Is Christ divided? Those who know their Bibles would answer in the negative. They will boldly affirm: “No, Christ is not divided.” However, the actual practice of some proves they do not really believe this answer. Their practice affirms that they believe Christ is divided. Those who embrace the concept of denominationalism want us to believe that the Christ is divided. He is divided in many sectarian groups: Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, Amish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Assemblies of God, Mormons, Mennonites, Nazarenes, Lutherans, Independent Christian Churches, Disciples of Christ, Church of God, and a host of other religious groups. All of these groups, we are told, belong to Christ. All of them are separate from one another in name, doctrine, worship and works. Thus, Christ is divided according to those who hold to denominationalism.
The question that entitles our article is found in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians. The apostle Paul was addressing a group of Christians who were divided under one roof. He writes: “For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:11-12). Immediately after addressing this divided church, Paul asks: “Is Christ divided?” The question is rhetorical. It answers itself. Is Christ divided? The answer is a simple and bold: “No.” If Christ is not divided, then why were the Corinthians dividing themselves by the names of various men? It was a stern rebuke to the division that existed in this first century church. Paul would ask those in what is referred to as Christendom the same question. “Is Christ divided?” The answer is: “No.” Then why are all those who claim to be disciples of Christ so divided?
Some try to rationalize that we are not divided. “We all believe in the same Jesus Christ,” they say. “We are all going to the same place,” we are told. “We have unity in diversity,” they proclaim. Dear reader, our doctrines are different. The manner in which we worship is different. The practice of our Christianity is different. Our “interpretations” of God’s Word are radically different. This is not unity. In 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul writes: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Five times Paul calls for unity in this one verse. Notice the words that he uses: “speak the same thing,” “no divisions among you,” “perfectly joined together,” “the same mind,” and “the same judgment.” God never intended for there to be different religious groups on every corner, calling themselves by different names, teaching different doctrines, and engaging in different religious practices. Christ is not divided!
Sadly, some within the precious church of Christ have not learned this lesson. We are divided in many different groups today: conservative vs liberal, young vs old, traditional vs contemporary, black vs white vs Spanish, one school vs another school, institutional vs non-institutional, and on the list could go. Again, this is not what our Lord intended among His people. In His high priestly prayer in John 17:20-23, Jesus prayed for oneness among believers. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou has loved me.” The word “one” is extremely powerful. Jesus likened it unto the oneness that exists between Him and the Father. Would you say that is a perfect oneness? That is what He desires for His disciples. “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee…”
On a more personal level, divisions often happen within single congregations. Sometimes it is one family versus another family. Sometimes it is one portion of the eldership against another portion of the eldership. It may be that a segment of the church locks horns with the entire eldership creating a riff in the church. The division can be between the preacher and the elders. Churches have been divided between the young and the old. One church can be split between those who are conservative and those who are liberal. Various ethnic groups can be divided under one roof. The church can be divided over mission works, various preachers, different Christian publications, and various works in which the church is involved. This is not the way Paul taught the first century church of Philippi to be. To them he wrote: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).
My friends, the religious world has a long way to go with regard to unity. Our brotherhood has a long way to go as well. In addition, some churches have a lot to work out in the area of oneness. As churches address this issue, they need to constantly ask themselves the question: “Is Christ divided?” The answer will ring clearly in their minds: “No, Christ is not divided!” Let us close with the words of Paul to the church at Ephesus: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:1-6, emp. mine).
Victor preaches for the Oceanside congregation in Atlantic Beach, FL.