Chris Gordon

On Wolves, Sinners, & Social Justice Hypocrisies

God gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud. If we want to see real change in our world, it starts right here, with our own sin. Go down, this day, to your own house justified, first. This will renew our motivations together in what we are trying to accomplish when we feel the pain caused through the sins of others.

A perception is often created in our social media discourse that Christians who speak out against the newest injustices of the day are fulfilling some kind of duty for God. Our social media world has produced thousands of little independent journalists and “experts” in sociology who sit all day in front of their computers anxiously waiting for the new story and opportunity to decry injustice.
We’re addicted to controversy. Whatever new headline, scandal, hypocrisy, or sorrow, there are a million tweeters with ready fingers to expose the hypocrisies of their neighbor. Forget that the Proverbs often commend silence as an answer to a sorrow to avoid speaking foolishly. “Calling out” is now is championed as a virtue, a civic good for an ideal utopian humanity where hypocrisy will no longer exist and people will truly love.
The problem is that hypocrisies only seem to be growing worse, and who really knows what the newest champion of exposure is really doing themselves behind closed doors? Is our champion of whatever cause we pursue, exempt of the same hypocrisy? There must be a black and white Twilight Zone episode somewhere of a society where everyone became independent journalists, angrily waiting to uncover their neighbor’s worst hypocrisies until there is nothing left to uncover. And then the last righteous man emerges, the hero who called out everyone else, who pompously struts back to his wife and family…after a brief visit to his mistress on the way home.
There is no end to the hypocrisy of the human race. I, too, am weary of the scandals, the hurt, the sorrow, the immorality, and the injustices but the question is how we get to a proper solution, because what we are doing right now is crushing one another. What does our outrage and call-out/cancel culture really say about us?
Distinctions are important in this regard. There is general hypocrisy in which we all share and then gross hypocrisy and public scandal. The gross, public hypocrisies of an abusive leader does incalculable damage. When this happens, public exposure is often necessary to counter the lie and help people in their hurt. We should never support or cover for people in their unrepentant sin. Yes, there are wolves and wolves deserve exposure and prompt removal. This is why God ordained church courts for proper discipline.
But many of the current efforts toward social justice fail to make any distinction here. Anyone who disagrees with the prevailing narrative of the culture is deemed a wolf. And failing to make a distinction between wolves and saints who are sinners results in making condemnation the goal across the board for, well, everybody. This is particularly true right now with the Christian ministry. There is a vicious attempt at present in the exposure of actual wolves to assault the entire Christian ministry as untrustworthy. Anyone involved in the institutional church is under suspicion.
Something really bad has happened to Christianity’s mission right now. Surely there are high standards for both ministry and Christian life in general. But what we have forgotten is something absolutely fundamental to the Christian faith, namely that “all alike have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” What we have lost is a shared humility in our common guilt.
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Foreword by Rosaria Butterfield to “The New Reformation Catechism on Human Sexuality”

No one is exempt from original sin and its consequence. Neither good nor malicious intentions can rewrite God’s call for men and women. Scripture is clear that we are responsible for our inborn as well as our actual sins (Psalm 5:5, Romans 1:18, Deuteronomy 27:15, Hebrews 9:27). Taking responsibility for our own sin is hard and necessary, but because of the way that the world, the flesh, and the devil conspire, it is difficult to know where to start.

