The Church Divided


In I Corinthians 1:10-17 Paul writes to the Corinthians that people from the house of Chloe informed him that there were divisions among the members of the church at Corinth, and he tells them that isn’t the way it should be.

He said that there should not be any divisions among them, that they should be of the same mind and judge things the same. In these divisions, some said they were of Paul, some said they were of Apollos, and some Cephas and some Christ.

The church was divided among leaders within the church. The ones who followed Paul, followed him because he founded the church (Acts 18:1-7), and because he was a special apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). The sect that followed Apollos, followed him because he was eloquent. Those who followed Cephas (another name for Peter, the apostle) because he was an apostle to the Jews (Galatians 2:7-10). and then there was the group who followed Christ.

Paul could have directed people to follow him, but he knew better. He knew that Christ was not divided, so his followers should not be divided either. Jesus Christ died for them. When people are baptized, they are not baptized into the name of anyone else, but Christ. Paul was glad that he had not baptized a lot of people in the Corinthian church because  he was not called to baptize. He was called to preach the gospel, not because he was eloquent, but because he valued what Jesus did on the cross.

Jesus himself said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. (Mark 3:23-27) Church division is not good, but it is a very prevalent problem in the body of Christ. Why then does this division exist?

1) Doctrinal Differences

According to the World Christian Encyclopedia there are 33,000 different Christian denominations throughout the world where many of these denominations believe that their way is the only way to salvation. Of those 33,000 these groups can be divided into six different basic divisions–Independents, Protestants, Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Marginals.  Each of these groups teach differing doctrines. While two denominations may be tolerant of their differences they are still divided and that does not please the Lord.

2) Sin ignored

Sin causes division among the church. The Bible tells us specifically how to deal with those whose sin causes division in the church (1 Corinthians 5:1-2; Romans 16:17; Matthew 18:17 ). We are told to separate from the Christian who persists in ongoing, public sin. Removal or prevents the spread and acceptance of the sin ( 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 5:6, 9). By removing this person from the fellowship, the church reputation is protected, and all attempts should be made to bring the individual is brought back into faithfulness (1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 2:6-11). This removal from fellowship is strong action and was not designed as a way of controlling Christians under dominance of church leaders. Dealing with public sin requires extensive prayer, study, patience and interaction with the sinner. It is done with the awareness of our own weaknesses (Galatians 6:1-5; Matthew 7:3) and with love toward the sinner.

3) Pride

The kind of pride we are talking about here is not the kind of pride that comes from doing something well, but is the kind of pride that demonstrates arrogance and superiority. Pride Isolates. It makes ignorance, It causes error.  Pride does not come from God (1 John 2:16). God hates pride (Proverbs 8:13). Pride brings trouble and disgrace (Proverbs 16:18; 11:2).  Jesus listed it as one of the things that defiles a man (Mark 7:20-22). Pride is a serious problem in the church.

4) Prejudice

Prejudice is believing that someone is not as good as you are because you for some reason feel that the other person’s gender, race, nationality, education, social standing, wealth or experience is inferior to yours. The Bible says clearly that all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) and in Christ there is no distinction (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). All of us have sinned (Romans 3:23, I John 1:8) Sin, not social issues separate us from God. Just as Christ showed compassion toward us, we are required to show compassion toward others.

5) Petty Issues

Petty issues are numerous in the church. One group doesn’t like the fact that the pastor preaches long on Sunday. Another group complains that what he preaches isn’t relevant. Another group complains that he is meddling in their business. Another group might complain that the music is too slow. Still  another group might complain that the music is too loud. One group wants country music. Another group wants old hymns; still another group wants rock music. One group wants traditional services. Another wants freedom of worship. All these are minor issues that divide and conquer the church.

Love conquers Church Division

As it says in John 10:10, the thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but Christ has come to bring abundant life. Because Jesus reconciled us to the Father through his work on the cross, Paul encourages us in II Corinthians 5:17-19 to work to reconcile others to Christ. Our responsibility to the body of Christ is not to be “right” but to draw others to Christ’s righteousness. As John further says in his later book  I John 4:7: “Let us love one another; for love is of God; and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God.” We are called not to divide, but to draw all men to Christ.

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3 comments
  1. Excellent teaching, Donna. Looking forward to other comments and thoughts from your readers on how the Church of Jesus Christ can be united once again and denominational walls can be torn down.

  2. howmyspiritsings said:

    I was thinking today about how much this study is teaching me about “how the church should be”. I am learning so much from this! If nothing else, I pray this study will help me better submit to him and become more of an instrument in reconciling others to Our Lord Jesus Christ!

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