" 17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." (Romans 16:17-20).
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Doctrine divides. Always. All Scripture teaches, and all teaching is doctrine, so, Scripture divides as well.
And who is the author of Scripture?
All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). So, Almighty God is the author Scripture. Does that mean that God causes division?
Whenever His Word is rightly taught and preached, the answer is yes. Absolutely.
But Paul instructs us "to watch out for those who cause division and create obstacles."
Does he tell us to be alert for those who cause division? Not at all. Division is not the problem.
The problem is when division flows out of a teaching that is "contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught." That is to say. When someone teaches a doctrine that is contrary to the doctrine confessed by the holy Christian Church, the true teaching of the Scriptures, that false teaching is the problem. And that false teacher is sinning against God -- and man.
Doctrine will always separate. It will separate those who confess the truth of the Scriptures from those who confess something else. It will separate those who teach rightly from those who teach something contrary to the Scriptures. It will separate those who are serving our Lord Christ ans His Word from those who are, well, serving "their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive."
We must not learn to avoid division. In fact, division is a necessary reality of this broken world. What we must learn to avoid are those who settle for something less than the pure teaching of God's holy Word. We must learn that confessing Christ is confessing the one who said, "Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division" (Luke 12:51).
The way of the cross is a lonely way indeed. And so we pray: Lord, have mercy! Amen.