A Preaching Brother (P.B.) wrote a few weeks ago about a challenge he received from a ministerial alliance in the town where he lives and works. Having mentioned some of those matters in Spiritual Perspectives, which he receives, he wrote back and provided a copy of the document that those men had published in the newspaper. He offered to meet with them (which they ignored), and he answered all of their arguments over a period of time in the same newspaper they had used. Their argument on 1 Corinthians 1 is particularly interesting. That paragraph will be cited below, after which appropriate comments will be offered.
During the first century of the church, God spoke through the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth to dissolve division. Some people in the church wanted to follow Peter (Cephas), others Paul, some Apollos. One group arrogantly divided on the grounds they were “of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:12). Paul confronted them and said, “…by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10, NAS).
These divisions caused Christian people to take sides and refuse to cooperate or fellowship with one another. That is why the apostle emphatically asks, “Is Christ divided?” The answer is a resounding, “NO!” God had encouraged their cooperation and unified spirit. “Same mind” does not mean that every Christian thinks exactly alike. It means to unify on the basis of their goal or purpose.
The first paragraph above is entirely true with the possible exception of one statement. How do these men know that those who were saying they were “of Christ” were arrogant? They could have been, but is it not the case that this claim is what all of them should have been saying—that we are “of Christ”? It may be that these were the only ones trying to be Scriptural— and not belong to any faction at all.
The second paragraph likewise denounces division, but then opens the door to let it in. Why is it that the first thing denominationalists (and some liberal brethren) say is that to be joined together “in the same mind and in the same judgment” does not mean that Christians must think alike? Do those words actually mean the opposite—that thinking alike is not required? Did Paul say that he was referring only to a goal or purpose? Where does he state or imply that explanation? Here is the humor in the situation. This article is signed by men who work with different denominations, but they are talking about unity! Since they do not agree on what the New Testament teaches, they must re-interpret 1 Corinthians 1:10.
How fascinating is this! Men who cannot belong to the same “church” or worship together because of their differences are quoting what Paul wrote against division! The only thing that brought them together was their disdain of the Lord’s church. Perhaps we should feel honored. But, since they brought up the passage, why not try to determine what it means—instead of just asserting that it means one thing but not another? What do the Scriptures teach?
Three words in 1 Corinthians 1:10 deserve to be looked at closely. The first of these is katartizo. These critics of the church of Christ used the New American Standard, which did not translate the word very well. They rendered it “made complete.” Here are the words other translations chose.
KJV – “perfectly joined together”
NKJ – “perfectly joined together”
ASV – “perfected together”
Some translations have “united”; even the NIV has “perfectly united.” The idea of perfection comes from the root word, artios , which is combined with the preposition, kata . The Greek word artios is only used one time in the New Testament—in 2 Timothy 3:17, where it is rendered “perfect”—as in “that the man of God may be perfect….” To leave out the idea of perfection seems to be an injustice to the meaning of the word.
The combined word, katartizo  is found 13 times in the New Testament. Twice it refers to fishermen mending their nets (Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19). The word perfect shows up in 7 renderings out of the 13. Paul once tells brethren to be perfect (2 Cor. 13:11). It’s the word used in Galatians 6:1, where Paul says to restore one overtaken in a trespass (Gal. 6:1). Two related words also carry this idea. Paul’s desire for brethren was their “perfection”  (2 Cor. 13:9), and the spiritual offices and gifts were for the “perfection”  of the saints (Eph. 4:12). God wants brethren to be perfectly joined together.
Nous, which is translated “mind”  appears 24 times in the New Testament. Several times the translators used “understanding.” Nothing indicates goals or purposes. The word gnomee, translated “judgment” , is translated “purpose” but only one out of nine times. It is found as “advice” in 2 Corinthians 8:10. In 1 Corinthians Paul gives his “judgment” in 7:25 and calls upon the brethren to abide after his “judgment” in 7:40. Twice the King James’ translators chose “mind” to represent the Greek word (Philemon 14; Rev. 17: 13). Paul was referring to their thinking.
