There has been plenty of talk in the Nazarene Community as of late, on the subject of unity. The Scriptures have much to say about this topic.
The Sin of Sectarianism
Paul names Sectarianism as a "work of the flesh" along side murder and witchcraft:
Now I beseech you, brothers, mark them which cause divisions
and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned;
and avoid them.
One of the most under recognized and most serious sins is the sin of division of the Assembly.
In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul gives a list of the "works of the flesh":
19 For the works of the flesh are known, which are: fornication, uncleanness, perversion,
20 worship of idols, magic, animosity, contention, over zealousness, anger, insolence, FACTIONALISM, SECTARIANISM,
21 envy, murder, drunkenness and reveling, and all that are similar to these.
Notice the last two items in verse 20: "factionalism" and "sectarianism". We will discuss exactly what these two words mean in a moment, but notice that Paul lists them on a par with such sins as "fornication", "worship of idols" and "murder".
In the Greek text these two words are "hairesis" (Strong's Gk 139) and "dichostasia" (Strong's 1370).
The Greek word "hairesis" means "a party or disunion". The NAS and NIV versions translate this word to mean "factions" the RSV has "party spirit" the NEB has "party intrigues", Beck has :divisions". The TEV has "They Separate into parties and groups." The Complete Jewish Bible has "factionalism" while ISR has "dissensions."
The word that appears in the Original Aramaic here is SEDAKA. Jastro defines this word as "split, slit, rent" The Syriac Dictionary (Lewis) has "a rent, tear, division, schism, sect" while the Lexicon to the Syriac New Testament (Jennings) has "a rent, tear, rupture, schism" from the root meaning "rived, split asunder, tore". Murdock and the Way version have "discords"
The Greek word "dichostasia" means "disunion, dissention, division, sedition". The NIV, NAS and RSV translate the word "dissention(s) the Complete Jewish Bible has "intrigue". ISR has "factions".
The word that appears here in the original Aramaic is P'LUGGOTA (Aramaic cognate of Strong's Heb. 6392) meaning "divisions" as Murdock translates the word "divisions". The Way version has "divisions"
These last two words in Gal. 5:20 each refer to those who split congregations and divide them! And Paul counts this as a "work of the flesh" along with fornication, idol worship and murder!
Paul writes to the Corinthians:
"for you are in the flesh. For there are among you, envy and
contention and FACTIONS, (P'LUGGOTA) are you not carnal and walking in the flesh? For when each man of you says, I am of Paul and another says, I am of Apollos, are you not carnal?"
"But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly
bring in destructive sects (Gk: hairesis = Aramaic sedaka)…"
This could also be translated "bring in destructive DIVISIONS".
And Paul warns the Romans to "beware of those who cause DIVISIONS (P'LUGGOTA)" (Rom. 16:17)
Dividing up a congregation into factions is a very serious sin.
It is Elohim's desire that his people be at unity. When Yeshua was speaking to his talmidim over his last earthly Passover sader, he took the time to specifically pray for the unity of the believers
17 Father, sanctify them by your truth, for your word is truth.
18 As you sent me into the world also I send them into the world.
19 And for their sakes, I sanctify my nefesh that they also might be sanctified in truth.
20 And I do not ask for the sake of these alone, but also for the
sake of those who will have faith in me through their word,
21 That ALL MIGHT BE ONE as you are, my Father, in me, and I am in you that they also might BE ONE in us, that the world might believe that you sent me.
22 And the glory that you gave me I gave to them, that they might BE ONE as we are one.
23 I am in them and you are in me, that they be perfected into one, and that the world might know that you sent me, and that you have loved them as also you loved me.
24 Father, I want that those whom you gave me might also be with me wherever I am so that they might see my glory, which you gave me because you loved me from before the foundations of the world.
25 My righteous Father, the world has not known you but I know you and they know that you sent me.
26 And I have made known to them your name and will make known so that the love with which you loved me might be in them and I might be in them.:
Three times in this short prayer, Yeshua faced with his eminent death, concerns himself, not with his own welfare, but with our unity as believers.
