March 28, 2017

Extending Fellowship To A False Teacher

By Mike Willis

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 9-11).

This text of Scripture warns a church against receiving into its fellowship those who are transgressing the doctrine of Christ, not being content to abide in the doctrine of Christ. In our age of loose fellowship, it is a concept that is not readily accepted.

The unity-in-diversity plea has rejected the concept expressed in this verse. The Christian Church calls for a unity-in-diversity with members of the Lord’s church. The kind of unity they accept is one in which the Christian Church continues its unauthorized practices (which initially were the church support of missionary societies and instrumental music in worship, but now has expanded to church operated schools, women speaking in the assembly, receiving the pious unimmersed, etc.) and gospel preachers ceasing to preach that these practices are sinful. It is immaterial to the Christian Church whether or not we choose to use instrumental music in worship. The same unity-in-diversity plea has been espoused by our institutional brethren. The kind of unity they accept is one in which they continue to support their human institutions (colleges, orphan homes, hospitals, old folks homes, etc.), participating in the sponsoring church arrangement, and building “fellowship halls” (another name for recreational facilities ranging from a kitchen to a gymnasium). These brethren do not care whether or not we decide to support these activities so long as we do not condemn their participation in them. Some among us clamor for the same kind of unity on divorce and remarriage. They want to preach their doctrines that allow those who have divorced their mates for causes other than fornication to hold membership in the church while staying in these unscriptural marriages and want us to quit preaching that is unscriptural doctrine and conduct. They do not care that we do not accept into our fellowship those involved in unscriptural marriages and do not invite preachers who preach their false doctrines on divorce and remarriage, so long as we don’t condemn them for doing those things!

The unity-in-diversity plea is a different platform of unity than is the plea for unity grounded on the revealed word of God. Just as we have unity with one another based on our common acceptance of what the Scriptures teach about the person of Christ and the conditions for salvation, we can have unity with one another so long as we have common acceptance of what the Scriptures teach about the worship and work of the church, and divorce and remarriage.

There can be no on-going fellowship with those who continue in the practice of their sin, defend it as an act of righteousness and invite others to participate with them in the practice of their sin. John did not think he could invite those Gnostic teachers of the first century who denied the humanity of Jesus to a special series of lectures on the evidences or the home, so long as they did not teach their loose views on the humanity of Christ. Those who taught these false doctrines could not be received, plainly and simply.

There are many other Scriptures that emphasis this same truth about fellowship. Consider the following:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them (Eph. 5: 11).

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom 16:17-18).

The unity-in-diversity is plea is not the Bible plan of unity. Years ago, our brethren used to illustrate the difference in doctrinal unity and union. They said, “You can tie two cats tails together and throw them over a clothes line and you have union, but you don’t have unity.” The difference between union and unity should be obvious. God calls us to the same kind of unity that exists between him and his Son, Jesus Christ: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21).

Bible unity is grounded in adherence to the revealed Word of God and to that unity God’s people are commit- ted. (Reprinted from The Exhorter, bulletin of the Danville, IN church of Christ, June 4, 1999.)

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