Boast No More, III. On Divisions in the Church

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment (1Cor. 1:10).

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (1Cor. 3:1-3).

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized (1Cor. 11:18,19).

But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit (Jude 17-19).

The question was posed to me in response to my post yesterday on the unity of the Church, on how divisions that exist within the Church reflect upon the trueness of one church over another. From the writings of the apostles, it is clear that divisions within the Church are not the revealed desire of God and that divisions arise because fleshly people gather where only the spiritual should. For the fleshly put their minds on the things of the flesh and, rather than striving for Christ’s glory manifested in his Church, they strive for personal gain and discord. These, as opposed to the spiritual, do not seek after the Kingdom and its righteousness, but they seek for worldly pleasures and esteem and thereby invest in the kingdom of hell.

To those who gathered in Corinth whom he chastised for their divisions, the apostle Paul says that he could not address them with the solid food of the Word but that he had to feed them with milk since they were still living according to the flesh. In other words, the apostle declares that he had to feed the church at Corinth with the fundamentals of the faith, just as though they were not of the Church, for they did not evince the maturity that befits those who are in Christ. He calls those who were in the church there fleshly, a term he uses elsewhere in his writings to describe the state of those whose end is death and destruction (cf. Rm. 8:6, 13). Therefore, the apostle’s purpose in addressing them thus is to terrify them in their discord, for those who are spiritual and receive life and peace are those who seek unity, and those who are fleshly and receive death and condemnation seek disunity (cf. Gal. 5:20).

In spite of this, the apostle writes later in his first letter to the Corinthians that he believes their disunity in part, for divisions must exist in the church ” in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1Cor. 11:19). This is to say that the apostle recognizes that the Church at present resides in a sinful world, and therefore nominal Christians will reside among the true professors of Christ. Therefore, disunity and discord in the Church serves the purpose of revealing the genuine, for the genuine will seek unity through the Revelation of God, and the ingenuine will seek strife and discord, or they will seek some false unity outside the Revelation of God. These who are ingenuine might profess unity with their mouths, but they seek it based upon their traditions and false doctrines and not upon the headship of our Lord Jesus Christ and upon the Scriptures which the Holy Spirit penned through apostles and the prophets.

Of this reality, our Lord gives a parable of the wheat and the weeds in Matthew 13. Our Lord explains this parable saying that the Son of Man sows good seed and the evil one sows evil seed and that these grow up together in the professing church and will not be separated until the final ingathering where the wheat will be gathered up to eternal life and the weeds will be burned eternally with fire. For there will be many who on that day say to our Lord, “Lord, Lord, did we not do many righteous deeds in your name?” And our Lord will say to them, “Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. I never knew you (cf. Mt. 7:21-23).

For this reason, divisions will continue to exist in the Church until the Day of our Lord. The question then that everyone who claims to be in the Church of God must ask of himself all the days of his life is, “Am I wheat, or am I weed?” For your verbal profession of Christ will not save you, but only your faith evinced in your striving for unity under the headship of Jesus Christ and his Holy Scriptures will.

Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study

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1 reply

  1. I never noticed that Paul says the divisions will serve to reveal who is a true believer and who is just a nominal Christian in 1Cor. 11:18,19. Thanks for sharing.


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