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Summary: The church was planned, built and purchased by God and therefore belongs to Him... not you or I.

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Have I ever told you about a church I read about one time? Man they had their problems!

• They had had a succession of different preachers who had come through and worked with them… each one with pretty different and very strong personalities. One was pretty well known and respected across the brotherhood… one of those high-profile, “big name” preachers, you know. His presentation was always fiery, very “black & white” and could always be counted on to deliver one of those fire & brimstone lessons. Another one had been pretty controversial. At one time, he had been a part of a real conservative, traditional religious group, and was sort of mean-spirited about it. He had even spent some time putting this church down… preaching against them, writing them up, etc. But like happens a lot of times, he hit a huge bump in the road and underwent major re-orientation in life and in recent years had made some changes in his theology. He became much more grace-oriented in his preaching. Because of this, some people weren’t so sure about him. It wasn’t the kind of preaching they had grown up with, so they eyed him with skepticism. The other preacher had been very successful in his preaching, but had been preaching stuff that was just plain wrong. When confronted about it, he realized his mistake, he had repented and gone about his ministry… but you can imagine the wariness with which many of the church members now heard him… just not sure about his soundness. Well, the church began splintering around these different personalities. Some really liked the preaching of the dynamic “big name” guy. Others liked the more grace-oriented fellow. Others really appreciated hearing from the guy who had come out of doctrinal error—he had some good things to say. And there started all kinds of bickering going on amongst the different groups. Name calling, gossiping, and this went on. It got so bad at one point that the church almost blew apart… some members wanted to move out and start another congregation.

• Can you believe it? That this kind of thing would go on within the church? A church with problems? Who ever heard of such a thing?

• The Apostle Paul did… and he even wrote them a letter… our 1 Corinthians 1:10-13

10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? NIV

Why is the church (of all people) notorious for this kind of thing?

• I’ve told you about the church where I grew up. It would split every 10 years (like clockwork) whether they had an issue to fight over or not.

• We just about can’t hardly escape it can we? Believers have been trying to figure out how to get along for over 2,000 years (and we’re not a whole closer than we were in Corinth!)

• That ‘divisive’ and ‘denominational’ spirit that Paul addressed there at Corinth has been a part of the church’s history ever since!

Now, understand what I mean when I say, “denominational.”

• To “denominate” simply means to “separate by a name.”

• That’s what was going on in Corinth. Some wanted to be Apollos Christians… some Paul Christians… others Peter Christians… etc.

• But doesn’t that idea of ‘separation’ go against the idea of ‘unity’ that Jesus prayed for about his church?

Yet, this ‘labeling’ is an undeniable part of our history.

We would all agree that there were a lot of problems with the church of Martin Luther’s day… which prompted him to nail his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral in 1517. They were his objections against the Roman Catholic Church and their twisting of the Bible for their own financial gain. Thus began the Protestant Reformation. Today more than 5.5 million believers wear the name “Lutheran.”

Many believed that Luther’s reforms didn’t go nearly far enough and urged the Protestant church to take Protestantism “to its logical conclusion.” One of the principles which they believed didn’t get near enough attention was baptism. Beginning in the mid 1600s in America, small, independent churches began to spring up everywhere with this same emphasis on baptism and on mission work. In 1814 these churches held a convention and joined forces to form a new denomination. Today, an estimated 100 million folks wear the label “Baptist.”

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