One of the most serious threats to the unity of the nation… was the affair of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. It arose directly because a purely fleshly reasoning caused the men concerned to press their personal importance to the detriment of the good of the nation as a whole. They fell into the error of “not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God” (Col 2:19). Their action was based upon premises that seemed sound enough:
“All the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them” (Num 16:3).
These were the words on the lips of the “250 princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown”, men whom, according to the record, Korah, Dathan and Abiram “took”. Much lies concealed behind those words! One can imagine the secret meetings, the passing on of information from mouth to mouth, the fomenting of trouble, the sowing of discord, and all because Korah, being a son of Levi, desired to play the part assigned to others of his tribe, and Dathan and Abiram thought their tribe, the tribe of Reuben, deserving of greater pre-eminence than that to which God had called them!
What is the relation of all this to ourselves as a community?… Our heritage is no less [than that of Israel], for the same God is working towards unity in Christ in the Ecclesia, which is both a body and a commonwealth… The people of Israel had a history of fragmentation and division which began in the wilderness and for which there are two principal reasons: Firstly, they had no sense of devotion to the LORD, whose Name was revealed in His mighty acts of power and compassion on their behalf… Their loss of the vision of the Divine glory caused them to yearn for Egypt, and ultimately to refuse to believe that they were the people whom God would bring into the land of His promise. They fragmented because they had no faith in the purpose of their calling.
The other reason for their disunity was their failure to keep in mind, much less to comprehend, the concept of the unity of their people, or to realize that the purpose of God was not with individuals or with tribes as such, but with “all Israel”, to whose wellbeing individuals and tribes contributed by playing each their several and necessary parts. Any fellowship other than that which acknowledges that one is our Head and all we are brethren is still, as it has always proved to be, a fellowship of opposition which leads to further fragmentation within the dissident group itself. As far as we can tell from a survey of our own history and that of Israel, there is no exception to this principle.
Alfred Nicholls (The Christadelphian, February 1978)