Dissension in the Church
And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.
– Acts 15:2
Modern church salesman preach one thing and one thing only: church conflict means failure. But, church conflict is—and always has been—normal. We forget this basic truth often, but it is obvious enough when we think about it.
A church, after all, is made up of a group of saints; yet, they are not perfect and so they sin. Often, because of the familial love within a congregation, sins are committed against one another and are done without much thought as to how it will affect the other person.
The dissension in the church Antioch was over what the Gentiles had to do in order to be faithful believers. The fight was so intense that they went to Jerusalem to see what the church at large had to say. They wanted outside counsel and help to resolve conflict in the local church.
Though we ought to pray and work for unity and love between us, it should not take us by surprise when dissension and conflict arise. Sometimes conflicts are over simple matters, and sometimes they are not. Our church, like the one in Antioch, has a built-in system of appeal to resolve conflict. The first level is between the two in conflict, the next with the elder session, and if the difficulty isn’t a matter of church discipline, it can rise to the level of presbytery. Thank God for this way of help for us.