The Lost Art Foot Washing – part 18

There were four major sects of Judaism present at the time of Christ that were all divided over doctrine: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes, and the Zealots. Jesus was constantly rebuking these sects challenging them about their doctrine (Matthew 22:15-33). Much of that doctrine was invented throughout history and not found in the Old Testament writings.

The Sanhedrin were a group of men who were deemed leaders, overall Jewish people. The High Priest, a Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:57), was considered the principal leader of the Jewish people. All other leaders within the various sects were inferior and considered to have less authority. Ironically, the Sanhedrin were the ones responsible for killing Jesus. According to ancient documents, they also were accustomed to killing Pharisees. They were the priests in charge of the Temple in Jerusalem. They did not believe in miracles. Jesus said that they were in error because they did not know scriptures or the power of God (Mark 12:24). The Pharisees, on the other hand, were the largest sect at the time and believed in angels, demons, miracles, and hell as well as a physical resurrection of the body. Paul was a Pharisee. The Essenes, another prevalent sect, were pacifists and some historical data shows that they were also called Nazarites of which John the Baptist and Jesus came from. Other lesser-known sects include The Rechabites, who did not drink wine or handle corpses; The Therapeutae, who were physicians or healers; The Samaritans, who believed that they were descended from the tribe of Ephraim but were hated by most Jews who thought of them as half gentile; The Yahad, who were one of the more legalistic sects; And lastly the Zealots, who were militant Jews awaiting a leader who would liberate them from Roman oppression.

You can see that the apostles and the Jews at that time were under great influence by numerous doctrines, philosophies, and ideologies. The people of God were divided over doctrines of men taught or advocated that established their religious forms of government. These doctrines divide those belonging to that sect from the others that did not adhere to their particular doctrine or doctrines. You, my Christian brother or sister, have your doctrine. You have a set of beliefs and a religious system and structure based on what you have been taught. These systems and structures create some degree of separation between you and other Christian brothers and sisters out there. This separation (division) is what I am talking about. When you do not agree with other brothers and sisters in Christ, separation or division, or whatever you want to call it, is caused and religious sects are formed. You might not think of your church denomination as a sect. But take a moment to compare today’s denominations with those around at the time of Christ. Things haven’t changed much in the past two thousand years.

When I was in middle school, I distinctly remember when a friend of mine decided to attend a different Presbyterian congregation. He wasn’t being rebellious, he just wanted to meet the other boys and girls from a different congregation. Our two congregations were not separated by the different Presbyterian denominational divisions, on the contrary, they belonged to the same one. They were part of the same presbytery but we all thought that my friend was defiant for wanting to leave our congregation. We treated him with contempt for leaving us. Where does this attitude come from? No one taught it to us. No one in the leadership of the church told us that he was in error. This attitude comes from our carnal nature and is fueled by the enemy. He has the right to get involved with our human pride and feelings of superiority. We are proud of our divisions and we don’t even know why. Division has the specific purpose to divide us. The enemy’s number one job is to divide us and keep us divided. When we are in agreement, we will naturally extend the Gospel message. When we are divided, we will not. We will fill more space locally because we divide.

The church is not the only thing that is divided. What I just wrote about being conditioned by experiences comes from a branch of psychology called “developmental psychology” which, you may or may not be in agreement with. Even the different branches of psychology are divided. Throughout history, different men had differing knowledge about the functions of the mind and they could not agree. All human endeavors and efforts are divided because they simply cannot agree. They cannot agree because they are, in their own mind, superior to all the others. It’s a grand scale competition at the global level to see who ends up winning. Human society cannot agree about anything. Everything is ordered into hierarchies from lowest to the most superior; ethnicity, birthplace, college alma mater, politics, worldview, sports teams, material possessions, business, and last but not least, religion. Within our religion, we are divided over men and doctrine. The worldwide Christian church has not been able to agree on hardly any insignificant doctrinal difference. The enemy has embedded this attitude of superiority so deeply inside us that most Christians are dissatisfied to some degree in the congregation where they are at. A spirit of discontentment is an ordinary part of our church lives.

The 16th-century reformation of the Church was not enough. The reformation came about because the worldwide church had become so contaminated over quarrels about doctrine and church leaders that it needed reforming. I would say that it needed more than reformation, it needed transformation. We are experiencing the fruit of reformation today. The Protestant Church is more divided than the Catholic Church ever was. To be transformed is what we need and only Christ can transform us.

Jesus ascended into heaven and not more than twenty years later division entered the body of Christ. All these divisive attitudes mentioned are characteristics of people who have been influenced by their own ambitions and pride. Our own sinful nature is proud. It lusts for power from position or the power that money brings. It hungers for prestige and the praise of men. These sinful attitudes lead to acts that are exactly what allows our enemy Satan and his angles to have their way with us. We allow ourselves to be duped into thinking that these things will somehow fill a need inside us. Once we allow ourselves to be deceived, we open up the door for the enemy to divide us. It is after all, his plan. Satan is behind all division in the body of Christ. We allow it to increase because we are vain, selfish and have evil ambitions. The division in the body continues to multiply and we go along with it. We propagate it and approve of it when we should just “agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among us and that we may be perfectly united in mind and thought”.

“Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness”.

(NIV, 2 Timothy 2:14:19)

It is commonly taught in good missionary training centers that you cannot take your denominational or doctrinal baggage to the mission field. The reason for this is because you will be superimposing your divisive attitude into the lives of the new believers. You cannot teach church tradition, practice or ritual to the people group. You are to simply translate and then communicate the teachings of the Bible, mainly the Gospels, and let them interpret them for what they are. No teaching of doctrine, just Jesus with the aid of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). The apostles were the prime candidates to finish the extension of the Gospel to all known nations (ethnos) and they didn’t  do it. This was not Christ’s fault. The apostles of Christ knew better than anyone else in history, who he was and what his attitude was, and yet division came in. We see the apostles battling the spread of division in their letters to the church. But we don’t see much division in the apostles lives. We see it in the second and third generation disciples. So enough about division and how bad things are. What can actually be done about it?

I am here to tell you that there is hope. God wins! The body of Christ does accomplish the job (1 Corinthians 15:24-26; Revelation 5:9; 7:9)! There has always been a core of the core of true Christian believers who are busy about Gods purposes in the world. Christ defeats his enemy Satan and the fallen angles and they are cast into the lake of burning sulfur (Revelation 20:10).

If you cannot agree with your brother in Christ, try washing his feet

Here is a simple remedy to any disagreement: Wash each other’s feet. This is a command given to us by Christ but very few practice it today(John 13:15). We are not blessed, because we do not follow these examples he set for us (John 13:17). If you are in a group that is divided, jealous, envious, hurt over offenses, or something similar, have a foot-washing session. Follow the example Jesus gives us in John chapter 13.