Divide or Conquer, Part 1

Romans 16:16-20 NLT - And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught.  Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. 19 But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord.  This makes me very happy.  I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Psalm 133:1 ESV - Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

Revelation 12:4a ESV - His [Satan’s] tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven [the angels] and cast them to the earth.

Though it is confusing to some, the apostolic ministry of the First Century was about building up the church while also eliminating people from its fellowship when necessary.  Like a cancer growing in a healthy body, the love that the ministry had for both the Church and the mission of Christ demanded that they intentionally eradicate certain infectious behaviors and attitudes that people would introduce to the church.  False teachings, dissensions, and divisions were behaviors not to be tolerated.  In the New Testament it appears to be unloving to let divisive people continue to poison the church.  Today in America where most churches operate with a non-apostolic mindset, church discipline employed on someone for causing division and harming the mission is almost non-existent.  As long as people’s feelings or emotional/financial/attendance blackmail matter more to us than the holiness of God, the primacy of Christ’s mission, or the wellbeing of the Church, we should not expect the apostolic results in our day.  Tragically, we miss the point that Paul makes in connecting the sin of sowing discord and division within the church with something truly Satanic.  Disagreements, differences of opinion, and even legitimate times to part company have existed since the Book of Acts, but they were never to be excuses for sowing discord or causing division in the body of Christ.  Perhaps the seriousness of this sin is missed at times, but one only needs to look at the originator of division in the congregation of God.  Through Satan’s influence with a third of the angels, he became the originator of the “church split” - not content to leave Heaven quietly but also dragging out as many with him on his way out.  Apparently even God “lost people”, yet He was content to let angels leave who wouldn't be under His authority.  Christ had no stress after gathering a following only to let them all leave when they got offended by something He would do or say (or they simply misunderstood Him as in John 6).  God is not needy - He always lets people walk away. Paul saves the final appeal in his letter to the Romans by warning against those whose personal interests deceive others and promote division in the church at Rome.  It often boils down to one’s personal will.  Note the differences between Lucifer and Christ concerning “my will”:

Isaiah 14:12-14 NKJV - “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!13 For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; 14    I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’

Luke 22:41-42 NKJV - And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”

The difference between a divider and a conqueror is almost always measured by the human will either committed to self or submitted to God.  Do you tend to be more of an “I will” person or a “not my will, but Your will be done” person?