Friday, 14 March 2014
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10
Paul now transitions from initial greetings and encouragements into the main body and purpose of his epistle. In this first verse of the main body, he begins with the Greek term parakalo de – “I exhort, moreover.” The participle de is what implies the transition to reproof.
Five principle rules should be applied when evaluating Scripture for personal use. There are many others, but these first five should always be at the forefront of one’s mind –
1) Is this passage descriptive (does it merely describe something)
2) Is this passage prescriptive (does this actually tell me something I am to do)
3) Context (what is the context of this particular verse or passage)
4) Context (see above)
5) Context (see above)
As the epistle is being evaluated, we must ensure that we have considered the context of the passage or it becomes a pretext; a falsity. In essence, “Context is king.”
When considering whether something is “prescriptive” there are two logical subdivisions to be considered also –
a) command (an imperative to do something)
b) exhortation (a plea to do something)
Understanding why something is either an imperative or an exhortation is needed because we have free-will to consider. When we fail at a command, we are being disobedient and it will definitely affect others, the body, etc in a negative way. When we fail to adhere to an exhortation, we are making bad choices that can have negative impacts on us. The result is usually more self-destructive, as individuals or as a body (even though others outside the exhortation can also be harmed). It is sometimes hard to determine if what we are being told is actually a command or a mere prompting to act without compulsion, but being attentive to the context will normally resolve the matter.
These general rules may seem unnecessary, but they are actually critical to a proper analysis of Scripture. If we remember them, our walk and our doctrine will be greatly enhanced.
So, considering these tenets, let’s start into the main body of Paul’s letter –
“Now” as noted above is the participle de and is the transitional mark.
“I plead with you” implies that what Paul says here is prescriptive but in the form of exhortation. We are encouraged to take action based on a plea. If we do so, things will go smoothly, if we don’t then negative consequences are sure to result.
“Brethren” is Paul’s way of tying the church together into a unified body and it encourages continued unity within that body. As we’ll see in the many verses ahead, disunity, fraction, in-fighting, and division are all major problems within the church at Corinth.
“By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” is given as the highest authority and it is given as the only name upon which we are to be identified. A very, very good example of a major failing in this regard continues on in our Christian world today –
1) It occurs denominationally, “I am a Roman Catholic” or “I am a Lutheran.” etc. In some instances, there is even the incredibly stupid doctrine that one can “only be saved” if they are members of a particular denomination. This isn’t limited to large denominations, but it is taught by many smaller denominations, cults, and aberrant churches around the world. Rather, there is one way to be saved and it is through Jesus Christ, not a denomination.
2) It occurs by individual name. “I am a Calvinist” or “I am an Arminian.” etc.
Such petty divisions only divide the body. The fact is that both John Calvin and Jacob Arminius were both fallible men with often very-flawed doctrine. To identify oneself in this manner is to reduce one’s reliance on the Word of God and the name of Jesus Christ, and to go down a strange path of less-than proper doctrine.
“That you all speak the same thing” is supportive of what was just said by Paul – “By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If the members of the church uphold, exalt, and rely on the Person and work of Jesus Christ, then they will naturally tend to “speak the same thing.” However, there are always going to be differences of opinion on what a Bible verse says when the main rules above aren’t properly handled. And so again, in order to “speak the same thing” we need to always consider the five principle rules of interpretation – prescriptive, descriptive, and context, context, context. By doing this, we will properly handle the word of God and be more inclined to always speak the same thing.
Continuing on, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to have “no divisions among you.” The word in Greek here is schismata, “schisms.” It is a word that indicates a tear or a breech. In classical Greek the word was specifically used when noting the tearing of material. When a garment is torn, there is no longer one piece, but two. These two pieces are no longer at harmony with one another and cannot be used for the same purpose they once were. However, with a properly wielded needle and thread, they can be repaired.
Paul is addressing, and will continue to address, major schisms within the church at Corinth. However, his epistle is just that intended fix – the metaphorical needle and thread. When divisions of a similar type arise today, we can use this same epistle, dating back now 2000 years, to fix the same old problems which arise. For example, “Come on people, drop the name “Calivinist” from your Bible study!
To finish his thought today, he begins with “but.” In contrast to this, do that. And the “that” is for them is to “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment.” Instead of factions, divisions, back-bitings, in-fightings, and other schisms, he implores them to be “joined together” as one cloth, without tear and without the need of mending. They are to be of the “same mind” as they together resolve the difficult issues of running a harmonious and loving congregation.
By using the Bible, we can do this today; without the Bible as our instruction, it will not occur. But to be of the “same mind” concerning the Bible, we also need to be of “the same judgment.” There is only one proper conclusion to be made from all biblical passages, but to come to the same judgment, there needs to be a putting away of pride, a more thorough knowledge of the whole body of Scripture, and a complete reliance on what is actually intended for a passage, even if it seems contrary to what we may wish or desire. Our desires are irrelevant. When God determines, we should always agree.
Life application: Paul’s letter to the Corinthians will address numerous real problems. These problems didn’t end with the publication of the epistle. Why? Because people run ahead without giving heed to the word of God. What we need for proper doctrine and correct living is found right there in the Bible. Let us hold fast to it and always apply it to our lives.
Dearest Lord Jesus, You are the Head of the church and we are all members of that church. Help us to not divide our allegiances by claiming denominational or individual church superiority. Rather, help us as denominations, individual churches, or as individual people to exalt Your word above petty differences. You have spoken, let us be obedient. But in order to do so, help us to properly evaluate and apply what Your precious word says. Amen.