Perspective—Rejection of the 1880 Reformation
See also: Part 1
In the previous issue, we addressed the teaching of Beverly Carradine, a holiness minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church. This brother rejected “Come-Out-Ism,” which he defined as encompassing those that withdrew from all denominations, decrying this as “ecclesiastical lawlessness.”
In the Free Methodist Church, Elmer E. Shelhamer (1869-1947) went even further, and defended the entire concept of sectarianism. It would seem that he was resigned to divided Christianity because of the natural diversity of humanity. He admits that the church of the New Testament was not like this, but seems to imply that it was only a matter of time until it became as professed Christianity was in his day, and is yet.
Furthermore, Mr. Shelhamer would have us believe that true spirituality consists of an acceptance of the divisions and walls between God’s children. He teaches us that no division actually exists between those are really, truly, cruelly divided, for “the possessor of perfect love necessarily jumps over the walls of sectism.” And in the book False Doctrines and Fanaticism Exposed, Mr. Shelhamer defends the position of respecting and not tampering with the divisions between God’s children. He does this by branding all efforts against sectism as the same (although they were not), and especially by claiming that they all taught no government at all, that is, spiritual anarchy. By this distorted definition, withdrawal from the sects of men becomes withdrawal from all churches whatsoever, including the one that God made; thus no-sects is branded as no-churches. Basically he says that division is inevitable; any effort to leave the current divisions will only succeed in making a new one. He says:
Of late years many have seen the formality of ecclesiasticism, and in their unwise efforts to correct it, have swung to the other extreme, and advocate the abolition of government, or anarchy in religion.
[Elmer E. Shelhamer; False Doctrines and Fanaticism Exposed, “Chapter 6. Sects and No-Sects”]
Mr. Shelhamer would have us even believe that the church that Jesus built was a sect—one among many.
In False Doctrines and Fanaticism Exposed, Mr. Shelhamer has presented us with the classic position of someone who refuses to accept light from the Bible. It begins with (1) the blurring and misrepresentation of a definition. (2) The rejection of light continues from unbelief. Finally there is (3) a mass condemnation of the people and of the results of following the enlightenment.
As another example of this classic path of rejection of light, we find that those who teach sin-you-must, invariably (1) confuse the definition of a sinless life with a mistake-less life. Then there is the assertion that Jesus is the only person who was faultless, and that (2) being faultless is beyond human attainment. Then the rejection of the concept leads to (3) the condemnation of all who profess 1 John 3:6, etc.
Mr. Shelhamer twists the meaning of sect to group. Then he ignores the distinction between God’s group and the groups of men. Underlying his opposition is a profound unbelief that it is possible for men to live spiritual enough to follow and be practically regulated by an unseen, divine government; Mr. Shelhamer simply does not believe that people can live on that plane of spirituality. He believes that only human government is practical, thus necessary and indispensable. And because saved men are so diverse, they will never be in unity as described in the Bible, except in a sympathetic way from behind their denominations. Finally, he fiercely condemns all attempts to be in Biblical unity as merely substituting one sect for all the sects, and describes those who have tried to do so as deluded and deceived.
The significance of this can scarcely be overstated. Here is a profoundly different vision of the Christian religious world from the vision that the Bible presents to us. Here is the acceptance of denominations—divisions—as natural to man, even part of the divine plan. Representing these schisms of the body of believers as branches of the one true vine, instead of individual believers as branches, with each branch connected to Christ. Here is the enshrining of do-as-it-seems-best-to-me, rather than only-God-knows-what-is-best and we-must-wait-upon-Him to both find and keep to the only right way.
What Is a Sect in the Bible?
Mr. Shelhamer would have us believe that the word sect means the same as the word group. According to the definition he relates from Webster and a quotation from an unnamed writer, he presents us with the picture of groups of people, distinguished from each other by mere differences of opinion. By this definition, no group possesses legitimacy over another, nor is there anything but sects, i.e., groups.
But the Word of God does not use the word in this manner, nor did the inspired writers convey that meaning. The word sect, also translated heresy, comes from the Greek word hairesis, which is used 9 times in the New Testament; translated sect 5 times in the book of Acts:
“…which is the sect of the Sadducees….” (Acts 5:17)
“There rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees….” (Acts 15:5)
“For we [the Jews] have found this man [Paul] a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” (Acts 24:5) Notice that the word sect is applied by the Jews to them who they regarded as heretics involved in a heresy (that is, sectarians involved in a sect) to Judaism. “A mover of sedition.” Sedition is defined as “conduct or language inciting rebellion against authority insurrection; rebellion.” In response to this charge of being a sectarian man, a heretic, Paul replied, “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets.” (Acts 24:14) The word heresy in verse 14 is translated from the same word translated sect in verse 5. Notice that Paul does not apply the term to himself or others of God’s church—he says of the word sect, “the way which they call heresy.”
