IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: OF DENOMINATIONS AND THE DIVISIVENESS OF THE CHURCH
Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
“For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brothers, by those who are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this is what I mean: Every one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
When Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” did he intend that the people called to bear his name in the world would eventually be divided into 37,000 competing denominations? That is the number of separate Christian bodies worldwide, according to missions statistician Todd Johnson of the World Christian Database. Some argue that this number is inflated due to the database’s definition of denomination. But even if we were to suppose he is high by one-fourth (not likely), we’re still looking at 27,000 separate Christian groups.
Sometimes church division is a tragic necessity, and the call to Christian unity does not mean that we must blend all believers into a single homogenous unit. But neither does it allow us to relax and accept the status quo as God’s perfect will. Evangelicals believe in the spiritual oneness of all true Christians-what Augustine of Hippo called the invisible church-but does this mean that we should have no concern for visible church unity?
Our visible disunity causes many unbelievers to stumble. The problem is not only division, but divisiveness, within congregations as well as between (and within) denominations. To jar the Corinthians-a divided church if ever there was one-out of complacency, Paul asked three pointed questions in 1 Corinthians 1:13, questions we need to reconsider today.
Is Christ Divided?
The main fault with the Church was that it is not only divided “somewhat” in its creeds and ordinances, it is also “somewhat” divided in its heart. When Christians no longer can love each other unconditionally, when divisions in doctrine become so acid that we cannot cooperate, when we can no longer extend the hand of fellowship to those with whom we disagree, “then, indeed, is the Church of God found faulty.”
Division within the church is one of the most serious problems a church can face, if not the most serious. It can devastate the church’s fellowship, worship, mission, and witness to the world unless it is solved quickly. Paul knew this; therefore, he sought to solve the problem immediately.
“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation. And every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”
Allowing no Divisions:
The word division (schismata) means to split, to rend, to tear apart.
Note the words “among you.”
The division or dissension is not outside the church; it is not out in the world. It is inside the church. The divisive church is not working to bring peace, love, and brotherhood to the world; the divisive church is not seen out in the world ministering to the starving, diseased, and lost masses of the world. The divisive church is seen fuming and fighting. The sinful and devastating problems of dissension are within the divisive church. The divisive church is splitting, rending, and tearing itself apart.
The tragic report is that contention is within the church. The contention was so severe that some believer went to Paul about the matter.
The depth and seriousness of the division is again brought out by the word contentions (erides). The word means wranglings, strifes, quarrels, factions.
Note: the nature of division is more clearly defined by the word. The church was arguing and splitting into groups, contending and quarreling over something. There was a severe strife between factions and cliques in the church. Contention is one of the terrible “works of the flesh.”
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? –
1 Corinthians 1:13
It seems like a harmless statement given to us by the Apostle Paul, not just a statement a question: “Is Christ divided?” Of course the answer would be “no” he is not divided or who would want to cause the harm to rent or rip the purity of the wholeness of who Christ is.
Anyway we can take this statement from God we realize it is wrong to do so, to divide Christ in anyway. Division speaks of ripping, renting, tearing, ruining, splitting, disunited. Our Lord was indeed rent and torn as they whipped him on the post and his holy blood was split for us on the cross. Our Lord wept and suffered much being in agony for us on the tree. Yet the Apostle is speaking here of a truth of the body of Christ being the Church. And in the midst of the Corinthian Church there was much dis-unity, which gives the heart of Paul. Sadly, in the context of modern evangelicalism we have missed the importance of these things. To us to be involved in a church is a very loose thing, we do not take it seriously by in-large, yet in the early Church, the gathering of believers was considered a very holy thing, yet the Corinthian Church had those with no fear of the Lord in their midst and leaders doing what they wanted to do, encouraging division after names of men and doctrines.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Even Beelzebub with all his craft cannot stand when once his hosts are divided. If Beelzebub be divided against himself, even he must fall, and assuredly this must be the case with those who lack that craft which might tend to overcome disunion. Oh, my brethren, nothing can so soon cast down the church from its high place, mar its glories, and diminish its opportunities of success, as divisions among the hearts of God’s people.
The disunity in the body of Christ causes many unbelievers to stumble. The problem is not only division, but divisiveness, within congregations as well as between (and within) denominations. To jar the Corinthians-a divided church if ever there was one-out of complacency, Paul asked three pointed questions in 1 Corinthians 1:13, questions we need to reconsider today.
Is Christ Divided?
There are few things that so effectively undermine the testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world today as division among those who call themselves Christ’s ones…
My friend, it is the gospel that this world is crying out for! But it’s the gospel that they cannot hear, because of our divisiveness!
Father, with every fibre of our being we abhor false unity, false ecumenism that denies the gospel and denies the glorious work of Thy Son. Father, we know that what fellowship is there between light and darkness, between God and Belial. We would not seek to have such fellowship, but yet, our Father, we acknowledge tonight that the church of Jesus Christ is worldwide; the communion of the saints is a mysterious reality; and Father, we are not divided, we are all one in Christ no matter how we feel or how we think. We know, our Father, that one thing that this old world needs to hear today is the united cry in the gospel. Oh, Father, that You would know nothing in us save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. We pray that men and women from all backgrounds would lay down their tradition, lay down their preconceived ideas, and take up the word of God, and take up the gospel of God alone without labels and without restrictions and loyalties to men, and go and preach it – and that there would be no uncertain sound that would come from this church. Lord, in a day that is yet to be, may there be a certain cry from every city of the world that men and women will hear and see that we’re all thinking the same thing, and speaking the same words, that Christ Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Amen.
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