By Mike Willis
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 same judgment.
This passage which condemns division among the Corinthians has been used by brethren for years to show that our divisions over the usage of mechanical instruments of music in worship is sinful. Brethren have insisted that we should all speak the same thing with reference to the usage of mechanical instruments of music in worship in the same way as we have spoken the same thing on baptism. Through teaching the same doctrine on this subject, we can have unity among ourselves.
However, Leroy Garrett, Carl Ketcherside and others lampoon the idea that we can ever have unity in doctrine on such matters. Typical of what they are saying is the following statement:
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 the 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 (Leroy Garrett, “The Word Abused . . . That You All Speak The Same Thing,” Restoration Review, XVIII, p. 282).
A more obvious abuse of the Scriptures cannot be imagined than this. Whereas Paul demanded that unity be obtained by all of the divided brethren speaking the same thing, the grace-unity brethren say that this is impossible and cannot be Paul’s meaning in this passage. Any theory which posits unity without us speaking the same thing on doctrinal matters is not that which Paul demanded.
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 gnome (judgment) are synonyms, 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 1 Cor. 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 gnome (judgment) refers to the manner of deciding a particular issue in question.
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: Baptism 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.
A Pattern Of Conduct
I think that any perceptive reader can see a pattern of conduct developed in the handling of passages pertaining to false teachers by the grace-unity brethren. Every passage which demands that false teachers be rebuked and exposed as heretics has been said not to be applicable to those false teachers among us who have introduced mechanical instruments of music in worship, church support of human institutions (missionary, benevolent, or educational), church sponsored recreation, the sponsoring church arrangement, premillennialism, and any other false doctrine (such as the denial of the virgin birth, resurrection, necessity of faith in Jesus Christ, as some individuals promoting the grace-unity heresy have said). To further demonstrate this, I reproduce several other comments on other verses, not for the purpose of giving ,a detailed examination of what the verses say, but to demonstrate that these brethren are consistently trying to make passages which have been used against false teachers among us to be not applicable to them anymore.
1. 2 Peter 2:1. Peter warned, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” Garrett assures us that this passage cannot be legitimately applied to denominational people, much less our own brethren.
I may shock some of my more staid readers with the thesis I now set forth as to the identity of a false teacher. I do not believe, as I was always taught in the sect in which I grew up, that “denominational preachers” are necessarily false teachers, which is the view still urged upon us by many within Christian Churches-Churches of Christ.
. . . The nun that marches her girls in front of you as you wait at the light does not necessarily deserve the epithet of false, whatever judgment you made of Romanism . . . .
No one is a false teacher who is honestly mistaken or in error. It is gracious of us to distinguish between unintentional wrong and deliberate and malicious falsehood (Leroy Garrett, “The Word Abused . . . Who Is The False Teacher?”, Restoration Review, XVIII, pp. 262, 264, 265).
Whereas it is an abuse of this passage to apply this passage to denominational preachers or brethren who have introduced unauthorized items into the work, worship and organization of the church, Garrett believes that it can be legitimately applied to those of us who are calling for a “book, chapter, and verse” for all that we do. He continued.
. . I have no interest in excluding anyone as a false teacher if he fits the description set forth here, whether he be of “us” or “them.” And we may be closer to the description than we realize when we bask in our own self-righteousness and set all others at naught. We have those among us who are willing to bruise and batter innocent lives in order to safe-guard the party and preserve what they call sound doctrine. That too gets close (Ibid., p. 264).
Though this passage. cannot be applied to those who introduce false doctrines, it can be applied to those who are dedicated to practicing only those things found in the New Testament. And Garrett wants us to believe that we are abusing the Scriptures!
2. 2 Thessalonians 3:6. Paul wrote, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” Once again, our grace-unity brethren have assured us that this passage definitely cannot be applied to those who have departed from the revelation of God by introducing things unauthorized into the work, worship, and organization of the church.
Paul could never have dreamed that his words, “Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly” would someday be used as a proof text for “withdrawing fellowship” from those who veer from this or that doctrinal position, whether in reference to a divorce, speaking in tongues, importing an organ, becoming a Mason, conducting a Sunday School, using uninspired literature, adopting the pastor system, or supporting a TV-radio program through the treasury of the church (Leroy Garrett, “The Word Abused . . . Withdrawing From The Disorderly,” Restoration Review, XVIII, p. 343).
Again, this passage cannot be applied to those “disorderly” people among us who “obey not our word by this epistle” (2 Thess. 3:14), according to the grace-unity brethren.
