October 24, 2017

The Word Abused: 1 Corinthians 1:10

By Mike Willis

In the May, 1976 issue of Restoration Review, editor Leroy Garrett considered another one of the passages which are supposedly abused by the brethren. Of course, the only ones who abuse the Bible in the manner described by Garrett are those of us who oppose unauthorized innovations; the Christian Church people who introduced the innovations were never guilty of abusing the word of God. At least, Brother Garrett never cites any of their abuses; instead, he concentrates on the abuses of those who oppose unauthorized perversions of the worship and work of the church. His purpose is blatantly obvious: he is trying to disarm every passage which we use to ward off the false teacher. So, he turns again to consider another passage; for this month, he chose 1 Cor. 1:10. Here is the verse:

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 he perfectly joined together in the same mind and In the same judgment.

Here is Garrett's understanding of how we abuse this passage:

Does this passage enjoin believers to see everything in the Bible alike? Does it teach that we must see eye to eye on all points of doctrine, that there can be no honest differences of opinion?

This is what we are told. We must all speak the same thing! If we study prophecy in the Old Covenant scriptures, we must come up with identical positions . . . .

On and on it goes, almost endlessly. We have to speak "the same thing" on whether congregations may cooperate and on what basis (A division has occurred In last two decades over the support of Herald of Truth TV/ Radio). We have to speak "the same thing" on instrumental music, otherwise the division must continue another century.(1)

If in your study of this passage, you understand that Christ demands Christians to speak the same thing, your interpretation of that passage is an abuse of it, according to Garrett.

1 Corinthians 1:10

Before going any further with a review of Garrett's material, let us carefully examine what 1 Cor. 1:10 actually teaches.

Now I beseech you, brethren (parakalo de humas, adelphoi). The particle de is adversative to contrast the things for which Paul was thankful (1:4-9) with the problems with which he must now contend. Parakalo (I beseech) does not connote "to beg" as much as it does "to exhort." Paul frequently introduced his exhortations with parakalo (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Thess. 4:1; etc.). The apostle does not forget that, though guilty of promoting separations, all of the body are brethren.(2) In using this word, Paul is appealing to their better senses; the Corinthians recognize that they are all born again of the same Father. Why, then, should they be divided?

By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (din tou onomatos . . . Christou). Every morsel of respect which the Corinthians had for Jesus is summoned by Paul to call upon them to listen to what he had to say. His authority over them as an apostle was through Jesus Christ. The basis on which he appeals for their unity is Jesus Himself. They should want to be reconciled to one another because Jesus wants them to be united. He prayed, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (Jn. 17:20-21). Thus, Paul related this earthly problem to their spiritual relationship with Jesus; the Corinthians could not maintain their allegiance to Christ and allow the congregation at Corinth to be divided.

That ye all speak the same thing (hina to auto legete pantes'). "We have here a strictly classical expression. It is used of political communities which are free from factions, or of different states which entertain friendly relations with each other. Thus to auto legein is 'to be at peace,' or 'to make up differences.' . . . Here the second idea to make up differences is the prominent one, and is carried out in katertismenol below, where the same political metaphor is used . . . The marked classical coloring of such passages as this leaves a much stronger impression of St. Paul's acquaintance with classical writers than the rare occasional quotations which occur in his writings."(3)Obviously, the appeal for the brethren to "speak the same thing" is to be contrasted with the existing state of affairs in Corinth: "I am of Paul; I of Apollos; I of Cephas; and I of Christ." The confused state of affairs could not be tolerated; brethren must learn to "speak the same the same thing."

And that there may be no divisions among you (kai me e en humin schismata). Schisma (division) was originally used to designate a tear in a piece of material such as might be caused by putting new wine into old wine skins (Mt. 9:16; Mk. 2:21). Then, the word was used to refer to the state of a community which occurs when different opinions which threaten its unity exist in it as, for example, existed in Judaism when different opinions were entertained concerning Jesus (Jn. 7:43; 9:16; 10:19). Thus, the Corinthian church was not formally divided although the differing doctrines and attitudes constituted definite tears in the community which could easily lead to an open breach of fellowship. The existence of the differing ideas in the church which threaten to disrupt the fellowship of the church cannot be ignored or tolerated. They are dangerous and must be curtailed. The manner in which Paul mentioned the schisms in this verse (e-pres. subj. of eimi) does not definitely state whether the schisms were actually present in Corinth; he waits until v. 11 to emphatically charge them with division.

