Is this entirely possible?
“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10
I often disagree with my own self from 5 minutes ago, much less with 400 other people.
How is it that Christians can be in agreement in what we say as well as have perfect unity in our minds and thoughts? That doesn’t seem possible if by that it means we must all think the same way on all matters at all times. I don’t care how optimistic you are. That isn’t going to happen. Paul literally says that we must be saying the same things.
Paul’s instruction presupposes a fractured congregation, not only here but throughout 1 Corinthians. This church had issues that were leading to division within the church body and it needed to be mended back together again. The very next verse tells us that much…that a report had come from Chloe’s household that there were quarrels in the church. If what Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians is directly aimed at these quarrels, which it appears to be, then we can very quickly see what sort of issues the congregation was dividing over. It ran the gamut of which apostle was the best one, to sexual immorality, to abuses in worship.
This church had issues. They were of a divided mind demonstrated by being divided in what they were saying. Things weren’t lining up and unity seemed out of reach.
There are a few things that Paul tells them to help them regain their unity and I think this message is just as essential today as it was then.
1 – Our calling
Paul addresses this several times in chapter 1 alone. He connects calling with their identity in Christ in 1:2, 24 & 26-29 in reminding them that they are unified because they have all received the same calling from God, whether Jew or Greek…it doesn’t matter. The once irreconcilable divisions between Jews and Greeks have been reconciled not just to God but to each other through Christ. Our one calling is a reminder of our unity.
2 – The Holy Spirit
In chapters 2 and 3, Paul spends quite a bit of time talking about the Holy Spirit’s role in bringing us into unity. Unity doesn’t mean we get along. Unity is a unity of our being…we are, together, a temple of the Holy Spirit 3:16-17). How does the Holy Spirit give us unity of speech? Paul explains that in 2:13 – “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” The Holy Spirit unifies us.
Now, oddly enough the Spirit brings unity by giving us diversity. You see this in 1 Cor 12 where the Holy Spirit gives many miraculous gifts to the church for the very purpose of bringing us unity. That seems counter-intuitive only because our human nature makes it so. We tend to take differences and rank them. God, by the Spirit, gives diverse gifts to the church in order to make it united just as it takes many parts to make one body.
3 – Love
That brings us right up to 1 Cor 13 where Paul is not just talking about love to give us something to read at weddings. If you read 12 and 13 together you see that the things Paul is mentioning in chapter 13 are the same spiritual gifts he has already been talking about (tongues of men or angels, prophesy, knowledge, faith, etc). Paul is talking about joint participation of the believer in the Spirit’s work in giving us a diversity of gifts. The Holy Spirit can give us all the gifts we need but we must respond and use those gifts in love. While Paul does tell us to eagerly desire the greater gifts (12:31) that does not mean that they were to value people differently in the congregation based on which gift they had. Again, that is our flesh talking…not the Spirit.
These three things are necessary to be saying the same words, having the same mind and the same thoughts. It takes us recognizing that we have the same calling, the same Spirit and the same love even if we don’t all have the exact same brain in our heads!