No Division Among You – Parts 3 & 4
No Division Among You – Part 3 of 4
In accomplishing such unity as should exist in the church of the Corinthians, Paul calls upon them, and us, to “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” “Perfectly joined together” is another idiom which has been condensed into its fundamental meaning by most of the newer translations, which read something like “that you be united” (ESV). There is, however, something lost in such, for the idea behind the phrase is that of “repairing; mending; restoring.” It is used of mending nets in Mt.4.21, and in Lk.6.10 it describes the restoration when Jesus heals the man with the withered hand. Again, in Gal.6.1 the phrase notes the restoring of one who has been overtaken in a trespass. The concept is that of returning something to its rightful condition. Unity is the appropriate condition of God’s people in a local church, and something that is achieved by everyone’s commitment to “the same mind and the same judgment”. This calls us to oneness in standard, in knowledge, in discernment, in opinion, in application. And here is where unity gets hard. We often pride ourselves in our independence of thinking and conviction. Americans in particular are repelled by the idea that we are mere sheep who are being led about by another. Yet God calls us to oneness, even in the way we think, what we know, and how we apply such.
What I find the most fascinating about this admonition that there be no division among the church is the continual observation in the New Testament that Christians can and will have different understandings, levels of maturity, and even convictions regarding various issues. Obviously, the Jewish background of many in the first century prompted difficulties in local churches (Romans; Galatians). And confusion among those who left idolatry called for instruction both regarding idolatrous practices and issues of personal conviction about such things as eating meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor.8-9f). The entire Corinthian letter is written to bring correction and understanding to people who were divided or dividing. All of which raises this fundamental question: Can we be united/unified and still have differences, whether of maturity, understanding, or even personal conviction? The answer is a resounding, “Yes”. In fact, such unity is commanded within a local congregation.
As to the “how” of such oneness, this is the point of 1 Cor.1.10. In order for such unity to be achieved, any and every disciple must offer himself completely and without reservation to the pursuit of the will of God as seen in His revelation. And then we must all adopt the mentality that seeks to come to consensus and agreement upon that Word. Such determination stands opposed to the stubborn and often arrogant mindset that looks only to my opinions, judgments, and preferences, even when such obstinacy results in disdain, discouragement, and division. The key to unity in a local church is having everyone in that church committed to God’s will and to the ongoing effort to find agreement with others as to judgment and application of that will. Such requires continual work; repeated examination, study, and discussion; and a pervasive humility which drives us to commonality. God help us to be about the business of “mending.”