Bobby R. Holmes
For many years I have stated that the greatest threat to God's people was in the realm of fellowship. A few years ago, in the now deceased Christianity Magazine, Ed Harrell launched his plea for "a better understanding" of brethren regarding brother Homer Hailey and advocated a continued fellowship with him, placing such matters in the context of Romans chapter 14. Many brethren felt that the controversy raised over a false interpretation of Romans 14 would be the greatest battle to be fought against Satan and his forces. While the false doctrine that is being advocated by so many on Romans 14 is indeed a very real threat to the people of God, and while it's ultimate end, if followed, will allow any and all sin into the fellowship of God's people, I believe the subject of fellowship in general is the very core our problem. If you will think for a moment, it becomes very obvious that God has placed "fellowship" as His guardian for the purity of His people. It was so in the Old Testament when He forbade His people to have any "fellowship" with the people of other nations. It was so when He commanded His people to put away their strange wives (Ezra chapter 10). It is so also in the New Testament.
Fellowship was the "Guardian" for the purity among God's people in the realm of morality (cf. 1 Corinthians 5). The Corinthians were told to "put away from yourselves that wicked person" ( 1 Corinthians 5:13). The reason is given in verse six. He says that wickedness will corrupt others as well so were told to "purge out the old leaven," verse seven. In doing so they used God's "Guardian" for maintaining moral purity among them.
This same "Guardian" is used to maintain purity among God's people in the realm of doctrine. Look at the following passage, Romans 16:17-18:
"Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple."
The "avoiding" was to be done because of the danger of being corrupted in doctrine by the "smooth words and flattering speech."
The same was true regarding Paul's warning concerning some who had turned away from the pure doctrine of Christ and caused others to fall as well, 2 Timothy 2:17-18:
"And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some."
Some brethren get all "out of joint" when bold men stand up against fellowship with those who are unworthy of it but Paul tells it like it is, "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).
Moral wickedness has crept in among us under the guise of "reason." The promotion of fellowship with those who are either teaching false doctrine on MDR and other issues or who are urging a greater degree of "tolerance" toward those in sinful marriages and other sins is a great contributing cause for this. When fellowship is extended to these, God's "Guardian" for purity among His people is removed and His people are left vulnerable to the Devil. What does God tell us regarding these things?
An "umbrella" of protection is being used today to protect those who are false teachers. Some, like Ed Harrell are advocating the acceptance of the "man" in fellowship while rejecting his doctrine. He stated he did not agree with brother Hailey's position on MDR but could continue to fellowship him as a faithful servant of God. He is not alone in this. This is despite the plain teaching of John in 2 John 9-11, as quoted above. John states clearly if the man does not bring the "doctrine" of Christ to you, do not receive him into your house and if you do, you become a partaker of his evil deed. Can it be any clearer than that?
Others like Bob Owen, Jesse Jenkins and others (the list is growing daily) are "redefining" who a false teacher is. According to them one must have a flawed character like is described in 2 Peter 2:1-3 before he can be labeled as such. It is strange to me that until a few short years ago everyone understood that a false teacher was one who taught false doctrine. Now we are subjected to this "redefining" process. You will not find the character addressed of men named such as Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:18-20), Phygellus and Hermogenes (2 Timothy 1:13-15), Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Timothy 2:16-18), nor of Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14-15). Paul addresses their doctrine and action against Truth. Their character is never the object of discussion. This ploy by these men today only serves as a "smokescreen" to obscure the ungodly work that Satan is engaged in today through deceived men.
Brethren, we must be faithful in "Guarding The Guardian." Remember the exhortation of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 16:13, "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong."