James R. Davis
1. Jesus prayed for unity.
2. Each time the monster of division arose out of their ignorance and confusion the apostles endeavored to point those involved back to Jesus Christ.
Dr. Harry Ironside told of a church that had the motto JESUS ONLY over its door. At first he was impressed, thinking these believers wanted everyone to know that Christ was at the center of their lives. He soon learned, however, that they were narrow in their beliefs and uncharitable to anyone who was not of their theological persuasion.
Later a violent windstorm tore away the first
three letters of that sign, leaving this significant message: US ONLY.
Ironside commented," That more accurately described their haughty spirit."
I. Problems Arose.
A. After the initial beginning of the Church in the first century after the birth of our Lord, men began to deviate from what was originally taught by the apostles.
Many of these deviations were caused by simple misunderstandings concerning the will of God. Cultural and racial differences caused many problems among those first members of the church.
Acts 15:1-2 Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
1 Cor 1:10-13
1 Cor 3:3-5
A young woman who had a part in leading several people to the Lord said to a friend, "The new converts asked me what church I attended and I told them. But frankly, I felt like saying, ' Please don't go there!' You see, our congregation is sound in doctrine, but the members harbor so many petty jealousies and bad attitudes in their hearts that I'm afraid a new Christian would be hurt, not helped."
5. Eating meat offered to idols.
1 Cor 8:4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
6. Socio-economic standing.
B. There was a great tendency toward a competitive spirit in the church of the Bible. Competitiveness was a result of a worldly way of thinking brought over into the Church.
The story is told of three churches located on the corners of the same intersection. Each began its evening meeting with a rousing song service. On a warm summer night, when all the doors and windows were open wide, one congregation began by singing," Will there be any stars in my crown?" The strains had barely faded away when the folks across the street sang the familiar hymn, "No, Not One!" They had just finished when there rang out loud and clear from the third church, "O that will be glory for me!"
II. Misunderstanding of Scripture.
A. Failing to understand Scriptures.
Mt 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
A Gallop poll conducted some years ago revealed that 60 percent of Americans did not know what "the God Head" was. Sixty-six percent couldn't say who delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and 79 percent were unable to name a single Old Testament prophet. When people are questioned about the Bible on radio or television, it is remarkable and disconcerting to see their complete lack of knowledge on the subject. Some are almost as confused as the little boy who wrote on his test paper that the epistles were the wives of the apostles, and that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife.
B. First century Christians solved their problems as they focused on Christ.
1. The church today usually solves its differences by starting another congregation or church.
Two ministers were discussing the question of how their religious group originated. The first claimed that it all started with John the Baptist. The other countered, "You're wrong, brother. We go back a lot further than that. Don't you remember when Abraham and Lot were surveying the land of Canaan? They walked for a long time over the hills, across the streams, through the valleys. Then Abraham said to Lot, ' All right, you go your way and I'll go mine.' That's when the our denomination got started."
2. We have "The Church of The Resurrection", "The Church of the Firstborn", "The Bible Church." Each church usually ends up writing a creed book that contains all the things they believe. As people place membership they are taught the creed rather than the Bible.
C. Religious controversy is due to a plain misunderstanding about the importance of Christ teaching.
1. The Pope visited sometime ago. The news media is making a big deal out of the members of the Catholic Church not agreeing with the Pope on birth control and abortion. The question is, "Does the Pope and the members believe the teaching of Jesus Christ?
2. Obedience to the Word of Christ is the mark of a disciple. Jesus made it clear in His story of the wise builder and the foolish builder that obedience to his teaching is necessary for stability.
The difference between the two men was not that one had more knowledge or that one faced more difficult circumstances, it was that one chose to obey the Word of Christ and the other did not.
A woman who had bought a sewing machine went back to the store to complain that it didn't run right. After a brief conversation, the salesperson began to see the problem and asked, "Have you ever read the instruction book to find out what it says to do?" Sheepishly, she said no and agreed to follow the directions. Later, when the salesperson inquired how the machine was working, the woman replied, "Fine! Instead of bungling along by myself, I started going by the book. Things are running much smoother now." Many Christians have trouble with their lives for the same reason this woman had difficulty running her sewing machine--they don't go by the Book!
D. The first Christians accepted Christ as the sole authority in matters of faith.
1. When they accepted Christ, there was no need to accept anything else.
Col 2:9-10 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
E. There were no creed books.
Jesus Christ was the supreme authority.
There was no human creed, that does not mean that the church of the first century did not have a creed. The word "creed" is from a latin word "credo", which means "I believe," hence creed means what I believe. The first disciple had no creed. Jesus Christ was their creed. "Thou art the Christ" was their only confession of faith.
John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
John 8:31-32 31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
III. Must Rely On the Power of God.
A. Religious division denies the power of God.
2 Tim 3:5
David Culver tells of watching a TV news report showing the destruction in southern Florida after Hurricane Andrew:
"In one scene, amid the devastation and debris stood one house on its foundation. The owner was cleaning up the yard when a reporter approached him. "'Sir, why is your house the only one still standing?' the reporter asked. 'How did you manage to escape the severe damage of the hurricane?' "'I built this house myself,' the man replied.' I built it according to the Florida State building code. When the code called for 2x6 roof trusses, I used 2x6 roof trusses. I was told that a house built according to code could withstand a hurricane. I did and it did! I suppose no one else around here followed the code.'
"When the sun is shining and the skies are blue, building our lives on something other than the guidelines in God's Word can be tempting, but there's a hurricane coming--for everyone." [Leadership, Wint 1993. Page 49.]
B. Power of gospel.
Mt 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
The church was founded upon Jesus Christ.
1 Cor 3:11
In his book The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer wrote," Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers( meeting) together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship."
Men today discover the power of God when they begin doing the will of Christ.
1. Recognize that you are a sinner.
Ro 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
We try to ignore the guilt. We attempt to change the standard of right and wrong. It's ironic, when man refuses one standard of right and wrong, he always establishes another standard to take the place of the old one. He is still left with a biting conscience as he does battle to adhere to the new standard.
2. Recognize God's grace.
God has already paid the price.
1 John 4:14
3. Recognize Man's response
We must accept the gift. Christ sacrifice can be and is rejected by most.
In order to accept Christ gift we must turn to him. We must accept Christ standard for right and wrong.
4. Determine that you are going to live for Christ.