The New Reformation Catechism on Human Sexuality, written by Christopher J. Gordon and published by the Gospel Reformation Network, has just been released. The Catechism can be purchased at Reformation Heritage Books. Here is the Foreword written by Rosaria Butterfield.
“I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.” So begins the The Heidelberg Catechism. Written by Zacharius Ursinus and published in 1563, the Heidelberg Catechism quickly became a manual for Christian living and religious instruction during the Reformation. A catechism focused on helping Christians lay hold of the deepest truths in the best ways was dearly needed during the tumultuous time of the Reformation.
Today’s revolution in theology is not over the doctrine of justification by faith alone, but over sexual identity. Our post-Freudian world maintains without any substantial pushback that sexual identity is the most important truth about a person. Organized under the banner of LGBTQ+, authentic personhood depends on placing yourself under one of these letters or joyfully and without reservation applauding people who do. The American Medical Association tells us that mental health depend on practicing what you desire, and enthusiastically supporting others who do what feels right in their own eyes is a suicide-prevention strategy. The biblical creation mandate seems a quaint ancient narrative with no binding force when in the United States today there are hundreds of pediatric gender clinics and Testosterone is administered to adolescents from Planned Parenthood on a first visit and without parental consent or a therapist’s note.
In contrast to the world’s anthropology, a biblical anthropology understands that after Adam’s transgression (Genesis 3), we, his posterity, have a sin nature that compels each person to love something that God hates. If nothing checks our will, our sinful desires will plunge us headfirst into all manner of spiritual, moral, and sometimes physical danger. No one is exempt from original sin and its consequence. Neither good nor malicious intentions can rewrite God’s call for men and women. Scripture is clear that we are responsible for our inborn as well as our actual sins (Psalm 5:5, Romans 1:18, Deuteronomy 27:15, Hebrews 9:27). Taking responsibility for our own sin is hard and necessary, but because of the way that the world, the flesh, and the devil conspire, it is difficult to know where to start.
And this is where Pastor Christopher Gordon’s The New Reformation Catechism offers to the church such a timely and pastoral guide. I have no doubt that this means of discipleship will give glory to God and be used of the Lord to liberate many who are held captive by sexual sin. Twenty-three years ago, when I was in a lesbian relationship and at the same time reading the Bible, I would have greatly benefitted from The New Reformation Catechism on Human Sexuality. I know that I am not alone in needing this book.
May God bless you richly as you grow in Christian liberty. May this book help you hold fast to the truth and better understand how the full counsel of God speaks to the godly priority of human sexuality.
Rosaria Butterfield
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Two Gardens, Two Adams, and the Forgiveness of Your Sins

The Bible presents Jesus Christ as the last Adam and promised savior of his people to come and regain, in our place, perfectly, what the first Adam lost. This being so, we shouldn’t be surprised that a garden scene is described in the Bible before the penalty of death is executed by the last Adam.

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).

One of the more important contrasts in the Bible is between the first Adam in the original garden of Eden, and the last Adam, Jesus Christ, who came as God’s gift to to the world to save people from their sins. This great contrast helps us to understand that what Adam lost, Christ has regained—and more. The most vivid of these contrasts in shown to us in the arrest of Jesus in John’s gospel as Jesus purposefully steps into our place of judgment.
Two Gardens
The Bible presents Jesus Christ as the last Adam and promised savior of his people to come and regain, in our place, perfectly, what the first Adam lost. This being so, we shouldn’t be surprised that a garden scene is described in the Bible before the penalty of death is executed by the last Adam.
In John 18:1-11, a great contrast is drawn between the two garden scenes of the first and last Adam. John begins by telling us that Jesus went out over the Brook Kidron where there was a garden which he and his disciples entered. That John doesn’t mention Gethsemane is a purposeful omission to let the single word “garden” captivate the reader. What kind of garden was this?
The first man Adam lost everything in the original garden.
When we think of a garden, we think of a beautiful place of plants, shady trees, and that which is pleasant. John’s mention of Kidron, however, should not go unnoticed. Throughout the Old Testament Kidron was known, particularly by the designation of Jeremiah, as a place of dead bodies and ashes. Jeremiah 31:40 states,

The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the Lord.

The valley of dead bones, death and ashes was a place consecrated by the Lord for precisely what John 18 describes.
The first man Adam lost everything in the original garden. The garden was a place of beauty and peace. In was in this garden, however, that the crown of God’s creation, made in his image ,was seduced away into rebellion and ruin. God said to Adam,

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (Gen. 2:17).

