Causing Division – Acts 20:17-35

by Pastor John Fredericksen

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Terrell Owens made six Pro Bowl appearances and holds the second most receiving yards in NFL history. Yet for all his accomplishments, he was widely considered one of the most divisive players in the league. While playing for five NFL teams, he caused constant controversy through outrageous scenes, and by criticizing coaches and teammates. His presence was so disruptive, despite his abundant talents; teams ultimately traded him, and eventually would not sign him.

When the Apostle Paul called for the Elders of the Church at Ephesus, he warned them, “For I know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). It is a sad reality that Christians have often knowingly engaged in behavior that was disruptive to the unity and welfare of those in local churches. Our text refers to elders who acted as vicious wolves for self-serving purposes. Paul warned the church at Rome, “…I beseech you… [to] mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them, For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18). Some today enter into churches with doctrine that they know will cause a controversy. They persuade ungrounded believers to follow them while leaving the church devastated. Others intentionally send unsolicited tapes and literature with controversial content knowing it is contrary to what is taught by the pastor and elders. Doing so does not serve or honor the Savior, but it continues nonetheless. In the church at Corinth, the believers became polarized with divisions by championing either Paul, Apollos, or Peter (I Corinthians 1:12). What remained was “envying, and strife, and divisions” that caused Paul to ask, “…are ye yet carnal, and walk as (unsaved) men?” (I Corinthians 3:3).

It is gravely serious to disrupt the unity of a local church with controversial doctrine, criticism, championing one teacher over another, or having an argumentative spirit that leads to strife. God charges each one of us to “endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), and warns we will “give an account” for our conduct at the Bema Seat (Romans 14:12; II Corinthians 5:10). Don’t be disruptive. Work to edify and unify your church.

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Start each day with short, devotional articles taken from the book Daily Transformation by Pastor John Fredericksen. As Pastor Fredericksen writes in the introduction:

"We welcome you, as you journey with us..., to not only learn information, but to benefit from examples of faith and failure, and seek to apply God’s Word to every day life. Together, let’s transition from only studying theories of doctrine, to applying God’s truths in a practical way every day. May God use these studies to help you find daily transformation."