God longs for unity among His people, and His children’s heart should long for the same:
- Psalm 133 – “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity”
- John 17 – Jesus prays that the church may be one as He and the Father are one
- Eph. 4:3 – “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace“
- 1 Cor. 1 – Paul admonishes the Corinthians for dividing over issues other than the gospel
- 1 Cor. 11 – In fact, God disciplined the church with sickness and death BECAUSE they were being divisive and creating factions.
- Heb. 12:14 – “pursue peace with all men”
But God desires this unity where the true Jesus is Lord, and the true gospel is believed. Any unity that does not honor the true Jesus and true gospel is false unity, and doesn’t please the Lord.
- Romans 16:17 – Paul warns them to separate from people who have a different gospel/doctrine
- Gal. 1:6-10 – Paul says anyone preaching a different gospel is eternally condemned
- 2 Cor. 6 – just as light CAN’T fellowship with darkness, so there is no fellowship among Christians and non-Christians
- 2 Cor. 11:1-4 – Paul rebukes them for “putting up” with people teaching a false Jesus and false gospel.
- 2 John 10-11 – John warns that the church must reject any fellowship with people who teach a different Jesus than the Biblical Jesus
- Rev. 18:4 – Jesus warns his true church to come out of fellowship with a false church, “so that you will not share in her sins”
Trying to maintain such “false” unity is condemned and warned against.
Along these lines, there are times where God actually initiates division. These are times where God’s people have compromised on true worship of Him and His gospel.
- Luke 12:49-53 – Jesus says He came to bring fire and division upon the earth, based on how people honor Him
- 2 Chron. 11:4 – “This is what the Lord says: ‘Do not go up to fight [for a united kingdom] against your fellow Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this [division] is my doing.'”
- Haggai 2:20-23; Heb. 12:25-29 – Here God is initiating a shaking that happens to his professing people “by the sword of his brother”
- 1 Cor. 11:18-19 – God says there must be factions among you (even though he deplores them), “to show which of you have God’s approval”
In fact, God’s original priests were established based on their willingness to slay their brothers (Ex. 32:27-29). To state the obvious: this was not a great act of unity!
Again, God does want unity, but He wants it on His terms, under his Lordship and true gospel. Where this is not present, He wants separation. In fact, it grieves me to say this, but I wonder if this is part of the division and polarization we are seeing today. It’s part of God’s refining to show who are truly His.
- Psalm 133 – unity is pictured as garments brought together UNDER the HEAD of the HIGH PRIEST. This is a clear picture of Jesus, the “head” of the church, and her “High Priest”. Unity under Jesus’ Headship/Lordship is key.
- Heb. 12 – “pursue peace…AND HOLINESS”
- John 17 – the unity Jesus prays for is for “those who will believe in me through their word” (17:20). And it is based on God’s glory, and a unity centered around that (John 17:22)
Thus, when Israel rejected Jesus and His gospel, Jesus weeps that true peace was hidden from them (Luke 19:42), then actually upends their “temple service,” leading ultimately to them killing Him (Luke 19:45-48). Thus there is no unity even among the very religious Jews, because they reject the true Jesus and His gospel. Meanwhile, Luke tells us that Herod and Pilate UNITED in their killing of Jesus (Luke 23:12).
Again, unity was never the goal for God. It has always been unity under Jesus as Lord. Something Israel rejected, and thus peace left them.
The same thing is seen in Matthew 18. Jesus says He will be with gatherings of 2-3 SO LONG AS they are gathered under the name of Jesus. This means they are gathered under Jesus’ authority and Lordship. Where people do not worship the true Jesus and receive the true Gospel, there is no promise of blessing (no matter how many people are together in “unity”).
The purpose of God-ordained division centers around Jesus and the Gospel. God wants the revelation of Jesus and his true gospel to remain pure. He stands on no side, but is seeking those who will firmly stand on the side of the true Jesus and the true Gospel. See Joshua 5 where the angel of the Lord says he takes no side, But he is seeing if Joshua/Israel will submit to God’s side.
Thus, God allows division to happen to see who will follow Jesus to the end. It’s his way of refining, and pruning, so those who are truly dedicated to Jesus will thrive and be shown for that, while those who reject Him will be exposed.
Further, do not too quickly assume you are the party in the right, while the dividing party is in the wrong. In the case of the God-ordained division of 2 Chron. 11, for instance, we are told that THE REASON for the division was idolatry in the Southern kingdom (Judah), see 1 Kings 11:26-40. But then we read that the Northern kingdom ALSO commits gross idolatry after they split (see 2 Chron. 11:13-17). Thus, both parties were guilty of idolatry when God brought the division.
What is our only hope?
Thankfully, God isn’t silent in telling us how to proceed. Look at Jeremiah 3:11-18. Here were told that IF ISRAEL REPENTS:
- God will give His leaders to His people (Jer. 3:15)
- God will cause multiplication (Jer. 3:16)
- God’s presence will return (Jer. 3:16-17)
- Nations will come to worship God (Jer. 3:17)
- Israel will be RE-UNITED (Jer. 3:18)
Notice all those promises. If only we repent.
Choose this day where you will fall. Because division has been catalyzed. Unity may not currently be an option with some people and some situations.
1 K 18:21 – “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
Choose a side! Is Jesus Lord or not?