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What the Bible says about Factions
(From Forerunner Commentary)

What is a way? A way is "a course traveled from one place to another." It is also "a manner of doing," "a method of accomplishing," or "a course of life." All of those are taken from a common English dictionary—Webster's. Synonyms include custom, practice, behavior, direction, method, manner, procedure, passage, or route, depending on the context. The word way can be substituted for any one of those words; and, in many contexts, those words can be substituted for the word way. In short, a way is a course, a route.

A way leads from—beginning at—one place, and it ends at another place. This means there is a specific direction in which the way leads a person.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Two)

Related Topics: Factions | The Way


 

1 Corinthians 11:17-19

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)

1 Corinthians 11:18-19

Contrasting the unity that Christ died to establish is the division sown by the Adversary as part of his “divide and conquer” strategy. Paul writes of factions (or divisions) in relation to the members of the Corinthian church of God:

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions [schisma] among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions [hairesis] among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (I Corinthians 11:18-19)

In general, the nouns schisma and (to a lesser extent) hairesis receive pejorative treatment in the New Testament. The thrust of the apostle's comments on the topic of church factions is that they showcase the presence of human nature at work in Christians. Schisms are the result of carnality alive-and-kicking in the church. They emerge where God's people are not fully committed to living His way of life, where they deny God His rightful place as Sovereign Ruler of their lives. Axiomatically, the lack of unity in a congregation reflects a proportional lack of repentance on the part of its members.

Paul introduces the concept of division, using the same Greek word as he does in I Corinthians 11:18, schisma, in the book's first chapter:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions [schisma] among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. (I Corinthians 1:10-11)

Quarreling is a manifestation of the unity-dissolving “friction or competition.”

Charles Whitaker
Unity and Division: The Blessing and the Curse (Part One)

2 Peter 2:1

Alarming as II Peter 2:1-3 is, Peter does not define heresy, but he does tell what one heresy is and will be. He also does not tell us here what the source of heresy is either.

Heresy is the translation of the Greek hairesis—meaning literally "choice" or "selection"—which has an interesting secular as well as biblical history. Until its biblical use, it had no evil connotation. Even in the Bible, it is mostly used to refer to a party or a philosophy with which a person had chosen to identify or ally himself. Thus, hairesis is frequently translated "sect." In Acts, Luke applies it to the Sadducees (Acts 5:17) and the Pharisees (Acts 15:5; 26:5). Outsiders also used hairesis in Acts 24:5, 14 and Acts 28:22 to identify the Christian church.

However, when Paul and Peter's writings began circulating, hairesis meant a destructive element within the church that creates division through consciously formed opinions and ideas in disagreement with the orthodox teachings of the apostles. Paul condemns it in Galatians 5:20 as one of "the works of the flesh." Sometimes it is translated "factions" or "party spirit," but regardless of its translation, Paul says that people who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God (verse 21)!

In the ordinary course of secular life, heresy was of little consequence; one person's opinion or choice about most things in life is just as good as another's. A person can be given any number of alternatives, any one of which he may be perfectly free to believe. However, in Christianity we are dealing with revelation, with God-given truth, with absolutes. When God's truth comes to men, we either have to accept or reject it. Thus, a heretic is a man who believes what he wishes to believe instead of accepting the truth of God that he ought to believe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 




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