Church Division – Part 1

by Bryant Evans on June 27, 2010

Church division is never good. It follows discord, discontent, poor fellowship and sin. While it may be necessary to remove the disorderly  from  fellowship (; ; ) the roots which caused that removal are sad. Like surgery, division may be necessary but it is never good.

Paul addressed church division as the first issue in his first letter to the Corinthian church ( ff). There, people were beginning to group themselves together based upon favorite teachers or leaders within the church. There is no indication that the leaders themselves were involved; one was Jesus himself ( ). However Paul disapproved of the brethren separating themselves into groups. Paul asked the rhetorical question, “Is Christ divided” ()? The obvious answer is “no.” While the apostle does not give many details about the division in Corinth, we can distill several reasons for division today and then seek to avoid those problems in the church that Jesus died for.

Sin Causes Church Division

Division erupts over sin. We mentioned three passages above in which sinful actions caused a person to be marked out or identified  (; ; ). A Christian persisting in ongoing, public sin may be removed from  fellowship. Removal or prevents the spread and acceptance of the sin ( ; ). It protects the reputation of the church towards those on the outside and it tries to draw the erring one back into the faithfulness (; ). To remove fellowship is strong action which requires extensive prayer, study, patience and interaction with the sinner. It is done with the awareness of our own weaknesses (; ) and with love toward the sinner.

Doctrine Causes Church Division

Why are there so many different churches and religious bodies in the world? It is because they all teach differing doctrines. While two denominations may be tolerant of their differences they are still divided and that does not please the Lord. Paul rebuked the church for divisions based upon favored leaders ( ff) and for a myriad of worship issues which created divisions (;  ; ).

The issues in Corinth were public issues. Sometimes a brother or sister may hold some errant teaching privately and does not promote it. New Christians may still carry denominational baggage when they enter the body of Christ. These people are to be taught and division should not come from their private thoughts.

Division is not good. In our next lesson on church division we will see some personal traits that divide the body of Christ. If you have not done so already, please subscribe to the Preacher’s Study Blog so that you won’t miss a single article


Print Friendly

These articles are similar to the one you just read --

5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (ESV)

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (ESV)

17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (ESV)

10 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. (ESV)

12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” (ESV)

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (ESV)

5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (ESV)

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (ESV)

17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (ESV)

And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (ESV)

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

1 Corinthians 5:9

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— (ESV)

you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (ESV)

For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (ESV)

6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (ESV)

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (ESV)

10 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. (ESV)

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (ESV)

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 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, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. (ESV)

33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

As in all the churches of the saints, (ESV)

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: