Around 200 BC the Mishnah was compiled by a group of Jewish Leaders known as the Pharisees. It was their expanded view of the written law that was given to Moses. After the Maccabean Revolt(165-160 BC) the Pharisees and Sadducees split up because of their differing views on the law and the after life. The Sadducees esteemed the Written Law as sufficient, and also denied the possibility of a physical resurrection.
In the mid-50’s, Paul wrote to Corinth from Ephesus to correct behaviors that could possibly lead to a divided church body. Not only was the Corinthian Church allowing sexually immoral behaviors to infiltrate the church, there was also this underlying tone of division. People were claiming to be a disciple of Paul or of Apollos, and it was causing the Church to be divided.
How would Paul respond? What was the heart of God for His Church?
“3 For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” 1Corinthians 3:3-7
Verses 6-7 are so important, for they set in place the right perspective for living and leading the church in humility. However, when those two verses lose its value, we begin to labor in vain and begin to build empires attached to a name, person, or a movement. What we fail to realize is that when an empire is based on a name, a persona, or denomination, this name becomes the variable by which the empire stands or falls. If the entity remains above reproach, the movement flourishes. If the entity experiences a moral failure, or a lapse of judgement, the weaknesses in the entity are exposed and its integrity is compromised.
In the Corinthian Church, and all the way back to the Pharisees & the Sadducees, the problem wasn’t found in one particular party being wrong or right, the point where their integrity was compromised was in the two entities failing to reconcile. Like everything else, almost every time there will be a side that is willing to compromise and come to an agreement, and there is another side that will never seek to be at peace with all men. The longer it goes unsettled, the more will be exposed. Why? Because, at the end of the day, we all need and want closure, specially in areas where we have failed.
Friends, when we fail to work through our differences and deal with sin in a biblical manner, what makes us think that our venues will look appealing to those looking for the spiritual closure from the forgiveness that our Gospel is known for? What makes us think that our churches will look like venues of forgiveness instead of courtrooms? What will make church a safe place for sinners to gather? We must learn to work through differences, we must learn to compromise our comforts in order to grow in grace while never letting go of biblical truths.
We become like the Pharisees when our hearts are hardened to reconciliation. We become like the Corinthian Church, when we allow denominational lines to segregate the body of Christ. Let’s not forget that we are being conformed into His image, and we are carrying the name of Jesus. Represent him well on the mountain top and in the valley.