Help! My Church is Splitting!

Help! My Church is Splitting! – LIVE Q&A with David Guzik for July 27, 2023

Help! My Church is Splitting!

Johan asked….

An assistant pastor from our church is leaving to start a new church close by. I don’t know all the reasons why, but it feels really awkward at our church. It seems like there will be a church split, and I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. What are your thoughts?

Think of a cell “splitting” or multiplying.

  • A healthy cell splits and can make two healthy, growing, thriving cells.
  • But if a cell is diseased, or malfunctioning in some way, then that disease or malfunction just gets spread.
  • Sometimes a relatively healthy cell has some problem or damage and that gets split off.

Whether a split is good or bad depends on the heart and actions of those involved. It can be done in the spirit, or in the flesh.

It is often wrong before God and unethical to “steal” people from an existing congregation to start a “competing” church.

  • In a sense, the “sheep” or God’s people can’t be stolen, because they don’t “belong” to any man, pastor, or elders, but to God.
  • But there is an unethical way of drawing people to oneself, or one’s work – that is to be avoided.

Paul was determined that he should not build on another man’s foundation (Romans 15:20). It’s good to have that heart in planting a church.

Times of conflict or transition at churches are times when:

  • God wants to do His work through His people to bring Him glory.
  • Satan wants to do his work to tear down the church.

Determine that, with God helping you, you will be an instrument who furthers God’s work and purpose – which can often be measured by the fruit of the Spirit and the nature of Jesus.

What are the dimensional spirits, as per the book of Revelation?

Revelation 1:4 – John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne.

I think you’re talking about the seven Spirits before the throne of God, which are mentioned in Revelation 1:4. Probably the best connection to this passage is Isaiah 11:2, which speaks about seven aspects of the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 11:2 – The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. It isn’t that there are seven separate Spirits of God, but rather, the Spirit of the Lord has these seven characteristics.

Here’s the fascinating thing about the book of Revelation. There is no other book in the New Testament that quotes the Old Testament as much as the book of Revelation. There are hundreds of quotations and allusions back to the Old Testament in the book of Revelation. One of the great keys to understanding and interpreting the book of Revelation well is to know the Old Testament very well.

​Is the James who wrote the Book of James the same as James the “Son of Thunder” (John’s brother)?

No, it’s not the same James. There are several people named James in the New Testament. There is a difference between the two you mentioned. The James who was the Lord’s brother was not one of the twelve disciples. If you remember, the inner core of Jesus’ disciples were Peter, James, and John. The James included in that group was of the twelve disciples. He was the brother of John, and the first of the apostles to be martyred. Acts 12:2 describes the martyrdom of the apostle James.

The James who wrote the book of James, and who came to prominent leadership in the church in Jerusalem is James the brother of Jesus. Technically, you’d say he was the half-brother of Jesus.

Which New Testament books, if any, were originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, or any other non-Greek language? Or were they all written originally in Greek?

I’m not a specialist in this area, but I haven’t seen any compelling evidence that any of the New Testament books were originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic, and then translated into Greek. The book of Hebrews is one for which people probably make the best case. There are some people who think that Hebrews was a sermon, originally delivered in Hebrew/Aramaic, and that Luke translated it into Greek. It’s possible, but I haven’t seen any compelling evidence for it.

The other leading contender for would be the Gospel of Matthew. Some people have tried to make the case that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew/Aramaic, but it was translated into Greek very early. To me, these are rather speculative theories. There’s no real hard evidence for them.

They are interesting ideas. But I am of the opinion that there’s no compelling evidence to say that any of the New Testament books were written in any other language than New Testament Greek.

Was the purification dispute between John the Baptist’s disciples and the Jews based on Numbers 19? If so, were Jesus’ & John’s disciples baptizing in the name of Jesus at this point?

John 3:25-26 – Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”

This is a great question. I don’t think the text really reveals the precise nature of this dispute to us. Obviously, John’s baptism had a significant element of personal purification. The Jews were well accustomed to ritual baths or bathing, known as a mikvah, used for ritual purification. But John’s baptism took the principle of the mikvah and amplified it, because it included a direct personal recognition of a person sinfulness, whereas the mikvah was more of a general ceremonial practice.

