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"THE PROBLEM OF RELIGIOUS DIVISION"
 
INTRODUCTION
 
1. Every disciple who follows Jesus should be concerned with unity among
   believers...
   a. In light of Jesus' prayer for unity - Jn 17:20-23
   b. In light of Paul's condemnation of division - 1 Co 1:10-13
 
2. From Jesus and Paul we learn...
   a. Unity can be a powerful witness to the world
   b. Division is often a mark of carnality and spiritual immaturity
      - cf. 1 Co 3:3-4
 
3. Unfortunately, many who claim to follow Jesus...
   a. Have not done a very good job in displaying unity
   b. Have hindered the cause of Christ at different times and different
      places
 
[To illustrate what I mean, let's take a brief look at...]
 
I. THE PROBLEM OF DIVISION
 
   A. EXISTED IN THE DAYS OF THE EARLY CHURCH...
      1. The church at Corinth - 1 Co 1:10-13; 3:3-4; 11:18
      2. The conduct of Diotrephes - 3 Jn 9-10
      -- Such turmoil was anticipated by The Parable Of The Tares - Mt
         13:24-30,36-43
 
   B. CONTINUED THROUGHOUT CHURCH HISTORY...
      1. With the schisms between Roman and Orthodox churches
      2. With the denominational divisions of the Protestant churches,
         despite statements as:
         a. "I ask that men make no reference to my name, and call
            themselves not Lutherans, but Christians.  What is Luther?
            My doctrine, I am sure, is not mine, nor have I been
            crucified for any one. St. Paul, in 1 Co. 3, would not allow
            Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine, but
            Christian.  How then should I, poor, foul carcass that I am,
            come to have men give to the children of Christ a name
            derived from my worthless name?  No, no, my dear friends;
            let us abolish all party names, and call ourselves
            Christians after Him Whose doctrine we have." - Martin
            Luther
         b. "Would to God that all party names, and unscriptural phrases
            and forms which have divided the Christian world, were
            forgot and that the very name [Methodist] might never be
            mentioned more, but be buried in eternal oblivion." - John
            Wesley
         c. "I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not
            be a Baptist living!  I hope that the Baptist name will soon
            perish, but let Christ's name last forever." - Charles
            Spurgeon
 
   C. PRESENT IN THE RELIGIOUS WORLD TODAY...
      1. As demonstrated by the literally thousands of denominations
      2. Even among churches of Christ
         a. Whose plea for unity as been a major theme in what makes
            them distinctive
         b. Yet today there have been nearly twenty (20) identifiable
            divisions in the last 150 years
         c. And there have been countless divisions in individual
            congregations over matters of personality rather than
            doctrine!
 
[The problem of division continues, despite the devastating effect it
has on our witness for Christ.  What can be done by those who want to
work toward the unity for which Jesus prayed...?]
 
II. THE SOLUTION FOR UNITY
 
   A. ACCEPT THE SAME STANDARD OF AUTHORITY...
      1. This is the first step toward religious unity
         a. The need for a standard can be easily illustrated (e.g.,
            agreeing on the length of a line)
         b. For Christians, the standard must be the Word of God as
            revealed through Jesus and His apostles
            1) Jesus has all authority - Mt 28:18
            2) We must abide in His doctrine - Jn 8:31; 2 Jn 9
            3) The Spirit led the apostles into all the truth - Jn 16:
               13; Ac 20:27; 2 Pe 1:3
            4) We must continue steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine
               - Ac 2:42; 1 Co 14:37
      2. This requires putting away all other standards of authority
         a. Such as creeds, traditions of men, ecclesiastical councils,
            etc.
         b. Also personal or parental preferences and opinions
         c. Things not explicitly authorized in the Scriptures
      3. The same standard of authority can quickly unify those willing
         to follow it
         a. E.g., how many baptisms are there?
         b. Those seeking to maintain the unity of the Spirit will
            answer:  "one baptism" - cf. Ep 4:3-6
 
   B. DEVELOP CHRIST-LIKE ATTITUDES...
      1. This is required to maintain true unity in Christ
         a. For many can claim to the let the Bible be their only
            standard
         b. Yet differing views often exist, for understandable reasons
            1) Varying degrees of maturity
            2) Varying levels of knowledge
      2. So we must display Christ-like virtues as we seek the mind of
         Christ
         a. Lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, bearing with one
            another in love - Ep 4:1-3
         b. A lack of selfish ambition or conceit, esteeming others
            better than ourselves - Ph 2:1-5
         c. Patient, in humility correcting those in opposition - 2 Ti
            2:24-26
 
   C. RESTRAIN PERSONAL LIBERTIES...
      1. Much division results from brethren pressing what they perceive
         to be their freedom in Christ
         a. Imposing such "freedom" on those who conscience would be
            violated
         b. Forcing brethren to either leave or sin against their
            conscience
      2. Paul taught brethren to restrain their "liberties" for the sake
         of their brethren
         a. In writing to the saints in Rome - Ro 14:14-15,21; 15:1-3
         b. In writing to the church at Corinth - 1 Co 8:9-13; 10:24,
            31-33
      3. When "Christ-like attitudes" are joined together with a
         willingness to restrain liberty...
         a. Christians are more likely to remain united in their actions
            together
         b. Christians are more likely to one day be united in their
            thinking as well!
 
   D. FOCUS YOUR EFFORTS...
      1. First, on yourself!
         a. Resolve to be simply a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ
         b. Put away any belief or practice based on traditions of men,
            not the Word of God
         c. Develop the virtues that contributes to unity among
            Christians
            1) Those Christ-like attitudes mention earlier
            2) A willingness to restrain personal liberties for the sake
               of your brother
      2. Next, on your local congregation!
         a. That it not be one contributing to religious division (i.e.,
            a denomination)
         b. That it accepts the Word of God for its final authority
         c. That it puts away all names, practices, traditions, not
            taught by the Scriptures
         d. That it is concerned with the unity of believers
      3. Then, on others in your community!
         a. Individuals who desire to be true disciples of Jesus
         b. Congregations willing to take Jesus' prayer and Paul's
            condemnation seriously
 
CONCLUSION
 
1. You may feel there is little one can do with the problem of
   division...
   a. Denominationalism is so rampant
   b. Religious division has been around so long
 
2. Yet two thoughts come to mind that encourage me to try...
   a. I can at least save myself and those who hear me - cf. 1 Ti 4:16
   b. Great things can have a small beginning - cf. Mt 13:31-33
 
If unity among believers was so important to Jesus, how can we not make
the effort to maintain the unity He made possible by His death on the
cross? - cf. Ep 2:13-16

 

--《Executable Outlines