Friday, November 26, 2010

Relationships, Fellowships, and Associations

Acts 2:42 - And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

I Cor.1:9 - God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

I Cor.10:14-23 - 14Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
15I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
16The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
17For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
18Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
19What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?
20But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
21Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.
22Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?
23All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

II Cor.6 - Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

Eph. 5 - 10Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
11And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Over the years there has evolved a superficial view of which relationships a believer should have and which ones he should avoid. In general we call that doctrine “separation”. In fact, the doctrine or teaching of separation has all but been eradicated, and when it is addressed it is usually in the context of marriage. But in my experience, when a believing girl or boy falls in love with an unbeliever, they can usually come to my office and present an obviously awkward case for his or her salvation. Or the unsaved fiancĂ© will gladly recite some prayer in order to be married.
The verses I posted mean almost nothing in today’s brand of “anything goes” Christianity. Now the Scriptures clearly exhort us to have some evangelistic fellowship with sinners, even the most demonstrable sinners. That means inviting homosexuals or adulterers or felons over to eat with you from time to time. Much of the church has grown accustomed to a bushel style existence that loves the church events but looks down upon lost sinners. Some blogs that claim to be Christian mock and castigate the lost when their brand of sin is at odds with the bloggers moral sensibilities. But as lights we should seek those who dwell in darkness.
But I want to address the other kind of relationships. In the western world the visible church is fragmented into all sorts of beliefs and practices that range from similar all the way to bizarre and even into practicing the ways of other religions and calling them “Christian”. This is a serious situation that demands a Biblical response from anyone who desires to please and glorify Christ in their walk of faith. And with the onslaught of erroneous and extra-Biblical teachings it is imperative that we humbly, but decisively, separate ourselves from those who teach such things.

(Although this not the thrust of this post, there are some orthodx teachers who are so caustic, so self righteous, and even so nationalistic, that we should avoid them as well.)

We must not fellowship with those who label themselves as emergent or post modern or universalist, even if they project themselves as Biblical. But make no mistake, many who travel in such groups are well disguised and are very slippery in their doctrinal expressions. And many who tout an “orthodox” theology, complete with a statement of faith that seems to be Biblical, fellowship and retain ecclesiastical associations with heretics. What are we to make of that? And what is our Biblical direction when that occurs?
For instance, an emergent man named Dan Kimball touts a Biblical theology both in written form and by his own mouth. Although some of his practices, including his appearance, seems a little odd and unorthodox, he still maintains that he is Biblically solid in his theology. But he has many friendships, fellowships, and associations with men whose theology is not only suspect, it is rank heresy. Now that is a problem that demands a response.
Paul rhetorically asks, “What fellowship does light have with darkness”? And therein lies the obvious double mindedness. If a preacher, or any believer, has an orthodox statement of faith and forcefully suggests his theology is Biblical, how can he comfortably fellowship with heretics? Does that not cast some doubt upon his own theology, or at least how deeply he holds to his statement of faith and how wide are his acceptable theological parameters that are outside his own doctrinal descriptions?
For instance, if a man believes in the virgin birth of Jesus, but the preacher down the street teaches otherwise, can the “orthodox” believer exercise a spiritual bond of fellowship with that preacher? No, he should humbly but demonstrably avoid being his ecclesiastical colleague. It comes down to this: In today’s expansive theology many have abandoned any semblance of being separate from those who teach otherwise than Biblical truths. I do not mean to be nit picky, but we are far from that today. The Scriptures are not to be worshiped as we worship Jesus, however they are a glorious and indispensible part of a believer's walk. The moment we dilute the Scriptures is the very moment we are deceived into following human logic and reason.
If Jesus should tarry another fifty years, the church will continue to slide into a gooey conglomeration of beliefs and practices that have long since become untethered to any stretch of Biblical truth. Even the churches with Biblical statements of faith will by their methods and practices overtly mock that which they say they believe. Many are already exhibiting such behavior. And in the coming days, the individual believer will be sorely challenged by the swirling events unfolding around him that present a carousel of confusion. Here are some suggestions:

1. Do not become enamored with any man, preacher or otherwise.

2. Test the spirits, not as a caustic judge, but as a seeker of Jesus and His truth.

3. Beg God to keep you humble every single day. That will be a great challenge.

4. Devour the Scriptures privately, and use the older commentaries as aids.

5. No one’s views are completely accurate.

6. Avoid Scriptural controversy, and in general view “new revelations” as very suspect.

7. The greatest challenge of all will be to deepen you private prayer life.

8. Do not be pressured into having all the answers or understanding all the mysteries.

9. Strive to love everyone, even those from whom you withdraw.

10. Seek Jesus with all your hearts and do not let all the ecclesiastical confusion distract you from Him.


Steve said...

Amen, brother.

Increasingly I'm convinced that God is separating followers of Jesus from followers of doctrines, politics, ministries, and "patriotism." Your post speaks directly to my question: how then must we live, and how must we relate to those following a divergent way ? Your ten suggestions are excellent ones.

In Jesus, Steve

Steve said...


Hope you don't mind: I've posted your ten suggestions on the discussion-board where I first learned of your blog. I think many others there will welcome hearing them as much as I did.

In Jesus, Steve

Rick Frueh said...

I hope they help.

Dave Mosher said...

Great blog, Rick! I appreciate all your comments about discernment in general and about Dan Kimball specifically. God bless you! - Dave