Christ The Cause of Division

by Mike Ratliff

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19 ESV)

One of the first accusations that comes forth from the apologists for the Purpose Driven paradigm in response to any attempt to show the unbiblical nature of it is that we are being divisive. They insist on unity at all costs regardless of the fact that the doctrinal stances held within the Church Growth movement do not line up with biblical orthodoxy. If we are to be obedient to the commands from scripture to be in the world, but not part of it, we cannot attempt to be unified with those who are not obedient to them.

We live in a culture that has succumbed to relativism. I heard a portion of a speech today given by Barak Obama not long ago. He was addressing a conference of American religious leaders. In his speech he stated quite succinctly that his vision for our country is that all religions become equal because the truth is relative after all. However, our Saviour did not teach any such thing. Instead, we see in Sacred Scripture that the opposite is true. Jesus was divisive. He caused division wherever he went. Those who followed Him had to leave everything to be His disciple. In other words, He is Lord of all or not Lord at all. To follow our Lord as commanded makes us most radical. To this day the greatest division in the world is “because of Him.”

So there was a division among the people over him. (John 7:43 ESV)

Even those who were not Jesus disciples were divided over Him. Some admitted none of His claims. Others admitted a portion, but denied the rest. Certain admitted His claims, but neglected to follow out the legitimate consequences of them. A few became His sincere hearers, going as far with Him as they had yet learned of Him.

There was a supernatural division between believers and non-believers. This still exists today and is growing ever wider. Just do a search in Google for Jesus and you will find every ‘opinion’ about Him that you could ever imagine. Most of these opinions deal with whether He is Lord or not. Of course those who argue against Him being Lord are in unregenerate rebellion. Even those who claim to be Christian, but refuse His Lordship are actually amongst the non-believers. Many professing Christians rely on self entirely. However, the godly trust only in Jesus.

There is also a division of love. I have noticed that there is a growing number of people professing to love Jesus, but their Jesus is not the Biblical Jesus. However, the godly love the real Jesus and no counterfeit will do. The genuine believer obeys the Lord. His or her character is becoming conformed to His with the resultant righteous behavior. On the other hand, the unregenerate, whether professing Christians or not, can only obey the Lord by fleshly will power, but they fail miserably even in this. Their character is not Christlike and their behavior is marked by that.

The godly are becoming living sacrifices through mind renewal. They are being transformed from what they inherited in their birth unto the holy nature of Christ. The way these people walk is not perfect, but it will reflect a move towards repentance. On the other hand, the ungodly are focused on themselves. If they are religious their walk within that will be by works, which is a form of idolatry. In any case, false religious activity does not produce godly character because it is not within the grace of God. It is all counterfeit.

The godly have an eternal destiny with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. However, the ungodly have an eternal destiny separated from Him forever. The directions of the lines of life point at different places as the end of the journey. This cleavage divides the dearest friends and relatives. This is the most real and deep difference in the world.

On the other hand, there is genuine unity when faith comes. Genuine Christians are color blind. There is no racism or bigotry amongst the regenerate. Calvary heals Babel. Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ. I heard a sermon not long ago where the preacher spoke of two friends of his who were both in Christ and spoke of Jesus exactly the same way yet one was a very sophisticated and wealthy person in California while the other lived in poverty in a grass hut in Brazil. They had the same Saviour and have the same eternal destiny. Personal peculiarities cease to divide. Workers for Christ are sure to be blended in one body by their common difficulties. Let us divide, if there be a division. Let us closely unite, if there be real union in Christ.

Christ, Who is properly the Author of peace, is, on account of the wickedness of men, the occasion of discord. – John Calvin.

My brethren, let us be united in our faith even in our obedience to seek the repentance of those who profess Christ on their own terms.