It’s one thing for us to say, “I’m a sinner in general.” But it’s another thing for me to call out specific sins and say, “I confess and repent of this sin.” It seems that John’s baptism was much more about the latter. It may be that the Jewish people who were objecting to John’s baptism were focused on that. It seems like that’s the nature of the dispute.

Were Jesus and John’s disciples baptizing in the name of Jesus at that point? No, I don’t believe so. I don’t believe they started baptizing in the name of Jesus until the establishment of the Church. Obviously, there’s a strong link between John’s baptism and what we would call Christian baptism, but at the same time, they’re not the same thing. They are distinct things in themselves.

Refer to my commentary John 3 for more insight.

I often hear “Jesus is coming back.” But doesn’t the church go up first, before Jesus comes back to earth?

I hear a lot “Jesus is coming back,” but isn’t it we, the church, that are going up first, before Jesus comes back to earth?

That’s true. Christians who love the Lord and honor the Bible come to different perspectives about these things, and that’s fine. But in my understanding of God’s prophetic scenario, yes, Jesus is going to come for the church before He comes back in glory returning to the world. But both of those are aspects of Jesus’ coming. When we say, “Come, Lord, Jesus,” we mean, “Come for your Church,” and we mean, “Come in glory back to the world.” It all fits into one big picture.

How can we know when to reckon biblical dates, including prophetical dates, according to a 360-day calendar, versus the alternatives? What is the name of the correct biblical calendar?

I’m sure people have given the 360-day calendar a technical name, but I don’t know it. The 360-day calendar seems to have been common in the ancient world. And it seems that’s the calendar God uses.

I would say that it’s irrelevant where days are irrelevant. Sometimes God is speaking in terms of epochs, years, and broader periods. But concerning actual numbers of days, I think there are places where the 360-day calendar should be used in understanding things prophetically.

Of course, the great place where this has been relied upon is in the calculations of Sir Robert Anderson, in his understanding of the 70 weeks of Daniel. According to his calculations, that prophecy was fulfilled to the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem in the Triumphal Entry, presenting Himself as Messiah, the Prince to Israel.

There is some controversy around Sir Robert Anderson’s chronology and calculations. But I appreciate the word from John Walvoord, a very respected commentator on Revelation. He says that Anderson’s calculations have never been categorically disproved. I would tend to agree with that. I think there’s merit to it.

When we try to measure the exact day of such things, I think it’s helpful to use what some people call a prophetic year, which consists of 360 days. Some people believe that, at one time, the world used a 360-day calendar for a year, but then something happened. There are all sorts of speculations about this, including Immanuel Velikovsky’s book, Worlds in Collision. He speculated that maybe a near passing of a comet or some other thing led to a cataclysm on Earth, which increased the Earth’s orbit ever so slightly, from 360 days to 364.25 days in a year. People have discussed and performed research on these topics.

In Ezekiel, it seems that a new Temple will be built, and the sacrificial system will be reinitiated. Since Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for sin, why would this happen? Is this symbolic?

This is such a great question. I would say that Ezekiel’s temple, as described in Ezekiel 40-48, is a literal building that will be built. I believe it will be built during the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ over this earth. I think that it will be built as a memorial recognizing God’s work in the past. People will be called to remember the great things God did in the past and how He worked in redemptive history.

Maybe you’re familiar with historical reenactments, otherwise known as “living history” exhibits, such as Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, in the United States. The reenactors are dressed in period costume, and they’re doing work in the practice of that time period. A woman will be churning butter, a man will be making things out of wood with old tools, a blacksmith will be working at the anvil. Their goal is to show you what life was like at an earlier time. In the same way, I believe that that will be a large part of Ezekiel’s temple. It will be a memorial for the people on earth during the Millennium, showing them what God did in that great stage of redemptive history, teaching them about God’s works in the past.