“My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” (Acts 26:4-5) When Paul was a Pharisee, before he became a Christian, he was at that time a member of the sect of the Pharisees.
“But we [the Jews] desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.” (Acts 28:22) These words were spoken by the Jews about the Christian religion.
(The word is used three more times—1 Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 5:20; 2 Peter 2:1—translated heresies.)
We see that the Christians did not regard themselves as a hairesis (a sect or heresy) from the Jewish religion. It is also plain that the Jews did regard them as a sect from Judaism—at the very least, as a subset of the Jewish religion. The question then follows: Was Christianity a sect or subset of Judaism?
“The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” (Luke 16:16) The gospel dispensation marked the end of the law and the prophets. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.” (Hebrews 8:8-9) It is plain that Christianity was the fulfilling of the law and the prophets, and by this fulfillment, the covenant of the law and prophets was ended and replaced by a better testament. Therefore Christianity was not a sect of Judaism—far from it! It was the beginning of worship to God in spirit and in truth. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” (John 4:23) The true worshipers are not a faction of Judaism, but something else entirely—something that is created by God and therefore possesses a legitimacy in His eyes that supersedes the old, completed legitimacy of the Old Testament.
The Jews, of course, did not accept the new doctrine of the Messiah, although it was built on the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Since they refused to walk in the light, they naturally regarded the coming of Jesus as, first a prophet of the Jewish religion, then a false prophet. “The way which they call heresy.”
Now the word heresy conveys quite a different meaning than the word group. It is very convenient and expedient for Mr. Shelhamer to reduce Christianity to a group among groups—a sect among sects, but it is not scriptural. God did not establish Christianity as a divided religion. “Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:13) No. “There is one body.” (Ephesians 4:4) Not many bodies (groups, sects, heresies), but one. “That there should be no schism in the body.” (1 Corinthians 12:25)
Mr. Shelhamer contends: “It is utterly impossible for them with the least show of reason or common sense, to prove that they are not a sect.” You are wrong, Mr. Shelhamer. Christianity is not a sect from Judaism. It is the creation of God, cut out of a mountain without hands and not left to other people (Daniel 2:44-45).
It is alleged by no-sectites that the Bible does not say anything about having separate rules in a discipline, a creed, or articles of faith. Granted. But does that prove it wrong to have such a book? “Must I be deprived of using my hoe to cut the weeds out of my corn simply because the Bible does not inform me so to do? My reason tells me that I can accomplish more with my hoe than I can without it. I can raise more corn. Reason informs us that there are some things necessary in the government of the church, as well as other things that are not laid down in the Bible. But shall we deprive ourselves of any weapon to fight Satan and sin just because we can’t find it in black and white?”
It is precisely because men have leaned to their own understanding and have done as seemed best to them, without the specific direction of the Word of God and the Spirit of God, that we have the great mass of divisions and schisms that make a mockery of unity. Had all men brought “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5) instead of reaching for their spiritual hoe or spiritual weed whacker or spiritual lawnmower or spiritual herbicide or spiritual fertilizer, thinking that “gain is godliness” (by this method “I can raise more corn”); if they had rejected their own ideas, there would not be the multiplicity of sects that exists today. What we think to be a good weapon to fight Satan and sin has side effects and frequently backfires in a most astounding manner.
When the unsanctified Peter reached for his “hoe” in the Bible record, we read that he “said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” (Matthew 17:4) What a disaster would have resulted if this suggestion had been followed! But God knows well the danger of us following our own thinking. “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.” (Matthew 17:5-6) This is what we need to do—be sore afraid to the extent of falling on our faces—lest we deviate in any way from the divine pattern. Behind this apparently innocent motive to help God out by reaching for the unscripturally-sanctioned hoe is a deadly unbelief in the promise that “his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3) The reaching for our hoe would have us accept that the Word of God is incomplete without our thinking—instead of thoroughly furnishing the man of God with good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17), the Word needs the addition of our ideas. But God warned us: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18) And we plainly see the truth of this scripture carried out in the disciplines, the creeds, and the articles of faith that men have tacked onto the Bible. The result is the plague of denominations, warring, striving, contradicting both the Bible and each other, until pure religion and undefiled is buried beneath a fog of confusion in the minds of men.
