(The Flocks and Companions)
Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? (Song 1:7)
Question.—Who are to be accounted “companions”?
Answer.—Scripture, by “thy companions” (חֲבֵרֶֽיךָ), points to those possessed of a friendly disposition, even those with whom one is associated, Song 8:13; Ps. 45:14. However, in this case before us, it speaks according to appearance and not reality, Matt. 22:12; 26:50. Many make claims which are not sustained by shared concern for the truth of God. We need to take care knowing that not all who are in the church are of the church, Rom. 9:6.
The difficulties attending making proper distinction are illustrated by the words of Christ, Matt. 7:15. This warning is given because there are false prophets who appear clothed as sheep. Their ulterior motives are hidden but we are assured they lack the character of true shepherds, Ezek. 34:2, 3. Furthermore, they evidence their lack of faithful disposition because they themselves do not understand that whereof they are called to proclaim, Isa. 56:11. Nonetheless, they are able to transform themselves seemingly into that which they are not, 2 Cor. 11:13.
Question.—What then should be understood by “the flocks,” plural?
Answer.—The use of the plural points to the deluded followers of those who are false teachers, for Christ has only one flock, Luke 12:32. It is for this that Christ prays, John 17:11, 21, 23. This is professed in the Song itself, Song 6:9.
The use of the plural indicates the defect in the relation. Christ’s flock is to be perfectly joined together, 1 Cor. 1:10. All other organizations, or associations, instead of being Christ’s one dove, are ecclesiastical harlots, 1 Cor. 6:15-17. These are, by definition, sectarian organizations that deny they are united to Christ by marriage covenant, for incorporation with Christ the head is to be anointed with the same Spirit with which the spiritual body is anointed, cf. Jer. 50:5. They are all, except for this one dove, divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine the true church has learned, Rom. 16:17. Therefore, if we are unconnected with them, we ought to avoid them for the very reasons the apostle notes, Rom. 16:18. If we are connected with them, we are under strictest command to separate from them, 1 Tim. 6:3-5. We must do this if we would have God for our Father, 2 Cor. 6:17, 18. If you refuse to remain separate, you should expect that God will be your adversary, 2 Cor. 6:14-16.
Furthermore, all who refuse to acknowledge that there is only one church, and that there can never be more, (i.e., all who believe that denominationalism is a legitimate phenomenon), are separatists and sectarians in heart and fall under condemnation, Jer. 6:28-30. Jude warns against being found amongst such, Jude 17-19.
Though we admit that there may be Christians in these anti-christian organizations, they are not Christians with whom we can commune ecclesiastically, Amos 3:3. We know that the day shall come when this disorder will be dispelled, Isa. 52:8. Until that day, we court disaster refusing to heed the warnings of Scripture, 1 Cor. 3:16, 17.
Question.—Is this the only safe course?
Answer.—Yes. Prov. 19:27. This is the very principle of Solomon, speaking by the Holy Spirit. The protection of the faithful from the insidious influence of error is one reason we make this argument. It is never wise to expose ourselves to the danger of being indoctrinated in any unscriptural error, or to be misled by the advocacy of wrong practices, Mark 4:24. It may be that some clad in asbestos may be able to take fire into his bosom but it is never safe for any to presume to do so and remain unharmed, Prov. 6:27, 28.
We must seek to be fed with knowledge and understanding, Jer. 3:15. Hearing without understanding is hardly better than not hearing at all, Matt. 13:19. And we only get understanding by following in the footsteps of the flock, Song 1:8.