Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 27, 1961
NUMBER 12, PAGE 3,11c

Fellowship Terminated

Robert C. Welch, Nacogdoches, Texas

Not every person who by faith has been baptized into Christ continues to be in fellowship with God, Christ, the apostles and the saints. If he ceases to love his brother he no longer has this fellowship into which he was called.

(1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 2:11) Though I must continue to love this man who has lost his love, yet it is my duty to recognize his condition of darkness and lack of fellowship, and refuse fellowship with him. "Let no man deceive you with empty words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them;.... and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." (Eph. 5:6-11) Furthermore we are told that the person who does not love God and keep his commandments has forsaken the light and fellowship. (1 John 5;2; 1:3-7; 2:11)

Some brethren hold the theory that our fellowship should be with every person who by faith has been baptized into Christ. It is doubted however, that all of them are agreed as to the identity of all those baptized believers. Brother Reuel Lemmons of the Firm Foundation tells us that it is "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) But I have not heard of his association with those of the Christian Church. Brother Carl Ketcherside, on the other hand, who formerly limited his association to those who rejected individually supported colleges, rejected a located preacher with a congregation, and so forth, is now engaged in a concerted drive for association with the Christian Church; and he further teaches that there are Christians with whom he should have fellowship in all the denominations:

"Truth must be our chief consideration so I unhesitatingly state that I believe the sheep of God are a scattered flock and that God has a people in Babylon. I am convinced that there are many Christians among the sectarian parties of our day....

"It is only when we recognize our brethren and love them as brethren that we can move toward a closer association with each other and a closer walk with God. We cannot unite the family by denying the paternity of those who compose it." (Mission Messenger, June, 1961, p.8)

Conditions Of Fellowship

Fellowship cannot be had with a teacher of false doctrine. If I do so I am a participant in his doctrine. "If any cometh unto you and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting: for he that giveth him greeting partaketh in his evil works."

(2 John 10, 11) This is a passage which my brethren are leaving strictly alone as they seek for fellowship with sectarians. Brethren are saying that we can have fellowship with the person but not with his evil deeds and teaching. This passage denies it. This inspired statement is emphatic that if we sanction the man we sanction his work.

Does that mean that I am pleading for the impossible, a perfect person and a perfect congregation? Not necessarily. Are they leading astray with their false doctrine and practice? Are they causing division and trouble? Or are they willing to engage in study and discussion in an honest search for the truth? Are they willing to refrain from forcing a practice upon me until we can study and see if it is authorized? These are some of the questions which will determine the point of terminating partnership .

There have been many cases where a brother thought it permissible to use an instrument in worship, but he was not seeking to install one in the worship, neither was he stirring any confusion by teaching that it is permissible; in this circumstance fellowship was maintained. But if he had taught his false doctrine or had tried to place the unrighteous practice in the worship, duty would have caused the congregation to "mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them." (Rom. 16:17)

There are cases where brethren who did not think it permissible to have classes of Bible study were retained in fellowship, because they did not disrupt the congregation by teaching their opinion, and the others did not try to force them into doing that which they thought wrong.

In many congregations there have been premillennialists who have quietly held their opinion to themselves and have been able to sustain fellowship with the congregation. Had they been unwilling to remain quiet, but tried to stir up and lead astray into the theory, then the charge to the Romans would demand turning away from them.

There are brethren retaining fellowship in congregations, who think that it is scriptural for churches to support schools, orphanages and other human agencies, but they are not trying to lead the congregation into the practice nor divide the congregation over it, nor force the others to participate in that which they hold. If they try to lead the congregation or a part of it into the practice or try to force it upon others, then they should be dealt with according to these instructions: "A factious man after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned." (Tit. 3:10. II) Though the term fellowship is not used in the passage, yet no one could successfully deny that to refuse a person, and to turn away from him, is the equivalent of ceasing fellowship.

Brethren were pleading for moderation but others put the instrument of music into the worship over their protest. In their factious spirit they hastily formed themselves into an exclusive sectarian denomination. Brethren have recently pled for moderation while church support of human agencies could be discussed, but others have forced it into the congregations anyhow. In their factious temper they are hastily forming their exclusive party-line. In such cases it is not a matter of our withdrawing fellowship; it is purely a matter of recognizing the schism they have made, and recognizing the Lord's requirement concerning such factious men. Fellowship can be righteously had with the ignorant, but not with the factious.

A plea to my brethren is, that we do everything righteously possible to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; but that we be careful not to broaden our fraternal fellowship beyond the bounds of God's fellowship; that we seek to establish a disposition of moderation in our discussion of differences with one another; that we make no hasty and later to be regretted actions against our erring brother; that we stand unflinchingly against error and those who promote it; but that all we do be done in love. -- "Love the brotherhood."