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.
Note 1 at 1Co 1:10: The degree of unity that Paul described here is awesome. He said that "all" (that means every believer) should speak the same thing and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment. Note the use of the word "same." This rules out mere tolerance of others' beliefs. Paul was stressing unity of belief (Eph 4:13).
In Ro 14-15, Paul made allowances for differences of belief on nonessential points (see note 3 at Ro 14:1), such as the observance of certain holy days and dietary laws. Therefore, Paul's instructions must be interpreted to mean that there is some room for differences on minor points.
However, from the content of this very letter, we can see some of the doctrinal issues on which Paul expected the believers to come into agreement. Church discipline (1Co 5), legal disputes (1Co 6), divorce and remarriage (1Co 7), not offending a weaker brother (1Co 8), communion (1Co 11), spiritual gifts (1Co 12-14), and the resurrection from the dead (1Co 15) are issues that Paul considered nonnegotiable.
So, Paul's teaching in Ro 14 shows us that there is some room for differences, but Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians reveals that many doctrines that are considered nonessential to us today were essential to Paul.
Note 2 at 1Co 1:10: The Apostle Paul's instructions in this verse are very contrary to the situation in the body of Christ today. Divisions are so commonplace that very few have the unity of the body of Christ as a goal.
The vast majority of Christians has become accustomed to denominational divisions among Christians. Most Christians don't even take heed to divisions within denominations. In fact, more often than not, churches of the same denominational affiliation within the same city have no real fellowship with each other. This is not the type of unity that Paul was advocating.
Paul was not promoting a mere tolerance of others with different doctrines within the body of Christ (see note 1 at this verse). He made it very clear that we were to resolve our doctrinal differences so that we are "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." The unity that Paul was preaching was a real unity of mind and heart. Anything less would have received Paul's rebuke.
If this is so, which it is, then that means God is not the one who has started all the denominations. The Lord is not the one who has divided His church into separate groups. This is the working of Satan to limit the effectiveness of the church in the earth.
This does not mean that all denominations are of the devil nor are all those who attend denominational churches. God loves all of those who are true members of His church, and He uses them to the degree that they allow Him to, regardless of what group they may be associated with. However, the denominational walls that people have built are a hindrance to the cause of Christ. Denominations are simply monuments to man's inability to reconcile their differences according to God's commands.
Paul did not instruct his "followers" to love those that were of Apollos and Cephas and try to get along with them (1Co 1:12-13 and 3:4-7). He commanded them to drop their affiliation with certain people and to unite with one mind and judgment in Christ.
This looks so impossible today that many very sincere people feel that it is totally impractical to advocate true unity among believers. Statements are made like "We won't agree doctrinally until the Lord comes." However, although we cannot be dogmatic about this, it is closer to Scripture to say, "The Lord won't come until we do agree doctrinally."
Paul made it very clear that as long as there is strife and division among us, we are still carnal. The Lord isn't coming for a carnal church. Scriptures such as 1Co 15:24-28 and Eph 5:17 reveal that the body of Christ will be walking in victory at His return. A carnal church cannot walk in victory (Ro 8:6); therefore, we can conclude that the church will not be carnal or divided.
There is tremendous power in unity. The negative side of this can be seen at the tower of Babel (Ge 11:3-9). God divided the people of the earth to limit their power to do evil. But unity has great potential for good also (Ps 133; Jer 32:39; Ac 4:32; Ro 12:16, 15:5-6; Php 1:27, 2:1-4; 1Th 5:13; Jas 3:13-18; and 1Pe 3:8-9).
The church of Jesus Christ was meant to use this power to release God's power in the earth. With the division in the church, there is nothing that is being accomplished now that could not be accomplished better with true unity among believers.
From a logistical standpoint, division greatly hampers communication, isolating individual groups and making them easier prey for the Enemy. The body of Christ has been divided into little groups fighting independent wars. This was not God's plan.
On the positive side, we have seen a mighty miracle in this area during the last generation. Starting in the '60s with the Jesus movement and continuing through the Charismatic movement, one of the central themes shared by the majority of these people was unity of the believers--people of every possible religious background united in their common faith in Christ.
Today, for a large portion of believers, religious affiliation is much less important than union with Christ and other believers. While this is still short of the unity Paul was preaching here, it is a step in the right direction and a cause for hope.
The answer to this problem is not to condemn everyone in a denomination and start a new denomination called "non-denominational." The only way a godly type of unity can happen is by one heart at a time being moved by the grace of God, "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph 4:13).
The first three chapters of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians should forever end debate on whether or not true unity among believers is the will of the Lord. That has and always will be God's best.
Note 3 at 1Co 1:10: The renewal of our minds is an important part in the process of unity. We can coexist with others, but we cannot truly be in unity with them until we begin to be of the same mind. Christian love is not bound by doctrine, but true unity is. Love is the bond of perfection that holds us together, but there must be a shared foundation of doctrine in order to have real unity.
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