1 Cor. 11:19 states: For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.
Commentary Thomas Nelson:
“One of the positive results of divisions, or factions in the church is that it becomes obvious who the genuine Christians are in the congregation.”
Now while this commentary sounds good at first glance, there’s much more to it then meets the eye. My first question is this: Obvious to who? Is the congregation always in line with the spirit, the body of Christ? And are those who are being accused of division always the source of the faction itself? Or is there a blind spot, a faction in leadership that needs to be addressed; such as erroneous doctrine? Are those that leave the church always the one’s in error?
Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that many believers can’t discern a righteous firestorm or faction from that which is trifling. Most just view any storm as a negative; and understandably so because they are programmed that way! We are taught that a servant of the Lord must not quarrel; that we should never get in passionate debates. We use scriptures out of context to bolster this point; failing to understand that this scripture taken from Timothy was intended for those in opposition to the faith. Not believers just trying to find some peace and unity in the spirit within the congregation.
In a perfect world we would not have to get passionate about God’s word. But we are in the here and now, and as a result we must learn to battle these things out. To examine this point further, let’s go to Titus 3. This is one of the most widely abused scriptures in the entire bible.
Commentary by Thomas Nelson:
Titus 3:9-11 – Paul was admonishing Titus to avoid anything that would promote wickedness among the believers. Reject a divisive man – Titus was to cut off the churches relationship with any person who would not submit to correction after two warnings. The greek word for warped here suggests that Satan is perverting this person. Sinning indicates that the man will not change his ways, and continues to rebel against God.
This commentary is vague, erroneous, and abusive; and manages to entirely sidestep what was really going on between the apostle Paul, Titus, and the Jews. Titus 3:9-11 states: But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law, for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonishing; knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. Titus 1:10 states: For there are many insubordinate, both idol talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped; who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not.
Here is what was going on: There were those of the circumcision, the Jews, mixed with the Cretans. They were raising the same arguments that they had with Jesus; trying to justify themselves by the law and claiming: ‘Our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! Now your saying that everyone is justified by grace through faith; that this Jesus of Nazareth has taken away the sins of the world, and that we are no longer justified by observing the law; Blasphemy!’
In other words, this was no trifling argument. This was Paul’s warning to Titus concerning the infiltration of the law; the leaven of the Pharisees. The terms warped, sinning, being self-condemned are in direct reference to the Jews, in that they were still living under the condemnation of the law. To use these scriptures without clarifying this point in order to disfellowship people from the congregation is downright wickedness! This is using God’s word as a weapon. And the real factious, divisive party would be the one using this tactic.
The point I am trying to make here is this: that we learn to take a wider view concerning factions and divisions. That we as Christians would be more discerning and open to the spirit; that we would look to God and to His word for answers when we see a firestorm in our church. That we would not give man preeminence just because he is a pastor or leader; that we would give our fellow believers in Christ the same godly love and respect due all of us who are in Christ.
Footnote: One of the most ludicrous statements in the church today is this: if they were of us, they would not have went out from among us. What this is really saying is that because an individual leaves a particular congregation, he’s no longer in Christ. It’s a pretty terrible thing to proclaim that one of our brothers or sisters is suddenly now antichrist! The only valid use of this statement would be that someone actually left the core teachings of Christ, and denounced essential doctrine.
And Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’
Matt. 20: 25-28