Bible Students should note the apostle Paul spoke of the sectarianism that was taking place in his day, for we often see the same carnal reasoning taking place today, as many would wish to bind and restrict the Christian fellowship beyond what is written. (1 Corinthians 3:3,4; 4:6) Yet we admonish our brothers in Christ, the same as the apostle admonished the Corinthian brothers: “Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14) “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Be perfected, be comforted, be of the same mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” — 2 Corinthians 11:26.
Paul elsewhere set the foundation for what a Christian is to believe in his words recorded at 1 Corinthians 15:3,4. Of course, the Christian should grow beyond this so as to add a fuller knowledge of God and Jesus, but the scripture sets forth is what is required.
Some have claimed that they need to force a doctrinal unity based on 1 Corinthians 1:10. Therefore, there seems to always be a tendency to set forth a man, or a body of men, whose teachings are thought to establish such unity, and then demand that all accept whatever is decreed by this man, or that man, or this body of men, etc.
Paul does not say, as some seem to have added to what he said, "You must agree with me regarding every detail of doctrine, or else I will not have any association with you."
Nor was he authorizing a governing body or a man to be set up who was to take upon themselves the authority to judge the brothers so as to decide that everyone must agree with whatever they say, even if what they say goes beyond what is written. Often sectarian leaders will claim that their authority has been given to them by their own application of some prophecy, or statement, in the Bible, which they have interpreted to be referring to themselves. Nevertheless, anyone who sets himself/themselves up or sets any man or body of men (other than Jesus and his apostles) as such an authority has/have gone beyond what is written, and have actually produced the very kind of sectarianism that Paul condemned.
Nor was the apostle Paul giving a prophecy that Christians would become totally outwardly at unity in every aspect of doctrine, at least not in this age. The harvest results will not be known physically until the saints "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:43) This signifies the same time spoken of by Paul in Romans 8:19, where he stated: "the creation waits with eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed." At that time the Satan will have been abyssed so that he will not be able to deceive the nations. (Revelation 20:1-3) At that time, the whole creation will no longer be groaning and travailing in pain as it now is, for the creation will have been delivered from its present bondage. (Romans 8:20-22) Since the world has not yet been so delivered, we know also that the revealing of the sons of God has not yet taken place.
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The first century Christians never had an outward unity, not until later when there was a general apostasy from the faith once delivered, and professed Christians began to set up men over themselves men who then decided what was supposed to be accepted as true doctrine and what was not to be accepted. Paul was simply stating what should be, but even in this, he was not appealing to them to agree on every detail of every scripture, but that they all be of the same mind in agreement with Christ [not a governing body, or other alleged central authority in the flesh, claiming to represent Christ], and not be following others into various divisions.
The agreement in Christ is that "if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." -- 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2; Romans 10:9.
Surely we are not to think that that every Christian is not to have any thought at all that is different from another Christian. What most who set themselves up to judge others on this matter usually claim is that everyone has to agree with them on practically every point of doctrine, or else "we" will not fellowship with "you". Paul did not say that. Indeed, he did not disfellowship himself from the brothers in Corinth who disagreed with him, but he did continue to encourage them in Christ.
In those groups that boast of unity in doctrine, most often which include a lot human speculation, we find that such unity is achieved by a submission to a man, or to a group of men, who make the decisions for the group as to what is to be believed or not believed. In actuality, this is the kind of division that Paul was speaking against. In other words, Paul is saying that we have Christ, and it is he who is our great Pastor, and we should not be following any man, so as become sectarian followers of Paul, of Apollos, etc, thereby bringing a division amongst the flock. He does tell us to mark those who cause division, so as not to follow others away from Christ.
Paul's able and pointed reasoning upon this subject is partially obscured by the common translations, as they seem to use stronger words and phrases than the Greek suggests. Paul exhorts that those teachers who favor divisions in the flock of Christ, be "watched" and turned away from; because they are not following Yahweh's will, but their own. And he adds, "by kind and complimentary words they mislead the unsuspicious." (Romans 16:17) Thus, he reproved the Corinthian church because of a tendency toward such sectarianism among them. (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; and 3:3-6) As he showed, they were dividing into Paulites, Apollosites, and Peterites, while a few rightly clung to the name of Christ.
Yahweh alone must be regarded as the leader of His people, and that through the one whom he has appointed as our Pastor (Shepherd -- Ezekiel 34:23; Hebrews 13:20); and we must be guided by His Word and constrained by divine love, rather than by bulls, encyclicals, mandates, anathemas, excommunications, epithets, threatening, cajolings or railings that may come from popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, ministers, synods, presbyteries, conferences, societies, governing bodies, committees, boards or presidents, which seek to whatever extent to substitute their own authority in the Church for that of Christ’s, and to teach that disobedience to their orders, decisions, etc., is tantamount to disobedience to God. We believe that everyone who is genuinely consecrated to Yahweh, and who acknowledges Jesus as his head, is united to him in holy service, whether he might be associated with any sect or denomination or not; and that all such are divinely ordained to preach His gospel, whether they serve individually or collectively, in America or in Europe or in the wilds of Africa, and regardless of whether some particular group of brothers in one part of the world has commissioned them, or knows about them or not. Among those who do thus recognize only Jesus as their head there is no division of spirit - despite any outwardly carnal divisions, etc., that may be prevalent as promoted by the leaders of whatever group he might be associated with.
