By Ray Ferris
Should We Limit Our Fellowship?
When we can agree that any meaningful “fellowship” first involves a fellowship with God, we are still faced with the problem of whether to fellowship one another on given occasions. We were told by brother. Ketcherside that there are only three bases upon which fellowship can be scripturally withheld from a fellow Christian: (1) Because of moral turpitude; (2) Teaching false doctrine; and (3) Factiousness (the heretic of Titus 3:10 in the KJV).
Expressions that were used in explaining moral turpitude caused me to wonder what stand might be taken regarding the man who sinned from time to time but would never make any effort to acknowledge the sin and seek forgiveness. There are some logical questions that might be asked also about all of the “factiousness” that exists among us, and Carl Ketcherside’s willingness to have “sweet loving fellowship” with any and all’of them! Are there none of them that have been, admonished a first and second time by Carl? Or is the matter of withdrawal only an option to exercise if we want to” do so? Paul said in Titus 3: 10 “Reject a factious man after a first and second ad monition.” Brother Ketcherside has convicted himself on this point by speaking of the many divisions that are unfounded, according to him, but he is still trying to have fellowship with any and all of them.
The Real Center of Discussion
The strong point of discussion centers on the point of false teaching (doctrine). According to Carl Ketcherside, it is possible to teach and practice a false worship (the use of mechanical instruments of music) and still be worthy of fellowship-even in the very sharing of the practice that is false. According to him it is possible to teach and practice unauthorized work and use unlawful organizations (you may take your choice of the activities of the Christian Church or the institutional crowd) and still be worthy of fellowship in the unauthorized practice. According to him one can teach and practice a false plan for saving one’s soul (sprinkling for baptism or baptism for the wrong purpose) and still be worthy of his fellowship because such a one is a “brother in prospect” and “a child of God!” His argument to defend this claim is based on an extension of the figure of a new birth to include any one who “believes” as one who has been conceived by the planting of the word and has just not yet been born – the delivery is to happen!
What About The Pious Unimmersed?
Is it indeed possible to be a child of God without having life? If one is alive spiritually what more can he desire? Truly this is a strange doctrine that is utterly unknown to the word of God. Redemption from sin (Eph. 1: 7), forgiveness of sin (Col. 1: 14), salvation (Acts 4: 12 and 2 Tim. 2: 10), reconciliation with God (Eph. 2:16 and 2 Cor. 5:19), being a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), being a child of God (Gal. 3:26-27), being a part of the heritage (Eph. I: 11), having the seal of the spirit (Eph I – 13-14) so that one may receive the promises of God (2 Cor. 1: 20), and have eternal life require one to be in the Son, Jesus Christ (I John 5: 11), where every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is to be found (Eph. 1:3). But baptism, which is a burial (Rom. 6:4; Col 2:12) in water (Acts 8:35-39, 10:47-48), is into Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27) and into the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13). Until one has been baptized into Christ he is still guilty of sin, and therefore is dead spiritually. Read again Ezek. 18:1-4; Rom. 6:23: and Eph. 2: 1ff.
It might be profitable to remember the language of Paul in 2 Cor. 6:14-18. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership has righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you’. And you shall be sons and daughters to me’ says the Lord Almighty.” (NASB)
Other Bases of Withdrawal
Notice that other points are emphasized in scripture regarding discipline that may lead to “disfellowship” beside these, three. In Matthew 18:15-17 the one who is guilty of a personal wrong is to be excluded from our fellowship, if he will not correct the wrong done. In 1 Cor. 5:9-11 we find an order to the disciples in Corinth not to “company with” brethren who are covetous, idolaters, or railers (revilers) as well as brethren who are fornicators, drunkards and extortionist. These terms do not all fit the neat little mold of moral turpitude, false doctrine and factiousness. Now along with that read again Gal. 5: 19-21 with particular emphasis to these expressions – idolatry, sorcery, enmities, jealousy, outbursts of anger, variance, emulations, wrath, and “those who practice such things.” (NASB) How can one claim to have “fellowship” with such things and/or those who practice them and be approved of God?
