Overcoming Sin through Christ: Disunity and Division

  Overcoming Sin through Christ

A Comprehensive List of Sins

(Alphabetically Arranged)

Richard Hollerman

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Disunity and Division

Wherever we look, we see signs of disunity, discord, enmity, and ill-will. Whether we are speaking of personal relationships or national conflicts, the world seems to continue under the dominion of disunity. What is your relationship with other people and their relationship with you?

We know that Jesus Christ emphasized the unity of those who would follow Him as their Savior and Lord.  In His long final prayer to the Father in the night of His betrayal, Jesus prayed, “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that you sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:23).  He prayed “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (v. 21).  This unity in Christ and love in Christ (John 13:34-35) would testify to the world that people belong to God and are united in Jesus.

Through the New Testament Scriptures, we see a continuing strain of teaching on the importance of being united in the Lord Jesus (cf. Ephesians 4:3-6, 14-16).  We are to “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (v. 3). Paul says, “You are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28b).  He says, “Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11b).  We are to have “the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2).  We are to “put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:14).

Although this is the consistent teaching of Scripture, have you noticed the massive violation of this in our day—in fact, all through the past 2,000 years?  Denominationalism itself demonstrates the outright neglect of unity.  There are presently multiple thousands of divisions within Christendom, each with their own name, beliefs, organization, officials, headquarters, policies, practices, and membership requirements. Sectarianism is alive and well in our day![1]

Therefore, we can see how serious it is to depart from this spiritual unity by adopting sinful attitudes, falling into sinful activities, and believing sinful and compromising beliefs.  Paul warns, “Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” (Romans 16:17-18). False teachers and false teaching will bring division.  He writes of division and divisive attitudes in Galatians 5, such as enmities, strife, disputes, dissensions, and factions—sins that will prevent one from inheriting the kingdom of God (vv. 19-21).  The term used in this portion is dichostasia, literally meaning “a standing apart.”  It is a “state in which all community, all fellowship, and all togetherness are gone.”[2]

Another term used by Paul in Galatians 5:20, translated “factions” (NASB), is the Greek hairesis. You might see in the term our English word “heresy.” The term literally means “a choosing, choice,” and “that which is chosen,” and thence, “an opinion,” “especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects.” Vine continues, “Such erroneous opinions are frequently the outcome of personal preference or the prospect of advantage.”[3]  This factional attitude will prevent one from entering the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:20). 

Peter warns of false teachers who would be responsible for such “heresies”: “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.  Many will follow their sensuality, and, because of them the way of truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words” (2 Peter 2:1-3a).  Significantly, these factions or factional teachings are “destructive.”[4] Notice also that these are connected to false teachings, such as denying Christ.  Notice further that these false and heretical teachers will be fleshly and sensual in what they promote. And, finally, notice that greed will be their motivation in presenting false words.

The term hairesis normally means “a body of people belonging to a particular school of thought and action and holding a particular kind of belief,” such as the party of the Pharisees (Acts 15:5; 26:5), the party of the Sadducces (Acts 5:17), the party of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5), and two times it refers to Christians (Acts 24:14; 28:22).  In this sense, translators often use the word, “sect.”  But Barclay goes on to say that the destructive aspect is when the term refers to “division within the Church into groups and cliques and parties, by which the togetherness of the Church is destroyed.”[5] 

Paul admonishes the believers in Corinth to be united in Christ and not have the divisive attitude they had manifested in the gatherings to remember Christ’s death on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).  He said that he had heard that there were “divisions” in the assembly (v. 18), then he writes, “For there must also be factions [haireseis] among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you” (v. 19).  “As deplorable as factions may be, they serve one good purpose: They distinguish those who are faithful and true in God’s sight.”[6]  The selfishness, pride, and lack of love manifested in Corinth that would lead to divisions would reveal who was approved before God.

Paul writes to Titus about those who enter into “strife and disputes” about the Law, then he commands, “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (3:9-11).  All of this reminds us that we must renounce all disunity, division, and factionalism.

As we have noticed, Paul wrote about the divisive spirit seen in the Corinthian brethren.  These disciples were calling themselves after Paul, Apollos, and Cephas (Peter), thereby exalting men where Christ alone should be (1 Corinthians 1:11-17).  He writes, “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” (v. 10).  The apostle says that we must renounce all divisions and that we must be made complete, “in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 

The only way that believers can have the same mind about dozens of different beliefs and practices is to consult the same Word of God.  The only way that they can have the same judgment about life is to agree that the Scriptures give the answers to the issues of life.  When each person follows the flesh, compromises with the world, fails to put Jesus first, entertains secular and humanistic philosophies and ideas, then there will always be unrighteous factionalism.  We must be united in Christ, on the basis of His Word, and according to the standards of holiness.

(See also “Faction”)

 



[1] Note our booklet, What God Wants in the Community of Christ.

[2] William Barclay, Flesh and Spirit, pp. 56-57.

[3] Expository Dictionary.

[4] The ESV and NET Bible also have “destructive heresies” at this place.

[5] Flesh and Spirit, pp. 58-59.

[6] NASB Study Bible, note.

 

 

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