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					Church Fellowship



        By John F. Brug



                          1
Church Fellowship:
Working Together for the Truth

 Why is it important?

   It is a Scriptural doctrine.

   It is important to our history.

   It is important to our practice.


                                       2
Scriptural Principles:
  The Unit Concept

                     3
                    Goals
   To review the two main principles of
    the unit concept.
    1. Church fellowship requires agreement in
       all doctrines.
    2. All expressions of church fellowship
       require complete agreement in doctrine.
   To study the abundant scriptural
    evidence for these two principles.
   To consider examples of applications


                                                 4
    Opening Prayer
God of all truth, teach us that every
doctrine your Word teaches is
precious. Not a single one can be
surrendered. Every false teaching is
dangerous poison. Not a single one
can be tolerated. Create in us
obedient hearts, which submit to your
Word, so that we practice fellowship
only with those Christians who submit
to the whole truth of your Word,
neither adding to it nor subtracting
from it. Amen.
                                   5
        Introduction

 Scripture teaches two
  principles.
  Agreement in all doctrine is
   necessary for church
   fellowship.
  Church fellowship includes all
   expressions of a shared faith.

                                6
              Introduction

 We call this the unit concept.
   The term unit stresses the fact that doctrine
    cannot be divided into two categories:
     those which require agreement in all
       doctrine
     and those which do not.
   Unit also stresses that fellowship activities
    cannot be broken up into two categories:
     those we cannot practice with Christians
       who are not in fellowship with us
     and those we can.


                                                    7
  Agreement in all doctrine is
   necessary for fellowship
 The following passages list some of the
  errors the apostles regarded as
  divisive of fellowship:
   Galatians 1:6-8; 3:2
     Rejecting justification by faith alone.
   1 John 2:18,19; 4:2,3
     Rejecting the human nature of Christ.
   2 Timothy 2:16-18
     Teaching error regarding the resurrection.


                                                   8
  Agreement in all doctrine is
   necessary for fellowship
 More errors the apostles regarded as
  divisive of fellowship:
   Jude 3,4
     Claiming that the message of
      forgiveness allows people to sin.
   1 Timothy 4:1-3
     Forbidding people to marry.
     Ordering people to abstain from foods
      God has given us to eat.


                                              9
  Agreement in all doctrine is
   necessary for fellowship
 More errors the apostles regarded as
  divisive of fellowship:
   Titus 3:8-11
     Foolishly quarreling in controversies
       about genealogies and the law.
     Being divisive.
     Not accepting admonition from God’s
       Word.




                                              10
  Agreement in all doctrine is
   necessary for fellowship
 Review some of the errors the apostles
  regarded as divisive of fellowship:
   Rejecting justification by faith alone.
   Rejecting the human nature of Christ.
   Teaching error regarding the resurrection.
   Claiming that forgiveness allows people to sin.
   Forbidding people to marry.
   Ordering people to abstain from certain foods.
   Foolishly quarreling in controversies about
    genealogies and the law.
   Being divisive.
   Not accepting admonition from God’s Word.
                                                  11
  Agreement in all doctrine is
   necessary for fellowship
  Revelation 22:18,19
 What amount of deviation from
  the Scripture brings a person
  under God’s condemnation?
  Adding anything to God’s Word –
   or –
  Subtracting anything from God’s
   Word.

                                     12
Agreement in all doctrine is
 necessary for fellowship
“It is true that, just as some doses of poison
are more deadly than others, the loss of
certain doctrines, such as the doctrines of
justification or the deity of Christ, is more
deadly than the loss of other doctrines, such
as a correct understanding of the doctrine of
the Antichrist. But just as we want no
poison in our food, not even the
unintentional inclusion of small amounts of
cancer-causing substances, so we can
tolerate no poison in our spiritual food, that
is, the teachings of Scripture that feed our
faith.”

                                            13
  Agreement in all doctrine is
   necessary for fellowship


 Scripture makes no exceptions on
  doctrines.
 In order to have fellowship
  together, God’s Word requires
  complete agreement in doctrine.
 Unity of doctrine is necessary.


