Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 20, 1956

Uniting With A Congregation


J. W. McGarvey (Apostolic Times, 1875)

Bro. McGarvey:

In the last issue of the TIMES I find a query in reference to a person who is baptized and fails to unite with a congregation. In the answer to said query it is said, "that it is the duty of the congregation to watch after him until he unites with it or some other." Of course, if he fails to unite with "it or some other," he is not a member, and does not enjoy the fellowship. But further on it is stated that if he fails to unite and persists in this course, that it is disorderly, and should subject him to the withdrawal of fellowship. The trouble with me is to know how we can go about withdrawing that which has never been extended to the person. If he has never united with the church or congregation, how can it withdraw or separate itself from him? If a young man has never united himself with a school, how can any teacher go about expelling him for disorderly conduct? But to come to the question: Does not putting on Christ in baptism make a Christian of a penitent believer, and if a Christian, does not this make the party a member of some particular congregation? To my mind it does, i.e., unless God has an invisible church. This is not implied in the answer, for it is said, "that it is impossible for a man to be a citizen of Christ's earthly kingdom without being subject to the authority * * * in it." These exist in the church, it is said, where he makes the confession and is baptized.

This I believe to be true, and, if true, would it not be better to say that by these acts he unites with and becomes a member of the congregation where he performs these acts? Is not the custom of extending the hand of fellowship productive of more evil than good? Have we any good Scriptural authority for the practice? Hoping to have your views on this subject, I remain,

Fraternally yours,

JAS. D. DILLARD. Frankford, Mo., March 15, 1875.

Bro. Dillard assumes, in the above, that if the person baptized does not unite with a congregation, he is not in fellowship with any. In this he is mistaken. Every baptized person is in fellowship with the church until he forfeits membership by misconduct.

In the second place he argues that, as baptism makes a Christian of the penitent believer, it makes him a member of some particular congregation; and he insists that the denial of this involves the absurdity of an invisible church. In both these conceptions he will see that he is mistaken, if he will first ask himself what congregation the eunuch became a member of when he was baptized; and secondly, whether he, though not a member yet of any congregation, was any less visible than was Philip who baptized him. The truth is, a man by baptism becomes a citizen of God's Kingdom, which is a visible kingdom, composed of all baptized persons, and then he subsequently becomes identified with an individual congregation. If baptized within a congregation, it is the duty of the overseers thereof to see that his subsequent walk is orderly. If baptized by an evangelist, where there is no congregation, it is the duty of that evangelist to instruct him as to his future course.

Whether the custom of extending the hand of fellowship does more evil than good depends on the question whether it is used aright or abused. We have no precedent for adding persons to the congregation in this way, but we are told that those baptized were added to the church (Acts ii:41); this must be done in some way, and I know of no better way than by giving the hand of fellowship.

The Warren Argument

We have carried a number of fine articles in this journal pointing out the fatal errors in the "total situation" argument as used by Brethren Warren, Woods, and Harper in their efforts to defend the centralized "sponsoring church" type of congregational cooperation. In this issue we give Brother Warren's outline of the argument, together with a careful analysis of it by Brother Bob Crawley. Crawley is a trained logician, and we believe his review will be particularly helpful to the hundreds of young gospel preachers in the various Christian colleges who receive the Gospel Guardian. It is for them particularly that we publish Brother Warren's brief of his argument and Crawley's analysis. We suggest that the various teachers in college courses in logic could profitably assign the Warren argument and the Crawley rejoinder as a profitable exercise for class study and discussion.

— F. Y. T.

End Of The Year

This is a wonderful time to send a year's gift subscription of the Gospel Guardian to a list of friends. Every year we have some faithful subscribers who make up a list of three, five, ten, or more friends and send to each a full year's subscription to this journal. Such action by them has brought the paper to hundreds who otherwise would never have seen it. And from those thus receiving it we have won a great host of regular and faithful subscribers who renew year after year. We particularly suggest that elders, Bible school teachers, and gospel preachers should be remembered when you make out your list.

— F. Y. T.