But that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (ete de katerismenoi en to auto noi kai en te aute gnome). Paul continued his metaphor of the torn garment, a classical political metaphor, to describe the church at Corinth. The word "perfectly joined together" (katerismenos) is used to describe the repairing of torn fishing nets (Mt. 4:21; Mk. 1:19). Thus, Paul is instructing the Corinthians to re-sew the torn cloth that it may be restored to its original beauty, i.e. to mend the tears in the congregation caused by the differing opinions existing among them. Twentieth century Christians have been exposed to a divided Christianity so long that they not only accept it but also praise it. Some see virtues arising out of denominationalism (e.g. competition in evangelizing, a religious group fitted to every man, etc.). God does not appreciate rifts in Christianity anymore today than He did in 58 A.D. The church must never forget that preserving and restoring the unity of the body of Christ is still a part of its divine mission.

Several current theories for overcoming the divisions among Christianity completely ignore the divine instructions given in this verse regarding how to have unity in the body of Christ. The ecumenical movement, for example, encourages a "unity in diversity" basis of unity. The diversity to be tolerated ranges from evangelical churches to non-Christian religions. Others have sought union on the basis of some type of super organization such as the Catholic Church. Inside the Churches of Christ, some are presently promoting an ecumenical movement to reconcile the divisions among us. Like their denominational counterpart, these men are tolerant of doctrinal differences which range from the Disciples of Christ (the body which has within its fellowship modernists who deny the deity of Christ, the inspiration of the Scriptures, miracles, etc.) to the radical right-wing churches (such as the no Bible class, no located preacher, and no literature groups, etc.). This type of unity is one which ignores the issues which divided us and ignores Paul's instructions for unity given in this verse.

Although noos (mind) and gn6mi (judgment) are synonyms,(4) they have distinctive meanings. Some understand mind to refer to theoretical understanding and judgment to be practical life. This distinction, though not totally inaccurate, is not sufficiently precise. The noos refers to the Christian way of thinking. The same word is used in 2:16 (the noos of Christ) to refer to the revelation delivered to the apostles by the Holy Spirit. Thus, when Paul urges the Christians to be of the same mind, he is urging them to have the mind of Christ, i.e. to accept the Christian revelation as the final authority in settling religious questions. The gn6me(judgment) refers to the manner of deciding a particular issue in question.(5)

Let me illustrate how the unity of the church can be maintained on the basis of Paul's advice given in this verse. The question we shall consider is this: What is the action of baptism (baptisma)? Everybody must approach the matter with the same mind (noos); the inspired scriptures will be the final authority in answering the question. Approaching the matter in this way, the people studying the question turn to the Bible for guidance. Inasmuch as the Bible does not teach a multitude of doctrines on the subject and it is able to be understood, the different people will reach the one conclusion: Baptisma is immersion in water. Having reached the same conclusion (gnome), the body will all give the same answer (speak the same). In this manner, the unity of the church can be attained. So long as matters not authorized in the scriptures are not brought into the work and worship of the church there will be no divisions in the body of Christ. Scriptural unity can be attained or maintained only so long as brethren follow Paul's instructions presented in this verse. Our first work is not to arrive at unity, but to conform ourselves to the standard of Divine Truth. Just as the unity of a choir is not gained by each singer striving to keep in harmony with his neighbor but by all following the prescribed notes of music, so also the unity of the Lord's church can be attained only by all of us conforming to the revelation which He has given to us.

Having carefully worked our way through every phase of 1 Cor. 1:10, I think that we can appreciate and understand what the apostle taught and also see that what Garrett said regarding the abuse of the Scripture is no abuse at all.

Consistency

Garrett's second charge regarding 1 Cor. 1:10 is that no one applies the passage consistently. He wrote,

The truth is that 1 Cor. 1:10, as abused in this manner, never has been, is not now, nor will it every be consistently practiced by any believer. The reason is simple: it is impossible. You may as well talk about our cells or genes all being alike, or our fingerprints all being alike (the FBI would be disappointed). Men do not think exactly alike about anything, much less the Bible, and it is asinine to argue that the scriptures enjoin what is so obviously impossible. In their saner moments all our party leaders will grant that there may be some differences of opinion and that some allowance should be made for diversity. Such an admission is a repudiation of their interpretation of 1 Cor. 1:10, for If that verse means what they say, on what basis can they make exceptions to its application? If we have to see eye to eye on instrumental music In order to be united, why not on every other point as well?(6)

Hence, he charged us, first of all, with an inconsistent application of our principles. He who lives in glas houses should not be throwing stones. I remind you that Garrett-the man who does not believe that we have to see all doctrinal matters alike-is the very same ma who has written approvingly of the church divisions in Cleburne, Texas and other areas which divisions occurred because the brethren could not agree to say th same thing about unity! Hence, Garrett believes that one must speak the same thing when it comes to unity that is, all brethren must agree to unity in diversity or else he will divide the church over it. At least, he has written approvingly of several such divisions in the past.

