Unity in Diversity or Unity in Doctrine?

Mike Willis
Mooresville, Indiana


No church in New Testament days is recorded to have had more internal strife and division than did the church at Corinth. Much of what Paul wrote to that church concerned itself with healing the division; all of I Cor. 1-4 revolves around the theme of healing the breach in the church at Corinth. The severity of division is shown in these verses: "Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are" (Cor. 3-16,17).

The temple of God under discussion in these verses is the church. The destruction which was being done to that temple in Corinth was done through division in the body. God's wrath is against those who are thus destroying the temple of God.

Like the church at Corinth, the Lord's church today is torn with internal strife. Carl Ketcherside counted over twenty divisions in the body of Christ. Here is his list:

"We have divided over missionary societies, instrumental music, centralized control, colleges, orphans homes, national radio and television programs, the right to own television sets, leavened bread, unleavened bread, the manner of breaking bread, fermented wine, individual cups, Bible classes, uninspired literature, evangelists the hiring of ministers, the pastor system, marriage of divorced persons, speaking in tongues, divine healing, foot washing, the hour of meeting to eat the Lords Supper, and a host of other things "The Death of a Dream." Mission Messenger. Vol. 34, No. 1, p. 11).

Even a superficial reading reveals that his case is overstated. Several of the things which he listed can be grouped under one heading (Missionary Societies, colleges and orphans homes could be grouped under institutionalism); some issues in his list were misstated (national radio and television programs). Some of the divisions listed were duplicated (centralized control and national radio and television programs; evangelists, the hiring of ministers, the pastor system; speaking in tongues and divine healing-both should be called spiritual gifts).

After stating all of this about Ketcherside's list, one must still agree that the church is seriously and sinfully divided. We who love the church and the Lord need to re-study all the passages concerning fellowship so that we may learn how scripturally to heal the breach in Zion. The first four chapters of I Cor. cannot be neglected in such a study.

In somewhat of a summary fashion, Paul outlined the method of attaining unity in the body of Christ in 1 Cor. 1:10. Here is that verse: "Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. "

"There Be No Divisions Among You"

The divisions in the church at Corinth were sinful. Whoever led and caused the division in the church at Corinth was guilty of sin. Instead of part of the church saying, "I am of Paul," and others saying, "I of Cephas," and still others saying, "I of Apollos," and yet others saying, "I of Christ," the church should all agree (literally, "say the same").

But how could the church agree to "say the same"? They would never say the same until they were made complete (knit together) in the same mind (nous) and judgment (gnome). But what did Paul mean when he commanded them to be of the "same mind and judgment"?

The Same Mind

Nous and gnome are synonyms both of which mean, first, the mind (i.e., the faculties of perceiving and understanding), then, the "view, judgment, opinion; particular mode of thinking" or conclusion reached from thinking. That which was written by Paul in I Cor. 1: 10 demands that we be of the same "mind." That mind is the "mind (nous -same word as is used in Cor. 1:10) of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16). The "mind of Christ" is discussed in I Cor. 2:6-16; that mind is that which the Holy Spirit has revealed-revelation. Thus, Paul urges that everyone be guided by revelation and not by human wisdom (cf. I Cor. 3:18). The same mind, which Paul urges the Corinthians to have, is "the same mode of thinking - approach all problems using revelation as one's final guide.

Throughout the rest of I Cor. 1-4, Paul teaches that man's wisdom is inferior to the "mind of Christ" or revelation. Here are some of those verses:

"For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another, 7 am of Apollos,' are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what k Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow-workers, you are Gods field, God's building" (3:4-9).

"Let no men deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, 'He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness'; and again, 'The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless. So then let no one boast in men.... Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God" (3:18-21; 4:1).

"Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (4:6,7).

"For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church" (4:17).

Notice that the thing which concerns Paul is that no one begins to "exceed what is written" (4:6). Thus, when Paul commands in 1: 10 that we be of the "same mind" he is commanding that we all appeal to revelation when we study difficult questions or problems, which divide the church.

The Same Judgment

Since nous and gnome are synonyms and are used in close association to one another, a distinction must be intended between the words. The distinction between the two words in 1 Cor. 1: 10 appears to be that nous (mind) is the method of thinking which one uses in approaching a subject (appeal to revelation) and gnome (judgment) is the conclusion reached.

Paul desired that the Corinthians be "in the same judgment"-he wanted them to reach the same conclusion with reference to the problem(s) causing the division. They could do this by all of them being of the same mind (i.e. appealing to the same revelation and determining not "to exceed what is written"-4:6).

When all got the same conclusion, obviously, they would "all agree" or speak the same thing. Thus, Paul urged that unity in the body of Christ be attained by unity in doctrine; not by unity in diversity!

Any attempt to unite in diversity runs against the method of attaining unity as taught by Paul. These statements by Carl W. Ketcherside must be weighed and found wanting since they contradict what Paul wrote:

.. The unity of the body is a unity in diversity" ("The Body of Christ, " Mission Messenger, Vol. 34, No. 10, p. 145).

"I want to make my own position clear. I want to do so now! ... My creed is Jesus Christ! My basis of union is Jesus Christ! My test of fellowship is Jesus Christ! My criterion for communion is Jesus Christ! I have no other creed, and I want no other. I reject here and now, once and for all, any plea for unity based upon conformity to any metaphysical or philosophic deductions, or predicated upon the universal acceptance of any speculation or opinion elevated to doctrinal basis" (Mission Messenger, Vol. 33, No. 9, p. 139). (Note: Of course, many denominationalists believe that the answer to "what think ye of Christ?" is a metaphysical or philosophic deduction. They would say that Ketcherside's test of fellowship is " predicated upon the universal acceptance of an opinion."-MW)

"I am optimistic because there is a growing recognition that harmony h; not a pre-requisite to fellowship. . . . " ("A Faith For the Future, Mission Messenger, Vol. 34, No. 3. p. 41).

You can read that unity can be attained by everyone "saying the same and being in the same mind and judgment" in 1 Cor. 1:10. You can read of unity in diversity in the Mission Messenger. Which do you desire to follow?

March 1, 1973