Monday, February 27, 2006


What is fellowship... according to the Bible?

A good friend, Tyree, emailed me and brought up this question. She lives near Los Angeles and mentioned that the lectureships at Pepperdine were going to be focusing on fellowshipping, specifically with the group that broke off of the church of Christ 100 years ago; The Christian Church.

She wondered this:If the only real difference in this church is the fact that they worship with musical instruments, and they were baptized for the remission of sins, like us, can we "fellowship" with them? Mind you, she can put most of us here to shame with her Bible knowledge and even more so with her zeal and enthusiasm for Christ and church, she is definitely on the conservative side, despite living in the land of the fruits and nuts, as we say...

I had a hard time answering her. It was a hypothetical question, much like all of us here pose religious discussions. I asked her what fellowship really is. SO I was sort of batting it right back at her...

So I ask ya'll... what is it? Actually, I ask you 3 things:

1) What is "Fellowship" according to the Bible?

2) Not that I don’t think it isn't there, but Id like to know where the Bible states we shouldn't fellowship with those outside of Christ. And if it is there, refer to question number one again.

3) If someone was baptized according to the scriptures, in the same way we in the c of C are saved, according to the Bible, are they not our brethren?

Kind of deep, but we can handle it.


bigsip said...

This is tough because "fellowship" is mentioned so many times in the NT.

I'll try to build my ideas around some that speak directly to what you're asking about.

I'm pretty sure that most people use II Thess 3:6 or the "withdrawl" or "disfellowshipping" example.

"Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks in rebellion, and not after the tradition which they received from us."

This being said, you have to look at what "the tradition" was that was received from the Apostles.

We know that part of it was baptism for the remission of sins, but if you look at I and II Thessalonians, you begin to realize that what Paul mentions at the end of II Thess is talking about more.

The crux of I and II Thess is an argument against sin and gnosticism.

The Thessalonians were a Gentile church and were a little immature. They, as many young churches, were established by Paul and then left to fend for themselves with some visits from Timothy, Silvanus, and letters from Paul.

In the meantime, the doctrines of gnosticism and other false teachings began to creep in.

People in the Thess church had begun to die. This freaked them out because they were being told by other, false teachers that once you died, that was it. So, Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus had to write to them and tell them not to worry or lose heart because The "day of the Lord" wasn't going to happen like the false teachers were telling them.

In any case, these incorrect teachings carried with them hints of gnosticism. Gnosticism would be considered extreme liberalism today. Most gnostics taught that to deny our human frailties would only result in our continued sinning. So, they said to pretty much partake of every sinful thing all at once and get it out of your system.

The other, extreme conservaive side called "asceticism" said that you were to deny yourself every physical thing.

Both were very dangerous and wrong. All of the Apostles had to teach against these ideas over and over.

In any case, this is where the "traditions" come in. Paul is telling them to "abstain from sexual and other immorality" and "do not listen to false teachings about Christ".

He told them after all this at the end of II Thess to "withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks in rebellion, and not after the tradition which they received from us."

I know this is a lot for a little, but I think this goes to show that we sometimes make a lot out of this passage, too.

That being said, we have to look at the Word holistically. If "the traditions" here encompass the whole of the Christian belief system, we have to apply this idea to all the situations where "rebellion" might sneak into our "fellowship".

Another thing we have to determine, then, is "What is rebellion?"

What is against what the Word says or doesn't say that would cause someone or a group of people to be in rebellion?

That's the root question, I think.

bigsip said...

Am I the only one who's gonna write something on this?

Here's the online parallel Bible link, GET TO IT SLACKERS!

bigsip said...

I took the liberty of adding the link to the Online Parallel Bible to our blog!

So, research your hearts out.

Jamison said...

Sip, give it time man, I only posted it last night.

And thanks for this great info... sheds a great deal of light. I knew I could count on you for some good stuff

bigsip said...

Thanks! Sorry, I'm just anxious to see what everyone comes up with.

There's really quite a bit about fellowship in the Bible.

If you put the word "fellowship" into that online parallel bible and search, you'll get tons of hits.

Rachel said...

This is a tough one because there were no denominations in the New Testament Church. But there were divisions, so that's what I'm looking at.

2 Peter 2:1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Okay, so here we have condemnation on false teachers who split up the Church. But read a little further, and I think you'll see that we're not talking about one-cuppers or the like...

2 Peter 2:14With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!

-and more clearly still... 2 Peter 2:18For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.

This sounds like an entirely different religion! (need I tell you of the celebrities who say that you are your own God?) Not a division based on practices in worship.