That’s exactly what happened: the garden became a place of exile and death.
The first Adam hid from God’s judgment.
To keep with the contrast in John, the reader should be reminded that the original garden scene came with a day of reckoning. Genesis 3:8 describes God coming into the garden in the “cool of the day.” This has been one of the most misunderstood verses in all of the Bible. God was not taking a casual stroll to enjoy the breeze, only to discover the half-eaten piece of fruit in the hand of Adam. Genesis 3:8 describes the final Day of Judgment in the original garden. Adam heard the sound of God’s glory coming forth in the “spirit” (ruach) of [judgment] day. What did Adam do? He ran as fast as he could the other way and hid.
Fast forward to John 18, and we have the same scene. John presents the last Adam as crossing over the valley in the shadow of death for us, into the place of dead bodies and ashes. Jesus is standing in our place to pick up the pieces where the first Adam once fell. The whole thing is meant to recall the first garden scene, provoking the question: What would have happened had God unleashed the fury of his wrath in full in the original garden and not planned a covenant of grace?
The sad story of the human race would end in eternal judgment apart from God’s grace.
The original garden scene in Genesis ended with mercy; God shed blood to cover Adam’s sin in anticipation of the last Adam to come. But we do have some idea of what would have been like had God decided to judge Adam and his posterity without mercy in the original garden. The Lord would have sent out his angels with weapons of war to arrest speechless Adam, and then execute his righteous judgment. The sad story of the human race would end in eternal judgment.
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The Forgotten Story of Harold Camping

Shortly before Camping’s death, it is reported that he confessed predicting the date of Christ’s second coming was sinful, and that no one knows the day nor the hour. Family Radio has also issued a public retraction of Camping’s errors. But the untold damage that was done is a warning to all that false teaching often begins with bad eschatology.

We are living in a time when the consciousness of the end of the world not only grips the community of faith, but also the world at large. Political and economic chaos characterize our news reports, and the recent applications made in comparing Russia and China to Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog have again raised fears that these events are indicators that mark the end of the world.
Wild eschatological interpretations and predictions of Christ’s return have always been a problem since Christ’s first coming, and I fully expect another great prediction of the end of the world will soon be upon us to the disillusionment of many. We seem ripe for another big prediction.
With these things in mind, I provide a brief history of the rise and fall of Harold Camping with the goal that the church would not get caught up in our turbulent times with predictions of Christ’s return and irresponsible eschatologies that have the consequence of taking believers away from their purpose on this earth. As Jesus said, “No man knows the day nor the hour.”
The present generation always needs a fresh reminder, in the face of eschatological confusion, of the mission to which we have been called, namely, “that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness,” and then, at a time only known by the Lord, “the end will come.” Hopefully, knowing the history of Harold Camping will keep us from the doom of repeating this sad error.
The Rise and Fall of Harold Camping
Harold Egbert Camping was born July 19, 1921 in Boulder, CO. His family later relocated to the Bay Area in California and became members of the Alameda Bible Fellowship (CRC). After World War II, Camping founded his own construction company, later to sell the company and join in a collaborative effort to purchase Family Stations, Inc.—a California religious based broadcasting network. Following a series of business deals and a mounting multi-million dollar surplus, Camping was able to expand Family Radio throughout the United States, also buying time on foreign stations around the world, translating his teaching into over thirty foreign languages.
In 1961 Camping started the Open Forum, a weeknight call-in program devoted to answering questions about the Bible. Camping soon gained a Reformed voice over radio that was widely influential in the Christian world. Reformed believers, excited that the doctrines of grace and hymns could actually be heard on a radio station, sent in thousands of dollars to support the efforts of Camping. Many people who had never heard of Calvinism and the Reformed doctrines were brought to faith in Christ through the teachings of Family Radio.
Camping was also involved in the Alameda CRC as an elder and later an adult Sunday school teacher. On a given Sunday morning, Camping’s Sunday school class drew almost half of the attendees of the Alameda CRC. The problems began, however, sometime before 1988 when Camping began to advance the idea that one could know from the Bible when Christ would return. When challenged that “no man knows the day nor the hour”, Camping was known for responding, “yes, but we can know the month and the year.” In 1992 Camping self-published his controversial book “1994?”, in which he suggested the possibility that Christ would return sometime between September 15th and 27th of that year, dates corresponding to the Feast of Tabernacles. Camping would soon, unashamedly, predict September 6, 1994 as the date of Christ’s return.

Have We Misunderstood the Parable of the Good Samaritan?

