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Let's glorify God, not ourselves

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ET'S LOOK at divisions and splits in the Church realistically!

    

     When was the last time we saw in a church body a rift of division that was actually caused, primarily, by difference in doctrine, in understanding of Scripture or of morality... and not originally on PERSONALITY DIFFERENCES?

   

     In reality, are we Spiritual heroes, and really so Scripturally and Spiritually attuned that we are willing to become martyrs, socially or however else, for the sake of the truth?  We should be, but usually are not.  So is this in truth the reason behind our rebellion against church authorities, established or otherwise, or against the "other half" of the church?  Scripture is a wonderful excuse for an already-established personality conflict!  Dr. Elmer L. Towns, a recognized authority on church planting, growth, and dynamics, states that, "Most of the church splits I know arise over personality rather than doctrine.  Individuals could not get along."1  If doctrine is claimed to be the basis for any such embroilment it is generally used merely as an attempt to legitimize what was started by, and is based upon, a disagreement between personalities.  Scripture is "cheapened" by its misuse.  And no less sinful is the fact that the church body, also, has been drawn into a dispute, and one based upon nothing more substantial than personality conflict!  Usually someone in the body actually does have just cause to feel offended - often very much so!  Christ recognizes the inevitability of such problems, "Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!" (Matt. 18:7, Luke 17:1).  Job 5:7 says, "Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward."  The offense, the sin, is not the difficulty, however; the problem comes from our reacting to the offense the way that Christ would not!  (It is, for example, truly a sin to strike someone.  But Christ did not in Matthew 5 address the sin of striking: He addressed the sin of taking revenge by striking back, commanding that we, "Turn to him the other cheek also."  Regardless of the fact that the hit is indeed a sin, we as Christians must address our own attitude and our own response!)

    

     'It all boils down to,' not what happened, but how it is reacted to!

     

Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

I Cor. 6:7

    

Christ,

  

Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, he threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously:

I Pet. 2:23

    

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.  

19 Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. 

20 He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.

Prov. 16:18-20

    

     No instance of standing up for one's rights has ever earned a "Well done, thou good and faithful servant! (Matt. 25:21 & 23)" from Christ, nor ever will.  Humbling one's self, however, and appearing to "give in" for the sake of Christ and His Body has always earned that.  And will.

    

He (Christ) was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened He not His mouth:  

(33 In His humiliation His judgement was taken away... . )

Acts 8:32-33

   

A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall up-hold the humble in spirit.

Prov. 29:23

   

     Indeed, when was the last time that we saw a church split, or even just a division in a church body that was not based upon a difference of opinion or personality?  Such exist, of course, but are so rare as to be unexpected.

   

     Scriptural or moral reasons often do become or are part of it, though.  But, once again, God is concerned less about issues, than about the Christianity and character of the persons involved.

   

     Often, rebellion is hidden behind an excuse of 'hurt for the purpose of correcting.'  ("I'd like to teach him a thing or two!" is the world's way of putting it, the acknowledged far-fetched idea being that one's negative actions toward another will do him a service by correcting him!)  Christians actually do attempt to accomplish their re-venge behind this excuse, but, realizing that their motive is wrong, try to hide it behind a more effective concealment, usually Scripture.

  

Rebellion

  

     David, having been promised by God the kingship of Israel (I Sam. 16:1, 13), and being pursued by Saul for execution, realized however how grave the sin would be of: a) lifting up his or some-one else's hand against the Lord's chosen (anointed) one, or: b) of trying to accomplish God's own work for Him against His chosen one.

  

And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless?  

10 David said furthermore, As the Lord liveth, the Lord shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish. 

11 The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord's anointed: but, I pray thee, take thou now the spear that is at his bolster, and the cruse of water, and let us go.

I Sam. 26:9-11

    

The Lord render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: for the Lord delivered thee into my hand today, but I would not stretch forth mine hand against the Lord's anointed.  

24 And, behold, as thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in the eyes of the Lord, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation.

