Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 22, 1961
NUMBER 8, PAGE 7,14c

Fellowship In The Light

Robert C. Welch, Nacogdoches, Texas

Fellowship is one of the great blessings enjoyed by Christians in this life. At peace with God we have fellowship with him. Observing the Lord Jesus Christ's commands we have fellowship with him. (Matt. 28:20; 18:20) By sharing our blessings both spiritual and natural, out worship and our service to God through Christ, we have fellowship with one another. This state and condition of fellowship can be forfeited and rejected by the Christian just as other blessings and provisions may be forfeited and forsaken. We have access into the grace of God, but men can fall from that grace. (Rom. 5:2; Gal. 5:4) Men can be called friends of the Lord (John 15:14, 15); but they can then reverse the condition and have the Lord say he never knew them. (Matt. 7:21-23) Men are called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9); but they can remove from him that called them in the grace of Christ (Gal. 1:6), and can be severed from Christ (Gal. 5:4). In like manner the fellowship of brethren with one another is conditional and can be forfeited and forsaken. God is not unrighteous because fellowship is forfeited with him. Christ his Son is not unholy because men are severed from him. Neither is the righteous man who is in fellowship with God and Christ unrighteous because others forfeit fellowship by failure to comply with the conditions of fellowship.

The conditions of this fellowship are summed up in one statement: "but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) What is included in walking in the light? When that is determined we will then have an understanding of the full condition of fellowship with one another. That there is a limit to fellowship no man can deny if he accepts this passage as authoritative. There are differences, however, as to the conditions and limits of fellowship embraced in the term "the light."

Brother Carl Ketcherside claims that this fellowship is entered by faith in Jesus Christ and immersion into him; "Fellowship is a state or condition into which we are called by God. (1 Cor. 1:9) We come into that state by being immersed into Christ Jesus." (Mission Messenger, Sept. 1959, p. 7) He is correct in that statement. But beyond this, with but one exception, the gist of his teaching is that that brotherhood or fellowship remains unbroken. That exception has to do with his definition of what is meant by the term, "walking in the light." He argues that that includes only the love of brethren. And he contends that the only condition of walking in darkness is hatred of brethren. Note his latest writing on that point:

"In God's circles of 'light' and 'darkness' there are, of course, two categories. 'He who loves his brother abides in the light.' (1 John 2:10) 'He who hates his brother is in the darkness.' (verse 11) It will be admitted that one can oppose instrumental music and hate his brother. Such a person is in darkness, not because of his position on instrumental music but because of his attitude toward his brother. It will also be admitted that one may endorse instrumental music and love his brother fervently. Is he in the light? If not, have we set up a double standard?" (Mission Messenger, May, 1961, pp. 7, 8)

There is a basic error in his argument. While it is certain that anyone who hates his brother is in darkness, the error of his argument is in supposing that that is the only thing which places a man in darkness. He supposes that the only condition for being in the light is to love his brother. This supposition is on the grounds that that is the only condition stated in the passage. The same reasoning will cause him to rule out immersion as a means of access into fellowship, for there are many passages which mention nothing but faith. The faith-only man needs to read the other conditions which are in the word of Christ. The love-only man needs to read the other conditions which are in the word of Christ.

Brother Reuel Lemmons has been neither as explicit nor as prolific on the subject, but he has arrived at just about the same conclusion of brother Ketcherside. He makes simple faith and baptism the only essentials to fellowship with one another. He says; "In the kingdom, men associate with each other. That association is called by the apostles 'fellowship.' Fellowship is an affair between men." Then he says; "The existence of fellowship is called 'unity'," Thus he concludes that fellowship will be brought about as "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)

The context of the passage which gives the condition of walking in the light shows that there is more to walking in the light than the love of our brother. The writer says that he is declaring what he has seen and heard in order that that fellowship might be maintained. (1 John 1:3) Now, if all that John has seen and heard is that we are to love our brother, that will be it. But if he has seen and heard other things, and it does embrace all that he tells us, then we will need to take that also in order to have fellowship with John, with God and his Son, and with one another; for that is walking in the light as he is in the light.

Since, however, love of our brother is stated as a condition of walking in light, (1 John 2:10) let us continue our reading in this epistle. We can find how to prove that we love our brother: "Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do his commandments." (I John 5:2) Hence we have John affirming that fellowship with one another is walking in the light and hinges upon our loving our brother which in turn is determined by our keeping the commandments of God.

The foregoing precepts place brother Ketcherside's case of the man with the instrument in a hard way for fellowship. Whatever brother Ketcherside's disposition in the matter may be, can there be fellowship? is there walking in the light? is love of brethren manifested by the man when he does not keep the commandments of God? Contrary to John's statement, brother Ketcherside has affirmed that the man can fulfill the condition of love of his brother. In like manner, brother Lemmons finds his definition short. The only things of which he can be certain are simple faith and baptism. But John says it depends upon keeping the commandments of God.

There is no escape from the truth that the entire word of Christ is our rule of walk and determines our fellowship with God, Christ and with one another. Not that any one of us is perfect in knowledge and practice; but that together we are growing in grace and knowledge, (2 Pet. 3:18) and pressing on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God. (Phil. 3:14) God is light, perfect, complete; as he is in the light, we are to walk in the light, in him. In this walk we have fellowship one with another.