Eternal life on our own merits is impossible for a people who by nature hate God and neighbor. Salvation is brought to us by a Good Samaritan who showed us mercy and promises to return for us to take us into eternal life. We demonstrate that we are right with God, not in trying to justify ourselves, but when we love God and neighbor with this kind of humility, recognizing with great awe that we were the ones beat up and left for dead because of sin, and that it was Jesus himself who crossed the road from heaven to save us.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is generally understood to be an ethical teaching of Jesus that challenges us to love our neighbor better. Most teachings on the parable are moralistic, leaving the impression that the imperative to “go and do likewise” is the sole aim of what Jesus is attempting to accomplish in telling the story.
But have we missed the greater lesson of what Jesus is impressing upon the hearer in this well-known story? Is the parable simply intended to press upon us the responsibility to love better? To answer this question, there is required a careful reflection of the context into which this parable comes. The parable is a surprising response to someone who understood well the demand of the law to love, but had failed to see how far he missed the mark of love in his own life.
An Issue of Justification
Luke 10:25-37 records for us that a certain lawyer approached Jesus to test him about how one can obtain eternal life. The lawyer specifically asks Jesus what he must “do to inherit eternal life.” When Jesus answers specific questions posed to him in the synoptic gospels, it is important to reflect carefully on the question that is being asked of Jesus. If the question being posed is not understood, the exegesis that follows will be faulty.
In this case, the lawyer asks the very same question of the rich young ruler, “what must I do to inherit eternal life”—two verbs. This is an entirely different question than those who asked Jesus for mercy, as with blind Bartimaeus, or others who, as in the book of Acts, asked what they must do to be saved. Humble approaches to Jesus by those who asked for mercy and deliverance from sin received compassionate responses. This lawyer, however, was asking Jesus how, through his own efforts, he could achieve eternal life, not salvation.
The lawyer bypassed the question of his own need for deliverance, a detail that is obviously so important to Luke that he adds, for proper interpretive purposes, that he was “attempting to justify (δικαιῶσαι) himself (Lk. 10:29).” When standing before the only one who supplies the righteousness that comes from God, any attempt to justify oneself was immediately met with the full weight of the laws demands.
Upon asking for eternal life, Jesus poses as question of his own: “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” The lawyer responds by citing Deut.6:5, the great Shema, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart will all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus responds from Leviticus 18:5 with a perennial blow that should have made any Israelite tremble: “do this and you will live.”
Jesus’ use of Leviticus 18:5 in this context is a direct response to lawyer attempting to justify himself in asking Jesus for eternal life based his own merits. This demonstrates that any attempt to self-justify oneself before God to achieve eternal life is always met with the divine standard of perfect and complete obedience. Jesus was not mincing words, he answered the lawyer by saying “if you do this, you will have the eternal life that you are seeking.”
Jesus Tells a Story
The glaring omission in the dialogue, unlike that of the rich young ruler who openly said he obeyed the law, is the silence of the lawyer with regard to his own performance of love. The problem, as much of the rabbinic tradition evidences, is that a neighbor was only understood to be a fellow Jew. The question is whether Leviticus 19:8, in its command to love one’s neighbor, only intended love to be exercised for a fellow Israelite, as the Rabbinic writings indicate, or did it demand love for all peoples.
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Paul and His Roman Constitutional Rights

Christians have every right to appeal to the governing authorities to uphold their own standards of law and justice. Please don’t miss this point. We should. Can we ever appeal to them for our own advantage? Certainly. But Paul thought of others first, recognizing that they might be taken, by Jesus, for a time, to save a jailor and his family. If Paul thought appealing to his rights would be beneficial for the church, he would would use his rights to help them in the cause of the gospel. The point is that Paul strategically appealed to rights to use them for the advantage of others in hearing the gospel.

