"Joined," Some Reflections
The scriptures are "inspired" (2 Tim. 3: 16, 17, KJV). "Inspired" is from the Greek, theopneustos. Theopneustos is a compound word, consisting of "theos" (God) and "pneo" (to breathe). Hence, Paul is saying that scripture is "God breathed." On another occasion, Paul wrote that the very words he used in presenting scripture were provided by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2: 13). Thus, plenary or word inspiration is the case. The vocabulary of the New Testament (koina Greek) is, then, very valuable in determining God provided ideas, both in terms of meaning and concept. One word that begs for attention and examination is the Greek word for "joined," the Greek kollao. The word Kollao is found ten times in the Greek New Testament. I shall share with you a basic definition and then application of kollao.
Definition of kollao. On a simpler level, W. E. Vines observes the following: "Primarily, to glue or cement together; then, generally, to unite, to join firmly…" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 2, p. 276). One of the most advanced Greek works says regarding kollao: "…to glue together," "to join together," "to bind" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by G Kittel, Vol. 3, p. 822). I could supply additional references; however, they all would simply repeat the basic idea of kollao as that of glue together or a strong adhering of two or more objects, things, or people. The word kollao, then, is often used in the Greek New Testament as a relationship word. Not just a relationship word, but also a word suggesting the qualitative nature of the relationship (see addendum 1).
The understood intimacy and extent of connection involved in kollao. One of the problems regarding the church at Corinth was their lack of real concern over the presence of fornication (I Cor. 5). Paul thus wrote:
"16: What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.17: But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (I Cor. 6).
Many thoughtlessly engage in the act of fornication without being aware of its nature and implications. To engage in sexual intercourse is to effect one of the most personal involvements possible, either lawfully between a husband and wife or unlawfully, between an unmarried man and woman. The difference is between cheap, shallow "fornication" and a loving physical act in which a man and woman share some of the greatest and most intimate experiences possible (the conjugal act of marriage, see addendum 2). This marital act constitutes "one flesh." "Joined unto the Lord" in verse seventeen is referring to the intimacy of the relationship between the Christian and the Lord. Those who claim to be Christians, but do not have this deep one on one relationship with the Lord are fakes and counterfeits.
America, alas, is increasingly becoming a country of one night stands and shack up situations. Sex appears very available today, even with a growing number of women the pursuers, using the practice of the bar scene to pick up a different man to go to a cheap motel. Many of these willing males think this is a great practice and movement. They (both men and women) have their one night fling, without realizing that "…he which is joined to an harlot is one body." Prostitution is a flourishing business today. However, the act of fornication is a serious matter. After especially repeated disregard to the relationship mockery involved in the act of fornication, both men and women become more incapable of forming a real, dedicated "one flesh" arrangement (legitimate marriage). Such selfishness eventuates in unhappiness and the absence of real and lasting satisfaction.
"Joined" is also used to show the degradation and desperation that sin can produce. One of the most illustrative teachings that shows how sin can degrade is the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11-32). When the younger son had received his share of his inheritance and wasted it, he was desperate. All of his fair weather friends were not available in his time of need. We are told, "…and he went and joined himself to a citizen of the country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine" (v. 15). The proximity between the younger son and this "citizen" was more than just a casual coming together. It appears from kallao that there was a desperate and urgent sense of need experienced on the part of the younger son and it may also be that the citizen took advantage of the young man’s urgent needs. It is a fact that the citizen did not regard the young Jewish boy’s sensitivities, but sent him out to feed the swine (a matter repulsive in the extreme to a Jewish boy).
Jesus presents the teaching to show among other things, how sin reduced the sinner to a state of begging and repulsion. The son looked to, in his reduced state, the Gentile citizen for his shameful subsistence. He looked to this benefactor to the degree of being "joined" to him, glued, and bound.
Striking and similar circumstances are when a young man or woman takes drugs and then find themselves "joined" to the supplier. Many prostitutes are "joined" to their pimps. The list goes on and the shameful consequent relationships are many.
The Spirit used "join" (kollao) to describe and teach the relationship the Christian has to good. Consider the language of scripture:
"9: Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good" (Rom. 12).
The command consists of both negative and positive action, involving totally opposite and antithetical states, evil and good. In the case of "good," the Christian is not just to migrate toward, but is to "cleave to." "Cleave," KJV, is from our word, kollao. Hence the relationship between the Christian and good is that of being glued, cemented and bound to good. There is a deep, lasting, and abiding qualitative relationship. Good is an essential part of the very nature of the Christian.
