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Bible verses about Division
(From Forerunner Commentary)

We sometimes have division in the church for two reasons, but both of these are actually expressions of the same reason: Not everyone attending services is of the same spirit. This does not mean demon possession, but simply that, with God's permission, Satan has sown some unconverted tares within the congregation (Matthew 13:24-30). Paul makes it very clear in I Corinthians 3:3 that some of us having God's Spirit are still carnal! That is, we are very weak in the faith. As he points out in that same scripture, the result is "envy, strife, and divisions." Those three are sufficient to produce anything but oneness. Oneness will occur when each person chooses to act out of love and loyalty for Christ and within God's law to eliminate sins that separate them. This will allow us to achieve a true family relationship.

John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All


 

Genesis 3:4-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Through distrust, Satan seduced Adam and Eve away from submitting to the most wonderful, lovable, giving, concerned, sensitive, and helpful Personality in all creation—God. Can you imagine that? The Devil convinced them that God could not be trusted!

Distrust is a powerful incentive whose fruit is divorce. Our first parents sinned and division began. The world has not been united since. When there is distrust, faith evaporates. Fear, anxiety, and depression escalate, and the motivation to be personally secure and free from the hassles of coping intensifies. The "fight or flight" mechanism kicks in.

John W. Ritenbaugh
In the Grip of Distrust


 

Genesis 6:11-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The earth was not filled with violence because people agreed with one another! Obviously, they were disagreeing with one another, and the result was separation. They were divided from life itself because of the tragic quality and quantity of their disagreements with God and with each other. These scriptures are extremely interesting in that they fall right at the beginning of the Book. The narrative that God provides in the Bible immediately shows the effect of what Adam and Eve did—and the effect of their separation from God. People began to divide into camps, and animosities increased.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

Genesis 11:6-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The people were uniting themselves in disagreement against God, led by the arch-criminal and mastermind of this project, Nimrod. This time, instead of wiping them out in death as He had done through the Flood, God permitted them to live, but He segregated them by confusing their means of communication. In the end, they are separated from one another. All their glorious plans of building a great city and tower had to be abandoned because they could not communicate with each other.

Another tragic resulted from what happened in Genesis 11. All of these people who were scattered over the face of the earth were also separated from the holy line—a family through which God almost exclusively worked, that began with Shem. Actually, the line began after the death of Abel with Seth, the son of Adam, and came down through Enoch to Noah and from Noah to Shem. From Shem the descent finally produced Abraham. After Babel, the scattered people were, in fact, not only separated from that holy line, but also from God's Word, which this family preserved and passed down. This was another tragic result of their sin!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

Proverbs 3:34   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The subject here is God, and He scorns the scornful. Scorn, a contempt or disdain, is a fruit that pride produces in a person, and it is usually shown toward someone thought to be an inferior. A human being will tend to avoid the person who he deems unworthy, or he will immediately reject or ridicule the unworthy person's opinions. What is the effect of this? It breaks people into cliques. Scorn divides and separates.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

Ecclesiastes 4:12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

He intimates that three are better than two. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is showing the principle that unity is better than singularity, and as people who are likewise unified with those who were there before, the institution, the family, or whatever, keeps getting stronger and stronger. As long as all of the minds are undivided, they add to the strength of those who are already there.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God


 

Jeremiah 7:4-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can learn a great deal from the prophets' descriptions of conditions in Israel in the years just before God scattered them. Jeremiah 7 contains an especially vivid description, describing attitudes and conduct just before Babylon's invasion of Judah. Anybody who cares and diligently searches for the causes of our present scattered condition can easily find many of them.

Verse 4 reveals a casual, self-righteous, and presumptuous self-confidence that, since they were fellowshipping with the "church," everything would be fine! Nevertheless, the enemy conquered Judah and took the people into captivity, so membership in the church is no guarantee that judgment will not come on us individually or collectively. Jeremiah expresses the Jews prideful assumption of being above correction, an attitude that has its basis in a confused understanding of God's love and the purity of His holiness.

We must be prepared for God's Kingdom. The attitudes and conduct of these people, expressed here but applied to us now, show that we were not living up to God's expectations. We can learn, though, that fellowshipping with the church without the right attitudes and conduct can easily foster a delusion that all is well, while by God's judgment all clearly is not well! Verses 5-6 illustrate that their judgment of how to apply God's Word in their lives was severely compromised. They definitely did not love their neighbor as themselves; they were unmistakably self-centered. Is there more evidence here that we may have been the same?

Verse 10 expresses the extent this delusion had permeated their lives. By ignoring God's moral and ethical demands, they were in effect telling God that attending services released them from the guilt accrued during the rest of their lives. It was as if God's judgments did not apply to them. They were after all "in the church," right? It reads almost as if they felt they were doing God a favor by showing up! What is more, while there, they heard insipid messages telling them, "Peace, peace. Everything is okay. God's grace covers all."

Though ceremonially going through the motions, they lacked thorough dedication and devotion to God's way in every aspect of life. Beginning in verse 12, God reminds them that they should remember the history of former generations and take warning because they are on track to experience the same calamities. Have we in our time repeated their assumptions that everything is fine when it is not? It seems so, since the Laodicean assumes he is rich and increased with goods and needs nothing. The reality is that he is blind to his true condition and not clothed with God's righteousness.

