I had a good conversation with a friend last night. He asked a really good question. The essence of the question was this:
“If the gospel is simple to understand, Why is there so much disagreement?”
He’s right. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of divisions in the church. I have a few quick ideas on why this is.
It seems to me, from Scripture, that there are three things to blame for these divisions. (1) Scripture distorters, (2) Satan, and a (3) Self-gratifying audience.
Peter once said, “…our dear brother Paul also wrote you… His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15-16)
Peter says: (a) Some of what Paul writes is hard to understand. (b) People will twist and distort Paul’s writings. (c) Those same people will distort all scripture.
You may have heard the phrase, all roads lead to Rome. I have a phrase, all confusion leads to Romans. Almost without fail, when someone opposes what I have to say about the gospel, they quote Romans or James, even though I’m usually teaching from John’s Gospel. Watch out for Scripture distorters.
A second thought comes from Paul’s own words. He once said, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
The god of this age is Satan. The devil is involved in this distorting and twisting. Unbelievers are under the influence of the god of this age.
Unfortunately, believers can be influenced by Satan as well which is why Peter said to Christians, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Both believers and unbelievers can find themselves being influenced by the Devil.
A third contributing factor to all the confusion is a Self-gratifying audience. Paul once told his friend Timothy, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3)
Not only are scripture distorters, and Satan responsible but the listening audience is culpable as well. Every successful teacher is supported by a group of listeners. They have a responsibility to act as a type of checks and balances for Bible teachers.
Paul taught that a time would come when the audience would gather a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. The audience would be more interested in gratifying their own interests than hearing the difficult truth. The result would be that they turn their ears away from the truth. That sounds like the state the church is in today.
It seems to me, from Scripture, that the state we and the church are in was predicted by the Bible. Scripture distorters, Satan, and a Self-gratifying audience are wrecking the church and leaving it shattered.
That’s why we have to be on our guard.