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 (Manna 70: Discerning the Truth)
Beware Satan’s Old Trick—Sowing Discord
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Beware Satan’s Old Trick—Sowing Discord

Philip Shee—Dubai, UAE

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mk 3:24–25). While Jesus made this remark in defense against the accusations of the scribes, it reflects an underlying truth: “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12). The importance of unity amongst God’s people is easy to comprehend. However, as much as we appreciate this and strive to unite in faith and service to the Lord, building on the foundation of love, Satan often seeks to weaken this foundation of love, sowing discord to destroy the unity among us.

Guard the Unity and Love in Our Families

A Christian family united in love can accomplish much for the Lord and bring much encouragement to others. Such family units are the building blocks of a strong, united and glorious church. Consequently, as we build up our families in the Lord and serve Him as family units, we must exercise extra vigilance and guard against Satan’s attempts to taint the love among family members and sow discord within the family.

The story of Adam and Eve is frequently quoted during Christian wedding services to depict the pure and deep love between spouses. “This is the bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 3:23). Adam’s spontaneous remark when Eve was first brought before him is probably one of the most touching descriptions a man could make to express his feeling for his wife. His love for Eve was way beyond just skin deep. If his entire physical being constituted the collection of his bones wrapped beneath his flesh, then he certainly did not see Eve as just an ordinary part of himself. But as bone of all his bones, and flesh of all his flesh, he loved her as the most precious and an indispensable part of himself. As bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, there was no way he could have loved himself without first loving her even more. Such love was selfless, as he deemed his spouse more precious than himself. This union was instituted by God with the intention for man to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with godly people (Gen 1:28; Mal 2:15). By this, God was to be glorified, and His very nature of love would have been manifested in man.

Unfortunately, this bond of love did not last very long as Satan promptly started his work to taint the love between Adam and Eve. When they fell to sin through their disobedience to God’s instruction, selfless love gave way to selfishness. When questioned by God, Adam did not shoulder the responsibility but was quick to deflect the blame to Eve. Eve’s status as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” was promptly relegated to an impersonal and debased status of “the woman whom You gave to be with me” (Gen 3:12).

When Christian couples first exchange marriage vows in church, the bond between them is undoubtedly similar to that between Adam and Eve when she was first brought before him. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon to see even Christian couples’ relationships wane over time. This is often due to differences that surface with time or intolerance over character flaws that were previously camouflaged or conveniently overlooked. While they may physically remain together out of basic fear for God, Satan successfully blemished the love between them. Undoubtedly, Christian couples ending in this state are negatively affected in both their faith and their service to God. This provides an important reminder to Christian couples to make special effort to nurture their relationships, to endeavor to have God remain as the foundation of their relationship and not to give Satan any opportunity to plant any seed of discord between them.

By the wonderful arrangement of God, the siblings, Aaron, Miriam, and Moses were blessed with the opportunity of serving God together, playing the critical role of leading His people in the journey through the wilderness. While they had worked well together for some time and undoubtedly loved and cared for one another, strangely, there came a time when Aaron and Miriam partnered to turn against Moses. They spoke against Moses and were quick to find faults with him. They criticized His marriage with the Ethiopian woman. They questioned his authority, and reasoned that God had also spoken through them and not just through Moses (Num 12:1–2).

It is not obvious what wrong Moses had done to trigger such adverse change and senseless hostility from his siblings given that “he was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Num 12:3). However, this discord between the siblings threatened the work of God, as it could have compromised the great partnership among them. It would weaken their ability to stand before the people as positive examples of a godly family. It could also have created confusion and triggered a division among the people. God’s reaction reinforced Moses’ innocence, which thankfully, triggered Aaron and Miriam’s repentance.

The incident further reminds us that we are vulnerable to dissension. Although Aaron and Miriam were not evil, unfaithful to God or unloving to Moses, they were senselessly caught up in initiating the dispute. Christian families fervent in serving God together must pay even more attention to this. Satan attacked the family of Moses, of David and many others. It is not unlikely for the same trick to be applied to us.

Therefore, as we serve God together as a family, we must be constantly on our guard against Satan, who will likely attempt to sow the seeds of discord to compromise our service. After all, squabbling families don’t bring any glory to God and the unhappiness will likely distract members from their service.