God has called us into a courtship relationship leading to marriage with Jesus Christ. He makes clear what He expects from us as our part in this relationship. Jesus says to His disciples, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). A love relationship requires each to sacrifice thoughtfully for the other. Keeping of the commandments does not "save" us, but it prepares us to live eternally with Him and shows our attitude of submission to Him.

Jeremiah 7:5-9 plainly portrays precious little concern for fellow man. In fact, most of the sins Jeremiah directly mentions are transgressions of the last five commandments. Only one sin, idolatry, focuses directly on the first four commandments. This suggests that a breakdown in human relationships quickly followed the disintegration of the relationship between God and Israel. Similarly, I John 4:20-21 calls upon those who say they love God and claim to be Christians to love the brethren. John goes so far as to say that, if we do not love the brethren, our claim to love God is a lie! This is another area in which many fell short, and it led to division, which continues to the present.

This indicates that self-absorbed people indulged themselves at others' expense. Self-absorption produces strained marital relationships (and ultimately divorce) and alienated children as they and their parents go in wildly different directions. Within congregations, it yields shallow and casual relationships that show little true concern. Its fruit are intolerance, impatience, strong opinions about trivial things, offense, harsh judging, and division.

It produces busy people who feel as if they are accomplishing a great deal because they seem to get many things done. The church member may even prosper more than at any other time in his life. However, the busy-ness is spent on things of minor spiritual importance. Meanwhile, the relationship with God, while existent, is allowed to be neglected. That is what Laodiceanism is. People bring it in from the world where God is a figurehead but with whom there is no relationship. It is a deceitful fruit of too much time, attention, and energy focused on the wrong things. Laodiceanism is deceitful because the Bible reveals that the person afflicted with it is unaware that he has it. He is blind to it, but God certainly is not because He is being neglected in this relationship. How can He possibly marry someone who will not draw close to Him because of involvement in so many other things?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Seven)


 

Daniel 11:32-39   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What the Beast is doing now (and he must be alive and climbing the political ladder today) is working his subtlety wherever he happens to be, using people to create loyalty to himself and to his cause. At the same time, he is gradually undermining—introducing leaven, as it were—to the present governments, causing disloyalty to them, while simultaneously stirring up social trouble through political, justice, educational, religious, and social systems.

There is nothing new about any of this. This is what Adolph Hitler did to subvert Germany to his cause. It is what Lenin and his cabal in Russia did to subvert the Czar and his government in Russia. This is what happened in the Cold War, as nation after nation fell to communism: infiltration through fifth column efforts, which took advantage of internal conditions, bitterness, and dissatisfaction with whoever was in power.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What I Believe About Conspiracy Theories


 

Hosea 10:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Hosea exposes the problem between God and Israel. He describes Israel as a luxuriant grape vine sending runners in every direction, indicating a bountiful crop. It indeed produces great material prosperity, but it is consumed through self-indulgent gorging. This is God's way of showing that Israel abused its prosperity: It used its prosperity for the purposes of idolatry. Its prosperity played a part in corrupting the Israelites' hearts, which is why Hosea mentions the divided or disloyal heart in context with its bountiful fruit.

A large part of this world's appeal is its offer of financial security. However, God shows there is a possible harmful, secondary effect: As people become financially secure, their attention is diverted from His purpose to vain and unimportant things. In other words, prosperity turns people's heads. There is no doubt that prosperity is good, but unless one is properly focused and disciplined, it can also be a demanding master because of its power to distract one into idolatry. Recall God's prophecy in Deuteronomy 32:15, predicting that when Israel prospered, then it would rebel.

This connects with the curse of Laodiceanism because God shows in the Laodiceans what can happen spiritually as people increase materially. Because such people are drunk through riches' deceptive promise, their judgment is in danger of being radically altered. The Laodicean evaluates himself, saying, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17).

He is deceived into thinking that his material prosperity proves that God approves of his conduct and attitudes. His overall conduct may not be too bad, but his poor self-analysis persuades him that he has no urgent need to seek God any further. He then merely floats, going through the motions, even feeling good about himself as he neglects so great salvation (Hebrews 2:3). His opinion of his holiness as compared with God's judgment is so far off base, it causes Jesus Christ to regurgitate him from His body.

Recall the mention in Hosea 10:1 of increasing and embellishing altars just before Israel fell to Assyria. One would think that, if altars increase during this period of prosperity, then religion is flourishing. Indeed, religion flourished, as Amos, Hosea's contemporary, clearly reports (see Amos 5:21-27). However, it was not the religion God gave through Moses, but idolatry that flourished! It was a corruption of that religion, for the Israelites syncretized that holy way with Baalism and other idolatries.

In Hosea 10:2, God charges Israel with having a divided heart. Commentaries are at odds over what the Hebrew word translated divided means. Most modern translations use "false," "deceitful," or "faithless," and none of these are wrong, including "divided." The Hebrew word suggests "smoothness" or "flattering," describing people who "talk the talk" but do not "walk the walk."

Isaiah 29:13 clarifies what God means: "Therefore the LORD said: 'Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.'" Their reverence for Him was mere intellectual accommodation intended to appease Him. They used the name of God frequently, saying they trusted Him, but they filled the nation with stealing, lying, and murder.

II Kings 17:33 illustrates their worship: "They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods - according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away." This describes to a T what Israel did then and their descendants are continuing to do today. Moffatt renders this, "They worshipped the Eternal, and they also served their own gods."

