Church discipline – divisions versus factions

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By way of a reminder, the first letter to the Corinthians is most applicable to church discipline, and will to be referred to throughout my apologia.

First Corinthians was written essentially as a manual for Church governance.? It set straight common problems within the church organization – deemed worldly. The members of the Corinthian church were judged as immature and unschooled [1Cor.1:11, 26] by Paul, rather than as mature believers in Christ.? The emphasis was on their lackluster ability for spiritual things ? they needed milk-toast sermons rather than meaty sermons, for their consumption [1Cor.3:1-3]. The issues that Paul dealt with, concerned food, fellowship, sexual impropriety, dress, proper worship, and sectarian factions.? Paul dealt with these problems by stressing adherence to proper doctrine.

In ICor.1:30 Paul points out the difference between God?s wisdom which is Christ, and men?s wisdom that boasts about power, money and property.? The object here was to manifest God?s wisdom within the church, over and against politically correct agendas – found among the unsaved.? As mentioned in chapter one and continuing as a theme throughout the epistle, there were divisions within the church rather than unity.

The word ?divisions? in this case, denotes fissures or renting of the body, where differences of opinions lead to sin and dis-fellowship.? Yet, Paul does not oppose diversity of thought or works – he stressed a common sense approach in most situations, and on a few occasions, straight forward impositions of what is to be avoided (see 1Cor.3:6; 12:12-29); such as, don?t take fellow believers to court over petty quarrels ? do not be selfish with goods or fellowship ? or, do not neglect the assembling of yourselves.

Contentions existed – that is divisions, which lead to quarrels.? These divisions were followed by schisms, false teachings, heresies, apostasies, and a loss of fellowship. As we all know from life, quarrels generally contain a great amount of unfounded accusations, and the appetite for emotional responses, instead of clear-headed interpretations and suitable solutions.

Paul continues his balance approach by making a somewhat simple statement that could appear at first as an oxymoron or self-opposing – when in ICorr.11:18 and 19, he states:

?In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.? No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God?s approval.?

Although he is contextually dealing with love feats, at the time of his remarks, the same theme continues throughout the epistle – that of schisms – but worse, they have made entry into the communion service.

What Paul is saying is that there will be different ideas about many subjects, some are important others are not so important.? However, were the subjects are important and the ideas involve right doctrine, there will have to be some unease, and a trial of value, from which to bring about the truth ? the end thereof, with God?s favor resting on the right party.

The word ?divisions? in the Greek is, ?schisma,? and means; schism, cleft or rent ? to cleave and slide away.? The word ?differences? as found in the Greek is, ?hairesis,? and means to choose or have a predilection for or toward an idea that will draw out truth, or pervert it.? The KJV translates this word as ?sect? – an example would be: the Pharisees verses the Sadducees ? bodily resurrection verses only spiritual resurrection ? as found in the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus.? Modern examples in Christian denominations would be: pre-tribulation verses mid or post tribulation eschatology – baptism by emersion verses sprinkling – spiritual gifts of tongues, prophesy and interpretation for today, or their use during the 1st century, only – worship on Saturday or Sunday – only men are to be pastors – tithing verses giving by conscience – culturally traditional worship music verses Jesus hip-hop or punk-rock music – wine for use with communion verses grape juice ? are a sampled few.

In essence, Paul charges that there were divisions (which cause quarrels) that ought not to be among the Corinthians, but that there should exist factions (to test and learn truth), but they cannot be found.

Paul is dealing with moral impositions, not simple likes and dislikes, or tastes and aesthetics.? A faction is a heresy – not an apostasy, and is more at, a proper choice, or selection, or a distinction that has been built from God?s Wisdom.? The reason for factions is to manifest who it is that is approved by God, from among the adherents within the Church.

A good example of congregational discussions run amuck, is the exposition found in Is.61:1-3, and its interpretation by Jesus, as found in Lk.4:16-21.? This is a prime example of how Jewish men examined the scriptures to ascertain truth.? This was not a remarkable custom, for we read in Lk.2:46-47 that Jesus was found in the Colonnades of Solomon as a boy, arguing interpretations of scripture with the teachers of the Law.

