Differences and Divisions

Differences and Divisions

Posted in:

The sanctifying Spirit unifies where Satan would divide.

Jesus said it first. He was praying for His disciples—first century and twentieth century—them and us. His petition—“Sanctify them” (John 17:17, NIV). Why? First, that they might be kept clean in a dirty world – protected from “the evil one” (John 17:15, NIV). But just as clear and important is the second provision of their sanctification—“that all of them may be one” (John 17:21 NIV). Holy hearts would produce holy unity.

Disciples then and now would have their differences. They would not see eye-to-eye on everything. The apostle Paul is a case in point. He was sanctified. He loved his Christian brethren. Barnabas was his dear friend, and most of the time they got along beautifully. But on one occasion their humanity showed.

Young John Mark was the “bone of contention.” Barnabas wanted to take him along on their preaching mission. Paul didn’t. Acts 15:39 reports that “they had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company” (NIV). But this difference of opinion did not break fellowship between these disciples. Later on Mark proved himself and became a close associate of Paul’s when we was imprisoned.

There is a world of difference between this kind of disagreement and division. Paul spelled it out to the Christians in Corinth. The third chapter of 1 Corinthians is headed, “On Divisions in the Church.” He describes them as worldly or carnal, not spiritual. There was jealousy and quarreling among them. Among other things they were divided in their preference of preachers. Some wanted Paul and others Apollos. This unspiritual division had fractured their fellowship.

The sad consequence of this dividedness is its tragic effect on a watching world. Jesus continued His prayer in John 17, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (v. 23, NIV). He intended that His disciples would model divine love through their oneness with Him and each other. When sinners see dissension and division in the church, they are bound to become disillusioned and ask, “Where is the love you talk so much about?”

And holiness people are not immune from this malady. “Church splits” take place in congregations that profess to believe in perfect love. Organized campaigns to get rid of the preacher in the renewal vote happen in churches whose theology holds up a high standard of Christian perfection. Ephesians 4: 1-3 exhorts all such persons “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (NIV).

The sanctifying Spirit unifies where Satan would divide.

A district superintendent recently* reported just such a miracle of restoration. He was meeting with a church board to begin the process of calling a pastor. The former shepherd had left under duress. Sharp division was evident between board members. As the discussion progressed, unkind words were spoken. The superintendent was shocked. “I thought this was a holiness church,” he said. “Is this a demonstration of Christian love? Can God bless a church whose leaders show such unchristlike attitudes?” Suddenly there was another Presence in the room. Board members fell on their knees. Tears flowed. Prayers of confession were made. Strong men threw their arms around those from whom they had been estranged and asked their forgiveness.

In a matter of minutes a holy unity prevailed where discord and division had wrought such havoc. In a matter of hours the whole church heard the good news. Before long the surrounding community will become aware of the drastic change.

Differences? Yes.

Divisions? No.

“That the world may believe…” (John 17:21, NIV).

Eugene L. Stowe was a General Superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene

*This article is an exerpt from Herald of Holiness, May 1, 1984

Coffee Break with Holiness Today