Vol. VIII — No. 40 October 8, 1967
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.” KJV
”Now I do beg you, my brothers, by all that our Lord Jesus Christ means to you, to speak with one voice, and not allow yourselves to be split up into parties. All together you should be achieving a unity in thought and judgment.” Phillips
”I appeal to you, my brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: agree among yourselves, and avoid divisions; be firmly joined in unity of mind and thought.” WEB
In Christ Jesus, who would have us be one in Him, Fellow Redeemed:
This brief text is an exhortation towards unity—unity in speaking, unity in understanding, unity in judgment.
The very thought of such a unity may frighten us. We may think that such a unity can be achieved only under a totalitarian form of government that controls the education of the young, the press, the radio, the television. The most obvious example of such an attempt at unity today is Red China. There was a brief time some years ago when the Red Chinese regime encouraged diversity of thought and opinion, but the cultural revolution that has been raging for quite some time now is a return to thought control, to mass mouthings of the sayings of Mao. We shudder to think of such a system of thought control imposed upon us who enjoy freedom of thought and communication. Our own country suffers more from the irresponsible use of these freedoms than from a curtailment of the same.
What about this exhortation towards unity of speaking in the same mind and in the same judgment? Is it a desirable goal? Let us remind ourselves of two factors. St. Paul is urging this unity in spiritual matters. He isn’t speaking of unity in the area of political thought, economic theories, or in matters pertaining to business, merchandising, sports, art or literature. Also, St. Paul is speaking of a unity that is not brought about by external compulsion, as is done in totalitarian communist states, but he is speaking of a unity that is achieved by the working of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of men through the Word of God. He is speaking of a voluntary unity, not a coerced unity. He is speaking of a unity in the area of faith and the life that flows from it, not in the area of earthly and tempofal affairs.
The unity that St. Paul is urging the Corinthians to strive for is the unity that truly exists in the Holy Christian Church. Paul speaks of that unity in his letter to the Ephesians, expressing himself in these words, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Eph. 4:4-6. The Spirit of God does not teach one child of God one thing and another something contrary. If two children of God differ in a matter of doctrine, one or the other or possibly both are not being led by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit always teaches one and the same truth to each and every child of God. Let us realize then that this brief exhortation of St, Paul is actually—
Let us observe first of all that—
There have always been people arising from within the church who began to teach and preach otherwise than God’s Word teaches. when such situations did arise, the Lord would raise up some champion to hold forth the Word of Truth on whatever the issue was. The early church was plagued with the Trinitarian controversies. The great church father, Athanasius, opposed the heresy of Arius. Over the course of years the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds were accepted as symbols of the true biblical teaching. Unity was restored; separation from heretics and errorists was possible, for the Bible was accepted as the final authority for doctrine and life.
But about one hundred and fifty years ago the Bible itself came under attack as the word of the living God and the final arbiter in all questions of doctrine and life. The theory of evolution was applied to the origin of the Bible. The Bible was no longer accepted as a book different from all other books in that its writers wrote under the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Bible was considered a divine-human book. The process of separating the divine from the human began and continues to this day. The linguists, theologians, anthropologists, archeologists, historians, grammarians inserted their question marks into the text of the Bible. The results of this century and a half of undermining the Bible are with us today. Few are the men that arise in the church today and speak with the authority of God, saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” Today people can be shown a Bible passage or section that speaks of a particular point of doctrine and still not be convinced because the whole atmosphere of the church is one of doubt and question marks. People will shrug their shoulders and say, “That is only your opinion.” Others will be more bold and say, “Well, I just don’t believe that.” The words of Paul and Peter and even the words of Jesus are challenged. People no longer seem to take seriously the Scripture-revealed truth that when the holy writers wrote the books of the Bible, they wrote as they were moved by the Spirit of God, so that the finished product is the very Word of God.
The result is that unity in speaking in the church has been lost because God in His Word is no longer the final authority in the church. Think of the scandal in the Episcopal Church. That situation is such a scandal because most people consider it to be normal. For some time now Bishop Pike has been under attack within his own church because he simply denies doctrines that form the heart and core of Christianity. A group wanted to try him on heresy charges. The bishop challenged them to do that very thing, but nothing ever happened because the church was afraid of harming its public image. Recently Bishop Pike, who can’t rule his own house (his wife divorced him and his son committed suicide) was reelected to the ruling body of the Episcopal Church. In so doing the Episcopal Church has publicly announced that disunity and a rejection of the Bible as the final authority in matters of doctrine are now a part of its public confession.
But now let us come closer to home. Most of you people have been living under and with the practice that is called “open communion.” As I understand it, the pastor makes the announcement before the distribution begins that anyone who is a member in good standing in a Christian congregation may attend Holy Communion. That else is this practice than a public announcement that disunity is the public confession of the church and that it is impossible to achieve unity because the Word of God doesn’t rule in the church? Are we to believe that the words of our Lord in His final testimony are so vague, so unclear, so confused that you and I can’t read them today and know whether or not His body and blood are present in the Sacrament and whether or not He offers, gives, and seals unto us the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament? Just to think like that is blasphemy! Our Lord has told us clearly and plainly what to believe. He has given us the means to achieve unity in our midst—a unity of speaking in the same mind and judgment concerning this and all doctrines of Scripture. If anyone doesn’t believe what the Word of God has to say, he has a different spirit and isn’t one with us. Such a one doesn’t belong as a guest at our Communion Table. When we commune at the Lord’s Table, we enter into intimate fellowship with Him, as penitent believing sinners who receive His body and blood as a pledge of His forgiveness. We also express a oneness of confession with all other communicants. But if there is no oneness of confession, the communion service becomes a dishonest pretending that a unity exists—which does not in fact exist. The more you think on it, the more you will realize that the practice of “open communion” says “no” to the Spirit’s exhortation, “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.” How can this unity be developed in a congregation?
I am sure that you recognize these words, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth,” as the words of young Samuel. They express in words an attitude of mind that should characterize every child of God. You notice that St. Paul exhorts forand pleads for unity “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” On other occasions we have emphasized that the name of the Lord is His Self-revelation in His Word. when the name of our Lord is proclaimed in and through His Word, we are to sit and listen. As we sit and listen, the Spirit works upon our hearts, working for unity of mind and judgment which will manifest itself in all speaking the same thing.
Now let us become very practical. I have been in this area for some three and a half months, but in this time I have visited with and talked with many people who are deeply concerned about conditions within the churches. Every Sunday, even as today, we have visitors who, we trust, are seeking a church that will take a unified stand on every Word of our Lord. My personal observation makes it clear to me that one characteristic is common to all churches in the area—a greater or lesser degree of disunity. It is just this disunity that causes confusion and forces people to search elsewhere for a confession of the Truth. God has given us here at Holy Trinity the opportunity to become a congregation different from all others in the area—a congregation united in the confession of the Truth, a congregation that speaks the same thing in the same mind and in the same judgment.
It is no secret that there was disagreement between the congragation and me in several areas of doctrine and practice. Why then did the congregation call me, and why did I accept its call as a call from the Lord of the Church? Because the congregation, both in its constitution and in its written call, expressed itself as being willing to be guided and led by the word of God as the final authority in this congregation. If both the congregation and I remain loyal to that mutual pledge, the Spirit of God will bring about that rare, but wonderful gift of unity.
If you think back over the past three to four months, you can easily detect my plan of action as your pastor for the achieving of unity in our midst. I have been using the weekly bulletin, the sermon which is printed each week, the meetings of the women’s organization and the young people’s organization, the Vacation Bible School, an educational meeting last Sunday, Sunday School staff meetings beginning last week, as well as private counseling—all for the express purpose of presenting the Word of God on issues that confront us and should be the concern of all Christians. As the Word is presented in written form and read, preached and heard, taught and received, the Spirit of God is at work to bring about in our midst the priceless gift of unity of confession. Many of you have been working privately, reading the Bible, studying it, praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit. And the results are already evident in our midst. The unity of the Spirit grows daily, and the Lord keeps on adding to us such as desire to share and support the Word of Truth with us.
True it is that all is not success. Some hear and may turn away. Satan always tries to pluck the Seed of the Word from the hearts of those who hear it. We are saddened by those who hear the Word of Truth, who know it is the Word of Truth, but who reject it for some earthly consideration. The loss is theirs. We are not to be discouraged. He are to labor on—preaching Christ and Him crucified. We are here to proclaim salvation unto sinners lost, to offer righteousness to the unrighteous, to proclaim the Truth that frees from sin and error, to guarantee life to the dying, to lead men and women and children to the obedience of Christ in all things. There is only one Christ, one Word, one Spirit. Let us strive, let us work for, let us encourage one another. Let us pray for the unity of the Spirit, so that we all confess the Word of Truth in the same mind and in the same judgment. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.
Scripture quotations marked (Phillips) are taken from The New Testament in Modern English, copyright © 1958, 1959, 1960 J.B. Phillips and 1947, 1952, 1955, 1957 The Macmillian Company, New York. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NEB) are taken from the New English Bible, copyright © Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press 1961, 1970. All rights reserved.