THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE MYSTERY OR: ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS—2
We may now go on to discuss.
II. THE GREAT SERIOUSNESS OF DIVISIONS AMONG CHRISTIANS
We have in mind, of course, divisions that now exist amongst Christians worldwide, divisions already
well established, and very seldom questioned in our times, and also divisions that, sad to say, are
frequently found in local churches or fellowships. To say the least, these, too, are beginning to be viewed
as "something inevitable", and something we have to learn to live with. More frequently, perhaps, there
can be bitter, and long-lasting "feuds" between two individual Christians, as in the case of Euodias and
Syntyche at Philippi (Phil.4:2). All these forms of divisions are grievous indeed, and send forth a wrong
"savour" from the ointment of the church (See Eccles.1 0: 1 ; 2 Cor.2:14, 15). May the Lord have mercy
Let us now present three simple reasons why such divisions are so serious, and let us face up squarely to the challenge:
1. Such divisions violate the basic doctrine of the ONE BODY OF CHRIST.
We have already said much about this, so little needs to be added. God planned this "Mystery" in a past
eternity, and He wants (and works) to see His blood-bought people enjoying and exemplifying that
oneness, under the gracious Headship of their Risen Lord.
2. Such divisions run counter to the constant pleadings of the Apostle Paul.
How fearlessly he rebuked the follies of the disintegrating Corinthians, and pleaded most intensely for
restored unity among them. One verse must here suffice, -and we do well to notice the comprehensing
phrasing of his heartfelt plea:
"I beseech you" (What an intensity of longing and concern!)
"Brethren" (What personal love for the failing ones)
"by the NAME of the LORD JESUS" (appealing to the very highest power)
"that there be NO DIVISIONS among you"(straight to the point; -no exceptions)
"but that ye be PERFECTLY JOINED TOGETHER" (A positive emphasis)
"in the same mind" (the REAL answer; -the MIND OF CHRIST; -see Phil.2:5).
Surely that one verse (1 Cor.1 : 10) will be enough to make us all see the tremendous seriousness of this matter.
3. Our third reason is based on that illuminating and heart -moving PRAYER OF CHRIST HIMSELF,
-given to us in John seventeen. We shall not be able to say much about it here, except that the chapter
shows that Christian Unity is the uppermost concern in our Lord's present prayer ministry (See Heb. 7:25). We notice that the prayer itself (John17) is made up of a number of different petitions; -most of
them mentioned only once - and then left. But this petition for His people's ONENESS is repeated five
times, -like a refrain running throughout the prayer (See vs.11, 21, 21,22,23). And we can say that if
THAT was true in John 17; it is also true today as our Lord prays for us within the veil. The cry heard in
Gethsemane still re-echoes in heaven, -THAT THEY MAYBE ONE!
Much more cries out to be said, but, for the present, we must leave it at that. The three reasons we have
given will underline again the deep seriousness of ANY KIND of division amongst God's redeemed
We now approach a section of our study, which may positively alarm many of us. Even the very title we
shall use may seem greatly exaggerated, but we know that is not so, and we feel sure that honest and
prayerful readers will soon be in agreement with us. Our appeal will simply be to God's True Word, and
the Word itself will do its work. Let us be quiet, and allow that Word to speak to us. We shall be
III. THE ESSENTIALLY CRIMINAL NATURE OF DIVISIONS IN GOD'S CHURCH.
Let me say that we, too, hesitated much about the usage of such strong words, but, after further prayerful
thought, we were inwardly assured that our terms were quite appropriate in this case; -in fact our subject
revolves around what can only be regarded as the ultimate in all crimes. We tremble to say it, but we are
dealing with something, which could be called a repeat of Calvary! - as we shall now be showing.
The Bible makes it very plain that any dividing -up, or sectionalising, of His Church is, in effect, a
dividing -up of Christ Himself, -and not only dividing -up Christ personal, but dividing -up Christ
corporate, or; shall we say, attempting so to do. This, of course, is a crime unthinkable, - something
beyond all telling. We shall discuss this awful possibility in the coming paragraphs, and we do ask for
earnest and open -minded consideration of the matter, -and a humble and prayerful approach. May God
prevent anyone of us from committing, or even sanctioning, such a crime!
