I think an answer is indicated in both Deuteronomy 13 and 1 Corinthians 11.
In the latter reference Paul writes:
“… when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”(ESV)
While the term “divisions” or its synonyms seem to be most commonly used across various translations, the KJV uses the term “heresies” which has much stronger implications in the Christian mind.
But while the ideas of “divisions” and “heresies” are seen mostly in negative terms, Paul highlights a positive outcome resulting from their presence – that is to bring to recognition those who are genuine.
Other translations state this positive outcome in different terms. The NIV puts it this way:
“…there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval”.
It seems there is something about the existence of divisions/heresies/factions that brings to light those who are genuine, those who have God’s approval and distinguishes them from others who are clearly not genuine and lack God’s approval.
I see a link here with a warning God gives in Deuteronomy 13.
“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Here it is clearly stated that false prophets are used as a test of a person’s love for God. There is a choice to be made whenever we come across a teacher, a prophet, a teaching, a sign or a miracle. Are they from God or are they leading us astray?
No matter how genuine they may seem, the ultimate test is whether we are being directed towards GOD or towards something else. The One True God or an imitation.
When there are divisions that call for a choice of path to be taken, how do we determine which (if any) direction leads to God?
Would it be wrong to suggest that God given us the needed direction in His word? That we should test everything and everyone according to His revelation given in scripture?
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
(Psalm 119: 104-105)
Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
(2 Timothy 2:14-16 NIV)
I can see that “divisions” help determine those who have God’s approval and bring to light those who are genuine in two ways. Firstly those who put aside God’s word to follow man’s ideas (either their own or those of favoured teachers) are separated from those who give priority to God and His revelation.
The second relates to the way division is handled. Do we allow the differences to lead us into quarrelling and ungodly chatter?
It is in the second that I see myself needing the most help.