Divided and Conquered

Divided and Conquered

Introduction 

  • The principle of “Divide and Conquer” is one that has been used in politics for many years—going all the way back to Roman times. 
    • The idea is that if you can break up existing power structures, or prevent smaller groups from coming together, they are easier to conquer. 
    • Within politics, if you can pit a political party against itself and create internal struggle, it makes it much easier for the outsider/opposition party to conquer them. 
    • The power of this tactic is how easily humans fall into this snare, often times justifying ourselves and fighting to “keep” unity when in fact we are causing greater harm. 
  • Jesus knew the power of divide and conquer. 
    • When assured of working on behalf of Satan he quoted one of our more well known passages, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). 
    • Knowing that the church could only fulfill its mission through a united front, Jesus prayed for absolute unity between His people (John 17:21). 
  • Yet, it wasn’t long after this, when the church began to grow and flourish, that threats to this unity arose. 
    • In Acts one of the key issues was the Gentile inclusion within the church (Acts 15). 
    • When we open our Bibles to 1 Corinthians we see further division threatening the local church. 
    • Isn’t division that we see within Christianity today, but divisions within a local congregation dividing over who baptized them. 
  • It is into this fray that Paul asserts himself and lays the groundwork for Christian unity and fellowship, which gives us a guide for Christian division today. 

The Call of Fellowship 

  • Paul sees the gospel as God calling humanity into fellowship with His Son, “Jesus Christ Our Lord.” 
    • Notice that the major action of creating fellowship is an act of God (Unity of the Spirit, Eph. 4:3). 
    • He calls all christians into fellowship with the same Lord (v. 2c). 
  • So the basis of fellowship is this understanding that we are called to share in something by God—that is fellowship isn’t something we create, but something we receive. 
    • The basis of this reception is the identity of Jesus as Lord: we recognize the shared Lordship of Christ (culminating in baptism). 
    • Not, this doesn’t mean that this is all that matters for the basis of fellowship—but the foundation: submitting to the gospel and recognizing Jesus as Lord, the Son of God (Matt. 16:18). 

Outgrowth of Fellowship 

  • Fellowship isn’t just a word we use: it means something. Unity must be shown and experienced in a tangible way. 
    • Paul says that the way in which unity and fellowship is expressed is through: 
      • “speak the same thing” or “all of you agree”: be united in your teaching. 
        • Just as a tongue which speaks both “blessings and cursing” is an abomination (James 3:9-10), so is a church which has doctrinal divisions within it. 
        • This assumes something; namely that we can agree and that we can “speak the same thing.” 
          • That is, we can have doctrinal agreement; we can come to know and agree on the truth—if we are both seeking the authority of the Lord (which is discovered in scripture). 
          • This was the basis of the Restoration Movement: that christianity can agree on important doctrinal truth, while being patient with less obvious matters (our, “what we believe” section on the website).
          • Yet, we cannot conned that doctrine doesn’t matter or can’t be agreed upon—this is a recipe for division. 
        • Just as a platoon of soldiers must speak the same mission (that is their fellowship depends on the message), so too the church must speak the same message if we are to truly be unified. 
    • Which leads to the next outgrowth of unity: that there be no divisions among you. 
      • If you are speaking the same message, then there shouldn’t be division among you. 
        • What was happening at Corinth (v. 11-12). 
        • Different “teachers” with different “interpretations.” 
        • Paul informs them, that dividing over teachers within the brotherhood is absolutely against christian unity (3:4-6). 
        • This is “carnal” that is, not from God or the spirit.
      • This is something that he will address later on as well (1 Cor. 11:18). 
      • Unity is witnessed when Christians are truly coming together—not divided over different teachers and demanding that their particular way is right, but working together to discover true doctrine which we can be united on for the cause of Christ. 
  • When we are speaking the same thing, refusing to be divided over petty matters, it results in “being perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 
    • Because we are unified and confessing the same truth, when situations arise we can make discerning judgments that we agree on and be united in mind. 
    • This is how Christian unity is to be carried out: Christians who have submitted to the Lordship of Jesus, confessing and believing the same truth, and being unified in judgments within the work of the church. 
  • In reality, this looks nothing like the Christian religious world today, what application does this have for us then? 

The Application

  • It was because of the Christian division that they saw around them during the 19th century that men like Alexander and Thomas Campbell, Barton Stone, and others sought a plan for unity—yet they knew they couldn’t do this at the expense of truth. 
    • So they came up with a formula: “Speak where the Bible speaks, be silent where the Bible is silent.” 
    • That is, to unite on those matters in which the scriptures spoke; to reject past councils and creeds and to unite around scripture alone. 
  • While the outgrowth of that has been difficult, I believe that cry for unity is still a viable one among other religious claims. 
    • Some water down doctrine with the ideas of including more; yet you can’t water down doctrine without doing damage to the mission and fellowship of the church. 
    • Some act as if every single matter must be debated, and there are no areas of disagreement—this does damage, not only to truth, but to fellowship as well. 
  • So we must uphold these two planks: unity and truth with humility and love. 
    • That is, we believe unity is possible through the submission to truth. 
    • Ephesians 4:14-16 explains this well. 

Conclusion 

  • Nothing conquers the mission of the church more than division. 
  • Blessed in Dripping Springs to be unified as God’s people around the truth of Scripture—yet we must pursue this with all of our hearts in the coming years. 
  • Satan would love nothing more than to divide God’s people—but I will not allow that nor will our elders. 
  • We must pursue the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.