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Doing the work of division

Posted by on Jul 5, 2012 in unity | 6 comments

Doing the work of division

As I mentioned in a previous post (“Unity: The Series“), this week I’m writing a series on the topic of unity among the body of Christ. I suggested that we are united in Christ, but we are not generally living in that unity (“We ARE united, but we are NOT united“). Yesterday, I wrote that humility is the work of unity (“Doing the work of unity“). Now, remember, I am talking about unity among those who are in Christ, who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, who are followers of Jesus Christ, who are children of God. This is the beginning point of my series. Throughout the series, you can assume that these are the people that I am talking about.

So, if humility is the work of unity, then what is the work of division? In other words, what results in failure to maintain the unity of the Spirit (as Paul exhorted his readers in Ephesians 4:2)?

Well, before I jump into that question – with what will be an obvious answer – I want to point out how important this issue is to the body of Christ. Yes, there are many, many examples in Scripture of exhortations toward unity. And, there are many exhortations against divisiveness and divisive people. Here is one example:

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11 ESV)

In the verse before that warning, Paul even gives some examples of these people who “stir up division”:

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. (Titus 3:9 ESV)

What makes these issues foolish and divisive? Because the people involved are putting themselves, their interests, their understandings above the health, benefit, and edification of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Today, few people argue and divide about genealogies. But what about certain types of teachings (baptism, spiritual gifts, gender roles, the church, leadership, end times) or experiences (speaking in tongues, baptism again, etc.)? If we separate from brothers and sisters in Christ over arguments related to these and other issues, then we are not living in the humility, peace, and love of Jesus Christ. Instead, we are doing the work of division.

Often, the divisions are subtle and accepted (even praised), such as dividing over meeting locations, leaders, denominations, or organizational issues. If two believers live side by side and yet never relate with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ because they belong to different “local churches,” then one or more of them are doing the work of division.

If we look at the way followers of Jesus Christ live today, it is clear that we are generally more involved in the work of division than in the work of unity. So, how do we move toward the work of unity and leave the work of division behind?


Series on Unity

  1. Unity: The Series
  2. We ARE united, but we are NOT united
  3. Doing the work of unity
  4. Doing the work of division
  5. Unity begins and ends in Jesus Christ


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 7-5-2012

    My former pastor told me to read Titus 3:10-11 a week after I told him I was going to resign my church membership. I saw many areas of the leadership exercising excessive control, as well as several ‘doctrinal disturbances’ in the foundation of Jesus Christ.

    I tried to discuss these issues in a manner that would maintain the unity of the Spirit. But, it was clear that in each other’s mind, we simply weren’t being heard. I had struggled with this very idea of submission to authority from Titus 3:1 and other passages. To this pastor, being submissive meant being a member of this church for life, believing what he preached, only asking questions for clarity and not to raise an issue, and remain a member of that particular church unless I moved (in which case, it had to be an approved membership transfer). Was I to be obedient and stay even though I saw obvious cracks in the foundation? When I did raise questions of doctrinal concern, I was seen as potentially divisive, even if I was referring to scripture in the process.

    Another pastor, unrelated to the denomination I was in, said something that made sense to me. If a Christian has an opportunity to mature, they have the responsbility to take it, for that is being obedient to the law of Christ.

    ‘Rulers and authorities’ mentioned in scripture were not the religious rulers and religious ‘authorities’, otherwise, we’d all be worshiping in temples and synagogues. Christ spoke harshly against religious leaders. Rather, the rulers and authorities Paul was referring to were those unbelievers who would obviously not know the example Christ set for his disciples that they should wash each others feet, and were in charge of civil governments.

    What are your thoughts about this? Anyone? When is it appropriate to leave a church? (Surely, you have one or more blog posts for this, Alan!)

  2. 7-5-2012


    I struggle when someone points someone else to a passage of Scripture that they themselves seem to be ignoring…


  3. 7-5-2012

    hi Alan
    i also wrote about division at my blog.
    below is a sentence from it that encapsulates how we cane to see division in our early days, and which I still do.
    For 40 yrs Ive watched people hand wring over the visible divisions that have nearly destroyed our nations, families and churches, but have found very few christrians willing to engage in a discussion about the underlying reason.
    One of the most frustrating elements of this dilemma is that many good hearted folks who also are concerned about how divisive and divided the church is, are not familiar with the scriptures that address the issue, to discuss it, let alone teach anyone how to avoid division.
    For instance, when we uses the scriptural words ‘spiritual’ or ‘carnal’, blank stares are the usual response or worse, doctrinal arguments against their meanings or relevance.
    If we cant even fit the discussion into our everyday vernacular, a few of us writing, speaking, blogging etc are going to have little impact among others who care.
    Ive tried to do what I can in my blogpost, as you have done very well in yours
    blessings brother

    ‘If we would allow Him to divide our soul and spirit, and exchange our life for His, we would become spiritual, and avoid the division between brethren we saw happening all around us.’

  4. 7-5-2012


    I struggle likewise. Also, when someone points to a passage and takes it out of context, or otherwise indicates that it doesn’t really mean what it clearly says.


  5. 7-24-2012

    Actual unity seems very illusive in church, doesn’t it? Is it because of all of the carnality? Of course it is. Why are we so carnal, or immature? Because we have not grown. Why have we not grown/matured? Jesus promised to finish the work that He began in us. In Galatians chapter 4, we learn that a son, even though he owns the entire estate, is no different than a slave (orphan) until he matures. You can not teach, cajole, or force much unity among orphan slaves. It is ever man for himself. The lack of connection to the One Head, and that is Christ Himself, produces the opposite of realized son-ship, and family unity. Usurpers have stolen the effective headship of Christ. When you have a 2,000 year old problem, look for the source.

  6. 7-24-2012


    Like you point out, unity among the body of Christ is a 2000 year old problem. It is not caused by organizations, and it is not solved by leaving organizations. Divisiveness (as well as other sins) is a good indications that someone is following their own desires (flesh) instead of following the Spirit.