3. Jude 3. We read, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Whenever brethren have introduced matters which are not a part of the faith which the apostles delivered to us, this passage has been used to admonish brethren to defend only what has been authorized in the Scriptures. But, Ketcherside says that this is an abuse of the Scriptures.
It is argued by factional leaders that “the faith” here spoken of is the entire body of new covenant scriptures. In addition, each party includes in “the faith” the particular and peculiar traditional interpretation and deductions which separate and segregate it from all other believers, sects and parties. This when one debates the validity of cups and classes, he is contending for “the faith.” When another engages in heated discussion over support of orphan homes or Herald of Truth, he is contending for “the faith.” When another argues about the use of instrumental music, either pro or con, he is contending for “the faith.” When another goes on a radio station and delivers an attack on the pre-millennial interpretation he is contending for “the faith.” The content of the faith which was “once for all delivered to the saints” differs with each contentious party of saints (Carl Ketcherside, “The One Faith,” Mission Messenger, XXVII, p. 150).
Hence, this passage cannot be understood to have any bearing on additions made later than the revelation of the one body of doctrine from the inspired men. Garrett and Ketcherside said so and, surely, they cannot be wrong.
Why have the grace-unity brethren been so bent upon reinterpreting every passage which has been used to oppose those who have unscripturally introduced into the worship, work, and organization of the church things which are not found in the Bible? Is it because they are concerned with the proper interpretation of the Scripture? Is it just because they want to be sure that other passages are applied to those who have introduced things which are not authorized? Are they opposed to these things having been introduced but simply feel that we have been using the wrong Scriptures to condemn them?
Most definitely not! Read their journals from cover to cover, year in and year out. You will never see one single passage applied in opposition to those who have unscripturally introduced mechanical instruments of music in worship. You will never see one passage introduced to call back to the word of God those who have departed from the Scriptures in urging churches to contribute to human institutions (whether missionary societies, benevolent societies, or colleges). You will never find one condemnation of those who split the church by forcing these matters upon brethren who were conscientiously opposed to doctrinal innovation. Why? Because they do not believe that sin was committed in introducing mechanical instruments of music in worship, churches supporting human institutions, churches sponsoring recreation as part of their work, or altering the organization of the church in the sponsoring church arrangement. Not believing that these things are sinful and will send a man to hell, Ketcherside and Garrett are methodically trying to get brethren to quit calling those who do introduce these things “sinners.” Unfortunately, they have been successful with some. Bruce Edwards, Jr., Arnold Hardin, Edward Fudge, and some others who formerly stood with us have become convinced. If you doubt that this is so, try to find anything written by them in recent years in which the introduction of these items is condemned as sinful, brethren were admonished to repent of the sin in order to avoid going to hell, and condemnation was given because of their guilt in dividing the body of Christ through the introduction of unauthorized items!
The result is that these brethren are cutting their own throats. By saying that these verses have nothing to do with doctrinal apostasies, they will have no verses to use on those who are departing from what the revelation of God says about the (what they incorrectly label) “gospel.” Already some are teaching that men can go to heaven without believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth, and the coronation of Jesus. They have been teaching that one can go to heaven without baptism for several years now. What Scripture can be used to show that these brethren have “departed from the faith”? There are none left by their own admission.
Hence, salvation is reduced to a warm, syrupy feeling of love that is closely akin to what Pentecostals and other denominations have been preaching for years. If these brethren are attracted to this kind of “religion,” why won’t they just go to those denominations? Why do they feel compelled to drag all of the rest of us with them? It certainly cannot be because they believe that what we are doing will send us to hell; they have already admitted that this is not what they believe. Why?
Brethren, the time to become alarmed is past. We each need to be aware of the false doctrines and unscrupulous tactics employed by the grace-unity brethren as they “abuse the word” and “twist the scriptures.” An informed membership is a strong membership.
- How is unity to be attained according to 1 Cor. 1:10?
- How can we be united on the action, subject, and purpose of baptism? How can we be united on the frequency of observing the Lord’s supper? Is unity in doctrine necessary to unity in these matters?
- Why are some trying to deny that Gal. 1:8-9, 2 John 9-11, Rom. 16:17-18 and other passages have any application to modern problems?
- Is there a pattern of conduct in their treatment of these passages? If so, what is it?
- Why would one cease to oppose the usage of mechanical instruments of music in worship?
- Are there any false teachers among us today? If so, what makes him a false teacher?
- Must one be insincere to be a false teacher?
- If insincerity is necessary for one to be a false teacher, how can I know if a given man is a false teacher?
Truth Magazine XXIV: 23, pp. 377-380
June 5, 1980