1 Corinthians 11:13-22 NKJV
13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.
17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.
Paul states an unfortunate fact about the church in this world when he writes, “For there must also be factions among you” (19). For as much as Christians want to imagine a pristine, golden age of the church in which perfect unity reigned, there has never been such a period. The churches planted by the apostles suffered divisions and factions while the apostles were still alive. Many of the apostles’ epistles (letters) were written to fortify the true faith in the hearts of their hearers against false doctrines that had crept into the congregations. Paul warns the Ephesian pastors, “From among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30). Peter writes in 2 Peter 2:1, “There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies.” Christ Himself said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way” (Matt 13:24-25). Where God builds a church, Satan builds a chapel.
Paul also tells that there must be factions in the church “that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (19). The Lord allows factions to exist to drive us to His Word. Confronted with any doctrine, we are to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Paul tells the Romans to “note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Rom 16:17). We avoid false teachers because false teaching leads the soul away from Christ and into false security, leading to damnation.
God wants to exercise our faith in His Word, so He allows factions to divide the visible church and He commands the faithful to divide it as well when falsehood is given equal airtime as the truth so that truth and error become indistinguishable. May God grant us such faithfulness! Let us pray: Fortify us in the doctrine of the apostles, O Lord, that we may see those teachings which are contrary to it and avoid fellowship with those who teach and tolerate error, so that we may possess Your Word in its purity. Amen.