Posted by: SandreS | November 28, 2009

God’s Outsiders: The Called-Out Ones (A Biblical Look at God’s Ecclesia), Part 26

Division Enters

Let’s continue our thoughts about Paul’s church work, using the believers at Corinth as an example.

Paul preached the gospel to the lost; they trusted and were made members of the church, the Body of Christ. Every believer was a member of this church, no exceptions, for one Spirit had baptized them all into one Body. Now this is the ground of truth that Paul taught the believers to live and practice – their oneness.

Yet suppose for a moment that someone came up with the idea to start another church in Corinth – a church other than the one that God already had in place. Suppose he thought that it would be very beneficial to organize people for various reasons. So, he selected a nice name for his “church” (denominationalism). He devised certain “articles of faith” that he thought ought to be stressed and emphasized in his “church” (credalism). He developed a nifty governmental system from which his “church” could operate (clericalism). He laid out a program for his “church” meetings (formalism).

Also since all the other religions had one, he carefully made arrangements to secure a “sanctuary” for his “church” in which to meet (heathenism). He registered his “church” with the office of incorporation, and with the office of governmental recognition. He set up a bank account in the name of his “church.” He printed stationery, business cards, offering envelopes, visitor’s cards and, of course, a nice sign – all proudly bearing the wonderful name of his new “church” (and it all bore his own name as well – “Rev. Sam S. Smith,” or maybe it was just “Pastor Sam S. Smith”). Then he purchased ads in the Corinthian Chronicle Daily inviting all to “attend” and join his “church,” especially his “unchurched” brethren.

When one stops and considers all of this in the light of divine revelation, it seems really strange and odd, does it not? Yet it is much more than that. A serious problem has just been introduced onto the scene of the life of “the church of God at Corinth”division!

Pastor Smith, wittingly or not, has just planted division in the church which is Christ’s Body. Pastor Smith and his “church” now stand in contradiction and competition with God’s church. Are all the members of God’s church in Corinth, members of his? Does he have members in his “church” that are not members of God’s? Now, not only do we have the problem of division, we also have the same problem that Israel had in its past – the “mixed multitude.”

One thing should be obvious, there are now two churches in Corinth. One is God’s church – a divine, organic organism. The other is man’s church – a human, fabricated organization. One is true, the other is false. The root of such a divisive religious system was already at work in Corinth when Paul wrote to them.

Now this I say, that every one of you says, “I am of Paul;” and “I of Apollos;” and “I of Cephas [Peter];” and “I of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? … (I Corinthians 1:12-13).

Do a couple of names in that passage stand out to you?

How about the first name – Paul. Is he not our apostle – “the apostle of the Gentiles”? Yes, he is; but it is wrong to use his name as a rallying point to create another division within the body of Christ! Isn’t Paul the apostle of every member of Christ’s Body? Do you say “I am of Paul” with implication of separation and division from the rest of the members of Christ’s Body?

Or, how about that last name – Christ. Is He not our Savior? Of course He is; but it also is wrong to use His name as a rallying point to create another division within the His Own body! Saying, “I am of Christ” sounds very noble, doesn’t it? Yet isn’t every member of God’s ecclesia “of Christ” – aren’t we all of Him? When we make this proclamation, we implicate a separation and false division from the rest of the members of His Body!

We must never forget that we are “members one of another”! Anything short of “the church, which is His body” is not God’s church – regardless of how large, fancy, modern or decorated it is!

Why not simply be content with who and what God has made us in Christ?

And you are complete in Him … (Colossians 2:10).

What more could we want or need? Let us heed Paul’s warning which he gave to us in light of this completeness in Christ. This serious plea can be found only two verses before:

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Colossians 2:8).

Why not stand on the ground of who God has made us? Nothing more, nothing less.

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook
© 2000, 2009

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