The visible church is suffering from a lack of discernment; either a lack of noble Bereans who receive the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:10-12) or worse, a total unwillingness to listen to them and concerted efforts to silence them. These two possibilities are both true and they contribute to each other. Today, we are going to look at one of the ways discernment ministries and noble Bereans are silenced… they are accused of sowing discord.
Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV)
16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.
This is a hard-hitting proverb, and effective for intimidating noble Bereans into silence and capitulation for the sake of “unity” and to avoid being an abomination to the Lord. The error here is in the definition of on who sows discord among brothers. Is Solomon issuing a blanket statement that anyone who disagrees with the majority or the leadership, for any reason, is sowing discord and as such is an abomination to the Lord? No. First, let’s look at the verses preceding this section.
Proverbs 6:12-15 (ESV)
12 A worthless person, a wicked man,
goes about with crooked speech,
13 winks with his eyes, signals with his feet,
points with his finger,
14 with perverted heart devises evil,
continually sowing discord;
15 therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly;
in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.
There it is. You see, even in the case of the one congregant who always seems to be sounding the discernment alarm, there are a number of possibilities… most notably, either that individual is indeed attempting to sow discord, or the individual is being faithful to the Word, not being heeded, and there are continuous doctrinal problems that need to be addressed. Either way, it is insufficient to silence the individual with this intimidating accusation of “sowing discord”.
So what shall we do? Thankfully, we can look for specific instruction in Paul’s letter to Titus.
Titus 3:1-11 (ESV) | Be Ready for Every Good Work
1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
If the person in question is in sin, or espousing falsehood, or stirring up division (rather than seeking to point out error), the person is warped and sinful and is self-condemned. He has stood and railed against sound doctrine (The Word of God, not the doctrines of men). We see the charge in verse 2 to speak evil of no one, be gentle, and show perfect courtesy. Strawman fallacies, Ad Hominem attacks, or marginalizing the brother or sister who is exercising discernment runs contrary to scripture. Even the best of our good works is tainted by our sinful flesh; however, that does not excuse any pre-emptive or reactionary gag-order. If the noble Berean is in error, the elders should teach, explain, exhort, and even rebuke when necessary according to the Scriptures. Truth doesn’t need defending, opinions do.
Are there errors in the congregation? Absolutely, that is why the need shepherds. But there are also errors in leadership, and if the leadership doesn’t catch the error, we who are of the same faith, same baptism, same Holy Spirit are charged to do the work of the noble Bereans to see if these things are so. The leaders will be held accountable, for they will have to give account as it is their calling to watch over our souls (Hebrews 13:17). Pastors, your congregation won’t always “do it right”, and there will be cause for instruction and correction regarding their approach, their attitudes, and even their mistrust… but none of these negate the point being brought up. There is a logical fallacy fallacy, where a failure to logically articulate an argument is used to invalidate the argument. The argument’s validity is unaffected by its articulation, it just makes convincing someone else of the point extremely difficult. Thankfully, we are talking about Scriptural matters; therefore, the ultimate arbiter and objective standards is God’s Word. My fellow Berean… be ready to confess and repent of your sin, even while pursuing the most noble good work by the Grace of God.
1 Timothy 6 (ESV)
6 Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.
False Teachers and True Contentment
Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Fight the Good Fight of Faith
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.
Grace be with you.
In Christ Jesus,