That's A Good Question
Larry Ray Hafley
From Oklahoma: "Does 1 Corinthians 3:9 authorize collective action of churches "
The text in question says, "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." This passage appears in a context wherein Paul shows the folly of "contentions" in the church at Corinth. "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" (i Cor. 1:12). "For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am' of Apollos." (1 Cor. 3:4).
Paul reveals the absurdity of such partyism. "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul" (1 Cor. 1:13)? "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then (in view of those facts-LRH) neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth (Paul) and he that watereth (Apollos) are one (in contrast to you Corinthians who are divided over us-LRH): and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building" (1 Cor. 3:49).
Paul and Apollos were one because they labored together with God. They were not separated with respect to purpose. Their oneness was seen in that they worked toward the same goal. "He that planteth and he that watereth are one (How?) ... For we are labourers together with God."
Accordingly, Paul argues, the Corinthians should be one-one vineyard, one building. It was a united labor that planted, watered and raised them. God's seal of approval was seen in that He gave the increase. The planting and watering, a united action, was given increase. It produced. Division is foreign to that figure and concept. "You are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." "Therefore let no man glory in men," men like Paul or Apollos or Peter. "And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another?" (1 Cor. 4:6, 7).
Now To The Question
A plurality of congregations is not under consideration. Collective action of churches is not the subject. Therefore, collective action of churches is not authorized in 1 Corinthians 3:9. The unity Paul urges is as broad as the division he was repudiating and rebuking. Was he discussing intercongregational schism? Was he encouraging a number of churches to cease their squabbling? No, therefore, the unity he advocated was not a unity of churches.
Truth Magazine, XX:16, p. 2