Church Contentions

Audio: mp3

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

We have a problem. We need to remind ourselves of our mission as Christians. What is our mission?

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.

This commission is applicable today. He identifies that He is always with us, and then gives special emphasis to the people at the end. This is our mission, to teach all nations. Education is not legislation. What is the best method of teaching? By example, an apprenticeship, to show by demonstration how things are done. Not by verbalisation. Actions speak louder than words. We are to teach all nations all things the Lord commanded.

John 17:20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

How did we ever get to know the truth without the Apostles? We believe on Jesus through the Apostle’s words, so this prayer is for you and me.

John 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

How does the world believe the truth of Jesus Christ? It is by the unity of the saints. Our unity is the mechanism by which the world can know of the truth in Jesus Christ.

John 17:22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

If we want to accomplish our mission, we need to receive God’s glory, His character. We need to appropriate the character of Jesus Christ. Then we can be one with each other people. Unity with other people in this scale is impossible without God’s character. Here is our problem, we naturally do not have God’s character.

John 17:23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

If we come together and forget our mission, then what is the point? What is the command of Jesus?

John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

The word ‘as’ indicates that we are to compare two things. Love one another ‘as’ Jesus loved you. Love as Jesus Christ loved. It is sad that when we talk about love today, there is no substance to it. God is love and there is much substance in God. We are to maintain unchanging principles towards one another.

John 13:35 By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

The word ‘if’ has a lot of weight in it. If you don’t have love for one another then what is happening? It’s a scam. We’re ripping ourselves and everyone else off who we communicate to. But if we have this love then all men will know that we are his disciples.

What is profession without action? Profession is nothing at all without action. It is interesting that the people who are most antagonistic to the mission of Jesus Christ are religious people. Jesus has something to say to these people.

John 8:44 Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

These are very strong words. How many of us want to help the devil? A son is always to be the helpers of the parents. Here is the house of the devil. He is the father and he has religious people as his children. Are we assisting the devil in his work? An atheist is not as big a problem as a half-hearted Christian. The half-hearted Christian is not a good worldling, neither a good Christian. God says he would rather you be hot or cold. He would prefer heathenism rather than a lukewarm Christian.

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Our adversary who finds that Christians are his best helpers. He’s going to go into the local church, into the homes of those members and do some recruiting for his army they are the most valuable. The higher their profession, the better they are for him. We must be sober and vigilant because the devil is walking around. The devil is trying to use Christians to pluck people away from God. Satan is the most vigilant and punctual of anyone.

Satan is constantly seeking to cause distrust, alienation, and malice among God’s people…Contentions, strife, and lawsuits between brethren are a disgrace to the cause of truth. Those who take such a course expose the church to the ridicule of her enemies and cause the powers of darkness to triumph. They are piercing the wounds of Christ afresh and putting Him to an open shame. {5T 242.3}

What is contention? What is tension? Contention is dialogue between people that causes tension; communication that causes tension. Is there such thing among us of communication between ourselves with tension? This is a disgrace to the Lord. The enemies to the truth look at this and laugh at the lack of unity. Controversies must be avoided. If they aren’t, then we are assisting the devil. There was much contention in 1888 over many issues. What can we read about that time?

Satan is constantly at work to divert the mind with earthly things, that the truth may lose its force upon the heart; and then there will be no progress, no advancement from light and knowledge, to greater light and knowledge. Unless the followers of Christ are constantly stirred up to practice the truth, they will not be sanctified through it. Questions, speculations, and matters of no vital importance will occupy the mind, and become the subject of conversation, and then there will be caviling and striving about words, and presenting of different opinions, concerning points that are not vital or essential…The laborer for God must be wise enough to see the design of the enemy, and to refuse to be misled and diverted. The conversion of the souls of his hearers, must be the burden of his work, and he must keep out of controversy, and preach the word of God. {RH, September 11, 1888 par. 6}

The special deceptive work of Satan is to provoke controversy. There are classes of people that like to say things to stir people up. Has Satan been doing this?