It’s very important to say that, in my understanding of this, the sacrifices offered at Ezekiel’s temple are not for atonement. The perfect work of Jesus forever satisfied any work of atonement. These sacrifices are not meant to atone for sin, but they have value as a memorial. They can also have dedicatory value. Even Paul offered sacrifices at the Temple after he was believer and an apostle, not for atonement but for dedication. In the Book of Acts, we see that some aspects of the sacrificial system were recognized as still being useful to Christian believers under the New Covenant, as expressions of devotion and commitment to God, such as the sacrifices surrounding a Nazirite vow.

One of the big reasons I believe that the Temple described in Ezekiel 40-48 is literal is just the way it’s described. Excessive detail is given about the measurements and dimensions of Ezekiel’s Temple. If it was just a symbolic temple, I don’t see why all the detail would need to be included. But seeing that it is a literal temple which will be on the earth in the Millennium, it not only fits with the context and the flow of the book of Ezekiel, but I think it also makes sense by how it’s described in the book of Ezekiel.

Are Adam and Eve in heaven?

Yes, they’re in heaven, and I’ll tell you why. After their fall, God clothed Adam and Eve with the skins of animals, which signifies two things. First of all, He took away the covering they had made for themselves. The fig leaves were inadequate coverings, and very uncomfortable coverings as well. So, He took away those inadequate coverings.

Secondly, God gave them coverings. God provided a covering. That is the difference between all religion and all revelation from God. Religion is man’s attempt to cover himself, in order to reach up to God. On the other hand, revelation is God coming down to humanity and saying, “Let Me cover you with a sacrifice.” That’s exactly how He did it for them. God had to sacrifice an animal for them in order to cover them with the skins of animals. They received the covering God gave to them in a physical and spiritual sense. I believe you’re going to see Adam and Eve in heaven.

Should Jacob have had only one wife (Genesis 30)? What are your thoughts on multiple wives?

In Genesis 30, the combination of “4 moms and 1 man” seems less than a man-of-God lifestyle. But if Jacob had only 1 wife, it would have been Leah. Your thoughts on multiples wives, in this case, and otherwise?

I’m against multiple wives. From the beginning, God determined that marriage should be one man with one woman. Inga-Lill is the one for me, and that settles it.

Polygamy was allowed in the Old Testament. God did not give a specific command against it until New Testament times. But as Jesus pointed out, from the beginning, it was not so. Jesus said in Matthew 19:8 that, from the beginning, God’s intention was one man with one woman in a bond intended to last a lifetime. That was God’s intention for marriage. And that should be the intention of every couple when they enter into the covenant of marriage, to be one man with one woman with the intention of a lifelong bond.

Every time you see a polygamous family in the Old Testament, it’s a mess. Through those examples, God is very powerfully teaching, “This was not My intention. This was not what I intended to do from the beginning.” And that’s what Jesus pointed out in Matthew 19, where He talks about God’s ideal for marriage is one man with one woman for life. Jesus very carefully stated that from the beginning, that’s how God intended it to be.

Now, if Jacob had only had one wife, would it have been Leah? I’ve thought about this. What should Jacob have done when he realized that Laban deceived him, and slipped him Leah instead of Rachel? Well, instead of adding Rachel as a second wife, Jacob should have gone to Laban and said, “Laban, this is on you. This marriage is annulled. Leah is not the woman I contracted to marry. So, this marriage is annulled and I’m going to marry Rachel. End of story.” That’s what he should have done. Obviously, it’s easy for me to stand back thousands of years later, completely culturally removed, and say what Jacob should and shouldn’t have done. But I think that would have matched God’s ideal, hypothetically speaking. And I think God would have given Jacob twelve sons and one daughter through Rachel alone, if Jacob would have done the right thing. Let’s face it, if ever there was a marriage that could have rightfully been annulled, it was Jacob’s marriage to Leah, a woman he never intended to marry. Rachel and Leah’s father Laban pulled the old switch on him, and what a deceptive man he was, but Jacob was getting his own medicine. That’s another story altogether.

​When a denomination changes its stance on biblical issues, how should individuals and local churches respond?

How do we (a church) respond to our denomination: It has made changes to its beliefs & bylaws, which we believe are contrary to biblical teaching. What should individual believers do? What should a church under a changing affiliation or organization do?