This chapter reports on the behavior of the people placed in Israel after Israel's conquest and deportation by Assyria between 722-720 BC. These people, who became known as the Samaritans, feared the Lord but worshipped their own gods. They were afraid of God, but they did not really change their way of life. Thus, they developed a syncretic religious system, a blending of the truth of God and outright paganism. The Jews of Christ's day clearly recognized this putrid blend and despised the Samaritans for it.

What is so interesting is that, by verse 36, God is no longer reporting on the Samaritans but is addressing Israel. In other words, God is saying that He was driven to defeat and scatter Israel because they were guilty of exactly the same sin as the Samaritans! They too had blended the worship of the true God with outright paganism, utterly corrupting the relationship He had established with them.

It is urgent that we understand what is involved here because it reveals the cause of God's anger that led to Israel's defeat and scattering. We must understand that our god is not what we say we worship but what we serve. Our god is what we give our lives over to.

Theoretically, the Israelites did not believe in idols, but in reality, they did. They believed in a Creator God, but they worshipped Him at the shrines they erected to the Baals. While they gave lip service to the Creator, they adopted most of the Canaanitish religion with its lewd immorality, and in actual practice, patterned their life after it. In daily life, they conformed to and reflected the Babylonish system just as Israel does today. This is exactly what God warns us to flee, and the only way to come out of it is by developing and maturing in our relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year


 

Matthew 12:25-26   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The demons are a kingdom divided against themselves. Jesus is addressing a challenge that the demon He had just cast out of this person had been cast out by Satan. Jesus' argument is, "No, Satan would never cast out Satan." It would be stupid for Satan to cast himself out. He is not saying that under every condition Satan or other demons will not cast out other demons. Indeed, that does occasionally take place. They are very capable of doing signs and lying wonders. They can make it look as though somebody has been healed, when God has not done the healing at all, but simply by the removal of one demon by a demon of greater power.

One of the things that saves us is that the demons are divided against themselves. Because they are a kingdom divided against themselves, they cannot stand—they cannot get their act together because their character is such that they are always in competition with each other.

We can understand this when we recognize that the governments and most of humanity has been subject to and deceived by demons. Carnal, human nature, is a reflection of the nature of Satan and his demons. What fruit does that produce among men? Can men get along? No. The other side of the coin is that the beings who inspire, guide, direct, or motivate men not to get along with one another cannot get along with themselves either! The only thing that keeps them unified is that at the head of this organization is a demon of such awesome power that he is able to whip them into line from time to time to carry out his bidding. He does it by sheer force. They do not serve in love of him.

They are a kingdom divided against themselves. They will fall and that is an advantage to us. Being rebellious, they are disorganized. They cannot get their act together. Far more important is they know God exists, and they tremble before Him. They are therefore restrained.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 1)


 

Luke 18:9-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice Jesus' teaching in verse 9: "Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." This specific problem is religious egotism; the Pharisee despised others. Despised means "to count as nothing" or "to be contemptuous of." Can one have a good relationship with someone he despises? Pride finds fertile ground in our process of evaluation and begins to produce corrupt fruit.

This parable reveals the Pharisee to possess a misguided confidence that caused him to magnify himself by comparing himself against someone he felt to be inferior. It fed his own opinion of himself, causing separation from his fellow man. While that was happening, it also brought him into war with God! The Pharisee became separated from God because, as the parable says, he was not justified.

We need to take warning because, if we begin to feel contaminated in the presence of a brother—if we begin to withdraw from him or are constantly finding fault with him and being offended by almost everything he does—we may well be in very great trouble! The sin of pride may be producing its evil fruit, and the division is strong evidence of it.

This parable features a self-applauding lawkeeper and an abased publican. One is not simply good and the other evil; both are equally sinners but in different areas. Both had sinned, but the outward form of their sins differed. Paul taught Timothy that some men's sins precede them and others follow later (I Timothy 5:24). The publican's sins were obvious, the Pharisee's generally better hidden.

The Pharisee's pride deluded him into thinking he had a righteousness he did not really possess. His prayer is full of self-congratulation, and like a circle, it keeps him firmly at its center (notice all the I's in Luke 18:11-12). He makes no lowly expression of obligation to God; he voices no thanksgiving for what God had given him; he gives no praise to God's glory. He asks for nothing, confesses nothing, and receives nothing! But very pronouncedly, he compares himself with others. He is filled with conceit and is totally unaware of it because his pride has deceived him into concentrating his judgment on the publicans—sinners who were contaminating his world!

The humble publican did not delude himself into thinking he was righteous. What made the difference? It was a true evaluation and recognition of the self in relation to God, not other men. The basis of their evaluations—pride or humility—made a startling difference in their conclusions, revealing each man's attitudes about himself and his motivations.

The one finds himself only good, the other only lacking. One flatters himself, full of self-commendation. The other seeks mercy, full of self-condemnation. Their approach and attitude toward God and self are poles apart! One stands apart because he is not the kind of man to mingle with inferiors. The other stands apart because he considers himself unworthy to associate himself with others. One haughtily lifts his eyes to heaven; the other will not even look up! How different their spirits! Anyone who, like the Pharisee, thinks he can supply anything of great worth to the salvation process is deluding himself!

