Being United in Christ

1 Corinthians 1:10 (NASB)
"Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment."

What does it mean to be "in the same mind and in the same judgment"? Some religious groups and organizations have taken this to mean that all of its members must believe all doctrines and practices it teaches without question. That a member must stifle any differences of opinion in even minor matters and hold with unswerving loyalty to whatever is preached from the pulpit, so that the group or organization may move forward without divisions or dissensions. But was this the idea Paul was trying to convey to the Corinthian church?

Scripture does not indicate that the believers to whom Paul addressed his epistle ever came to a complete unity of beliefs and personal viewpoints regarding Christian doctrine. Neither did the text of the epistle call on all the Corinthian believers to think exactly alike, as some teach. If this was the case, Paul would have had to develop a detailed set of doctrines and code of conduct for them.

Paul was dealing with Christians who were acting in an immature way spiritually. In the subsequent verses, he spoke of divisions and dissensions that arose over who was the best teacher to follow. A situation that was similar to the way the disciples, when they were with Jesus, argued among themselves regarding who was the greatest. Some thought Paul was the best person to follow. Others thought Apollos or Peter was the best. And still others argued that they followed Christ. Paul made it clear to these divided church members that the focus of attention must not be on human leaders, but on Jesus Christ, into whom they had been baptized. It was only by the work of God, rather than according to status or worldly wisdom, that they were in Christ and benefited from true wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and salvation. Therefore Paul told them, if any boasting was to be done it was to be done in the Lord, rather than in a person working for the Lord.

So what of those groups and organizations that teach conformity of doctrine and opinion, excommunicating and shunning those who fail to fall in line when members come to differing views in areas where Scripture says to "let every man be convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:5)? Is absolute conformity of doctrine required for Christian fellowship? Differences of opinion existed in the early church over a variety of issues, such as religious days of observance, diet, and other things. But the apostles called on believers not to let such differences divide them and make them cease loving each other as Christ loved and accepted them. Unity was to be based on love for one another, rather than on conformity to a set of doctrines.

So in what sense are Christians to be united with one mind? Paul said it best in Philippians 1:27-28; 2:1-2:

"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents -- which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God."

"Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose."

While there will be differences of opinion in certain areas in any given church, and this was certainly the case throughout the history of the Christian Church, they should never be stifled or used to bar Christians from fellowship. There should always be a union of love and affection. Knowing what the Gospel of Christ is and living in accordance to it should be of primary importance. The gospel provides principles for Christian living, and it also provides the believer liberty. And within that liberty Christians are allowed to hold differing views according to their conscience as long as it does not go against gospel teaching or infringe on the liberty of others to believe according to their consciences.

Let not the enemy of our souls deceive us into strife and quarrels. For this is one of most effective weapons against the cause of the gospel. Let us never forget that others will know that we are disciples of Christ because of the love we have for each other (John 13:35). Let us be humble, sympathetic, and compassionate to one another and live in harmony (1 Peter 3:8). For in heaven, we must all live together.

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