Has anyone ever said to you, “If the bible is so straightforward then why are there so many Christian denominations?” or “since all Christians claim to be led by the Holy Spirit then how come there are so many different interpretations of scripture?” I personally get these types of questions at least once a month.
Can you imagine what is must have been like in the time of the Old Testament Israelites? Imagine 5 different persons all claiming to be prophets meanwhile the average Joe of that time is trying to figure out which one of these bozos is really speaking for God?
Well, times have changed but the problem, unfortunately remains the same. There are many “Christian” denominations that all make the claim to represent the true interpretation and application of God’s word with at least one church (i.e. the Roman Catholic Church) even claiming to be the “only true church, outside of which there is no salvation”(). How do we know whom trust?
Well some Christians are surprised to discover that God actually ordains heresy and heretical interpretations to come about, in fact, God says that heresy has a divine purpose, namely:
1. To prove (test) the people of God to see if they are really tethered to His word
Examine the following verses:
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, (and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee,) saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
1 Corinthians 11:18-19
For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
So we see that divisions (or denominations) due to differences in doctrines, (which incidentally is frequently used as a reason to distrust that decisive truth exists within Christianity) when properly understood, is a God-ordained test to discover those who will tremble at His word (Isaiah 66:2) and those who will twist (2 Timothy 4:3-4) it to suit their own understanding.