Sunday, February 11, 2018 am                                        NT Church Index


NT Church (46)
Unity 4
When Separation Is Necessary

     The title of this lesson seems contradictory.  While our desire is that such a lesson never be needed, the sad reality is that divisions exist.   So today we want to talk about when division is necessary. 

First, some clarifications:

1)       God wants unity – John 17:20-21, 1 Corinthians 1:10, etc.;  

2)       God hates division.  He despises the one who sows discord among brethren – Proverbs 6:19;

3)       Whenever there is division there is sin.  When you have division (not mere disagreement), someone is sinning, and perhaps all involved are sinning.

4)       Whenever there is division, it does damage.  Souls are in danger.  Often it is used to mock faith, the church, true believers and even God’s word.

5)       We need to endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).  This means we need to WORK at avoiding division and maintaining unity. 

     However, sadly there have always been divisions and we live in a time of bitter division.  We live in a time when far too many demand that things be done their way, OR that we accept their way, OR that any way is fine, and all of this while ignoring that there may actually be one true way, and they could be wrong.

So in this lesson we want to discuss the other side of division – when it is necessary and why.

 I.                     What is division

a.       The action of separating something into parts.  2. Disagreement between two or more groups, typically producing tension or hostility.    Google dictionary. 

b.       In the Bible, it is the idea of discord, which typically results in SEPARATING into two or more groups.  For example: The Greek word for division in 1 Corinthians 1:10 is also translated tear in Matthew 9:16 where Jesus is speaking of putting an unshrunk patch on an old garment, which tears it and makes it worse.  It is also found in 1 Corinthians 12:25 – the word schism. 

c.        As we speak of division, we are not addressing mere disagreement.  We mean the tearing asunder of those who previously were in agreement or together.

 II.                   Divisions in the Bible

a.       The very idea of enmity shows division.  When we are in sin, we are separated from God. 
NOTE: This is NOT what God wants!  He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked – Ezekiel 33:11,
He desires that all men be saved - 2 Peter 3:9 -not willing that any should perish; 1 Timothy 2:4 – He desires all men to be saved
He sent Jesus to put to death the enmity – 1 Timothy 1:15 – Christ came to save sinners; Romans 5:6-11 describes how God demonstrated His love by Christ dying, even for the ungodly.  Vs. 10 notes, For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
BUT, sin separates us.  Romans 6:23 – the wages of sin is death. 

b.       Jesus, while on earth produced division. 
As He lived and taught, many turned against Him.   And the stronger His teaching, the greater the divide. 
Matthew 10:34-37 – Jesus said He came to bring a sword.  He warned that His teachings would divide families.
He warned that His message would be rejected and separate them from the ungodly. 
Luke 6:22-23, on one occasion Jesus noted that you are blessed, when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake.  He also noted that is exactly what they did to the prophets. 
John 7:40-43 after teaching, the people were divided over Him. 
John 9:16, after healing the blind man as they interrogate him and he acknowledges that Jesus healed him we read, Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.

c.        The apostles and disciples in teaching often produced division against them.
It began with Jews in Jerusalem and Judea rejecting those who followed Jesus.  They wanted nothing to do with them, in spite of their peacefulness and the works which verified their teaching.
This became even more prevalent later as Gentiles began to obey the gospel, and again many of the Jews (some of who professed belief in Jesus) rejected the whole counsel of God, which was inclusive.
Stephen was stoned to death for preaching and exposing the corruption of the Jewish leaders (Acts 7)
On his preaching journeys, Paul often faced opposition from the Jews as he tried to explain that Jesus was the promised Messiah. 
Acts 14:1-4, Paul at Iconium (on his first preaching journey) went to the synagogue and taught.  Both Jews and Gentiles believed.  BUT there were unbelieving Jews that stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.  Vs. 4 tells us the multitude of the city was divided. 
Acts 17:1-5, in Thessalonica some believed but the Jews who were not persuaded became envious and cause trouble, even using evil and underhanded ways to discredit the Christians there.  Paul had to leave before he was ready to.    
Acts 19:8-9, in Ephesus we have the same picture.  Paul was teaching but some were hardened and did not believe and spoke evil of “the Way”.  Therefore, Paul departed and “withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.”

What did these examples have in common? 

                                                   i.      Someone REJECTED the truth and that resulted in division (the need for separation). 

                                                 ii.      When the godly left or were cast out (and this WOULD equally apply if the godly stay and the ungodly leave), it was because of ungodly attitudes and actions from those who did not want the truth that actually caused the division.  Why?  Because God gets to set the standard!

                                                iii.      The godly simply could not stay and still be pleasing to God. 

d.       Other passages to consider:

                                                   i.      1 Corinthians 11:19, For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.

                                                 ii.      1 John 2:18-19, Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

                                                iii.      2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

 III.                 When is separation needed?

a.       Now I realize that as we have discussed division thus far, we have not been discussing a congregation or brethren dividing, but truth be told, the underlying reasons for these divisions are the same and there are parallels.

b.       Basically, this is an issue of fellowship. 
While division always involves sin, it does not necessarily mean that everyone involved is guilty of sin.  In fact, at times, it would be a sin to NOT separate. And that is the point of this lesson.
When our fellowship with man endangers our fellowship with God, we must choose God. 
2 John 9-11, Ephesians 5:11, etc.

c.        When is division (separation) necessary?

                                                   i.      When one (or a group) begins practicing or teaching error – whether in worship, doctrine, or morality. 

                                                 ii.      When one (or a group) refuses to stand for the truth. 
This could be an individual – where discipline is necessary; or a group of people who simply reject the truth – including the world, those advocating religious error - whether denominational or even among brethren.  Or perhaps those who refuse to correct error. 

                                                iii.      When one (or a group) refuses to mark those in error – 1 Corinthians 5:1-2, vs. 6-7 warn of the consequence of ignoring this.
Revelation 2:12-16 – the church at Pergamos had those holding to false doctrines.
Revelation 2:18-21 – the church at Thyatira had those practicing immorality who had not repented “in time”. 
NOTE: In these examples there is a call to repent. And while there is time given for discussion and change, we learn from the examples of Revelation 2 and 3 (7 churches), that such time is not unlimited.

d.       So, when someone REFUSES to accept or follow truth, we have no choice but to separate. For the sake of purity and preservation of truth. 

e.       1 Corinthians 10:16-21 – we are not to have communion with idols (false religions)

f.         We are to separate ourselves from the world – the idea of separation implies there is division.

                                                   i.      2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers…

                                                 ii.      Hebrews 7:26 – Jesus, as our High Priest, is described as holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens.

g.       HEED this warning of Jesus.  “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.  (Matthew 12:25)

h.       Titus 3:10 – reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition.  NOTE: In this lesson, this is a crucial verse.  It reminds us not to abandon someone too quickly.  We ought to seek resolution and be willing to discuss with someone our concerns and differences as brethren. 

 IV.                 If we must divide

a.       First, realize that it is NOT a cause for rejoicing.  As we have noted in this lesson, when there is division SOMEONE is in sin and that means their soul is in danger unless they repent. 
Paul grieved for his Jewish brethren who rejected the truth – Romans 9:1-3
Jesus, as He overlooked the city of Jerusalem knew what was in store.  He grieved – Matthew 23:37-38; Also in John 6 after Jesus taught some hard sayings we read that from that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more (John 6:66).  In vs. 67 we can see the demeanor of Jesus as He asks His apostles, “Do you also want to go away?”
1 Corinthians 5:1-2 – rather than mourning, they were described as puffed up.

b.       Let it because of God and His word.  NOT for selfish reasons.  NOT personality clashes. 

c.        I (we) must examine myself to see if I am (part of) the cause – or am I right!  This calls for brutal honesty as always. 

d.       Am I maintaining a godly attitude?  Before, during and after!  Let it be with truth in love that we deal with our circumstances. 

e.       Division (separation) should be a last resort – it should only occur when all efforts to avoid it have been exhausted.  When we approach problems and differences we ought to do so with the intention of avoiding division if at all possible. 

f.         Seek reconciliation, when possible, but not at the expense of truth!  


This is not a lesson that gives me joy to preach.  But for the time being, it is very much needed.  Because there is so much religious division in our midst, and sadly there are far too many instances where separation should occur, but it hasn’t.  May we resolve first and foremost to avoid division as much as possible (Ephesians 4:3), BUT let us value our standing with God more than with men. 

There is another separation we need to be concerned about.  On the day of judgment there will be the ultimate division.    Matthew 25:32 Jesus speaks of the nations being gathered and separated, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats.  You do NOT want to be on the wrong side of this separation for it has eternal consequences.  Are you united with God?  Think about it!