                                     14
  Agreement in all doctrine is
   necessary for fellowship
Identify the phrases highlighting that
  complete unity of doctrine is
  necessary:
 Matthew 28:20
   “…teaching them to (literally) guard
    and treasure everything I have
    commanded you…”




                                           15
  Agreement in all doctrine is
   necessary for fellowship
Identify the phrases highlighting that
  complete unity of doctrine is
  necessary:
 Ephesians 4:3,11-15
   “Make every effort to keep the unity of
    the Spirit…”
   “Until we all reach unity in the faith…”
   “…no longer infants…blown…by every
    wind of teaching…”
   “…speaking the truth in love…”
   “in all things grow up into…Christ.”
                                               16
   Agreement in all doctrine is
    necessary for fellowship
Identify the phrases highlighting that
  complete unity of doctrine is necessary:
 Acts 20:27-31
   “…proclaim to you the whole will of
     God.”
   “…men distort the truth….So be on your
     guard!”
 1 Corinthians 1:10
   “…agree with one another…”
   “…no divisions…”
   “…perfectly united in mind and
     thought.”
                                         17
   Agreement in all doctrine is
    necessary for fellowship
Identify the phrases highlighting that
  complete unity of doctrine is necessary:
 Revelation 22:19
   “If anyone takes words away…God will
     take away from him his share in the
     tree of life…”
 1 Timothy 1:3,4
   “…command…not to teach false
     doctrines…”
 1 Timothy 6:3,4
   “If anyone teaches false doctrines…he
     is conceited and understands nothing.”
                                          18
   Agreement in all doctrine is
    necessary for fellowship
Identify the phrases highlighting that
  complete unity of doctrine is necessary:
 John 8:31
   Literally, “If you remain in my Word, you
     are truly my disciples….”
 1 Peter 4:11
   “…speaking the very words of God…”
 Romans 15:5,6
   “…God give you a spirit of unity...”
   “…follow Christ…with one heart and
     mouth...”
                                          19
In the light of the above passages
discuss this quote:

 “None of these passages nor any of
  the many other similar passages in
  the New Testament offers even a hint
  of support for the idea that any
  doctrine of Scripture can be
  dispensed with or that any doctrinal
  error can be accepted as harmless.”

                                     20
  Agreement in all doctrine is
   necessary for fellowship

   Romans 14:1-3
 Adiaphora are things neither forbidden by
  God nor commanded by him.
 Examples:
   different liturgies
   moderate use of alcohol
   method of baptism



                                        21
  Agreement in all doctrine is
   necessary for fellowship

 Why are differences in adiaphora not
  divisive of church fellowship?
   We are free in all matters in which God
    has given us no command.
   Nevertheless, adiaphora may become
    wrong
     If someone is using them to cover false
      doctrine
     Example: “Baptism must be by immersion.”


                                           22
    Agreement in all doctrine is
     necessary for fellowship

 Demonstrate from the following that it is
  not necessary to agree in the exact words
  or terminology which Christians use to
  express doctrines of Scripture.
   2 Thessalonians 2:3
   1 John 4:3
 Scripture itself uses different terms
  to describe the same doctrine.
   “Antichrist” and “man of lawlessness”
    express the same teaching.
                                        23
Agreement in all doctrine is
 necessary for fellowship

 Two opposite mistakes
  concerning doctrinal
  terminology:
  1. Denying fellowship to teachers who
     teach the right doctrine but use
     different words to express it
     It is, nevertheless, good to use the same
      terms within a church body to avoid
      confusion.
  2. Failing to condemn false teachers
     who conceal their false teaching by
     using the same words as the
     orthodox church but with different
     meaning                            24
Agreement in all doctrine is
 necessary for fellowship

 Other differences that should not
  be a cause of division in the
  church:

   Loyalty to certain personalities

   Economic , racial, and cultural
    differences




                                       25
     All ways of expressing
      fellowship are a unit

In what ways are Christians expressing
   fellowship in the following passages?
    Hebrews 10:24,25
    Colossians 3:16
 Worshipping together and encouraging
   each other in the faith.