In 2 Thess. 3:6 Paul commands brethren in Thessalonica to “withdraw yourselves from (keep aloof from – NASB) every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the traditions which he received of us.” Thayer says the word ataktôs which is translated “disorderly” means disorderly and in its adjectival form means, “disorderly, out of ranks, (often so of soldiers); irregular, inordinate … deviating from the prescribed order or rule I Th. v. 14, cf. 2 Th – iii 6.” (Thayer Greek English Lexicon of The New Testament, by Joseph Henry Thayer, p. 83) Vine says, the adverbial form “signifies disorderly, with slackness (like soldiers not keeping rank), 2 Thess. 3:6; in ver. 11 it is said of those in the church who refused to work, and became busybodies (cp. I Tim. 5: 13).” He says the adjectival form “signifies not keeping order (a, negative, tasso, to put in order, arrange); it was especially a military term, denoting not keeping rank, insubordinate; it is used in I Thess. 5:14, describing certain church members who manifested an insubordinate spirit, whether by excitability or officiousness or idleness. See unruly” (An Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words, by W. E. & Vine, P. 320) In I Thess. 5:14 Paul instructs the brethren to warn these people and in 2 Thess. 3:6 he commands the faithful to withdraw themselves from (keep aloof from) these individuals. The doctrine of Carl Ketcherside is a flat denial of this teaching of Paul.
There have doubtless been extreme and hasty actions among the Lord’s people on occasions in the severing of the ties of fellowship. Disciplining the unruly should always be with patience and love accompanied by prayer. Divisions into opposing factions must be only as a last resort. I make no defense of any individual who rushes to and fro in the land with a chip on either shoulder and spoiling for a fight with the brethren, or anyone else. But I respect and admire any Christian who will state his conviction, defend it with the truth in love, and stand alone with his God if necessary (and that isn’t very likely) in order to abide in that sincere conviction.
It seemed to be implied in the discussion that some of us had caused the divisions over the different areas of controversy. That implication is not true. Many have worked fruitfully and worshipped in peace with brethren who believed in almost every extreme of conservatism and liberality of views among us. But we will not be forced to practice what is without authority, and refuse to be restricted to views that bind where God has not. Such who have been immersed into Christ are brethren, and activities that do not involve us in teaching and practicing what is forbidden, violating the conscience or endorsing these things, can be shared. Beyond this we cannot go.
Jesus, Error and “The Fellowship”
As we have noted in these papers, brother Ketcherside seems to indicate that if one has come into covenant relationship with God, then we must have fellowship with him. He said our problems were in it and not of it.
As Jesus was teaching the Jews, who were in covenant relationship with God (Jno. 8:25-47), “many came to believe in Him.” These are the brethren of Jesus in the flesh and the covenant, and Carl Ketcherside’s “brethren in prospect.” As Jesus speaks to these “believing” Jews, He indicates true discipleship requires knowing and abiding in His word – the truth. In the conversation that follows, Jesus says He and they do not have the same Father. Note these words: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father . . : He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” (NASB)
Even those in the covenant can conduct themselves in such a way as to give allegiance to the wrong father and are therefore unworthy of my close association, endorsement and fellowship.
Motives for Withholding Fellowship
An understanding of the true motives that must be involved in withdrawal, or withholding of fellowship, is of utmost importance. We are honoring the authority of Christ. Read again Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18; Matt. 28:18 and 2 Thess. 3:6. Then note these words: “And why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and so not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46, NASB)
We maintain the purity of the church (I Cor. 5:6, 7, 13). Brethren have respect for the Christian who will stand for his conviction (I Cor. 5:5 and I Tim. 5:20). The world will not respect a people who use a double standard, applying the message only to others (Rom. 2:17-29 and 2 Sam. 12:14). The Souls of men are involved, and a brother must be restored to his proper place of salvation if he has erred from the truth, but it must be done with meekness and fear (I Pet. 5:19-20; 1 Cor. 5:5 and Gal. 6:1).
It is most difficult to understand how this doctrine could be so attractive. But when one does not look at the scriptural implications too carefully, and listens to the strong affirmations of love that supposedly prompt it, then it could have an appeal to many. To love the Lord is to keep His commandments, and to love my brother is to discipline him when he is wrong.
God’s plan will work, and God will not hold me blameless if I try to work another plan.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 24, pp. 6-8
April 20, 1972