Here's another one. Romans 16:17I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

This is about good and evil. About that which is contrary to the teachings of the Bible.

Jamison said...

Good stuff... but still, are they are brethern? They were saved in the same way and for the same reason we were... does a guitar or keyboard block that fact?

mind you, devils advocate...

bigsip said...

Is using instruments in worship "rebellion" or going against God's plan?

Again, it's a tough call.

Baptism for the remission of sins is one thing and baptism into obedience is another to be considered.

I believe God's plan for worship is that we worship with unity; something that is broken down by the introduction of mechanical instruments into our singing.

So, therefore, instruments are a divisive thing and should be done away with.

Divisiveness is also condemned in many places in scripture which lends credence to the view that instruments should be done away with in worship since they are divisive.

It's a logic puzzle to be sure, but one I think can lead to showing that mechanical instruments take away far more than they add to worship and are actually a hinderance to our worshipping in unity as one to the Lord.

That's where the sinful aspect comes in. Divisive things (like Paul's mention of meat eating, circumcision, etc.) are taught against over and over in the Bible. Worshipping as one to the Lord in singing is an example given in many circumstances in the NT.

So, logically, one can't deny that introducing something that breaks down unified worship is wrong aka sinful.

It really makes sense to me, but I know this line of thinking well because I've studied it for a long time. Trying to convince someone else of it, though, is a different story.

Jamison said...

Thats a good explanation Sip, thanks...

But what stinks is that when we read the Bible, it makes sense. It is simple, it is easy.

But then when you try to explain stuff like this, it is like a "choose your own adventure" book and a research paper... But I know it is men that make it confusing, not God.

I discussed with her my theory on how we have "invented" sins...

I think collecting money on the first day of the week and that you MUST get it to the church, not some missionary for example is "invented". I also feel that, even though we teach the children the "5 acts of worship" there really only seems to be 3 to me... I hardly consider a preacher preaching part of worship... I mena, it is cool and all, but not really worship... but that's just me...

Jamison said...

I dont know why, but I am looking forward to brew putting in his 2 cents on this topic...

of course id love to hear from chuck, but the chances of that are slim to none.

bigsip said...

I know we invent some sins. Most of it comes from a good place.

People don't want folks they love to become alcoholics, so they say to cut out alcohol altogether, etc.

But, the Bible isn't always easy. Just look at Revelation.

This is where in-depth study and wisdom prevail.

As far as something like drinking, instrumental music, or fasting, you really have to look at them deeply.

Giving is another thing you have to really study, but I agree that giving is a very personal thing and should be done in accordance with one's ownw conscience and level of committment.

Anyway, instrumental music is a biggie. Why do people get so hung up on it?


It's always going to stir deep feelings when you talk about music in worship. When it comes down to it, in my view, singing (music), praying, and Communion are the three big worship sources.

Preaching is a source of knowledge, but can really take place anytime, anywhere (see Paul preaching to the Athenians).

Giving is something that is also an anytime, anywhere thing (see Annanias and Saphira). Funny thing is, most people even stand behind the Lord's Table and say "This is separate from the LS and we do this now out of CONVENIENCE." So, how is it a part of the worhip period? It's about convenience.

Anyway, back to music, again. It's a hard thing to discuss because it elicits strong feelings and responses.

My breakdown before comes from my study of it. I don't base my belief of no mechanical instruments in worship on the idea that the Bible says "singing only". I base it on the deeper issue of "unity in the Spirit" and in worship. Singing is obvious. We're supposed to do that, plain and simple. But, everyone looks over unity and togetherness and what that really means when it comes to worship. It's a focus on the Supreme Being of God as one body. ANYTHING that breaks that unity is anathema.

But, again, it's hard to show this point without someone saying, "Well, I see your point, but what about..."

And the discussion goes round and round...

Brewster said...

The crux of the question is whether or not this church is a part of the Lord's Church. That is something I can't answer, for I don't know anything about them.

I have a hard time believing the only difference is instrumental music.

The thing about instruments to me is not so much somene playing a guitar, but an interpretation of scripture.

No where is the use of instrumental music authorized or even mentioned in the New Testaments. They simply didn't do it.

So when we decide to use intruments in worship we are opening up our interpretation of God's Word. I think when we start to do that, it becomes easy to take the Bible less seriously.

It doens't say I can't have a deaconess or elderess. It doesn't say I can't have a pope. Tequilla and icecream for the Lord's supper anybody?

Now am I saying that using instruments is a damnable offense? No, I'm not ready to say that. Though I'll agree with Sip in that I don't think its a good thing, causes more harm than good, and I don't see the point of it. But I also won't say that if this other church believes everything else perfectly correct and still plays guitar then I'm willing to call them brethren.

