Friday, August 28, 2020

Can God Cause a Split for His Own Purposes, But Not Because of Sin?

In the Church, as God works things out, it is possible for Christ, as head of the Church, to create a separation between two ministers - two groups - one splitting from the other - for His own purposes without either side being wrong.  Neither has to sin.

Christ can engineer a split where two sides act correctly, according to the limited understanding God gives to each.

Each side may have understanding of a part of the situation and how God's law and way of life applies, and each may apply God's law correctly according to his understanding, which may be limited.

God holds us responsible for what we know and understand.  Sometimes, there are balancing principles in the Bible, and two men can understand the importance and application of different points or details of God's law and not other points or details.  This can create conflict between men who understand the importance of different parts of God's way of life, according to the wisdom God gives to each.  God gives to each man the wisdom and understanding which that man needs to do the job God has given him.  But God does not necessarily give a different man the same wisdom.  So that second man may not understand the actions of the first man - and he may judge him.  But God has called him to a different job.

Paul and Barnabas separated over Mark.  The contention between them was sharp (Acts 15:37-40).

There was a "split" between the two.

Which man sinned?

Maybe neither of them, at least not in a major way.  Each man acted according to the wisdom and understanding God gave him, but not the other.  God did not give both men the same understanding.  He gave them different understandings, accurate but incomplete, because each understood what he needed to do his own job, and the time had come for them to have different jobs.

"Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God" (Acts 15:37-40).

At the time of their separation, Paul understood, apparently, the need to have with them only someone they could rely on in time of trial, and maybe Paul understood the need to teach Mark a lesson and also set an object lesson for others in their group as an example.  Paul was not necessarily wrong about that, and this understanding of the situation, though maybe not complete, may have been accurate as far as it went, and it may have come from God.

But Barnabas apparently understood the need for compassion and forgiveness, and may have known that the action of rejecting Mark at this time would have a devastating effect on Mark.  This too may have been an accurate understanding, inspired in Barnabas's mind by God.

Both men could have had accurate understandings of the situation, but partial understandings - not complete.  Each understood part of the problem, but not what the other man understood.  And God may have inspired each man to have the understanding he had that the other did not have.  

Why would God inspire each man with a partial understanding that the other man did not have, which would lead to different conclusions?

Perhaps it was God's time, for whatever reason, to separate Paul and Barnabas and send them on different ways, to do different jobs.  And God chose this way to do it.

Likewise, Christ, as head of the Church of God, can create a separation - a split in the Church - if it suits His purpose.  He may not want all one organization at this time.  He may want two groups - both faithful to Him - but doing somewhat different jobs - having different, though overlapping, roles.

I don't say this has happened.  I only say it is possible.

So God could inspire one man to grasp the importance of protecting the members, the organization, and the work by using the scriptures about taking action to avoid problems, such as these: "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished" (Proverbs 22:3).  "Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: "He shall give His angels charge over you," and, "In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone." ' Jesus said to him, 'It is written again, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God" ' " (Matthew 4:5-7).  God can also embolden such a man with the scriptures that show his authority to make decisions for the organization he leads (not necessarily the whole Church of God including all fellowships), scriptures such as Matthew 16:18-19 and Hebrews 13:17.

But at the same time, if God wants to separate a different man from that organization, God can inspire in him a deep understanding of the need for faith in God's protection from physical harm.  That could put him in conflict with the first man.  Each man has a certain understanding - one man understands the need for caution and the need for government, the other man the need for bold faith in the face of danger.  Both men have accurate understanding, but not necessarily complete understanding.  One or both has understanding that is true, but not complete.  Christ might not give complete understanding at this time to both men.  Why?  Because Christ, as head of the Church, wants to separate them, just as He separated Paul and Barnabas.  He has different jobs for them to do, and Christ wants each man to report to Him directly, not through the other man.

I don't say this is actually the case, even with Paul and Barnabas.  But it could be.  Maybe Barnabas was wrong, or maybe he was not.

It is something to consider before we are quick to judge others harshly.

It is a myth in the Church of God, held by some, that God only works through one man at a time. The Bible does not teach that.

God worked through two men, Peter and Paul, individually.  Paul did not report to Peter, and Peter did not report to Paul, but both reported to and took directions directly from Christ (Galatians 2:7-9).  When matters came up that required agreement, such as in Acts 15, Peter had authority under Christ to make a binding decision for the whole Church of God, but in day-to-day operations, he did not have authority over Paul.

God worked through more than one prophet at the same time, directly, such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

God worked through more than one prophet in the same area at the same time.   

David was a prophet, and also king over Israel.

Nathan was a prophet of God at the same time, and he had access to David.