Extend the Right Hand of Fellowship to Co-workers

“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.” (Lk 10:1)

By sending His disciples out two by two, the Lord showed that the work of God is not the exclusive privilege of any individual hero. He wanted His disciples to support one another and work together. This remained the approach in the early church. As the church grew following the downpour of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the apostles continued to work as an integrated team of co-workers, teaching the new believers as “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42).

Though Peter was a well-respected apostle, he did not operate alone but frequently worked together with John. They prayed together, and, together, they performed the miracle at the gate called Beautiful (Acts 3:1–11). They continued to preach to the people and were taken into custody together (Acts 4:1–3). Both of them then faced the council together and jointly responded to their threats (Acts 4:18–20). Even when the people in Samaria had already believed and were baptized by Philip, the apostles in Jerusalem sent Peter and John together to work with Philip, to help the new believers pray for the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:5–17). Such integration and unity in service among co-workers contributed to the continued growth of the apostolic church.

Paul’s conversion marked the next phase of growth in the early church. He was an important apostle who was personally called by the Lord to minister to the Gentiles (Acts 9:4–18). Unlike many believers in the early church, Paul’s training in the word was not on account of the apostles’ teaching but from the abundance of direct revelations from the Lord (2 Cor 12:7; 1 Cor 11:23; 2 Cor 12:1–4).

Notwithstanding, Paul did not get carried away to initiate a separate line of ministry divided from the other apostles or the wider church. On the contrary, Paul humbled himself and took the initiative to go to Jerusalem to see Peter, with a clear intention to join the disciples (Gal 1:18–19; Acts 9:26–28). He maintained that integration with the apostles in Jerusalem throughout his ministry, visiting them again fourteen years later together with Barnabas (Gal 2:1).

Paul and Barnabas also did not make their individual conclusion over the dispute that arose around the necessity of circumcision for salvation. Instead, they consulted the apostles and elders in Jerusalem and participated in the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:1–29). In response, Peter and the other apostles gladly accepted Paul, appreciated his calling, and gave Paul and Barnabas “the right hand of fellowship” (Gal 2:9). With no rivalry or personality conflicts among the co-workers, such unity in service triggered further growth within the church.

While the apostles enjoyed such unity in service, Satan started to strike. Peter gave way to his weakness and displayed his hypocrisy when he visited Antioch. Before certain men from James arrived, he would eat with the Gentile believers, but he withdrew himself when they arrived. Such inconsistency was unacceptable, as he not only failed to uphold the truth courageously, but also set a bad example for Barnabas and the other Jews. He also risked hurting the Gentile believers by his double standard.

This led to Paul confronting Peter (Gal 2:11–14), which was a dangerous development, as two very important workers could have fallen out and compromised the ministry of the Lord. It would have been disastrous if Peter had let his ego surface and reacted negatively to Paul’s rebuke. It would have been equally disastrous if Paul had regarded this one-off weakness in Peter as his inherent nature and lost his trust and respect for Peter. Thankfully, both Peter and Paul were spiritual workers who did not fall into the trap of Satan to allow this incident to drive a wedge between them. This was evident in Peter’s second epistle, in which he addressed Paul as “our beloved brother,” recognizing his wisdom and also endorsing the epistles that Paul had written (2 Pet 3:15–16).

Another incident also threatened the unity between two co-workers, Paul and Barnabas, who had differing views over John Mark. Barnabas was determined to bring Mark along for their missionary journey, but Paul was adamantly against the idea. The contention became so sharp that both actually decided to part with each other. Paul then started working with Silas while Barnabas continued with Mark (Acts 15:36–40).

This was another dangerous development, as the work of God could have been hindered. Thankfully, the church continued to be strengthened and to increase in number daily (Acts 15:41, 16:4–5). While it was not ideal, on the surface, for Paul and Barnabas to part ways, both were spiritual workers who remained integrated into the wider church.

