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20140216
PostIs Christ Divided?

IS CHRIST DIVIDED?

by Thomas D. Lineaweaver


PREFACE



Once again, this is a compilation of articles that fit together. "Is Christ Divided?" is a question that was asked by the apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 1.13. I believe, if Paul saw the mess Christianity is in today, he would ask the same question, although perhaps a little differently.



Does Scripture teach that Christ is divided? Is it taught by the New Testament that division is okay? Those are the questions that this treatise deals with. But, it is likely most know the answer to these questions.



SCRIPTURAL FOUNDATION




Jesus said in Matthew 12.25-26, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?"- NKJV



In 1st Corinthians 1.10-13, the Apostle Paul wrote, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? " - NKJV



The subject of these two passages of Scripture is division. Whatever the organization, a house, a kingdom, or the church cannot stand if it is divided against itself. When we look at the church today, what do we see? Do we see unity? Do we see oneness? Or do we see division?



In John 17, Jesus prayed that all believers would be one as He and the Father are one. In 1st John 5, the apostle wrote that the Father, the Word (Christ) and the Holy Spirit agreed as one. It is inquired in Amos 3.3, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" - NKJV



What we see today is a church divided against itself. The church is so divided there are hundreds of denominations, and only God knows how many doctrinal interpretations there are. Under these circumstances, how can the church stand, for we do not see a house united, but rather a house divided.



How can the church claim to be one in Christ with all this division? How can individual Christians claim to be one in Christ with all this disagreement? We are not speaking the same thing, we are not perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgment. We are not one as Jesus and the Father are one?



Christianity today is not following the teaching of Christ and the apostles regarding unity. So, is Christianity today really Christianity at all?



CHRIST CENTERED




"And the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch." - Acts 11.26


From the word "Christian" eventually came the word, "Christianity." Christianity is the name of the religion that has Jesus the Christ as it's main character. In fact, it was Christ who established Christianity through the Holy Spirit working through the Apostles. And the teaching of the apostles is Christ centered.


What we have in the New Testament is what the disciples of Christ wrote. They wrote about Jesus' public ministry, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His appearances to them between His resurrection and His ascension, and His return within their lifetime. This brief explanation of the teaching of the disciples of Christ shows that Christ is indeed the central figure of everything they taught.


Fast forward to today. Today we have several systems of theology from various religious groups. The Catholic, which has Mary, Peter and the Pope as their main characters. Then came Luther, who is credited for starting the reformation from the idea of reforming the Catholic church. Now, it seems just about everybody has their own system of theology. Wars have been fought over systems of theology, so called "heretics" have been put to death because their system of theology did not measure up to someone else's. Church history is full of disagreement, hatred and rancor. I remember studying church history, and I wondered, where Christ was in all that. I look at the church today, and I wonder the same thing. There is no way all the division that we have today is Christ centered. Any doctrine that is not Christ centered is just plain wrong. Likewise, any doctrine that diminishes Christ in all that he did and taught, is also wrong.


What must we do? We must simply just accept what is written in the New Testament instead of complicating matters with man-centered theological systems, statements or confessions of faith and doctrine. We must return to the Christ centered message of the apostles. We must jettison all that is man-made, and once again establish a Christ centered religion, if we want to be pleasing to God.


Why this message now, you might wonder. In recent months I have once again became involved with the preterist movement, and discovered it is no different than 20 years ago. Back then, as now, I discovered that the preterist movement is no different than any other man-made religious movement that will do anything to prove their point, including twist scripture. If it's the truth, that's not necessary. So what if many people don't want to accept the simple truth. We still must teach Christ centered doctrine, nothing more, nothing less. Fulfilled prophecy is the truth, you don't need to bend and shape it to meet the challenge of the time. Simply stay the course with the truth.


I recently had a discussion with some Calvinists. It's amazing how much wrangling they did in an attempt to prove their false doctrine. Folks, foreknowledge is to have knowledge before. There is nothing in that word that suggests affection of any kind. Simply put, God's predestination is based on foreknowledge. We see this in Romans 8.29.


