"THE PROBLEM OF RELIGIOUS DIVISION"
1. Every disciple who follows Jesus should be concerned with unity among
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
[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
- 1 Co 1:10-13; 3:3-4; 11:18 Corinth
2. The conduct of Diotrephes - 3 Jn 9-10
-- Such turmoil was anticipated by The Parable Of The Tares - Mt
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
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
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
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
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
[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,
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
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
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
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
b. Forcing brethren to either leave or sin against their
2. Paul taught brethren to restrain their "liberties" for the sake
of their brethren
a. In writing to the saints in
- Ro 14:14-15,21; 15:1-3 Rome
b. In writing to the church at
- 1 Co 8:9-13; 10:24, Corinth
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
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
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.,
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
1. You may feel there is little one can do with the problem of
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