religion, christianity, articles
church unity, church division, unity in diversity, religion


By Joseph D. Meador

religion, articles, christianity


Who is dividing the church, and why do some leave the faith?


The church is deluged with denominational attitudes. Sectarian teaching has found its way into many pulpits and into the classrooms in many of our schools and universities.

John gives us an apostolic view of the causes of such apostasy. "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us" (1 John 2:19). Guy N. Woods has aptly portrayed:

They became apostates from the fold by going out. They were not 'of' the disciples, i.e., they did not possess the same spirit of obedience characteristic of the disciples, for if 'they had they would have continued with' the disciples. In apostatizing from the faith, they were 'made manifest' (shown to be not of the disciples).

Others, like those of this text, adopt false and heretical doctrines, forsake the church, and make shipwreck concerning the faith (1 Tim. 1:19).

The Bible presents varied reasons for the infection and spread of the disease of apostasy. Why do some leave the faith?

Deception is one reason for division. Paul noted that false teachers of Corinth posed as pious and informed brethren, yet because of their lack of true Bible knowledge, were void of spirituality (1 Tim. 1:19-20; 6:4; 2 Cor. 11:14-15).

He further says that such impostors feigned Christian maturity:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works (2 Cor. 11:14-15).

The Bible points out that many will be deceived into believing doctrinal error because they choose to follow personalities rather than the teaching of Christ (2 Tim. 4:1 ff; Matt.7:21-23).). During the premillennial heresy of the '20s end '30s, many were deceived by "that sweet- spirited preacher," R.H. Boll. In the mid-'30s, K.C. Moser advocated "unmerited grace" which placed more emphasis upon the "personal" Jesus than upon his doctrine. Obedience was minimized. Many followed Moser because he showed an irenic spirit, however contrived that spirit might have been. Some remember the "kind and meek" attitude which was displayed by the leader of the modern "Unity in Diversity" movement, W. Carl Ketcherside, though at times he exhibited a vicious spirit.

There are convincing personalities in this generation who are using the same strategy to draw away many disciples into accepting their favorite theories of grace only, and change of the unchangeable, and mutating the immutable. (The essential elements of the church, which is the body of Jesus, cannot be altered without destroying it. Instead of being the bride of Christ it becomes a harlot.)

The desire for pre-eminence is a driving force among some "professing" Christians who are bent on a course of control. Some have ventured so far in their quest for power that they encourage congregational rebellion in an attempt to "change" and "reform."

The apostle John recounted to Gaius the sad state to which Diotrephes had fallen in loving preeminence (3 John 9). Diotrephes wanted to be the petted and pampered. He refused to receive the apostle John as a brother in Christ. No doubt, Diotrephes thought he had risen to new heights of spirituality.

When the goal is control, the end always justifies the means. Such a perverted spirit would rather rip apart the body of Christ rather than mend; divide rather than graft; and, split apart rather than seam.

Some in the church despise doctrine and seek to amend the will of God to make it mold and conform to their notion of "progressive" Christianity. The Bible says we should attend to sound doctrine, continue in it, and hold steadfastly to it (1 Tim. 4:6; 1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Cor. 2:17; Titus 2:7, 12; 2 Tim. 1:13; Titus 1:9; 2:1).

Truth does not divide. It is incapable of division. When the hammer of error falls on the wedge of discord, it recoils against the seasoned stone of faith, but fragments the unstable sandstone of human ambition. Error and weakness are the cause of division.

We cannot walk in fellowship with those who have gone out from us, even though they were once of us (1 John 1:7; 2:19).

(Joseph D. Meador is the director of the Southwest School of Bible Studies, an excellent institution for the training of men who aspire to preach the Word. He may be contacted by calling [512] 282-2438.)

Published August 1996