Against whom do we evaluate ourselves? Pride usually chooses to evaluate the self against those considered inferior. It must do this so as not to lose its sense of worth. To preserve itself, it will search until it finds a flaw.

If it chooses to evaluate the self against a superior, its own quality diminishes because the result of the evaluation changes markedly. In such a case, pride will often drive the person to compete against—and attempt to defeat—the superior one to preserve his status (Proverbs 13:10). Pride's power is in deceit, and the ground it plows to produce evil is in faulty evaluation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

John 5:25-29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus explains in John 5:25-29 that there is more than one resurrection. To understand the resurrections, it is important to discern the meaning of the word krisis, variously translated "judgment" or "condemnation" (verses 22, 27, 29-30). According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary by Spiros Zodhiates, krisis generally means "separation," "decision," "division," "turn of affairs," and "judgment." The Companion Bible defines it as "a separating, a judgment, especially of judicial proceedings." Notice that it does not necessarily indicate the end of an affair.

A very clear similarity exists between the Greek krisis and the English "crisis." Crisis means "a turning point for better or worse" in the progress of an affair or a series of events. It is not necessarily the end, but a critical juncture, and the affair continues on. In this sense, krisis indicates a turn of affairs, a turning point, in a person's life. It may be the end, but, then again, it may be a time when his life takes a considerable turn for the better! Maybe God has, for the first time, revealed Himself and His purpose to him so he may be judged.

In the biblical sense, judgment can imply a period during which a process is ongoing. The decision, or sentence, comes at the end of the judgment. I Peter 4:17 shows this pattern in relation to the church. "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?"

Here the word translated "judgment" is from the Greek krima. According to Zodhiates, this word derives from the same root as krisis, but in this case, it indicates the act of judging, that is, a process including the final decision or sentence. The Bible uses this word only in reference to future reward and punishment.

Again we have indications of an active process, not merely a final decision. The active process includes both what the Judge is doing (observing, evaluating; Psalm 11:4) as well what the judged are doing. A judgment cannot be made without both aspects. In I Peter 4:17, God is judging "the house of God" and "those who do not obey the gospel" within the framework of how they live their lives.

Peter says, "The time has come for judgment to begin," implying that judgment did not officially start until Christ founded the church. Now that it has begun, all mankind will eventually be included within God's judgment. The pattern for judgment is therefore being established in the church.

When we see the overall picture of God's purpose, we can better understand what occurs in a Christian's life. God calls and grants repentance. We are baptized, receive the Holy Spirit, and are put into the church, where we begin to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ until we come to the measure of the stature of His fullness. During this period of sanctification, God puts us through trials, and we overcome, producing the fruits of His Spirit. Sanctification prepares us for God's Kingdom and determines our reward.

Paul helps us understand this in Romans 5:1-5:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character;and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us.

All of this requires time. It is not God's purpose merely to save us, but to bring us to His image so that we will be prepared for His Kingdom. Our God is a Creator. He is reproducing Himself in us. Like a wise parent, He is judging, evaluating what is best for our development, then putting us through the next step in that ongoing process until we inherit His Kingdom. This is a true understanding of a major portion of the doctrine of eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:2).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest


 

John 17:20-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Salvation can easily and accurately be described as "being at one with God." As long as we are separated from God, we do not have salvation. When we are "at one" with God, it means that we are becoming like Him, that we are walking along the same path with Him and will be saved.

Jesus Christ's death bridges this impossible situation for us. We can then begin to contribute to being at one with God. What remains yet undone, despite the gap being bridged, is a change in character and in attitude that must be worked in us in order for us to become like God. It takes living God's way for us to become like God. This is why humility is necessary.

We can see from Jesus' prayer and from our own experience (and from the history of man) that mankind is not at one with God, yet that is God's aim. Satan motivated Adam and Eve, and subsequently all the rest of mankind, to separate themselves from God. As long as Satan can keep us separated from Him, salvation is impossible. Satan's thinking, which was passed on to Adam and Eve and then to us, is that we all have the right to set our own standards or codes of right and wrong. He has convinced mankind that they have the same prerogatives and that these Satan-inspired, man-made standards can produce abundant prosperity, good health, peace, and a sense of well-being in our lives.

But they do not, and that is the problem! Humbling oneself means giving up that devilish notion and submitting to what God says. He has given us free moral agency to choose whether to obey His standards and codes, not the freedom to set our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

Romans 1:18-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Not only does Satan's deception play a part in man's separation from God, but God's Word also shows that there is a willfulness involved in man's choice of the direction in which he is headed. Men "suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest to them"!

In his deception, Satan has been so forceful, his argument so "good," that sincere men will argue and fight against God, thinking they are serving God. Jesus prophesied that people will kill in the name of God and think, sincerely, that they are doing God a service (John 16:2). How effective Satan has been—and is—with his deceptions!

If he has been that effective in deceiving people, how wide is the gulf that separates mankind from God? It is so wide that in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16, it is described as "impassable," and so it is. Sin brought death, and for humans to bridge the gap to eternal life is impossible.

