Published on February 25, 2014
Receive ye one another Understanding fellowship issues in the light of scripture PART 1 – The Scriptural Information
Some Definitions Fellowship (Koinonia) – – – – – – – – As a noun = sharing, participation, close association, mutual interests As a verb = to share, partcipate, have in common, to take part E.gs Rom 15:26 (contribution) 2 Cor 9:13 (distribution) 2 Cor 8:4 (taking part) All major lexicons are consistent in these definitions None give the meaning as referring to a Fellowship in the sense of a group. Scriptural usage = “we have fellowship one with another” Non-scriptural usage = to be a member of a Fellowship E.g Acts 2:42 “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles‟ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” – NET Bible note says “fellowship refers here to close association involving mutual involvement and relationships.” – The most important thing people can share is the gospel. – The basis of fellowship is “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” (1 John 1:7) which involves both a belief (light) and a way of life (walking).
Some Definitions The Body of Christ – A term which has two applications in Scripture, firstly relating to a local congregation of believers as in 1 Cor 12:27 “you are the body of Christ” – Secondly a broader reference to the whole believing community and ultimately all those past present and future who will be united with Jesus in the Kingdom. – In this sense there is only one body (Eph 4:4 “there is one body”) – But… the ultimate members of the One Body are not known to us now but written in heaven (Hebrew 12:23 “the church of the firstborn which are written in heaven” only to be revealed at the last day when the books are opened (Dan 12:1 and Rev 20:12). – The practical instructions which relate to a local ecclesial “Body” whose members are clearly identifiable, are not necessarily applicable to the broader definition of the One Body. – However, the Scriptures do describe some clear responsibilities which we have both towards the local “Body” as well as the wider “Body”. – The word for Church (Ekklesia) works in a similar way in that it refers to both a local congregation as well as a broader meaning of the ultimate Body.
Key: o ecclesial member o a teacher of error o a „fellowshipper‟ of error Town/city/area oooo o o o o o An ecclesia is established in a particular town/city/area, where people can assemble together, interact, worship and work together as one body. Paul, “to the ecclesia of God which is at Corinth”…“ye are the body of Christ and members in particular” (1 Cor 1:2 & 12:27). Gk ecclesia = “a congregation of Christians, implying interacting membership, an assembly of God‟s people” Louw-Nida, Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament 1 Cor 1:10-13 Is Christ divided?
Key: o ecclesial member o a teacher of error o a „fellowshipper‟ of error Town/city/area ooooooooo o o An important part of an ecclesia‟s responsibility includes making decisions on who is received into the ecclesia 1. 2. 3. 4. To those at Ephesus: “take heed unto yourselves…grievous wolves shall enter in among you” Acts 20:28 “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house” 2 John 10 “We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth” 3 John 8 “the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples [at Corinth] to receive him [Apollos]” Acts 18:27 Each of these examples shows the decision to receive, or not receive, being made at the ecclesial door.
Key: o ecclesial member o a teacher of error o a „fellowshipper‟ of error Town/city/area ooooooooo o o Acts 15:4: they were received of the church Phil 2:29: Receive him therefore in the Lord Rom 16:2: receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints Rom 15:7 receive ye one another, as Christ also received us Rom 14:1: Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye Acts 21:17: the brethren received us gladly 3 John 8: receive such… fellowhelpers to the truth
Key: o ecclesial member o a teacher of error o a „fellowshipper‟ of error ooooooooo ooooooooo o o o o ooooooooo o o ooooooooo o ooooooooo o ooooooooo o o o o 1. This ecclesial structure was established and replicated in each place the Gospel was preached. a) b) “To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus” (1 Cor 1:2) “set in order the things that are wanting and ordain elders in every city” (Tit 1:5) 2. The Apostolically established unit for active fellowship and decision-making for the Truth was the ecclesia. “that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar [visible to all around] and ground [supportive of members] of the truth” (1Ti 3:15) 3. No higher body or group was established to review or interfere with ecclesial decisions.
Key: o ecclesial member o a teacher of error o a „fellowshipper‟ of error ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo 1. A clear respect is shown in NT times for each ecclesia‟s independence of action and responsibility. Bro & sis not previously known to an ecclesia were received either by letters of commendation: “the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them” (Ac 18:27) “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord” (Rom 16:1-2) 2. Or by personal interview: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1-6) 3. By doing these things properly each ecclesia recognises that it is part of a greater whole and is able to benefit from and contribute to the good of the whole. 4. Thus, each ecclesia recognises that they have fellowship with all those that they are willing to receive into their ecclesia, and that they do not have fellowship with those that they would not be willing to receive.
