BUFF SCOTT, JR.
Branding Our Fellow
Of all the passages of scripture used by a host of disciples within “Churchianity” to disown and divide God’s sheep, Romans 16:17 is among those most widely engaged. “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have been taught, and avoid them.”
The KJV says to “mark” and avoid them. A related passage dealing with “doctrine” is II John 9-10. The context and universal scholarship agree that John’s “doctrine” refers to the fact that Jesus came in the flesh.
Paul’s injunction has been employed as a “sword of the Spirit” to rip apart honest saints who entertain “wrong views” on a diversity of subjects—premillennialism, “The Rapture,” cooperative endeavors such as missionary and benevolent societies, hats, long hair, and a host of other matters. Irrational interpretations have been formulated and hierarchical action taken against good and contrite believers by those who have understood Paul’s admonition to mean that unity can be attained only by dividing.
No religious party can long exist without rigid standards. And those standards cannot be enforced upon others or used as divisive weapons unless some scripture is made to teach that division is the answer to our already divided undertaking. Thus conquering the human spirit that dares to differ is the only way to “maintain the true system.” For without this kind of scripture, tranquility would be exalted and love would flow as sweet and precious as John’s manuals.
Rank division occurred when we demonstrated to the world that we would rather build walls instead of bridges. The end result is that we have hundreds of partisan cliques—denominations—within the walls of “churchitis” with each claiming to have a monopoly on truth and heaven hereafter. Most of these groups feel they have encompassed the whole body of truth and that others are divisive and teachers of falsehood because they “do not bring this doctrine.”
Most of these factions contend that unity can be achieved only by joining them. And each splinter group designates their party “The church of our Lord!”
Surely an injustice is committed against Ephesians 4:4, where Paul makes it clear that there is one body of believers—one whole
body, not split, severed, or separated.
There are valid reasons to believe that the “doctrine” Paul referred to is altogether alien to our contemporary issues, and contains no principle to deal with them. Even assuming his “doctrine does provide a blueprint for our divisive problems, we would be compelled to brand or “mark” every brother and sister who disagrees with us on almost any and all subjects, since each of us considers our views correct and important.
When ambassador Paul was faced with the wretched doctrinal condition of the Christian community at Corinth, he neither “marked” nor excommunicated them. Rather, he called them brethren and saints, and even addressed his epistles to the “congregations of God.”
Was he concerned? Yes
. Did he take corrective action? Indeed
. But not in the form of excommunicative edicts, except in the case of the incestuous brother. Nor did he call upon other congregations to “mark” and avoid them. In fact, he did just the opposite. He told them the congregations in the province of Asia send their greetings [I Cor. 16:19]
. He failed to direct the “faithful” saints to pull out and go to the other side of town and start a “sound church”—whatever that is
. Instead, he initiated a program of love and concern. Positively stated, their problems were solved by their remaining and working together and loving one another.
Why did Paul not use the principle most factions claim is found in Romans 16:17 and “mark’ and “avoid” the Corinthian believers? If he could tell others to use it, why not be consistent and use it himself? I suggest that if “doctrine” in the passage under study alludes to anything not specifically addressed in scripture, thus enveloping all of our theological hang-ups, there is no hope for unity among believers. Thus Jesus prayed a useless and meaningless prayer in John 17. Of course, I am not ready to accept this conclusion. I do not believe our Lord prayed for an impossible goal.
Then what did Paul mean in Romans 16:17? Permit me to paraphrase. “I beg you, my brothers, watch out for those who take pleasure in dividing God’s children, for all of you have been taught that division is contrary to the doctrine that condemns it.”
Many of the different versions render this meaning. You will observe that individual
action, as opposed to congregational action, is stressed. The dividers were to be shunned, avoided, observed, and ignored. “For such people are not serving our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” [v. 18]
. These people were controlled by the party spirit of Galatians 5:20, and knowingly and deliberately attempted to separate God’s sheep from the corporate fold and start a party or faction of their own making.
This seems to be the central truth of the passage. Thus, those who are always accusing others of “going beyond the doctrine of Christ,” and who avoid and “mark” those who disagree with them, are the actual dividers, regardless of their sincerity. The “markers” are those who need to be “marked!” Watch out for them, avoid them, shun them, for their partisan nature demands division. Love and tolerance will reunite God’s children. The partisan spirit that marks all who differ will divide us even more.
________ FREE COPIES— If you will send me your Postal Address, I will send you a few free copies of my book entitled “The Son of Perdition,” an easy-to-read 96-page thesis on Roman Catholicism. It is well documented. If interested, email me your Postal Address. I will pay the shipping charges.—Buff.