Mankind is in a horrible state when one looks at it from the evidence that God has on His side. We deserve every bit of pain, torment, hurt, and anxiety that might come our way. We have no basis at all for complaining to God that we deserve His mercy and forgiveness. God has every right, based on our sinful activities, to do what He could do, but in His mercy, will not do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

Romans 14:7-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses give the proper perspective of our relationship and responsibilities to Christ and our brothers and sisters in the church. Paul wrote this to confront a problem, judging and scorn, that was dividing the church. The counsel he gives fits our circumstances, and if used, it can go a long way toward solving many of our problems. He reminds us first to remember to whom we belong, why we belong to Him, and what responsibility this gives us. We belong to Christ because He died for us, rose from the grave, and now sits at the right hand of God, judging those the Father has called into His church.

We should be acutely aware of this, knowing we are being judged according to what we do. We are to strive with all our being to please Him by living as He lived, not to serve ourselves, but to serve Him and the church. Judging each other does not fall into our area of responsibility. Living according to the Sermon on the Mount does. If we do this, we will not cause any brother to fall. We appear not to be striving hard enough to please Christ, which is why we continue to split.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part One: The Sermon on the Mount


 

Romans 16:17-20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This section begins with disfellowshipping because it is a biblical means of dealing with brethren who are trying to deceive others. We often speak of disfellowshipping those who cause division. Any kind of deception will cause division. After a while, deceived people do not believe the same things as the rest, and this difference causes separation.

Those who are disfellowshipped, who are causing divisions and offenses, are doing things contrary to true doctrine. So, Paul says we must avoid them. This is part of the effort, the diligence, that it takes to keep from being deceived ourselves. We must especially avoid them in situations where they have the opportunity to influence our beliefs.

Now, if we should meet them on the street, a polite, social "hello" would be fine. But we should avoid getting into a conversation, argument, or discussion about doctrine. We need to keep that away from ourselves because it is part of our effort to keep from being deceived. We should not let it even touch us, if we possibly can, because we are supposed to be keeping ourselves pure spiritually and physically. We especially do not want false ideas to get into our heads and begin doing their dangerous work.

Paul says that such deceptive people are serving, not God, but their own belly. This may sound like all they are doing is trying to get food or trying to "live off of" the saints. But what it means is that they are stoking their own desires. It is a symbol of a person doing something for his own gratification.

They were deceiving to please themselves in some way. They are not doing it to please God, obviously, because if they were, they would be telling the truth. But since they are telling falsehoods and lies, deceiving the brethren and causing divisions, they are obviously not pleasing God in any way. What they are gratifying in themselves could be anything.

Because what they are saying is contrary to what God teaches, he says that they have to use smooth words and flattering speech—or, we could say "plausible arguments" and "a neat turn of phrase." They use deceptive methods as in advertising. Some people can do this without even knowing that they are doing it. They couch things in such a "nice" way that it makes it sound good. And before we know it, we are thinking, "He could be right. He's such a nice guy. I had him over for dinner one time; and he just regaled us with stories. He always thanks you, and he compliments everything you do. He's just such a great person. And, you know, I can't understand how such a nice guy could be saying anything that is 'bad' because he's so 'good.'" Before long, we are taken in. He has used smooth or flattering speech. He comes across well. He dresses nicely, and his arguments seem plausible.

So, as it says here, the simple are taken in. Paul means the innocent, those who are not looking for evil. They are guileless, and they think everybody else is as guileless as they are. They are harmless, like doves, and unsophisticated. They do not see "bad" in anyone.

This is how we are supposed to be! A few of the qualities of love mentioned in I Corinthians 13 are concerned with this. Christians should be willing to believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. This is why we are so gullible at times because we do not have a core of steel in our beliefs. We have allowed it to soften into a core of marshmallow, so that we are easily bent in the wind. Remember, we need to be wise as serpents and simultaneously harmless as doves.

Paul's advice comes in verse 19: "Be wise in what is good and simple concerning evil." In practical terms, this means that we do what is right and have nothing to do with what is wrong. In doing so, we are "wise." Wisdom has to do with how we act. It is very practical. Knowledge is mental, and understanding is mental and spiritual. But wisdom is both of those things and physical. It is what we do. It is what we say. It is how we live life.

If we walk in wisdom, then we do not trip, and we should not be tripped by anything that comes along to make us stumble. Paul says that we should be wise in what is good, meaning that we do it! It is wisdom to do what is good.

But we are to be simple concerning evil. This is related to "simple" in verse 18, but it is not the same word. This "simple" in verse 19 means "pure, unadulterated, unmixed." If we mix a little evil with good, what do we get? Human nature. We will get what we have been all of our lives. This is what happened in the Garden of Eden. Eve took the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and it produced this world. Paul says, "We're not supposed to do that! We've had enough of that. What we need to do is to do what is good and have nothing to do with what is evil." In a sense, we are looking for the Tree of Life, which is all good and no evil.

His advice is very simple and easy to understand. It is how we keep from being deceived: Have nothing to do with evil! We must keep evil at arms length at all times.

So, in summary, do not dabble with questionable beliefs. Do not even consider them! Avoid them at all costs. "Stick to the trunk of the tree," as we have said many times in the past. Do not skitter out along the branches where only squirrels can safely go. If we hang from a twig, we will find ourselves fallen to the ground—not even on the tree any more.

Another way that we could put it is stay away from the edge of the cliff. If we get too close to the cliff, we might fall off. If there is an earthquake, it will shake us off! Some things are out of our control. If we are at the edge of the cliff and something big happens, we might not have a handhold. We would tumble over the edge and be lost. The smart thing is to stay as close to the side of the mountain as we can, hang on for dear life, and never let go. As much as lies withinus, we should not even think about evil. Stay away from it. Avoid it.

