Historical and Biblical Fellowship
of Lesson, December 3, 1998
Hills church of Christ
Intro: What this series of lectures is all about (chart). Fellowship with God and with brethren is desired among all faithful brethren. All should decry partyism, sectarianism, etc.(cf: 1 Cor. 1:12; modern parallels with papers, colleges, sections of the country). As Paul, "give diligence to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). However, apostasy is an ever present danger and we ignore it to our folly. History is a harsh teacher, looking back over the ruins of fellowship and shattered congregations. Every generation must face this danger or be destroyed, affecting future generations.
Before apostasy becomes a reality, brethren should explore every avenue of Bible study and brotherly controversies with patience and longsuffering (1 Thess. 5:14; Jude 19-23). There should not be a rush to judgment (prematurely drawing lines) or failure to address our differences (ignoring serious issues).
It is axiomatic that, among honest and sincere brethren, Bible study will draw Christians closer together, not drive them apart. Some have rebutted every effort to study. Motives have been impugned and characters assailed. This series is an attempt to call attention to solid evidence of departures from "sound doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:1ff), to sound an alarm to concerned brethren, and to open a door of dialogue to those who care (Ezra 7:10; 9:3-4).
No attempt is being made to be a "brotherhood mediator," establish a creedal formula for fellowship ("spiritual jingo-ism") or dictate a timetable to others. However, I expect and demand the same right as others to preach the word of God wherever opportunities are open. Truth has all the prerogatives of error in dissemination and character assassinations do not change the truth of God.
Claims for moral superiority and spiritual elitism are misplaced (Amos 7:12-13). Error has no place of sanctuary from the searching light of truth (Eph. 4:27). Venerated and esteemed brethren have no license to teach error with impunity (Ezek. 18:25-32); respect of persons is a sin (Ja. 2:1-4). Charges that others are not trust-worthy or have a lack of integrity represent judgments of motives, condemned by Christ (Mt. 7:1). As with Paul, we must ask, "Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" (Gal. 4:16)
Quotations will be given to validate specific dangers to sound doctrine. Diligent care is taken to ensure proper context for all quotations and fair representation of what the speaker/writer teaches. Note that this applies equally well to myself: if anyone will fairly represent what I teach, I am in complete agreement for tapes to be made, reproduced and spread abroad. If I teach the truth, I want my message to go afar. If I teach error, I wish to be corrected. In every instance, no anger or ill-will exists toward anyone and it is understand that God will judge the hearts of each of us.
I. Biblical Fellowship
Acts 2:42 - From the beginning of the gospel age, fellowship important to saints; tied to apostles doctrine.
B. 1 Jn. 1:1-4 - Fellowship with God and the brethren; conditioned upon reception of Christ and the word of the witnesses, the Apostles. "Vertical" and "Horizontal" fellowship.
C. Fellowship is a "sharing, mutual participation" in something and is seen best in its use as an adjective with complimentary nouns: citizens, disciples, heirs, helpers, laborers, prisoners, servants, soldiers, workers. As "fellowship," it denotes the "state or quality of being" a fellow.
D. We are "called" into fellowship with God - 1 Cor. 1:9; by the gospel - 2 Thess. 2:14.
E. This fellowship is experienced in two ways:
F. This fellowship was designed to include both Jew and Gentile (much bearing on lessons dealing with fellowship, esp. Rom. 14)
- As an individual saint directly with God as a result of salvation: Acts 2:47; 8:39; Heb. 12:23 ( general assembly of saved; sharing in a relationship).
As a member of a local congregation - Phil. 1:1 and through its work - 1:5; 4:15; Gal. 2:9 (preaching the gospel) ; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 9:13; et al (benevolence to other churches).
G. Fellowship takes it nature and character from Him who calls us into His fellowship
- Gen. 12:3 - all nations
Dan. 2 - stone grew until it filled whole earth
Joel 2 - all flesh
Isa. 2 - mountain of Lord's house - all nations flow unto it
Parables taught the same universality of the kingdom - Mt. 13 - mustard seed; net
H. Fellowship is to be maintained by diligence - Eph. 4:3
- 1 Jn. 1:5-7 - God is Light (Holy) - our fellowship must be holy
a. 1 Pet. 1:13-16 - be holy for God is holy
b. Christians are "saints" - set apart people - 2 Tim. 2:21 - "sanctified for Master's use"
- We must walk in the light to have fellowship - not just an "attitude"
a. Walk in the commandments - 2:3, 4; 3:22-24; 5:2-3
b. Walk in his word - 2:5, 7
c. Walk as Jesus walked - 2:6
d. Walk with apostles - 2:19; 4:5-6
e. Walk in the truth - 2:21
f. Walk in what you heard - 2:24
g. Walk in what has been written - 2:26; 5:13
h. Walk in what you have been taught - 2:27
i. Walk in Christ - 2:28
j. Walk in the practice of righteousness - 2:29
k. Walk in the message you heard from the beginning - 3:11
l. Walk in the testimony of the witness of God - 5:7-11
m. Walk in the understanding of Christ - 5:20
- To Be Sons of Light
a. John 8:12 - "I am the light of the world..."
b. 1 Jn. 1:7 - walk in light
c. Jn. 12:36 - "That you may become sons of light"
d. Mt. 5:14-16 - that we may be lights to the world
II. Fellowship with God is severed by sin - God will not have fellowship against His nature (1 Jn. 1:5). One may be in fellowship with a local church but not in fellowship with God.