So, in answer to Mr. Shelhamer’s question, “Must I be deprived of using my hoe to cut the weeds out of my corn simply because the Bible does not inform me so to do?”—thus says the Lord: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”
Only the Holy Spirit Is Qualified to Govern
Now human reasoning and the power of a sound mind have their place in life, but our God-given capability for natural life is vastly overmatched in the spiritual realm. Because of this, the inspired writer wrote, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8) We are forbidden to trust in our own understanding—we must not even lean unto our own understanding. Just as a serious parent might instruct a child who is inclined to take too much upon them: “Just do exactly as I tell you; don’t do anything else. There is more to this than you realize.”
In dealing with the human heart (including our own), we are out of our depth. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10) This is spoken of the sinful human heart, a heart which is unwashed as described in 1 John 1:8. But even when the work of God is done in the heart, we are no better at accurately describing and evaluating the heart’s condition. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) How can we know what is in us? “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins.” God allows us to see, step by step, here a little and there a little, what is in us by manipulating our reins. What are our reins? They are our appointed trials and temptations, and they accurately measure where we are. Howbeit, we also need help with evaluating the results of our examinations, so to speak.
“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:11) A beast knows not the things of a man, for the beast has not the spirit of a man within him. And the spiritual things of the great war between right and wrong are not naturally understood by our natural minds. We need the Spirit of God to “guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13) Notice that we need more than guidance into some of the truth—we need guidance into all truth.
All of this is exemplified in our Lord and Master when He was in the flesh. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8) We catch a glimpse of that humbling: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Here is the reasoning and desire of the fleshly mind of Jesus. He wished for a different way than the way of the cross, but this natural desire was entirely submitted to the Father’s will. He was totally committed to obedience to His Father. He submitted all thoughts to the will of His Father. This is what is necessary to do when found in fashion as a man. This is our pattern. Notice how vastly different all of this is from the vision that Mr. Shelhamer would hold before us. Being found in fashion as a man, he says, “My reason tells me that I can accomplish more with my hoe than I can without it. I can raise more corn.”
Jesus met the temptation of leaning to His own reasoning by humbling Himself and becoming “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” He accepted direction from the Spirit of God. Although He was God and part of the Godhead, He laid that aside to take on the nature of Abraham, so as to live an exemplary life and die for us, showing us how to do it, leaving us an example that we might follow in His steps. “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:8-10) The temptation in this diabolical presentation was that of an easier way. A reasonable, commendable way to go about salvation according to the ways of men. How much good could be done without going to the cross. How much pain, suffering, and rejection could be avoided… with all the souls hindered by the process. All this by taking a different path than the one which God the Father revealed unto His begotten Son to follow in the days of His flesh! But Jesus turned away from fleshly thinking. He devoted Himself to perfect obedience to God.
Fleshly thinking mars the work of God. It gives room to pride and presumption. It considers not our low estate. “For God is in heaven, and thou upon earth.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2) What a depth of spiritual understanding is in these words! Consider also Psalm 127:1-2.
The Effect of a Rival on Seeing the True Government
“Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6) What prompted Mr. Shelhamer’s deadly unbelief in the power of God to do as He said? This likemindedness, this one mind and one mouth, seemed hopelessly idealistic and unappealing to Mr. Shelhamer’s unbelief. (See also Luke 18:27.) As he puts it, “I listened attentively, but the new doctrine did not appeal to me.”1 Why did not the concept of what God had promised “not appeal” to him?
[Elmer E. Shelhamer; How We Escaped; “8. A Strange Doctrine”]
Here is God’s promise: “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.” (Isaiah 52:8) Here is what Jesus prayed for: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21) Here is the standard that Paul insisted upon to the Corinthians congregation, labeling their divisions as wrong, unacceptable, and the “yet” result of carnality. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment…. Is Christ divided?… For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 1:10,13; 3:3-4) Although the Corinthian congregation, as a whole, did not have the blessed unifying experience, being yet carnal, we can see that the ministry that labored with them to bring them to the unity standard were themselves seeing eye to eye. They were not divided; they were not in denominations; they were not carnal; they had been purified so that they could see God, and were in complete unity with Him and with each other. The promise of God had been fulfilled in them, and they were laboring to see it fulfilled in the divided brethren. A loss of confidence in God would have put them on the same ground as Mr. Shelhamer.
