Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Fomenting

ImageA couple of years ago I sought to admonish a brother in Christ for mistreating another brother. The man thought his brother was teaching error, and in his interaction with the man, acted in an inappropriate manner. When I pointed out the mistreatment, this brother was very cavalier in his treatment of his fellow Christian. Here is an exact quote from his pen:

“When the apostles dealt with error, they did not consider what the errorists felt about fairness. … I try to act in such a way to ensure fairness to truth, whether those who oppose me deem that as fair or not.”

This quote comes very close to conveying the idea that the end justifies the means. The actions spoke that intent in an even more clear manner. The man’s actions could not be in any way construed as ethical or righteous, but he believed himself to have truth, and was unapologetic for what he did.

In contrast, the apostle Peter wrote that we are to be honorable in our conduct, “that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). A Christian is to be honorable in his behavior, at all times and before all men.

The brother mentioned above has used unrighteous means to foment strife. The word foment is an interesting word. It is defined by Webster, “to promote the growth or development of : rouse, incite <foment a rebellion.” The sin of fomenting strife is serious, both in the damage done to brethren and the Lord’s work, and in the personal consequence to the sinner.

There are a number of descriptions given in the New Testament of those guilty of this sin. An example, is Paul’s characterization of them in the list of those who are “filled with all unrighteousness” (Romans 1:29). In that list he includes those who are full of strife, and calls them “whisperers.”

This is the common tactic of one who foments strife. He works behind the scenes, avoiding those who would expose his efforts, and seeks to build a consensus with the likeminded or the weak. Despite James’ admonition to do not do so, he “speaks evil of a brother, and judges a brother” (James 4:11). In this he is guilty of gossip. Gossip and slander is prolifically condemned in scripture (cf. Psalm 50:20-21; Proverbs 10:18; 11:9; 1 Timothy 5:13; Titus 2:3; 1 Peter 3:10-11).

Those who are unrepentant in this sin are not worthy of the fellowship of God’s people. Consider the following from the pen of the beloved apostle Paul, “But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).

The destructive nature of fomenting strife can’t be understated. It was a problem in Corinth, and the apostle revealed it to be indicative of a carnal or worldly nature (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4). We are to be of the same mind, brethren, and those who seek to divide have no place among God’s people.

So, what are we to do when we are approached by one who makes secret or private accusations against a brother?

We are to refuse them. Paul told Timothy, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses…” (1 Timothy 5:19). The young evangelist is not the only one who is to refuse to listen to attempts to manipulate or incite.

We are to shun them. This is the exact word used in 2 Timothy 2:16. The context has the apostle warning to shun “idle babblings.” It is often the practice of the fomenter of strife to press his hobbies to the division of brethren. He is to be shunned.

We are to avoid them. In both 2 Timothy 2:23 and Titus 3:9 Paul shows disputes that lead to strife are to be avoided. To avoid them, we must avoid those who engage in “foolish and ignorant disputes.”

The one fortunate thing about the sin of strife is that it takes more than the fomenter to gain purchase among God’s people. If those who are approached by the fomenter of strife refuse to take part in the sin, he will be admonished, and perhaps rejected, rather than having his poison trouble the people of God. Recognize the bringer of strife, and remain righteous in your refusal to entertain his efforts to cause problems among God’s people.