In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 67a of 83
“Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.”Romans 12:16
The apostle Paul had begun the application section of this great letter by urging us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). But now in the 16th verse of this chapter, Paul seems to be suggesting that we should seek all to have the same mind. How do we reconcile the two apparently contradictory counsels? At first sight, it may be tempting to suggest that Paul is saying we should all have the mind of Christ so that we may have the same mind. Well, as much as that could work, it is not what Paul has in mind. You see, the word translated ‘mind’ in verse two (νοῦς, nous) is the noun referring the faculty of our soul that does our thinking. On the other hand, the word in our text is a verb (φρονέω, phroneō) which refers to our thinking or the exercise of our mind. So it is closer to the idea of sentiment or opinion. Thus, the popular modern versions ESV and NIV are not wrong when they both paraphrase the first sentence of our text as “live in harmony with one another.”
This, essentially, is what the apostle Paul is enjoining us to do in this verse. But it is good for us to consider each of the three statements, one at a time.
1. Be of the Same Mind
“Be of the same mind one toward another.”
a. That is to say: Seek, as much as possible, to agree in the way you think. Or seek to see eye to eye in every issue that confronts you as a church.
Now, there are many issues that will confront us in a modern church. For example, there is the issue of the Scripture is to be understood. Now, our Confession of Faith was developed largely as a tool of unity that allows the church to have one mind on a large swath of doctrinal issues. But obviously it does not cover everything. So inevitably, there will be different opinions on several issues.
Then there is the issue of who to ordain as elders and deacons. Some may think that a particular man is suitable, but others may disagree. We all read the same qualifications in the Scriptures, but our application of them may be different.
Then there is question of how the catechism classes ought to be conducted and what subjects are to be taught. These are issues that ought to be resolved by the elders of the church, but members do often have their own opinion on them, or they would like to have a say too because they feel strongly for the church.
Then there are questions about how disciplinary cases should be handled. Again, this is the responsibility of the elders, but the exercise of church discipline is usually very emotional and members of the church would often want their opinion to be heard.
Then there are administrative issues such as place of worship, timing and arrangement of worship; whether to have lunch in church or not, etc. These are issues which the deacons should decide, but the decisions affect every worshipper, and so there are inevitably many different opinions about what is best.
b. Can you see how the church can become divided, and how quarrels can arise in the church—even over minor matters?
How to prevent such schism? Paul’s inspired counsel is: “Be of the same mind one towards another.”
This instruction is so important for the cultivation of the bond of unity in the church that the apostle Paul repeats it many times in his letters.
For example, he says in Philippians 2:2—
“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil 2:2; cf. 3:16).
Fulfil ye my joy! There can be no greater joy for a minister of the Gospel, then to see the church growing together in the bond of truth and the bond of love, having the same mind and having the same love one towards another!
Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul says—
“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.”
To speak the same thing does not mean that we must say the same words. It means that we must seek to have agreement with one another rather than contradictions and quarrels. This can only come about if we are able to think in the same way and judge issues in the same way.
This is what is meant by having the same mind one towards another.
c. But the question is: How can this be? We are all made differently. We have different characters and disposition; we have different understanding and maturity level. How then can we have the same mind with one another?
Paul gives a suggestion, namely, “mind not high things.”
…to be Continued Next Issue