By Don Martin
Who made the statement, “I am come to give division?” Was it Karl Marx, Adolf Hitler, or some infamous anarchist seeking to overthrow our government? Who would be so bold as to openly reveal that he had come to divide families and set men at variance? Would you believe me if I told you Jesus Christ is the author of the statement “I am come to give division?”
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law (Lk. 12:51-53, cf. Matt. 10:34-37).
“But I thought Jesus and his gospel produces peace and harmony among men and unites families,” we frequently hear. Beloved, Christ is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6); His gospel is referred to as the “gospel of peace” (Rom. 10:15); Jesus effected peace between the alienated Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14); and He extends peace to all men which peace is incomparable to the peace man offers (John 14:27); (all emphasis throughout mine, dm). Concerned reader, Jesus’ statement, “I am come to give division” is another aspect and facet of Jesus and Christianity which is often forgotten in our permissive, principleless, political age.
The enunciation, “I am come to give division,” is considered by some scholars to be a marshal. That is, a statement which is designed to be shocking and startling and seemingly contradictory, one that sounds unbelievable! Such language has the purpose of attracting and arresting our attention (see discussion in New Testament Commentary, by William Hendriksen, Vol. 2, pp. 682, 683). Jesus’ declaration would appear paradoxical for at least two often related reasons: (1) Christ’s declared purpose, if you will, was contrary to the prevailing, common understanding of the Messiah’s advent. Hence, the language, “Suppose ye . . ..? ” (Lk. 12:51). The design assigned to Jesus’ coming and the real purpose were often contradictory (He had not come to unite the world and become a world monarch). (2) The arrival of the Lord, upon cursory. examination, would also appear to contradict the many prophecies of His being the Prince of Peace, etc. Think about it, the Prince of Peace came to give division!
Beloved, most realize that “peace” and “unity” are features of the gospel but few fully realize that division is also a feature of the Jerusalem gospel. Allow me to inject this thought for your consideration at this point: In order for any system to be considered divisive, in our case, it must be able to be defined and interpreted (either have an oral or written creed which can be understood by man) and it must be radically different from its environs. I submit that the gospel satisfies both requirements – the New Testament constitutes the embodiment of truth or creed, the gospel which can be understood and defined by man (2 Jn. 9-11) and the gospel is radically different from the religious (denominational) and secular climates in which it finds itself (cf. 2 Cor. 6:17).
Illustration Of The Principle “I Am Come To Give Division.”
Too many times we are excessively discouraged when division, as a result of the gospel, takes place. “I just can not understand why the world seems to hate me now that I am a Christian,” some are heard saying (see Matt. 10:22). Immature Christians are perplexed and dejected over the division in the Lord’s church. “Why is there so much division in the church?” they complain, “such is discouraging. ” As such false doctrines as unity-in-diversity and grace-fellowship find acceptance among preachers and members of the church, Jesus’ statement is becoming more paradoxical and irreconcilable! Permit me to hurriedly insert that division is sinful and its existence indicates some are displeasing to the Lord! When there is opposition and averse reaction to the gospel (division), those who are thus reacting are in a state of rebellion to God (cf. Lk. 10:16; Prov. 6:19; Rom. 16:17).
Division in the world over the gospel. When one becomes a Christian, one becomes different from the world. They do not talk the way the world talks (Eph. 4:29); they do not dress immodestly (1 Tim. 2:9); they choose friends who will not spiritually drag them down (1 Cor. 15:33); they do not engage in the “unfruitful works of darkness” but “rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). Hence, this often radical difference and nonconformity result in division (cf. Jas. 4:4).
Division in the denominational world over the gospel. There are people in the denominational world whom we can teach; they are open minded. However, there are also those in the religious world whom we can not reach. It is with this second class that we often experience division (that is, opposition, etc.). It is this group that learn to “hate us” when we tell them of the one church (Eph. 4:4), baptism for remission of sins (Acts 2:38) and other Bible truths.
Division in the Lord’s church. “For there must be also factions among you, ” Paul explains to the Corinthians, “that they that are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:19 ASV, see also v. 18). Brethren, division is a characteristic, if you please, of Christianity! Division and factionalism within the body of Christ have the positive effect of testing us and revealing those who will stand for truth. No, we do not “desire” it and we endeavor to avoid it – but division will, from time to time, inevitably characterize the people of God because there will be individuals in the church who will not have the truth and who will actively oppose the truth to the point of division.
Christian and concerned friend, what is your reaction to Jesus’ statement, “I am come to give division”? Do you understand it, do you appreciate it, and do you accept it? Jesus’ nature is not contentious and His teaching is not by nature divisive; however, Jesus knew there would be resistance and bitter rejection of His teaching; hence, division would come. Do not allow division to crush or cause you to despair. Do everything you can to avoid it and not unnecessarily create it but understand division will be experienced in the secular world, the religious world, and even in the Lord’s church. Standfor truth regardless of the consequences that you might be among those “approved” and made “manifest!”
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 12, pp. 367-368
June 21, 1984