The special, deceptive work of Satan has been to provoke controversies, that there might be strivings about words to no profit. He well knows that this will occupy the mind and the time. It raises the combativeness, and quenches the spirit of conviction, in the minds of many, drawing them into diversity of opinions, accusation, and prejudice, which closes the door to the truth. Ibid

If someone says something and we have a different view and we have a controversy over it, we’re undoing what we wanted to try and achieve which was to convince the other person of what I saw as truth. Controversy only creates combativeness and it shuts the heart to truth. Satan wants to do this. And the people that observe this are disgusted by it. The work that we do gets undone and it bars hearts from receiving the truth in the future. We have an influence that we cannot stop, so we must use that influence for truth. We need to understand the damage that controversy does for the truth. It also creates self-defense. Some people defend themselves even when they think their point is silly, all because of combativeness.

Proverbs 18:6 A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. 7 A fool’s mouth [is] his destruction, and his lips [are] the snare of his soul.

A wise man wouldn’t enter into contention, even if His point were truth. But aren’t we meant to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints? Does that mean we enter into debate? A fool’s lip will enter into contention because he doesn’t realise the effects, whether he be right or wrong. How much more work does Christ have to do to undo the damage of our contentions? Those who have contention end up wounding themselves the most. Everything they study will be in reference to this argument and this is not what we are to do at all. Is it hard to hold your tongue when your opinions are challenged and especially when you think your opinion is truth. If you can bridle your tongue, the same is a perfect man. The issue is about self-control.

Proverbs 18:19 A brother offended [is harder to be won] than a strong city: and [their] contentions [are] like the bars of a castle.

If I have an argument with someone contending over some point, do people get offended by my arguments? Whether our principle is right or wrong, we bar up their heart and it is harder to get them back than to take a strong city. If people would take time pray for the work to go forth, how much less work does a minister have to do to win souls. Then we can show the world our unity, instead of fighting over sticks and stones.

Proverbs 17:14 The beginning of strife [is as] when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.

What does this mean? The Hebrew word “letteth out water” is to urinate. Once you start, you can’t stop. When contention starts you cannot stop it, you’ve wounded them. There is alienation in the church and friendships are ripped. The Bible says, before you start to contend anything be careful because you can’t stop it. Leave it off. If you are stirred to put in a comment, leave it alone. The hearts of your friends are alienated. There is disunity underneath, even if it is not apparent to the face. We are working against Christ. There is a principle in the following versus that we need to understand.

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

What is the difference? One suggests a balloon, something filled up with air; empty. The other suggests a good strong building. What does knowledge do? Puffs up. Love builds. Knowledge is important. It is important to know what is right and wrong. We can be destroyed by lack of knowledge. But it tends to puff up. Give all diligence; add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge… and charity, love. Which one is the mature Christian – the one that has knowledge or the one that has love? We can know all the doctrines and still be immature. To grow up is to get this element from God that does the building, which is love. When someone knows everything, they can do more damage than those who don’t know anything. There is danger in knowledge, but that doesn’t mean we must not get it. We have to be careful of the danger in getting knowledge. The adversary wants to get the smartest Christian. He wants to make that person puffed up.

Proverbs 13:10 Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised [is] wisdom.

If we’re not proud, then we won’t have contention. Christ wasn’t proud, and he didn’t have contentions. He didn’t argue. He gave an answer and then walked off. Look to Jesus and learn how it should be done.

1 Corinthians 8:2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

If anyone thinks they know it, he doesn’t really know it because it needs to be implemented in love.

1 Corinthians 8:3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him. 4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol [is] nothing in the world, and that [there is] none other God but one. 5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 But to us [there is but] one God, the Father, of whom [are] all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom [are] all things, and we by him.

In this time there were pagan temples and food was offered to idols. It was separated into three parts. First the priests took some, second it was given to other people, and the last portion was taken to the market. The apostle is saying we know that there is only one God. There are many lords and idols, but they are not gods.

1 Corinthians 8:7 Howbeit [there is] not in every man that knowledge:

But not everyone sees it the way you do. Now we have to be careful.

1 Corinthians 8:7 Howbeit [there is] not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat [it] as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

By association if you partake of it, you are telling others that you are in unity with their idols. Be careful that you don’t make a testimony that you are in unity with their idols.

1 Corinthians 8:8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.

These externals don’t accomplish anything by themselves.

1 Corinthians 8:9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

So if we take this principle on general terms, if we take our opinions and push our opinions on other people, we are a stumbling block to our brothers and they will fall.

1 Corinthians 8:10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

Just because I might say idols don’t exist, doesn’t mean you can do it. My brother might see it and he might have such a struggle in his mind over what I have done. I have destroyed my brother. We should be very careful how we affect other people’s minds when we are given light from the Lord. This is especially truth amongst brethren. When it is amongst us, it does damage to the onlookers.

1 Corinthians 8:12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

An offended brother is harder to win than a guarded city. Knowledge puffs up.

1 Corinthians 13:4 Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. Coming through to knowledge can make us further away from Christ than ever before because knowledge can lead to being puffed up. Do we then stop from learning knowledge? No, but if we know everything and have not love, we will be Christ’s enemy.

Galatians 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

The externals, circumcision or not, has no avail to anything. What was is; faith that works by love? How many of us like the word faith? Are we drawn to study faith? There are many people that think love is an icky feeling that girls have and faith is airy-fairy and they don’t care about getting this knowledge. Naturally we fall into contentions amongst ourselves. Let us break down before the Lord and acknowledge that we have been damaging the mission of the Lord with the contentions between one another.

1 Timothy 3:14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: 15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

The apostle says I want you to know how to behave in God’s church: without controversy. We need to have sensitivity for where other people are and a love for their souls. We need some real muscle to accomplish our mission to teach all people. How do we teach; by our example?

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Our work for unity isn’t for the minister to make everyone see things the way he sees things. The mission is to walk worthy of the vocation, carrying the inconsistencies of people and endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

What for; to argue with people?

Ephesians 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Love has knowledge in it, but it is the character in which the knowledge was held. The more knowledge you have the more power you have. People get greedy for knowledge. But love disarms all that power into kindness, so that you become a power for good, not for evil. He gave gifts unto men, not to argue and debate, but for the building up of the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

We need to grow up.

Ephesians 4:14 That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ:

We have a privilege of imputing the love that God has given to us. That supply can only come by the effectual working of every part.

How much time do you spend with the Lord with your heart softened? When you open the Word of God, what is the major theme that you enjoy to study? If you just look for mere knowledge, what can you supply; knowledge that puffs up? The story of Bethlehem is an inexhaustible study. How much do we dwell upon it? If we take of Christ and study the topics of faith and love, the weightier matters of the law, and walk with Christ in person, then:

Ephesians 4:16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

This is our mission. We want to see the heart of Jesus.

Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, [in whom] my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.

Jesus didn’t stand on the corners of the street and lay out His argument. He didn’t do that. The smoking flax is a person whose spiritual life is almost gone and it is often caused by controversy. I have wounded people myself with controversy. I remember very clearly a time when I had a certain view on a certain subject in reference to the sealing message. I fronted up to the minister at church and we started talking. At that time I had a position in the church and we sat down at the table and I laid it out. There was resistance to what I said but I just laid down my argument clearly and energetically. Do you know how many people were affected by that? I didn’t realize until two weeks later when I heard certain people were disgusted at the argument that went on. I thought I was standing up for what was right. It was a big issue.

The sealing message is a big issue, but I damaged a lot of people. There was another time at a conference when I laid a situation out in front of people toward a certain person in reference to what I saw and it affected everyone negatively and the Lord had to say that is not how you do it Paul. I didn’t realize we wound people. Christ said I am not going to put out the smoking flax but when there is an argument everyone gets smothered and there is nothing left and people walk away with less spiritual power than they had before. The bruised reed gets snapped off and Christ is saying I don’t want to break these bruised reeds. These people are suffering under the argumentative realities. I’m coming to bind up these people. He didn’t cause His voice to be heard on the street.