Soli Deo Gloria

35 thoughts on “Christ The Cause of Division

  1. Great post Mike. It seems so many have forgotten (if they ever knew) the meaning of biblical unity in Christ. As much as the Gospel is the exclusive means of salvation, it is also impossible for us to have real fellowship and unity with those who believe otherwise. I think you’ve pointed out before that this biblical unity and fellowship may cross denominational (and other as mentioned above) lines, but is only found in Christ.


  2. I heard a strangely peculiar quote from a Christian who was visiting the United States. I have to say that I agree with him. He said, “You know.. I am glad that I am going back home, where I have to work hard to get what I want. And when I have it over there, I will own it without so much interest. I will not be enslaved by all of these credit cards which are so easy to get over here in the states. I know that if I stayed here in the US, then I would lose my dependency on God.”

    I look forward to the day that we have a system based on hard work and prosperity, instead of borrowing and excessive usury. It is getting harder and harder to save money these days because of the outrageous interest rates, finance charges, fuel costs, costs of medicine or insurance, food, and temptations to put everything on plastic.

    I tore up my credit cards about 5 years ago. I only have a debit card now. Even cellphones can get out of control if we are not careful.


  3. I confess that Christ has taught me to stop seeking pleasure over righteousness. I guess that kind of mindset came from the prosperity gospel. I lived carelessly, was simple minded, and couldn’t save a dime because I assumed that God was a cosmic Santa Claus with a huge treasure chest with my name on it. If only I could tithe more and prove myself to be consistent with it as well. ….. kind of like a heavenly investor who needed my money to guarantee paradise on earth. Perhaps it was his love that I was trying to buy because TBN made me believe that my tithing would impress him enough to make me a millionaire or a CEO.

    He certainly showed me different. He took away this and that and then some. And after that was stripped away, then something else, until I cared not for the things that were for pleasure. My needs became a priority. After experiencing some of those fiery trials, I found that I was not coveting nor lusting after all of the foolish things of the world which leave us empty. My flesh sought prominence and status… vain glory. God denied me of those things over and over in order to humiliate me and break me. He certainly knows how to purge out that worldliness. I am grateful that I have seen him meet my needs instead of my desires.

    Stomach this, Joel Osteen!!!!!!!!! Read it and repent!!!


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  5. Our daughter was down this week end and she said their pastor is really concerned. He will not compromise with the ‘worldly’ churches and alot have left the church because of it. Our grandchildren go to that church and Christian private school. They are wondering if it will have to close its doors. Our daughter also works there as well as at home from her computer. If so she will have to home school. She was telling us how abrubt this has all happened there. We told her not to be suprised at all about this and to pray hard for their pastor who will not compromise. We are smack dab in it and people just don’t believe it (the final countdown). Its 11:59!! Jesus says the church is sleeping when He comes back. Thats awful.


  6. Josh, Paul, and Luann,

    You guys have hit on a very important point. Our culture has become addicted to pleasure and stimuli. This has caused that part of our brains that can experience pleasure to be numbed by an overload of dopamine. This makes it nearly impossible for people to experience the pleasure of just knowing God. Therefore, they are bored if they aren’t being stimulated by exciting music or dynamic man-pleasing preaching, et cetera. I am researching this for a future post (maybe this week).

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  7. Thanks for posting this.This morning I was reading chapters God Must be Loved for Himself, True Faith is Active not Passive and Taking Too Much for Granted in A.W. Tozer’s book Man: The Dwelling Place of God and he was basically saying the same thing.

    In the Episcopal church Christians who hold to traditional beliefs are called schismatics and the same thing is happening in many other churches today. Look at the Episcopal church to see where this is heading. It seems like many evangelical churches, even Baptists, are now standing where the Episcopal Church USA was about 15-20 years ago.

    Tozer is truthful when he writes, “The transformation will show itself in many ways and his former friends will begin to worry about him. At first they will tease him and then chide him; and if he persists in his determination to follow Christ they may begin to oppose and persecute. The onceborn never understand the twice-born, and still after thousands of years Cain hates Abel and Esau threatens Jacob. It is as true today as it was in Bible times that the man who hates his sins too much will get into trouble with those who do not hate sin enough. People resent having their friends turn away from them and by implication condemn their way of life.”


