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Watch out for those who cause divisions

Posted by on Aug 12, 2010 in discipleship, unity | 16 comments

Watch out for those who cause divisions

When writing to Christians in Rome, Paul concluded by sending his greetings to several groups meeting throughout the city (Romans 16). Then, he sends this warning:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:17-18 ESV)

I think that many Christians today live by this warning, as long as they can define what Paul meant by “doctrine that you have been taught.”

In fact, many people come up with different levels of doctrine and use those levels to determine levels of fellowship. I don’t think this is what Paul had in mind here at all.

I guess my question is this: Given the importance of unity throughout Scripture and without naming particular doctrines (teachings), how do we decide which teachings to divide over?


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  1. 8-12-2010

    Maybe only the ones we find in scripture.

    Christ has not come in the flesh
    Christ was not the Son of God
    Salvation is not by Grace
    Christ did not raise from the dead
    We can do whatever we want with our bodies because the body and spirit are seperate
    Finally we may need to divide if a person is persistent in dividing over doctrine that doesn’t seem to matter (Paul says rebuke a divisive person then have nothing to do with them).

  2. 8-12-2010

    The standard for who I can divide from has gotten far less restrictive over the last couple of years. It is hard to find justification for division in Scripture outside of the big issues, the Gospel issues, that Lionel listed.

  3. 8-12-2010


    Any doctrine (teaching) found in Scripture, or only those teachings that reasons given in Scripture to separate from other believers?


    You’re right… it’s hard to find justification for other reasons…


  4. 8-12-2010

    How does that saying go? In essentials unity, in peripherals freedom, in all things love.

  5. 8-12-2010


    Using that saying, I guess the question would be, “What are the essentials?”


  6. 8-12-2010

    repent and believe the good news, Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried and raised again! Receiving Christ Jesus as Lord!

  7. 8-13-2010

    I don’t understand the question.

  8. 8-13-2010


    When I read your previous comment, I thought it could be understood two different ways:

    1) We can separate from other believers based on any doctrine we find in Scripture.

    2) We can separate from other believers based on reasons in Scripture given to separate.

    In my previous comment, I was trying to ask which of the two you meant. Or maybe you meant something else?


  9. 8-13-2010

    I mean number 2 and we must even be careful about that. Paul says “if anyone destroys the temple God will destroy him (them)” So since I have no desire to be destroyed, as I believe this is the context of divisions, I will error on the side of grace!

  10. 8-13-2010

    To me it comes down to lying about Jesus and his work, or living professing Christ with your mouth, but living against him (purposeful unrepentant sin). On the one hand we set the bar too low and on the other too high. But who does do this perfectly?

  11. 1-6-2012

    can a person be divisive and still be correct in what they are saying? if so, should that person be rebuked and have nothing to do with them?

  12. 1-6-2012


    It’s an interesting circle, isn’t it?


  13. 10-19-2013

    chas says:
    can a person be divisive and still be correct in what they are saying? if so, should that person be rebuked and have nothing to do with them?end quote

    Im interested in the scriptural reasoning for this understanding, as I was recently removed from a small group based on the reasoning chas but forth from (Romans 16:17-18 ESV.)The issue was over pre-trib which was admitted by the teachers of the class to be a non- essentials yet they did not want me presenting the other side of Revelation 3:10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth… the article came from a predominantly pre-trib seminary DTS at by: Michael J. Svigel who received his Th.M. and Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary, where he serves as Assistant Professor of Theological Studies… and this article spured a emotional reaction from the pastors wife which lead to my removal from the group..

  14. 10-19-2013


    Yes, I think it’s possible to be correct and divisive. I think Paul deals with some of these possibilities in Romans 14-15. I’m not saying that you were divisive; I can’t make that call from here.


  15. 10-21-2013

    Hi Alan, thanks for your response, if your interested I will present what transpired. The events that led to the Pastor removing me from the group without any interaction with me, after all the interactions transpired by email “only”. I missed the class to respond to the pastors wife who had presented Rev3:10 as a proof text. My wife filled me in on how DTS was also used as a proof for pre-trib. Below is the first email sent to the group who were present.