Many times the Scriptures emphasize the importance of being unified as believers:
" and be diligent to keep the UNITY of the Spirit in the bond of
shalom, that you be ONE body and one spirit, even as you are called in ONE hope of your calling. For YHWH is one and the faith is one and the immersion is one, And one Eloah is the Father of all, and above all, and through all, and in us all."
"So also we who are many are ONE body in the Messiah and each of us are MEMBERS OF ONE ANOTHER."
"Now I urge you, my brothers, in the name of our Adon Yeshua the Messiah, that you have ONE word to all and [that] there be no FACTIONS (P'LUGGOTA) among you, but [that] you be whole hearted in ONE purpose and in ONE mind."
"For as the body is ONE, and there are in it many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are ONE body, so also the Messiah. For all of us also are immersed by ONE spirit into ONE body, whether Jew or Aramaean, whether slave or son of freedom. And all of us drank of ONE spirit."
"Nevertheless, this that we have attained, let us follow in one path and with ONE ACCORD."
"But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have FELLOWSHIP ONE WITH ANOTHER…"
Beware of those who cause divisions in congregations. Creating such divisions is a "work of the flesh" comparable to fornication, idolatry and murder. Elohim's will is for believers is that we be in fellowship with one another, in one accord, and endeavoring for the unity of the spirit in the bond of Shalom.
The Doctrine of Separation
There are those that say that in the name of ECHAD (unity) we should be at unity with those who teach such doctrinal errors as polygamy doctrine.
While the Scriptures do teach unity, it is not unity at all costs. There is a distinction in Scripture between the sins of factionalism and sectarianism, which I have often taught on before, and the Scriptural precept of the doctrine of separation. Sectarianism disrupts the unity of the Body of Messiah, while the doctrine of separation protects the Body of Messiah.
"Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness…"
The heart and center of the doctrine of separation is summarized in 2Corinthians Chapter 6. Now in 2Cor. 6:11-18 Paul gives us a Midrash (in the form of a poem) on Dt. 22:10 which ties the passage to Is. 52:11/Ezkl 20:34, 41/Zech. 2:11) The midrash is as follows:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.
For what fellowship has righteousness with Torahlessness?
And what communion has light with darkness?
And what accord has the Messiah with B'liya'al?
Or what part has he who believes with an unbeliever?
And what agreement has the Temple of Elohim with idols?
For you are the Temple of the living Elohim.
As Elohim has said:
I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their Elohim,
And they shall be My people. (see Lev. 26:12; Jer. 32:38; Ezkl. 37:27; Ex. 6:7)
Therefore come out from among them
And be separate, says YHWH.
Do not touch what is unclean, (see Is. 52:11; Zech. 2:11, note 2:7)
And I will receive you. (see Ezkl. 20:41, 34)
I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says YHWH Almighty. ( see 2Sam. 7:14, 8; Is. 43:6)
There are many examples in the Torah where the doctrine of separation was invoked. Our Father Avraham is a prime example when YHWH said to him "Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you." (Gen. 12:1)
It was the doctrine of Separation that Pharaoh resisted, and which YHWH used Moshe to accomplish. It was through the doctrine of Separation that the People of Israel were separated from the rebellion of Korakh:
"Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume
them in a moment… Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korakh…
Depart… and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their
(Num. 16:21, 24, 26)
In the books of the Maccabees, the Chasidim invoked the doctrine of Separation and departed into the wilderness rather than accept the illegitimate High Priest Jason.
The Second Book of Maccabees tells us about a priest named "Jason" who made an illegitimate claim to the office of the High Priest:
"But after the death of Seleucus, when Antiochus, called Epiphanes,
took the kingdom, Jason the brother of Onias laboured underhand to be high priest,"
2Maccabees tells us that since this man claimed the High Priesthood illegitimately he "was no High Priest" (2Macc. 4:13)
The Chasidim refused to accept Jason as a legitimate High Priest. On the contrary they were being faithful to Elohim and His Torah in refusing to acknowledge Jason claims to the Priesthood and separated themselves from him, fleeing into the wilderness.