More importantly, while they had different opinions, they respected each other’s opinion and did not undermine each other’s work. In reality, both had valid reasons for the different stand they took. Paul regarded the work of God very seriously and did not feel that Mark was ready for it as he did indeed leave the ministry midway in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13). Barnabas, on the other hand, was true to his name as “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36), and he wanted to give Mark another chance. This was consistent with his very nature, just as he trusted Paul and sought him out in Tarsus when others were still wary of him (Acts 9:26–28, 11:25–26). Over time, both Paul and Barnabas were proven right as God blessed their work. Paul continued to strengthen the church while Mark was turned around, such that even Paul finally acknowledged Mark to be useful for the ministry (2 Tim 4:11). This also points to the fact that Paul and Barnabas must have remained integrated through the church.

As these developments in the early church provide a glimpse of Satan’s work in the church, we can learn several important lessons. Firstly, we must recognize that even good, sincere, and spiritual workers, like Peter, can have their moments of weakness. Hence, even if we observe a mistake in a co-worker, we must not be too quick to judge that to be an incorrigible character flaw and thereby completely lose our trust and respect, writing the co-worker off. While we may very well point out the errors of our co-workers, let us do so with the intention of turning them around rather than writing them off.

Secondly, we must accept that upright, sincere, and spiritual workers may have good intentions, which trigger different views. In such situations, it is critical to prevent different views from developing into animosity and suspicion of each other’s intention, goodness, and sincerity. Like Paul and Barnabas, we need to remain respectful of the differences and not undermine or discredit our co-workers. We need to resist the temptation of devoting our efforts thereafter to proving our view to be right and our co-workers’ to be wrong, which is counter-productive. We should, rather, learn from Paul and Barnabas in moving forward, focussing on progressing the work of God.

Endeavor to Keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Church

The early church started united, as they “continu[ed] daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46). The believers were so united and selfless that they had all things in common, and even sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all (Acts 2:44–45). For this reason, the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47).

However as the church grew bigger, Satan also started sowing discord in the church to distract the church and disrupt the ministry of God. As the number of disciples multiplied, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution (Acts 6:1). If this was not handled appropriately, it could have resulted in unhealthy factions within the church, with growing mistrust and sensitivities between the factions.

It is interesting to note how people so readily and naturally gravitate towards a common grouping and start to take sides. Thankfully, the apostles exercised their wisdom and addressed this issue effectively by having the disciples elect seven men to assist in the work. This resolved the issue, and furthered the growth in the number of disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 6:5–7).

Taking reference from the solution, it would suggest that the original issue was not necessarily triggered by a deliberate, systemic neglect of the Hellenist widows by the Hebrews. Rather, it was the lack of more dedicated resources to share the workload with the apostles. The additional resources provided capacity to exercise more care and diligence in doing a fair and better job at serving the tables. However, it is interesting to note the sensitivities of the Hellenists in banding together and concluding wrongfully that they had been victimized.

Satan’s attack intensified over time as the church spread to other cities. In Corinth, the division in the church was among clusters of believers who separately deemed themselves to be of Paul, Apollos, Peter, or of Christ (1 Cor 1:11–12). This was strange as the workers, Paul, Apollos, and Peter themselves were united as one and also, Christ is not divided (1 Cor 1:13). Hence, it was senseless for the believers to use Christ or any worker as an excuse or the basis to be divided.

Thankfully, Paul did not allow himself be flattered by his fans. Instead he corrected them by pointing out directly that they were not baptized in his name and that he, like Apollos, was merely a minister through whom they had believed, that they were complementary co-workers planting and watering, with God being the one who gives the increase (1 Cor 1:12–13; 3:4–7).

As we reflect on these challenges faced in the early church, we must recognize that Satan will try various means to stir up differences between members in the church. It may be one nationality against another, or one age group against another, or people who speak one language against another. There is no end to the differences we can find. We must remember that we are one after we have been baptized into Christ, with no more distinction between Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female (Gal 3:27–28). If we were to be less sensitive and suspicious, we would not be easily stirred up, like the Hellenists, to believe that we are being systemically victimized and hence, have the need to band together with “fellow victims” to create a faction in church. Similarly, we must exercise extra caution not to fall into the trap of “hero-worshipping” any church workers.


As we observe how Satan has worked within families, among co-workers, and within the church, let us stay vigilant and endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3).

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Author: Philip Shee