By some of our brethren many things have been spoken and written that are interpreted as expressing antagonism to government and law. It is a mistake thus to lay ourselves open to misunderstanding. {6T 394.1}

If we have a public discussion on a social network can people misunderstand? Is it easy to misunderstand written words without the pathos of the voice and the heart. We may intend all genuine love in our hearts while we are typing away, yet it is misunderstood by people. They don’t understand and think we are just stirring them. We are killing them. When a smoking flax is stirred it goes out. When the coals are spread the flax is gone. We profess to be Christians and yet we can be the best tool in the devil’s hand.

It is not wise to find fault continually with what is done by the rulers of government. It is not our work to attack individuals or institutions. We should exercise great care lest we be understood as putting ourselves in opposition to the civil authorities. It is true that our warfare is aggressive, but our weapons are to be those found in a plain “Thus saith the Lord.” Our work is to prepare a people to stand in the great day of God. We should not be turned aside to lines that will encourage controversy or arouse antagonism in those not of our faith. {6T 394.1}

Christ never held a revolt against the Roman Empire. His work was effective in changing people’s lives. Jesus wasn’t an activist. Yet his truth was to clear cut that people were rebuked of sin. Don’t attack any institution, person or government but lay out the principles of divine government.

Matthew 12:9 And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: 10 And, behold, there was a man which had [his] hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? that they might accuse him.

The Pharisees, the children of the devil are prodding Jesus.

Matthew 12:11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift [it] out? 12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.

What sort of answer is that? He lets their mind see the ridiculousness of their questions by putting them into another situation that they can understand and then he lets them answer their own question.

Matthew 12:13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched [it] forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. 14 Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. 15 But when Jesus knew [it], he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;

Jesus pulled away. If they couldn’t understand his answer, then he left them to it.

Matthew 12:16 And charged them that they should not make him known: 17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. 19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.

He’s not going to make it a big issue, even though it is important.

Matthew 12:20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

Did Christ argue with Nicodemus in their private conversation? This is the commission that we all have. Teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To make people realise they need rebirth can only come through Christ’s methods.

Nicodemus had come to the Lord thinking to enter into a discussion with Him, but Jesus laid bare the foundation principles of truth. He said to Nicodemus, It is not theoretical knowledge you need so much as spiritual regeneration. You need not to have your curiosity satisfied, but to have a new heart. You must receive a new life from above before you can appreciate heavenly things. Until this change takes place, making all things new, it will result in no saving good for you to discuss with Me My authority or My mission. {DA 171.1}

This is the wisdom of Christ. Nicodemus couldn’t argue with Him. Christ wasn’t interested with arguments. There was the seed planted that later germinated. When we’re in public we should be very careful, not to water the truth down and damage souls. This requires the mind to be very active and open heart to the Lord. In the upper room when Jesus appeared to the disciples Thomas didn’t believe. The disciples and Jesus could have been so annoyed at his disbelief. How did Jesus handle it? Here is a lesson for you and me.

In His treatment of Thomas, Jesus gave a lesson for His followers. His example shows how we should treat those whose faith is weak, and who make their doubts prominent. Jesus did not overwhelm Thomas with reproach, nor did He enter into controversy with him. He revealed Himself to the doubting one. Thomas had been most unreasonable in dictating the conditions of his faith, but Jesus, by His generous love and consideration, broke down all the barriers. Unbelief is seldom overcome by controversy. It is rather put upon self-defense, and finds new support and excuse. But let Jesus, in His love and mercy, be revealed as the crucified Saviour, and from many once unwilling lips will be heard the acknowledgment of Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” {DA 808.1}

This is how we are to accomplish our mission.

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.



Posted on November 26, 2011, in Divine Service Sermons, Sermons For Sabbath. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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