Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:10, wrote a passionate plea, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” The situation at the church of Christ in the ancient city of Corinth was this: “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:12). The church had become divided into four disparate groups, each pledging their allegiance to some faction. The congregation lacked unity. It was in danger of breaking apart. Paul was inspired to write the book of First Corinthians in order to avoid that outcome.
Unity, solidarity, and loyalty are keys to the success or failure of every congregation of the Lord’s people. In the Lord’s prayer, recorded in the book of John, Jesus prayed for the apostles, and then He prayed for us — “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21). It is our responsibility to carry out the Lord’s wishes. Are we helping to make the Lord’s prayer a reality, or are we standing in the way of that goal?
These Scriptures all beg the question: “How can this be possible?” How can so many different people, with different opinions and different points of view “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment?” Some would argue that such a feat is impossible, but the Bible reveals the answer. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). If we will all agree simply to obey the will of the Lord, then we need not be divided into various sects. We can stand united, if all stand upon the will of Jesus Christ. It is the only solid foundation upon which religious unity can be based. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17).
When we abandon the will of the Lord, in favor of our own will, or the will of some other human being, then the church begins to fracture and divide. Such division is sinful and shall provoke the wrath of God against us (1 Corinthians 12:25). Sometimes, it is necessary for there to be division in the body of Christ. When Christians behave in an ungodly manner, it may be necessary for the church to withdraw its fellowship from those who will not repent and change their ways (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15). When preachers preach false doctrine, sound brethren are to “mark” and “avoid” them (Romans 16:17-18). Christians have an obligation to uphold the unity of the church, but not at the expense of doctrinal soundness!
That is why it is important for every Christian to understand the difference between religious issues, which are matters of opinion, and those which are matters of faith. The Lord’s church ought never to be divided over a matter of opinion. It is only natural that there will be conflicting opinions in a large group of people, but how we respond to those conflicts makes all the difference. Jesus taught us to “deny” ourselves (Luke 9:23). That means that, when things don’t go our way at church, we DON’T set out to try and split the church! As a preacher, my own “tongue-in-cheek” view of such conflicts has always been: “Sometimes, you just have to let the brethren do some stupid things.”
When it comes to matters of faith, it may be necessary to draw a proverbial “line in the sand.” It is the duty of every faithful Christian to insist upon sound preaching and teaching, as well as religious practices that are in harmony with God’s will. If we see or hear something that is unscriptural, then we must sound the alarm (1 Thessalonians 5:21). If we do not deal with false brethren in the church, then there is no telling how much damage they might do. As Paul put it, in 2 Timothy 2:16, “their word will eat as doth a canker.” Literally, they are a “cancer” in the body of Christ, which needs to be removed.
In October of 1986, a group of about 150 Christians split off of our congregation to form another church to compete with us for the souls of our community. No one asked them to leave us. They were not “kicked out.” Some of them have claimed that they left because of a “personality conflict.” If so, then they are guilty of having divided the body of Christ for no good reason. Others claim that they left so they could be free to teach and practice things that are contrary to the New Testament. Either way, they are guilty of sin and they need to repent. We hope and pray that the day will come when they will repent and rejoin the Lord’s body (2 Peter 3:9).
Text: John 17:20-21.
1. “Denominate” – to name.
2. “Denomination” – a name or designation, especially one serving to classify a set of things. A recognized autonomous branch of the Christian church.
3. There are about 20-30 major denominations in existence today.
4. Among those major groupings, there are countless sub-divisions.
5. For example: Read list of Baptist Subdivision in the United States.
6. That God is displeased with this situation is beyond doubt.
7. How did we get to this current state of affairs?
8. Some would look back to the Reformation movement of the 1500’s with Martin Luther as the start of Denominationalism.
9. While it is true that most of the modern denominations had their origins in the Reformation; it is also true that the underlying causes of denominationalism were present long before even the establishment of the church.
