(18) For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. (19) For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.
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Contrasting the unity that Christ died to establish is the division sown by the Adversary as part of his “divide and conquer” strategy. Paul writes of factions (or divisions) in relation to the members of the Corinthian church of God:
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions [schisma] among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions [hairesis] among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (I Corinthians 11:18-19)
In general, the nouns schisma and (to a lesser extent)hairesis receive pejorative treatment in the New Testament. The thrust of the apostle's comments on the topic of church factions is that they showcase the presence of human nature at work in Christians. Schisms are the result of carnality alive-and-kicking in the church. They emerge where God's people are not fully committed to living His way of life, where they deny God His rightful place as Sovereign Ruler of their lives. Axiomatically, the lack of unity in a congregation reflects a proportional lack of repentance on the part of its members.
Paul introduces the concept of division, using the same Greek word as he does in I Corinthians 11:18, schisma,in the book's first chapter:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions [schisma] among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. (I Corinthians 1:10-11)
Quarreling is a manifestation of the unity-dissolving “friction or competition.”
— Charles Whitaker