SOURCE:  North Marshall Messenger, #542

The Mischief of Division

by David Lemmons

In Acts 23:6 the Bible tells us that Paul perceived something.  That something that Paul perceived was the divided state of the Jews before whom he was giving his defense.  Listen to Luke’s record of the event…    

But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

To me it is certainly interesting to observe how Paul used the division that existed between these two Jewish sects to get himself  out of a life-threatening situation.
It is interesting as well, from another perspective, to observe how that the division that plagued these Jews was instrumental in bringing about the defeat of attaining a common goal these two sects shared.  If we turn back to 21:28ff we find that strong accusations were made against Paul and that the entire city was in an uproar.  They actually “went about to kill him” (v. 31).  Those who served on the Sanhedrin were united in their desire to be rid of such an one as this Paul who preached about Jesus.  Had Paul not been rescued by Lysias, he would surely not have had opportunity to give any defense before this group of Jewish leaders.  At his first defense, Paul mentioned being sent to the Gentiles by the Lord and the reaction of the Jews was: “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (Acts 22:22).  These Jewish leaders who sat on the Sanhedrin had a strong cementing cause that would normally have held them together: LET’S GET RID OF PAUL–THAT ONE WHO PREACHES THAT GENTILES CAN BE SAVED, but something defeated them even in the presence of such a powerfully emotional cause.  That something was the state of division that existed among themselves.
Acts 23:7 tells us there was dissension among the Pharisees and the Sadducees and that the multitude (of the Jews) was divided.  Verse 8 gives to us the cause of the division of these Jewish leaders and their followers–“For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.”  The fact is that these two sects SHOULD HAVE BEEN united.  If the word of God had been respected  and  followed  to decide this question, there would have been NO disagreement, these sects would not have existed.  The fact is that the Pharisees were correct in confessing both the resurrection and that there were spirits and angels.  Division on this point over which there should have been agreement WEAKENED their resolve and prevented them from doing that which they had a strong desire to accomplish.
Paul was able to bring up that matter over which these two sects disagreed to bring about the confusion that resulted in his life being spared.  Let us appreciate the teaching of Paul in another context that God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33).  It was the ideas of man (in this case, the Sadducees) that led to the division into sects of the Jews!
Can we not benefit from noticing the mischief that was caused by the divided state of these Jews?  Can we not appreciate how very foolish it is to allow man’s ideas and “think-so’s” to destroy our unity and weaken our efforts to stand strong for the Lord?  Is it not obvious to us that Satan and his angels are presently using division among God’s people to bring about his own aims?
The division that exists among God’s people today needs to be considered in the light of the use that Paul made of division in Acts 23.  He used it to inflame passions that diverted the attention of the Sanhedrin away from his case to their own differences. We simply cannot stand strong before an unbelieving world when we do not speak the same thing, as Paul urges in 1 Corinthians 1:10.  In fact, the solution to the divided state of our brethren is still the solution offered by Paul to the saints at Corinth.
On occasion I hear the idea promoted that the best way to deal with division in doctrine among us is to ignore it and pray that it will go away.  I would go along with the notion that much prayer is needed, however I must insist that the ignoring of error among us is hardly a proper pursuit.  Those who have strayed from the concept of a “thus saith the Lord” for all of our practice need to be reproved and rebuked (2 Tim 4:2).  They need to be made aware that when they present a false and misleading view of the Lord’s church to those outside the body of Christ, they are guilty of weakening our efforts to carry the blessed gospel to a lost world!  They cause us to be in the position of the Pharisees and Saducees before whom Paul stood.
I recently engaged in correspondence with a brother in Christ who actually refuses to acknowledge that Colossians 3:17 demands the authority of Christ for all that we do.  I don’t know how Paul could have made himself any clearer than he did make it in this text.  The arrogance and audacity of men today in dealing with the sacred text is a fruitful cause of division among us and weakens our efforts to reach those that are lost with the saving message.
I pray that at North Marshall we will ever be mindful of the terrible MISCHIEF Satan can cause due to an acceptance of the ideas and doctrines of men, and that we will ever be vigilant to speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among us.  I pray that we will be strong in demanding a book, chapter, and verse for our practices.  There is no reason that we cannot be immensely successful so long as we maintain our UNITY!