                                       26
     All ways of expressing
      fellowship are a unit

Expressing Christian fellowship…
   1 Corinthians 10:16,17
 Participating together in the Lord’s
  Supper.




                                         27
      All ways of expressing
       fellowship are a unit

Expressing Christian fellowship…
   Galatians 6:6
   1 Corinthians 9:11,14
   Philippians 1:4,5; 4:15
   2 John 10,11
 Supporting preachers of the Word.
   The Philippians became partners in Paul’s
    ministry by supplying his needs.
   2 John 10,11 strongly expresses the negative
    side of the this truth.
                                              28
      All ways of expressing
       fellowship are a unit

Expressing Christian fellowship…
   Galatians 2:8,9
 Having brotherly consultations to
  resolve doctrinal questions.
   Note the handshake as an expression of
    doctrinal fellowship.




                                        29
      All ways of expressing
       fellowship are a unit

Expressing Christian fellowship…
   Acts 15:1,2
 Issuing joint doctrinal resolutions




                                        30
      All ways of expressing
       fellowship are a unit

Expressing Christian fellowship…
   Romans 16:16
 The normal greeting of friendship, a
  kiss, was used to greet a fellow
  Christian and express unity in faith.




                                          31
      All ways of expressing
       fellowship are a unit
Ways of expressing church fellowship that
  require complete unity of doctrine:
     Preaching in a church
     Worshiping there
     Attending Communion together
     Doing mission work together
     Praying together
     Financial support for teachers and pastors
     Training pastors together
     Transferring members
     Praying together
     Giving congratulations or wishing success on
      their work…

                                                32
 In the light of the above passages
          discuss this quote:


 “There is no scriptural basis for dividing
  the various expressions of fellowship
  into different levels that require
  different degrees of doctrinal
  agreement. Different forms of
  fellowship are simply different ways of
  expressing one and the same unity of
  faith.”
                                         33
      All ways of expressing
       fellowship are a unit

 Many church bodies deny the unit
  concept of church fellowship by dividing
  fellowship activities into various levels.
   Some levels require doctrinal agreement
    while others do not.
 Scripture, however, does not make such
  a distinction. All fellowship activities are
  on the same level:
   They are expressions of fellowship between
    those who hold to the same teachings of
    Scripture.
                                              34
          Summary
The unit concept of fellowship is
 drawn from the clear testimony of
 Scripture. It is a teaching of our
 Lord in the Bible. Therefore, we
 must be in agreement in all
 doctrines of Scripture to have church
 fellowship. All ways of expressing
 church fellowship require complete
 agreement in doctrine.


                                    35
Some Guidelines In
  Applying The
   Principles

                     36
The Priority of Principle


 1.     Before we tackle specific cases, we
  should be sure that all parties in the discussion
  understand and agree with the scriptural
  principles as summarized above. We cannot
  make sound applications without a clear
  understanding of the principles. This means
  that we will constantly be studying the
  principles in Scripture, not simply receiving
  them by tradition.

                                                      37
“Hard Cases Make Bad Law”


 2.   We must remember that there are hard
  cases (cases of casuistry) in which it is difficult
  to determine which of two scriptural principle
  applies. Is it still time to warn a weak brother,
  or is it now time to avoid? We should be careful
  not to pass hasty judgment on decisions which
  fellow Christians have made in such difficult
  cases. We may not know all the circumstances
  that led them to their decision. We should
  patiently listen to their explanations.
                                                   38
“Hard Cases Make Bad Law”

 3. We should recognize that exceptional cases
  may lead us to depart from our normal practice,
  but we should be on guard that exceptions are not
  used to undermine the principles. . We must be
  careful that we do not allow difficult cases to
  establish or modify the principles. We may not
  let feelings, emotions, or human reason pressure
  us into a particular application and then reshape
  our principles to condone our action.

