The enemy seeks to win through division. The oldest tactic in existence is to divide your enemy. The reason it is the oldest is because it started in the Garden of Eden and continued from there. The serpent sought to divide Eve from God. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”” (Gen 3:1) Then Adam divided from Eve and God in one sentence. “The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”” (Gen 3:12)
After that, it was Cain vs. Abel, Saul vs. David, Israel vs. Judah, Paul vs. Barnabas; the list goes on and on. Satan has always sought to divide so this is why Paul warns us of those who seek to cause division. “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught;avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Rom 16:17-18)
There are times when God instructs division, but the mentality behind the division is different. For example, when Luther saw problems with the Catholic Church, he did not seek to cause division, rather he sought to fix the 95 problems he saw in the church. When the church refused to address them, he went on his way to protest where that church had drifted and began the Protestant movement. Notice his emphasis was to fix what was broken, rather than to cause division. In this case, Luther was saying that the Catholic church had ‘created obstacles contrary to the doctrine that had been taught’.
This is where we can see the motives of the divider. Only by knowing the doctrine and its pure teaching can we recognize when something is being taught that differs from that doctrine. When we measure what someone is teaching against the doctrine taught in the Bible, we can determine the motives. And Paul warns us to ‘avoid’ those who teach a different doctrine. The surest way to recognize an impostor is to really know the original.
When my kids were young, I read many stories to them. I know the original story of Hansel and Gretel was a bit dark but the popularized version had been softened up a bit for kids. I knew the story well. So when we went to watch a play put on by a local drama group, it was easy to see where they significantly deviated from the script. This very liberal Seattle based drama group decided to make the story about environmentalism. Their story was so far away from the script because they had an agenda. But if I didn’t know the original story, I would not have recognized the deviation.
There motive was not to tell the story, but to use parts of the story to teach their doctrine. And this is what today’s church dividers seek to do. They wish to use parts of the Bible, parts of the scriptures, to deliver their own doctrine, teach their own agenda. And Paul’s warning is clear; avoid them.
Only by studying doctrine, by studying the Bible, can you recognize when someone begins to drift away from its teaching. So study, research, learn… let the words and Jesus’ teaching sink in to your heart and mind… then you will know who to avoid.
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