Mr. Shelhamer did not feel the appeal of above-the-norm-of-human-unity in Christ Jesus because he enshrined the concept of all men grabbing their hoes as seemed best to them. To him, it was and is normal for men to walk as men (1 Corinthians 3:3). But for Jesus, it is the standard of the New Testament for widely-different men to have fellowship together with Christ and with each other exactly as the fellowship between Jesus the Son and God the Father (John 17:21-23).
But let us now the apply a simile from family life. The “right” to take up my own hoe is similar to a child setting up a government “as seems best to them,” under which they would conduct themselves. To do such a thing would be to disregard the government of the adult parents of the home. Such an invention would rightly be evaluated as a rival government—the second of two masters. Submission to the only authorized and appropriate government of the home would mean abandonment of all other governments. The very existence of other governments speaks very eloquently, and the message of the illegal and unauthorized governing attempt is very disrespectful. At the very least, the attempt to create another government proclaims dissatisfaction with the parental rule. How forcibly the Word of God addresses this concept: “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works…. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” (Hebrews 4:10-11) Instead of doing-as-seems-best-to-us, the Bible directs us to cease from our own works—and to enter into His rest.
It has been and yet is the effort of our adversary to set up and extol a rival to pure and exclusive love for God, and so he works hard to substitute a man-made focal point for Christian love and effort, namely, “my church,” also known as “my group.” And many Christians, who genuinely love God to an extent, divide their love for God with love for a group, while excusing themselves with the thought that the group is for God, therefore loving the group is the same as loving God—though the group is actually the product of the efforts of men, disciplined and adjusted by people as they see best. And to further blur the distinction between the works of the hands of men and the work of God, it is claimed that there is nothing but the works of the hands of men (supposedly even God’s church is a sect, according to Mr. Shelhamer), and that God is pleased to work in this way. But Christ said, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) Because Jesus addressed this truth to Peter and the other disciples, the Rock upon which He builds His church has been falsely regarded as Peter. The greatest of the Christian sects (heresies), the Roman Catholic Church, thus justifies a false claim that Peter was the first pope. But Peter means “a piece of rock.” In effect, Jesus was saying, “You, Peter, are just a little stone, but I am building My church upon this Rock—the Rock revealed not by flesh and blood.” Furthermore, “I, Jesus, am building and will build My church.” In this way, we see that the harmony of Matthew 16:18 and Daniel 2:44 is perfect and non-contradictory. To grasp this work of Christ—His church—and to become a vessel unto honor in the same is accomplished through this description: he has ceased from his own works to enter into the rest of God.
The Right Name, or Kept in His Name?
Now this blurring of the line of distinction between what-is-of-God and what-is-of-men is essential to E. Shelhamer’s argument. We quote from him again:
“But,” says one, “we do not have any such name as Presbyterians, Methodist, or Free Methodist. We are ‘Christians,’ we are ‘saints.’ ” Well, it is not the name that makes the sect necessarily. You may renounce all the names to which you refer, and still you may be a sect. We call a horse a horse. It is not the name that makes the animal what it is. A flock of geese is a flock, whether you call it a flock or not. Your sect is a sect, whether you call it a sect or not. You may not give it a name, but that does not destroy the sect quality.
We would certainly agree that the significant difference is not just in the name—it goes further than that. If my name is Smith (a common English-language name), and I meet some woman who is named “Mrs. Smith,” it is plain that she is not my wife. There is more to being a wife than the name; yet the name is important. (Would I introduce my wife as “Mrs. Jones”?) The crucial question with husband and wife is: Are they “no more twain, but one flesh” (Mark 10:7-8)? The crucial question with respect to a congregation is: What is the sect quality? And to that end, the Bible tells us Christ is married to the church that He has built and is building. “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom.” (John 3:29) “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” (Romans 7:4) “For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” (Isaiah 54:5) (Israel after the flesh is a type of Israel after the Spirit.) It is plain from Ephesians 5:23-32 that Christ is the husband of the church: “For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones…. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Furthermore, we gladly testify that Jesus Christ is not a church bigamist, but has only one wife. In prophecy, she was described thus: “My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother.” (Song 6:9) This is the non-sect quality. It is a uniqueness that arises from the solemn reality that God has only created one church. Just one. Not two or more—just one. And He is married to just one. Jesus Christ is not a church adulterer; He is married to the one and only “church of the Firstborn.” (Hebrews 12:23)
So what is the sect quality? “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.” (Isaiah 4:1) In Shelhamer’s day, and in ours, there were sects (“women”) who claimed marriage to Christ (“shall take hold of one Man”); but it is evident from the prophecy that they were not submitted to Him, not one with Him—indeed, they were and are independent of Him, on their own. There have been groups who called themselves by the Father’s name (the ekklesia of God), but they are not one with Jesus. “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name.” (John 17:11-12) The name is important, but the oneness with God and with each other is of first importance. We will say it in this way: The Bride of Christ is more than a woman among women. She is uniquely His, and He is uniquely hers. They have left all other bodies and spirits for each other and are one, even as God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are one. She is known by the name of her Husband’s Father, the one and only Church of God.
