(Arguments Against the Practice 2)
Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? (Song 1:7)
Question.—Is the practice of occasional hearing inconsistent with the being stedfast which is necessarily required in a sincere religious profession?
Answer.—Yes. The character of early Christians was to continue stedfast in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, Acts 2:42. The command to remain stedfast is express in Scripture, 1 Cor. 15:58. This forms a basis for unity of spirit in apostolic order, Col. 2:5. The failure to remain stedfast opens us to the wavering and distorting opinions of errorists and proves us to be unreliable children, Eph. 4:14. Stedfastness is the character of the faith which perseveres to the end, Heb. 3:14; 10:23. The contrary, temporary faith, is characterized by a failure to remain stedfast, 2 Pet. 3:17. Christ’s sheep flee the voice of the stranger, John 10:5.
The practice of occasional hearing also has a tendency to encourage sectarianism by strengthening errorists and heretics in their vanity, Mark 7:6-14. But what is worse for the hearer, each act of hearing is a step toward total and final apostasy, 2 Pet. 2:1, 2; the contrary which is commended by Christ, Rev. 2:2. Regardless of the protests of the hearer, the practice of occasional hearing betrays a detestable indifference to the great matter of the question of true religion, Rev. 3:15, 16.
One cause for unstedfastness in profession is laxity of admission to communicant membership in churches. This encourages an implicit faith without distinct apprehension of the grounds of the faith, Heb. 5:14; 6:1. Profession of religion without knowledge of its principles is like a house founded upon sand and will succumb to similar storms and trials, Matt. 7:26, 27. Unstedfastness in religion demonstrates that the conscience is not exercised either in assuming or relinquishing that religious profession, contrary to the apostle, 1 Pet. 3:15, 16.
Question.—Does occasional hearing counteract the Scriptural dissent, separation and public testimony which faithful Christians are constrained to lift up against those wallowing in error and refusing to be reformed?
Answer.—Yes. It is not personal offence or matters of convenience that constitute scriptural separation but only when the constitution or administration of a church resists the truth or embraces error, Acts 19:9. Separation is part of testimony bearing against corrupt communions, 2 Cor. 6:17. How inconsistent with this separation, which is designed to demonstrate the pattern of truth, is its obscuring in occasional hearing, Ezek. 43:10; 2 Thess. 3:14, 15.
Once a separation has been declared upon scriptural principles, it is the duty of all who would be counted faithful and stedfast to remain apart from what is contrary to the testimony for the truth they seek to uphold, Isa. 29:13. Though truth never changes, yet this testimony forms the “present truth,” 2 Pet. 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:12. Maintaining this testimony constitutes upholding the word of Christ’s patience, Rev. 3:10; for only they who uphold the law in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation are said to have this patience, Rev. 14:12. Only of those who uphold the testimony for the present truth is it said they have not denied Christ’s name, Rev. 3:8.
Those who separate from the corruptions of the present age are commanded not return to those corrupt communions from which they have separated, Jer. 15:19. This testimony bearing is inherently prophetic, Rev. 19:10. Thus, testimony bearing casts the church into a state of prophetic separation from the departing people of God, Ezek. 3:10, 11. It is most necessary that the truth remain upon the earth and amongst the people of God, Gal. 2:5. For this reason, the witnessing church (i.e., that bearing testimony) is at no liberty to relinquish any part of that contended for truth lest they degenerate into people pleasers rather than God pleasers, Gal. 1:10. There is within the church of Christ no authority to deform the church but only to reform it, 2 Cor. 10:8.