I. Jesus’ Disciples. Mark 9:33-38.
A. Even before the church was established there were certain “red flags” that warned of division to come.
B. Jesus’ disciples were concerned with who would be the greatest among them.
C. Pride is one of the major causes of denominationalism.
D. There always have been and always will be people who desire to have a following.
1. Paul warned the Ephesian elders of this. Acts 20:29-30.
2. Diotrephes is another example. 3 John 9.
E. Also we see in Mark 9:33-38, that the disciples demonstrated an elitist attitude.
1. There was a man casting out demons in the name of Jesus.
2. Thus, he was a true follower of Jesus or else he would not be able to do such.
3. Yet the disciples forbade him because he was not part of their little group.
4. This is much like the attitude that Diotrephes demonstrated.
5. This type of divisive attitude is also one of the causes of denominationalism.
F. Jesus’ answer?
1. Don’t seek to be great.
2. Seek to be a servant.
3. Greatness in the kingdom of Christ comes from serving others!
II. The church at Corinth. 1 Corinthians 1:11-12.
A. Spiritual immaturity is another cause of denominationalism.
B. Just like there will always be certain men who want to have followers, there will always be people who are more interested in the preacher than what is being preached.
C. Sometimes these people will denominate them selves even when their leader does not desire it.
For example, Martin Luther said, “I pray you leave my name alone and not to call yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine: I have not been crucified for any one…How does it then benefit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions; away with all of them; and let us call ourselves only Christians, after Him from whom our doctrine comes.”
1. I disagree with Luther on a lot of things but he had it exactly right in this statement!
2. Yet, his followers still call themselves Lutherans.
D. What were Paul’s instructions?
1. 1 Corinthians 1:10.
2. 1 Corinthians 1:13.
3. 1 Corinthians 3:3-4.
III. The Pharisees.
A. Mark 7:1-9.
1. The Pharisees had no respect for the authority of the Scriptures.
2. They had placed the traditions of men above the Scriptures. (v.9)
3. Jesus says that those who do this are far from God. (v.6)
4. Furthermore, He says that their worship is vain. (v.7)
B. The Bible alone will make Christians only.
1. We don’t read of Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Episcopalians, etc… in the Bible.
2. These names and different doctrines are the result of man’s lack of respect for the authority of the Scriptures.
3. Sometimes it is not a lack of respect for Biblical authority but is rather an incorrect view of it.
a) Some feel that anything not expressly forbidden by Scripture is authorized.
b) Time and time again we are shown that God’s silence does not authorize.
(1) Leviticus 10:1-2.
(2) 2 Samuel 7:1-7.
IV. The Galatians.
A. Galatians 1:6-9.
1. The Galatians were allowing their selves to be led astray by certain people who were perverting the Gospel of Christ.
2. Paul marveled (was amazed) that they were turning away so soon.
3. The Galatians, evidently, were either ignorant of the truth or simply didn’t care that the truth was being perverted.
a) How could they not know the truth? Weren’t they Christians?
b) The answer is yes, but even Christians, if they do not continue to study and grow, can forget the very fundamental truths upon which their salvation was built.
c) Hebrews 5:12.
d) Hence the reason Peter felt the need to constantly remind the brethren of basic, fundamental truths. 2 Peter 1:12-15.
B. Lack of knowledge, will all too often, lead to denominationalism.
1. Hosea 4:6.
2. It amazes me how many people do not even know the basic tenets of their denomination.
a) I have yet to meet a member of any denomination who tells me that they believe a little baby is born sinful.
b) But a common tenet of most denominations is the doctrine of Original Sin which teaches that very thing!
3. Many have never taken the time to find out what their church teaches much less what the Bible teaches on a given topic.
4. 1 John 4:1.
1. Denominationalism is wrong.
2. However, denominationalism is just a symptom of deeper problems which have been a constant danger to man.
a. Pride and an elitist attitude.
b. Spiritual Immaturity.
c. No respect for Biblical authority or a perverted view of such.
d. Ignorance of the truth and apathy.
3. All of these things will lead to religious division.
4. What is the answer?
5. Repent and go back to the authority – The Bible!
Delivered on: January 15, 2012. Streetsboro.
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 1:21-23
- In our English speaking society, the word church hasn’t been adequately defined or used correctly. Many use the word incorrectly. For example, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the #1 definition for church, is “a building for public and especially Christian worship.” However, if you study the word church/assembly in its’ original Greek (Ekklesia) ek = “out of” and klesis = “a calling.” The church are people that have been called out of this world to be added to Christ’s body for deliverance of their sins – 1 Peter 2:9. [The called - Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2].
- In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, God describes the body of Jesus, the church of Christ as being one on four occasions in these two verses. Therefore, within the body of Christ (Church) there is unity, there is oneness, among the members of the one body – Ephesians 4:1-6. In 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul pleads with the brethren with the church at Corinth to be of one mind. [Demoninations are not members of the body of Christ] – Matthew 15:13-14].
- The singularity of the church means, it’s the only one, you have no other choices, if you want to be saved from the penalty of sin, you must be baptized in Christ – Acts 4:12.
