Someone recently asked me if we had factions among us. His question seemed to be coming from a certain perspective, but I wanted to answer the question as honestly as I could. So I asked at the beginning of my response if he was referring to 1 Cor. 11:19:
For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. (NIV)
For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (KJV)1 Cor. 11:19
Anyone who has read my writings should understand that those who rely on Strong’s concordance to set theology are making a major mistake, but it can still be a good starting place. The word translated as factions or heresies is the Greek word airesis, Strong’s number 139. It is used 9 times in the New Testament.
The Strong’s definition is as follows:
- act of taking, capture: e.g. storming a city
- choosing, choice
- that which is chosen
- a body of men following their own tenets (sect or party)
- of the Sadducees
- of the Pharisees
- of the Christians
- dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims
The most common usage of airesis is seen in Acts 15:5: “But some of the sect (airesis) of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
From the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary on 1 Cor 11:19
19. heresies–Not merely “schisms” or “divisions” ( 1Cor 11:18 ), which are “recent dissensions of the congregation through differences of opinion” [AUGUSTINE, Con. Crescon. Don. 2.7, quoted by TRENCH, Greek Synonyms of the New Testament], but also “heresies,” that is, “schisms which have now become inveterate“; “Sects” [CAMPBELL, vol. 2, pp. 126, 127]: so Act 5:17 15:5 translate the same Greek. At present there were dissensions at the love-feasts; but Paul, remembering Jesus’ words ( Mat 18:7 24:10, 12 Luk 17:1 ) foresees “there must be (come) also” matured separations, and established parties in secession, as separatists. The “must be” arises from sin in professors necessarily bearing its natural fruits: these are overruled by God to the probation of character of both the godly and the ungodly, and to the discipline of the former for glory. “Heresies” had not yet its technical sense ecclesiastically, referring to doctrinal errors: it means confirmed schisms. ST. AUGUSTINE’S rule is a golden rule as regards questions of heresy and catholicity: “In doubtful questions, liberty; in essentials, unity; in all things, charity.”
that. . . approved may be made manifest–through the disapproved (reprobates) becoming manifested ( Luk 2:35 1Jo 2:19
From the Matthew Henry Commentary on 1 Cor 11:19
For, adds he, there must be heresies also; not only quarrels, but factions, and perhaps such corrupt opinions as strike at the foundation of Christianity, and all sound religion. Note, No marvel there should be breaches of Christian love in the churches, when such offences will come as shall make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. Such offences must come. Note that men are necessitated to be guilty of them; but the event is certain, and God permits them, that those who are approved (such honest hearts as will bear the trial) may be set to view, and appear faithful by their constant adherence to the truths and ways of God, notwithstanding the temptations of seducers.
Are factions/heresies a good thing or a bad thing in scripture? Look it up.
They are not always bad or good. Just a fact.
What matters is how you deal with those factions. There were four major factions in Israel during the time of Jesus.
And the vast majority of scholars believe that all 4 factions were represented among Jesus’ twelve disciples, as exemplified by Simon the Zealot. And Jesus told us that it was his Father who had chosen all of those disciples to follow him, thus showing both the Father and the Son embraced factions.
We have people that we homeschooled with who are good people, but keep a Sunday sabbath and believe in the trinity. That is their “heresy” or “faction” of Christianity. We are 7th-day Sabbatarians who most closely resemble Arians in our belief of the Godhead. And such “factions” are the way it is.
I wanted to bring up an example of how I believe you should not deal with factions. A teacher from my sect had left his church and formed a new faction. He read my book on the calculated calendar and decided that keeping the calculated calendar was incorrect. I am assured he looked at other sources and I believe that. But he decided to follow a tangent that I showed as incorrect in my book. I e-mailed this teacher and said I would really like to talk to him about his decision. He said he was done discussing it, even though he never discussed it with me. And that he did not want to get a chapter on him in my calendar book. Is that iron sharpening iron? Is that showing charity? I assumed I would not change his mind. I had seen people walk down that path before. But could he have learned something from me and me from him? Probably. But he chose to simply cut off all conversation because he was now a different faction. He believed a different heresy.
We are all in different factions to test us.
And God wants it that way.