THE CHRISTIAN DIVIDE

Acts 10:34-35

Opening his mouth, Peter said:

“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.

1 Cor. 1: 10-17

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.

How do you, as a Christian, identify yourself? Were you to meet someone on the street who asked you the question, “What religion are you?”, how would you answer? Would you answer, “I am a Baptist,” or “I am a Lutheran,” or “I am a Methodist”? Perhaps you’ve grown weary of “denominational Christianity” and you’ve chosen a “non- denominational” fellowship. Would you say you’re a Calvary Chapel or a Vineyard Christian Fellowship Christian? Perhaps you’re a “Pentecostal” or a “Charismatic”?

Now, I understand that your chosen denomination or non-denomination is the best, otherwise you wouldn’t be going there - right?

“I am of John the Baptist.” “I am of Martin Luther.”

“I am of John Wesley.”

“I am of Chuck Smith.”

“I am of John Wimber.”

“I am of John Calvin.”

“I am of Jacobus Arminius.”

“I am of......fill in the blank!”

In the first chapter of First Corinthians Paul deals with this problem. In the Corinthian church fellow believers were saying of themselves:

“I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:12b) This is very much like modern day denominationalism isn’t it? Listen to what Paul says about this in the following verse:

Has Christ been divided? (1 Cor. 1:13a)

Denominationalism is, by it’s very nature, divisive. Since we know that Christ is not divided, who do you imagine is the author denominationalism? Who is in the business of dividing Christians?

When arguing that He could not be casting out demons through the power of Satan, Jesus stated a truth that is also applicable to denominations:

“Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.” (Matt. 12:25)

When we call ourselves “Episcopalian,” or “Four Square,” (for example), have we not divided the Church?

When we let doctrines, those doctrines none of us is certain of even though we believe them to be correct, come between believers, are we not divided? Do we not become “puffed up?” (I do not speak of the doctrines we all as Christians hold to be true in all the denominations, but of those doctrines that are questionable from one denomination to another).

1 Cor. 8:1 reads, “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.”

Knowledge “makes arrogant,” or “puffs up.” It is that “puffing up” that has produced the various denominations within Christendom. The more knowledge we gain, even as Christians, the more puffed up we become. Such arrogance has two distinct results: 1) The arrogant person looks at himself or his group as superior and, 2) he views others or other groups (denominations) as inferior. The Baptist sees his denomination and doctrine as superior to the Lutheran and vice versa. This is true with all denominations and is the reason for them. Thus we all find ourselves puffed up and looking down our noses at those who view the unimportant and unknown differently that we. This is divisive.

What is the cure for this? Paul says it is love. “Love edifies.” Love cares about, encourages, accepts, and lifts up. Jesus said that there are two great commandments and all of the other commandments are wrapped up in them. They are “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-39) This is what Paul is talking about! This is the love that edifies. This is the love that should distinguish us, in this world, from the rest of humanity!

What do non-believers see when they look at all of the various denominations? They see “Christians” who can’t get along. They see division. They see falsehood based upon our actions.

You may say, “Sure, but what’s the answer? Denominations aren’t going away, and they do some good ministry, people get saved occasionally. If we rebel against denominationalism, are we being arrogant?”

You would be right. Denominations aren’t going away and neither is the division they create. You can only work on you. You can fellowship in any of the aforementioned denominations, and that is fine. The question you need to consider is, how do I love? Am I a Baptist, Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, etc., or am I simply a believer in Jesus Christ and, therefore, a part of the one and only Body of Christ?

And just what is “The Body of Christ”?

1 Corinthians 12:13

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Who is Paul speaking of? He’s speaking to the church at Corinth. He’s talking about believers in Jesus Christ. Believers make up the Body of Christ. Not Baptist believers, not Pentecostal believers, not Calvary Chapel believers, but all people, regardless of denominational affiliation or doctrinal confusion, who put real faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ! All of them!

So we, all Christians, regardless of the divisions we have created with our “knowledge”, are the one Body of Christ! The verses following 1 Corinthians 12:13 explain the union, not the division, that is the Body of Christ:

1 Corinthians 12:14-27

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

There is the nitty gritty of the situation. There is the reality of the Body of Christ. We are not a bunch of separate and individual bodies of believers, we are part of the One Body of Christ and we need each other! We are not members of separate and individual denominations, we are members of the One Body of Christ and we love each other! We are not members of this Christian movement or that Christian movement, we are members of the One Body of Christ and we serve each other! Let us free ourselves from the fetters of denominationalism and movement-ism. Let us free ourselves from the division our cliques have caused, and let us see ourselves as God sees us; members of the Body of His Son, united in love and service!

It matters not if you worship in a so-called Baptist, or Pentecostal, or Lutheran, or Methodist, or Catholic, “church”. Take your pick, but do not let this divide you. We are all, all of us who believe, members of one another! The eye is not better than the foot, and your denomination is not better than any other. All of them are worldly and in desperate need of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, jus as you and I, as individuals, are worldly and in desperate need of the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We need each other because we share a common body, and a body divided against itself cannot stand.


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