Volume 51 | Number 2 | April–June 2023

Inglés Español

Separation: In the Shambles and the Shames (Reprint - May 1978)

By Dr. O. Talmadge Spence

“Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake…” (1 Cor. 10:25). “That ye abstain from meats offered to idols…” (Acts 15:29a).

We live once again in a time of the “shambles” and the “shames” of life. And in view of the fact that the twentieth century is marked with an abounding of the Apostasy, we are all caught in the temptation of being found in the Truth of the Gospel or the snare of deception. It has never been more true or more appropriate to hear the words of the Lord Jesus: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).

How do you really manage the paradox of setting forth, with balance, the witness of the Gospel of the Truth of the Spirit in the Spirit of the Gospel of Truth?

All over the world there is the problem of sin; and all over the Christian world there is the problem of love. We are beginning to see a breakdown between truth and love in our own relationships as Christians. In the midst of an erroneous claim of Neo-Ecumenicity and union, there is almost constant division among the true witness of Old Friends and unity. What is happening among the Neo-Friends does not at all surprise us. However, what is happening among the former Old Friends who were identified with the conservative, evangelical, and fundamental believers is really shocking and disappointing, to say the least.

There is no question in our minds that all who set forth, whether by doctrine or practice, an identity with Neo-Orthodoxy, Neo-Evangelicalism, Neo-Morality, or Neo-Pentecostalism, are a part of the twentieth-century plague of the Apostasy. Whether this doctrine or practice be by cooperation, sympathy, or silent endorsement, they are a part of that plague. There must be from the depth of our Christian commitment, a firm, militant identification with Biblical Inerrancy and Authority, as well as a positive position against the Apostasy. I know that, in my own heart, I know of nothing else to really sacrifice of the past that would hinder me from such a commitment, but I find that only a very few will seek the Spirit of the Truth with the Truth of the Holy Spirit. There is an evident, invisible barrier between many Fundamentalists. I agree wholeheartedly with our dear Dr. Rodney Bell in the label of “Pseudo-Fundamentalists,” and all my soul is dedicated to the Biblical Definition and Resolutions clearly set forth in the World Congress of Fundamentalists, in Edinburgh, Scotland, June 21, 1976. It certainly opened up the door for me to enter into the fellowship of a large number of new friends. The recent visit of our esteemed and beloved Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley to our college has reminded me once and again of my blessings in this regard.

I think that the burden of my heart in this message centers around the distinctions made in the words “shambles” and “shames.” There is indeed a difference, and the New Testament is careful to speak of both.

Paul's use of the word “shambles” (makelloi) has only one presentation in the New Testament. It is really transliterated from the Latin word macellum, and is possibly related to maceria, a Hebrew word for an enclosure. Undoubtedly, Adolf Deissmann should be given the credit for its practical value and definition to us in our own time. Let us notice his presentation.

In the Macellum at Pompeii we can imagine to ourselves the poor Christians buying their modest pound of meat in the Corinthian Macellum…

The “shambles” were the meat markets during the times of the Lord Jesus. In these “shambles” meat was sold from larger carcasses of animals where previous parts had been offered to idols before put in the “shambles” themselves.

Paul knew that there were those, even at Corinth, who were overscrupulous, and “Paul here champions liberty in the matter as he had done before in 8:4” (Robertson).

It may be that some of us, as Fundamentalists, have a spirit of being overscrupulous or elite in some of the things that do not involve the Fundamentals.

At this point, I would like to designate at least an itemized list of three distinctives. (1) Biblical Fundamentals (2) Biblical Distinctives (3) Biblical Doubtful Disputations.

The Biblical Fundamentals involve that which is absolutely essential and necessary for a militant, separated, biblical fellowship and witness. Neither compromise nor conformity with the enemy can be tolerated here.

The Biblical Distinctives represent the unique and individual backgrounds of our Protestant heritage. We were not all born again in the same denomination or taught by the very same Bible teachers. Whether fortunate or unfortunate, it is the fact of the matter. So many of us have honorably come from a perimeter of the Protestant spectrum seeking the dead center of biblical truth in an age that comes at the end of a long line of traditions and concepts. What shall we now do with our variety of biblical distinctives? We cannot simply change by losing our memories. We dare not act without conscience and faith, although we try.

Then there remains among some of us the offense of our “doubtful disputations” (Rom.14:1) which seem to rise to a point of contention and controversy.

It is somewhere in the areas of Biblical distinctives and “doubtful disputations” that I fear a division is coming among some of us as Fundamentalists that will ultimately be very costly for our need of true, biblical unity.

Now, you would do me an injustice to take this article to mean that I am speaking of anything but a Fundamentalist and a Pseudo-Fundamentalist. I am simply speaking of the need of some genuine Fundamentalists who need to go down to the Foot of the Cross and ask the Lord to give a more excellent spirit for those who are truly endeavoring to be a part of the militant, separated saints of God in the End-Time.

As far as the “shames” and the sins and the errors of the time, all Fundamentalists, I believe are united. But, more and more, there is appearing among those identified in the movements of Fundamentalism, a spirit of rejection to those who have not been born in the “distinctive” and the “disputation” of others. We honestly need each other, if we are truly Fundamentalists. As the Apostasy deepens, we are going to need each other more. The battle is not over; let us not contend with each other over the “meats” and in the “shambles.” Let us unite, together, against the “shames,” and take up for one another wherever our names are mentioned. Let us have the same enemies as well as the same, true friends, and do not allow the Age to shake our loyalties.

There are two great strategies that Satan will be using as the days come.

First, he will endeavor to “wear out the saints” (Dan. 7:18–28; cf. Rev. 11:13).

Second, he will seek to divide the saints (Matt. 24:9,10; Mk. 13:12,13; Lk. 21:16,17; etc.).

Let us wholeheartedly agree to be at peace with each other in “shambles”; but to fight, unitedly, in the “shames” of this age. If we find ourselves in a place, unpremeditatedly and unplanned, be not over-scrupulous. But if we find ourselves where meat is offered to idols, be separated, flee!

Let truth and love be our badge; let principle and compassion be our watchword with the fundamental brotherhood.

No doubt, there is a difference between a biblical principle and an unbiblical prejudice. And too, there is a difference between Holy Ghost convictions and personal scruples. So many times we get bogged-down in our personal prejudices and scruples, and forget our principles and our convictions.

If the enemies see us fussing in the “shambles” over personalities and “doubtful disputations,” will they not rightly accuse us of being equally unloving in the presentations of the biblical principles? It is true, Love must serve Truth; but we should never forget it, Love must serve!