Word of the Week
September 18, 2021
Homothumadon: How to Come Together
Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The night before the crucifixion, Jesus prayed that His followers would be one, possessing the kind of unity that existed between the Father and the Son (John 17:22).
But unity has proved to be elusive, whether you look at the patchwork of church groups or at the internal politics of a single local church. We are known for our squabbles as often as our love.
Christians have tried to achieve unity in many ways. The ecumenical movement orchestrated mergers between denominations. Fundamentalists sought unity by separating from anyone who failed to conform to detailed standards of doctrine and behavior. Church growth experts recommended the “homogeneous church” principle that sought to flourish by specializing in a single social or ethnic group.
However, none of these tactics has approached the unity that characterized the early church we see in the book of Acts. As usual, the Greeks had a word for it!
The word is homothumadon (hah-mah-thoo-mah-DAHN). Usually translated “with one mind, with one accord.” Almost every occurrence of the word takes place in Acts (10 of 11), because it so deftly expresses one of the most crucial characteristics of the early Christians.
What does it mean?
Secular Greeks used it to describe a group of people who came together in the face of a common danger or a shared duty. Left to themselves, they might not have associated with each other, but they were drawn together by a cause greater than themselves.
It could be as simple as a political alliance to achieve a shared objective. In Acts 12:20, the cities of Tyre and Sidon chose to cooperate in a diplomatic initiative to win favor from Herod Agrippa.
It could describe the enemies of Christianity who unleashed their hostility “with one mind.” Though they were normally rivals, they found common ground in their opposition to the gospel of Christ.
- The Sanhedrin members who heard Stephen’s testimony rushed “with one mind” to put him to death (Acts 7:57).
- The Jews in Corinth gathered “with one mind” to file a complaint about Paul with the Roman governor (Acts 18:12).
- A mob in Ephesus grabbed two of Paul’s companions and rushed “with one mind” into the open air theater for a violent demonstration (Acts 19:29).
However, Luke prefers to use homothumadon to show how the early church displayed deep unity as a pattern of daily life.
They came together in prayer.
- The 120 gathered in the upper room devoted themselves to prayer “with one mind” (Acts 1:14).
- After the first skirmish with the Jewish leadership, the believers joined “with one mind” in prayer for boldness in their witness (Acts 4:24).
They were united in gathering for fellowship and outreach.
- The first 3000 believers gathered daily “with one mind” in the temple and in shared meals in various homes (Acts 2:46).
- The Christians continued to meet together “with one mind” in Solomon’s Portico, a covered area on one side of the Temple courtyard (Acts 5:12).
Crowds gathered together to hear the gospel.
- Philip preached in Samaria to crowds who “with one mind” listened eagerly (Acts 8:6).
Believers came to unity on crucial issues.
- When a disagreement arose about the new influx of Gentile Christians, the leaders gathered to seek God’s mind on the matter. They persisted until they could say that they had “become of one mind” (Acts 15:25).
The early church was composed of people with different backgrounds (Acts 6) and doctrinal opinions (Acts 15). They were passionate in their convictions. It would have been easy to splinter into factions. But they were drawn together by the task of witness, the challenge of opposition, the power of the Holy Spirit, and their allegiance to one Lord.
In these divisive times, we have the same advantages. Let’s make it our goal to be known as people who live homothumadon – with one mind. That was Paul’s prayer in Romans 15:6 and it’s a good one for us today!
The etymology of homothumadon is intriguing. It comes from two Greek words, as is so often the case:
Homos = “same”
Thumos = a strong passion like desire or anger. Often used in Revelation for the explosive outburst of God’s wrath
My take: This is not a word that describes the casual mingling of people who don’t care about anything. It’s more like the collision of two rivers to form one, coming together with a natural force that could easily cause turbulence. But God brings powerful streams together to become something even more powerful. Unity isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort.
Q – Where was the lame man located when Peter and John healed him in Acts 3?
A – I always assumed that he was in his normal location at the “Beautiful Gate” of the temple. This was not the official name of a gate, and there is some disagreement about which one is meant. But I recently took a closer look at the passage. Acts 3:2 says that he “was being carried along.” Evidently he had a friend or two who brought him there each day for his regular stint of begging, and they bumped into Peter and John as they were approaching the gate. Perhaps he took his position at “the ninth hour, the hour of prayer,” because that was when the crowd of potential donors was at its height. In any case, it appears that the apostles recognized this unexpected “divine appointment” and responded to God’s leading.
When Paul wrote the book of Ephesians, he piled up a whole array of words for “power.” Next week we will look at a few of these and try to find out why that concept was so important for the people of Ephesus.
©Ezra Project 2021
I love these little word studies! Thank you!
(Just a quick note: “The Jews in Corinth gathered ‘with one mine'” has a typo.)