A. Some teach against error but fellowship those who teach and practice it - Rom. 6:1, 15; Rom. 1:32.
B. This is the crux of the fellowship problem today. Can have an on-going fellowship with those who teach and practice something that is sinful, defend it as righteous, and encourage others to participate with them in it? Some are doing it and are critical of those who teach against the practice.
C. Parallels exist between the controversy today over fellowship, the controversy over institutionalism, and of the 1970's over Neo-Calvinism in the church.
- 2 Cor. 6:14-18 - we are a separate people
1 Jn. 1:5ff; 2 Jn. 9-22 - cannot walk in darkness and be in fellowship with God
- The whole situation was so bizarre, coming from esteemed brethren who enjoyed immense popularity (Foy Wallace, Jr., etc.) It was unthinkable to many that they taught error. Many followed the preacher because of who his was.
It was difficult for many brethren to see their drift, their error (which those brethren did not see in themselves, no doubt!)
Tension tore at brethren, loyalties were tested, churches split. The issues finally became crystal-clear, but a period of sifting had to take place while the issues were being defined.
In 1970's, the unthinkable occurred again as Calvinism invaded churches and grace became an issue. Again, faithful brethren digressed, leading many off into error.
In both of these apostasies (and others), esteemed brethren changed their positions gradually, perhaps unknowingly, at first.
Jesus warned that such divisions must come - 1 Cor. 11:19.
There was never a monolithic division as occurs among denominations - local autonomy prevented that. But apostasy took place at different speeds, in different congregations, across different sections of the country, as issues became clarified.
The same thing will happen in this instance. Some will follow esteemed brethren regardless of what they teach, others will be cautious, some see the issue more rapidly.
Discussions, debates and studies like this will serve to clarify the issue, keep doors of discourse open, allow time for brethren to study in the hope of reaching a common mind about the teaching of God's word.
Apostasy is not inevitable. As in the premillennialism schism, strong teaching turned the tide and kept most brethren faithful.
Let us pray that strong and faithful teaching today will help us avoid another division in the body of Christ.
III. Satan Wants Fellowship To Include Sinful Preaching and Practices. Ancient efforts at "Unity-In-Diversity" - attempts to merge Christians with the world.
A. Fellowship with Sin promises liberty while bringing into bondage
B. Gnostics: 1 John 1:6 - walk in darkness, but still be in fellowship
- 2 Pet. 2:18-19 - promise liberty, but enslave to sin
Gal. 5:1 - put under a yoke of bondage
C. Abusers of Grace - Rom. 6:1, 15
- A philosophical defense of fellowship with God while believing and practicing sin
1 Jn. 4:5 - They are of world; we are of God (those who hear)
- Gal. 1:6-9 - a law/gospel which is not the gospel
Acts 15:1, 5, 24
Answer: 15:10; Eph. 2:14-18
- Acts 17:16ff - Epicureans & Stoics
Romans 1 - those who gave up the knowledge of God, practiced evil (v. 32)
Col. 2:8, 20-23
IV. Unity In Diversity Largely Successful in Denominational World
Great Apostasy, Followed by Reformation and Ecumenism
B. Today, UID is accepted even among Catholics, Protestants and Jews
C. Very little distinctive preaching, even among sectarians - few debates, little interest
D. If one accepts Jesus Christ - doctrine is not important (gospel/doctrine)
V. Historical Fellowship Among churches of Christ - Return to Ancient Order - Restoration of New Testament Christianity has a solid scriptural basis.
A. Re-emphasis on Fellowship with God through Christ and Doctrinal Purity by , Barton W. Stone, Walter Scott, the Campbells, Ben Franklin, et al.
B. While these brethren made many mistakes and occupied positions that we would not accept today, they were in the process of coming out of error, not going back into it. Today, many are seeking to go in the reverse direction and accept a unity in diversity (doctrinal error) from which the pioneers sought to escape.
C. Pioneers are often quoted today as willing to fellowship error, permissive & tolerant (Ketcherside, Garrett, Christian Church, Institutionalists and New Hermeneutic people.)