Another prime example of the doctrine of separation is found in the Torah in regards to false prophets:
1 (12:32) All this word which I command you, that shall you observe to do; you shall not add thereto nor diminish from it.
2 (13:1) If there arise in the midst of you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and he give you a sign or a wonder,
3 (13:2) And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto you, saying,
Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them …
4 (13:3) You shall not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of
dreams. For YHWH your Elohim puts you to proof, to know whether you do love
YHWH your Elohim, with all your heart and with all your soul.
5 (13:4) After YHWH your Elohim shall you walk, and Him shall you fear, and His
commandments shall you keep, and unto His voice shall you hearken, and Him shall you
serve, and unto Him shall you cleave.
6 (13:5) And that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death, because he
has spoken perversion against YHWH your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of
Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to draw you aside out of the way
which YHWH your Elohim commanded you to walk in. So shall you put away the evil
from the midst of you.
7 (13:6) If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your friend that is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which you have not known, you, nor your fathers;
8 (13:7) Of the gods of the peoples that are round about you; near unto you, or far off
from you; from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth,
9 (13:8) You shall not consent unto him nor hearken unto him: neither shall your eye
pity him, neither shall you spare, neither shall you conceal him.
(Deut. 13:1-9 (21:32-13:8) HRV)
Keeping the Unity of the Spirit
How do we balance the need for unity with the doctrine of separation? As we saw above, Paul writes:
3 And be diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of shalom:
4 That you be one body and one spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your
5 For YHWH is one, and the trust is one, and the immersion is one:
6 And one Eloah is the Father of all, and above all, and through all, and in us all.
(Eph. 4:3-6 HRV)
But how does Paul say that we achieve this unity? He goes on after a few verses to say:
11 And He gave some: emissaries, and some prophets, and some proclaimers, and some
pastors, and some teachers,
12 For the perfecting of the Set-Apart-Ones: for the work of the service; for the
edification of the body of the Messiah,
13 Until all of us become one and the same, in the Trust and in the knowledge of the
Son of Eloah: and one complete man, according to the measure of the stature of the
fullness of the Messiah.
14 And we should not be infants, who are shaken and turned about by every wind of the
deceitful teachings of the sons of men, who by their craftiness are plotting to deceive:
15 But we should be steadfast in our love, that [in] everything we may grow up in the
Messiah, who is the head.
16 And from Him the whole body is fit together, and is tied together in all the joints,
according to the gift that is given by measure to each member, for the growth of the body,
that its edification might be accomplished in love.
(Eph. 4:11-16 HRV)
Notice that the unity of which Paul speaks of does not result from accepting “every wind” of doctrine, and it is the role of the leadership as outlined above, to teach us sound doctrine, and this leads to the unity of the spirit, sometimes through the doctrine od separation.
This is why the Torah says: "And the man that does presumptuously, in not hearkening… unto the judge, even that man shall die, and you shall exterminate the evil from Yisra'el. (Deut. 17:12)"
However, in the absence of a Theocracy (which will not be re-instated until the return of Messiah) the death penalty is replaced with the penalty of CHEREM (disfellowshipment). .
Paul said: "Now I entreat you, my brothers, that you beware of those who cause divisions and scandals, outside of the teaching that you have learned; that you keep away from them." (Rom. 16:17)
This is an invocation of the doctrine of separation. Notice that it is actually those that teach false doctrines that bring division to the body and NOT those who invoke the doctrine of separation, who are actually endeavoring to the unity of the body in the bond of peace.
Yes the unity of the Body is of great importance for the Nazarene community. But this unity is unity on His terms. It is not unity at all costs. It is not unity at the expense of sound doctrine. The Nazarene community absolutely needs unity. This does not mean that we need unity at any cost, or at the cost of fundamental truths. We need unity on YHWH’s terms.
The unity we need is not Ecumenicalism in the name of Echad, and it is not the use of Echad (Unity) as a tool to bring unsound doctrine into the Body of Messiah.
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