Those who preach the gospel should do so in a manner that will glorify Yahweh and his Son, not to the glorification of a certain man, an organization, a group, a movement, etc., by accepting Yahweh's Word as the repository of all truth. Paul says that to serve with any other design than this is "carnal." In the context of 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul was speaking of some in his day who were saying, "I am of Paul; others, I am of Apollos; and still others, I am of Cephas." Today some say, "I am of the Watchtower Society; and unless you are of the Society I will regard you as dead." Other say, "I am of this or that orthodoxy, and unless you accept what this or that council of men has decreed as 'orthodox,' you are not my brother in Christ." The argument of many in favor of such a position today is that such "should know where they got the truth" - but it was this very argument that Paul designated "carnality." For this very reason Paul thanked God that he had not been the instrument that had baptized very many of the Corinthian brothers in Christ, so that they could not claim him as being their channel. The Roman alleged "successors" of Peter, however, built a great organization on the claim that they are the repository of all truth -- even as the Society now claims for itself -- and they ask all others: "When did truth and authority become transferred from us to you?"
And so the apostle Paul asked: "Who is Paul? who is Apollos? and who is Cephas?" And if Paul were here today he would most certainly say, "Who is the Society?" "Who is the Dawn?" Who is the the PBI? etc. Who, in fact, is anyone who merely serves the truth to another? While all true servants in the Church are important, even as Paul points out -- some being privileged to sow and others to water -- yet it is God alone who gives the increase.
In view of this plain statement to the effect that only the Lord Jesus, who is the truth (John 14:16), is responsible for our being "in the truth", it is sad that some seem to be not able to see beyond a human organization, counsel, governing body or leader, etc., and are not sufficiently strong in Yahweh to depend wholly on His Word; being willing rather to listlessly trust their eternal destiny to imperfect human leadership rather than to individually assume the divinely imposed responsibility of proving all things by the Word and of holding fast only to that which they have personally proven to be the truth. It is indeed true that all should know where they got the truth -- from the Lord Jesus (John 6:68; 17:8) -- and they should see to it that this pure message shall not become clouded by the muddy waters of human speculation and sophistry.
Does this means that there will be no divisions amongst God's people in this age? The Bible never says that. Paul did not say that. Yes, he did entreat the Corinthian brothers to a unity, but he did not say that they would be united in every viewpoint related to what God has revealed. Indeed, later on, he says just the opposite: "For there must be also factions among you, that those who are approved may be revealed among you." -- 1 Corinthians 11:19.
Did the apostle Paul approve of such factions, divisions? No, but yet he knew that such divisions were necessary for the proving of disciples of Christ. The vast majority of Christians seem to only be able to worship along carnal lines; this does not mean that they are not Christians, for it was to saints, dedicated ones (1 Corinthians 1:2), that Paul said: "Brothers, I couldn't speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshly, as to babes in Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:1) Paul does not say to them, "You are not my brothers, because you are divided." Rather, he addresses them as "brothers" in Christ, who are yet "babes" in Christ.
Most of the saints, the dedicated ones who belong to Christ, remain as babes all of their present life. They cannot get beyond worship along carnal lines, seeking man's approval, or on the side, seeking to control others into obedience to themselves. The parable of the four servants gives a good illustration of this. http://rl-bibleinfo.com/?p=41
Although those who remain babes may not lose their standing as sons of God, yet unless they grow in grace, knowledge, etc., they will fail to become joint-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17) Only those who grow in their spiritual walk, developing the fruit of the spirit in this age to the point that Paul refers to as "perfect", will become joint-heirs with Christ. This is the goal that is set before them, and yet, Paul realizes that most will not reach that goal, and the divisions serve as a means of revealing, even developing, those who reach the perfect mark of the prize of their high calling. (Philippians 3:12-14) It is for the purpose of edifying the sons of God to to the obtaining of that mark that the entire New Testament was written. Thus, Paul writes: "Let us press on to perfection." (Hebrews 6:1) Once that perfection is obtained, then the mark of the prize of our high calling has been reached, and the prize is assured, since such a person has proven himself incorruptible, and the second death can no longer harm him. -- Revelation 2:11; 1 Corinthians 15:54.
They will be approved by improving themselves, by forgiving, by apologizing, and by showing love, all of which is done to the perfecting of faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:10) It is our faith that is on trial, as we read in the King James Version of the "trial of your faith." The World English translation calls it "the proof of your faith." More correctly it is the proving of our faith. So divisions among us are allowed (although not approved as such) by Yahweh to see who will properly react to this proving, or trial, who will have the right heart attitude, who will grow and manifest the fruits of the spirit, especially that of faith, since it is our faith that is being proved.
Please note that it is the heart that is being judged, not whether one is physically associated with this or that organization, movement, church, etc. With this in mind, we need to note that one may be associated with the Bible Students movement, and yet, in his heart, he may still supporting a form of Babylonism, if he is still effecting a form of sectarianism based on the teachings of a certain man, or of a body of men, etc."Christians may not see eye to eye, but they can still walk arm in arm." -- (Originator of this statement is unknown.) =========== Related: Charles Taze Russell Regarding Sectarianism What did Charles Taze Russell teach about sectarianism? Charles Taze Russell and Authority -- Did Charles Taze Russell teach authoritarianism as if found today in the JW organization? Related Books: Crisis of Conscience In Search of Christian Freedom ========== Edited and Republished August 28, 2014. Originally published sometime before October 2012.