Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 13, 1961
NUMBER 10, PAGE 2,10a

Fellowship And Faith

Robert C. Welch, Nacogdoches, Texas

Fellowship with God and of brethren with one another is conditioned upon walking in the light. (1 John 1:3, 7) We enter that way, state, or walk of light by obedience to the gospel, hence are said to be called into fellowship. (1 Cor. 1:9) Also, we are required to walk by faith. (2 Cor. 5:7) Further, we are to walk worthily of the calling wherewith we are called, giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1, 3) Again, if we walk as children of light we are not to be partakers with children of disobedience. (Eph. 5:6-8) Finally, we are with one soul to strive for the faith of the gospel. (Phil. 1:27) This is the bounds and limits of the fellowship of brethren which the Lord has made. Unity or fellowship cannot be maintained on the basis of love only. Scriptural fellowship is neither based on opinions nor on the toleration of opinions. Scriptural fellowship, according to the above passages, is had as we walk by the faith of the gospel.

Faith And Baptism

Brother Reuel Lemmons pleads for fellowship on the basis of the conditions which bring us into fellowship with Christ, the elemental faith which leads to baptism for the remission of sins:

"But there is considerable point in our pleading for the unity of baptized believers. It is understood that unity will never be had upon any group's opinion, for opinion, like error, can never be universal. Neither will unity be obtained upon identical knowledge or identical understanding of the Scriptures because 'all have not the same knowledge.' and not even the same capacity to learn. The basis upon which most brethren plead for unity among us today is non-existent and impossible of attainment. Maybe it would be good for all of them to quit contending for this way or that way, or my way or your way, and all of us go back to, and restore in the world, the unity that is simple faith in Jesus and simple obedience in baptism that characterized the great commission." (Firm Foundation, Dec. 13, 1960, p. 786)

Brother Carl Ketcherside makes use of the same elemental faith so distinguished from the entire will of Christ, in the following:

"Any system proposing to secure unity based upon conformity in opinion or equal attainment of knowledge is doomed at its inception. It proposes to accomplish what is, by nature, impossible. Yet it is upon these two postulates virtually every attempt at unity has been made in the past. The wreckage and disunity left in the wake of all such schemes is ample proof of their unreliability. Is unity, then, unobtainable? Not so! Certainly in the realms of knowledge and opinion it must be a unity of diversity, but in the cohesive element which God has ordained as the divine basis for unity of believers, there can be unanimity, for it is faith." (Mission Messenger, Nov., 1960, p. 12)

In both of these statements there is animadversion toward opinion. Men with like opinions might be united, but it would not be unity or fellowship which is pleasing to the Lord because it thrives upon opinion rather than faith. In this point, then, these two brethren are comet. Their criticism, however, of unity abounding in knowledge is a major fallacy in their argument. The assertion of one, and the implication of the other, is that it is impossible for us to understand what the will of the Lord is; that is, that it is impossible to understand it alike. One asserts that unity must be had in diversity of opinion and knowledge; the common theory of agreeing to disagree.

The scriptures require us to be not foolish, "but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Eph. 5:17) There is something basically wrong with the faith of the man who insists that God has given a command which cannot be obeyed. God has commanded us to understand what his will is, hence faith in the Lord through his word causes me to say that it can be understood. Furthermore, we are required to speak the same thing and be of the same mind and judgment. (1 Cor. 1:10) If it is impossible to be of the same mind and judgment and impossible to speak the same thing, as these brethren argue, then God has given impossible requirements. Inadvertently, no doubt, they have inculcated the theory of the modernist; that is, that it is not essential, because it cannot be done, to obey the specific precepts of the scriptures.

Is This Perfection?

Perfection in understanding and practice is not a requisite of fellowship. On the other hand, fellowship cannot be scripturally maintained with every person who has been called into fellowship, or has believed and been baptized. That is the assumption by implication of the arguments of brethren Lemmons and Ketcherside. In a later essay I shall deal with some of the cases in which the scriptures demand a cessation of fellowship. These cases have been almost completely ignored by these brethren who are advocating the fellowship of all who have believed and been baptized.

God is light, and he is in the light. (1 John 1:5-7) There is a vast difference in this fulness or perfection of light and in our "walk in the light." The term walk as used here denotes that there is progression to be made by the individual. So, I am to "walk by faith." But the Bible nowhere asserts or implies fellowship of those who are not demonstrating their faith and love by their works. There must be the "work of faith and labor of love." (1 Thess. 1:3) My love must be in deed and in truth, (1 John 3:18) and I must show my faith by my works. (James 2:18) These are the ones who have fellowship one with another; not that they are perfect, but that they are doing the will of God as they find it. The same chapter which speaks of walking, in the light assures us that we do sin, but it just as surely tells us that we are to confess our sins to have Christ's cleansing. The only apparent effort of the brethren who are arguing otherwise is to embrace all of the parties and sects who claim to be baptized believers but are refusing to do even what these brethren concede to be the will of God. The Lord's word affirms no such fellowship, and the assumption that it is, is as bold and brazen as the assumption that instrumental music is acceptable in worship.

Error Vs. Faction

There is a difference between fellowship with the man who does not know because he has not been taught that premillennialism is error, and fellowship with the man who refuses to accept the truth but brazenly continues to propagate his error. There is a difference between fellowship with the man who does not attend Bible classes because without teaching he thinks it wrong, and fellowship with the man who refuses to hear the truth but continues to teach error on the subject to the subverting of minds and the stirring of strife. There is a difference between fellowship with a man who does not know that it is wrong for the church to support a secular school but who is willing to listen to discussion of the matter, and fellowship with the man who obstinately refuses to accept teaching and continues to stir up party strife and faction in favor of his cause and against the rest of the disciples.

These and other pertinent questions will have further study in another article. In the meantime, the next essay will have to do with the sectarian concept of those who advocate fellowship of all "baptized believers."