The Desirability of Unanimity in a Local Assembly (2)

As a help to understanding the subject of unanimity, G. H. Lang has the most contributions from John’s gospel to help unanimity but John 13:34-35 (AV) is also a help. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” We may wonder why the Lord Jesus calls it a new commandment when we read, “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself”(Lev 19:34, KJV). This is a high standard, but to love one another as He has loved us is a much higher standard and therefore new. The Lord Jesus also gave us a new dynamic in giving to each believer the Holy Spirit. The first characteristic of the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit is love (Gal 5:22-23), “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples if ye have love one to another” (v35, KJV).

In 1944, during World War II, I was stationed in England for eight months. I’m thankful that, for all the time I was in England, I could walk to an assembly. One Lord’s Day, I met Mrs. Percival Smith visiting from Birmingham, 40 miles away. She invited me to visit her and her husband any time I had free time. I thanked her, but I never thought that I’d be able to accept her kind offer. Up to that time, no one had any time off, but shortly thereafter, I got a week-long furlough. I wrote to her and told her about the week. She wrote back that she wanted me to spend the whole week with them. When I told the other fellows in my barracks, they could hardly believe it. The woman was not even my aunt and I had never met her before, but the love of the brethren was a real testimony to them. I am thankful that it is still recorded in secular history that, in the first century, the pagans said of the Christians, “Behold how they love one another.”

Acts: The Greek word, homothumadon, is found 12 times in the NT: 11 mentions are in Acts, seven times translated of the believers, “of one accord.” On four of those occasions, we read of unsaved persons being “of one accord” to do something wrong. But never do we read of God’s people being “of one accord” to do something wrong.

G. H. Lang gives two pages of profitable words on Acts 15 which encourages unanimity in assemblies. “When closely studied, the story not only gives the decision on the question actually discussed, but also the principles by which the judgments of believers were influenced, and further, that which directly bears on our subject, the order of discussion. While this gathering was unique in composition and character, its methods of business abide as our divinely given example, so that with the approval of the whole church, it could be written to the brethren at Antioch, ‘It seemed good unto us, having come to one accord’ (v25, KJV). And it is of the most momentous importance that we should notice that the church thus, ‘being of one accord’… they are then able calmly and confidently to claim the authority of the Lord Himself for their decision and say, ‘it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us’ (v28, KJV).”

Romans: “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:5-6, KJV). The Greek word translated “one mind” is the same word translated 11 times in Acts, “of one accord.” It is only found once outside of Acts, here in Romans, where we note Paul expected the believers of the assembly at Rome to be of one mind publicly, even though they had individual differences as to matters of conscience.

1 Corinthians: Paul uses a threefold appeal. First, Paul is not commanding them, even though he was an apostle, and even though he saw the large Corinthian assembly planted. He is beseeching them. Second, he uses the word “brethren”(1:10, KJV). That should help them to be of one mind, but his most important appeal is the Lordship of Christ. In the first nine verses, he uses “The Lord Jesus Christ” or “Jesus Christ our Lord” no less than five times. “I beseech you brethren, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ”(v10, KJV).

First Corinthians is preeminently the epistle of His Lordship. Christ is referred to as Lord 68 times, more than in any two epistles put together afterwards. Paul knew that they were carnal, but expected them to be of one mind, because they weren’t a social club, but a temple of God. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (3:16, KJV). Paul knew that they could come to one mind by the Spirit of God working in them.

2 Corinthians 2:6: “Sufficient to such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the many”(RV). Some have thought that the “many” means “the majority.” G. H. Lang writes, “Paul’s own statement is against it being only a majority: ‘the spirit of Titus has been refreshed by you all’ (2Cor 7:13, KJV) and ‘he remembereth the obedience of you all’ (2Cor 7:15, KJV), therefore ‘the many’ (RV) of 2:6 will mean all the church, contrasted with the one member put under discipline of them all.”

C. F. Hogg wrote: “The suggestion recently made that majority action is assembly action gives me much concern. It seems to reduce the Church of God to the level of a club or other association controlled in a purely human way. Whereas I had thought of it as a superhuman institution, controlled by the Lord and guided by His Spirit. I had thought of the discipline in patience while the brethren waited for unity of judgment as a prime means to holiness.” On another occasion, C. F. Hogg summed up the situation in his pithy way: “Majority rule is bad: minority rule is worse.”