By: Brian A. Yeager
This article is in no way intended to be mean to those that are older members of the church. We need to have respect for our elder brothers and sisters in Christ (I Timothy 5:1-2). The term applied above is not an inspired term and you cannot find it in any concordance. I have authored this terminology, to my knowledge, and I am going to define it for the readers of this article. The Grandfather Clause – A clause that is quiet in the Bible yet means that we respect the error of older brothers and sisters in Christ because of their age, experience, and contributions to the church.
I decided to write this article because it seems evident that many will mark a man that is wrong and is in error unless it is one of our “Grandfathers”. Then it seems the rules change and there is much more room for “interpretation”. What I would like to see is for us all to view what the Bible says and not what we think is appropriate. If a knowledgeable brother or sister in Christ errs then they would want good brethren to love them enough to point that out to them. A brother or sister in Christ that knows God’s word knows that a rebuke is an act of love (Revelation 3:19). Yet, many brethren do not see it that way. They see some preachers of the Gospel in a way in which those preachers cannot be wrong. They base their choice on how much one has accomplished on this earth. Does God tell us to deal with false teachers based on what schools they have gone to, what publications they have written in, how many published works they have, or how long they have been preaching?
Does the Bible Make This Distinction?
In the great book of Romans and chapter sixteen we can read of what we are to do when a person steps beyond the bounds of truth and unity. (Romans 16:17-18) “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Let us think on this passage. It states to mark one who is teaching contrary to the doctrine we have learned. Now I looked, and I encourage you to look in this series of passages, and I see no mention of the “Grandfather Clause” or anything that would suggest that these two passages do not apply to even those brethren who have done “many good things”. When speaking of discipline in the church there are other passages that add clarity. (II Thessalonians 3:6) “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” Again, in this passage I see no “Grandfather Clause”.
When it comes to some brethren and the doctrines they teach other brethren like to make this “Grandfather Clause” apply to fellowship. They say things like “well, brother so and so has been through a lot, give him some wiggle room here.” Does the Bible gives us “wiggle room” when it comes to fellowship? (Ephesians 5:11) “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Just because someone is older or has been a member of the church for many years that does not give justification for allowing them to do wrong and letting it go without action being taken. As a matter of fact those that were older, wiser, and more prestigious than the normal were responsible for the error in the rejection of Christ. (Mark 8:31) “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Those men were wrong. Just like some of our “wiser” brethren could be today. One of our problems among brethren is that some men are exalted and put upon a pedestal.
It is a tempting thing for preachers to allow themselves to be elevated. The Gospel preacher who preaches the truth surely has had enough trials for doing so (John 17:14). Therefore, the occasional “pat on the back” sure makes a preacher who stands for the truth feel good. However, there are those preachers who are like the Pharisees were. (John 12:43) “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” It is a sad thing when brethren exalt a man and I think it is even worse when a preacher allows himself to be exalted. When a man preaches, he should set out to preach that which the Spirit of God has revealed (II Timothy 4:2 and Ephesians 6:17). He should not be preaching in a way to show off his education or to sound as though he is better than any other. Paul’s attitude would serve all preachers well: (I Corinthians 2:1-4) “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power.”
I knew of a preacher who had a ton of stories. One story that he loved to tell was how he built up the church in southwest VA. He would go on and on to me about how he built buildings for brethren to assemble in. He would go on about how many he baptized in this creek and that pond over in such and such County. He could spend hours telling these stories. One thing you never heard was God getting the glory for it. When people are converted it was not the preacher who did it, but the word of God that converted (Matthew 13:3-23, Romans 1:16, and I Peter 1:23). Paul said: (I Corinthians 3:6) “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” Glory for all things needs to be given to God (I Corinthians 10:31). Brethren need to realize that we need Christ to accomplish things we set out to do (Philippians 4:13). We need to be humble in our service to God (James 4:10).
There is no respect of persons with God (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, and I Peter 1:17). When someone walks outside of the boundaries of the law of Christ they need to be treated as the Bible declares. That person is no longer walking in the light (I John 1:7), and that person no longer has God. We as brethren should maintain no fellowship with that person. Notice the all-inclusive term used in the following passages. (II John 1:9-11) “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
This verse is the totality of the meaning
of this article. There is no term “Grandfather Clause”, it is man
made just as the meaning of it. We need to look to the authority
of Christ in spiritual matters (Colossians 3:17). Exalting man above
God is sinful, and men that allow that to occur are spiritually ill.
God gets all glory, praise, and honor. There is no “Grandfather Clause”
and to add it to the doctrine of Christ whether in word or practice is
a violation of the will of God.
2002 by Brian Yeager may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.