You All Agree
You all Agree
“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
In this passage Paul commands the Corinthians to be united and cease the divisions that they were fostering by seeking to become the disciples of men rather than Christ (1:12).
- He appeals to the name of Jesus, that is, Jesus is speaking through him (1 Corinthians 1:10; 14:37). It was Jesus on the night of His betrayal who prayed that all those who follow Him would be united (John 17:20-21).
- He reminds them that the name of Christ or “Christian” (Acts 11:26; 1 Peter 4:16) is the only rightful religious designation that anyone should ever wear. Because Jesus died for me (not someone else), and when we were baptized, we were baptized into His name (1:13).
Yet, over the years I have heard many objections to 1 Corinthians 1:10 being practical or even possible among believers. In this lesson I want to consider some of those objections.
Everyone Comes from a Different Background
The objection is that we were all raised differently, come from different social, economic and even cultural pasts and therefore this prevents us from ever being able to understand or see the Bible alike. Either we were born with colored glasses or they were given to us by our upbringing, parents, culture, or personal experiences, and it is really impossible to ever remove our own preconceived ideas, prejudices and so on.
- Yet the people to whom this command was originally written all came from different backgrounds (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
- In fact, most of the early congregations were composed of members from all over the place culturally (Colossians 3:11), including churches composed of people from thoroughly Jewish and pagan backgrounds and yet they found unity in Christ (Galatians 3:26-28; Ephesians 2:11-13, 17-19).
There are Just too Many Possible Interpretations
- Yet people need to be careful here. In saying this are you or I saying that the Bible was poorly written? Because I find that the Holy Spirit strongly says the opposite (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Psalm 19:7ff). In fact an entire chapter in the Psalms is dedicated to praising the usefulness and clarity of God’s word (Psalm 119:97-105). Nowhere do I find the Holy Spirit ever even hinting that the Bible is so confusing that everyone who reads it walks away with a different understanding.
- If the problem is not with the text of Scripture then is the problem with us?
- Yet I find Jesus and the apostles expecting and commanding people to understand the Scriptures (Luke 10:26; Ephesians 3:4; 5:17).
- I do find people coming to wrong conclusions about the Bible due to carelessness (2 Timothy 2:15) and not having a love for the truth (2 Timothy 4:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12; 2 Peter 3:16).
- Thus, I never find in the Bible an example of where someone who wanted to obey God and who loved the truth being unable to correctly understand what God had written.
- Case in point, even the enemies of Jesus understood what He was teaching but refused to obey it (Matthew 27:63).
Interpretation or Application/Submission?
- Mark 16:16
I have been in many bible studies with non-Christians in which Mark 16:16 was read and immediately someone said something like, “Well, what about someone who dies on the way to being baptized?” Or, “What about someone who is on a desert island and there is no one around to baptize them?” Or even, “What about someone who lives in an arid region and there isn’t enough water to be baptized?” In other lessons I have answered those questions but my point here is that by merely bringing up any of those objections is proof that the person who heard or read Mark 16:16 perfectly understood what is was saying and requiring. Interpretation is not the problem in those objections. One would never even voice any of the previous objections if one did not see that Jesus was placing baptism before salvation; which means that the person who is not baptized is lost. So the common issue with Mark 16:16 is not interpretation. Rather it is trusting that Jesus knew what He was talking about in the passage.
- Matthew 19:9
I find that people do the same thing with this verse as they do with Mark 16:16. On a first time reading many non-Christians can see that Jesus is giving only one cause for divorce with the right to remarry, and that is sexual immorality on the part of your spouse. Thus, when this verse is read, people typically do not say, “I don’t understand it”. Rather, a number of objections are often presented: 1. “What about people married to drug dealers?” 2. “What about situations of domestic violence?” 3. “Does it only apply to Christians?” 4. “Is this just Old Testament teaching?” Those are all questions that should be explored and they do have answers, but do not miss the overall point. The teaching found in Matthew 19:9 is not too complicated. People do understand it just like you or I when they read it. It is the application, the submission and trusting that Jesus knows what He is talking about that is the problem for many.
- 1 Timothy 3:2
The above passage clearly limits the office of elder/bishop/overseer to men who are married with children who believe (Titus 1:6). Again, there are objections to the verse from the get go: 1. “Well what about women, they are just as talented and smart as men” 2. “What about single men, like the apostle Paul?”
Once again, the issue is not the clarity of the verse. In fact the Bible is so clear that many people reject it because they understand what it is teaching. So different “interpretations” typically arise not because the text is unclear. Rather, the text is clear, actually, it is too clear, and people have a hard time submitting to what it teaches, what it requires of us, or the limitations is places upon us. Many “interpretations” arise because someone reads a verse, understands it, but says to themselves, “But that does not seem right to me. I would not do it that way. I think I have a better idea”. Yet God has already told us that our ideas are not His ideas (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The Mess in the Religious World
Some would say that the division in the world that claims to be “Christian” is proof that we cannot understand the Bible alike.
- First, while Jesus prayed for unity among His followers (John 17:20-21), He also clearly predicted the division that would arrive when even professed Christians would tire of the truth (Acts 20:29-31; 1 Timothy 4:1-4; 2 Timothy 4;2-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3). So the present divided state of what professes to be Christianity does not disprove the genuineness of what the Bible teaches, for the Bible predicted the arrival of division false teachers, false teaching and the resulting apostasy and division. Even the apostles battled false teaching (Acts 15:1-4; 2 John 9-11).
- God anticipated the above mess. The mess was not created by following the Bible. The mess was not created by the Bible. The mess was created by not taking the Bible seriously. By not taking Jesus’ pray for unity seriously. The mess is getting in the way: John 17. The mess is not acceptable. It is contrary to God’s will. The mess says we need to understand it alike.
They are In Too Deep?
This is the argument that people raised from childhood in a church or religion that is not biblical just cannot get out of that environment. That there is no way they can read the Bible and see the truth because of all the error which presently surrounds them, or has from birth. Yet, this did not prevent people from understanding the gospel in the First Century. People who had been brought up either in paganism or Judaism from birth heard the gospel, understood it and obeyed it. Such did not prevent Cornelius, the Jailor, Lydia, the 3000 devout Jews on Pentecost, or Saul of Tarsus from obeying the gospel.
It is Not Fair/Too Hard to Break from Long Held Family Traditions
Yes, it is hard. There was a time in my life that I had to face the fact that I had ever been baptized correctly. That being baptized as an infant was not what the Bible taught, yet it is a very strong and popular religious tradition that runs through many families and churches. It is hard, yet it is not impossible. You see, you are not the first person ever required to make a choice between what God says and what is popular in your family or culture. The Bible is filled with people, like Abraham who had to make a break with the viewpoints and beliefs of family which were dead wrong. And many of the early Christians, including the apostle Paul had to make the same choice (1 Peter 1:18). When you think about it, only God deserves our complete loyalty. There are a number of family traditions that do not interfere with Scripture, yet those that do must be abandoned (Matthew 15:8-9).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017