Brewster said...

For the most part, CofC members want everything in black and white broken down to the nth degree.

Worship is a big broad word. So we have to break it down into "acts" So we can say, yes we worship, heres how.

We want to break down sin into little sections. Drinking to excess is sin so having a sip is sin. Here's exactly how many steps we can take on Sabbath.

Amy and I give to the congregation here each week and we send Daniel in France some as well. The church here won't support him, but darn it we can.

Sip and I have had that musical instrument discussion before so go back and read that.

Jamison said...

kewl stuff... brew, you on a lunch break or something? Ill send Tyree the link to this post... I hope it answers her better than I could have...

Brewster said...

I'm off this afternoon. That part is great, but what sucks is I have to work this weekend.

bigsip said...

HAHA...Yeah, I didn't want to go back and forth on all that again, either, Brew...

As much as I see instrumental music as something that weakens worship and unity, I still can see why it's an issue that will not be fully reconciled until we see God in Heaven.

I honestly feel that instrumental music will not be the dividing line on Judgement Day.

But, our reasons for why we do or do not worship certain ways will be.

If our worship is done out of clean and pure love and a desire to serve and worship God with all our hearts, I think we're safe.

But, if the attitude in folks' hearts is that if pride, them saying, "I'll worship however, whenever I want, just like I'll live how I want and I don't care what God has to say about it." That person is likely to have a problem.

I know none of us have that issue. But, there are plenty of people in and out of the church who do.

Jamison said...

I agree... if we are going to change things in worship and say "It is all how you look at it" or "That was how they did it back then" or "God will love us no matter how we worship" then, why go to church at all? Heck, why even be moral? Call adultery morality and say you are doing it to glorify God? I mean, if youa re going to bend a few rules, ignore a few scriptures, then why not go all out?

Ryan F. said...

II John 9-11 are key verses IMO. I would say here that the doctrine of Christ would be any teaching of Christ, which in my opinion would be any teaching of the new testament. People who use instruments aren't doing it to please God, they are doing it to satisfy their own wants & wishes. That doesn't sound like someone who abides in the doctrine of Christ (Jn. 4:24)

bigsip said...

Great point, Jamison!

And it all goes right back to studying and understanding scripture.

God has a plan. He has revealed it to us. We can KNOW what it is if we're willing.

All it takes is studying and looking at everything together. The phrase "thoroughly furnished" comes to mind.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Jamison said...

Here is a little (LONG) email from Tyree, lots of good thoughts... told you she was good...

Okay, here goes. I hope you can follow, b/c I've got about a million thoughts in my head right now.

1. Obviously not everyone who is baptized for remission of sins is a "brother." For example, Mormons believe in baptism for remission of sins, yet their whole perception of the nature of God is so drastically skewed, as well as their beliefs of doctrine, the inspiration of Scriptures, and of course, their following of Joseph Smith, to name just a few. I am referring to those who believe and are baptized according to the Scriptures (as reasonably as we can ascertain - only God knows their hearts). I believe we should regard someone who believes and is baptized for remission of sins as a brother or sister in Christ. Now the question becomes whether that brother or sister is an "erring" Christian, b/c of the way he or she worships.

2. None of us worship correctly, that we can be sure of. So we are all "erring" in some way or another. We know that the whole of the NT was the shift away from legalism (the letter of the law) toward the heart (the spirit of the law). That is not to say that their are no rules - there certainly are. However, how often do we create laws (or sins, as you said) where there are none? There are matters of doctrine, matters of conviction, and matters of preference. I define doctrine as clearly stated in the NT, conviction as those based on NT principles but not clearly defined, and preference as not mentioned in the NT at all, either directly or indirectly. Matters of doctrine are non-negotiable; matters of conviction and preference are. How often do we turn convictions and preferences into doctrine?

3. Is instrumental music a matter of doctrine or conviction? I believe it is a matter of doctrine. I would not worship at a church that used instrumental music. I regard these Christians as "in error." Perhaps I shouldn't have used instrumental music as my question - it is very difficult. I agree that it is a matter of unity.

4. I agree that the Scriptures pertaining to "disfellowship" do not speak to issues like musical instruments. In my study of disfellowshipping, I concluded that it refers to people who call themselves Christians, yet are living a double life - such as one of sexual impurity - and who refuse to repent thereof. By disfellowshipping, they were not to associate with that person socially, unless for the purpose of trying to bring that person to repentance.