The most basic verse on this subject is 1 Cor.1: 13. We note that, in the preceding verse (v.12) Paul had
been rebuking the Corinthians for forming themselves into distinct and separate "groups", according to
which particular leader they followed, or which preacher they preferred to listen to! Paul shows real
shock and alarm that anything like that should be taking place, and exclaims, "IS CHRIST DIVIDED?"
We must carefully note the wording here. Quite obviously, Paul is telling them that their sectarianism is
tantamount to dividing the Saviour Himself up into parts! - truly a very startling thought! The perceptive
Greek scholar, and translater of many of the old classics, Dr. A.S. Way, renders the verse, "What, -has
Messiah been parted into fragments?" Again very startling, -but they tell me the rendering does bring out
the true force of the word, -a fragmentation of THE CHRIST OF GOD!
It is well to remember, here, that Paul himself had been asked a very similar question at the time of his
conversion on the Damascus road. The shining Lord from heaven had said to him, "Saul, Saul, why
persecutest thou ME?" The fact is that, while Paul thought he was dealing with the few Christians at
Damascus, he was actually dealing with Christ Himself. Touching the members of Christ's Body was
touching the HEAD OF THE BODY! He was virtually mishandling the whole organism; -Christ and His
people were one great Resurrection Life together. That we believe was the beginning of the whole
revelation that Paul had
been chosen to share with the then -emerging church, -and with us all. We say it again. -Christ and His
born -again Christians ARE one Living Organism! This IS God's glorious "Mystery"! O, - praise His
Returning now to that grave matter of the divisions at Corinth, and to the question with which the same
Paul confronted them, -what do we have? Paul is just showing them that, by their smug partisan
behaviour, they were virtually '. - dividing Christ". We must carefully mark this. Paul does not say, "Is
the church divided", but, right to the point, -"IS (the corporate} CHRIST DIVIDED?", -or to use again
Dr. Way's rendering, -"What, has Messiah been PARTED INTO FRAGMENTS?". That, indeed, was the
unimaginable tragedy that was unfolding at Corinth, as they allowed them- selves to be parted into
separate groupings. In its inmost essence, that is what it amounted to. They were dismembering the Christ
of God. We may need to modify the dark picture to some extent, but, even in its mildest form, we are left
with a picture of deep criminality, and, if we have ever encouraged divisions amongst God's incorporated
people, we have pierced the inmost feelings of the heart of God.
There is a similar verse in the epistle to the Hebrews, -something which sends a similar shudder through
the heart of any sensitive Christian. The writer speaks of those who, (in quite a different way) were
"crucifying in themselves the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame" (Heb.6:6). It is not
our task, right now, to discuss the details of that situation, -but we would say that we all need to take into
serious consideration what our own simple actions and attitudes, and decisions, amount to when viewed
from a more spiritual viewpoint, or seen by the eye of God, -or felt in the heart of God.
An interesting Bible -Fact may now be an appropriate way of "closing off" this section of our study. The
original word, which Paul uses for "divided" in 1Cor .1: 13 ("Is Christ divided?") is a derivative of the
word used in the Gospels for the cruel "parting" of our Saviour's garments at Calvary. Luke, for instance,
tells' us that, "they parted his raiment, and cast lots" '(Luke 23:34'. It would therefore be quite right to say
that, what those rough Roman soldiers were doing on that Hill, is what those divisive Christians were
doing at Corinth, when they maintained their various allegiances and preferences, -not so very long after
Calvary. They were "dividing" the very person of Christ Himself! May God ever spare us from such an
unspeakable crime! As we said before, God sees the Saviour and the saints as ONE UNIT; -let us ever
maintain that unity, and not even appear to fragment it. To secure such a "testimony" will involve some
cost, but the Lord will help us through.
As a final observation on this point, may I say the following? There could be some who insist that you
CANNOT divide the Body of Christ, -so why be so concerned? While we also greatly rejoice in the
indivisibility of the Actual Reality, we most certainly CAN DIVIDE that which is called of God to
represent that Reality, -here in this world, -and to depict it! (See 1 Cor.12: 27). Paul rejoiced in the
Heavenly Reality, but no one was more grieved than he by the divisions he was witnessing on earth! We
could say, too, that if that "present perfection in Heaven" were intended to be our SOLE CONCERN,
-why so many Bible exhortations regarding a corresponding witness here below? The Holy Spirit is
clearly concerned with BOTH aspects of the Truth; -and so should we be! We do trust that this further
observation may be a help.