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Quarreling - The Sin Lists of Paul - Part 1

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Quarreling - The Sin Lists of Paul - Part 1

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sin list (159.71 KB)


Quarreling - The Sin Lists of Paul - Part 1

MP3 Audio (36.8 MB)
sin list (159.71 KB)

In this message we will cover the sin quarreling. A category which includes: strife, self-ambition, sedition, heresy, conceits, and tumults.


Paul’s Sin Lists

Digital media company Buzzfeed made a billion dollar business out of click-bait headlines  like “10 things you must do now if you want to…” or “7 Reasons You Shouldn’t…”. People love lists! You’ll even find lists in the bible [ex. the Women’s discussion group is going over the “7 things God hates”].

The apostle Paul is known for providing interesting lists of spiritual virtues and vices commonly known as “the sin lists”. There are 8 of them. Your bible contains other such lists but I’m limiting myself to these 8.

 [show slide and describe method].

I have compiled the 40+ sins or vices on these lists and categorized them in 5 basic groups: Sexual, Bad Temper, Greed, Quarreling, Speech. Each list contains vices from multiple categories. Sometimes, the way Paul groups and orders them shows a cause and effect relationship [this, leads to this].

SPS: today, I would like to address the sins and vices from Paul’s lists by category. Limiting myself to the category of quarreling: strife, self-ambition, sedition, heresy, conceits, and tumults. Note: I will be spending more time on words mentioned multiple time in the bible than I will on words only mentioned once.

The multiple and different word in the category reveal different facets of this problematic behavior. Such as; what do we tend to quarrel about,  what motivates quarreling, what are the outcomes of quarreling, and how do we confront it. So, let’s begin:

Part 1: Strife

Contentions/Debate/Strife eiris G2054 used 9 times in the bible.

Romans 1:29 go back to verses 21-24 to get the context:

  1. Strife begins with bad assumptions about reality and lack of spiritual enlightenment (darkness).
  2. Strife and debate can have a superficial appearance of "wisdom"… but is closely linked to deceit, malice, and gossip.
  3. The motives driving strife and debate are tainted [unclean] and degrading to body and souls.
  4. Like perverted sexual behavior… Strife and debate are expressions of misdirected passion.

Romans 13:12-13 repeats the connection to darkness and passion lacking self control. The larger context is 1) submission to ordained authority 2) love toward neighbor 3) judging others on disputable matters. 

People quarrel about politics [IE. our relationship to civil authority, and internal Church administration]. Quarrelsome people often condemn others within the Church on matters that are dubious and unclear.  

1 Corinthians 1:11-12 here we see strife over what flavor of God's truth you like. Paul counteracts with the argument that all of the ministry works toward the same unified goal. I Paul, preached the gospel to you but I purposefully had someone else perform the baptism to avoid factionalism. I plant, Apollos watered, etc. Then in chapter 2 Paul goes on to talk about spiritual wisdom [which is humility].

Can you say "I think my position on this disputable matter is correct, but for the sake of harmony I am going to let it go. I would rather keep fighting until everyone agrees that I'm right [which builds my ego]. Plus if I back down now, others may think I lost the argument [which bugs me] However, I will practice Godly wisdom… and let it go… which takes self control and humility.

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 strife impedes better comprehension of what is lasting and valuable.

You may have mastered the fine points of ancient languages, the Hebrew calendar, prophecy, or therapeutic counselling... you may have a better vision for the direction the Church should take...but if the way you use that insight leads to division its is of no value. All these gifts and skills can be used to build up the Church or tear it apart... including the most common division of the present age - tearing  yourself apart from the body and going solo.

If the eye says "I can see what others cannot" and disconnects from the rest of the body, what happens to it? It falls out and sits on the ground for a week or two and rots. Would you still consider it part of your body? No. Likewise the argument "I will separate myself from the body but I still consider myself a part of the body” is not only foolish, its proud... that is not Godly wisdom.

1 Timothy 6:4 strife is linked to excessive focus on words. It is also driven by PRIDE... which God wants you to actively resist and overcome. [verse 1 authority of masters].

Titus 3:9-11 quarreling comes from excessive focus on fine-points of law. For example; does and don'ts related to Torah observance, Jewish traditions, interpretations about application of commandments in 21st century. Sometimes,  Church administration has to weigh in on areas which are not clear. Sometimes you may agree or disagree. But if the matter was clear there would be no need for any kind of administrative decision. Again notice the larger context of attitudes toward ordained authority in verse 1-3.

Strife comes with too much attention on such disputable matters which do not move you forward on the path to eternal life.

Here we get a clear ACTION ITEM: avoid getting drawn into contentious debates… HOW?… by avoiding the people who are doing it.

Part 2: Selfish Ambition

Seeking followers, factionalism eritheia G2052 used 6 times. It comes from the word for "hireling" ... and the sense of "seeking to win followers", or getting people over to my side, also translated intrigue. 