Teachers and preachers of man-made doctrines are misleading the masses, and they are like sheep being led to the slaughter. This is the current state of religion in America. The multitude is being led to everlasting life without God.


There is very little Christ centered religion in this world. The truth is being forced to the back of the bus, while the lies and deceit are riding comfortably in the front.


Ever since the church has been established there have been movements attempting to establish pure Christianity. One such movement even got it's name from their attempt to do so, and that was the Puritans. A big part of Christian purity is doctrinal unity which these various movements tried to impose. But their attempts have all failed as all they did was create more and more disunity, resulting in the myriad of denominations we have today.


The attempt to establish Christian purity in our time would a noble cause. But, I see no movement attempting this in our time. We seem to be so comfortable in our divisiveness that, it seems, the attempt to establish Christian purity through doctrinal unity today would be futile. As long as theological academia is so steeped in their own private interpretations of Scripture, it would be difficult to sway the masses, for the masses are divided into many different groups following their theological leaders.


However, I believe the attempt must be made again at Christian purity through doctrinal unity. Eventhough to attempt to reform the religious mess commonly called the "church," would probably be an exercise in futility. Therefore, those of us who are in agreement with these points, we should reach out to the unchurched.


Is the attempt at Christian purity through doctrinal purity important? I believe that it is. Let's look at a few Scriptures.


First, I Corinthians 1.10-13, from the New King James Version (NKJV).

"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul,' or 'I am of Apollos,' or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"


In this passage, we have doctrinal unity. We are to be speaking the same thing so that there will be no divisions. We are also to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgment But today, as then, there are many contentions among us. The seeds of division were apparent even then. Some were followers of Paul, some of Apollos, some of Cephas, and there were those claiming to be followers of Christ. The names are different but the attitude is the same. Some are followers of John Calvin, some of Martin Luther, some of Rick Warren, and some of Joel Osteen, and still some claiming to be the true church of Christ. That is not the way it should be. This, Paul said, is carnality; I Corinthians 3.3


Besides a plea for doctrinal unity, scriptures also warn about following every doctrine that comes along.


Ephesians 4.14: "that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,"


I Timothy 1.3-7: "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm."


II Timothy 4. 3,4: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables."


Matthew 15.9: "And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."
- cf. Mark 7.7 - see also Colossians 3.20-22; Hebrews 13.9


II John 1.9: "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son."


Is doctrinal unity important to re-establish Christian purity? Scripture indicates that it is. The Scriptures above states to have unity we must have doctrinal unity. We are told to abide in the doctrine of Christ, and we are warned about strange doctrines and fables. We are warned about the doctrines and commandments of men.


It is plain, doctrinal disunity brings about division. But, down through history God has always had a remnant, and the remnant of God is still here, and the rest would be wise to listen to us, for it is we of the remnant that have the truth that leads to eternal life, for doctrinal disunity is one more road to eternal damnation. There are many roads to Hell, but only one road to eternal life, which is Christ.


THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST AND THE APOSTLES
(The following was a sermon I wrote back in 2009)

Good morning,


Those are the first words heard from pulpits across America on Sunday morning. So, it is from my pulpit. Oh yes, I have a time of worship and praise at my home some Sunday morning. And, today I actually have a pulpit, an internet pulpit, but a pulpit, nevertheless.


My message this Sunday morning is entitled, "The Authority of Christ and the Apostles." This is a message that I believe should not only be read here in this forum, but heard in the pulpits of America. Of course, that might change the status of the pulpits of America, so be it.


Matthew 28.18 Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.


Mark 16.15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."


Ephesians 1.22 "And He (God) put all things under His (Christ) feet, and gave Him (Christ) to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His (Christ) body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."


John 16.13 "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come."


May our God who is in the heavens, and does whatever He pleases, bless the reading of His Word.


The above scriptures establish the preeminence of Christ's God-given authority in the heavens, on the earth and in the church. This doesn't seem to leave much authority to anyone else. Jesus did give instructions to the eleven disciples that were with Him in the Matthew and Mark passages. And the instructions given to them were to make disciples by teaching, preaching and baptizing. Jesus did not abrogate, or give away His authority, and to this day this authority is still with Him.


