Sometimes division, though not desirable, is inescapable – the best thing the situation admits of.  Still, it is always a sad thing when the situation arises which makes it the best thing to do.

First, there are divisions about beliefs and doctrine.  In the New Testament, you have divisions whereby the authentic church differentiates itself from what is, really, the non-church (as in 1 John 2.18-19) where, previously, the two were confused.  This sort of division, which identifies the body rather than divides it, can clear the air in a helpful way.  Second, there are occasions when the faithful church withdraws from the scandalous church.  The historical sixteenth-century Reformation was one such case.  Third, there are divisions when a forthright church (or a forthright group of Christians) withdraws from a fuzzy church, where faithful believers have tried, but failed, to maintain a clear witness of God’s grace, according to the Scriptures.  It may be a matter of withdrawing from a particular denomination or withdrawing from a local congregation.  Fourth, there are divisions over church order.  Incompatible views about how the church should order its life have broken surface and particular groups have had to go their own separate ways.  Fifth, there are divisions for non-theological reasons – for example, over people’s race, class, age, or style.

We must reject, however, divisions over such non-theological factors as the personalities of leaders, like the division described in 1 Corinthians 1.  We must reject that sort of division because, Paul says, it is wrong.  To be sure, we have our favorite preachers, but that is no reason for dividing the local congregation.  Do not divide the body over that!  It would be Spirit-quenching, very much the devil’s work, and very dishonoring to the Savior to be part of a division over preachers. – J. I. Packer (born in 1926), from Serving the People of God (2008)

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