Equating Fellowship with Being One in Christ
William R. John
Brother Edward Fudge has recently authored a publication entitled, "Answers To Questions" in which he does just what the title suggests regarding the present issue of the "Fellowship Question." I believe this brochure to be as clear and concise as any writing of Brother Fudge's which I have read. Even the uneducated mind, such as my own, can grasp the meaning of what he writes in this article.
While I have read the whole pamphlet, I am not going to make comment on each portion of this article. However, I wish to address myself particularly to the very first question of the brochure. This question states, "What do you teach about `fellowship' especially regarding fellowship with brethren in error?" Brother Fudge answers this question by stating in part that "The New Testament does not equate fellowship (joint participation, sharing) with being 'one' in Christ. Oneness in Christ is a state' of being which exists among all who are 'in Christ' and it cannot be separated from that state (Emphasis Mine-W.R.J.)."
It seems that Brother Fudge would have us believe that fellowship does not really have much to do with our being "one" in Christ. If this is so, I believe we can then render much comfort to the inclination to simply "agree to disagree" even though we lack the activity of fellowshipping one with another as children of God. After all, our "having fellowship" or not having it, as Brother Fudge puts it, will not "necessarily affect our essential 'oneness' in Christ." Concerning the first question, this is exactly how he concludes his answer: "On the other hand, the fact that brothers cannot 'have fellowship' in one particular act in good conscience does not necessarily prohibit their 'having fellowship' in some other activity of which they both approve in the light of the Scriptures. Nor does it necessarily affect their essential 'oneness' in Christ, for that never did depend on their daily sharing in every single act and item."
The basis for our "oneness" in Christ is directly related to John 17;20-22. Christ prays for the apostles and those who would become Christians "that they all may be one" as the Father is in Christ and Christ is in the Father and "that they also may be one in us." He prays further "that they may be one, even as we are one." The "oneness" that exists between the Father and the Son is made quite evident by these verses, but how is this "oneness" consummated? "Oneness" is' made complete by fellowship, joint participation, sharing, and agreement. In other words, at what point are the Father and the Son not involved in fellowship, joint participation, sharing; in what point do they disagree? Brother Fudge if you will show me in what way the Father and the Son do not have fellowship, then I will uphold the point you have made that fellowship "does not necessarily affect our essential 'oneness' in Christ."
We surely can see then what God desires for Christians. He desires for us to be just like Himself and Christ. Not that we are to become deity, but that we be one with deity in purpose and will. Men are drawn into that oneness with God, Christ, and with one another and thereby have fellowship together by doing the will of God and by knowing the doctrine of Christ. In John 7:17, it says, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." Our will must coincide with the will of God. Then and only then do we have oneness and fellowship.
The principle of Amos 3:3 must hold fast; "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" When two men disagree, this does not only just reflect against their ability to "have fellowship," but it is also a reflection against the "oneness" of Christ and in Christ which provides men with the resource to be agreed and- united. How many scriptures admonish Christians to have one mind or the same mind? Rom. 15:6; 1 Cor. 1:10; Phil. .1:27, 2:2, 4:2; and i Pet. 3:8, 4:1 admonish us to be united by having the same mind. When we are "of the same mind in the Lord" (see Phil. 4:2), we are one together with Christ, we have fellowship (joint participation, sharing), and we are exactly as God desires us to be. You see, Brother Fudge, "oneness in Christ which is a state of being which exists among all who are in Christ" is produced by the fellowship we have together with Him and with one another in all things pertaining to life and godliness (See 2 Peter 1:3).
The problem many have concerning fellowship comes from a failure to really recognize what God desires for man. Let us use the problem of sin as an illustration. God desires that mankind may become guiltless. He gave His Son to accomplish this, but at the same time gave us responsibility toward living above sin. We cannot become guiltless without the grace of Christ, but neither can we live above sin unless we accept our responsibility. Many have never accepted their responsibility, so they are lost. Some have initially accepted their responsibility, but the "going got rough" and so they' have turned away. Sin is either minimized or justified in the mind of many. Therefore, men are lost.
In like manner, God desires that His children by united. He gave His Son so that this could be accomplished, but at the same time gave us responsibility toward unity. We cannot be united without the grace of Christ, but neither can we be united unless we accept our responsibility. Many have never accepted their responsibility, so they lost. Some have initially accepted their responsibility, but the "going got rough" and so they turned away. Unity is now being minimized and lack of unity is being justified, in the mind of many. Therefore, many of God's children will be lost. I hope Brother Fudge is not one of these.
Dear reader, study for yourself. Is not that commanded in 1 Cor. 1:9 a fulfillment of the desire of Christ as expressed in John 17:20-22? If not, then why not?
Truth Magazine, XVIII:44, p. 11