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The Heresy of Division

Introduction

On October 7, 2006, at the International Training for Elders and Responsible Ones (ITERO) held in Whistler, British Columbia, the blended co-workers in the Lord's recovery issued a statement entitled "A Warning to All the Saints and All the Churches in the Lord's Recovery concerning Titus Chu and Those Who Promote and Disseminate His Divisive Teachings, Publications, Practices, and Views." Although hundreds of churches and serving ones have affirmed the co-workers' quarantining of Titus Chu and certain of his co-workers, brothers from eight cities in the Midwest region of the United States have posted statements on the Internet rejecting that quarantine. Their statements maintain that the teaching of Titus Chu does not depart from essential items of the faith and does not, therefore, constitute heresy. Many of the statements also contend that Titus is not divisive and deny that he has caused turmoil or division in the churches. These assertions indicate the authors' incomplete understanding of the nature of heresy, their unwillingness to recognize the facts testified to by many witnesses, and their refusal to properly and scripturally deal with a divisive brother and the divisions he has created. Furthermore, the public dissemination of these formal statements endangers unsuspecting readers and frustrates the one accord among the saints by sowing unjustified doubts concerning the validity of the quarantine. The purpose of this article is to establish a clear scriptural understanding of heresy as it relates to division, to present the scriptural pattern of how to deal with a factious and heretical man, and to briefly mention some of the divisions produced by Titus Chu, his co-workers, and the teachings that they propagate. In reviewing these matters, it will become evident that the quarantine of Titus Chu and certain of his co-workers was not only warranted but necessary to the health of the Body.

The Heresy of Division

Heresy is commonly understood as that which contradicts the truth conveyed in the Bible, and it most notably refers to deviant teachings concerning the person of Christ. This is certainly a correct understanding of heresy, but it is only a partial understanding. The Greek word translated variously as "divisions," "sects," or "parties" in Galatians 5:20 is hairesis—heresies. Division is, therefore, heresy, as the following portion from the ministry of Brother Witness Lee explains:

Division is versus oneness. In order for us to practice the oneness of the Body of Christ, we need to realize that division is heretical, sectarian (Gal. 5:20b-21a). We need to see the real meaning of the word heresy in the Scriptures. Some of us may feel that heresy is anything against the truth revealed in the holy Word. Many Christians teach and practice differently in things such as foot-washing, baptism, and head covering. But the word heresy is used to refer to only two things. First, any teaching that denies the person of Christ in His divinity as God or in His humanity as man is heretical. Christ is the complete God and the perfect man. Second, the word heresy also refers to division. Galatians 5:19-21a says, "And the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, angers, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, carousings..." In Galatians 5:20 the Greek word for "parties," hairesis, is literally heresies, which means schools of opinions (Darby's New Translation), sects. A sect is a party, and a party is a division. Divisions and parties, sects, are works of the flesh, and "those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (v. 21b). (Messages to the Trainees in Fall 1990, p. 125)

Brother Watchman Nee also saw the New Testament revelation that division is heresy, and he helped the saints to see how this very specific meaning of the Greek word came to be obscured in the English language:

The meaning of the word sect is very clear in Greek. It is translated as "divisions" in 1 Corinthians 11:18 and as "sects" in Galatians 5:20. Actually, they are the same word. Why was this word translated as "heresy" in the King James Version? In Greek the word is hairesis. The translators of the Bible probably chose not to translate the meaning of the word but instead used the word heresy. The King James Version was produced by the Anglican Church, and it had trouble with this verse because it was a state church. This reservation resulted in the use of an ambiguous word. The translators probably knew that this was not the right word, but they used it nevertheless.... Translating [hairesis] as "sect" or "division" and calling sectarianism or division a work of the flesh would have aroused controversy. This was the reason the word heresy was used instead. It diverted the reader from understanding its true meaning. Actually, the word heresy is not an English word. No English-speaking person knows what it really means.... A casual reading of a few other translations will tell you that the word hairesis is actually sect in English. But because of reservations, the word heresy was used instead, and everyone has been kept in the dark as to the true meaning of the word. The Greek word hairesis was anglicized to become heresy in 1611, and the word heresy has been with us for the last three hundred years. (The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 50, pp. 826-827)

The supporters of Titus Chu claim that the teaching he promotes does not deviate from essential items of the faith and is not heretical. Their partial understanding of what constitutes heresy may persuade the unlearned that Titus is not involved in heresy and, therefore, should be welcomed as a genuine New Testament minister by all the churches in the Lord's recovery. The tree, however, is known by its fruit (Matt. 12:33), and the fruit of Titus' ministry is the heresy of division. With few exceptions, the churches in the Lord's recovery have recognized the issue of Titus' ministry and have rejected the teaching that has brought it forth. Brother Lee strongly exhorted the saints to repudiate both the heresy concerning the person of Christ and the heresy of division:

Denying the person of Christ and division are the only two items that can be considered as heretical because they are damaging to the uttermost. Denying the person of Christ insults Christ as the Head and denies Him as the Head. Division dismembers the Body of Christ. One heresy damages the Head, and the other heresy damages the Body. These heresies are intolerable in the eyes of God and should be utterly rejected by us. Second John says that if anyone denies the Lord's person in His divinity or humanity, we should not receive him into our home or even greet him (vv. 7, 9-11). If we either receive him into our home or greet him, we share in his evil works. Regarding the divisive ones, Paul strongly charges us to "turn away from them" (Rom. 16:17). (Messages to the Trainees in Fall 1990, p. 126)

The consequence for not turning away from the heresy of division is severe. If the saints do not utterly reject division, they run the terrible risk of incurring judgment for continuing to meet in division and, thus, participating in heresy. Brother Lee continues:

Division is also repulsive in the eyes of the apostles (1 Cor. 1:10-13a; 3:3-4; 11:17-20). In 1 Corinthians 11:17-20 Paul condemned the Corinthians for coming together for the worse, because there were divisions and parties among them. Paul even said that because some were partaking of the Lord's table in division and with a divisive spirit, they were weak and sick, and some had even died (vv. 27-30). This was God's discipline and the Lord's judgment upon them for meeting in division. (Messages to the Trainees in Fall 1990, p. 127)

May all the saints in the Lord's recovery be preserved from heresy by refusing divisions and division-makers!

Dealing with a Factious and Heretical Man

Titus 3:10 says, "A factious man, after a first and second admonition, refuse." Footnote 1 on this verse in the Holy Bible Recovery Version identifies the factious man as "[a] heretical, sectarian man who causes divisions by forming parties in the church according to his own opinions..." In his study of several translations of this verse, Brother Lee discovered abundant support for this understanding:

Some say that in Titus 3:10 "a factious [sectarian] man" should be translated "a man who teaches heresy" and that this expression does not refer to a divisive person. But in Greek this expression denotes a person who holds an opinion or a different doctrine that tends toward division. Thus, the English versions translate this as (1) a factious man—American Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, Marshall's Interlinear Greek-English New Testament; (2) a man who is factious—Revised Standard Version, Amplified Bible; (3) a heretical sectarian and cause of divisions—Amplified Bible; (4) a heretical person causing divisions—Wuest; (5) a sectarian—W. J. Conybeare; (6) a man who causes divisions—R. F. Weymouth; (7) a factious person—James Moffatt; (8) a sectarian man—Concordant Literal New Testament, Berry's Interlinear Greek-English New Testament; (9) a factious person—Berkeley Version; (10) a heretical man, i.e., one given to "lift up" opinions, sound or unsound, and an unstable, unsettled individual who wishes to form sects—Young's Translation; (11) causing division by a party spirit, factious—Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words; (12) a divisive person—New International Version. Most of the above translations are authorities. (The Ministry of the New Testament and the Teaching and Fellowship of the Apostles, pp. 30-31)

These definitions make plain that a factious, heretical man is one who holds to his own opinions, exalts his own opinions, persuades others to follow him according to his own opinions, and produces factions that are loyal to him based on the opinions that he promotes. Underlying the factious, heretical man's exaltation of his own opinions and his inclination to produce parties is his desire for personal gain, and he is willing even to cast aside the truth in pursuit of his aims. W.E. Vine, author of the popular Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, touches these striking points when he defines hairesis (heresy) as "a choosing, choice (from haireomai, to choose); then, that which is chosen, and hence, an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects, Gal. 5:20" (Vine's, p. 557). He further notes that "such erroneous opinions are frequently the outcome of personal preference or the prospect of advantage" (Vine's, p. 557). The self-seeking of the factious man can never build up the Body of Christ; it can only damage it. The only course of action that the Body can take for its own preservation is to turn away from such ones (Rom. 16:17; Titus 3:10).

To turn away from a factious, heretical man is necessary to "stop intercourse with a contagiously divisive person for the church's profit" and to maintain "the one fellowship of the apostles in the church" (The Ministry of the New Testament and the Teaching and Fellowship of the Apostles, p. 30). It does not mean that we hate that person; on the contrary, our turning away from him is with the hope that he can be healed of his contagious disease and ultimately be restored to the fellowship of the Body (see "Quarantine in the Bible and in Practice" in this book). Even if the person from whom we must turn away is good in many other respects, we cannot tolerate the division he creates, because the Lord Himself cannot tolerate it. To turn away from such a one is to quarantine him for the sake of the health of the Body. Brother Lee writes:

Some say that the apostle's charge to deal with the divisive ones in Romans 16:17 should not be applied to the division-makers in the Lord's recovery today. They say that Romans 16:17 refers to men who do not serve our Lord, but their own stomach, as mentioned in the next verse, and that the division-makers in the Lord's recovery today are not this kind of person. But we need to realize that in Romans 16:17 the apostle condemns the action of making divisions, regardless of what kind of person makes the divisions. A brother may be very right in every regard as a Christian, but if he makes divisions in the church or among the churches, he should be condemned and quarantined as the apostle charged. (The Ministry of the New Testament and the Teaching and Fellowship of the Apostles, pp. 29-30)

In dealing with the divisive ones, we must also take Paul's word in Titus 3:10, "A factious man after the first and second admonition refuse." A factious person is a divisive and sectarian person. According to Paul's word in Romans 16:17 and in Titus 3:10, after the first and second admonitions, we must reject such persons and turn away from them. To do this is to quarantine such persons. To quarantine a person does not mean that we hate that person. If one member in a family became ill with a contagious disease, the rest of the family would need to quarantine him for the safety of the whole family. Otherwise, the entire family would be affected. Likewise, to practice Paul's word in Romans 16:17 and in Titus 3:10 is to quarantine the divisive members in the Body of Christ. This is not my teaching; it is my presentation of the holy Word to you. (A Brief Presentation of the Lord's Recovery, p. 46)

The statement of warning regarding Titus Chu and his supporters that was issued at Whistler, British Columbia, in October 2006, was the blended brothers' exhortation to the saints in the Lord's recovery to refuse factious, heretical men and to repudiate their divisions in order to preserve the health of the Body. In response, the Body has quarantined the divisive ones and continues to pray for their healing and recovery.

The Tree Is Known by Its Fruit: Identifying the Heresy of Division in the Work of Titus Chu

The work of Titus Chu has resulted in clearly manifested division. The division itself is heresy, and the workers who have created the divisions are heretical. The following is an itemization of some of the unmistakable signs of division that exist in the places that are under the influence of Titus Chu, his co-workers, and their work.

  1. In recent years, Titus Chu has become increasingly audacious in aggressively promoting teachings which directly contradict the New Testament ministry of Brothers Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. These teachings have caused the saints under their influence to reject the ministry that the Lord released through these two brothers (see "The Different Teachings and Dissenting Views of Titus Chu and Certain of His Co-workers"").
  2. Titus Chu has cultivated a personal following and has raised up his own private co-workers who are loyal to him.
  3. Under Titus Chu's heretical teaching and leadership, many of the churches in the Midwest of the United States and in Eastern Canada have isolated themselves from the fellowship of the Body and have limited their fellowship to those churches and saints that receive the ministry of Titus Chu. Titus has endeavored to carve out a region for his own work and has tried to cut that region off from the common fellowship of all the local churches on the earth.
  4. Titus Chu has sought to displace Brother Lee's ministry with his own. Toward this end, he has carried on his own publication work to disseminate his different teachings. In so doing, he has rejected Brother Lee's admonition that we should have only one publication among us so as not to bring in different ministries other than the one New Testament ministry. Brother Lee was clear that different ministries will inevitably lead to division, and his word has been proven correct.
  5. Titus and his co-workers have unleashed a vehement Internet attack, railing on the blended co-workers, who are faithfully continuing the ministry of Brothers Nee and Lee, and on Living Stream Ministry.
  6. The churches under the influence of Titus' ministry have rejected the Body's action to quarantine Titus and two of his most vociferous defenders, Nigel Tomes and Frank Lin.
  7. A number of the churches under the influence of Titus Chu have been transmuted into sects by his followers. By establishing the secular control of directors over elders, refusing believers who desire to receive the ministry of the co-workers, and despising a vast number of local churches as unworthy of their fellowship, these sects have forsaken their standing as genuine local churches.
  8. The ministry of Titus Chu has been actively propagated to form divisions in Kampala, Uganda, and mainland China and has caused confusion and turmoil in those countries (see "From Such Turn Away" and the articles on the Reports section of this site concerning Uganda).

Conclusion

The rejections of the recent quarantine proclaimed by brothers from eight cities in the United States and Canada in support of Titus Chu and his teachings are damaging because they lure unsuspecting saints into complacency regarding a division-maker and the heretical divisions that he and his co-workers are actively propagating. Those who choose to continue to receive Titus Chu, his co-workers, and the teachings they promote are inviting division and, therefore, heresy into their midst. As we have seen, churches that choose to neglect the quarantine are in great peril of becoming "infected" with the "germs" of division and of forfeiting their standing as genuine local churches by becoming local sects. May the Lord preserve them and all the saints from following that disastrous course.

[Tony Espinosa with Bill Buntain and Dan Sady]