Paul says to avoid even the appearance of evil. That is how far we are supposed to stay away from it. Not just if we are doing evil or thinking evil, but even if somebody might come along and think that what we are doing is evil.

Paul ends in verse 20 with the comfort that God will put away the evil—and the Deceiver—soon. So we only have to do this for so long. But as long as we have to do it, let us do it well. We need to have that "core of steel" for as long as we need it. Then we will be given strength—in the resurrection—to do it all the time, because we will be good. At that point, we will have developed the character to be that way all the time ourselves. This is how God is. He cannot be tempted by evil. That is what we are striving to become!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Preventing Deception


 

1 Corinthians 1:10-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Dictionaries define an idol as "any object of ardent or excessive devotion or admiration." If we obey the dictates of a person, church, or some other group contrary to the direct commands of God, we are guilty of idolatry. The individual or group becomes the idol, replacing God.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

1 Corinthians 1:10-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is no doubt that the church is now badly divided—and it shows no evidence of reuniting—yet we are all commanded to speak the same things.

Paul goes on to use the words "mind" and "judgment." Mind is actually related to the power of observation—the way that we see things. He is saying we all need to see things in the same way. Judgment deals with the forming of an opinion.

The Corinthians obviously did not all see things the same way, and they therefore could not possibly come to the same opinion. So they did the natural thing and divided. They did not actually leave the congregation, but cliques formed within it, and the members were not at peace with one another.

Why did they not see things the same way? The context shows it depended upon whom each person decided he would use as his authority. Some used Paul, some Apollos, some Peter, and of course, some Christ. There is no evidence that those named as authorities were divided, but people made it seem so. No wonder they were divided! Today, sadly, many are doing the same thing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 2): God's Pattern of Leadership


 

1 Corinthians 3:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The division and confusion taking place in the Corinth church was proof to Paul that they were still following and submitting to their old nature, formed under the influence of Satan and his world. They were doing what comes naturally. They were therefore disloyal to the values of the God Family and to the Head of the church of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

1 Corinthians 3:6-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When we are doing God's will and yielding to Him in obedience, God adds a miraculous element to produce spiritual growth. Verse 8 adds that, even though we have different functions, we are united in submission to God, but we will be rewarded individually. This proves that God is watching each person's conduct. To Him, we are not a faceless blob in a sea of church members. How could we be rewarded accordingly if our labors were not being individually noted?

God's work involves many individuals with a variety of gifts. To God there are no superstars, only team members called and placed to perform their own special role for which He has prepared them. When we fail to do our part, a slow separation begins, and because a part is not functioning as it should, the body suffers. Paul begins this epistle asking, "Is Christ divided?" (I Corinthians 1:13), and proceeds to discuss a variety of sins that produce division. Later, he teaches the application of the body analogy to the church, and in chapter 13 he stresses the main function of every member: to love.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!


 

1 Corinthians 4:6-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These people were using the gifts that God gave to them to divide the church. They were separating themselves into cliques, getting people in the congregation to say, "I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Peter," and so forth because "Peter represents this, Paul represents this other thing, and what Paul has is better," and "Peter is not teaching this, and Paul is teaching it," etc. They were using such arguments to divide the congregation.

In argument to this, the apostle is saying, "Look, we all have our gifts. There is not one of us that did not receive what we have." Consider this within the framework of I Corinthians 1:29-31. Paul is hammering away at them because they were so proud, so puffed up, about what God had given them, as if it belonged to themselves, as if they had acquired their gifts without God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

1 Corinthians 8:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A cause of Corinth's divided congregation was that the members were flaunting their gifts, claiming they wanted to edify, but the fruits of division showed Paul the real motivation was intellectual vanity - pride.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Contention, and Unity


 

1 Corinthians 8:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These seemingly innocuous words may be the central issue in this whole book (or both books to the Corinthians) because this was the sin that led Satan to separate from God's government. He became puffed up about himself. Likewise, the Corinthians were puffed up about how much they knew.

Satan thought so much of himself that he became twisted in his thinking, and he attacked God. We do not attack God directly—this book shows us we attack each other! Therein lies the problem. We attack each other through gossip, rumors, accusations, and things of that nature.

We begin to draw up lists in our minds of the faults of those who have offended us, and we begin to withdraw from them. We will not associate with them. Division begins to occur because they offend us. We say to ourselves, "Well, they were mean to me," or "They aren't intelligent enough," or "They are peculiar," or "They wear garish clothing," or "They have strong opinions about unimportant things."

This is not to say that these things are right and good, or that one should be able to do his own thing at anytime, anywhere, and that others should be tolerant of it. Nevertheless, Satan can, if he is given the opportunity, lead our minds to find reasons to not associate with others—reasons that have nothing to do with sin. Satan is at work.

If the feeling continues unabated, we will eventually come to the place where we will withdraw from fellowship altogether. It will not happen quickly, necessarily, but gradually. Perhaps we stop attending Bible Studies or begin to find reasons not to come to Sabbath services, or we will arrive late to services and leave early. In this way, Satan is slowly but surely moving us toward self-indulgence rather than love.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

1 Corinthians 8:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Pride makes those who have it bold and rash. It renders them careless of the feelings of others. It leads them to ridicule and condemn others who do not believe exactly as they do. Pride is an aggressive self-confidence.