One of the crucial questions in our current moment of governmental overreaches has to do with how we understand our rights as Christians living in this world. Many of our current discussions evidence a great misunderstanding of our calling as believers in this world in times when the culture or governing authorities begin to oppose us. For some, if social media evidences at all the current trajectory of Christian thought, their sole purpose in our turbulent times seems to be to stand up for their rights against governmental overreach.
Little reflection appears to be given to the New Testament data in how the apostles thought when they faced the trampling of their rights in this world. There are, of course, rights that are afforded to the people by the constitutional laws of the governing authorities, but all Christians should recognize that the freedoms we have and the rights that we enjoy in this life are under God’s sovereign discretion.
We were told way back in the Old Testament that governing authorities have the propensity to trample rights and take from the people (I Sam. 8). But when someone becomes a Christian, there is a distinctive perspective one is to have in how rights are used in this world. When we came to Christ, we surrendered all of our rights to Christ who sovereignly governs our earthly lives for a much greater end than our own happiness. Christ may certainly give us to enjoy earthly rights in our time on this earth, or he may, in his providence, allow them to be taken from us for a cause that is much greater than us. The question is how the biblically inspired writers handled themselves when their rights were taken.
On the Loss of Rights
Of great importance to this question is something that is said in Hebrews 10:34: “For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” Notice carefully how these believers were commended for their faith by joyfully accepting the confiscation of their earthly belongings. I confess, this is a hard statement for me to read. These early Christians were facing unlawful seizure of their property due to official actions by magistrates for the reason that they were Christians. Yet, they joyfully accepted such abuse?
We know that in A.D. 49, Christians faced expulsion from Rome and many had their properties seized. What is remarkable is that the inspired author praises their joyful reception of this seizure precisely because they lived by faith believing that they had “better and permanent possessions” to come in the new heavens and earth that was promised to them.
In this great chapter celebrating the faith of God’s people, often under persecution, these Christians are specifically commended for living as those who recognized that earthly possessions and rights are temporary in great contrast with, as Lane observes, “the permanent possessions Christians enjoy on the basis of their relationship to God through Christ.” These early Christians lived trusting in the promises of the future and were able under persecution to lay aside living for these earthly rights when they were unjustly taken precisely because that had a better perspective of their better inheritance that awaited them.
As I read the current discussions of some believers in our present time, one would gather that the great end for which many have come to live is to oppose the government for the sole retaining of earthly blessings and rights. Maybe Carl Trueman gets to the heart of the issue:
Surely it is time to become realistic. It is time to drop the cultural elitism that poses as significant Christian transformation of culture but only really panders to nothing more than middle class tastes and hobbies. It is time to look again at the New Testament’s teaching on the church as a sojourning people where here we have no lasting home.”
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Cancel Culture Got to the Evening Service First

The Lord always wanted his people to call the Sabbath a delight and that includes the special privilege of gathering twice on Sunday to enjoy the Lord. Wouldn’t it be great if we could cancel the cancellation of the evening service? If we’re concerned, at all, about the state of Christianity in our day, a great way to reverse our perils might be to reverse our cancellation of evening worship on the Lord’s Day.

We live in a day when those things that stand in the way of the prevailing narrative of the culture are canceled, thrust out from societal recognition. As much as people express concern about cancel culture in the world, perhaps we Christians should repent of our own cancel culture in the church in our cancelling of the second service on the Lord’s Day. As things currently look, this great cancellation in the kingdom of God may never be recovered. We seem to have said good riddance to the evening worship service forever on the very day God set aside for us to anticipate entering our eternal rest.
This cancelation of the evening worship service on the Sabbath is a sad development in America and speaks volumes about our view of corporate worship. In fact, most readers of this article will question that such a complaint has any warrant since most modern Christians are completely unaware that such a practice ever existed. Yet, it shouldn’t go without mentioning that what appears now to be completely unknown was, at one time in this country, across denominational lines, a mainstream conviction. Churches used to have a morning and evening service on the Sabbath. The rare occurrence would have been to find a church whose doors were closed at six o’clock. How did we get here and what are the consequences of this ginormous cancellation of the evening service in Christ’s church?
A Canceled Sabbath?
The value of the evening worship service is bound up with one’s view of the Sabbath. When God commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath, he intended for Israel to call the whole day a delight, resting from their evil works, and trusting in the Lord’s provision to care for them in the wilderness. Patterning the very creation of the world, God called Israel cease from their work done in six-days to rest on the entire seventh day. Part and parcel to Sabbath observance was the corporate gathering of the people for worship.
In the only psalm specifically designated as a “Song for the Sabbath,” Psalm 92, we have described the delight of Sabbath worship. Israel would gather together at the tabernacle for worship, recognizing the pattern established in the law for the morning and evening sacrifice, and they would celebrate God’s “steadfast love in the morning, and his faithfulness by night (Ps. 92:1-2).” It’s not a mere coincidence that Psalm 92 references worship on the Sabbath as belonging to morning and evening.
The great purpose of the Sabbath was to worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness, providing a great opportunity for the people to be instructed in God’s holy Word and gospel. As Abraham was said to have the gospel preached to him, so too, the Sabbath provided for the people the greatest means to hear about Jesus—his sacrifice, his righteousness, and how to live by faith in the promise. It also provided a way for the people to express gratitude to their God through praise and prayer, growing together in holiness as a separate people. The Sabbath was the best way for Israel to honor the call of Deut. 6, that their children would be diligently instructed in the Lord’s love and will, both in the morning, “when they rise” and at nightfall, “when they lie down.”
Another great purpose of the Sabbath was to enjoy the communion of the saints. On the Sabbath, the people are taught how to love their neighbor, learning each other’s needs, praying for the needy, and giving offerings for the poor.
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God Is Faithful to Forgive Your Sins