Key: o ecclesial member o a teacher of error o a „fellowshipper‟ of error ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo o ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo 1. When error occurs it is to be dealt with using the principles explained by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17, which are in turn based on Old Testament practices (Deut 17:2-6). a) b) c) Personal contact is necessary and a minimum of others are involved at each stage Every word must be established so that the matter is certain before action is taken Fellowship with the individual continues while this happens, with the aim of restoring relationships 2. The Apostles explained that if agreement is not reached then withdrawal becomes necessary to prevent others being drawn into error (1 Cor 5:6) and to ensure the Truth is not brought into disrepute (2 Peter 2:2)
Passage 1 Cor 5:13 when ye are gathered together…to deliver such an one unto Satan 2 Thess 3:13 note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed Tit 3:10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject Rom 16:17-18 mark them which cause divisions …and avoid them 2 Cor 6:14-18 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate Gal 1:6-9 preach any other gospel unto you … let him be accursed Eph 5:11 have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, rather reprove them 1 Tim 6:3-5 If any man teach otherwise … from such withdraw thyself 2 Tim 2:16-18 shun profane and vain babblings …in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves
Key: o ecclesial member o a teacher of error o a „fellowshipper‟ of error ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo o ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo 1. The consequence of not dealing with error is „fellowshipping‟ or „tolerating‟ error – what does it mean? 2. A clear scriptural definition is given in 2 John 10-11: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker (gk-koinonia = fellowshipper) of his evil deeds.” 3. “bid Godspeed” means to welcome with rejoicing (same word as 2 John 4) So, when people in an ecclesia joyfully receive and support a teacher of error, they are “fellowshipping error” 4. Conversely, when they do not receive and support a teacher of error, they are not “fellowshipping error”
Key: o ecclesial member o a teacher of error o a „fellowshipper‟ of error ooooooooo o ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo The example of the Apostles in the NT shows that other ecclesias provided help to an ecclesia with an emerging error problem by: a) b) Visiting the ecclesia to support those investigating and resisting the error (2 Cor 13:1, 3 John 10) Sending faithful brothers to join the ecclesia and help (1 Cor 4:17, Tit 1:5) c) d) Writing with advice or encouragement from a distance (1 Cor 5, 2 Thess 3) Praying for the ecclesia (2 Thess 1:11)
Key: o ecclesial member o a teacher of error o a „fellowshipper‟ of error Ecclesia A ooooooooo ooooooooo Ecclesia C ooooooooo o o Ecclesia B ooooooooo ooooooooo o ooooooooo o 1. While an error is being contended against by faithful brothers, after the example of the Apostles shown previously, other ecclesias continue their vigilance and fulfilling their apostolically ordained responsibilities by: a) Deciding whether to receive those that appear to believe or support the teaching of error b) Deciding whether to receive those who are contending against it and require fellowship and help 2. Because this responsible vigilance continues, other ecclesias can continue to interact and work together. This may go on for a long period as the issue is clarified and the error resisted (e.g. the lifetime of the Apostles) 3. The idea of “fellowshipping error” is properly limited to those that do what John said was “fellowshipping error”
Key: o ecclesial member o a teacher of error o a „fellowshipper‟ of error Ecclesia A ooooooooo ooooooooo Ecclesia C ooooooooo o o Ecclesia B ooooooooo ooooooooo o ooooooooo o 1. By pursuing this Apostolic example the following scriptural principles are upheld: a) b) c) d) e) Error is not tolerated but is contended against in the way shown by the Apostles The Matthew 18 principles of personal contact and certainty are maintained as each ecclesia makes its decisions about receiving people at their ecclesial doors. The independent decision making responsibility of each ecclesia is maintained without interference No one is accused or treated as guilty of doing something that they have not done Peace and unity between as many people and ecclesias that share the Truth as possible is maintained
Key: o ecclesial member o a teacher of error o a „fellowshipper‟ of error o ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo o o ooooooooo ooooooooo o ooooooooo o Because of our inherent imperfection, errors arising in different places will be handled with different degrees of speed, effectiveness and success. Sometimes a successful change will result… …and normal, full relationships can be resumed
Key: o ecclesial member o a teacher of error o a „fellowshipper‟ of error ooooooooo ooooooooo ooooooooo o o ooooooooo ooooooooo o ooooooooo o 1. Other times the result will not be successful and the errant ecclesia becomes established in the error, it fully adopts the error as its ecclesial teaching and baptises people who believe that error. 2. Then the relationship changes and other ecclesias no longer visit or receive members from the ecclesia in error. Normal relationships continue between other ecclesias. 3. Although this change may be communicated, the separation would also occur as a natural consequence of ecclesias fulfilling their responsibilities about who they do and do not receive.
Part 1 - Summary 1. Scriptural fellowship is focussed on relationships between people, rather than Fellowship-Groups. 2. All believers in the one faith in a particular location should assemble and strive to work together as an ecclesia, without divisions. 3. Each such ecclesia has the serious responsibility of deciding who is received or not received so that error is not tolerated, thus protecting the health of its members and the reputation of the Gospel. 4. Each ecclesia also recognises its involvement in a wider body. By taking its own responsibilities seriously it makes a contribution to the health of the body as a whole. Thus each ecclesia is able to recognise in fellowship all those whom it would be willing to receive, wherever they may be. 5. After the Apostles‟ example care should be shown for other ecclesias where warning or help is required to respond faithfully to threats to the Truth in doctrine or practice. But while this goes on, profitable fellowship should continue between ecclesias sharing the one faith and not directly involved in issues that may be affecting other parts of the wider body. 6. Ecclesias must remain separate from religious groups without the Gospel or standing for another gospel. If after all efforts to warn and help an ecclesia reaches this situation, faithful ecclesias will no longer visit or receive members from it.
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