1.1 Background of the study
The will of God for us is that we are united, that is why Jesus prayed in John 17 that his disciples would have unity. He prayed in verses 20-23, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those alsowho believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father,are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believethat You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, thatthey may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may beperfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them,even as You have loved Me”.
This prayer he madedid not just focus on the eleven remaining disciples but alsoto those who would reach discipleship through their ministry(Britney; 1994). The Bible lets us know that Christ Jesus is crediting his disciples with the numbers that will beproduced. Theprimary concern Jesus expresses at this time of his impending death is the issue ofunity among the disciples as their unity will most definitely be a vital prerequisite fortheir subsequent mission (Jessica; 2004:497).Disunity and division are threatsfound among the members of the Body especially as the Church increases and grows in numbers. As Christ is definitely supplicating theFather with references to God and himself, it is clear the unity herein described ismore transcendent than that of “simply human fellowship or the harmonious interaction of Christians” (Ebere; 1970). The external expression of this unity is to be the evangel of the Church to the world, which attests to the sending of Christ by the Father.
In 1 Corinthians 1:10 he exhorts, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment”, here Paul states this directive and takes a hard stand against division and factions in the Church Body, in light of both personal conflict and in light of doctrine. Unfortunately, Paul himself falls victim to one of these chasms of opinion in his relationship with Barnabas. Paul’s terminology to address doctrinal differences (1 Corinthians 11:19 and Galatians 5:20) is haireseis, denoting a difference of sound doctrine, even to the point of being an unjustified group (Accordance 2010). Just prior to the prayer in John 17 Jesus had established the institution of the Lord’s Supper in light of the Passover celebration, an institution given in great part to exhibit and foster unity with the Godhead, and unity as members of the Body of Christ. Paul affirms in 1 Corinthians 10:16, that the pinnacle of this desired oneness of communion, or church is displayed materially in the act of the Lord’s Supper, as it is a “sharing” in the blood and the Body of Christ. Mounce holds that the term church conveys the idea of fellowship, communion, participation and sharing (Mounce 2006:127, 247). Paul subsequently uses the term only in a religious sense rather than a secular one to denote something greater than a society, to denote a fellowship of a higher level; he as well uses this term to express a “religious fellowship (participation) of the believer in Christ and Christian blessings for the mutual fellowship of believers” (Hauck 1983:804). 1 John 1:3 and 2 Corinthians 13:14 affirm that church is also held with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in addition to the communion of the saints, it is the Holy Spirit alone however, who brings believers into this fellowship (Prime 2008:105). This evidence of church is an external, physical expression of the spiritual fellowship that is enjoyed by the Body being knit together with the Godhead (Hunsinger 2009:347). Thus, church is the internal religious fellowship or participation of sharing in the benefits of a relationship with Christ, yet manifesting itself at times in a physical expression through the Body of Christ. Schmitz cites homothumadon as being infused with ”togetherness”, such as is evidenced in the visible, inner unity of a group faced by a common duty or danger; it is a unity, or unanimity, not embracing a personal agenda, “but on a cause greater than the individual” (Schmitz 1986:908-909). Hence, descriptive of the early Church, it is used in Acts all but one other time in the New Testament, in an effort to accentuate the internal unity of the group.
1.2 Statement of the problem
The Church of Jesus is increasing in conflict instead of unity. This disunity mostly comes in form of cell division. Churches aresplitting, conflict in church seminars are increasing asreconciliation consultants aresucceeding, while conflict abounds (Raymond; 1996), and denominations continue to growin number due to social conflict as the causal mechanism.Theoretically, orthodoxy would confess that unity is possiblethrough the giving of Christ’s glory. The Church as a whole is rightly able to proclaim theologicaltruths, but is also expected to evidence them to the world through its witness, asdeclared unity is not merely positional (Carson 1980:201).Christianity todaysuggests a proactive separation may be in order as only a sentimental unity remainsamong major denominations (Christianity Today 2004:23). Blomberg asserts thatindeed this unity is difficult to acknowledge in light of the many splintering factions(Blomberg 2008:224). As a result, the observed lack of unity in the Body of Christ isa devastating witness to the world.
1.3 Objectives of the study
The chief objective of this study is to examine the factors responsible for divisions in the churches.
- To know the biblical and theological justification which support divisions of fellowship within the Body of Christ.
- To know what tolerances of division are biblically justifiable, or permitted in the scope of Scripture and
- To know whether the Church is actually in alignment with Scripture, and how that should affect the behavior of Christians today in their role of glorifying God.
1.4 Research questions
- What kind ofbiblical and theological justification exists to support divisions of fellowship within theBody of Christ?
- What tolerancesof division are biblically justifiable, or permitted in the scope of Scripture?
- What needs to be defined is whether the Church is actually inalignment with Scripture, and how that should affect the behavior of Christians todayin their role of glorifying God.
1.5 Research hypotheses
1.6 Significance of the study
This study will contribute to the body of knowledge of Christian’s obedience in lightof Scripture in that it seeks to identify and then justify that paradigm of acceptableschisms or, permissible divisions. It then seeks to answer the question, “To whatdegree are Christians in accordance with Scripture in tolerating separations in theBody of Christ?”
The researcher aimed at identifying the implicationsof clearer understanding so that believers who are participating in any acts ofdivision may understand the error or validity of their actions. Division in churchesmust be clearly defined if it is permitted in the scripture. This research has components that benefit on many levels: personal,professional, academic and practical.
1.7 Scope/Limitations of the study
This study centers onthe biblical examination of factors responsible for divisions in the churcheswith a view of finding a lasting solution to the problem.
Limitations of study
- 1. Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
- 2. Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 Definition of terms
Division:disagreement between two or more groups, typically producing tension or hostility
Churches:a building used for public Christian worship.
Christian:a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.
Unity:the state of being united or joined as a whole.
Disunity:disagreement and conflict within a group..