Sects, Why so many

 

Why are there so many sects in Christendom?

Their number calls forth the derision of unbelievers and causes grief to the devout.
When the apostles spread the teachings of Christ, Christianity began with a single ‘sect’, which was said to be ‘everywhere spoken against’. (Acts
28:22) If the teachings held by its members had remained exactly as they were given by the first teachers, there is at least a possibility that it would have continued to be one ‘sect’.
But suppose that fresh doctrines are introduced, old words are used to clothe new ideas and an alien philosophy is combined with the original
teaching? Is it not clear that there will be a strain between the new beliefs and the old? The way will be opened for all kinds of combinations of ideas
and the invention of new theories to reconcile things which are in conflict. And as a result, different groups will drift further and further apart, until they split into separate churches in perpetual disagreement with one another. Put broadly and simply, that is very much what happened to Christianity. The changes were coming even in the apostles’ days; for we find Paul strenuously opposing ideas which would have made the resurrection of the dead unnecessary. (1 Cor. 15:12-20) At the end of his life, Paul was still combating those ‘who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already’. (2 Tim. 2:18) There is a strong probability, to put it no higher, that the only teaching which could have displaced the belief in future resurrection, was the Greek doctrine that the soul is immortal and therefore needs no raising from the grave. To Paul this was a matter of acute concern, for its effects were disastrous. It had ‘overthrown the faith of some’ and as to the future he saw that it would ‘eat like gangrene’. (2 Tim. 2:17 R.V)
In some of his earliest letters, Paul had said there would come a ‘falling away’ and even that ‘the mystery of iniquity doth already work’. (2 Thess. 2:3,7) He told the Ephesians, ‘Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things’. (Acts 20:30) In both his letters to Timothy, he wrote of a time when ‘some shall depart from the faith’ (1 Tim. 4:1) and when ‘they will not endure sound doctrine’;...but will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside unto fables’. (2 Tim. 4:3-4) Having ‘itching ears’, he said, they will ‘heap to themselves teachers’ according to their own desires.
Nor was Paul alone in this. Peter said, ‘There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies’. (2 Peter 2:1) The letters of John, written in his extreme old age towards the end of the first century, were very largely devoted to combating teaching which was already prevalent. He wrote, ‘Many false prophets (or teachers) are gone out into the world’, (1
John 4:1) ‘Many deceivers are entered into the world’. (2 John 7) He urged believers to put to the test those who came to them as teachers (or, in his own idiom, to ‘try the spirits’); and the only standard by which they could be tested was the Word which God had already given through His Holy Spirit - that is, Scripture.
Even in the apostles’ day, when only the writings we now call the Old Testament could be appealed to, the Jews at Berea were called ‘more noble’
because they ‘searched the scriptures daily’ to see whether the things they were told by Paul and Silas ‘were so’. (Acts 17:11) And when in earlier times Jews had sought to communicate with the dead by practices like those of modern Spiritualism, Isaiah had pointed to the only true source of inquiry: ‘Should not a people seek unto their God?... To the law and to the testimony:
if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them’. (Isa. 8:19-20)
‘Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit’. (2 Peter 1:21)
Since division has come because men have arisen speaking perverse things ‘to draw away disciples after them’, (Acts 20:30) the only real way to unity is to return to ‘the faith which was once delivered unto the saints’. (Jude :3)
Today, great efforts are being made to achieve unity between various churches and sects by sinking differences, but whilst such efforts may
result in an organisation more pleasing to men, it cannot be acceptable to God. The only unity acceptable to God is that described by Paul,
‘There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one  faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all’.
(Eph. 4:4-6)
The greatest need today, is to return to this one faith, the faith preached by Christ and his apostles. The aim should not be to broaden the way but to seek out the narrow way. ‘Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth
to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it’. (Matt. 7:13,14)