  8. Yep, I am being chided because I wouldn’t t cheat on my former bosses taxes or my own. My former boss,( who is a cake half baked) is telling people that I’m a goody goody and his Catholic friends hate us moral Christians. I moved to another city and another guy wants to hire me for cash. I know him from my former employment because he is another vacuum store owner. He told me the gov doesn’t use our money wisely after I told him he could pay me cash but I would claim it on my taxes. He goes to church every Sunday. I just don’t understand why he doesn’t get it. He must be half baked,too.
    It’s really a mess in Cedar Rapids were my daughter lives. Her house was caught up in the flood and the water came up about 6 feet in her main floor It’s good to see all the Christians coming out to help Some teenagers stopped by on Sat to leave water and a snack and a young man said a nice prayer . My daughter (non Christian) was very surprised that teens were doing that. Please pray that this disaster will be the event that will change her heart. Great articles Mike. Thank You and God bless you all. Deb


  9. Deb,

    I have been concerned about you since the flooding started and I haven’t heard from you in a while. God is good and it seems that everyday the division between real Christians and the disingenuous ones becomes more and more apparent, that is, if we have the eyes to see and ears to hear as you do.

    Be blessed my sister.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  10. The best part is that gratitude is catching on. After I started thanking the Red Cross and telling them God bless your hearts. My daughter is now thanking everyone. My son came to help and he is now much more thankful and really has compassion for these flood victims. This flood does have it’s silver lining. Going back on Friday to help, can’t wait to thank people and tell them God bless your hearts.


  11. That would be an interesting subject Mike. The brain is an amazing thing. Part of us that the Drs. say we only use like 1.2% of or something like that. We are dangerous now……..can you imagine what it’d be like if our minds were opened up? I believe thats what the Lord has waiting for us when we get to be with Him. 100% then. Looking forward to the post next week on it.


  12. Josh and others, we have to be careful that we don’t look down on those who are wealthy. Wealth, in and of itself is not evil. And poverty, in and of itself, is not righteous. God gives and He takes. He gives to some for a time (can’t take it with us!) and means for us to use it generously toward others. We can give toward the furtherance of the gospel. We can share with others of any abundance we may have received. We can open our home to others. We can give generously to the church. The poor person can be generous too. In fact, John the Baptist said if you have two tunics you give one away. Jesus commended the poor widow who put into the treasury all she had to live on.

    On the flip side, a poor person can covet and be selfish just as easily as a wealthy person. Why? Because these are heart attitudes. Also, those who pat themselves on the back because they down-sized and do without need to realize that we all stand before the Lord in His grace. I am not accepted by God because of what I do/don’t do, but by what Jesus has done. I am saved by grace through faith and this not of myself, but it is a gift of God, not by works, so that I cannot boast. Ephesians 2

    Some people try to make us feel bad because here in America we are wealthy, comparatively speaking. Who made us wealthy? The Sovereign Lord did. Why? For His own purpose and grace. He meant for us to bless others with it. we should not hoard it, or love it, but use it for God’s glory.


  13. Mike, thanks!

    1 Corinthians 11:19

    “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”

    The Spirit of Truth is the cause of divisions. This same Spirit causes us to proclaim the Truth that ‘manifest’ us to each other!

    Manifest : Phaneros fan-er-os’


    1. apparent, manifest, evident, known
    2. manifest i.e to be plainly recognized or known

    The Lord came to cause division. He is the ‘Truth’, those who can hear His Truth, speak His Truth.
    We have been taught by error all of our lives: social education/ political education and religious/church system education to conform to others, but God, the Spirit of Truth teaches us all true things: Conform to Him!


