Division is a good thing, right? Everything in its 'proper' place, and nothing out of order! 'Some people just don't know their place!' Sound familiar? It should; you might hear this phrase anywhere from the context of the armed forces to the institutional church, from bedrooms to boardrooms, so to speak!
In Scripture, we are given ( no argument there ) what seems to be instructions for Church Polity! The apostle Paul gave his son Timothy ( I Timothy 3:1-13 ) pretty clear instructions on how bishops or deacons were to be qualified for service. the interesting thing, though is, that these are really, as I noted to my wife's pastor ( at the time ); 'these are the qualifications for any good Christian'!
In his letter to Titus ( Titus 1:5-9 ), Paul gives pretty much the same instructions, though he added in this letter why he was ordering things thus. 'For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain'. These instructions seem to have been given specifically for the ordering of the Early Church, its Genesis, you might say!
There is some talk today, particularly in the 'fulfilled' camp ( those who believe in a Fulfilled Eschatology ) that the offices of the Church ( the elder or bishop ) are no long called for, that with the Advent ( first & second, so-called ) of Christ, these positions have ceased to be! There is no doubt, especially in today''s theological & ecclesiastical landscape, that these offices are needful, and even necessary.One might liken this 'need' to that of the average Americans need for a law that tells him not to drive when drunk, for a law to forbid him to go over a certain speed on a deer-infested highway, or to wear his seat-belt on the same highway; it's a matter of a lack of good common sense! We have all of these laws because many people don't have the common sense or responsibility to act safely. On the other hand, too many Christians have taken the 'sheep' metaphor Jesus used too far, and become prey to the 'wolves'!
Paul's instruction to Titus, then, being where we get much of our Church Polity, was given for a specific purpose! That purpose was to ensure that Titus, and other appointed Church Leaders would be able to sift out & destroy damning error within their specific congregation. While these specific errors, or the same damned group of nay-sayers ( Pharisees & Judaizers ) may no longer exist, there are still those who want to trouble the Church, those who feel the need, as did the Pharisees, to observe the Law given under that first ( covenant!
Christians, as they mature, should be able to sort out these errors for themselves, to refute it, and to rid themselves and the Body of it! Some can and do, but there are many more out there, for whatever reason, who cannot or simply refuse to do so; they are 'blown about by every wind of doctrine' ( Ephesians 4:14 ) However, all is not as ( we think ) it should be, so we have what we have; a Church ( for the most part ) still in its infancy, waiting for a Jesus to return that is already here!
Division, in the Scripture, was how our Heavenly Father ordered His Good Creation 'in the beginning', but that doesn't mean that He meant for it to remain that way! Sure, evil still still occurs in this world; as long as human beings exist, evil will be a clear & present danger, and there should be a clear distinction made between that which is good and that which is evil, but the wall of division has been brought down, to nothing!
The Greek ( New Testament ) Scriptures are full of the Language of Unity! The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Galatia ( Galatians 3:28 ), 'we are all one in Christ Jesus'. Later, he encouraged the Church at Ephesus to 'keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace', 'till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, and to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ' ( Ephesians 4:3 & 13 ) Paul encouraged the Church at Philippi to 'be of this same mind', sacrificing personal wants & desires for the needs of other in order to pursue unity within the Body of Christ!
The Rank & File of the Church then, as in many other aspects of Life, must remain in their ordained order! At least in most areas! In certain congregations, the need for overseers may not exist, with all men & women having exactly the Perfect Mind of Christ, and being able to rightly judge for themselves between right & wrong, have no more need for someone to tell them what to do! If such a congregation exists, though, I sure wish someone would tell me about it!
Charles Haddon Shank