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Is Christ divided?

by Robert Randle  
8/10/2011 / Devotionals

There used to be an old saying in the Church which went something like this: "If we can't get together down here on Earth then how are we gong to be able to get together up there [in Heaven]?" It is an important matter to consider because it cuts right to the heart of one of the biggest problems among Christian denominations, and this is having a 'spirit' of sectarianism [division]. It seems that most, if not all Christian Churches are administered or directed by a some creed, a governing body, charter, regional presbytery or brotherhood, or ecclesiastical council which claims apostolic succession; or in some cases an individual may say that God or Jesus personally leads them in guiding the Church.

Along with that, each congregational church, even those who are non-affiliated [NA] defend their faith practices and doctrine as not being subject to any 'exogenous' [outside their group] theological scrutiny and Spiritual admonition because they are distinctly and uniquely autonomous in organizational structure and hierarchy. Later in this study will be a comparison of the faith practices of three different churches, but before getting to that it is imperative to search the Holy Scriptures and have the Spirit of God reveal how the Christian Church handled such matters from its beginning.

1 Corinthians 1: 12-13
Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul" or "I am of Cephas" or "I am of Apollos" or "I am of Christ." "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"

NOTE: To put it into a modern context, the people attached themselves to a particular church leader and apostle, or rejected them altogether and claimed to be led by Jesus Himself [through the Holy Spirit??]. This is no different than believers 'only' worshipping and fellowshipping with those Christians who belong to their Church-The Church of Paul; The Church of Cephas; The Church of Apollos; or even the Church of Christ. The apostle Paul asked 3 short but poignant questions: Is Jesus [Christ] divided? Was Paul [Pastor, Elder, Bishop, Evangelist, Brother, Apostle or Reverend] crucified for you? Were you baptized in so and so's name, and more importantly, was he crucified for you? The way some believers unduly esteem and honor their pastors/preachers [beyond what is written] you would think the answers to those questions are a resounding yes.

1 Corinthians 3: 4a, 5, 9
For you are still carnal [walking in the flesh]. For when one says, "I am of Paul" and another, "I am of Apollos" are you not carnal [fleshly]?" For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building.

NOTE: The last part of verse 9 expands the concept beyond just a particular congregation or denomination but includes "everyone" who is in the body of Christ. However, some will say that they follow the teachings of their Reverend Paul or Pastor Apollos as through some spiritual proxy of ownership; instead of just accepting them as laborers in the LORD and mere men. But before I get ahead of myself I want to draw the reader's attention to the following:

1 Corinthians 1: 2
To the church of God which is at Corinth; to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus [Yeshua Moshiach], called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our LORD, both theirs and ours.

NOTE: No sectarian spirit here. The Church included: those sanctified in Christ Jesus, those called to be saints, and those who call upon the name of the LORD in "every" place [not just in Corinth].

1 Corinthians 4: 17
For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the LORD, who will remind you of my ways in Christ [Moshiach], as I teach everywhere in every Church.

NOTE: Timothy had the apostolic commission delegated to him from Paul to go to various churches and correct anything that might be contrary to his ways in Christ, even though Timothy was not a "member" of that Church. Not only that, but the Apostle Paul himself went to or wrote every Church teaching the gospel or settling other matters of the faith.

Colossians 1: 1-2, 4-6a, 7
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother: To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ [Moshiach] who are in Colosse. Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as you also learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf.

Colossians 4: 7-8, 16
Tychicus a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the LORD, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts. Now when this epistle is read among you, see to it that it is also read in the Church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

NOTE: The Church at Colosse wasn't even started by the apostle Paul but yet he still was concerned with the progress of the saints there as well as the believers in Laodicea. The Scriptures don't reveal much about the organizational structures, faith practices and leadership of these congregations but it seemed that the one thing they had in common was a relationship in Jesus Christ instead of worrying about having the 'right' denominational church name.

1 Corinthians 12: 12-13a, 20, 27
*For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ [Moshiach]. For by one Spirit were all baptized into one body.* But now indeed there are many members but one body. Now you are [all] the body of Christ, and members individually [in the congregations or churches].

Now its time to make a comparison of the "Statement of Faith" among three Christian denominations [The Open Bible Church, Seventh-day Adventist Church and Christian Center Church] to see what are their common beliefs.

1. A belief in the inspiration of Scripture (Cp. 2 Timothy 3: 16).

2. A belief in "The Trinity" (Cp. Matthew 28: 19).

3. The Fall of Man (Cp. Romans 5: 12-19).

4. The resurrection of Christ (Cp. 1 Corinthians 15: 1-20).

5. The New Birth/Salvation (Cp. John 3: 3, 16; Romans 10: 10-17).

6. The belief of Church relationships (Cp. Acts 2: 47; Ephesians 1: 22-23; 2: 19-22; Hebrews 10: 24-25).

7. Baptism in water (Cp. Matthew 28: 19-20; Romans 6: 1-6; 8: 12-17; 10: 44-46; 11: 14-16; 15: 7-9; 16: 30-33; 22: 16; Colossians 2: 12-13).

