Last week we began looking at this passage of Scripture in an attempt to answer the question of why we must have problems and conflicts at church. The church of Corinth had a number of problems that Paul dealt with in both epistles.
Tonight we want to consider what we must do with those who cause division. How are we to deal with problems in the church. The answer is not easy, and certainly not enjoyable, but it is necessary to the growth and health of the local body of Christ.
Whenever Christians squabble, the world cheers! That is because those whose hearts are turned against God, whose whole lives are one longstanding rivalry with him, want to find any reason not to believe in Him.
This is the observation of one individual, he writes that he "found by experience that no wild beasts are so hostile to men as are most Christians to one another."
The very thing that makes the church shine for Jesus Christ in a sin darkened world is the love it has for one another. And that love is never so pronounced as in problem solving!
Though they should not, many Christians lean more heavily upon other Christians than they do the Lord. Allegiances are formed and when issues arise, they decide the issue based on who is on which side rather than coming down on God's side of truth. They choose sides based on personalities rather than truth.
In I Cor 3:3 Paul equates divisions with jealousy and strife. These are the two main words for divisions in the NT.
(1 COR 3:3) "FOR YE ARE YET CARNAL: FOR WHEREAS THERE IS AMONG YOU ENVYING, AND STRIFE, AND DIVISIONS, ARE YE NOT CARNAL, AND WALK AS MEN?"
I. Rivalry among Christians is sin.
A. Along with that understand that almost anything can become an occasion for rivalry.
B. Consider some of the occasions.
(PROV 16:28) "A FROWARD MAN SOWETH STRIFE: AND A WHISPERER SEPARATETH CHIEF FRIENDS."
(PROV 17:9) "HE THAT COVERETH A TRANSGRESSION SEEKETH LOVE; BUT HE THAT REPEATETH A MATTER SEPARATETH VERY FRIENDS."
a. Indiscretions in speech such as gossiping or backbiting, can lead to the separation of even the closest of friends.
b. Gossip is not only the telling of mistruths, but it is also telling the truth when there is no reason to do so.
c. The excuse "It was true" is inadequate.
d. The question is not whether something is true or false, but is it loving to talk about it.
e. Often conversations between close friends end up with "can you top this!"
a. Note: Deut 8:11-18
b. There is never a good time to toot your own horn.
c. All we have and all we do that is good is the work of God, all we do is worthless and harmful without Him.
d. Bragging and boasting agitates.
e. Joseph's brothers hated him all the more for his boasting.
3. Favoritism and comparison:
a. This can be by parents, teachers, etc.
(JAMES 2:1) "MY BRETHREN, HAVE NOT THE FAITH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE LORD OF GLORY, WITH RESPECT OF PERSONS."
(JAMES 2:9) "BUT IF YE HAVE RESPECT TO PERSONS, YE COMMIT SIN, AND ARE CONVINCED OF THE LAW AS TRANSGRESSORS."
b. Comparing soloists, musicians, preachers, teachers, etc.
C. In Gal 5:19-21, the list of sins here note that out of 17 items over half mentioned are related to rivalry, jealousies, heresies and their effect on the church.
1. Those who continue to do such things in habitual practice are giving evidence to their lack of being a part of God's side.
2. They indicate that they arenít even saved!
D. In Gal 5:22-23, all but two bear directly on rivalry and the problems related.
1. The person who loves, pursues peace, is patient, shows goodness towards others, deals with others meekly, speaks gently, and exercises self control is not engaged in rivalry.
2. The person who persists in being divisive is not growing in these qualities.
E. What were the issues here in Corinth that caused people to have to choose sides of the issue?
1. Divisions over preachers' styles - 1:12- 4:21
2. Immorality 5:1-13
3. Going to the law before the heathen judges 6:1-11
4. Marriages - 7:1-40
5. Meats offered to idols 8-10
6. Conduct of women in the church. 11:1-16
7. Lord's supper 11:17-34
8. Spiritual gifts 12-14
9. The resurrection 15
II. Evidence of Rivalry.
A. Problems in communication may signal rivalry - Gen 37:4 and 4:8.
1. A sign of envy, jealousy, strife or rivalry is the rupture of normal brotherly communication.
2. Joseph's brothers found they could not speak to their brother peaceably.
3. The sharp barbs and etc give evidence to rivalries and divisions.
B. Campaigning - recruiting others to his group.
1. Of course it is always a matter of "conviction".
2. He will always oppose you, no matter what the issue at congregational meetings, at board meetings, and so forth.
3. He fights a cold war with dirty tricks.
C. The "they" and "us" attitude.
D. Supersensitivity - easily offended, you can't do anything right.
1. They will misinterpret innocent remarks and actions, make petty objections to what you do or say.
2. They will shift the blame your way.
3. They will take innocent acts personally.
4. They will turn everything into a personal attack.
III. The Solution to the Problem.
1. Many shy away from the term.
2. It has been abused by some.
3. But it is vital to the growth and health of the body.
B. If the divisive person does not stop, repent, desist, they must be put out of the church quickly.
(TITUS 3:10) "A MAN THAT IS AN HERETIC AFTER THE FIRST AND SECOND ADMONITION REJECT;"
1. If allowed to remain it will split the church.
2. Some will become infected with the sinful attitude and behavior.
3. Others will grow weary of the conflicts and just leave.
Paul said that there must be heresies. God allows them to come into the church in order to purify the body. It is a necessary part of growth and development. That in itself can become a source of division, but it cannot be neglected. We exercise discipline when we receive members into the church, and we must exercise discipline as we minister to the membership.
When a problem comes up within the church, we can choose to ignore it ...but that would be in direct opposition to the instruction of the Word of God. Just as sure as there must be divisions...there must be discipline to maintain the integrity of the church. Remember, discipline may be initiated because of a number of issues, but the ultimate discipline is for only one sin...the refusal to repent.