5. For the purpose of the initial question, I would define "fellowship" as planned social events between congregations for the purpose of mutual edification. Obviously we can't escape acquantainceships or relationships with non-believers (although we are not to be "yoked" with them). We are to be a light in the world - therefore, we are to be out there socializing with them as Jesus did with the tax collecters and "sinners." One-on-one relationships are not what I'm referring to - I am referring to congregations getting together with other congregations.

6. My eyes have been opened to how different people's views are, even in the same congregation! The more I get to know people at my church, the more astonished I am that we can all worship together, with as many different views as we have! Therefore, we can speak in generalities, but each congregation is different and each member is different. God will be the ultimate Judge. On the other hand, we are to judge those in the church (1 Cor. 5:12) for the purposes of disfellowshipping.

6. We know there are to be no divisions in the Church - but like I said before, there are so many individual viewpoints that differ - how do we define division?? We are to be of like mind and spirit, but to what extent? I would say on matters of doctrine only - the rest are convictions and preferences.

7. What about hand-clapping and hand-raising? Last year at Pepperdine, during the hour-long SongFest, there were hundreds of people gathered together to sing praises. It was beautiful singing, acapella, but many people clapped and raised hands. I was bothered by it at first, and very distracted. But by the end of the week, I was able to sing and pretty much tune out the distractions. Did I become "desensitized" to it or accepting of it? No, b/c I still feel it is out of place in worship. But by the end of the week, I felt pleased that so many people could put their differences aside for a brief time to praise God together, without criticizing one another.
I do believe that in a lot of instances, God probably wishes we would all just shut up and focus on loving one another and Him. We do get very nitpicky from time to time and I just wonder what's worth it and what's a waste of time.
We are told to "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:3) Does that mean we should worship with those who clap or raise hands? (By the way, I don't necessarily think hand-raising is wrong, though I myself wouldn't do it and feel it is a distraction or a way of attracting attention to oneself. Also in 1 Tim. 2:8, Paul says "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer..." and the Greek word for "men" literally means males only.)

Just some more things to think about...

Ryan F. said...

I agree with most of that, but not all. I don't think that God made it so that we can never really know whether or not we are worshipping Him correctly. See John 4:24. I also believe that II John 9-11 speaks to those who do not abide in the teachings of Christ, which would include how we worship Him.

bigsip said...

I think she had some great points!

I do believe, as Ryan said, that we can know what God wants from us as far as worship and really everything else in our Christian lives is concerned.

That's why I stick with the coC. I truly believe they have the Biblical, seeking attitude overall that helps us to look at scripture in its purest light.

bigsip said...

I got to thinking more about "fellowship" and came up with an example most of you will appreciate.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, 9 people were chosen for a purpose. That sole purpose bound them together and guided every action until that fellowship was broken by the actions of one.

So, too, our fellowship as Christians is about the unity and "bond of peace" we have together.

1 John 1:7 says,

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

WE walk together in unity. Felowship demands unity. If that unity is broken, the fellowship of saints is also broken.

Therefore, fellowship hinges on the unity of the saints.

Some final words from Paul...

Eph 4: 1-3

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and humility, with patience, bearing with one another in love; being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Jamison said...

that actually explained alot to me...
If the preacher at Mullins' church is reading, I am sure that a clip of FOTR will be going along with the next sermon...

bigsip said...

Cool! He could get Mullins to superimpose his head on Aragorn's shoulders...

Diana said...

I like her.

Jamison said...

In response to Ryan. (From Tyree)

This is hard for me to explain...
I think that we can know how we're supposed to worship, but I don't think any of us do worship how God intended for Christians to worship. We base our worship on what's commanded in the NT and by the example of the 1stcentury church. Yet so little time is spent on how the NT church actually worshipped. I bet we do a lot of things differently than the NT church did.

Had God simply spelled it out for us and made a list of what we're supposed to do in worship and how we're supposed to do it, we would have become like the Jews - legalistic - and our worship would be simply a routine, like a Catholic mass. In addition to the "acts" of worship (singing, prayer, communion, giving,etc.) God wants us to worship Him with our hearts. I think all too often we are distracted by the cute baby in front of us (or the screaming baby in front of us), or the "order" of worship - and instead are not aware that we are in the presence of God Almighty.

We are so afraid of being emotional - allowing ourselves to be moved by a song or a prayer - because we might become like "them" (denominations). So instead we let our worship become cold and habitual. Is that worshipping how God intended?

bigsip said...

You like who?

I'm confused...

Check, please.

Diana said...

Elizabeth Taylor.

NO! I like Tyree. She has a way of explaining it all that doesn't make me feel dumb, but it's still higher level thinking.