8. THE LORD'S SUPPER (Cp. 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17; 11: 23-30; 2 Corinthians 13: 5).

9. The gifts of the Holy Spirit (Cp. Romans 12: 4-8; 1 Corinthians 12: 1-31; Galatians 5: 22-23; Ephesians 4: 8, 11-16; 1 Peter 4: 10-11).

10. Sanctification of the Christian life (Cp. Romans 6: 11-14, 19-20; 12: 1-2; Ephesians 5: 2-23; 1 Thessalonians 5: 23; 2 Corinthians 6: 14 thru 7: 1; 10: 1-6; 1 Peter 3: 1-4).

11. The Second Coming of Christ/Rapture of the Church (Cp. Matthew 24: 14, 27-44; 1 Thessalonians 1: 5-10; 4: 13-18; Titus 2: 12-13; Revelation 1: 7; 14: 14-20; 19: 11-21; 2 Thessalonians 1: 7-10).

12. The Final Judgment (Cp. Matthew 13: 41-43; 25:46; Revelation 19: 20; 20: 11-15; 21: 1-5; Malachi 4: 1, 3).

13. The New Heaven and Earth (Cp. 2 Peter 3: 13; Revelation 21: 1).

COMMENTARY: Of course this brief list does not exhaust some more of the worship practices and teachings that these churches share with one another, or even the differences, like: divine healings, Sabbath worship, and Holy Ghost baptism, eternal punishment, The Great Commission, sanctity of Marriage/Family, the atonement of Christ, grace [faith] vs. works, "feet-washing"; just to name a few. What it does show is that in some of the most important theological or hermeneutical themes there is a basis for dialogue and interaction [fellowship] rather than isolation and avoidance. Interestingly, the Scriptures that the different Churches use during the collection of tithes and offerings [Cp. 2 Corinthians 8: 1-22, 24] have its basis with the Gentile believers sending assistance to their believing Jewish counterparts in Jerusalem [whom they have never met].

It is clear from the book of Acts [Cp. Acts 15: 1-5, 13, 19-29] and elsewhere in the New Testament [Cp. Romans 15: 25-28] that there were two distinctly different Churches in Christ; one Jewish and the other Gentile but it did not prevent the Apostle Paul from encouraging cooperation, recognition, and relationships among these believers. "Does this mean that a believer should fellowship anyone who claims to be of God, certainly not [Cp. 1 John 4: 1, 6; 1 Corinthians 2: 12-16; Ephesians 5: 11; 1 Timothy 4: 1-2; 2 Peter 2: 1-3]!" The Apostle Paul was accused of being associated with a 'sect' of the "Nazarenes" [Heb. 'nazar'-to separate or consecrate oneself; Cp. Acts 24: 5] and they might have been the same ultra-conservative Jews who came from the Church of James [Cp. Acts 15: 1, 13, 19; 22: 18; Galatians 2: 12] in Jerusalem. The Apostles Peter and Paul had a controversy over the very issue of fellowship among the Jewish and Gentile believers [Churches], as in the following:

Galatians 2: 11-13a, 14
Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat [share in a fellowship 'seder' {meal}] with the Gentiles, but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision [another or different church]. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him. But when I saw they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, "If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel the Gentiles to live as Jews?"

NOTE: The Antioch Church was comprised of "Hellenists" who are Jews by ethnicity but in language as well as custom they are Greeks, and thus are considered Gentiles.

Lastly, there are those preachers or church leaders who appear rule their congregation or flock with a rod-of-iron and are not as agreeable to open fellowship with the saints of another Christian Church, perhaps out of a fear of losing some members or maybe prestige, church position and influence; perhaps it is even out of resistance to an admonition regarding a disciplinary issue that needs correction; as in The Church of Diotrephes:

3 John 5: 9-10
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence [ruler ship or authority] among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating [talking] about us with malicious words [slander, lies]. And not content with that, he himself does not receive [fellowship] the brethren [other saints], and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.

I wonder if there is an autonomous, Evangelical or Fundamental Christian Church of Diotrephes out there somewhere in Christendom today? Christ broke down the middle wall of partition separating the Jews and Gentiles [Cp. Ephesians 2: 11, 13-14] but it seems that doctrinal barriers as well as tradition have been erected among the Christian Churches of today to impede the saints from fellowshipping one another, and enjoy the rich diversity of faith practices and worship that exists in the body of Christ.

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
August 9, 2011

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