Does God have two wills, a revealed will (revealed in His written word) and a secret will? I have heard this presented. Does He secretly want certain bad things to happen so that He can use those situations to bring about some greater good? Did God sanction Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery so that God could deliver the children of Israel? Or was their doing so purely evil, and God had nothing to do with it even though He was able to use the situation to bring about Israel’s deliverance. I vote for the latter. Our God is all good. He doesn’t bring to pass evil so He can bring to pass a greater good.
A verse in 1 Corinthians, however, would seem to indicate otherwise.
1 Corinthians 11:19 For there must be also heresies [rendered as “factions” or some such in most versions] among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
Are there divisions in the church so that those who are approved may be made manifest among us? Is this God’s “secret will”? I don’t think so. His will is clearly stated numerous times.
Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
Romans 15:5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.
1Corinthians 1:10 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.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
1 Corinthians 12:25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
2 Corinthians13:11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
Philippians 1:27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
Philippians 2: 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
It’s obvious isn’t it? God doesn’t want divisions in the church. He isn’t secretly causing them so that “those who are approved among you may be made manifest.” The divisions are not necessary and we are repeatedly admonished to not have them. And yet as translated, 1 Corinthians 11:19 says they are necessary. There must be divisions among you so that….” It contradicts everything else on this subject in God’s Word. The translation cannot possibly be correct, so let’s take a look.
The word translated “must” (dei) is defined in the lexicons as “it is necessary” or “necessarily lying in the nature of the case” or “necessity brought on by circumstances or by the conduct of others” and other such similar phrases. There must be factions, divisions, among you. This relates to their divisive practices as described in the verses that follow.
1 Corinthians 11:20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.
21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
The Apostle Paul has concluded that due to these divisive practices, there must be divisions among the Corinthians. The “must be” is not relating to the phrase, “that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”
There are two more significant considerations on the translation. One is that there is no Greek word in the text specifically for “may.” “May be made” is all translated from a single Greek verb in the subjunctive mood. (Hey. Bear with me. This is going to get easier soon.) The subjunctive mood is used when the clause is dependant on something else. There must be divisions among you that…may be made manifest. “May“ or “might” is the typical way the King James Version (and most others) alert the reader to the presence of the subjunctive mood, but the intent is not to show “might” as in maybe or “may” as in permission. No meaning is intended other than to indicate that the phrase is dependant on the former phrase, which is obvious from the context. Translate simply as “are made,” “that they who are approved are made manifest.”
The other translation consideration is the word “that.” Is it so that (indicating purpose) or is it with the result that? The English word “that” indicates purpose. The Greek word “hina” (employed here) means “that,” but it can be used to introduce a result clause, not necessarily a purpose clause. (See our posting, "On Christian Fatalism and the Phrase, That it Might be fulfilled" for a more detailed discussion on this.)
So let’s take it from the top. Considering from the divisive practices among the Corinthians, there must be divisions among them. The result, however, is that those who are approved among them are made manifest. Though there was a positive outcome of the divisions, God had nothing to do with the divisions, and by way of the Apostle Paul, He addressed what to do about them. There was nothing Godly about these divisions. They were not a part of His “secret will.”
Our God is good, all good, and not complicit with evil to bring about some greater good.