As saints who still sin, we regularly have need to be restored in the knowledge that we are forgiven and cleansed before the Lord. The Lord lifts us out of the guilt and defilement that we bring on ourselves. He assures us of his faithfulness to forgive and cleanse us once and for all, based on the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. — 1 John 1:9

When our lives are under a great amount of stress, it is easy to fall back into the mindset that our acceptance with God is performance-based. The best of saints struggle with this problem. Do you experience the sense of guilt that you are never doing enough to please God? Is there a lingering fear that maybe God does not love or accept you?
Stressful times can lead to the resurrection of old addictions and struggles of the past.
Most likely, those sentiments arise in connection with certain sins in our lives. Maybe it is that same sin you have struggled with for years without the deliverance you thought would be given by now. Maybe it is because you struggle with how little your devotion is to the Lord. Maybe the experience of constant failure has become overwhelming.
What may actually be happening to many believers in times of uncertainty is not stronger devotion to Christ but rather the resurrection of old addictions and struggles of the past. Stress and anxiety have a strange way of prompting us to reach for old idols. Those idols always have been and still are death to us, and yet we grab them for relief. Through it all we wonder, does the Lord still accept us?
In 1 John 1:9 God provides ongoing help for those who are already forgiven of all their sins.
At times like this, it is good to meditate on the promise of 1 John 1:9. The Holy Spirit inspired these words to reassure believers who are confused and struggling over the continued presence of sin in their lives. Here, God gives his prescription for how we can respond in faith when we find ourselves doing the things we do not want to do, or neglecting to do the things he wants us to do (see Romans 7).
In this remarkable promise, God provides ongoing help for those who are already forgiven of all their sins.
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How to Handle Divisive Persons in the Church

The best thing believers can do with divisive persons is avoid them and refuse to give them an ear, recognizing, as Paul said in light of Alexander the Coppersmith, that God will repay them according to their evil deeds. 

As society is presently ripped apart with divisions on every issue, the church is likewise bombarded with divisive people who are using the current cultural divide to mimic the culture and tear apart the body of Christ. Christians have to be acutely aware that Satan uses cultural moments like this in the church to separate the body of Christ. I can’t think of a more appropriate caution at the moment than to call Christians to awareness in who they listen to and how they handle themselves before those who seek the ruin of the church.
This phenomenon is nothing new, of course, and the apostles provide a lot of instruction in how to handle divisive people in Christ’s church. The apostle Paul was constantly under assault by those who wanted to undermine the message of the gospel. In 2 Timothy 4:14, he specifically mentions Alexander the Coppersmith who did him much harm in his efforts to preach Christ. Throughout the New Testament, we find no hesitation by the apostles to warn of those who were undermining the gospel ministry.
With this in mind, it’s important to provide an overview of the warnings we find in the Scriptures, the characteristics of those who seek to harm believers, and the instruction we receive in how to respond.
How to Identify Divisive Persons
First, divisive persons have an obsession and unhealthy craving for controversy and quarreling. In 1 Tim. 6:4, Paul specifies that some people are full of pride, having an unhealthy obsession with fighting as they spend their time quarreling over words. This is a hugely important caution for our times.
In any theological controversy, designations and classifications are made in an attempt to determine the truth of a matter. Some of these labels are certainly necessary to understand the nature of a controversy. The problem is that divisive people use these labels not as a way of working to understand a controversy, or with the goal of bringing brethren together in what are often complex theological disputes, but with the purpose of further separating Christians from each other.
When Paul references the divide between Euodia and Synteche in Philippians 4, he called upon the church and her leaders to come along side these Christians and “yoke them” together in what they had already achieved in gospel fellowship. A key identifier of a divisive person is that he uses labels and designations not with the goal of helping believers to come to the truth of a matter, but instead to separate and conquer those with whom he disagrees.
We should always ask if the person we are listening to has this evident goal of peace and unity in his disagreements. Humility, without an unhealthy craving to fight, is a key identifier as to whether sincerity motivates the interaction.
Second, divisive persons serve themselves in theological dispute. Helping Christians come together in the gospel fellowship they have already achieved is not the goal of their engagement. When Paul helped Christians in dispute, he first told believers to work together in what they had already achieved in gospel fellowship (see Phil. 1). There is a great amount of agreement that has already been achieved in the faith of Christians when they stand back from any dispute. This unity achieved among believers who have walked together in the truth of the gospel and all subsequent points of agreement, should be celebrated in theological disputes.
Divisive persons do not care about the truth already achieved, but instead, they use present disputes as opportunities to wreck the unity that already exists among believers. Pride makes the dispute about winning rather than helping believers walk in the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4).
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How to Handle Divisive Persons in the Church