"Joined" is used to show the substantive connection between the teacher and the one he seeks to teach and influence. In the case of Acts 8: 29, we have it said by the writer of Acts that the Spirit himself actually used the word "join" in issuing a command. Notice the verse:
"29: Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30: And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31: And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him" (Acts 8).
We need more of this deep commitment on the part of teachers today. Such "cleaving" (kollao) involves actually and unselfishly caring about those whom we teach. Hence, we teach them the whole counsel and do not attempt to only selfishly manipulate them (cp. Acts 20: 27). When and if they go astray, we are there for them to encourage, rebuke, or further study with them! (Cp. Rom. 15: 1).
Those taught should have an abiding relationship with the teacher. The historian provides us a picture of the various types of hearers relative to Paul’s preaching while in Athens, Greece:
"32: And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. 33: So Paul departed from among them. 34: Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them" (Acts 17).
I draw your attention to the type hearer mentioned in verse thirty-four. This type believed what Paul preached and we are told that they "clave unto him." We sometimes warn so much about preacheritis that we discourage a healthy relationship of the taught with their teacher. There should be a special bond between the taught and the one responsible for them learning the truth. This is what kollao or "clave" suggests in Acts 17: 34.
Christians are to "join" a faithful local church. Many preachers in churches of Christ are heard saying, "You do not join the church, the Lord adds you." Well, "yes" and "no." It all semantically depends on what is meant by "church." If the church universal is meant, then, it is correct that one does not "join" the church. The Lord adds one to the church universal by means of scriptural baptism (Gal. 3: 26, 27, cp. Acts 2: 47). However, if by "church" the local church is meant, the only way one can become a part is by "joining." The historian informs us regarding Paul or Saul:
"26: And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple" (Acts 9).
The Jerusalem brethren were correct in questioning Saul and at first opposing him joining them. However, when they were provided information as to Saul being a faithful Christian, they accepted him into the local fellowship (cp. v. 27). All of this being stated, consider just what is involved in becoming a part of a local church. The decided and important relationship is indicated by "join," kollao.
To many, placing membership and being accepted is just what one does, kind of a traditional practice, especially in churches of Christ. However, kollao shows the serious nature of becoming a member of a local church. One actually is gluing oneself, creating a bond between oneself and the local church, and exercising a deep commitment "to" the local church. Regarding Acts 9: 26, the Amplified reads: "…sought to join himself to them intimately." There are too many who have superficially formed membership; hence, they have no real dedication. They are indifferent to problems or failings of the local church as a corporate body of which they are to be a vital part (cp. Eph. 4: 16). As a practice, when problems arise they are off to place membership elsewhere. They are not glued to the local work. They, if they are exceptional, may attend the traditional three times a week, but this is about the extent of their relationship. They can not be counted on in difficult times because they do not have the substantial relationship that "join" conveys. They do not exercise an assiduous effort to help keep the church pure and see that scriptural fellowship is practiced (Eph. 5: 10, 11, 2 Thes. 3: 6). They only have a casual knowledge of other members, not the deep, abiding personal knowledge that "join" reflects (cp. I Thes. 5: 14).
It is tragic that a considerable percentage of the teaching and preaching in the Lord’s church today does not stress the kind of quality and depth that kollao articulates. In too many cases, even the elders and preachers, supposed to be the "cream of the crop," so to speak, qualify only as babes in Christ, at best. Let us accept all the lessons that "join" sets forth and strive to absorb and measure up to the level of commitment and practice the Spirit teaches by using "join" in the scriptures (see addendum 3).
Addendum 1: In view of the strong relationship suggesting capability of "joined," it is no surprise that Jesus used "Joined" regarding the close, personal, and lasting relationship involved in marriage (Matt. 19: 5, proshollaommai, is, at least, a cognate of kollao). The marriage of man and woman is a stronger relationship than a man has with his own parents.
Addendum 2: While the quoted text of Matthew 19: 5 (observed in I Corinthians 6: 16, 17) refers back to the institution of marriage in Genesis 2: 24, I do not believe the "one body" and "one flesh" in the case of a man having sexual relationships with a harlot automatically and by virtue of the sex act constitutes marriage. This immoral "one body" and "one flesh" is a case of "sinning against his own body" (I Cor. 6: 18). Hence, one is to flee or run away from fornication (v. 18).
Addendum 3: It is sad that for the most part when you hear the word "join" used in the Lord’s church, it is only in the form of a negation, "You cannot join the church." It is past high time that we become the mature and thinking people God wants His people to be!