I Sam. 26:23-24

    

     David showed leadership, and refused to submit to the wishes of his men.  Instead, David, the man of God led, contrary to his peoples' wishes, and accomplished God's will.  (In contrast, Saul had lost his kingship by listening to and following his peoples' disobedient wishes - I Sam. 15:13-31).  David even executed in anger (II Sam. 10:1-16) the man who (thinking he would thus gain David's gratitude) claimed to have killed Saul, the same Saul who had been attempting to kill David, but who was nonetheless God's chosen one! 

    

Three points to note:

   

a)  Rebelling against leadership because of a lack of confidence or lack of support of the pastor or leadership accomplishes nothing: the people who rebel and leave thus relinquish any possibility of correcting the leadership, as they are no longer part of the group.  Thus, the excuse of 'rebellion in or-der to correct' is shown to be a mere excuse.

   

b)  As a result of  a), above, resistance to the leadership accomplishes nothing more than to get one's self out from under the guidance and authority of the leadership.  This is a mark of re-bellion evident to the entire church body.

   

c)  A show of open resistance with hope of tak-ing people with you spreads your improper heart attitude to others by encouraging them to share your resentment over the particular incident or by encouraging them simply to share the general rebellious attitude that is compelling you to leave.  (And, especially in Spiritual matters, the end definitely does not justify the means.)

      

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry... 

I Sam. 15:23

    

     In condemning rebellion, Scripture is not as much condemning the action;

       

( Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time Thou shalt not commit adultery:  

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Matt. 5:27-28  )

    

     ... It is condemning the heart attitude.  Once again, Christ is not addressing a 'sin of the hands,' as His major concern; He is addressing the sinful nature, and heart.  Consequently, the object of the rebellious attitude is immaterial: directed against legitimate, or illegitimate authority, it is still sin.

    

Christ, at age twelve, was asked by His mother why He had not stayed with her and Joseph on their trip, as they supposed they had the right to demand of Him: 

    

And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.  

49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?  

50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. 

51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.  

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Lu. 2:48-52

   

     Either Christ had disobeyed (an impossibility for Him, the Son of God, at any earthly age, as that is sin), or they had no right to expect that of Him. Yet verse 51 ex-plains that Christ (voluntarily, if apparently they had no right to expect obedience of Him) subjected Himself to them.

  

        

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  

6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 

7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 

8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Phil. 2:5-8

  

     Obedience for the Christian is therefore evidently a matter not of the law but of the heart, going beyond that which the written Word, or the Law, can require, and giving as much submission and obedience as is possible to give!   

   

     The maintenance of a person's status in his church, no matter how well earned, can never be allowed to jeopardize the unity and work of that church!  Usually, when for the sake of his hurt pride such an eminent person will take a stand against leadership, the resulting contest will damage a church: both its members and its effectiveness.

   

     Neither a church split nor a church divided is ever justified on the basis of personal differences.  God must necessarily work through the sinful and the imperfect.  There will never, before Christ returns, be a perfect church.  He and we must work with and within what we have (see also, Is God's Blessing Approval, or Love?).  We do not 'bat an eye' to sin, but we do deal with it Scripturally! 

   

  

Knowledge is familiarity with the truth;
Wisdom is the ability to best use that truth.

    

  

    "Napoleon and Wellington both made the point that when handfuls of men are involved in combat, the outcome depends on individual fighting ability, but that when armies are involved individual ability may be less important than ability for an army to fight as a whole, Napoleon's example being that two Mamelukes would beat three French cavalrymen, but that an army of one thousand French cavalrymen would beat fifteen hundred Mamelukes."2

  

     While a person's individual giftings may be invaluable in one-on-one and small-group settings the Christian's ability in a large group, whether that be the local body or Christianity as a whole, is most importantly based first on how well he is able to maintain a "...unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3)."

     

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By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

John 13:35  

   

 

      

  

  

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WORD AND SPIRIT MINISTRIES

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FOOTNOTES

 

1 We must recognize that this is an ideal; often circumstances do not permit us to follow this directive.  (See above) 

Back to text
2 Titus 2:3-5 Back to text
3 Luke 2:36, Acts 2:17, Acts 21:9 Back to text
4 Judges 4:8-10 Back to text
5 Matt. 12:1-13 Back to text