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Unity and Division in the Church Part 2 - Division

As much as the Reformation is the rediscovery of salvation by faith through grace, it is also the story of how Christianity became increasingly fragmented. By the time the Reformation came about, the Church had effectively been split into four wings: the Byzantine Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the Nestorians (north-eastern Asian churches) and the Jacobites (Monophysite south-eastern Asian churches). The Nestorians and the Jacobites were in the process of being wiped out by pagan and Muslim powers in the east, so that to this day we have pretty much only the Armenian Orthodox and Thomasites in India representing the Nestorians and the Copts and Assyrian Orthodox representing the Jacobites. The Roman Catholic church birthed the Protestant church by ejecting those whom she disagreed with and who would not submit to her rule without questioning it.

As the Protestant reformation movement progressed, the main leaders assembled in Marburg, Hessen, in October of 1529. Called together by Prince-Elector Philip of Hesse, these men were asked to draft a joint statement to unify the diverse theology of the Protestants, so creating a united front against Emperor Charles V and the Roman Catholic church. What got off to a good start came to a screeching halt when Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli of Zurich could not agree on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. The sticking point of the argument was that Zwingli saw the Lord’s Supper as merely symbolic, whereas Luther believed Christ was actually present in the bread and the cup. The argument got so heated, that Luther (being Luther) is said to have carved the word EST (Latin for “is”) into the table with his pen knife. The two great men could not get over this point and so the attempt at unifying the Protestant movement failed. This failure led to more and more divisions within the Protestant movement, eroding a central authority and bringing us to this day where one cannot use a term to define Christian movements without a qualifier.

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Pondering the Master

While I was attending a men’s retreat, one of the brothers shared an interesting idea regarding the strategies the Devil uses against us. He suggested there are only two: inoculation or isolation.

  • Inoculation is when we come to the sense that either we are completely helpless to affect any change or forward movement or else when we think that we are the ultimate answer to the problem and no one else can do the job. We are either immobilized, or we move forward on our own strength, rather than in Christ’s.
  • Isolation, on the other hand is characterized by the idea that we are alone. There is no one else around who can or will help us, so why even reach out? We must solve this on our own.

Neither of these states are healthy, and we can find ourselves in them quite suddenly. Satan will be using the weapons of deceit, fear or violence to push us into them. Our first step of defense must be to remember truth and claim it: We are capable in Christ (Php. 4:13) and only in Christ can we be effective (Jn. 15:5). We are never alone, either (Mat. 28:20b). Christ has made us part of His body (1Co. 12:12-14) and so we can reach out to our brothers and sisters for help. It is pride or shame that keeps us from doing so, but Christ has erased our shame and given us honor. I experienced this earlier this year when I felt very alone, and no one reached out. It was not I was willing to call for help that people came; and they came in droves! Our weakness gives God’s strength the opportunity to shine (2Co. 12:9-10), so let’s not succumb to the Devil’s schemes and make sure that we keep ourselves from being either inoculated or isolated.

Image Credit: KevinCarden | Lightstock

From Wolfhawke’s Reading List

Nabeel Qureshi

Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.

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