Denominations do this sometimes. In our present day and age, it is sad to see whole denominations going off into unfaithfulness to biblical teaching. One of the most dramatic and terrible examples just this year is the Church of England. The Church of England openly affirmed that its priests could bless same-sex marriages, and by extension, pronounce the church’s blessing and the Lord’s blessing over same-sex marriages. Friends, that is a denial of biblical teaching, not only regarding sexuality, but also regarding marriage and what God intended marriage to be from the beginning: one man and one woman. Not only is it such an egregious and blatant disregard of biblical teaching in this regard, but much of the reaction from the Church of England was, “We didn’t go far enough, and we should go farther.” I think it would be appropriate for individual congregations in the Church of England to withdraw themselves from the supervisory aspect of the Church of England, and organize under another diocese of the Anglican Communion, such as perhaps one of the African dioceses, which are much more faithful to biblical teaching. The same dynamic can play out as denominations bend to worldly influences and worldly causes. They can and rightly should be departed from.

Ideally, denominations would not be doing this, they would not be selling out to the world in this way.

But if they do, then the ideal response would be for individual congregations to withdraw from that denomination. Ideally, pastors and elders and leaders of that church that would say, “No, our denominational hierarchy has done this, but it’s not right, so we’re going to withdraw from that.” That would be a second ideal.

Failing those first two things, the third ideal would be for the individual believer to say, “I can’t be part of a church that’s part of a denomination which openly denies the Lord and His teaching on these critical points.” No individual church or denomination is perfect. Every one of them has its flaws. We understand that we’re not asking for perfection. But especially on the issues where the culture is pushing back hard on the church, wanting to bend the church to its will, the church has to stand strong, and remain unbent and unbroken.

Does Isaiah 43 apply to us even though it was written to Israel?

Isaiah 43:1-2 – But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you. 

Yes, absolutely, I would say that the principles of Isaiah 43 apply to the believer under the New Covenant. In Isaiah 43, God is speaking to Israel, the people of God, genetic Israel, the covenant descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as covenant participants in the Old Covenant, the covenant made with Moses at Mount Sinai.

Look at what is already true of the believer in these verses. God says, “I am the Lord who created you and formed you.” Has the Lord created you? He says, “I have redeemed you.” Are you among the redeemed of the Lord? He says, “You belong to the Lord.” The Lord can look at you and say, “You are mine.” If those promises are all already true for you, then the promises of preservation when great difficulty comes are true for you too. “Passing through the waters” is a picture of great difficulty and great trial coming upon the life of the believer or the people of God as a whole.

All of these things are very much applicable. We understand that these things were spoken to God’s people as they existed under the Old Covenant, but by application, we as believers rejoice that God is not less generous to His people under the New Covenant. If anything, God’s hand is more open to His people under the New Covenant.

Was the practice of blessing the firstborn a man-made practice or did God demand it?

Can you explain the practice of “blessing the firstborn” in the OT, was it only man-made or was it ever demanded by God?

I can’t say that it was demanded by God. But it was a very logical outworking of what God commanded. God commanded a blessing that would pass from the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – to their children. They just had to discern from the Lord, “Lord, does this pass on to all my children or to a specific child?” In the case of Abraham, the blessing went to Isaac and not to Ishmael or any of Abraham’s other sons through Keturah, his second wife. In Isaac’s, the blessing went through Jacob and not Esau. But with Jacob, the blessing went through all twelve of his sons. They were all inheritors of the covenant. I think the idea of passing on the blessing to the firstborn is a verynatural practice. It was very much used by God, yet at the same time, was a normal cultural practice.

Did Nero’s persecution of Christians really happen, or was it just a myth?

I’ve heard that the Neronian persecution was a myth. What do you think?

I think there is pretty conclusive evidence from the early church about it. I’d like to see any evidence that it was a myth. We do find early Christian writers referring to it with some degree of specificity. It even seems that Paul was caught up in it. Most people believe that Paul’s martyrdom happened during the Neronian persecution. So, I think it was valid.

Listen, sometimes some of these stories of specific persecutions get exaggerated. That can happen. It has been said that during the Neronian persecution, Nero coated Christians with tar or asphalt and lit them as torches in his gardens. Is it possible that’s an exaggeration? Maybe, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration that the persecution happened.