Dealing with Agitators
Robert Wurtz II
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 NKJV)
It is hard to fathom how a group of saints could argue over who was the most spiritual and yet act as carnal as did the Corinthians. “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, etc.” were just a few symptoms of carnality. We find as we read on that some misused the gifts of the Spirit, sued each other in court, and fornicated in ways unknown to sinners. Their feuding and fornicating made a mockery of Christ and His Church.
Sin is the enemy of unity in the churches of God. If you don’t have unity, you probably have sin in the camp. Paul used the strongest of terms to plead with the Corinthians for unity of mind and judgment. A cursory reading of the epistle demonstrates that they were carnal though they believed they were spiritual. Carnal means “fleshly.” Carnal people behave as if they never received the Holy Spirit.
Having begun in the Spirit
Amos 3:3 asks the question, “Can two walk together except they agree?” Paul tells us to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3). There are too many opinions and preferences to find a general agreement, so unity must have a standard basis. For Christians, all parties involved must submit to the Spirit of God and the word of God, or there will be division.
The Holy Spirit and the word of God agree. The Holy Spirit inspired the word of God. When the word of God is preached, it’s either accepted or rejected. Accepting the word of God brings us into unity with the Holy Spirit, who inspired the word. If we receive (accept) the word of God, we position ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit. We cannot reject the word of God and receive the Holy Spirit.
IF we receive the word and then the Holy Spirit, He works in us both to desire and do God’s will. This reality is essential to unity. Consider this passage from Jude translated in the KJV:
These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. (Jude 19 KJV)
Compare this translation to a modern rendering:
These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 19 NASB)
The KJV obscures the meaning for modern readers. I can count on one hand the times I have quoted from the Amplified Bible in the last 30 years, but there may be a worthy exception:
These are the ones who are [agitators] causing divisions—worldly-minded [secular, unspiritual, carnal, merely sensual—unsaved], devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 19 Amplified)
Our Greek word for divisions is apodiorizo and means to separate completely. It is only here in Jude 19 in the NT. The divisions are caused by false teaching or sheer carnality. We cannot have unity without the Holy Spirit. Carnal people, who don’t have the Holy Spirit, cause divisions in a variety of ways (Jude 1:19). They work to divide a church by stirring people up with divisive talk or leading them astray into sin. A carnal person can split a church over the color of the carpet if they can find enough carnal minds—like themselves—to do the job. Others are predators in the churches and look for victims to prey upon. They are “spots” in the love feasts.
If a person doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, they by default have the spirit of the world. (1 Cor. 2:12, Ephesians 2:1-3) Again, if a person has received the Holy Spirit, God works in them both to desire and to do His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13) This is essential. Paul uses the language of “having begun in the Spirit…” (Galatians 3:3). When we truly receive the Holy Spirit, after receiving the word of God, we begin in the Spirit. That is the starting point for a Spirit-filled life.
If an individual has not begun in the Spirit, then they are operating under the spirit of disobedience and can never be spiritual while in that state. This makes unity between them and the children of God impossible. They are not agreed and are going in totally different directions. It is also why the old Puritans of New England refused to allow people to join a church unless they had a believable conversion narrative. Unsaved people and the Born Again have nothing in common spiritually.
Carnality is the Enemy of Unity
It is possible for someone who once received the word and the Holy Spirit to live in a “state” of carnality and bring disunity to a congregation. If we get cold in our spirit, leave our first love, or refuse to be continually filled with the Spirit, we can become carnal. With the Holy Spirit’s influence diminished, we may allow ourselves to be pressed into this world’s way of thinking and live as carnal (as mere men Romans 12:2, I Cor. 3:3). This is when division begins.
Yet, the cure is always the same — repentance. First, agitators must recognize their awful sin, turn from it, and renounce it. So long as they are blind to the seriousness of their sin, they will never sufficiently turn from it. So, then, they must plead with God if perchance they can find a place of repentance and be forgiven. To divide a church is to destroy a church and people for whom Christ died. It is to do from within the churches what Saul did from the outside when he made havoc of them.