D. On contrary, they came from a system of error and were searching for ancient order.
- "Speak where Bible speaks; be silent where Bible is silent"
1 Pet. 4:11; Jude 3; 2 John 9-11
This kind of attitude must continue to characterize our demand for truth.
VI. Unity in Diversity Is A Present Danger In Our Time
A generation enamored of denominational preachers and Positive Preaching
B. A generation that is ashamed of doctrinal preaching
C. A generation that has been deceived by Calvinism and Perverted Grace
D. A generation that has been affected by worldly trends (immodesty, gambling, movies, TV, working mothers, sports addiction, etc.)
E. Our answer to these dangers:
- MDR issue has invaded the church as never before
Various positions on adulterous marriages are advocated and accepted
Fellowship with those who publicly teach error is defended.
Criticisms directed at those who hold to sound doctrine and teach against fellowship with error.
Clarity of Truth is being questioned.
The diversity of erroneous positions is being used by some to question the ability to understand and apply God's word so as to produce unity.
F. Some charge that today's watchmen are doing it all wrong.
- 2 Tim. 4:1-4 - preach the word - in season and out - some will not endure sound doctrine.
Be Watchmen - Ezek. 3:17-21; 33:1-9; Isa. 52:7-8 (cf: Rom. 10:14-15 - applied to preachers)
Though faithful and plain preaching has fallen into disfavor with some and are called "watchdogs" (misuse of legitimate sentinel), Isa. 66:10 speaks evil of watchmen, watchdogs who are "dumb" (will not bark).
Some are too "spiritual" or "elite" to be told the truth - Amos 7:12-13
a. This is the king's palace - you are a rustic prophet
b. We have a name that you have no right to criticize
G. Some suggest it is wrong to call names of those who teach contrary doctrine, but:
- Same charge made against Jesus
a. Mt. 23 - chapter of woes
b. Jn. 6:59-61 - Jesus' "hard sayings" "offended" the disciples
c. Jn. 8:40-47 - Accused some of being of their father, the Devil
(1) Could not understand Jesus' speech
d. Jesus cleansed the Temple - Jn. 2; Mt. 21
(2) Did not believe the truth
(3) Who is of God hears God's word
- All this accused against Jesus, yet He was:
a. Perfect Teacher
b. Perfect Truth
c. Perfect Attitude and choice of words
- Apostles preached plainly
a. Gal. 1:6-9 - accursed of God
b. Gal. 5:12 - should "cut themselves off" - "go beyond circumcision"
c. 1 Cor. 4:8-10 - sarcasm
d. Acts 20:29-30 - called the elders "wolves"
e. 2 Peter 2:1-22 - identified character of false teachers
- Jesus and apostles would not be permitted to write for some brotherhood papers today!
H. It is regrettable that such name-calling is being done. We shall not engage in similar conduct, though we shall not hesitate to document the dangerous doctrines being advocated today. Name-calling does not change the issue we must face.
- 1 Tim. 1:20 - Hymenaeus and Alexander - delivered to Satan
2 Tim. 1:15 Phygellus and Hermogenes
2 Tim. 4:10 -Demas forever labeled a deserter
2 Tim. 4:14 - Alexander the coppersmith
2 Sam. 11, 12 - Nathan to David - public accusation of a private sin - "Thou art the man" (2 Sam. 12:7)
Attitude of prophets too many examples to list: bold, fearless, specific
Acts 7 - Stephen
Apostles in Acts 2 - "you have crucified and slain"
Are we more polite than Jesus and apostles?
Those who are too polite to call names do not hesitate to label brethren who preach plainly: watchdogs, jingoists, snarling curs, buzzards looking for carrion, spiritual murderers, sectarians, etc.
I. A rationale for ongoing fellowship with error has been devised and propagated that is destructive to Biblical Fellowship.
J. Quotations to verify this are carefully selected to reflect accurate context and representation of those quoted. Emphases on charts highlight pertinent parts. Sources of quotes are available to allow verification of context.
VII. CONCLUSION - Dangers to fellowship with God and fellowship in the local church abound. Major trends toward apostasy are in place and being advocated by prominent and esteemed brethren who are permissive and tolerant toward those who advocate sinful beliefs and practices but are intolerant toward those who speak out against error. This is typical of every apostasy.
If we are to avoid more division among the Lord's people, let us "speak as the oracles of God," open the doors of communication, rise above name-calling and invectives and make every effort to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
A. Tomorrow's Lesson - "Misuse of Grace To Cover Sins"
B. Saturday's Lesson - "Romans 14 and Fellowship with Sin"
- Resurgence of Calvinism among brethren today
Result - Tolerance toward sin; misuse of the grace of God.
C. Sunday Morning Class - "Understanding Christ and the Church (Gospel/Doctrine)
D. Sunday Morning Assembly - Is Doctrinal Unity Possible?
E. Sunday Afternoon Assembly - "Divorce, Remarriage and Fellowship"
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