APRIL 3 – SPIRITUAL UNANIMITY

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren.

1 Peter 3:8

 

The Holy Spirit knew what He was doing when He moved the Apostle Peter to write to the early Christian church about the reality of being “of one mind” in their fellowship.

Peter was not asking all the brothers and sisters to settle for some kind of regulated uniformity. He was recommending a spiritual unanimity—which means that the Spirit of God making Christ real within our beings will also give us a unity in certain qualities and disposition.

Peter leaves little doubt about the fruits of genuine Christian unanimity within: “Be alike in compassion. Be alike in loving. Be alike in pity. Be alike in courtesy. Be alike in forgiving!” Then he sums it all up: “Finally, be ye all of one mind!”

God’s love shed abroad in our hearts—compassion and love which can only be found in Jesus Christ—these are the only elements of true unity among men and women today!

 

Lord, I want to pray for spiritual unity among all true believers and for spiritual harmony among all Christ-honoring churches.[1]


Having the Right Attitude

… all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; (3:8b)

Everything begins with the right attitude. Five spiritual virtues constitute this God-honoring perspective.

First, believers are to be harmonious. The compound word rendered harmonious (homophrones) literally means “same think.” Believers are to live in harmony together, maintaining a common commitment to the truth that produces an inward unity of heart with one another (cf. Rom. 12:5, 16; 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:12; Gal. 3:28; Phil. 2:1–5). They must not be in conflict with each other, even under severe persecution:

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. (Phil. 1:27–28)

Jesus instructed the disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35). In His high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed earnestly for the spiritual unity of all believers (John 17:20–23), which prayer was answered. Believers are all one in Christ (Eph. 4:4–6; cf. 1 Cor. 6:17; 8:6). This spiritual reality should be the basis for the church’s visible harmony. The early church was a model of visible oneness (Acts 2:42–47).

Sympathetic, the second factor in experiencing the fullness of Christian life, is virtually a transliteration of sumpatheis, which means “sharing the same feeling.” Christians are to be united on the truth, but also ready to sympathize with the pain of others, even of those they do not know (cf. Matt. 25:34–40; Heb. 13:3; James 1:27). Like Christ, the sympathetic high priest (Heb. 4:15), they must share in the feelings of others, in their sorrows as well as their joys (Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26; 2 Cor. 2:3; Col. 3:12; cf. John 11:35; James 5:11). Believers must not be insensitive, indifferent, and censorious, even toward the lost in their pain of struggling anxiously with the issues of life (cf. Matt. 9:36; Luke 13:34–35; 19:41). Saints must come alongside them with empathy to declare God’s saving truth (cf. Acts 8:26–37).

Third, Peter used the term philadelphoi, translated here as brotherly. The first part of the word stems from the verb phileō, “to love,” and refers to affection among people who are closely related in some way. Those who demonstrate that affection will do so by unselfish service for one another (Acts 20:35; Rom. 14:19; 15:2; 2 Cor. 11:9; Phil. 4:14–16; 1 Thess. 5:11, 14; 3 John 6). Such service begins in the church among believers and extends out to the world.

Kindhearted translates eusplagchnoi, the root of which refers to one’s internal organs and is sometimes translated “bowels” or “intestines” (e.g., Acts 1:18). Affections and emotions have a visceral impact, hence this word signifies a powerful kind of feeling (Eph. 4:32; cf. 2 Cor. 7:15; 1 Thess. 2:8). Much like sympathetic, the expression calls for being so affected by the pain of others as to feel it deeply, following the kind of tenderhearted compassion God, through His Son, has for sinners (cf. Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34; 19:41–42; John 11:35).

The final factor in Peter’s list for enjoying the goodness of the Christian life, humble in spirit, is actually one word in the Greek, tapeinophrones (“humble-minded”). Humility is arguably the most essential, all-encompassing virtue of the Christian life (5:5; Matt. 5:3; 18:4; Luke 14:11; 18:14; Eph. 4:1–2; Col. 3:12; James 4:6; cf. Ps. 34:2; Prov. 3:34; 15:33; 22:4). Paul used a form of this Greek word in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Years earlier Jesus demonstrated the importance of His own example of humility when He said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29; cf. Phil. 2:5–8).

The joys of their lives in Christ are maximized when believers are united in truth and life with one another, peaceful in disposition, gracious toward those who need the gospel, sensitive to the pains of fallen sinners, sacrificial in loving service to all, compassionate instead of harsh, and above all humble like their Savior.[2]


8 Peter signals the conclusion of the household code admonitions with “finally, all of you.” The concluding exhortation is addressed to everyone in the community. What applies specifically to individual groups regarding respect and harmony applies to the community. The Christian ethic will exhibit unity, sympathy, brotherly affection, compassion, humility, and nonretaliation. Together these six qualities possess a corporate character that will strengthen the Christian community’s witness to society.

