Thursday, April 20, 2017

Why is the Body So Divided?

Someone once asked me about the reason for divisions in the church. He wrote: "Why do you think there are so many different beliefs within Christianity and so many different denominations? When Jesus established the Church, it was only one Church, and the saints were of one mind and one heart."

In response I agreed that when Jesus established the Church, it was only one Church, and the saints were of one mind and one heart. That's the way it's supposed to be, so it started off healthy. On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church, they were all in one accord. "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." (Act 2:1).

The believers had all things in common. "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;" (Act 2:42-44)

The congregation was of one heart and soul. "And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them." (Act 4:32)

Paul said, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Eph 4:4-6, NIV)

He also wrote, "Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind." (Phil 2:2, NIV)

Since there is only one Body, which was united at the beginning, and since it was God's intention that the Church remain united, then anyone who did not do so was in the flesh. When divisions were created in the Body, it was a result of someone being in the flesh. 

One the one hand you had people who taught heresy, rejected the truth, and corrupted their ways, and others needed to separate from those people, when the heretics refused to submit to the Word of God. One such example was when Martin Luther attempted to bring reformation within the Church with his 95 Theses that exposed abuses in the Church. The leaders of the Roman Church refused to listen and excommunicated him when he refused to recant. That same scenario has been repeated many other times throughout Church history on large and small scales.

There were also heretics teaching error beginning in the first century, as we see from 2 Pet 2, Jude, Galatians and other epistles, as well as Rev 2. Coupled with this there were others who felt -- either rightly or wrongly -- that their particular doctrine was the correct interpretation of Scripture, that they must separate from others who did not agree with them, and become a distinctive group. Some may have sincerely done so to maintain doctrinal purity, even if their doctrine itself was not actually sound, and others may have done so for carnal reasons. For example, some people followed their favorite leader. This even occurred in the first century, so it didn't take long for things to become divided:

"Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, 'I am of Paul,' and 'I of Apollos,' and 'I of Cephas,' and 'I of Christ.' Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void." (1 Cor 1:10-17)

So as you can see, what we began with on the Day of Pentecost and in Jerusalem with the church being in one accord and devoted to the apostles' teaching, soon developed divisions, which have continued ever since.

There is a flip side to the divisions in that they show us something about the people involved on both sides of the split.  They show which ones have God's approval. Paul said, "No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval." (1 Cor 11:19). They also show which ones did not belong to us in the first place. John said, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." (1 Jn 2:19).

Putting it All Together
Just as there is only one Body, it's God's will that we all be in one accord, of one heart and soul, that we all agree and that there be no divisions among us, but that we be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. Therefore, when divisions do occur, it shows us who has God's approval and who does not really belong to us.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible NIV, where noted. Segmented orange image courtesy of Ometria.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading these related articles: The Kingdom of God is Like This, The Nature of False Prophets, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, Having a Servant's Heart, and The Cost of Discipleship. You may also like the other posts in this blog available through the Home page. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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