  14. thanks so much Mike for this post – it goes very well with a message I am preaching at our local Mission tomorrow night – please pray that through the Word the Gospel will be clear as God opens hearts!
    bro Rod


  15. Thank you for the inspiration. The myriad of supposedly Christian splinter groups who reject the historical (and divine) Jesus are creating mass chaos in the believer community. The feel-good anything goes relativists (like Joel Osteen) will face a harsh reality one day. I pray that they see the err in their ways before it is too late.


  16. julie, no one is saying that its wrong for the sheep to have money. We are saying that its wrong for the false teachers to use it as their message for health, wealth and prosperity so they can get rich off of a false doctrine that they pull out of context and use on people who don’t know any better. The Lord most definatly blesses some with money because they use it wisely for the preaching of the gospel. Then there are those who think they are being blessed by the Lord with money and they have nothing to do with the Lord. Its really a curse, but they don’t realize that.


  17. MIKE: One of the first accusations that comes forth from the apologists for the Purpose Driven paradigm in response to any attempt to show the unbiblical nature of it is that we are being divisive. They insist on unity at all costs regardless of the fact that the doctrinal stances held within the Church Growth movement do not line up with biblical orthodoxy.

    RA: Untrue and untrue — yet again. Your accusations, like those of others, are filled with inaccuracies, misinformation, half-truths, and deception. There WOULD be unity in Christ, if you and others would allow it.

    1. The accusation of division against these so-called “watchmen” is NOT with regard to anyone seeking to show that a certain teacher, group, church is doctrinally unsound. That is biblical. What is unbiblical, however, is inventing false accusations against a doctrinally sound Christian church, group, pastor, or teacher and labeling them heretical or apostate based on personal preferences and likes/dislikes. THAT is what you and other so-called discerners are doing. And THAT is divisive.

    2. Not a shred of documentation has been shown that indicates Warren, or Saddleback, purpose-driven pastors, or any affiliates have strayed from biblical orthodoxy. You don’t like their methods of church organization/structures and you don’t like how Warren interacts/communicates with the world or who he associates with. THAT is what you don’t like. But those are areas of personal preference and not biblical orthodoxy. Again, you are indeed being divisive and causing confusion among the sheep.

    And divisiveness is something forbidden by scripture. Paul declared: “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:15). And again, we read: “For ye are yet carnal: whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and division, are ye not carnal and walk as men?” (1 Cor. 3:3). The destructive nature of division, of course, is that it weakens the house of God (see Mark 3:24-25). As Proverbs 16: 28 says: “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.”

    “…Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” (Daniel 5:27)

    R. Abanes


  18. Richard,

    It is one thing to say my ‘accusations’ are filled with inaccuracies, misinformation, half-truths, and deception, and it is another thing to prove it. I suggest you read my latest post – The Offense of the Cross. If you do read it then you will see that the standard for preaching the Gospel is to emphasis the Offense of the Cross. However, I am very familiar with the Rick Warren paradigm of how to do church and I know, nor can you refute, that that standard stresses NEVER to preach this. Instead, the emphasis is on purpose or relationship, etc. What RW emphasizes is not the Gospel.

    Your first point is based on a false assumption, therefore, your point is moot. That false assumption is that the PD paradigm is doctrinally sound. Prove it sir. To do so would be to show me from SCRIPTURE where it is right compared to orthodoxy.

    Your second point is a lie. Yes, we have mounds of evidence and documentation that take the words from Rick and his supporters and show that they do the very opposite of what you contend. Therefore, your second point is moot.

    Your third point shows that you don’t know scripture very well. Did you really read the post above these comments sir? If you had then you would know that we are commanded to be SEPARATE from those who would corrupt the Gospel. Christ Himself divides sir.

    Your last misuse of Daniel is very telling. That is a passage describing a heathen king in Babylon whom God was removing from his throne because of his lack of integrity, etc. You are trying to sit in God’s place and pass that judgment.