                                                39
“Hard Cases Make Bad Law”
 4. We must guard against allowing specific
  applications or historical precedents to become
  rigid rules which govern all similar cases. We
  must evaluate each case in the light of the
  scriptural principles.

 5. When we are faced with such a hard case, we
  should seek the advice of fellow Christians and
  explain the reasons for our actions to those who
  are concerned about them.

                                                    40
   “Hard Cases Make Bad Law”

 6. We not want to establish a detailed code of church
  law which prescribes practices for all Christians
  regardless of their local circumstances. But because
  we live in a mobile society, a certain amount of
  mutually agreed-upon uniformity of practice is
  necessary to avoid confusion and offense among our
  members. Members of our congregations will
  experience less confusion if we develop carefully
  considered guidelines concerning practices among us.
  Great confusion will result from “everyone doing
  what is right in his own eyes.”
                                                    41
  Weak Brothers and Persistent Errorists


 7. We must constantly balance two responsibilities:
  to patiently admonish the weak and to separate from
  those who cling to error. How can we determine if we
  are dealing with weak brothers and sisters or with
  persistent adherents of false doctrine? We can
  determine this only by examining their confession.
  What do they say? What do they do? Does their
  confession contradict Scripture? Are they willing to
  accept instruction and correct their errors? Do they
  reject correction and hold to their error? Are they
  making propaganda for their error?
                                                   42
Weak Brothers and Persistent Errorists

  8. We must be careful that our patience in
   dealing with the weak does not become a
   source of offense and confusion to other
   Christians who get the impression that we are
   condoning error. We can guard against this by
   reporting the status of our dealings with the
   person in error to our brothers and sisters in the
   faith.

                                                    43
Weak Brothers and Persistent Errorists

 9. We must pray for courage and decisiveness
  in dealing with the adherents of error. We ask
  God to take away any timidity or desire for the
  approval of men, which may make us hesitant to
  testify clearly against error or that may make us
  willing to yield to false teachers and their
  followers (Ezekiel 2:3-7, 3:3-8). Avoiding
  confrontation by a “don’t ask, don’t tell”
  practice is not love for the person in error nor
  for the truth. We cannot duck our duty to
  testify to the truth.
                                                 44
Weak Brothers and Persistent Errorists

  10. When we must refuse to practice fellowship
   with adherents of false teaching, we should be
   sure that all parties are aware of the specific
   denials of God’s Word which make it impossible
   for us to work together with these people. It is
   God’s doctrine which is at stake here, not ours.
   We express our concern for doctrine each time
   we pray, “Hallowed be Thy name.” When we
   practice the principles of church fellowship, we
   are obeying the second commandment which
   teaches us to honor God’s name.
                                                 45
Basic Attitudes


 11. We must not regard our responsibility to
  practice the principles of church fellowship as a
  burden or a handicap, but as a privilege and an
  opportunity. Here is an opportunity to show
  love for God and for our neighbor. Here is an
  opportunity to suffer for the truth if it is God’s
  will that we do so (1 Peter 4:12-16).


                                                  46
 Basic Attitudes

 12. Above all, remember that these are not our
  principles of church fellowship; they are God’s
  principles revealed in Holy Scripture. Human
  judgment cannot determine the principles. They
  are established by God’s Word. But human
  judgment must evaluate each situation to see
  which principles apply at this moment. As with
  any application of law and gospel, the proper
  application of the principles of church fellowship
  requires life-long study and practice.

                                                   47
We pray that God gives us the willingness
and the wisdom to apply these principles
faithfully.




                                        48
       Closing Prayer

Lord of the Church, we wish that the
church already had the true unity that
it will have in heaven, but since it does
not, we realize that we must separate
from all who promote and support
false teaching. Give us zeal to work
for doctrinal unity in the church. But
where such efforts fail, grant us the
love and courage to take a firm stand
against error and to turn away from it
wherever it occurs. Amen.
                                      49
 PowerPoint layout:
  Angi Kinsley,
  Pastor Mark A. Cordes
 New Life Evangelical
  Lutheran Church
   Shoreview, Minnesota
 J Brug 2003
                      50

				
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