In America, however, it seems that the authority of Christ is meaningless. Churches, all over our country, make rules and regulations that are not based on scripture, and when they do this, they are exercising authority they don't have, for only Christ has authority in the church. And the church is fragmented as it is. And this is because men have tried to exercise authority they don't have.


We have ONE LORD and He has ALL AUTHORITY. And, if the churches of America would yield to the ONE LORD with ALL AUTHORITY, there would no longer be many denominations but ONE BODY OF CHRIST. The way it's supposed to be.


Now, what about the authority of the apostles? The apostles really didn't have any authority of their own. Their teaching and preaching was by the authority of Christ. However, their words hold as much weight as the words of Christ. Why? Because, when the apostles spoke, they spoke by the authority of Christ. And, Jesus told them that when the Spirit of truth comes to them He will guide them into all truth. So when the apostles spoke they did so by the authority of Christ and the Spirit of truth. I would say that makes their words very important, and very trustworthy, and can be accepted on the same level as the words of Christ. The words of the apostles have been authorized by Christ.


I know some astute student of the Bible, (try to say that five times fast), some astute student of the Bible will ask about Paul. Was Paul given the same instruction as the other apostles? Well, we don't know for sure exactly what instructions were given Paul. We do know he was given instruction though. You'll find the story of Saul's conversion in Acts chapter 9. In verse six, Jesus said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." And so the men with Saul took him into the city. There, Jesus enlisted a disciple named Ananias, and he was told to go to find Saul of Tarsus. But Ananias was afraid. Jesus told Him, "Go for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." So, we know, Paul was given instructions, but not exactly what they were. We do know, that, by the authority of Christ, Paul went to the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. So, Paul was also sent out by the authority of Christ, just as the other apostles.


We must always keep in mind that Jesus the Christ has all authority in the church, which is HIS body. It is not Martin Luther's body, or John Wesley's body, or John Calvin's body, etc. And when man exercises authority he doesn't have, we always have problems. In my study of eldership some years ago, I have concluded that they have no authority to create rules for the people to follow. The kingdom of Christ is a monarchy with Christ as the king. And, if we are truly Christians, we are subjected to the kingdom rule of Christ.


Now, May our God who is in the heavens, and does whatever He pleases, grant you peace.


FOLLOWING CHRIST


Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant when he said, "come follow me"? I have. Therefore, I have recently did a bit of a study on the subject, using both, Vine's, and Strong's dictionaries.


The Greek word, "akoloutheo" , is defined in Strong's as, "to be in the same way with, to accompany." In Vine's as, "a follower, companion, expressing union." Obviously, it is more than simply walking behind someone. It seems more of a joining. And that makes sense. In fact, following Christ seems to be connected with making sacrifices.


When Jesus said to the disciples, "come follow me," they left their businesses and their families behind. When Jesus said to the rich ruler, "come follow me," it was prerequisite that he sell all his belongings and give to the poor. So, it seems that following Christ also brings with it making sacrifices. Definitely more than simply walking behind someone.


Is making sacrifices a requirement for following Christ today? Considering the sacrifices made by the apostles, I would say there are sacrifices to be made when you follow Christ. We are called upon to make sacrifices. Following Christ could mean leaving the family business in service to Christ. Maybe leaving the family, or not having a family at all. Maybe helping the poor in a sacrificial way. When you join Christ, you may be called upon to sacrifice everything, even your life.


When you join Christ and come into union with him, you sacrifice self-ownership. Scripture teaches that we are bought with a price. We are then owned by Christ. We are not our own, we belong to Christ.


Can you appreciate the full ramification of following Christ? If indeed following Christ means we come into union with him, are we not bound by union rules. My dad worked for Bethlehem Steel. Once in a while, they would hammer out a new contract. Once the new contract was approved by the membership, both sides were bound by the provisions of the contract. The same is true when you join union with Christ. There is a contract called the New Testament that all union members are bound by. And that is what following Christ is all about.


BOUGHT AT A PRICE


Acts 20.28: "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

I Corinthians 6.20: "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s."


