The Problem with Division

Division

The first of many problems that Paul addressed in his first letter to Corinth was that of division. There were factions that had developed within the church as the brethren became loyal to different teachers (1 Corinthians 1:12). Paul appealed for them to have unity. He did so by explaining what the problem is with division.

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” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Let us consider what Paul taught in the passage above.

When We Are Divided, We Are…

Not complete – Instead of the word “complete,” the King James Version translates that Greek word katartizo as “perfectly joined together.” The same word is used elsewhere in the New Testament to describe the disciples “mending” their nets (Matthew 4:21) and the world being “prepared” by God (Hebrews 11:3). In the context of Paul’s discussion to the church in Corinth, the word carries with it the idea of being perfectly fitted together for the intended work.

The body has been assembled in such a way as to allow the Lord’s work to be carried out. Paul told the brethren in Ephesus, “The whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16). Each part of the body has a different role to play (1 Corinthians 12:14-27). Division means that either a necessary part is missing or the parts cannot work together properly. In either case, the work of the body is hindered.

Not of the same mind – This has reference to our understanding (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:15, 19). Our “minds” are what we use “to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). When it comes to our understanding of God’s word, we are to have this in common. Paul told the Ephesians, “When you read, you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4). They could have the same understanding that Paul had.

The Lord wants His people to “agree” or “speak the same thing” (KJV). Christians and churches who follow the Lord are to have a consistent message. Paul told the brethren in Corinth that his message to them was the same message that he taught “everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17). Division means that we are not unified in our message. This results in confusion, which is not from God (1 Corinthians 14:33). Such division causes people to be lost – either the ones promoting a message different from the gospel or the ones accepting such a message (Galatians 1:6-9).

Not of the same judgment – In this context, judgment is distinct from mind (understanding). This is about one’s opinion – not a baseless opinion, but one that is founded upon knowledge. Paul used the term this way later in the epistle when he discussed widows remarrying: “But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is” (1 Corinthians 7:40). The word also signifies agreement or consent between two parties (Philemon 14).

We must be of the “same mind” when it comes to our understanding of God’s word. Yet we will have different opinions about other matters. In his letter to Rome, Paul described brethren who had different opinions regarding eating meat and observing days (Romans 14:2, 5). If Christians may have different opinions, what does it mean to be of the “same judgment”? This means that we patiently accept brethren who differ on matters of opinion in order to promote peace (Romans 14:1, 3-4; 15:1-3). Division means we are holding our opinions to the same level as Scripture (or higher). This causes strife within the body – destroying a brother and tearing down the work of God (Romans 14:15, 20). By causing a brother to stumble, we are “sinning against the brethren” and “against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:12).

Not of Christ – In their division, the Corinthians were claiming to be “of” certain preachers (1 Corinthians 1:12). Yet Paul said that Christ is not divided (1 Corinthians 1:13). To follow other men meant they were not following Christ.

Why is it vital that we are “of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:12)? First, Jesus was crucified for us (1 Corinthians 1:13). He willingly laid down His life for us (John 10:18; 15:13). Second, we were baptized in the name of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:13). This put us in His body (1 Corinthians 12:13; cf. Galatians 3:27) and gave us the hope of salvation (Ephesians 5:23). Division means that people are not “of Christ.” It could be that some are faithful and some are not (1 Corinthians 11:18-19). It could be that all have fallen away. In either case, it is not a situation that should be seen as tolerable or inconsequential.

Conclusion

Christ died for us, we were baptized into Him, and we are His disciples. Therefore, we need to be united together in one body as we serve Him. In order to please the Lord, we must strive to avoid unnecessary division so as to not hinder our work for the Lord.


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Comments

  1. Very good and needed article, Andy. Than you for sharing your good thinking on this important topic. I appreciate it.