Church Division – Part 2

Church division is never good although in a few cases it may be necessary. In this article we continue our previous discussion on church division and the reasons it is common. We previously spoke of sin and doctrine as reasons for division within the local body. These are areas in which division may necessary or even commanded. Of course the root which causes the division is always wrong.

There are other common causes for church controversy which we should examine in some detail.

Pride Causes Church Division

Pride is widely known as a serious problem both in the church and in society generally.  Pride is hated by God (Proverbs 8:13). It is through pride that trouble comes, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18); “When pride comes then comes disgrace” (Proverbs 11:2). Pride is a worldly characteristic, not a godly one (1 John 2:16). It is listed By Jesus as one of the things that defiles a man (Mark 7:20-22). The idea is not the kind of pride that comes from doing a good job but rather the idea of arrogance and superiority.

A prideful spirit in the local church is certain to cause trouble. Consider the following:

  1. Pride Isolates. A prideful person thinks he is better than others and only associates with them because he must. He views his own presence as a favor to others but maintains the idea that he is superior. As such he has no equals and no comrades. Among newcomers or new Christians an air of superiority will prevent their full association with the arrogant.
  2. Pride Makes Ignorance. When full of pride and arrogance a person assumes he knows all there is to know on a given subject. It is difficult for the prideful to gain new knowledge or understanding because he thinks he already as that knowledge. Such was the case of Jewish ruler Nicodemus who Jesus rebuked for his lack of knowledge (John 3:10).
  3. Pride Bring Error. A man of pride, who assumes he knows all, will easily drift into error because he will not acknowledge his own shortcomings nor will he accept guidance or influence from another.

Pride may be well hidden and perhaps only known to the individual. It’s affects are real and open but the root of pride can remain cloaked. It is largely up to every individual to examine his own thoughts and attitudes and to avoid pride.

Prejudice Causes Church Division

The belief that one is better (even slightly) because of his gender, race, nationality, education, social standing, wealth or experience is prejudice. Superior feelings based upon a supposed righteousness is also prejudice. The Bible says all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) and there is no distinction (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). The Scripture also affirms that all have sinned (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8) and that it is sin which separates us from God. Any idea that one person is superior to another must be quashed.

Remember Jesus used the most common of men to surround himself during his ministry. The gospel was not carried on the wings of royalty but upon the backs of hard working commoners.

In the local body prejudice can effectively create two or more churches. There is one for the rich and one for the poor; one for whites and one for Hispanics. Such division is unacceptable for we are all one in Christ.

Sometimes there is a bias against new Christians. It’s probably not conscious but there is still a feeling that a mature christian is “different” from a new one. We must seek to include all persons, teaching and correcting as needed, as we walk heavenward.

The problem in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10 ff) seems to have centered around individuals trying to align themselves with well known authorities in the church. There is no evidence those leaders were involved (Jesus was one of them) but the people had begun to identify with the leaders and thus were denominating themselves into groups within the local church. ((I have termed this “incipient denominationalism” because it mirrors the actions of some today who separate themselves into sub-groups within the church. Not everyone agrees with this thought but I think the evidence is clear.))

Paul’s question in 1 Corinthians 1:13, “Is Christ divided?” should point to the unacceptable nature of division among those who call upon Jesus as Lord. Division is unacceptable. We must not be divided because Christ is not divided. What will we do to correct divisions? There is but one answer. We must abandon all human devices and innovations and return to the Word of God which is sufficient for all (2 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Peter 1:3).

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