“In heaven and earth is no other,
Her builder and maker is God.”*
Do Men’s Church Organizations Divide God’s People?
Let us take a closer look at the government and manner in which God has organized His church, as compared with the way men organize and govern their churches. Mr. Shelhamer writes:
“But,” enquires one, “do not these church organizations make divisions among the people of God?” We reply, nothing can divide two of God’s saints unless one or both of them backslide.
“For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?… For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 1:11-13; 3:3-4) Here is where the Word of God brands the teaching of E. E. Shelhamer as false. Here is a picture of children of God, not backslidden, still feeding on milk, yet unable to bear stronger food, who are divided. And right with that state of things, we see an undivided ministry laboring hard with them to be cleansed from the causes of their division and be one in Christ, seeing eye to eye, having the same judgment, speaking the same thing (1 Corinthians 1:10). Here is a Bible definition of undivided. By this Bible standard, many of God’s saints are divided from each other, in spite of Mr. Shelhamer’s denial of the fact.
Do you hear the Bible rebuke in this? Can you see the clash between Paul and Shelhamer? The lack of affinity between him and the ministers of the one true church, “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” (Hebrews 8:2) There is a denial of fact in Mr. Shelhamer’s statement, “Nothing can divide two of God’s saints unless one or both of them backslide.” There are things that do divide God’s saints from each other, and these things need to be faced, the root causes dealt with, until it can be truthfully said that the divided ones are no longer yet carnal. If I deny it is happening, then surely there will be no serious attempt, such as Brother Paul’s, to deal with the problem.
Is It Possible to Leave Sectism?
But let us sample Mr. Shelhamer’s unbelief some more:
There it is, brother, in a nutshell. It is easier to say put away divisions and schisms, than it is to get it done. And if all sects would obey your command to “come out,” and be “one,” we would simply be one unorganized sect, with the same divisions and schisms as before, instead of several sects. So, all there is of it, there are different understandings of the Bible, that make different sects, and the come-outer simply offers another understanding, thus forming an unorganized sect. So, disorganizing would not destroy divisions.
[Ibid.; emphasis added]
It is plain from this sample of Mr. Shelhamer’s thoughts that he saw nothing of God’s cleansing of His saints that takes the contention for our own way of reasoning out of us and subdues us to Himself. Mr. Shelhamer looks at the entire things through the eyes of mere human ability. If that is all that there were available, then all of us would have to agree with Mr. Shelhamer. But God has a cleansing for the church (Ephesians 5:26-27). He has a cleansing for the sinner to put him in His church (James 4:8). He has a heart purification for the double-minded child of God to lay the foundation in that heart for how he ought to behave himself “in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15) The fact is, brother or sister, that God is not only able to take you out of a church of men, He is able to take all the churches of men out of you. God is able to completely spoil you for anything but His guidance, His Word, His interpretation of that Word, and to render you in such an inward condition that you will not vaunt yourself, but completely and absolutely trust Him to take care of all problems and needs. God will give you something that will keep you from looking to man, especially yourself or whoever you might feel naturally drawn to, and that will keep you looking to God alone through everything. Before the disciples received this operation of divine grace in their hearts, they argued and reasoned about which of them was the most spiritual, “the greatest,” but praise God! we read no more of that kind of activity among them after the upper room dying and purging.
Let us return to the garden: once I have seen (and it takes God’s eye surgery in my heart for me to see like this [Matthew 6:22]) the great superiority of how God cultivates His garden and deals with the challenges to His crops, I am thoroughly disenchanted with my hoe, with your hoe, and with everyone else’s hoes. I just want God to work in the way that He sees best. Yea, then I can say with the Bible, “Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” (Psalm 39:5) “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3) “The flesh profiteth nothing.” (John 6:63) “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 3:5)
—To be continued, further examining this rejection of “Come-out-ism,” while describing the results of true obedience to the biblical “come out” message.