Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cause of Division

What is the cause of divisions in the Christian church? One of the fundamental causes is trust in human wisdom and human personalities. We see the two of these together at work in the church of Corinth. The Corinthians were emphasizing various personalities they were following (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:21-23; 4:1-6). They were also emphasizing human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:1-5; 3:18-20). The way Paul interweaves them indicates that they are related. The exalting of human wisdom generally results in the exalting of the individuals who come up with that wisdom. And the glorifying of individuals generally goes with ascribing to them a special wisdom denied others. Nor are we much different in the church today. We have certain leaders who we put on pedestals, even to the point of dividing over them. We also have arguable opinions we consider crucial, which we affirm dogmatically and separate over. This is true, whether we are looking at the old denominational divisions or the more modern movements . How do we avoid this pitfall?  

We must remember that the important thing is the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Romans 1:16,17; Galatians 1:8,9). The important thing is not my cleverness or my leader’s knowledge, but Christ’s cross. He is the one who has conquered death and sin (Colossians 2:13-15; 1 Peter 2:24-25; Romans 8:31-39). He is the way to God (1 Timothy 2:5; Acts 4:12; John 14:6). And He offers this, not based on our knowledge or what human leader we follow, but by grace (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Titus 3:5,6). Now Scripture does say we are to respond to this by a life of obedience (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Corinthians 3:18). But it is one thing to advocate a life of obedience and another to believe we, or our group, have a special handle on what it means to follow God.

Also, we need humility (1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 8:1-3; Proverbs 16:18). Now there are basic truths of the Christian faith that we are called to stand for and even to die for (Jude 3; 1 John 4:1-6; 2 Corinthians 11:2-4). But could it be that some of the things we fight over are more a matter of judgment than of clearly required convictions? The proper attitude is to put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:1-11; Romans 12:16; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Now I am not saying we should put aside our fundamental beliefs. There is a point where you are not doing someone any kind of favor by confirming them in their error rather than confronting them in love (2 Timothy 2:23-26; Ephesians 4:15; Galatians 6:1). But could it be that we have blown many of these issues out of proportion and are in danger, like the Corinthians, of dividing over things that are not worth it?

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