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Luke 10:38-42

SOURCE: North Marshall Messenger, #540


by David Lemmons

Throughout the Bible we read about the choices that are made by men and women, boys and girls.  Sometimes these choices are clearly held up to us as examples to follow and at other times it is obvious that we ought not make that given choice in our own lives.  Consider an incident recorded in Luke 10:38-42…

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.  39  And she had a sister     called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.  40  But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that     my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.  41  And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about    many things:  42  But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

It is said here by our Lord that Mary had chosen that good part.  So then, Jesus is pointing out a choice that is worthy of our consideration to follow in our own lives.
What joy must Mary have felt when her action brought about the words of her Lord that indicated His approval of a choice she had made!  For a faithful follower of Jesus could there be any greater delight than to know I have made a choice which is well pleasing to my Lord?  Can we not see that here is a very significant incident that Luke has recorded for our instruction?
The choice that Mary had made was to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His word.  Now we would think that such a choice would be reckoned by all of Jesus’ disciples as a wise and good choice.  However, Mary’s sister, Martha had not so reckoned.  Martha, in fact, thought in her own mind that her sister had made a foolish choice.  Martha thought that Mary was being neglectful and was in need of rebuke from the Lord.
Instead, a mild rebuke was given to Martha for her own misplaced priorities.  This brings to the mind of a careful Bible student that there could be many occasions on which Jesus might either question or commend choices we have made with regard to how we use our time.  I wonder how often we even consider this matter in our daily lives.
It is not as if Martha had chosen some ungodly pursuit with which to occupy her time.  Rather that which she was doing in showing hospitality is a good thing and quite often commended in Scripture (Rom 12:13; 1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:8; 1 Pet 4:9).  No, Martha had made a GOOD choice, what is troubling about her choice is that she might have made an even wiser choice–the choice made by her sister, Mary.  Mary had made a choice which recognized that the mundane things of this life become utterly insignificant when placed beside an opportunity for spiritual growth and understanding.  The Messiah was present!  Jesus, the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8), was in the building!  Is there not time to sit and listen to His teaching.
What is the solution for the problems we face in our world today?  How do we cope with all of the unsettling and even upsetting news of the day?  Is there a lesson to learn from the visit Jesus made to that Bethany home?
Surely we need to examine our own priorities of life.  Surely we need to appreciate that we may be dwelling entirely too much upon those “Martha-things,” which are good, in and of themselves, but which are hampering, even preventing,  our spiritual maturity and development into powerful servants of the Lord who can be used in a mighty way to serve the risen Lord.
How much time do I spend examining my priorities?  Do I ever even consider that there just might be a better use of my time?  Have I ever even considered that my Lord might have a commendation for me on Judgment day similar to the one He gave to Mary?
What about the Bible classes?  Is there a more direct comparison we could make than to consider this choice we make weekly?  What activity could my feeble mind conceive of that would take priority to listening to Jesus at Bible Class time?  If I want to choose THAT GOOD PART, where will I find myself at 9:30 on Sunday morning and 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday night?
What about the worship assemblies?  What about gospel meetings?  What about our Berean School? It is shameful that we have differing numbers from the Sunday morning worship assembly count on these other occasions of study from the word of the Lord.  To those of you who do not come–are you being like Martha or are you being like Mary?  Think ahead for just a moment.  On that Judgment day of John 12:48, which person would you have to be your model?
Jesus said to Martha, concerning her sister, Luke 10:42  “But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”  The one thing that is needful somehow is not appreciated to the degree that it ought to be in our day.  That one thing that is needful seems to be “pushed off to the back burner” of our lives.  That one thing that is needful will make us a great church when we begin to appreciate this wonderful commendation and go and do likewise!

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