WE are glad of the good letter from brother Dickens on page 44; we also admire the humble spirit in which it was written. It is brother Dickens’ right to differ with us concerning our view of Matt, xviii. 8, 9; it is also right that he should be heard upon the subject. Many differences and sometimes declarations of non-fellowship between brethren occur because of some misunderstanding. It is right that brethren should be plain and faithful with each other, and should never allow bitterness to arise between them because of different views of some Scripture. If we are united upon salvation through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, grace and grace alone for time and eternity, we should walk together in peace. It is right to exchange views, but it is not the right of any man to set himself up as a standard to which all others must bow. We are all fallible, finite creatures, and at best, in this life, our knowledge and sight are only in part; we know nothing as we ought. Let us not, therefore, be unreasonable with each other, but forbear one another in love.
We are very sorry that brother Dickens misunderstood our view of the hand, foot and eye in Matthew xviii. We long thought, as he does, that these figures were applicable to the most important members of the church. We have learned that it becomes each one of God’s children to read the Bible for himself with prayerful desire and with all care possible. In our view of this special Scripture we are not justifiable in applying it to the members of the body of Christ. Please read verses C> to 17 carefully, weigh every word, and we think, brother Dickens, you will see what we mean by our remarks to Elder W. W. Polk. We did not mean to say that the “world” is a part of the church, nor do we mean to say the church has power to deal with the “world or man of the world “as it deals with its own subjects. The Jews were the brethren of the apostles after the flesh, and at the time and for years after these words in Matthew were spoken, they were the only people to whom the apostles were to preach. In a natural sense (not spiritual) the Jewish nation was the hand, foot and eye of the apostles, because they were members one of another, but if any of that nation received not the gospel, and offended the saints or apostles they (little ones) were to separate themselves from them. This word “separate” means, in our view, to “cut off,” have no fellowship for them, do not walk with them, do not handle the things they handle, do not see like they see. Brother Dickens quotes: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.” This is exactly what we mean when we say “cut off” that which is unholy or offensive. When the disciples were sent out to preach they were commanded to shake the very dust off of their feet as a witness against those who did not receive them and the gospel they preached; in other words, “cut them off.” When Paul and Barnabas, on one occasion, preached to the Jews, they were made angry and would not receive them or the doctrine they preached. Then said they, “It was necessary that the word of God should just have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us.” This is another instance where “the world or men of the world “(unbelievers) were “cut off,” the apostles separating themselves from them because of offence. We should also remember that in the days of the apostles when these words in Matthew xviii. were spoken to them there were kings, governors and others of authority who did not believe in Jesus. The apostles were taught to fear them not, nor to do after their works, but rather fear God and keep his commandments.
We agree with brother Dickens when he says, the Scriptures are written for the children of God, but our brother is well aware of the fact that the children of God are not always described or meant in Scripture where men are named. “Woe unto the ‘ world’ because of offences.” – Matt, xviii. 7. This is not speaking of the children of God. “It must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.” – Matt, xviii. 7. This does not mean a babe or little one, but a “man.” The Savior is not, in our understanding, teaching that little ones will offend little ones, but that offences should come from the “world,” or unbelievers. “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” Paul tells us, “The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” If, as brother Dickens thinks, the hand, foot and eye mean the most important members of the church, and we cut them off or pluck out the eye, do we not say in such action, We have no need of you? Is not this contrary to the teaching of Paul? We must indeed keep the house clean, and we cannot be too faithful in the discharge of our duty along this line. Every disorderly member should be dealt with according to the New Testament law, neither should discipline in matters of disorder be delayed. The turning over to Satan, however, of a member for the destruction of the flesh is not, in our view, cutting off the hand or foot, or plucking out the eye. If so, how can it be said of the bride (church), “Thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair, thou hast dove’s eyes.” “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee”? Or how shall it be said, “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter “! We understand by the expression, “It is better for thee to enter into life [new and living way] halt or maimed, rather than, having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire,” that it is better as a “little flock” to receive the kingdom, than to have great numbers and be in confusion and strife. It is better that “two or three” be gathered together where the Lord will manifest himself, than for thousands to come together where the God of salvation is not. If God be for us who can be against us?
Another point in favor of our view is, Jesus commands, “If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off” without any intimation whatever of trying to save or heal them, but verse 15 says, “Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” Here is taught the lesson of trying to save or heal the brother, and if the offended one fails in this he is then to call upon other brethren to assist in the healing of the brother, instead of cutting him off.
The import of brother Dickens’ question concerning the resurrection is, Do we believe in the power of God? We answer, Yes, we hope, with all our soul, mind and strength. With God all things are possible, and with him nothing is impossible.
We will now leave the subject, hoping that brother Dickens, and all who may read what we have here written, will be able to grasp our meaning. May we all in all things desire the mind of Christ. K.
Editorial – Elder H. C. Ker
Signs Of The Times
Volume 74, No. 2
January 15, 1906