The best thing believers can do with divisive persons is avoid them and refuse to give them an ear, recognizing, as Paul said in light of Alexander the Coppersmith, that God will repay them according to their evil deeds. 

As society is presently ripped apart with divisions on every issue, the church is likewise bombarded with divisive people who are using the current cultural divide to mimic the culture and tear apart the body of Christ. Christians have to be acutely aware that Satan uses cultural moments like this in the church to separate the body of Christ. I can’t think of a more appropriate caution at the moment than to call Christians to awareness in who they listen to and how they handle themselves before those who seek the ruin of the church.
This phenomenon is nothing new, of course, and the apostles provide a lot of instruction in how to handle divisive people in Christ’s church. The apostle Paul was constantly under assault by those who wanted to undermine the message of the gospel. In 2 Timothy 4:14, he specifically mentions Alexander the Coppersmith who did him much harm in his efforts to preach Christ. Throughout the New Testament, we find no hesitation by the apostles to warn of those who were undermining the gospel ministry.
With this in mind, it’s important to provide an overview of the warnings we find in the Scriptures, the characteristics of those who seek to harm believers, and the instruction we receive in how to respond.
How to Identify Divisive Persons
First, divisive persons have an obsession and unhealthy craving for controversy and quarreling. In 1 Tim. 6:4, Paul specifies that some people are full of pride, having an unhealthy obsession with fighting as they spend their time quarreling over words. This is a hugely important caution for our times.
In any theological controversy, designations and classifications are made in an attempt to determine the truth of a matter. Some of these labels are certainly necessary to understand the nature of a controversy. The problem is that divisive people use these labels not as a way of working to understand a controversy, or with the goal of bringing brethren together in what are often complex theological disputes, but with the purpose of further separating Christians from each other.
When Paul references the divide between Euodia and Synteche in Philippians 4, he called upon the church and her leaders to come along side these Christians and “yoke them” together in what they had already achieved in gospel fellowship. A key identifier of a divisive person is that he uses labels and designations not with the goal of helping believers to come to the truth of a matter, but instead to separate and conquer those with whom he disagrees.
We should always ask if the person we are listening to has this evident goal of peace and unity in his disagreements. Humility, without an unhealthy craving to fight, is a key identifier as to whether sincerity motivates the interaction.
Second, divisive persons serve themselves in theological dispute. Helping Christians come together in the gospel fellowship they have already achieved is not the goal of their engagement. When Paul helped Christians in dispute, he first told believers to work together in what they had already achieved in gospel fellowship (see Phil. 1). There is a great amount of agreement that has already been achieved in the faith of Christians when they stand back from any dispute. This unity achieved among believers who have walked together in the truth of the gospel and all subsequent points of agreement, should be celebrated in theological disputes.
Divisive persons do not care about the truth already achieved, but instead, they use present disputes as opportunities to wreck the unity that already exists among believers. Pride makes the dispute about winning rather than helping believers walk in the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4).
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