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1 Peter 3:8

"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love. a tender heart, and a humble mind". ESV My emphasis.

If Christians being of one mind is a question of doctrine, are some disagreements permissible? e.g. On the grounds that some teachings are not fundamental to the faith.

When do disagreements between Christians about doctrine offend, or not offend, the principle of unity of mind?

3 Answers 3

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Further to two good answers, using many scriptures, this is just to quote another two that are highly significant in casting light on the text in 1 Peter 3:8.

First, 1 Corinthians 2:12-16, the last verse being the point here. Paul says they have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, in order to know what God has freely given them. The Holy Spirit gives them words of teaching. Such spiritual people are then asked a rhetorical question:

"For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? [Clearly, nobody] But we have the mind of Christ." (vs. 16)

Nobody can instruct God, but God has instructed them via the Holy Spirit so that they now know the mind of Christ. It is this "mind" they must remain united in sharing.

Second, Romans 12:1-16, about using gifts of service in the right way. Those who have had their minds renewed and so transformed to have the mind of Christ will have the same humble attitude. Again, verse 16 is the key point here:

"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." (vs. 16)

When those letters to Christians were being written, the congregations were fresh in their understanding of the doctrines of Christ, and no great apostasy had begun. There were warnings about certain groups trying to creep in, to corrupt with false teachings and practices, yes. But the Holy Spirit was guiding and leading those who did, indeed, keep the same mental attitude that was in Christ, that of humility. Indeed, that Philippians chapter 2 passage mentions the fellowship of the Spirit giving them that mind, which was also in Christ - a servant-attitude to others (vs.s 1-5).

Now, coming back to the verse in question, 1 Peter 3:8, it can be seen that "all having the one mind" would be shown in a humble, submissive attitude, being full of love and willingness to serve the others. It certainly would include believing the doctrines of Christ as given to them by the apostles, but a few verses on Paul continues this theme of being minded to humbly serve others:

"Forasmuch then that Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." (1 Peter 4:1) (Emphasis mine)

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The theme of unity is a constant theme in the the Bible:

  • Ps 133:1 - Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
  • Eph 4:3 - and with diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
  • Eph 4:13 - until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.
  • Col 3:14 - And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity.
  • John 17:11 - Holy Father, protect them by Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.
  • John 17:20-23 - I am not asking on behalf of them alone, but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one— I in them and You in Me—that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them just as You have loved Me.
  • Rom 15:5 - May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had
  • 1 Peter 3:8 - Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

Note a few things about this brief survey:

  • There is no instruction here for Jesus' disciples to all have the same opinions about everything.
  • The instructions about unity is a unity in love, Spirit, faith, knowledge
  • Jesus' high-priestly prayer in John 17 repeatedly prayed earnestly for such unity
  • The unity required is a unity of purpose - to preach the Gospel of saving grace and love

The operative adjective in 1 Peter 3:8 is ὁμόφρων (homophrón) = like-minded (it is a hapex legomenon). That is, in this case, an agreed purpose in preaching the Gospel while being, sympathetic, loving, compassionate and humble.

APPENDIX - Disagreements

The incident between Paul and Barnabas recorded in Acts 15:36-41 is a perfect illustration of the type of unity required. Paul and Barnabas had a "very sharp' disagreement; so much so, that they parted company and went their separate ways.

However, we should observe that:

  • they both still wanted to preach the Gospel
  • They had different opinions about how that should be accomplished
  • While Paul and Barnabas parted company, it appears that they probably remained friends according to 1 Cor 9:6.
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Unity of mind in this particular scripture seems to be more of an attitude, a disposition towards each other. These believers at that time probably suffered greatly among their friends and families who looked down upon them for believing in Jesus. These believers were a minority and it was hard enough to have insults thrown at them from friends and family, even the leaders in their synagogues. Persecution was probably pretty hard at that time.

With all their suffering try to be kind hearted towards one another in your new house hold of faith.

Here it is in amplified Bible which I think is pretty good in this case.

8Finally, all of you be like-minded [united in spirit], sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted [courteous and compassionate toward each other as members of one household], and humble in spirit; 9and never return evil for evil or insult for insult [avoid scolding, berating, and any kind of abuse], but on the contrary, give a blessing [pray for one another’s well-being, contentment, and protection]; for you have been called for this very purpose, 2 Peter 3:8-9

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