There is an old saying: "When people learn a little, they imagine a lot." We remember the tag-end of this saying most frequently: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Thus, proud people, using a little bit of knowledge, are often hair-splitting and hypercritical, setting people against each other, dividing congregations and families. Paul is asking, "Is this love?" No, it is certainly not. He is warning against dependence on simply knowing something, since a person never knows all that he ought to know about a given subject. Such an attitude exhibits a complete dependence on one's self-sufficient knowledge. He is "puffed up."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

1 Corinthians 11:2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle Paul is writing to a church he raised up. His instruction to this badly divided church is "keep the doctrines as I delivered them"—not somebody else, but as Paul taught them to the church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 1): God and HWA


 

1 Corinthians 11:17-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The phrase "must also be" has the sense of "it being necessary." Paul understands factions as God-ordained because he could see the pattern of them from Old Testament times, as well as the benefits derived from them.

The Corinthian congregation was a troubled group divided into factions by heresies (I Corinthians 1:10-13). This circumstance was not helping the already-calamitous situation, but Paul says that the calamity would eventually produce a good result. The true sons of God would be revealed by their reactions to the false teaching. They would not accept it, and thus would be witnesses to the weaker for the truth of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)


 

Galatians 3:26-29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses pair groupings or concepts that separate people and keep them divided and sometimes at war with each other. Paul shows racial differences (Greek and Jew); religious differences (circumcised and uncircumcised); cultural differences (barbarian and Scythian); social differences (slave and free); and finally sexual difference (male and female).

These are in no way all the differences that divide humanity, but they give enough of a representation for God to make His point. He makes it clear that we cannot be united to Him and separated from our brother at the same time. To do something for or against a brother is to do it to Christ (Matthew 25:31-46). Because we, as brethren, are "in" Christ and He "in" us, we are one organism. John says if a man does not love his brother, he does not love God (I John 4:20)! This is serious business. We must be one with both.

The person who is truly converted is motivated, guided, inspired, led by, yielding to, and empowered by the radiant energy flowing from Christ, who lives and works in Him. It is almost as if Christ and His converted brethren are driven together because they share the same nature.

John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All


 

Galatians 5:19-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Consider these "works of the flesh," and notice how many of them are elements of disagreement. Do people commit adultery because they agree with the one they are fooling around on? Do people murder because they agree with their victims? How about people who are characteristically hostile, hateful, and contentious? Two of these are on the list. Do people live in agreement with one of whom they are jealous? Can people dwell together in unity when they are filled with such character flaws as outbursts of wrath (explosive tempers), selfish ambition (running over rivals in the rush to attain a desired thing or outcome), dissensions, heresies (holding ungodly opinions or doctrines), envies, drunkenness, and so on?

These actions do not reflect the nature of God, and if one does any of these regularly, then the person is probably unconverted—or converted but carnal and weak, as Paul says in I Corinthians 3—and he is not being led by the Holy Spirit. It is certainly possible for that to occur.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

Ephesians 2:10-18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 15, Paul says that God "create[s] in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace." The apostle defines what these "two" are in verse 11: "Therefore, remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh - who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands. . . ." The two, Gentiles and Israelites, share one Spirit in Christ, "who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us" (verse 14). Whether physically Gentile or Israelite, those who have "put on the new man" have one Spirit, God's Holy Spirit.

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)


 

Philippians 2:1-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Philippians 2 is written to a congregation with a problem of division within it. Two ladies were having a fight or at least a strong disagreement. Paul, at least partially, writes what he does in Philippians to correct this problem. He advises in broad principles how division that exists between any two people can be healed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 7): Ephesians 4 (D)


 

Colossians 3:10-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Considering these two verses in context, Paul is saying that because the Colossians had undergone the radical transformation of receiving the new nature and being renewed, they should work hard at making practical the salvation Christ made possible. They should do this by ceasing to do the things that separate and starting to do the things that bond. From chapter two, he carries over an underlying assumption that some measure of doctrinal difference is probably exacerbating the unity problem.

John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All


 

Colossians 3:12-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul puts love "above all," showing that love is the epitome of virtues. Here, its importance is as "the bond," something that binds or holds things, like a congregation, together.

Eventually, all groups tend to fly apart. They do not remain united by magic. Generally, a group maintains its unity through a common cause. As each person contributes to attaining that cause, unity is generally served. However, even though individuals expend effort to achieve the cause, frictions arise from a multitude of reasons. Love is the supreme quality that enables the members of the group to maintain unity and keep it from flying apart. This is achieved by each person constraining or restraining himself to act in love.

Interestingly, qualities that we normally think of as being manly—like drive, courage, determination, and aggressiveness—are missing from this list in Colossians 3. Though they are not inherently evil, they play directly into the human ego, frequently resulting in crass individualism.

Because it tends to produce division, individualism is not what Paul is aiming for here. Without strong spiritual control, those traits tend to descend into competitiveness, anger, wrath, malice, dissembling, accusation, slander, and foul talk. These in turn are nothing more than unashamed self-seeking, traits that split and divide.