To further illustrate Garrett's own inconsistency please read the following:

If you accept Jesus as Lord and obey him in baptism, I am to receive you, warts and all. It matters not at all of how right or wrong you may be on instrumental music or whatever your hang up might be on Herald of Truth.

Thanks be to God that we do not have to see eye to eye on all these issues that we have used as excuses for being torn asunder into separate camps. But we are to speak the same thing in reference to the Lordship of Jesus-the one faith, the one Lord, the one baptism.(7)

Notice that Garrett demands that all men believe in the Lordship of Jesus and baptism before they can be united. I have never seen any of these "unity-in-diversity" men who consistently applied their own principles. If unity in diversity is true, why must we agree that Jesus is the Son of God? Why can't we go ahead and be one in spite of our differences over this matter? After all, it is impossible for all men to see everything just alike. "You might as well talk about our cells or genes being alike, or our fingerprints all being alike (the FBI would be disappointed). Men do not think exactly alike about anything (not even about whether Jesus is the Son of God-mw), much less the Bible, and it is asinine to argue that the scriptures enjoin what is so obviously impossible." My brethren, the principles which must be conceded to accept unity in diversity will ultimately lead to universalism!

Garrett also charged us with another inconsistency; he charged us with making Paul contradict himself.

That very letter of 1 Corinthians shows that Paul could not have had sameness of viewpoint in mind. In chapter 8 he recognizes that some of them had "knowledge" about idols while others did not. In the early verses he states that he and other believers realize that an idol is nothing, and so whether meat has been sacrificed to an idol doesn't matter. Then he says In verse 7: "However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through being hitherto accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak is defiled."

Why doesn't he tell those who did not have this "knowledge" to get with it and line up? He recognizes that such differences can and will exist. People are different, not only In temperament and background, but in their ability to make distinctions. He finally says, "if food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall." Here he recognizes an understandable difference In doctrine. He does not insist upon conformity. He rather Insists that It Is love, not knowledge, that builds up, and In that love brothers are to bear with each other. Unity in diversity! There Is of course no other kind of unity, whether it be in a marriage, in a legislative body, or in a congregation.(8)

Hence, he said that Paul himself did not believe in unity in doctrine. However, I remind you that Paul demanded uniformity in belief concerning the resurrection and even demanded disassociation from those who disagree (15:33-34) and that he demanded that all agree with what he wrote concerning the order of worship demanding that all who would not accept his authority on the matter were not to be recognized (14:37-38.) If what Garrett said about 1 Cor. 1:10 and unity in diversity is true, Paul did a poor job of following his own advice!

But, why could Paul tolerate differences in opinion regarding eating meats sacrificed to idols? First of all, he did not always tolerate these differences. Paul absolutely forbade (hence, unity in doctrine) any Christian to eat meats sacrificed to idols in an idol's temple (cf. 10:14-22. However, in cases where the eating of meats sacrificed to idols was morally neutral (i.e. it made no difference in one's relationship to God whether one ate or did not eat), he allowed a brother either to eat or not to eat. Hence, in matters of indifference brethren do not have to agree. Before this passage can be of any benefit to Garrett, he must prove that instrumental music, missionary societies (whether under a sponsoring church or independent), church support of benevolent and educational institutions, etc. are matters of indifference.

Conclusion

Once again the editor of Restoration Review has attempted to remove another passage from our arsenal of defense to be used against false teachers. Brethren, wake up to what he and others are doing. The time to arm ourselves for the fight is now!

Endnotes

1. Leroy Garrett, "The Word Abused . . . That You All Speak The Same Thing," Restoration Review, Vol. 18, No. 5 (May, 1976), p. 282.

2. Many troubles and faults were to be found among the Corinthians and yet these do not sever the fraternal tie that binds them to Paul. While this is true and dare not be minimized, a deduction such as the following would be wholly contrary to Paul's intention: that congregations may settle down permanently into evil conditions like those which existed in Corinth without impairing their fraternal relations with Paul and with those who are true to the word of God. For this entire letter is directed to remove the faults and the evils that had begun to show themselves in Corinth.

3. J. B. Lightfoot, Notes on Epistles of St. Paul (London: Macmillan and Co., 1904), p. 151.

4. The writer in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament sees no difference in their meanings in this verse.

5. Cf. Godet, Meyer, Vincent, and others.

6. Garrett, cit., p. 283.

7. Ibid. p. 286.

8. Ibid., p. 284.

Truth Magazine XX: 41, pp. 647-650
October 14, 1976

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