The last two chapters of the book of Acts records Paul's perilous voyage to Rome, where he was being carried as a prisoner, as result of his devotion to and labors in the cause of Christ.
When he was brought into Rome, it is recorded Acts 28:16-22.
The course pursued by these Jews is somewhat different from the people of our time. Today, many people say, "We do not wish to hear you, because your group is everywhere spoken against."
Those Jews were saying to Paul, "We know that the group to which you belong is spoken against, but we are not willing to form our opinion by what others say."
Also, "Your enemies may not fairly represent you; therefore, we desire to hear from you yourself."
As result of this attitude, some were converted Vs. 23-24.
What is a Sect?
The term, sect, is used in the scriptures in a bad sense. The Greek word translated, sect, is hairseis, which occurs nine times in the N.T. In the KJV, it is translated "heresy" four times, and "sect" five times. Thus, the King James translators used the words interchangeably.
Paul lists, sects, or heresies, as a work of the flesh.
- Galatians 5:20
Most of the modern versions translate this, factions.
- 2 Peter 2:1
Vine's, defines the word as, "a choosing, choice then, that which is chosen, and hence, an opinion, especially a self willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects..." Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
Webster defines the word "sect" as,
"1. A body, or number of persons, united in tenets, chiefly in philosophy or religion, but constituting a distinct party, by holding sentiments different from other men.
- A cutting, scion...
Our English word "section" comes from the same root word.
Therefore, the inspired writers used the word which is rendered, sect or heresy, to represent a part cut off or separated from the true church of our Lord.
This is why we oppose sectarianism or denominationalism whether in the church or out of it.
The Body of Christ is One Body
We believe that the body of Christ is one body, and no one has a right, through self-willed opinions, to draw away disciples and form another group.
- Acts 20:30
- 1 John 2:19
False apostles, who were in the church, but came out of the church and led the people away.
This Sect Was Everywhere Spoken Against
The Jews of Rome considered Christianity to be a sect of the Jewish religion. The Christian sect, that they were referring to, was everywhere spoken against.
It seems that all parties, Jews and Gentiles, united in opposing this group. Though they could agree in nothing, and though they were at swords' point on every other subject. They dropped everything, for the time being, and united in effort to poison public opinion regarding this group.
Like the Pharisees and Sadducees who typically were at each other’s throats over their differences united together against Jesus.
Today, many denominations unite together against the Lord’s church.
Many hard things were said of the early Christians. Let's notice a few of them.
They were charged with worshiping God contrary to the law.
- Acts 18:12-13
This is a very serious charge.
This was a very serious charge. This was said of Paul and his fellow workers. Gallio knew this was between themselves had nothing to do with Roman authority.
- Acts 24:5,14
They continued to call Christianity what the Jews called heresy. Just because one labels something as heresy (or false) doesn't make it so.
They were charged with teaching customs not lawful for others to observe.
- Acts 16:20-21
Now this was no small matter. For this charge Paul and Silas were beaten with many stripes and thrown into a dark dungeon.
Even in our time, the rules and customs of many religious bodies are stereotyped, and their forms have been fixed.
Introduce new religious customs, or a new religion Christianity, and the cry will be, "New customs not lawful for us to observe!"
They were charged with turning the world upside down.
- Acts 17:5-6
We need to look at this as commendation, because we know that the world needs to be turned upside down, for it is wrong side up.
However, it was not meant to be a commendation, by the ones who were making the accusation. But, a very severe charge against the righteous.
They were saying that these people are trouble-makers, disorganizes, overthrowing religious customs, disturbing the quietness of society, unsettling everyone.
Remember, all these things and more were said of the true religion of Christ.
What Can We Learn from The Passages Concerning This Sect?
Make sure we are with the right group.
The group Paul was with was accused of:
- teaching heresy,
- worshiping God contrary to the law,
- teaching customs not lawful for others to observe
- turning the world upside down;
Yet, they were the only ones that was right. They were true group.
This group was everywhere spoken against. Yet, this sect was the only one God approved.
Even though it was everywhere spoken against: it was the group that the Roman Jews wanted to hear Paul concerning it.
If you were one of those Jews in Paul’s day, what would have been your attitude?
- Acts 17:11
They received the word. There were some in Rome as well who were willing to listen and find out if Paul was right or wrong.
- Acts 28
If you were them, would you have listened?
Since God approved only of one group – the very one everywhere spoken against, it behooves us to know the distinguishing characteristics of that one group.
The name, ordinances, organization, work, requirements for membership, all become very important.
Learn to identify faithful teachers as opposed to the wrong kind.
It is those who cause divisions contrary to the doctrine of Christ who are to be marked and avoided.
- Romans 16:17-18
- 2 Peter 2:1-3
We should not be deceived by a deep show or religious piety.
- Matthew 7:15
We are to be aware of false teachers.
- 2 Corinthians 4:2-5
It shows us how to identify the true teachers. Paul says they "renounced the hidden things of dishonesty." They used no unlawful means to make converts. They used no carnal appeals to make converts.
- 2 Peter 2:18
They did not "walk in craftiness.' They used no cunning trickery to seduce people into their group.
- Ephesians 4:14
They did not "handle the word of God deceitfully." They did not make the word teach something different than the author intended.
They commended themselves to everyone's conscience.
They exemplified faithful, godly, living.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6, 10
- 2 Corinthians 4:5
There is an illustration of two men being asked to speak to a student body about Abraham Lincoln. After the first speech, the unanimous consent of the student body was, "Our speaker was a great speaker." After the second speech, the consensus was, "Abraham Lincoln was a great man. Which one did his job?
Paul said, "We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord."
Be Steadfast Regardless of Opposition.
Remember, even though the early Christians were everywhere spoken against, God acknowledged them. Thus, when your friends, neighbors, relatives, or even brethren, call you all kinds of ugly names and persecute you, so did they of God's people in the beginning.
- Romans 8:31
- Matthew 5:10-12
- 1 Peter 4:12-16
- 2 Timothy 3:12
- Luke 6:26
We have noticed several passages wherein the early church was everywhere spoken against, yet was approved of God. We have made some general application from those passages. We need to make sure we are with the right group. And, we must learn to identify faithful teachers as opposed to the wrong ones. And, be steadfast regardless of opposition. No matter what we face in this life the reward we shall receive in Heaven.
- Romans 8:18
In Heaven, the glory that we are going to receive is worth every trial, every persecution, every form of suffering we will go through in order to enter into that great and glorious kingdom of eternity in the presence of our Lord and Savior, and in the presence of God.
If you aren't a Christian having obeyed the gospel the way the Bible teaches of hearing and believing, confessing Christ and repenting of your sins, being baptized for the remission of your sin, and then, to live a faithful life. You can choose to do these things being obedient to God.