1 Corinthians 11:18, 19
For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.…
In a good English dictionary, the term "schismatic" is thus explained: "One who separates from a Church from difference of opinion." The Bible makes no reference to an individual schismatic; nor does it apply the word "schism" to separation from the Church. "Heresy" is defined in the dictionary as "the taking and holding of an opinion contrary to the usual belief, especially in theology." Such, no doubt, is according to ecclesiastical usage; but the Scripture means by a "heresy" a sect or faction, not apart from but within the Church: "Heresies [factions] among you."
I. A SCHISM IS A RENT IN THE MIDST OF THE CHURCH, marring the enjoyment and expression of its essential unity. If a piece of undressed cloth were put to an old garment, a schism would occur. Not that the garment would fall into two parts, but that it would show an unseemly rent. A division of opinion among the people who heard our Saviour is called a schism; and the same word is used to denote the discord in the crowd when St. Paul appeared before the council at Jerusalem. The only Church of all those to which St. Paul wrote, which had schisms within it of such seriousness as to give him anxiety and call for animadversion, was the Church at Corinth; but by these he did not mean the action of parties breaking off from the primitive Church in that city, and forming rival Churches or separate denominations. They were parties in the Church dissenting or differing from one another. This will appear the more clearly if we mark the remedies which the apostle prescribed, viz.:
1. To speak the same thing, and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment. To speak the same thing was to exalt the one great Name of the Lord Jesus, and not to take party names, saying, "I am of Paul; I am of Apollos." And to be perfectly joined in the same mind - the mind of Christ, and the same judgment - the judgment of his Spirit, while it never precluded activity of investigation and discussion, certainly implied that the normal condition of the Church should be one of concord, and not one of countless variations and opposing views.
2. To keep the Lord's Supper as the apostle instructed them. The Corinthians were charged not to partake of the sacred supper as of a common meal, lest they should "come together to judgment." They were to keep the feast with reverence, and with discernment of the Lord's body. They were also to show brotherly kindness, not as partisans, but as brethren, coining together and waiting for one another at the festival of love.
3. To bear in mind the doctrine of the mystical body, and, as members therein, to have the same care one for another. To have schisms or alienations would be to separate limbs that had need of each other, and so to vex and impede the whole body of Christ. At the present day, wherever parties are formed in a particular Church with hostile feelings and a desire to weaken one another, there is schism, in the New Testament sense of the word. And wherever, within the Church general, or communion of saints, there is an elevation of party names, and a setting up of party or denominational communions, making the Lord's Supper "their own supper," there is schism.
II. A HERESY IS AN AGGRAVATED FORM OF A SCHISM, AND DENOTES A SEPARATIST PARTY OR A SECT. We read of "the heresy of the Sadducees" (Acts 5:17), and "the heresy of the Pharisees" (Acts 15:5). The Christians were charged with forming a new heresy or sect - "the heresy of the Nazarenes." It was in this sense, and not at all in the sense of heterodoxy, that St. Paul admitted that he worshipped the God of his fathers, "after the manner which they called heresy." The Jews at Rome, agreeing to bear the apostle on the faith or' the Nazarenes, remarked, "As concerning this heresy, we know that it is everywhere spoken against." Thus the term undoubtedly denoted a faction, not a mode of thought or form of doctrine, true or false; but in the Church it to from the beginning an unfavourable meaning. A heresy was a faction which carried out a schism to actual separation, and was animated in doing so by a proud, unruly spirit. Accordingly, heresies are classed with variances, strifes, and seditions, among "the works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:20). "A man that is a heretic," therefore, means, not an errorist, but a separatist. We do, indeed, read in 2 Peter 2:1 of "heresies of doctrine;" but the reference is to the conduct of introducers of strange doctrine as forming a separate party. "Many shall follow their pernicious ways." We have seen that direction was given for the prevention of schism. It was also given for the correction and removal of heretics. Titus was instructed to admonish a heretic once and again. If admonition failed, Titus was to reject or shun him as a mischief maker among brethren. We live in a time of great confusion. Church unity is misunderstood; Church liberty is abused; and Church discipline is relaxed - is, in some quarters, almost obsolete. Let every one look to his own spirit and conduct. As a Christian, you are a Churchman. Never join a sect or faction. Never lift the mere banner of a party. Belong to the Church of God, which was born of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. For actual instruction and united worship, you must be in some one particular part of that Church; abide in that which is in your judgment the best constituted and administered; but never take your chamber for the whole house, or any particular Church for the Church universal. Bear a brotherly heart and countenance towards all who love the Lord, that, so far as your influence extends, there may be no schism in the body, Deplore the existence of splits and divisions as an evil; yet remember that it evolves some good - "that they who are approved may be made manifest among you." Oh to be approved of him who knows what spirit we are of, and to be manifested as no heretics, but faithful members of Christ and loving children of God! - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
WEB: For first of all, when you come together in the assembly, I hear that divisions exist among you, and I partly believe it.