But God worked through them individually.  When God's time had come to rebuke David concerning the matter of Uriah the Hittite, God used Nathan to do it.  God worked through two men at the same time.  God worked through David as king over Israel and as prophet when writing the Psalms, but He worked through Nathan as prophet to rebuke David when David sinned. He also worked through Nathan to tell David he was not to build the temple (1 Chronicles 17:1-4).

Nathan had no authority over David in the matter of the kingdom or David's prophecies in the Psalms, and David had no authority over Nathan's prophecies from God, but God supervised both men in their jobs directly.  God worked through two men at the same time.

But would God inspire rebellion?


Sin, no. God never inspires sin.  But rebellion or disobedience against authority?  It appears He has.

Consider Rehoboam and Jeroboam.

Solomon became unfaithful to God, and God was determined to punish him by removing ten tribes from the authority of the line of David, not in Solomon's time, but in the days of Solomon's son, Rehoboam.  God determined to give ten tribes to Jeroboam, and this was communicated to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:6-13, 26-40).

Eventually, Jeroboam and the ten tribes rebelled against Rehoboam's authority (1 Kings 12:1-19).  Notice that God calls this action, "rebellion" (1 Kings 11:26-27, 12:19).

Rehoboam then prepared to send the army of Judah and Benjamin against Jeroboam and the ten tribes to restore the ten tribes to the house of David.  This would have resulted in a civil war.  But God sent a message to them, saying, "You shall not go up nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel.  Let every man return to his house, for this thing is from Me".  And Rehoboam and his armies obeyed God (1 Kings 12:24).  There was no civil war at that time.

Did Jeroboam sin against God by rebelling against the authority of king Rehoboam?  The Bible doesn't say that he sinned, rather, God promised to bless him with an enduring house as He blessed David if Jeroboam obeyed Him (1 Kings 11:38).  

Later Jeroboam sinned with the golden calves and the changing of the dates of the Feast (1 Kings 12:26-33), but God does not say he sinned by leading ten tribes to separate from the rule of David's house.

Did Rehoboam sin by trying to hold the kingdom together?  No, he did according to his understanding of God's will, but when he tried to send the army against Jeroboam, God told him, "no", and Rehoboam obeyed God.  Rehoboam simply did not know that the separation into two kingdoms was God's will, but when God told him, "This thing is from me", he submitted to God. There is not necessarily sin here.

And God was working through two men, Rehoboam over Judah and Jeroboam over Israel, at the same time.  Soon after the split, Jeroboam sinned against God with the idols and the change in the Feast, but until he sinned God worked through him.

Usually a split in the Church of God indicates sin, but not necessarily always.  It may be God's time and will to have more than one organization, to emphasize different parts of God's work, and God can create the separation by inspiring understanding of part of a problem - but different parts - leading to different conclusions in two different men.  Each man then does what he has to do.

Thus God can separate us when it suits His purpose.  God can cause men to separate by limiting their understanding when it suits God's purpose.  But they can separate peacefully, or not.  God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).  While it is not necessarily sin for men to go in different directions to do different jobs independent of each other, there should always be a way for them to separate peacefully.  If there is contention, then there is apparently sin involved in the way that they separate.

This is one reason why we need to be careful about judging each other.

But is God the author of confusion?  No.

"For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints" (1 Corinthians 14:32).

God can cause a separation between men when He wants them to do different jobs, neither having authority over the other.  He can do this by giving each man the understanding that man needs to do his particular job, but not giving that understanding to the other man.  Thus they have different viewpoints, but each has exactly the correct viewpoint for the job Christ wants him to do.

And there is always a way they can separate peacefully, without confusion, if both behave in a perfectly godly manner.

But we still have human nature.  As Paul says, we are carnal (Romans 7:14).  So we usually do not behave perfectly.  And often that means that a separation does not occur peacefully.

God can even anticipate and use our carnal nature for His purposes, as He used the carnal nature of Pharaoh in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt in the way He did.  But our carnal, evil nature does not come from God.  It comes from Satan.  Satan is the real author of confusion and contention.  God is the author of peace.  And to the degree that men act in a godly manner, according to the letter and spirit of God's law, we will have peace.  Separations in that case, though they may occur according to God's purpose, will be peaceful.

The confusion and contention that often occurs in a split in the Church of God does not come from God.  It comes from our human nature.

A decision to mark a minister or group that separates may be justified.  Or it may not.  Time and fruits will tell.  It may not be God's intention and direction that a man who separates to start a new work be marked by the group he leaves.  The decision to mark may not come from Christ.  Christ may allow it but not lead it.  If so, this could be a case of a leader not following where Christ leads.  Sometimes Christ allows men to behave in a carnal way - He doesn't always force decisions, not even in the Church of God.

Some things cannot be known, except by fruits over time (Matthew 7:15-20).

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