them which cause divisions"
Several denominations and organizations which claim to get their authority from the Bible,
and more specifically the New Testament, have a doctrine of disfellowshipping and "marking" dissidents,
perceived trouble-makers, or defectors from their group. This consists of publicly announcing (usually from their
pulpit) that "(person's name) is hereby marked for (whatever reason), and henceforth you the membership are
to shun that person, and have absolutely no contact with them."
In some groups, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mennonite, Amish, and possibly Quakers and Mormons, this applies even
within an immediate family. "Faithful" husbands must shun wives; wives must shun husbands, and parents
or children must shun the other to remain a member of that particular sect or cult. There are a few, even among
those who otherwise might be considered true believers, who practice this evil dogma.
This doctrine is based in part on the following Scripture, written by the Apostle Paul:
Rom 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which
ye have learned; and avoid them.
But is this the proper usage of the word, "mark," Is this really what Paul was inspired to write? Let's
look at another place where Paul used the same word; however, in a different context this time:
Phil 3:17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
Does Paul mean that we are to "mark" those who follow his example, and have nothing to do with them?
No. In both instances, "mark" is translated from the Greek word, skopeo. Here is what Strong's Greek
dictionary says about that word:
4648. skopeo, skop-eh'-o; from G4649; to take aim at (spy), i.e. (fig.) regard:--consider, take heed, look at (on),
mark. Comp. G3700.
This word, skopeo, appears in the New Testament 9 times in 6 verses, e.g. Luke 11:35, translated "take heed;"
2 Cor. 4:18, translated "look at;" Galatians 6:1, translated "considering;" Philippians 2:4,
translated "look;" and the two previously mentioned, Romans 6:17 and Philippians 3:17, both translated
It is obvious that none of these meanings involves placing a mark on someone, either verbally or physically. It
simply means to take note of, to regard, to consider, to heed, or to look on or at.
In the first instance, Paul meant that we should take note of those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to
the doctrine he had learned from the Messiah.
In the second instance, he meant that we should take note of those who are following his example, but only as he
follows the instructions of the Messiah. We are to emulate him insofar as he emulates or follows Yahshua. And
that is the way we are to follow our leaders today. If he, we, or anyone else who claims to be a teacher, deviates
from this example, we should be knowledgeable enough in the Scriptures to catch his error. We are not to follow
someone blindly into error, thinking that "the Lord" will correct him sooner or later.
Rather, we are told that we ought to obey Yahweh rather than men (Acts 5:29). We are given the example of the
members of the Berean Assembly, who, upon hearing Paul preach, they "searched the Scriptures whether those
things were so."
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness
and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11 NRSV).
Then, you might reasonably ask, how are we supposed to deal with dissenters, purveyors of false doctrine, would-be
teachers and others who display symptoms of "works of the flesh," more than "fruits of the Spirit,"
when they come among us? (Galatians 5:19-23).
Yahshua told us to beware of false prophets; those who teach their own ideas, instead of the true Words of Life:
Mat 7:15-16, Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Paul said, Titus 3:9-11, But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the
law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject;
Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
This is not to say that we should make a big deal out of every single difference in doctrinal understanding we
have between brothers in the Assemblies. Sincere differences of opinion as to what certain Scriptures are telling
us, is unavoidable, it seems, in this life. But there are certain core beliefs that we all should adhere to, and
if someone comes bringing "another gospel," as Paul said, we should reject that teaching and remove the
heretic from among us until he repents. If he is sincere and is humble about it, then the Scripture in 2nd Thess.
3:15 is appropriate:
Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. We have to be very careful about what we accept;
we must prove all things; we must not be "blown about with every wind of doctrine."