    Also, those who are causing this division you decry so much is Rick and his followers, such as yourself, who seek to meld that which is untrue with that which is true. I will never be united with such as this.

    Documentation of Rick Warren’s unorthodoxy

    Lastly, Rick’s book The Purpose Driven Life is the prime example of Rick’s failure to be one who rightly divides the word of truth. In it he takes passages totally out of context to support his thesis. That sir is “proof” that the one you are supporting has failed the test.

    Read this when you have the time. Perhaps you will
    understand why there can be no reconciliation with Rick as far as I am concerned until he repents.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  19. Good post Mike.
    The scriptures tell us that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek,male or female,slave nor free. In Christ these things are irrelevant.
    Jesus is the divider, and Calvary is level ground.

    As for Mr. Abanes,

    “There WOULD be unity in Christ, if you and others would allow it. ”

    There are those who are willing to accept that we are not saved by our own efforts, why do they believe that the Lord needs our help after we come to belief?
    Do our mistakes/sins stymie God’s plans? He is the omniscient God, which includes completely prescient. therefore RA’sstatement is ludicrous.
    No one here is not “allowing” unity to exist nor do we “allow” it. God is sovereign.
    Neither Mike nor anyone else here is responsible for “disunity” Blame the Lord.
    So,not only is our personal sanctification and justification freely given to us by God, so is unity and fellowship. The Body exists as a complete whole. We do not create unity. I walk united with all the brothers and sisters.

    “What is unbiblical, however, is inventing false accusations against a doctrinally sound Christian church, group, pastor, or teacher and labeling them heretical or apostate based on personal preferences and likes/dislikes.”

    “Again, you are indeed being divisive and causing confusion among the sheep.”

    Pastor Bob De Waay said it best when he acknowledged that the problem isn’t the “orthodox” doctrinal statement. It is the fact that Warren neither practices nor preaches what he claims to believe. It’s easy to sign a credal statement and say hey I’m orthodox. That is the basis of confusion. God is not a God of confusion/deception..
    It would seem that Paul was not bothered with people checking out what he preached half as much as you and Warren are. Acts 17:11
    What did Ezekiel say about the fat and the skinny sheep? (and remember all pastors are sheep too)

    ““…Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting””


    “Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end”

    I would be worried if I were you guys.


  20. Just as Paul and Luann says, no one here is saying that it is wrong to have wealth. Jesus knows we need it to buy our needs and pay our bills. He supplies us with what we need. In times of prosperity, he may and does give us a little something extra, that we may not expect. However, in times of refinement (which is exactly what the prosperity gospel fails to mention), the Lord can deny us of our wants so that we remain crucified afresh. His unpleasant demonstration of his sovereignty is actually a mercy. It is tough love. It is a crucified life where we are dead to the world…. instead of being yoked to it.

    It is impossible to have a holy heart or a Godly countenance if God is not willing to put us through the fire. But thank God that he is mighty, unchangeable, and immutable. His will will be done, regardless of how much you and I may not always agree with it. None of us like to pass through the valley of humiliation. I don’t particularly care for those dry seasons, but I know that is where the leaven gets purged away. All of that dross becomes visible, and rises to the top. God takes it away through those trials. Brokenness pleases God. Covetousness, greed, vain-glory, and vanity stunt spiritual growth. That is the reason that God will deny his children of this or that. He wants broken obedient servants, who are unwilling to compromise the truth. Not greedy children who are given over to pleasure or hedonism instead of righteousness.

    I am sorry that I wasn’t clear about this. I was trying to express the need for my fellow Christians to understand the eternal value of those fiery trials. I have seen many individuals claim to know that Lord, but as soon as God starts to convict them or mold them, they reject his tough love, because they don’t understand why things are not easy, and then they fall back into their feelings. This is fairly common I guess….. Our flesh can deceive us, if we focus on signs and wonders, sensationalism, or false teachings.

