By Lewis Willis
The question of fellowship seems to be a preoccupation with some brethren. Usually this signifies something rather ominous. Those who make this their chief thought are usually the ones who are trying to figure some way that fellowship can be extended to people who are teaching or practicing things that violate the Scriptures. They come up with all kinds of ideas about how you can have things like “limited fellowship” with these apostates. I suppose it is probably a good mental exercise, but it surely has caused a lot of trouble in the Church, especially over the last few years.
I have to confess to you that it interests me when I find a simplistic answer to problems that arise. Such an answer usually gets right to the heart of the matter and solves the problem quickly. Where the subject of fellowship is concerned I have always regarded Paul’s statement in Ephesians 5 as one of those simplistic answers to what would otherwise be a complex problem. In verse 11 he said, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” I just believe that you have to want to believe something else very badly if you misunderstand what Paul says. There is a lot of difference between having “no fellowship” and in having “some, a little or limited” fellowship. It actually appears to me that one’s intelligence is insulted to imply that this passage cannot be understood. All of the rationalizing in the world cannot change what Paul said. If we follow human, uninspired analysis and conclude that we can have some fellowship with darkness, all we have done is become “partaker of . . . evil deeds” (2 Jn. 11).
Even so, Paul’s statement gives us a sure-fire method for settling the question of who will be fellowshipped. When the “light” of the Lord – the Word of God – is applied to a practice, you determine immediately if the practice is darkness or light. If it is “darkness,” not only can we have no fellowship with it, we are told to “reprove” it. When you reprove darkness or evil works, you rebuke and expose them. Now, admittedly, my experience has been limited, but my experience has shown me that when you reprove, rebuke and expose error, those who want to practice it soon form their own fellowship. In other words, do what this passage says to do and you solve the problem of who is to be fellowshipped. It is impossible to have fellowship with someone who refuses that fellowship. And, if one finds his practice being rebuked, as the Scripture says, that will become so disconcerting that the person will separate himself from God’s people. So, if we will just do what Paul says, we solve this problem.
The process works like this: if you point out the sin of using instrumental music in the worship of the Church, the instrumentalist picks up his gear and forms a new fellowship. We call it “The Christian Church.” When you expose the sin of institutionalism, fellowship halls, ctc., those who want these works of darkness go out and form another new fellowship – we know them as “Liberal Churches of Christ.” When you expose the unscriptural organizational setup of the Boston/Crossroads Discipling Ministry, those who want this sinfulness form their new fellowship and they are known as “Crossroads Churches.” Simply by preaching truth and exposing error, the apostates depart to form their new church fellowship. It’s as simple as that! We have no choice but to preach the truth and expose error. So, when we do this, the problems about who will be fellowshipped take care of themselves. It is only a problem if we decide not to preach truth and expose error.
David seemed to have this same simple concept about this subject. He wrote, “I am companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Psa. 119:63). Those who do not fear God and keep his precepts “do not fit” in the House of the Lord. They are out of place and ultimately they will leave and form their own fellowship. However, this is usually done after having caused all the trouble they can cause, and, after they have deceived and duped as many brethren as possible into believing their error. Hear David again: “Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies (lying is standard procedure for false teachers and those that follow them, LW) shall not tarry in my sight” (Psa. 101:6-7).
Truth and error do not mix. Those who urge the restraint imposed by God’s Word will not be tolerated by those who refuse those restraints. Therefore, they have historically gone forth to form new, false religions or fellowships. If that is their intention, let them depart and the sooner the better! God’s Word will solve the problem of fellowship if we will but respect and apply it!
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 14, p. 421
July 18, 1991