    Subject: The promise of protection in Revelation 3:10 is this a key verse for the rapture?
    Often I wonder if one is interested in the other sides position. Here’s one!
    Michael J. Svigel-Michael received his Th.M. and Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary, where he serves as Assistant Professor of Theological Studies.

    Hope you caught the underlined in response to what was presented recently in the Fil-Am group

    Quote:Michael J. Svigel

    Problems with the rapture in Revelation 3:10.
    I sent the full article and the web link
    Below is the pastor’s wife response.
    Brother Ed,

    Just so you know, because you were absent, all of the views of the Rapture was presented yesterday! For all of us who are in the Fellowship, let me make it clear again, that Pastor Larry is not telling you or making you become a Pretrib or have a Pretribulational View, but he is simply telling all the facts from the bible and it is up to you, individual to make your choice! Ultimately, you alone will one day face the Lord Jesus Christ….no husband, no wife, no children, no mother or father. YOU alone will face and answer the One who judge!! Pastor Larry will not be there with you or anyone else. Do you all understand??? So, if you are presented with the truth, it is you who will take that truth and examine it whether it is true or not. Pastor Larry’s view is only for himself and he can support it from the Word of God. He is not forcing you or me to take it, but he told us individually, to choose according to what’s presented and what the bible teaches. And if you have your own view, you better make sure that you can defend it and support it from the word of God, not just taking somebody else’s view. Pastor did not present only pre Trib view but all other views.

    You know, brother Ed, you are free to choose your view, as Pastor said, good men agree to disagree, right? Let the people in the fellowship choose what they think is their own view, since all views were presented plain and simple, there is no bias! If you want to suffer through the tribulation, fine it’s your choice, right? But for me, I ask myself, if Jesus will give me a way of escape at that hour, I’ll take it. After all, He already suffered for me at the cross, He gave His life for me and for all who believe.

    Let me give you a small illustration which is easy to understand: “ There was a Christian in a roaring flood, he’s on the rooftop, a boat came by to rescue him, he said , it’s okay, God is with me, so few hours has gone by, the house was swept away and he’s drowning, another boat came by and offered to rescue him, again, he said, no, God will spare me. He ultimately drown and died. He was at the portal of heaven and he then asked the Lord why He did not come and spare him from the flood? The Lord said, I sent 2 boats to rescue you but you refused, stupid” Same thing here, if He promised to deliver us from that awful day of His wrath, why not take it, accept it. Simple for me, the Lord said it, I trust in His Word! I don’t want to complicate or go around some other people’s opinion on this matter. If God spared Noah and His family from the Great Flood, I take His Word also that He will take me away during the time of the Great Tribulation. The main thing is, it has been explained and taught from His Word, so it you have any doubt, read it for yourself and asked question so that it’s clear to you and you will not have any excuse that you haven’t heard all the views or facts. You all must undertand that this is not something crucial to Salvation, if you believe in the Lord (Romans 10:9-10), your salvation is secure, but it makes a difference how you live your life and how you witness. Another question for all of us to ponder is, are you looking forward to Christ return or are you looking to see the Anti-Christ??? Only yourself can answer that question!

    Love and peace to you all,


    Psalm 16
    Now there were more exchanges like this one between us before the day I was removed from the group in front of all present. I sat without a word from my mouth as the emotion ran high from two men. The teacher was screaming for me to get out, which I did at the end of the class and have not returned as did two other families. We belong to a large First Baptist Church, Statement of Beliefs adopted by the North American Baptist Conference. The group I was removed from was a mission within our church called Fil-Am. As of almost a month now nothing has proceeded from the leadership of FBCEG as to there decision about the matter presented to them from me. The other families have also spoken to the leaders.
    Thanks for listening Alan, your response is much appreciated.
    In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity!

  16. 10-25-2013


    Even if I had all of the email conversations, I could not tell you if you were being divisive or not. That is between you and God. I can tell you that I do not like the intimidation included in the email response to you.