    Remember that it was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness. Yea, Satan was there to try to fail him when he got there. But ultimately, it was God who had the decisive upper hand on whether Jesus went into the desert in the first place.


  21. Mike you told Richard like it is. Good for you. And Richard, coming from a background of schooling at ‘Rhema’ in Tulsa, you of all people should know then, that what is going on with the mega church movements is false. Don’t be so defensive and dooped. Do what we did……….read and study your Bible. Not one of those goofy ones either. Quit listening to what these so called pastors are puking out (and major pulling out of context!) and listen to the Holy Spirit for once.


  22. Josh, as Martin Luther pointed out our main lust is not a lust of the flesh but a lust for divinity — to be superior over and to have some glory in ourselves. Thats also the original sin when the serpent said surely we will be like gods knowing good and evil.

    We find glory in both religious ways and irreligious ways. It doesnt matter. As christians we tend to only see the irreligious ways we seek glory and not the religious ways.

    One of our main objectives in life is to replace man-made things we glory in with the Glory of Christ.



  23. Spadinofamily,

    I don’t understand your comment. Can you elaborate?

    You use the terms religious vs irreligious. Whenever someone uses the term “religious” in regard to sanctification or regeneration, I have to be cautious. I have been in apologetics for some time, and I tend to throw up a red flag when someone defines regeneration as “religious.” The term ‘religious’ leads me to believe that someone is following works based theology, which is contrary to what I understand.

    Again, could you please elaborate?


  24. Mike, I meant for this post to go here and not under your other topic:

    I try not to quote scripture since I prefer to show how scripture is playing itself out in my life instead.

    Romans is a meant for people that were already seen as more mature than other Churches (definitely more mature than Corinth).

    The first few Chapters talk of our complete and total inability to please God on our own efforts — THIS IDEA WAS INTENDED ESPECIALLY FOR PEOPLE CONSIDERING THEMSELVES MATURE CHRISTIANS.

    17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[a] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”[b]

    and then Paul goes on to say.

    The in Romans 1:17

    I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

    Paul is already a Christ follower and an almost apostle (?). A very mature Christian by anyones gauge. Paul is such a good example.

    Anyhow I don’t have a time to go into a complete description of all the bible verses but I highly recommend you go to bible gateway and read all the verses with the word righteouss in them.

    Paul is a good example of being real about his issues:



  25. Spadinofamily,

    I am under the impression that you are trying to draw me out in order that I may follow after you. I have read your website, and it appears that you view those who hold every teaching accountable to scripture as arrogant. You made a comment (which I believe was directed at me because you mentioned my name in your introduction) about individuals who act as if they are superior when rightly dividing the Word. What you are doing is exactly what is wrong with the so called church. People like us at Possessing the Treasure come here to learn, to be reproved, to hold things accountable, to correct, to exalt, or to expose. I am cautious of men like you because you are setting me up for an attack, just because I hold everyone acccountable to scripture. I am not exempt from accountability, and I don’t know everything… but when you make an effort to Lord over me, I want to be vigilant and say, “No.” I am not willing to compromise truth for the sake of unity. Please back off.

    The scriptures say to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. If we put all things to the test and examine them according to scripture, we are not arrogant, but obedient. You also assume that we are all immature Christians here. You don’t know what you are doing. Again, your implication that we believe we are superior is an attempt to draw others into you exercising authority over others. I want to grow and learn, and not be Lorded over (especially by someone who thinks it is wrong to stand firm and hate sin).

    Again, you have crafted an article into something very confusing. You try to make a distinction between idols. Why? An idol is an idol, Spadinofamily. The flesh is not an idol. The flesh is something which must be crucified in order to please God. Yes, the flesh can deceive us and cause us to fall into idolatry if we are not sober or vigilant. Especially if we are not willing to rightly divide the Word of God or hold all things accountable to scripture. Holding things accountable to scripture is not something the world is very fond of. I am under the impression that you are not fond of that either.


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