For several days now, we have been discussing unity. We have argued that there is an indispensable need for unity, especially in the local church. Thus far, we have seen:
- The Definition of Unity
- The Defining Marks of Unity
- The Deterrents to Unity
- The Devil’s Hatred of Unity
The previous discussion uncovered an important principle that Satan uses division in order to divert the people of God, which will, in the final analysis, distract them and lead them in a direction that will destroy the aim of unity. Notice, finally, the destructive nature of division.
The Destructive Nature of Division
The foundational observation is this. The first division that takes place after creation is the Fall of man in the garden. Simply put, our first parents experienced division when Eve usurped her husband’s leadership. There is not only horizontal division between Adam and Eve; there is the vertical division between people and God. God warned Adam that when he ate of the forbidden tree, he would surely die (Gen. 2:17). When Adam and Eve disobeyed Scripture tells us that “their eyes were opened” (Gen. 3:7). Consequently, they became enemies of God (Rom. 5:10), children of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3) and were enslaved to sin (John 8:34).
Second, the sin of division is listed among the deeds of the flesh. The destructive nature of division becomes readily apparent when it is viewed in the context of Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia. Paul the apostle writes, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21, ESV). The word “division” is translated from a Greek word, translated as “heresy” or “faction.” While division may appear petty to some, it is listed among the sins of the flesh. And note, the warning, “Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 21). Jude 18-19 also includes a serious warning for people who cause division: “They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 18–19, ESV). Division is a serious sin that must not be tolerated among the people of God!
Third, recognize that division destroys church families. Paul admonishes the church at Corinth, a church who became well-known for their carnal behavior: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10, ESV). The present tense of the verb translated “appeal” demonstrates Paul’s urgency in putting this matter before the Corinthians. The word translated “divisions” comes from the Greek word that is commonly translated “schism.” The word implies a “tearing apart or splitting apart.” It also involves the opposition of sound doctrine. Suffice it to say, division will strike mercilessly against the very fiber of a local church. It will take on a life of its own. Division is a relentless enemy. Division is a vicious monster. It is a malignant cancer that will devastate and destroy. Division is a virus that must be confronted boldly and biblically. If divisive people are left unchallenged, they will annihilate a church from the inside out.
Finally, division is contrary to the purposes of God. The apostle Paul pleaded with the church at Rome to be on guard against anyone who might introduce the cancer of bitterness in the church family: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Romans 16:17, ESV). He uses a different Greek word, translated “division” here. The word means, “dissension or discord” and is virtually synonymous with the “schism” that we learned about in 1 Corinthians 1:10.
Here is the takeaway: God hates division. God does not approve of factions or schisms. God, however, places a premium on unity. So we confess there is an indispensable need for unity in the church. As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, may we stand in unity around the purposes of the church. May we stand in unity around sound doctrine. For we will not equivocate or compromise the doctrinal standards of the church. May the unity the emerges in the church begin with each faithful Christian and may it flow like “oil down Aaron’s beard” for the benefit of local congregations. And may the world take notice! May the world recognize that we are disciples of Jesus who stand together in unity which will be expressed in the kingly reign of Christ in a future day to come!