The apostle wanted the church at Corinth, then, to be united—perfectly united. He wanted them to be perfectly joined together in their thinking and their understanding. Even if the time to examine these words had not been taken, most people reading the text would have come away with the correct meaning. It is so obvious that one has to work hard to miss it. The men who wrote the newspaper article have to say they believe in unity even though it’s obvious they do not. After affirming they are united, then they try their hardest to twist and contort 1 Corinthians 1:10 to make it mean something else. Here is what they wrote next:
Every church background in the world has members with varying opinions on doctrines (teachings). In any congregation in any church, there will be a variance of opinions. Differing opinions are tolerated when they are considered to be over “non-essential” issues. The term “nonessential” does not mean the doctrine is unimportant. It means it is not essential for salvation.
Seriously? So, after claiming that Christians do not have to be united in their thinking and understanding, then they extend that notion to doctrine, also. Where is all of this floundering going to end? One huge problem that the reader may have already thought of is, “Who decides what is an essential doctrine and what is nonessential?” The world has already seen the Jesus Seminar attempt to define what words the Lord actually spoke and what ones He did not. Now we have a group of denominational ministers telling us that the teachings of the New Testament can be divided into essential and non-essential teachings!
Why didn’t the Holy Spirit simply have the apostles write, after a doctrinal section of Scripture, E for essential and NE for non-essential? Then we would all know, and maybe some would not be so confused. Of course, if some doctrines are non-essential, why did God put them in there to start with? Ay-yi-yi. Should we rewrite a few passages? “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, but some of it is non-essential” (2 Tim. 3:16). How would that do? “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, but try to figure out which ones are non-essential” (1 Tim. 4:16).
Just when one thinks the men who placed this article in the newspaper could not manage to make themselves look any worse, they manage to outdo all previous efforts. They continue: “Although God has one correct teaching, human beings are often unable to understand it.” What? Okay, Who created the universe, including man? Are they actually affirming that the God who created the human brain and gave us the ability to vocalize our thoughts is somehow deficient in being able to communicate with us? They admit that God has one correct teaching but then say that we have trouble understanding it.
So, whose fault would that be? Either God was not able to express Himself in a way that human beings could understand His truth, or He made us incapable of understanding it. Which one of these is the explanation? If God is unable to effectively speak to mankind, then the fault lies with Him. If we are too dumb to get what He’s saying, then we may be blamed to some degree, but ultimately this comes back to God also. Why didn’t He make us a little bit smarter?
These comments highlight the problem that denominationalism has. There is only one correct teaching; they agree on that, but somehow they must justify the division that keeps them apart. They answer that we as human beings are unable to understand that one doctrine that God gave to us. This attitude may sound as though they are trying to be humble, but it is nothing more than gibberish. Those in denominations seek to justify their division when they all know there is only one doctrine. So they say, “We are weak human beings; sometimes our intellect falls short of understanding God; so we admit that we’re fallible human beings, but we’re trying.”
No, they are not! If they were really trying, they would make an effort to understand the truth, which is what Paul commanded brethren at Corinth. Believing the same one doctrine is not only possible, Jesus expected it. Did He not say that if His disciples continued in His word, they would “know the truth,” and that the truth would set them free? So, which ones of those who signed the article for the newspaper have not yet been set free? Jesus says we will know the truth if we abide in His Word (John 8:31-32); denominationalists say, “We human beings are often unable to understand it.” In effect, they are arguing against what Jesus taught.
He also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). But if we are unable to understand the one doctrine, the truth, then how can we come to the Father? Does no one in these religious groups see that this attempt to justify division is disastrous? How can it even be entertained as a serious defense—let alone be published in the newspaper? Here is their case: We are all divided over what the one doctrine is that God has revealed (because human beings are often unable to understand it), but we are actually united—especially against those who point out the fallacy of denominationalism.
Gospel preachers have long shown—from 1 Corinthians 1:10— that God expects His followers to be united—the very thing for which Jesus prayed (John 17:20- 21). Denominationalism is divisive and confuses the average person, who wonders, “Why are there so many churches?” The answer is that men like those who signed the letter are comfortable with it and do not intend to change. They devise justifications for it which are laughable. The solution is to give up manmade doctrines and study the Word, as Jesus taught. Only then might we all be perfectly joined together “in the same mind and in the same judgment.”