There is Only One Builder, One Purchaser, One Head of The Church
- In Matthew 16:13-19, we learn Jesus told Peter I will build my church. Jesus is the builder of His church. Jesus laid the foundation of His church – 1 Corinthians 3:11. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it…” Psalm 127:1. Therefore, you must make sure the builder of the church you belong to is Jesus Christ.
- Jesus built the church, but He also purchased the church with the blood He shed on the cross to take away our sins of the world. In Acts 20:28, Paul urges the Ephesian elders to feed the flock of God which He purchased with His own blood. You must understand Jesus paid the mortgage of His church (Your sins), He paid the redemptive price which was His precious blood that has the power to save you – 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 1:5-6.
- In Ephesians 1:21-23, the Bible teaches God has put Jesus Christ to be head over all things to the church. In Colossians 1:18, Jesus is described as the head of the body, the church. In Ephesians 5:23, God teaches us the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.
There is Only One Way, One Truth and One Church That Will Save You
- In John 14:6, Jesus clearly states that I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can get to the Father except by me. Interestingly many are refusing to be added to the body of Christ, because the way of salvation is a narrow way – Matthew 7:13-14. Don’t follow your own way because it will lead to your destruction – Proverbs 14:12.
- There is only one truth. It is the Word of God – John 17:17. In John 1:17, we learn grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. The truth brings us the message of salvation in Jesus and His church.
- If you want to be delivered from the consequences of sin, you only have one choice, Jesus and His Church. Just like in the days of Noah, the people had one way of salvation, and that was the one ark Noah built that saved his family. Today the ark of salvation is the one church Jesus built. Why not answer God’s call to become on of His saints?
Salvation: Hear - Believe - Repent - Confess - Be Baptized - Live Faithfully
Sometimes when people disagree with one another about what the Bible teaches, they just dismiss the problem as though a mutual understanding is impossible or unnecessary. They may say, “It’s just a matter of interpretation.”
But can we understand the Bible alike? What does the Bible itself say?
John 17:17 tells us that God’s word is truth. Everyone realizes that truth does not contradict itself. Since the Bible is truth, it necessarily follows that two contradictory views of the Bible cannot both be right.
If one man teaches one thing and another man teaches the opposite, it must be that one or the other does not know the truth. Yet, Jesus promised in John 8:32, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” So, we can know the truth, and when we do we will not contradict one another.
Suppose one man said “two plus two equals four,” and another said “two plus two equals three,” and another said “two plus two equals five.” Would we say, “Oh well, it’s just a matter of interpretation, and all of them are right”? Of course not. What has happened is that one man understood that answer correctly, and the other two misunderstood differently! So it is with the Bible. We may misunderstand differently; but when we truly understand the Bible, we will understand it alike.
In 1 Corinthians 1:13 Paul wrote to men who were becoming divided religiously. He asked them: “Is Christ divided?” Does Jesus contradict Himself? Of course not! If He did, He would be a hypocrite! How then can two men contradict one another about what Jesus taught and both be right? The answer is they cannot both be right. If they contradict one another, one is wrong and the other is right, or else both may be wrong! When both are right, they will be in agreement.
Our purpose in studying he Bible must be to learn the message God intended for us to learn.
We might misunderstand that message differently; but when we understand it correctly, we will understand it alike.
Text: Romans 12:5
1. A wonderful blessing we enjoy in Christ is fellowship with other Christians…
a. We are members of one another – Romans 12:5
b. Thus we have a special bond or tie that binds us together
2. A simple yet beautiful song that describes this bond is “Blest Be The Tie”…
a. Words written by John Fawcett in 1782
b. Melody by Johann Georg Nageli, arranged by Lowell Mason in 1845
I. FIRST VERSE
A. “BLEST BE THE TIE THAT BINDS OUR HEARTS IN CHRISTIAN LOVE”…
1. Consider first what the tie that binds or members one of another is not
a. It is not an earthly tie, such as:
– All of which are either social or physical ties
b. It is not broken like earthly ties, such as through:
2) Incompatibility (e.g., the apostles were a diverse group)
2. Consider then what the tie that binds is
a. Love, not easily broken – Colossians 3:14
b. Love, that comes from the God of love – 1 John 4:7-11
c. Love, learned from the example of Christ – 1 John 3:16
d. Love, serving as a mark of true discipleship – John 13:34-35
– The tie involves love that is uniquely Christian; patterned after Christ’s love
B. “THE FELLOWSHIP OF KINDRED MINDS IS LIKE TO THAT ABOVE”…
1. This tie involves a unity for which Jesus prayed – John 17:20-23
2. It involves a unity of mind for which Paul prayed – Philippians 2:2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
3. Therefore any threat to this unity is strongly condemned – 1 Corinthians 1:10
– The tie seeks to emulate the unity between the Father and the Son
[The tie that binds is based upon the love and unity which Christ makes possible; how it is manifested is illustrated in the remaining verses of the song...]