James 3:13-18 Those who are good with words and debate will present themselves as wise. However, if  the result is strife then this is not Godly wisdom by demonic. Godly wisdom is personal humility, patience, and self control… by which we avoid acting with selfish ambition.

Philippians 2:3 to avoid acting out of your own selfish ambition we should seek personal humility [patterned after the mind of Christ].

What about when you are the target of another person’s selfish ambition? If someone is using the tactic of debate and strife over disputable matters of teaching or administration they are usually trying to win you over to their side. So ask yourself "are you a prize to be won"? … “a trophy for their showroom” is this person really looking out form my best interest? [2 Peter 2:1-3, making merchandise KJV]

A Connection

During the previous section I skipped over a few mentions of strife because I want to discuss them in connection to selfish ambition/factionalism.

Philippians 1:15-17 where some preach the truth in a spirit of envy and strife which is driven by  selfish ambition [IE. positioning themself as better alternative to Paul… how could a proper man of God be in prison etc.]… “Let’s keep the Sabbath over at my house”, or “better to keep the Sabbath alone”.

Make note of such people. If a person has separated themselves from the congregation you should consider everything they say as highly dubious.

A Pattern

Next, two of our sin lists show strife and selfish ambition as part of a pattern.

Strife-->misdirected zeal,heat of passion wrath-->selfish ambition/factionalism

Eris --> zealos --> thumia --> eritheia

 Note: zealos (literally, heat)... thumia (literally, heavy breathing), both can be used in good an bad ways in scripture, which is why I say misdirected.

A person can be very zealous and passionate about medical freedom for transgender children but its built on a faulty assumption about objective reality. Within the Church passion & zeal often zero in on gray areas of doctrine or prophecy. Before his conversion Paul was very zealous for God according to the traditions of his people… but not according to knowledge.

2 Corinthians 12:20 strife-->misdirected zeal,heat of passion wrath-->factionalism.

Context: In Corinth, Paul's ministry is under attack [largely over matters of his personal style, but also concerning ministerial pay]. Apollos, or Peter were not competitors to Paul... but foolish people turned the differences in their approach to ministry into a competition.

Galatians 5:20 here again we see strife and debate, heated up by misdirected zeal and passion, followed closely by selfish ambition.

Where Does This Sequence Take Us?

Quarreling and debate fueled by powerful emotions like: zeal, wrath lead to selfish ambition and factionalism.

  1. In 2 Corinthians 12:20 this quarreling and selfish ambition leads to deceit and gossip [whispering, backbiting]... which we will cover we we review the sins of the tongue.
  2. In Galatians 5:20 selfish ambition and factionalism is followed by sedition and heresy which are other words in the quarreling category.

Sedition & Heresy

These two items on our quarreling list give us some finer gradations of factionalism.

Sedition is actual division, separating people into different groupings which are opposed to one another. Previously, we discussed a faction which is sort of a group within a group. Whereas, sedition means to divide in two and stand apart.. no longer a group within a group but a group that is separate and apart. It is sometimes translated “division”.

  • 2 references we have already looked at Galatians 5:20 where separation is a product of a mind not lead by the spirit … and 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 where separation is based on opinions about leadership, administration, and personality.
  • One reference we have not yet looked at Romans 16:. God’s word says make special note of those who separate themselves and avoid them. You are not told to seek them out to win them back... but to avoid them. Why? Because spending a lot of time with them will inject doubt into your mind... and following God is hard enough without other people eating away at your confidence.  

Heresy literally means to take capture of others by word and persuasion... creating a separate party that follows their own teachings and principles. In Acts its translated "sect" and used to describe the Pharisees, and the Sadducee. The Jews considered the early Church a sect. Peter uses it to describe false teachings within the Church.

Summary: strife over debatable teachings and internal politics… followed closely by a selfish desire to win others over… leads to unnatural divisions among God’s people. Avoid doing it, avoid those who do it and avoid being won over.

Less Common Fighting Words

Conceits [G5450] swellings, arrogance (literally swollen, inflated, puffed up). People separate themself into factions because they think they are better... better understanding, more righteous, more loving, etc. This could also have been in the category of Bad Attitudes.

Tumults [G181] instability, confusion, and disorder. This is the outcome. People divided and separated from one another unable to fulfill the commission given to the Church. Gossip, slander... pointing out the sins of others is a justification for separating into a faction, or cutting yourself off from the Church… which weakens the Church… and does great damage to you… because division causes doubt and isolation.

Avoid Quarreling

What do we tend to quarrel about: words, administration of authority. Almost always on matters that are dubious or unclear. What motivates our quarrels: misdirected passions, self centered pride, envy. What is the outcome of quarreling: separation, isolation, chaotic interactions among people.

Review Action Items: 1) avoid quarrelsome behavior in yourself by following the lead of God's holy spirit in humility, patience, self control 2) If a person tries to draw you into their quarrels the bible’s advice is AVOID them.