Variance is an important concept that appears several times in the Bible. Understanding what variance means can provide deep insight into God’s nature and instructions for how we should live. In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll explore the meaning of variance throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
The word “variance” in the Bible refers to contention, strife, dissension, and disagreement. It indicates a lack of unity, harmony, and accord between people or groups. Variance runs counter to God’s desire for His people to live in peace, love, and unity with one another.
Here are some key takeaways on the meaning of variance in the Bible:
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- Variance originates from sinful desires and the work of the devil to divide people
- God commands His people to avoid and turn away from variance
- Variance damages relationships and hinders the work of the Gospel
- Jesus’ followers are called to seek peace, pursue unity, and restore broken relationships
- The Holy Spirit produces the fruit of peacefulness that overcomes variance
In the sections below, we will explore various verses in the Bible that discuss variance and disharmony among God’s people. We’ll see how Scripture consistently presents variance as something to avoid, while unity and accord are virtues to cultivate.
Variance Comes from Sinful Desires
The New Testament clearly states that variance springs up from sinful desires present in the human heart. For example, the apostle Paul wrote:
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV)
Paul lists “contentions,” “outbursts of wrath,” “selfish ambitions,” “dissensions,” and “heresies” as works of the flesh. These are all manifestations of variance among God’s people. Paul makes it clear that these sins hinder people from inheriting God’s kingdom.
The apostle James likewise traced variance back to sinful desires:
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3 NKJV)
James asked rhetorically where “wars and fights” (expressions of variance and disunity) come from. He answers that they arise from ungodly desires at war within people’s hearts. When we harbor sinful desires, it damages relationships with others and creates division and strife.
These verses demonstrate that variance does not reflect God’s ideals. It stems from sin, rather than righteousness. As people devoted to God, we need to repent of wrong desires and ask the Holy Spirit to purify our hearts, so that unity and fellowship can flourish among believers.
God Commands His People to Avoid Variance
In addition to identifying sin as the root of variance, Scripture also contains many direct commands to avoid disunity and seek peace among God’s people. For example:
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2-3 NKJV)
Paul urged two women in the Philippian church to resolve the contention between them and “be of the same mind in the Lord.” He valued unity among co-workers and did not want variance to hinder the cause of the Gospel.
The author of Hebrews likewise commanded believers to pursue peace and unity:
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. (Hebrews 12:14-15 NKJV)
In 2 Timothy, Paul included “avoid foolish and ignorant disputes” in his instructions to Timothy for ministry:
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NKJV)
These verses demonstrate how consistently God’s Word instructs believers to turn away from variance and seek unity, harmony, gentleness, patience, and peace. This is the clear will of God for relationships among Christians.
Variance Damages Relationships and Hinders the Gospel
The Bible contains stories demonstrating how seriously variance can damage relationships and hinder God’s work. For example, Paul and Barnabas split over a disagreement about whether to bring John Mark on another missionary journey:
Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. (Acts 15:37-40 NKJV)
This contention prevented Barnabas and Paul from continuing to work together. While God still used both men, variance created an unnecessary fracture that grieved the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul chastised the church for having contention over spiritual leaders that was dividing the congregation:
For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:11-13 NKJV)
Paul insisted that contention over church leaders damaged the unity of the church. As believers, our allegiance should be to Christ alone, rather than creating factions around human leaders.
These examples demonstrate how seriously God wants His children to avoid variance. Contention hinders relationships, distracts from ministry, and damages our gospel witness to the world. That’s why Scripture consistently directs us to seek peace.
Followers of Jesus Called to Seek Peace and Pursue Unity
While variance stems from sinful desires, unity and peace come from the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NKJV). As children of God, Christians are called to actively pursue unity and reconciliation in the church.
For example, the author of Hebrews encouraged believers to:
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14 NKJV)
In Romans, Paul urged the church:
Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:16-18 NKJV)
And Peter wrote:
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9 NKJV)
These verses demonstrate our responsibility as Christians to take active steps to pursue peace, unity, and harmony with each other. This brings glory to God and advances the Gospel’s message of reconciliation.
The Holy Spirit Produces Peace That Overcomes Variance
Not only does Scripture command us to pursue peace, but it also teaches that real unity comes from the Holy Spirit’s work in human hearts. Paul wrote:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)
The peace produced by the Holy Spirit provides the means to overcome variance and disunity. As Christians, we should remain filled with the Spirit, allowing His supernatural peace to shape our thoughts, words, and actions toward others.
The Bible assures us that walking in the Spirit will lead to unity with other believers:
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 NKJV)
Rather than giving in to variance, we must actively choose to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1 ESV). This worthy walk includes humility, gentleness, patience, love, and peace – the very antidote to variance. As the Holy Spirit works in our hearts, unity will increase among believers.
After surveying the meaning of variance throughout the Bible, several key truths emerge:
- Variance springs up from sinful desires and opposes God’s standards for relationships among His people
- Scripture consistently instructs believers to turn away from variance and contention
- Conflict and disunity hinder relationships and the work of the Gospel
- As followers of Jesus, we are called to pursue peace, unity, and reconciliation in the church
- The Holy Spirit produces supernatural peace in believers that overcomes variance
My prayer is that the church would take these biblical truths to heart. May we actively avoid and turn from variance in our congregations and ministries. Instead, may the Holy Spirit produce increasing peace and unity among believers for the glory of God and the advancement of the Gospel. Let us strive to reflect our Savior, who prayed passionately for unity among His followers (John 17:20-23). May variance be cast out of our hearts by the power of the cross. As Paul exhorted, “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6 NKJV).