I Corinthians 7.26: "You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men."


Have you ever considered the full ramification of these statements, that the church of God was purchased with His own blood, that you are bought at a price?


Let's say you are in the market for a house. You go look at a house. You like it. You decide to buy it. The purchase price for the house is $100,000. You pay the purchase price with your own money. You buy the house with all its individual parts. Does the house belong to itself? Of course not. You bought it at a price, you purchased it with your own money. It's your property. Do any of the individual parts of the house have the right to do what they want? For example, can the siding say, "I am leaving and going to be a part of another house? Of course not.


Then why is it different for the church? Why is it that individual members can claim to have rights to do things as they want? We do not belong to ourselves. We belong to He who purchased us. We are His property. Certainly people in America understand property rights. Whether an individual member or not, we are His property. And just as the individual parts of a house work together to benefit the whole house, in the same way the individual members of the church of God must work together for the benefit of the whole church.


The apostle Paul put this way in I Corinthians 12. 12-27: :

"For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually."

Just because we are individually members does not make us any less a part of the whole body that belongs to God that purchased us with His own blood. He owns us. We belong to Him. We are His property. We have been bought at a price.


ONE CHURCH, ONE BODY OF CHRIST



What does the Bible say about the church? Is the church properly divided into hundreds of denominations? If so, where is there authority for that in Scripture?


First, I believe we should start with who is the head of the church? Ephesians 1.22&23 establishes that Christ is the head over all things to the church, which is also His body. No Pope, nor human vicar needed. Jesus Christ is the only head of the church, and that by the authority of God.


Second, it is established in Scripture that there is only on body/church of Christ. There are no denominations authorized anywhere in Scripture. 1st Corinthians 1.10-13 states, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" - NKJV


Paul's question, "Is Christ divided," could be asked today. Is there a Lutheran Christ? Is there a Baptist Christ? Is the a Calvinist Christ? Is there a Presbyterian Christ? How many different ways does denominationalism diivide Christ? But, Biblically, Christ is not divided, nor is His body, which is the church.


1st Corinthians 12.12-27 establishes that there is ONE BODY. Eventhough there be many members, individually, there is one body.


In John 17.20, Jesus prayed that all believers would be one. Christians are to be in a common union, in Christ.


The only division in the church is geographical. The church at Rome, the church at Corinth, the church at Galatia, etc.


The oneness of the body of Christ is taught in various Scriptures. I have just mentioned a few. Not one denomination is mentioned anywhere in Scripture. So denominations have absolutely no authority to exist.


Denominations came as the result of hundreds of years of division. The first major division was between the church of the West, and the church of the East. The church in the West eventually became the Roman Catholic Church. The church in the East became the Eastern Orthodox Church.


Eventually, Martin Luther came along, whose goal it was to reform the Catholic Church. His attempt failed, and his followers went out on their own, and eventually formed the Lutheran Church. Then there were other reformers that didn't quite agree with Luther. Menno Simons, whose followers eventually became the Mennonite Church. Jacob Ammons, whose followers became the Amish Church, John Calvin whose followers became the Presbyterian Church.


It is clearly obvious that denominations are the result of division, which was condemned by the apostolic writers. The Word of God is so very clear that there is only one church, it's hard to understand why it is not understood by anyone who does any study at all. It is possible that theologians do understand it, but choose to ignore the truth out of pride and arrogance. Perhaps they want their own kingdom. Whatever the reason is, they seem to ignore the plain and simple truth.


There is but one church of Christ. That is not to say that the denomination that wears that name is that one church. Having been a member of that institution it is hard to believe that it is. There is so much division among the American churches of Christ. Many have actually split over little things like the color of the carpet, a kitchen in the building, musical instruments, etc.


Divisiveness is carnal according to Paul, in I Corinthians 3.1-4. It is the difference between walking in the flesh and walking in the Spirit of God.


CONCLUSION


What else needs to be said? Scripture in no way teaches that division is acceptable. Scriptures strongly teaches unity among Christians. So, why then, doesn't the church today work for for unity? That is for them to answer.

_________________
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