The Error of Sectarianism

In a recent post here I discussed the spiritual sickness of sectarianism.  I defined sectarianism within Christianity as the view that any professing Christian who does not adhere to the strict dogma of the sect is condemned and without salvation in Christ.  Another reasons sectarianism cannot stand is found in 2 Chronicles 30:15-20.

In this passage Israel has returned to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover at the invitation of their new king, Hezekiah.  Now after a time of corrupt and wicked kings, Israel finally has a king who is doing what is right before God (cf. 2 Kgs 18.3; 2 Chr 29.2).  But a problem is encountered when some of the worshipers ate of the Passover “contrary to what is written” (v. 18, TNIV).  Rather than condemning the worshipers for going against the will of God, Hezekiah prays for them saying, “The good Lord pardon all who set their hearts to seek God, the Lord the God of their ancestors, even though not in accordance with the sanctuary rules of cleanness” (v. 18-19, NRSV).  It is worth noticing that the prayer for “pardon” (yekappēr) is literally a prayer for atonement.  In other words, this is not just a prayer for forgiveness but a prayer for God to make the worshipers right.

The response of the Lord was that of hearing and healing (v. 20).  And why not?  These worshiper sought God with their heart just as God desired when he promised healing for such seekers (cf. 2 Chr 7.14).

The response of God to those who sought him with their heart undercuts the legs on which legalism and sectarianism are both built upon, for it’s “more important to set one’s heart to seek God than it is to be in a state of scrupulous ritual purity” (Steven S. Tuell, First and Second Chronicles, p. 221).  This story does not give licensure for Christians to simply do whatever they want without any effort to try and please God according to his instruction in scripture.  What it does tell us is that God is not a mechanical, legalistic God who is unwilling to extend grace to people who seek him by faith in Christ and yet do so in way(s) which are actually contrary to the scripture.

This is why sectarianism cannot stand.  Even if the sectarian Christian is biblically correct in everything and all other professing Christians are incorrect, God has shown that he extends grace not on the basis of legalism but on the basis of seeking him with the heart.  I believe is what it is to seek God in faith even if the word faith is not specifically used.

One final suggestion…  If the sectarian is still full of anxiety because of his/her belief that other Christians seek God in ways contrary to what is instructed in scripture, perhaps a cue from Hezekiah will be taken: rather than condemning and denying fellowship, pray for those people as Hezekiah did.


7 responses to “The Error of Sectarianism

  1. yes, yes, a THOUSAND TIMES yes! So incredibly well said.

  2. Yes, Christ came to deliver us from the scourge of sectarianism as you defined it. I suppose I would list ‘sectarianism’ as just one impulse of the flesh under the larger category of religion, with religion being defined as man’s attempt to reach God in his own strength, in contrast to heaven sent salvation in Christ who came to seek and save the lost.

    There is a super-spirituality that is the misapplication of the understanding of grace, and that is a spirituality of grace that neglects the material and the ecclesial and the doctrinal as aspects of our salvation, that flow out of the incarnation, where matter and human personality become conduits for grace, and even grace themselves. This is a monophysite over-statement of grace to which the pendulum overswings to and which is the caution I would bring forth as we discover grace. We discover new things in Christ, we explore them, and then we need to come full circle and delimit them, and the ascent to heaven is an ascending spiral and not a straight line.

  3. Ben,

    I think you may just be right about sectarianism being just another type of religion. There are a variety of ways to create another religion with some aspects of the Christian faith sprinkled in and yet still be different from the Apostolic faith. Your comment again highlights both the sickness and error of sectarianism.

    Grace and Peace,


  4. “God has shown that he extends grace not on the basis of legalism but on the basis of seeking him with the heart.” Love it! AMEN! Now that’s a message we shouldn’t be ashamed to preach. It’s a message the world and a large segment of the church needs to hear.

  5. Pingback: Christian Unity: God’s Work of Reconciliation « Kingdom Seeking

  6. Pingback: The Error of Sectarianism « Jordan Willows Fellowship

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