try to accept that some things I would consider secondary are treated as primary, it’s the TRULY small issues that I really want to see left alone in favor of more practical emphases on principles for living a godly life. As a Christian I crave conviction, encouragement and edification. I sometimes get the sense that the focus on minutiae (that may vary even within the RB movement) can give us a false sense of security as a local church rather than causing us to regularly review our own walk with God, our personal sins, and our need for growth in particular areas.

  15. Dr. Bob G. I agree. Well put.

    LEG. Thankfully your experiences are not mine. I agree, some things are more important than others. We must major on the majors. Yet, “all things” are to be taught (Matt.28:20), and nothing neglected (Matt.5:19). In my experience (I am not suggesting this is true of you), people label things as side issues they don’t agree with. For example, an anti-sabbatarian hears Sabbath teaching in every sermon. An Arminian hears election in every sermon. If we think our own preachers are unbalanced, speak to them. Express your concern with humility and love. It is possible that we hear what we want and not what is said.

    Just a thought.

    Mike Waters
    Heritage RBC

  16. Amen Dear Brothers on your follow up comments. 4 portions of Scripture have been used of the Holy Spirit to better round out my response to those not in our Movement and in some cases Reformed but way different in conviction if not in Confession about many things.1.)Mark 9:38 to 48> 2.)1 Corinthians Chapters 1,2,3,14:1 to 13 > 3.)2 Timothy 2:14 to 26 4.) James 4:1 to 12 These and every biblical priciple that should govern how we Deal with the Household of Faith and those outside whom GOD is to some degree having dealings with. May the Unity our our Triune GOD be a Unity we strive for with true yet Than perfect Brethren. Let us be Aquila and Priscilla’s to all the Apollos’s in the Church and them to us. We all could be a little more percise or accurate in our service to Christ and each other as we pursue a study of the Scriptures and their application in some areas we differ on.

  17. Read this today and it reminded me of this post. Not sure if anyone is still reading the comments to this or not. But here you go:

    For starters, it’s an attitude. It’s a demeanor where being Calvinist or paedobaptist or inerrantist (three things I am gladly) are put on like armor or wielded like weapons, when they are meant to be the warm glow of a Christian whose core radiates with love for Christ and the gospel. I believe in theological distinctives—I believe in them and I believe it is good to have them—but if the distinctives are not manifestly the flower of gospel root, the buds aren’t worth the blooming.
    —Kevin DeYoung, “The Crust and the Core,” in The Good News We Almost Forgot (Moody, 2010)

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