It is so discouraging. When it happens the hurt and disappointment can be devastating. The work and progress of the church can be set back for years. Friends and brethren are often alienated irreparably. Why must it be so? Why does it seem like church trouble is so common? How is it that these divisions are reported again and again? Is it inevitable? Are we destined to simply split, and split, and split again?
The Corinthian church had suffered through a good bit of trouble. In fact, Paul's first letter to them dealt primarily with internal problems in that congregation. If you had been a member there, surely you would have been discouraged by the divisiveness that characterized their history. Paul addressed these issues. He indicated that their problems were widely reported and he urged them that "that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1:10,11). He blamed the situation on their "carnal" outlook and rebuked them for their failure to grow spiritually (3:1-4).
While rebuking the Corinthians and stressing their need to grow past these issues which indicated their spiritual immaturity, Paul also revealed that such problems served a necessary role. Note: ". . . I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you" (11:18,19). Do you see it? The divisiveness, the arguing, the forming of sects and parties within the church, the disputes, etc., all served to demonstrate which ones were "approved" among the Corinthians. In other words, those who were faithfully committed to God, who were determined to live by His truth, who would not compromise with error - these would rise to the occasion. They would "be made manifest," that is, their faith and loyalty would become obvious to all that objectively considered the situation.
So, what about our "issues" today? Must we be content with the problems? Should we not worry about the divisions and the "church splits?" Of course, we must be concerned - such cannot be commended (11:22). Unfortunately, these things have always happened and will continue to happen as weak, carnal Christians do what they have always done. But, when these terrible problems arise, let us be committed to do the right thing. In the end, error will be exposed and those who do right will stand "approved" before God.
- by Greg Gwin