Each virtue Paul lists is actually an expression of love, traits that make it possible to live in a community. There is nothing weak and effeminate about them: It takes a strong person to resist what comes naturally and do what God commands rather than go along with urges of our carnal feelings. Paul lists love as a separate attribute here to show that it is not limited to the qualities he names.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

2 Timothy 2:24-25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The term "oppose themselves" in the King James Version is actually one word in the Greek, and it is translated in most modern versions as "those who are in opposition," that is, to sound doctrine and practice. The interesting thing is that the King James Version is also correct. The Greek word is capable of being interpreted either way. There is a real difference in them, however. The sense of one is outward, opposing certain things or people, while the sense of the other is toward the self, which is how the King James translators chose to translate it.

Either way, the word connotes some measure of division, disunity, or opposition, either toward doctrine or with others in the congregation for whatever reason. Regardless, the consequence is destructive; division destroys. In terms of the King James translation—"oppose themselves"—the division is within the self and destructive to the self.

Paul, then, is informing us that those who disagree with the doctrine of Christ actually oppose themselves because in the end truth will prevail, and those who disagree with the doctrine will bring the penalties of opposition to Christ upon themselves. It is like shooting oneself in the foot, or in this case, ultimately in the heart, because truth cannot be broken without some consequence, unless it is repented of.

Division in the mind actually causes us to fight against our own best interests. For example, we will spend our income foolishly on trivialities, taking ourselves into debt and putting ourselves under the painful obligation of paying it off with interest, which is in reality a form of slavery. Because the mind is divided between wisdom and foolishness, people like this (and it includes all of us to some degree) go nowhere profitable until they get their minds harnessed and headed in a wise direction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God


 

James 3:13-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can see here why sin involves so much division: There is a demonic influence. Satan is clearly stirring people up against one another and against God. He does not do it openly or blatantly, but he influences them through their flesh to go in a certain direction. Most people have no defense against this, and the result is division among themselves and from God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

James 3:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse shows why the Day of Atonement is needed. It is a day that pictures at-one-ment, the state of being at one. It is needed because men are horribly divided from one another. Some are trying to pull the nations of the earth together as one, but their attempt will fail because it does not originate from God and is not being conducted in a godly manner. It is not being orchestrated by God or His Son, Jesus Christ, and is, instead, being done in a carnal way, which will produce the exact same fruits that all of the other past efforts at unification have produced—division, destruction, and death! In this, we are witnessing a major, worldwide attempt to bring the earth together under one, anti-God system, even as was attempted in Genesis 11.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

James 3:18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

For the seed which one day produces the reward which righteousness brings can only be sown when personal relationships are right and by those whose conduct produces such relationships. (James 3:18; William Barclay's Daily Bible Study)

In this verse, James is talking about a social situation. God's purpose - the fruit that He wants from His way of life, the kind of character that He wants in us - has to be produced in peace. It cannot be produced in war.

Why it cannot be produced in war is obvious. When one is involved in war, he is thinking only of himself, which runs 180 degrees counter to God's nature. God's nature is outgoing. When one is engaged in war, all one is seeking to do is to preserve the self. For God's purpose to be fulfilled to the very best degree, peace is required.

The seed, which one day produces the reward that righteousness brings, can only be sown when personal relationships are right, and by those whose conduct will produce such relationships.

Jesus says that peacemakers will be the children of God, not those who butt others aside, aggressively trying to get to the top, asserting themselves, their will, and their ideas in every circumstance, angling to be the big shot. "Out of my way, buddy. That is my beat." Those people, by implication, will not see God.

This is why God will permit a divorce. Does He not say through Paul in I Corinthians 7:15, "If the unbeliever departs, let him depart"? The believer "is not under bondage in such cases" because "God has called us to peace." God will permit a divorce so that a person can be saved due to the subsequent peace. In a family in which a war rages between a husband and wife, it is possible that God may lose both of them.

When those who butt and disturb the flock are present, the flock will not prosper. The shepherd has to ensure that there is peace, freedom from fear from the outside, freedom from tension within, and freedom from aggravation. (We even use the term "bug," which is what insects do to sheep: They irritate them to no end so they cannot gain weight and are discontented.) The shepherd must also make sure there is freedom from hunger - a congregation, a flock, will prosper if it is being well-fed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 1)


 

Jude 1:15-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 15 emphasizes ungodliness. These false ministers are the total opposite of what God is, and if we know what God is—what godliness is—then we can identify and avoid them.

Jude then gives four more descriptors to help us identify false teachers: 1) They are discontented murmurers and complainers. They always have something to gripe about. Discontent with their lot in life, they find fault with everything. Nothing is ever right for them. 2) They live to satisfy their every desire, a trait Jude has already explained thoroughly. 3) They speak bombastic bragging words, and 4) they are respecters of persons, if it will benefit them. They will do anything to get ahead.

In verse 17, we were warned that such people will enter the church and try to ruin it, so we have no excuse. They are here already, and we need to make sure they do not stay here by keeping an eye out for them and giving no quarter to them when they begin their ungodly work.

Jude then gives three final descriptions of them in verse 19. He calls them 1) "sensual" or worldly. They are based totally in this world, in the realm of the five senses. They have no connection to the heavenly. 2) They "cause divisions," meaning when they appear, the congregation begins taking sides. 3) He ends his description with the opposite of his description of true church members in verse 1: False teachers do not have God's Spirit. They are not of us. They may be among us, but they are not God's spiritual children (Romans 8:9-17). We can see from their fruits that the spirit they have is not God's.

With these descriptions of false teachers, we can be more confident in testing the spirits (I John 3:24-4:6).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

 




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