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Religious division abounds in the world. There are the Jewish religions, the “Christian” religions, the Satanist religions, Buddhism, etc.. All religious division comes from one of two sources: (1) Somebody taught something that the word of God never taught. (2) Somebody was set on getting their way, even to the hurting of someone else’s feelings or conscience. The religions mentioned above are the result of # 1. Denominationalism exists because folks aren’t remaining true to the Gospel. Most religious division among those in “Christendom” occurs over something that isn’t even taught in God’s word. For example, the Bible tells us that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night (Jn. 3:2). No one disagrees with this, so, on this point, there is perfect unity. The Text says, “This man came to Jesus by night.” Division comes when folks start teaching the reason he came at night. Some say it was because 1) he had to work all day, 2) he feared other Jews, 3) Jesus was too crowded during the day. Any of these could be plausible explanations, but the Bible simply doesn’t tell us why he came at night. If I want to believe it was because he feared the Jews, fine, but if I try to make you believe it, then there will be division. This is just a simple illustration, but let me give you one that has had a greater effect on religious division. Paul taught in Romans 5:1 that we have been justified by faith. We can all agree on this because it is exactly what the text says, so, we are unified in what the Bible teaches. However, some teach that we are saved by faith “only.” Now we have division, because this is not what the text says. We have division, not over what the Bible says, but over what it does not say. The word “only” isn’t there. We are saved by faith, but the Bible teaches in other places that other things save us also. Baptism (1 Pet. 3:21), and works (Jms. 2:24), for example, are said to save us. So, when some teach that we are saved by faith only, there will be division, because the Bible never said “only,” and there are some who want to stick with what the Bible says (1 Pet. 4:11). So, division occurs when folks begin to teach anything the Bible doesn’t teach. The other cause of division comes from #2 above. Churches in the past have split over things like ceiling fans, carpet color, paving the parking lot, etc.. The Bible deals with this type of division in Romans 14. We should never divide God’s people over our own personal preferences. Both causes of division can be avoided by applying biblical principles. The first can be avoided by applying the principle found in 1 Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.” The second can be avoided by applying the principle taught in Romans 12:10, “...in honor giving preference to one another.” Let us all strive to avoid religious division.
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