The brother, whose communication appeared in the previous issue of this magazine, sent me the following reply—a reply which contains a new request.
I thank you for the kind favor of answering my questions in The Standard Bearer for Dec. 1, 1939. I am convinced that your answers are correct, that they represent the true biblical view as set forth by the apostle in his first epistle to the Corinthians (chap. 3). They are answers to which no serious-minded layman can have any objections. I was not actually objecting to them in my first communication. I intentionally wrote as I did, not because I was pitted in my mind against the Pauline teaching and admonition in question, but because I am critical of certain conditions prevalent in definite churches of our day,—conditions which concern not the laity but the clergy. Allow me to explain myself. There was a division in the church at Corinth. The membership of this church was divided. Some were following Paul and would have nothing or little of Apollos. Others had attached themselves to Apollos to the exclusion of Paul. Their cry was, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos.” It is this party spirit that Paul rebuked. And rightly so, as both Paul and Apollos were true servants of God, espousing and devoted to the same cause—the cause of God. Paul planted and Apollos watered. This being true, the one might not be accepted and the other rejected. To do so, was to commit a big sin. I think we are all agreed on this.
However, what was true of Paul and Apollos, namely, that both were true servants of God, co-operating together for the coming of Christ’s kingdom, is not true of many ministers of the gospel of today. Many of them have departed in their preaching from the truth and have become exponents of the lie. It means that there is division among the ministers now. In the church at Corinth the common members were divided. Today the rupture is between the pastors. Now if I am a member of a church, whose pastor gives stones for bread, is it wrong for me to listen on the Sabbath to a pastor other than my own—to a pastor who truly feeds the flock of Christ. Does this doing of mine not spring from a sincere desire for the true bread of life? Would Paul rebuke also this doing?
You will believe me, when I say that I had this question in mind when I wrote my first missive. The reason I wrote as I did is to bring out clearly the real issue.
My dear brother, may I once more ask you to answer my question, as I here state it?
Respecting your reasons for not mentioning my name, I am sincerely your brother indeed.
I am glad to learn that my correspondent so heartily agrees with my answers to the questions he put to me in his former missive. For I am convinced that these answers were taken from Scripture, that thus in replying I came to the brother with the word of God. l am pleased to have learned that this is also the conviction of the brother.
Before I pen my reply to the question he puts to me in this second communication of his, I want to briefly comment on this phase from his pen, “Respecting your reasons for not mentioning my name.” True, I had my reasons. The statement of my correspondent however might lead some to conclude that I disclosed them to him perhaps in a private communication. I did not. So what the brother means to say is this, “I respect your reasons, whatever they were, for not mentioning my name. Let me now disclose my reason (reason not reasons. I have only one). In answering questions sent to me, I must of course expose as false the view to which a correspondent is addicted, if I am convinced that the view deserves to be exposed as such. Now to be exposed in public as one who has erred in his thinking is always more or less embarrassing. So, to spare a correspondent this embarrassment, I am decided to refrain from publishing henceforth the name, if such be the desire. No one will learn from me who sent the question. So anyone desiring to have published in our magazine a question which he has, may act upon this desire without fear of being exposed. I say again, the name will not be published, if such be the desire. But this should not always be the desire. It should not when in his communication the correspondent gives me “a piece of his mind” so to say. Then he should want his writing to appear above his name, not for my but for his sake. For when one writes with the thought in his soul that his writing will appear with his name under it, one is much more apt to weigh his words and thus to write with caution than when he knows that mankind at large will be none the wiser as to whom the author of the writing might be. I always receive a strange impression from anyone who sends me an abusive letter to which is appended the request, “Now don’t publish my name,” or, “This is not meant for publication. For I don’t want to be made a fool of in public.”
Let me now reply to the question contained in the above-cited communication. My correspondent wants to know whether it is wrong for one to listen on the Sabbath to pastors of other churches who truly feed the flock, if the pastor of the church where one is member has departed in his preaching from sound doctrine. I take it that the case which my correspondent has in mind is the following: There are two denomination of Churches. The pastors in the one preach pure doctrine; not so the pastors in the other. There is a certain person who is a member of one of the churches whose pastors have in their preaching departed from the truth. This person is a true child of God who has need of the unadulterated milk. What is he now to do? Here is my answer. This person’s first act must be to speak with his pastor. Thereupon, in the event his pastor will not hear, he finds himself under the necessity of placing his grievances before his consistory. If the consistory will not act, his duty is to appeal his case to classis and if need be to synod. If his synod will take no action, the person is in duty bound to leave the church of which he is member and join himself to one of those churches wherein, according to his conviction, the true doctrine of the gospel is preached. What can or may hinder him from affiliating with such a church? Rightly considered, one who does so, is not leaving the church but is seeking it. What God is solely interested in is the church,—the church which Christ purchased with His own blood. Hence every believer should want to join this church, which he does by joining himself to that local brotherhood that bears its marks. So then, the person whom my correspondent has in mind does wrong, certainly. I take it that he has followed all the prescribed ecclesiastical channels (from consistory to classis and from classis to Synod). He could get no action. He must therefore now break with his pastor. This belonging to one church and attending divine services of another, is representative of an action that must be deemed wrong, especially so, if the preaching in the church where one is member is so mixed with untruth (and this is the contention of my correspondent) that the minister of this church must be classified with the false teachers.