Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

Division vs Unity in the Church

on October 29, 2013

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

Calvinism versus Arminianism. Cessation versus Continuationism. Hymns versus contemporary worship. Carpets versus hardwood and pews versus chairs. haha The possibilities for division within the church are endless, and these days it seems that there are people within the church, sometimes pastors themselves, whose very purpose is to incite division and to stir up wrath. So it brings to questions, is all division bad? What is the difference between good and bad division? How can people who disagree still have unity in Christ?

1. Necessary Division

The truth is, there will be times when division is unavoidable, necessary and even good. There are times when it is important to call out and stand against a false teacher/teaching and to call other believers to do the same. This is the case when people are teaching a false doctrine that is in direct violation to God’s Word.

“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” 2 John 1:7

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” 2 Peter 2:1-3

“An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:20-24

““If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.” Deuteronomy 13:1-4

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11

“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” 1 Timothy 1:3-4

“If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” 2 Thess 3:14-15

These verses give us a good idea of where division is sometimes necessary and when we are called to confront a false teacher. If a false teacher is preaching a perverted form of the gospel, a different Jesus (perhaps one who is not God), a hypocrite practicing unrepented sin (according to what God’s Word clearly speaks of as sin), or teaching anything that is in direct contradiction to the Bible then there is a cause for rebuke, private and then public, and sometimes division. These are instances in which the truth of God’s Word will necessarily pierce to the joints and marrow and cause division in the body of Christ. These are the times when we need to speak out against a false teacher. Division is also made between believers and unbelievers. The goats and the sheep. That’s not a division we make but a natural division that occurs in the world. God makes the division. What has light to do with darkness?

2. Sinful Division

Why do I call it sinful to have division? Well, God makes it abundantly clear in the Word that He desires for His children, His body, to be united and knit together. He does not desire strife and contentions. He does not desire Christians to attack other Christians over issues that are not expressed above. He does NOT want Christians to attack their brothers and sisters for minor differences in interpretation of scripture that may be unclear, for differences in style of worship, for differences in apparel or food habits, etc. This is not God’s will for His church, and since He has made it very clear and commanded that we do not cause these divisions, those who do cause divisions for these reasons are in sin.

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” Romans 16:17-18

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:11-12

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:22

“1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

“1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Phil 2:1-3

“14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:14

Causing divisions and creating obstacles in the body that do not need to be there is wrong. It’s way more like the Pharisees than the way Jesus behaved. It’s like the Jews who tried to burden the gentiles with unnecessary bonds. In Romans, Paul tells us not to despise each other when we have differences in food or drink or sabbaths. We may have a personal conviction, but that doesn’t mean we are to cast that conviction on others and then judge them and attack them for not sharing it. This kind of judging happens often in the areas of: style of worship, clothing, food and health habits, lifestyles (as in whether or not Christians should have wealth), etc. God does not want us to divide over these issues, but to love one another so that the lost world will see and know we belong to the King.

My prayer is that God would continue to knit His church together. I pray that teachers and people who are busy seeking ways to cause division within the body of Christ would be convicted and repent. I pray that those who have been hurt by unnecessary division, accusation and judgement would find healing and reconciliation. Praying that God’s church would be united in our common Savior, our common commission and the mighty love of Jesus that connects us all through His Spirit. Amen.

2 responses to “Division vs Unity in the Church

  1. Dana Matejka says:

    Very well said.

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