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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Christmas Eve, December 24, 2018

“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men” (Matthew 2:16).

Herod was called “Herod the Great.” He greatly increased the splendor of Jerusalem. He built the Temple, which was the center of Jewish worship in the time of Christ. But there was something terribly wrong with Herod the King. When the Wise Men came to him and asked where the Messiah would be born, “he was troubled,” disturbed. He called in the Wise Men, and lied to them. He said to bring him word, “that [he] may come and worship the baby Jesus also” (Matthew 2:8). But God warned the Wise Men not to tell Herod where the baby Jesus was. Then God told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt, and they were there in Egypt until the death of Herod.

Something was terribly wrong with King Herod. He lied, and tricked, and wanted to kill the baby Jesus. When he found that Jesus could not be found in Bethlehem, Herod sent his soldiers to kill all the babies there that were two years old and under. He slaughtered these innocent babies in an attempt to kill the Messiah, the baby Jesus. It doesn’t make any sense. Why did he do that? What was wrong with King Herod?

Dr. Merrill F. Unger received his Th.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins. Dr. Unger was considered one of the twentieth century’s most influential evangelical Bible scholars. Dr. Unger tells us exactly what was wrong with King Herod. Herod was under the control of demons! Dr. Unger said,

“‘Satan’ means ‘adversary’ – primarily God’s adversary and secondly, man’s opponent...From the murder of Abel to Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, Satan’s...antagonism to God’s Messiah can be unmistakably traced” (Biblical Demonology, Kregel Publications, 1994, p. 68).

For our sermon this evening, I will now focus on the work of demons in causing church splits. Dr. Unger said, “‘The Spirit of Truth’ is the great unifier, ‘the spirit of error’ (1 John 4:6) is the great divider...Satan and demons...when unable to keep their victims from contact with truth, they resort to the next best device to further their plans...they strike at Christian unity to disrupt and disorganize the testimony of those who, when standing together, possess such energy, and [that’s why the demons] wield such tremendous power against them” (p. 175). Church splits are called “heresy” in the New Testament. “It constantly denotes a ‘sect’ or ‘faction’…thus identifying heresy with factional division” (ibid.). “‘Destructive heresies’ in II Peter 2:1 – is translated elsewhere as ‘ruinous divisions’ and ‘fatal divisions’” (ibid.). Dr. Unger said, “‘heresy’ is employed to [describe] a ‘sect,’ ‘party’ or body of men who separate themselves from others” (ibid., p. 176). “A divisive (heretical) man after the first and second admonition refuse” (Titus 3:10). Any deviation from the Bible on the matter of unity, rather than church splits “must be accounted the direct and destructive work of Satan and demons” (ibid., p. 177). II Peter 2:1, Jude vv. 12-13 tell us of the confusion demons “cause in the professing church” (ibid., p. 173). “‘Divisions’ which, when developed into organized parties are called ‘heresies’” (ibid., p. 176)…The church “has ever been the object of Satan’s venomous attacks and the special target of [demons]” (ibid. p. 202). “Paul warned that ‘grievous wolves’ would enter in among [the church at Ephesus] ‘not sparing the flock’ and even from this [church] would men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30); (ibid. p. 177).

These demonic church splits have been seen by us several times in the past forty years. There was the Debenham split, then the Olivas split, and now the Chan and Griffith split. Whatever excuses they gave, it was the work of Satan and demons, as Dr. Unger pointed out.

Our church has always preached the pure gospel of Christ, and the need to follow the Great Commission Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19-20. Those who split the church across the years never once pointed out that I preached false doctrine. They could not, because my doctrine was always based strictly on the Bible. So their demonic attacks always focused on me, that there was something wrong with me! Never what I preached.

These heretics pulled out great numbers of baby Christians and unconverted followers. Now we know from the Bible that we have been under attack by the Devil through these self-deceived false prophets. None of these heretics have been able to build strong churches out of the people they stole. When the Devil was through using them, he cast them aside as failures in the ministry. Dr. Unger said, “The problem is, how can the Spirit of God indwell and work in these [heretics] at the same time that they are influenced by demonic spirits?” (Dr. Merrill F. Unger, What Demons Can Do to Saints, Moody Press, 1977, p. 133).

I cannot go into a full teaching about demons in this brief sermon. But it is clear in the Bible that church splits are demonic in nature, that Satan is behind church splits, especially splits in Bible-based churches. Dr. Unger declares that “heresy” (Greek “hairesis”) describes division (and church splits); Biblical Demonology, p. 175. II Peter 2:1 speaks of “ruinous divisions” (Twentieth Century New Testament). And Weymouth translates it as “fatal divisions.” Dr. Unger said, “The word ‘heresy’ [hairesis] is employed to speak of a ‘sect’...or a body of men who have separated themselves from others [in the church]”; ibid., p. 176. Therefore the “church splits” we have seen have all been caused by men who were led astray by demons.

How can you escape from the Satanic trap of a church split? Here are three simple Bible passages that will protect you from being ruined by a church split if you obey them:

(1)  Hebrews 13:17. I will clarify the KJV by reading the NASV, which is well translated here in modern English,

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who must give an account...” (Hebrews 13:17 NASV).

Dr. Charles C. Ryrie points out that these church “leaders” are the pastors (v. 7), not anyone else. Only the main pastor – not a deacon, not an assistant to the pastor, not “friends,” not anyone but the senior pastor.

(2)  Romans 16:17-18 (see also I Corinthians 1:10).

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10).

(3)  I Corinthians 15:58.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).

“For if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (II Peter 1:10); “never stumble” (NASV).

“Fear not,” then said the angel, “Let nothing you affright;
   This day is born a Saviour Of a pure virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him From Satan’s power and might.”
   O, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
O, tidings of comfort and joy.
   (“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” published by William Sandys, 1833).

King Herod never found Jesus. When he died he went to Hell.

I pray that you will turn from the sin in your heart – and turn and trust Jesus. He died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. He shed His precious Blood to cleanse you from all sin. Turn and trust Jesus, and He will. When you are saved, be sure to stay in the church where you were converted.

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).

“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon: Matthew 2:1-16.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Jack Ngann:
“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” (published by William Sandys, 1833).