37. “All Speak the Same Thing” (1 Corinthians 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
It has been my experience that such verses have been sadly
distorted by those who justify divisions. Their reasoning is circuitous and
tortuous: ‘Paul says we should all agree perfectly and have no divisions.
Our ecclesial members do not agree perfectly on such-and-such. Consequently we
must divide from those who disagree, in order that we have no divisions among
It does not take a genius to see that there is something wrong
with such logic. The point overlooked is this: Paul is admonishing the brethren
to the pursuit of an ideal — perfect oneness in mind and spirit among the
brethren. Just because the ecclesia does not immediately achieve such harmony is
no reason to throw up one’s hands and separate. Does Paul say here
anything about separation? Even an imperfect unity must be preserved and
nurtured, not dismantled because it has a flaw.
“Fellowship is primarily a ‘community of interest’ rather than
individual advantage. It is the family sharing which keeps Father, Son and
believers in a unity of belief as well as purpose; and as far as Father and Son
are concerned, this unity is an unbreakable one. But in the hands of believers
in the ecclesia it can be a fragile thing, so unpredictable is the human heart.
Paul was very conscious of this and exhorted the Corinthian ecclesia: ‘Now
I beseech you, brethren,.. that ye be perfectly joined
In the same context of his Corinthian letter, the apostle
stresses that the brethren were called unto the fellowship of God’s
Son (v. 9). It is a striking concept, reminiscent of the Lord’s words:
“I will draw all men to me” (John 12:32) and “Him that
cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out” (6:37). Here is the strongest
affirmation of the principle that our “fellowship” is not ours alone
— it is God’s and Christ’s. And any unilateral attempts by men
to subvert or destroy this sublime unity, without clear and certain and
incontrovertible evidence from the Bible, is a direct affront to
“In practice this vital doctrine of the unity of the Household cannot be
manifested without the dedicated effort of every member of each ecclesia. It is,
by the Father’s will and help, a cooperative and precious creation made
possible by the shed blood of Jesus. This whole conception of fellowship is at
once magnificent and humbling; but it can be broken: by the disagreement of an
individual member with his ecclesia, or vice-versa” (J. Marshall,
“The Living Ecclesia”, The Christadelphian, Vol. 108, No.
1280 — Feb. 1971 — p. 56).
Far from commanding an absolute unity as a condition of
fellowship, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:10 strongly suggest just the
opposite: that differences of opinion and internal schisms already existed in
Corinth, and whilst not approved, were at the least preferable to out-and-out
division. For Paul to say ‘Brethren, we must agree’ is certainly
not the same as saying ‘We must excommunicate all those who do not
agree’. Paul was far from being a Pope!
Such fallacious reasoning reminds us of what we might call the
“divorce syndrome”. To wit: ‘Paul says our marriage must
conform to the divine ideal. Since it does not, then it is not a proper
marriage. Therefore we will divorce and each seek another marriage that will
reflect the perfect ideal.’ Such an attitude, we trust, will be seen by
all to be hopelessly unrealistic. Who can fail to see that the divine ideal of
marriage is something to be sought by all husbands and wives, as they
seek to overcome their failures and press on toward the mark? Why cannot we all
see, also, that this is the proper attitude toward that “marriage”
of brethren in the ecclesia? Why must we demand “perfection of
fellowship” as the price of unity when experience sadly shows us that
nothing else in this life is ever perfect? Why cannot we learn to conquer
petty differences and put up with relatively trivial abrasions on our way to
achieving a closer approximation of the divine ideal? This is all that Christ
— and Paul — would have us to do.
In the first-century ecclesias some were
“unskillful” while others were able to partake of “strong
meat” (Heb. 5:11-14). Some were “babes” while others were
“fathers”. Some were “yet carnal” (1 Cor. 3:3) while
others possessed high degrees of spirituality. And it is the same today. In the
absolute sense, then, it is impossible that all brethren have “the same
mind and the same judgment”. Some will always be more advanced than
others, and some will always present problems to the rest. True fellowship, like
true freedom, does not consist in a rigid like-mindedness on all things —
that is an impossible wish! True fellowship and true freedom does consist in
the limited toleration of differences, allowing scope for development in the
truth at an individual pace, while the strong patiently help rather than
criticize and condemn the weak.
“It must be confessed that divisions oftentimes take place which could be
avoided without prejudicing the truth in any way. A little more patience, a
little more kindness, a little less sense of personal pride and self-importance,
a little more discrimination between essential and non-essential elements of
belief — How many a division would thus have been avoided!
Paul continues in his Corinthian letter:
“To create a division would appear to be considered by some as a very
meritorious act, and a proof of zeal and stability in the truth, whereas it
often arises that it is a proof of pride, bitterness, and a wayward
determination to get one’s way at any cost. The truth is that the making
of divisions has become far too easy a process, and the time has come when a
little resistance should be made to the disintegrating spirit in our midst; and
which, if allowed to go unchecked, will work disaster and split the brotherhood
into useless shreds... These little ecclesias of ours up and down the land are
worth keeping; and any needless disruptive tendency must be strongly
resisted” (D. Hughes, “A House Divided”, The
Christadelphian, Vol. 40, No. 467 — May 1903 — pp.
“Now this I say, that everyone of you saith, ‘I
am of Paul’, and ‘I of Apollos’; and ‘I of
Cephas’; and ‘I of Christ’. Is Christ divided? Was Paul
crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor.
In another section (Chapter 18) I considered the teaching of
this verse on the matter of fellowship. Now I shall simply note some of the
other similar passages in the apostolic writings, which stress this same all-out
commitment to unity and peace and edification, or (negatively expressed) to what
C.C. Walker calls “the resistance of unnecessary division” (The
Christadelphian, Vol. 40, No. 467 — May 1903 — p. 204). Paul
himself commands the Roman brethren:
“Be of the same mind one toward another... Condescend
to men of low estate... Be not wise in your own conceits” (Rom.
“Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of
another; love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous; not rendering evil for
evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing” (1 Pet.
“Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be
clothed with humility” (5:5).
In all of the above, it is to be pointedly stressed that the
way to achieve “the same mind” is not to divide from those of
a different mind, but as the apostles say, to be condescending, compassionate,
and humble. Have we as a brotherhood sincerely and in a wholehearted manner
sought this peace and unity? Or have we too often, for the most personal and
self-serving of motives, undermined the ecclesial good in the perpetuation of
controversies of quite secondary importance? The article by Brother Hughes,
quoted above, written in 1903, concludes with some words of almost prophetic
“If we go on everlastingly agitating on unimportant points, everlastingly
dividing and subdividing, the superstructure of the truth, which it has cost so
much to re-erect in these latter years, will crumble away and leave behind an
irreparable loss. ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to
destruction, and every city or house divided against itself shall not
stand’ (Matt. 12:25; Luke 11:17)” (Op. cit., p.