To be of the same mind (homophrōn, GK 3939; NIV, “live in harmony with”) is to be on guard against divisions that would hinder Christian unity. Because of the imperative of unity as witness to the world, Jesus prays, on the eve of his crucifixion, for his disciples to realize a degree of unity that he and the Father have shared in eternity (Jn 17:1–5). Jesus’ prayer is “that all of them may be one … so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21). The accent on Christian unity is found throughout the NT (e.g., Ac 4:32; Ro 12:4–5, 16; 1 Co 1:2, 10; 3:5–9, 21–23; 10:17; 12:4–7, 12–13; 2 Co 13:11; Eph 4:4–6; Php 1:27; 2:2; 4:2). Unity does not require uniformity; being of the same mind is not predicated on simple agreement with others. It is, however, founded on a common Lord, a common confession, and a common goal of witness to the world. No Christian can live the Christian life in isolation, but only as he or she is joined, with one mind, to other members of God’s church, living stones that together comprise one building. The church is not church if there is no inherent, manifested unity. If the readers are encountering hostility from society around them, Christian unity is no luxury; it is critical for survival.

A related attitude is that of being sympathetic (sympatheis, GK 5218). It is the essential nature of the human body to be “sympathetic” (cf. 1 Co 12:26), to which Peter calls his readers. Sympathy, as Barclay, 227, reminds us, is the opposite of self-absorption, the ability to identify with the sufferings and pains of others. To share in the sufferings of others is both the cause and effect of Christian unity. The believers’ model once again is Christ, the high priest, who sympathizes with [sympathēsai] our weaknesses (Heb 4:15). Significantly, sympathy is not merely a Christian virtue; it was also held in high esteem by Hellenistic moralists (e.g., Plutarch, Mor. 432; Strabo, Geogr. 6.3.3). Like unity, sympathy strengthens Christians in the world.

Furthermore, being “affectionate” (NIV, “love as brothers”; philadelphos, GK 5789), “compassionate” (eusplanchnos, GK 2359), and “humble” (tapeinophrones, GK 5426) all stand in direct relation to sympathy and Christian unity. Moreover, all are vital to the community’s survival in a hostile environment. Brotherly affection is also included in the catalog of virtues appearing in 1 Peter 1:5–7, where it is related to—though distinct from—love (agapē, GK 27). While the distinction should not be pressed too far, the former is a virtue valued by pagans, appearing frequently in Stoic virtue lists, for example. A practical test in any cultural context is whether the Christian will love his fellow human. Moreover, a hearty affection for one’s brothers and sisters in the community will attest to the vibrancy of the community’s faith. Philadelphia has a notably social trajectory.

The word rendered “compassionate,” eusplanchnos, vividly conveys feeling and emotion. Deriving from splanchna (GK 5073), one’s inner organs, the term by extension conveys deep, intense emotion. Its only other NT occurrence is in Ephesians 4:32, contextualized in Pauline admonitions toward tenderheartedness, though the verb form is found in the Synoptic Gospels, notably in depicting the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:33), who “took pity,” and the father of the prodigal (Lk 15:20), who on seeing his son returning home “was filled with compassion.” And it finds its fullest expression in Jesus himself (Mk 1:41), who is said by the evangelist, when approached by a leper, to have been “filled with compassion.”

Among secular Hellenistic moralists, to be “humble” was not considered a virtue, given the primacy of self-sufficiency (autarkeia, GK 894). Hence it is a peculiarly Christian ethical distinctive. The Christian ethic reorients and transforms one’s outlook. Humility springs in part from an awareness of our creatureliness and thus of our utter dependence on the Creator. But this contrast is not intended to be demeaning, provided that the creature draws on divine provision (i.e., grace). Humility that acknowledges and appropriates grace is a humility that does not humiliate; rather, it is buoyed by gratitude (cf. 1:6–9, 18–21) and results in attitudes and actions that are active rather than passive.[3]


As a Brother in Relation to the Fellowship (3:8)

That this verse deals primarily with the Christian and his relation to the fellowship seems evident from the exhortations to unity and brotherly love. The other three exhortations could have a wider application.

The word Finally does not mean that Peter is about to close his Epistle. He has been speaking to various classes of individuals such as servants, wives, and husbands. Now, as a finale, he has a word for all of you.

Let all of you be of one mind. It is not expected that Christians will see eye-to-eye on everything. That would be uniformity, not unity. The best formula is contained in the well-known expression: In fundamentals, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in everything, love. We are to have compassion for one another. Literally, this means “to suffer with,” and the admonition is especially appropriate when given to those undergoing persecution. The advice is for all times because no age is exempt from suffering.

Love as brothers. An unknown author writes:

Providence does not ask us whom we would like to be our brethren—that is settled for us; but we are bidden to love them, irrespective of our natural predilections and tastes. You say, “That is impossible!” But remember that true love does not necessarily originate in the emotions, but in the will; it consists not in feeling but in doing; not in sentiment, but in action; not in soft words, but in noble and unselfish deeds.

Tenderhearted means having a heart sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. It refuses to turn cold, callous, or cynical in spite of abuse.

Courteous—It seems so proper that courtesy should be taught as one of the Christian virtues. Essentially it means humbly thinking of others, putting others first, and saying and doing the gracious thing. Courtesy serves others before self, jumps at opportunities to assist, and expresses prompt appreciation for kindnesses received. It is never coarse, vulgar, or rude.[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 187–189). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 330–331). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2269–2270). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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