There Must Be Factions

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  • Pastor, I am having an issue with my mate – or a relative or friend or coworker or fellow church member or whoever. Should I be taking Communion?

    Should a church in conflict be taking Communion?

    I did not take Communion today because I knew there were things in my heart that are not right. God understands, doesn’t he?

    After receiving a series of questions like these, I decided that I should teach on this an after the question officially.

    And that’s what I did. I called the message, “When Should I Not Take Communion?”

    I will give you my answer to that question another time. This post seeks to make another point.

    I sought to answer the question that sermon raised with an exposition of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. It is a corrective Paul writes to address the abuse of the Lord’s Supper in the church of Corinth.

    As I studied the text, something popped out at me that I had never paid attention to. It was in 1 Corinthians 11:17-19 reads: “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (ESV).

    Did you see that? Paul rebukes the church for divisions among them (v. 18). Then he concedes: “there must be factions among you.”

    The New Testament is clear and consistent in teaching that the church of Jesus Christ is to be marked by spiritual unity. Scripture is replete with prayers and commands and instructions and motivations and celebrations of unity among God’s people. Take Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as an example. Throughout this letter Paul rebukes division and calls for harmony. But 1 Corinthians 11:19 is a remarkable exemption. Paul says, “There must be factions among you.”

    Let that sink in for a moment. “There must be factions among you.” It would make perfect sense for Paul to say that must not be any divisions among you. It seems to make no sense that he says there must be divisions…

    What does Paul mean? Why must there be divisions among the saints?

    1 Corinthians 11:19 says: “for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”

    There are times when there are factions among the people of God so that the Lord may reveal who’s who and what’s what. God hates division among the saints. But he uses it to reveal who he has his hands on. Sometimes disharmony is God’s means of exposing the counterfeit and putting the genuine on display.

    The Lord is honored when his people do whatever is necessary to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). But what does it mean when you have done all that you know to do to avoid conflict and it arises anyway? Could it be that there must be factions that so that those who are genuine may be recognized?


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.