II. SECOND VERSE
A. “BEFORE OUR FATHER’S THRONE WE POUR OUR ARDENT PRAYERS”…
1. We are blessed to be able to approach God in prayer
a. A privilege enjoyed in Christ – Hebrews 4:14-16a
b. A privilege with great blessings – Hebrews 4:16b
2. This song depicts frequent and fervent prayer
a. Praying for one another – James 5:16
b. Praying with another – Acts 1:14; 2:42; 12:12; 21:5
– Such prayer is a benefit of the tie that binds, and also strengthens that tie
B. “OUR FEARS, OUR HOPES, OUR AIMS ARE ONE, OUR COMFORTS AND OUR CARES”…
1. We have similar concerns and desires
a. Some because we are simply fellow humans in this world
1) We desire to be healthy, we fear sickness and dying
2) We enjoy comforts of life, we fear joblessness and poverty
b. Others because we are fellow citizens of the kingdom
1) We share the hope of the resurrection and eternal life – 1 Peter 1:3
2) We share in the struggles against temptation and persecution – 1 Peter 5:8-9
2. As Christians, therefore, we can have more in common
a. Not just because of our human nature
b. But also because we are partakers of divine nature
1) Grace and peace are multiplied – 2 Peter 1:2-3
2) We have exceedingly great and precious promises – 2 Peter 1:4
– Our shared experiences, enhanced by our spiritual blessings, strengthen our tie
[The next verse focuses on mutual problems we sometimes face...]
III. THIRD VERSE
A. “WE SHARE OUR MUTUAL WOES, OUR MUTUAL BURDENS BEAR”…
1. As Christians, we are to bear one another’s burdens – Galatians 6:1-2
2. In times of spiritual weakness, we are to pray for one another – James 5:16
3. In times of physical need, we are to provide for one another – James 1:27
– Manifested in such ways, the tie we have in Christ is truly a blessing
B. “AND OFTEN FOR EACH OTHER FLOWS THE SYMPATHIZING TEAR”…
1. Because that is how God composed the body of Christ! – 1 Corinthians 12:24b-26
2. That we might weep with those who weep – Romans 12:15
– An emotional but effective demonstration of the bond we share
[The final verse describes the impact of the tie that binds, when it becomes time to separate, even temporarily...]
IV. FOURTH VERSE
A. “WHEN WE ASUNDER PART, IT GIVES US INWARD PAIN”…
1. The tie is such that departure can be painful
2. Note the example of Paul and the Ephesian elders – Acts 20:36-38
– Never experience such pain? Perhaps one might need to examine their tie
B. “BUT WE SHALL BE JOINED IN HEART AND HOPE TO MEET AGAIN”…
1. We might be separated in the flesh, but can remain together in spirit - Colossians 2:5
2. We are comforted by a wonderful hope
a. The hope of the resurrection – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
b. Made possible by the resurrection of Christ, and our faith in Him – 1 Peter 1:3-5
– It is this hope which keeps our hearts joined together, when all other bonds fail
1. “Blest Be The Tie” is a beautiful song…
a. That describes the blessings of our oneness in Christ
b. That expresses how many Christians truly feel for one another
2. But it describes blessings known only by those…
a. Who have been added by Christ to His church – Acts 2:41, 47
b. Who are diligent in preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:1-3
3. Have you been added to the Lord’s church through obedience to the gospel (cf. Acts 2:38)?
4. Are you doing your part to strengthen the tie that binds those in Christ?
“so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” – Romans 12:5
1. In our efforts to lead people to Christ…
a. We understand the importance of the Word of God – Romans 10:17
b. The gospel is the power of God to salvation – Romans 1:16
2. Yet it helps to complement the Word with a demonstration of certain qualities whereby…
a. People can see the truth of the gospel in action
b. People are more likely to believe in Jesus Christ
3. When demonstrated by Christians in a local church, these ‘signposts’ can serve to…
a. Let the nonbeliever know:
1) There is a God Who loves him or her
2) Who has sent Jesus as a manifestation of that love
b. Let the true searcher know:
1) Those who are disciples of Christ
2) Who can thus lead him or her to Christ
[There are at least four such "Divine Signposts", one being...]
