Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18)
Trouble In The Church
It is hard to believe that within the body of Christ trouble would arise. As a group of saved individuals striving for the perfection of Jesus Christ and working towards a heavenly goal, it would seem that everyone would work together in harmony of love, grace and kindness. This is not the case with tragic results. The reason is simple: the church is made up of people and every effort Satan can use to discourage and create disharmony in the kingdom of God he will use to his evil advantage. From the beginning of the church the devil put doubt and fear in the hearts of brethren who were selfish as they exalted themselves above others creating division. Anything God creates Satan tries to destroy. He came into the Garden of Eden intent on dividing man from God and succeeded. The early world was destroyed through the influence of Satan and when the Lord raised up Israel Satan corrupted the apple of God’s eye. It comes as no surprise the church will be filled with divisive, contrary and self-seeking individuals who do not serve the Lord but their own desires and wills. The early church had their problems with Christians named Ananias, Sapphira, Diotrephes, Alexander and Hymenaeus. These children of God did not serve the Lord in purity of heart but their own bellies of greed, pride and faithlessness. What is sad is these people were in a covenant with God as saints but turned away to the wiles of the devil.
When the church has trouble it comes from the spirit of those who would cause division. Failing to see the unity of the Holy Spirit in the work of the church, men arise that leave the true work of saving souls to harvesting bitterness by dividing the spirits of God’s people. Through smooth and easy speech they convince others to follow their cause. The reasons are not because of scripture but their own wisdom that deceives the hearts of the weak in faith. With flattering and beguiling words they convince the simple minded to follow their cause creating an atmosphere of division among the people of God. What happens in the end is they have those who follow them in a cause that is unrighteous, unjust and unholy. The followers are bitter, angry and distrusting of others. Paul warns these contentious brethren should be noted for their divisive spirit and avoid them at all cost. There is a good reason to stay away from people like this. They are brethren which can deceive the hearts of those who cannot discern truth as clearly as the mature. Their motives are selfish and demonic. It seems hard to believe this would be the spirit of some in the church but like Israel of old there are those who serve themselves and not God.
The pattern of church discipline is clear for those who are divisive. This kind of action is specific and directed toward a certain group of individuals. Over the years the admonition by Paul has been misused against all that are disciplined within the church and while there are specific actions that must be directed towards those who are in sin, avoiding them is not always the solution. Those who need to be avoided are those who will come into the hearts of the simple minded and lead them away to their own destruction. With smooth words and flattering speech these individuals will confuse the hearts of brethren convincing them with strong arguments to follow their cause. Trouble within the church will increase because of their influence. These brethren must be avoided at all costs to ensure the purity of the church. It is vital for true minded brethren to work diligently to keep the church holy and without blemish from the wiles of the devil. Church discipline is a serious matter and must never be taken lightly. The Holy Spirit clearly admonishes those who are divisive and cause offenses to be avoided and marked as rebellious children of God. Prayers must be lifted in the hope they will see the error of their way and return to a faithful walk of harmony with Christ. There will always be trouble in the church because it is made up of people but when the brethren stand for truth the trials of persecution will be met with love, firmness and devotion to God.