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The Sin of Schism: A Solemn Warning to the Church

Now I beg of you, my brothers, mark those who are actively causing schisms and occasions of stumbling contrary to the teaching you learned.  Have nothing to do with them because they are not serving our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own agenda.  By slick words and plausible speeches they are able to deceive the hearts of innocent people.  (Rom. 16:17-18)

Introduction

One of the vilest devices of Satan warned against in Scripture is raise up people who will cause divisions and strife in the Church.  This in turn will tear the Church to pieces, harm as many as possible, and utterly ruin the peace and unity of the Body of Christ.  Paul warned us of this wicked device in 2 Cor. 2:11; 1 Cor. 1:10; 3:1-3; 11:17-19; 2 Cor. 11:20).

This message is intended to be a solemn warning in the hope that this Church will not fall prey to this satanic device for Satan is now making a major move against the very existence of this Church.  The Satanists and the witches have placed satanic spells and curses against this Church in a poster, which mistakenly was displayed on the very walls of the Church.  This is a significant signal that Satan is now attempting with all his power to destroy this Church.  God’s Word commands us to deal with the devil and his deeds with courage and strength and in love toward all and malice toward none. 

In this message, our focus is destroy the works of the devil and not to attack any individuals because the struggle upon us is not with flesh and blood but with the forces of darkness (Eph. 6:12).

 

I. The peace and unity of the Church is a divine mandate of the highest priority:  Psa. 133:1-3;  Mat. 5:9;  Rom. 12:18-21; 1 Cor. 7:15; 14:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; Eph. 4:1-6; 1 Thess. 5:12-15; Heb. 13:1; James 3:13-18; 1 Pet. 3:8-12

Note: Where is the divine mandate to destroy the peace and unity of the Church?  To turn the happiness of the saints into sadness; their joy to weeping; their blessings to cursings; their love to hate; their contentment to anger?  There is not a single verse in the Bible where God tells you to tear the church to pieces.

 

II. The sin of “schism” is such a heinous sin because it is committed against the Church, the Bride of Christ, and is thus considered more wicked than those personal offenses that occur between individuals or families.  Christians may sin against each other in many different ways.  But if someone splits a church by persuading members to join him in leaving that church, he is now guilty of the heinous sin of schism.

       a.  Jesus warned us how wicked it is to cause others to sin (Matt 18:3-7).  Were did he 
             say that causing believers to stumble into evil tempers is a good thing?

       b. The Ephesian church was warned that savage wolves would tear people away from 
            the church (Acts. 20:28-29).  Were did Paul tell us that we should be savage wolves
            and tear the Church to pieces?

       c.  We are commanded to mark those who do it and to avoid any letters, papers or 
             phone calls from them and conversations with them (Rom. 16:17-18).  Did he ever 
             say that we should mark those who seek the peace and unity of the church?  Never!  

       d. God condemns those who cause divisions in the church because they do so without 
            his approval.  (I Cor. 11:18-19).

 

III. The sin of schism has always been condemned throughout biblical history and punished severely by God.  In Num. 16 those involved in schism died when the ground opened up and swallowed them alive!  Throughout biblical history and Church history God sent fire and plagues upon those who sought to disrupt the peace and unity of the people of God.

 

IV. The Book of Proverbs warns us that those who spread strife and cause evil tempers to abound are not doing the work of God but the work of the devil.

       a. 6:12-14 A worthless person, a wicked person…spreads strife.

       b. 6:16-19 There are six things that the LORD hates. Yes, seven things are an 
           abomination to Him: He who spreads strife among the brothers.

       c. 10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.

       d. 12:18 There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of   
            the wise brings healing

       e. 15:18 A hot tempered man stirs up strife.

       f. 16:28 A perverse man spreads strife

       g. 17:14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water; so abandon the quarrel before it 
            breaks out.

       h. 20:3 Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man; but any fool will quarrel.

       i. 26:20 For lack of wood the fire goes out; and where there is no whisperer, contention
          quiets down.

       j. 26:21 Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to
          kindle strife.

       k. 28:25 An arrogant man stirs up strife.

       l. 29:22 An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in 
          transgression.

       m. 30:33 For as the churning of milk produces butter; and the pressing of the nose 
             brings blood; so, the churning of anger produces strife.

Note: Where is the divine mandate to start quarrels and strife in the church?  Where in the Bible does God ever tell you to rape the Bride of Christ?  Nowhere!  The spirit behind schism is always Satan and never God.  The motivating passion behind slashing and burning, and tearing and ripping a church to pieces is always demonic.  It is never the work of the peaceful dove of the Holy Spirit. 

 

Conclusion
It is mandatory for those who fear the Lord to seek the peace and unity of the Church at all times and not to fall into the sin of schism.  Do not listen to those who wish to tear you out of the Body.  Do not allow them to cause you to stumble into the sins of anger, vengeance, and hate.  Instead, be a man or woman of peace who avoids those whose mouths are full of bitterness and violence.

Classic Commentaries On Romans 16:17-18

1. Charles Hodge: “While he urges them to the kind reception of all faithful ministers and Christians, he enjoins upon them to have nothing to do with those who cause divisions and offenses…Those who cause these dissensions, Paul commands Christians, first, to mark, i.e. to notice carefully, and not allow them to pursue their corrupting course unheeded; and, secondly, to avoid, i.e. to break off connection with them...because they are wicked and injurious…they are not activated by zeal for the Lord Jesus, they are selfish…plausible and deceitful.”

2. Robert Haldane: “The churches of Christ have here the most solemn injunction given, in the most earnest manner, with respect to a thing to which at one time or other they will all be found obnoxious.  They are warned against the artful attempts of dangerous hypocrites, who, for sinister and interested purposes, endeavor to make divisions in the churches with which they are united…such persons are to be avoided.  Men, who from the view of exalting themselves, endeavor to sow divisions in the Church, are more to be shunned than if they were infected with pestilence; and the brethren who are connected with them ought not, from their confidence in their own steadfastness, to expose themselves to their conversation on such subjects.  Such persons are in the service of Satan, who will prevail to deceive the strongest of the people of God, if he obtains permission.”

3. Matthew Henry: “How earnest, how endearing, are Paul’s exhortations!  He teaches them, 1.  To see their danger: Mark those who cause divisions and offenses.  Our Master had himself foretold that divisions and offenses would come, but had entailed a woe on those by whom they come (Matt.  xviii.7), and against such we are cautioned.  Those who burden the church with dividing and offending impositions, who uphold and enforce those impositions, who introduce and propagate dividing and offending impositions, which are erroneous or justly suspected, who out of pride, ambition, affection of novelty, or the like, ceaselessly separate from their brethren, and by perverse disputes, censures and evil surmising, alienate the affections of Christians one from another; these cause divisions and offenses…Observe them, the method they take, the end they drive at. There is need of a piercing watchful eye to discern the danger we are in from such people; for commonly the pretenses are plausible, when the projects are very pernicious.  Do not look only at the divisions and offenses, but run up those streams to the fountain and mark those that cause them, and especially those cause these divisions and offenses, those lusts on each side whence come these wars and fightings.  A danger discovered is half prevented.

a.  Shun all unnecessary communion and communication with them, lest you be leavened and infected by them.  Do not strike in with any dividing interests, nor embrace any of those principles or practices which are destructive of Christian and charity.”

4. Kenneth Wuest: The passage refers to those who “caused dissension and generated bad tempers in the church” and “give outsiders cause to blaspheme, and to stumble at the gospel…Denny says,  “Divisions in the Church are Satan’s work, and the suppression of them by the God of peace is a victory over Satan.”

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