I. THE SIGNPOST OF UNITY
A. THE VALUE OF UNITY OF BELIEVERS…
1. It shows that God has sent Christ – John 17:21,23
2. It shows that God has loved the world – John 17:23
B. SO UNITY IS A SIGNPOST TO THE WORLD…
1. That God loves the world – cf. John 3:16
2. That God sent Christ who produces the unity witnessed by the world – cf. Ephesians 2:13-16
C. THUS THE IMPORTANCE OF UNITY…
1. Led Paul to condemn division and those who cause it – 1 Corinthians 1:10; Romans 16:17-18
2. Led Paul to teach attitudes essential to preserving unity – Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 2:2-4
[Let's be sure that we do nothing to destroy the 'signpost' of unity; rather, let's work toward enhancing its effectiveness. Another 'signpost' that points one in the right direction is...]
II. THE SIGNPOST OF LOVE
A. THE VALUE OF LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER…
1. It shows that we have been loved by Christ, whose love we seek to emulate – John 13:34
2. It shows that we are truly His disciples – John 13:35
B. SO LOVE IS A SIGNPOST TO THE WORLD…
1. That Christ has loved His disciples – cf. John 15:12-13
2. That those who emulate His love are His true disciples – cf. Ephesians 5:1-2
C. THUS THE IMPORTANCE OF LOVE…
1. Led Paul to encourage churches to increase in love – 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
2. Led Paul to consider love as the “bond of perfection” – Colossians 3:14
a. Here we see that love and unity go together
b. By our love for one another, we are more likely to preserve our unity in Christ
[Unity and love also go hand in hand as "Divine Signposts". The first lets people know God loves them, and the second shows people who are the followers of Christ. Now for a third 'signpost' ...]
III. THE SIGNPOST OF HOPE
A. THE VALUE OF HOPE…
1. It can prompt people to ask us questions – 1 Peter 3:15
2. It can provide us opportunity to share the reason for our hope – 1 Peter 3:15
B. SO HOPE IS A SIGNPOST TO THE WORLD…
1. Presuming that our hope is something:
a. Noticeable, prompting people to ask “Why?”
b. Based upon reason, i.e., evidences for our faith
2. Especially when our hope is:
a. Accompanied by peace and joy – Romans 5:1-2
b. Steadfast even in tribulation – Romans 5:3-4
c. Based upon the love of God – Romans 5:5
d. Made sure by the resurrection of Jesus – 1 Peter 1:3-4
C. THUS THE IMPORTANCE OF HOPE…
1. Led Peter to command Christians to set their hope fully on the grace to come – 1 Peter 1:13
2. Led Peter to command Christians to always be ready to explain their hope – 1 Peter 3:15
[To unity, love, and hope as "Divine Signposts", let's now consider a final 'signpost'...]
IV. THE SIGNPOST OF GOOD WORKS
A. THE VALUE OF GOOD WORKS…
1. They can lead men to glorify our Father in heaven – Matthew 5:16
2. They can lead men to glorify God in the day of visitation – 1 Peter 2:12
B. SO GOOD WORKS IS A SIGNPOST TO THE WORLD…
1. Directing people to consider the motivation behind such works
2. Opening people up to the gospel message which inspires such works – cf. 1 Peter 3:1-2
C. THUS THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD WORKS…
1. Led Paul to command that we be ready for every good work – Titus 3:1
2. Led Paul to command that we be careful to maintain good works – Titus 3:8,14
1. With such “Divine Signposts”, we can see how people can be led to Christ…
a. Our unity can convince people of God’s love for them in sending Christ
b. Our love can direct them to true disciples of Christ
c. Our hope can prompt them to ask questions as to the reason for our faith
d. Our good works can encourage them to glory God by their own obedience to the gospel
2. This in no way takes away from the power of the gospel to save souls…
a. But the Lord intended for His church to be a city set on a hill
b. Which by demonstrating certain qualities as a group would draw people to Him
3. Without these “Divine Signposts”
a. We make it a lot harder for souls who are searching to find their Savior and His gospel!
b. Are we doing our part in the local congregation to display unity, love, hope and good works…?
Text: Genesis 11:1-9 ESV
The second general rebellion of humanity against the Creator, ending in the confusion of tongues and the scattering of the nations.