However, Jesus? Luke 4 elocution of the Isaiah discourse, gained him a perfectly human response from his hearers.? The congregation wished to silence what they deemed, in their ignorance, as apostasy.? Jesus was waiting for someone to raise an objection by inquiry and by the use of scripture.? What he received was a hot headed crowd that gave no thought to his words which had been backed up by miracles. Instead of patient understanding that wisely discerned by ?rightly dividing? the sacred text, the synagogue opted for retaliation.

We however, have a better way ? the way of love, as prescribed by Paul in 1Cor.13.? ?Agape? love is patient and disciplined – longsuffering not willing that any should perish – desiring all to come to the knowledge of Christ [2Pe.3:9].

In the final analysis, Paul is expressing that everyone can have an opinion about anything they so please, however, opinions that are of no consequence to the building up of the body, should be kept outside the church fellowship, or at least subdued, for reasons of unity.

Some opinions however, are godly and require knowledge and wisdom to be presented factually, carefully, and calmly, yet with a spirit of unwavering conviction.? Truth should not be ignored for the purpose of unity.? Those that are mature in Christ will see the benefit and discuss the opinions without promoting divisions or schisms.

What we are discussing is doctrine, secondary doctrine – not primary, yet godly doctrine nonetheless, which is necessary for the growth and stability of a church.? Paul reported his conviction about this secondary doctrine in his letters to Timothy and Titus, where he makes a charge to Timothy to ?Hold (securely) onto the proper doctrine that your grandmother Eunice taught you.? ? Paul further notes that in the end times, many will follow selfish desires and doctrines of demons, and many will refuse good doctrine (letters to Timothy and Titus).

Asking a Believer to Leave the Church Body


Does Paul advocate the expulsion [excommunication or dis-fellowship, 1Cor.5:1-13] of a member that holds a differing view of secondary doctrine, than that of the Pastor or the leadership? ? Only under very stringent guidelines.? Even if excommunication or dis-fellowship is necessary for reasons of apostasy of primary doctrine, or open immorality, the result is to bring about repentance in wayward believers, not their eternal condemnation ? as is stated clearly by the Apostle Paul:

??hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.? [1Cor.5:5]?

Paul?s advice for expulsion [Gk., exairo ? to put away from the midst], is used on the occasion of ?sins unto death,? as qualified by the following nouns found with 1Cor. 5: fornicators, the covetous, extortionists, idolaters, railers (Gk., loidora ? verbal abusers, revilers], and drunkards.? Note that the original text states that some members of the church claim Christ, but practice sins marked by God as inappropriate for a holy people, and worthy of death.

In total, Paul is not discussing the misunderstanding of scripture ? nor is he silencing sincere decent, but encouraging differing views to be placed out in the open for trial, as was done in any synagogue.? Only those bent on willful rebellion, and obvious sin, are to be excised from the congregation ? and then for the purpose of bringing about repentance.? He was not advocating for the proverbial door to be slammed on the offender?s derriere.

The overriding implication is that in all things we are to opt for helping believers overcome misunderstandings of scripture or weaknesses, and bring them to repentance and forgiveness.? We should always work to bring about reconciliation as presented by Paul in 2Cor.2:5-11, and in 2Cor.5:11-21.

The end thereof is; there is no place in the church for asking or demanding fellow servants of Christ to leave our congregations, except for unrepentant obvious worldly sin that have been judge properly by the local church – in total attendance.

U.S. church traditions of applying pressure secretly on a brother, or castigating one from the pulpit to embarrass or anger – for the express purpose of relieving decent of the leadership teaching ? in a specific area of belief ? is tantamount to rejecting those that God has died for and sent into the churches midst.

?All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue (church); in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.? They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.? I have told you this so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you…? [Jn.16:1-4]?

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