OceanSide church of Christ
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Victor M. Eskew
The words that entitled this article all mean the same thing. If these words are used in an adverbial form, they mean: “to no extent, in no way; not at all” (www.dictionary.com). In some areas of Biblical teaching, these words cannot be emphasized too much. Why? Because it seems that some individuals just do not understand the definitions of the words.
One of the areas wherein the word “no” cannot be understood by some is the realm of fellowship. When a person becomes a Christian, he enters into a unique group of people. These people are referred to as “the church.” “…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). This group of people is a fellowship known as “the called out ones,” the definition of the word “church.” By means of the gospel, this group of people were called out of the sinful world (II Thess. 2:14). This group is composed of the saved. They have been forgiven of their sins by the blood of Christ. They have died to sin. Their lives are no longer given over to sinful practices. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6). Christians leave the world and enter into a group that is a holy fellowship.
Holiness involves purity, sanctification, and consecration. God wants His people to be holy as He is holy. “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Pet. 1:14-16). Holiness is not perfection. It is not a life completely free from sin (I John 1:8-10). It is a mindset that displays itself in one’s thinking, words, and behaviors. A member of the church may sin from time to time, but he does not actively engage in sin. Sinning is no longer a part of his life. When he sins, he repents, confesses the sin, and asks God’s forgiveness (Acts 8:20-24; I John 1:9). Instead of being a slave to sin, he is a servant of Jesus Christ. His life is spent in seeking to accomplish the purposes God has set forth in His Word.
As we continue in this study, we must understand what sin is. Simply put, sin is the transgression of God’s law. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4). There are two broad categories of sin: moral sin and doctrinal sin. Moral sin involves engaging in things that are wrong instead of things that are right. Lying is an example of moral sin (See Eph. 4:25). Doctrinal sin involves teaching and the practice of what is taught. When a person holds to and advocates something contrary to the Word of God, he is committing doctrinal sin. Advocating that baptism is not for the remission of sins is an example of doctrinal sin (See Acts 2:38).
The world is filled with both types of sin. It is also possible for a Christian and a church to embrace one, or both, of these sins as well. This is why the Scriptures warn Christians about falling. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:12). And again, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb. 4:11). When a Christian or a church involves itself in the habitual practice of sin, fellowship with the church is going to be impacted.
When Christians or churches depart from the faith, fellow-Christians and sister congregations are to have NO fellowship with them as long as they persist in sin. Let’s listen to a few passages that exhort us in this matter.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which causes divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17).
“But now have I written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (I Cor. 5:11).
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw youselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (II Thess. 3;6).
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness…from such withdraw thyself” (I Tim. 6:3-5).
A man that is an heretick, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself (Tit. 3:10-11).
“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 of his evil deeds” (II John 10-11).
These passages mean exactly what they say. When a Christian involves himself in moral or doctrinal sin, and will not repent, other Christians are to have NO fellowship with him. If an entire church is involved in moral or doctrinal error, they are not to be fellowshipped. There is to be NO joint-participation with them. Paul goes as far as to say: “…with such an one no not to eat.” Those who do fellowship those in error become partakers of their evil deeds.
This is not a hard command to understand. It is, however, a difficult command to put into practice. This is especially true when it comes to family and close friends who are in sin. When we are put into a circumstance where we must choose between God’s will or a family member or friend, we need to follow the example of Abraham. He was commanded to slay his son Isaac upon one of the mountain of Moriah. And, “by faith Abraham when he was tried, offered up Isaac…” (Heb. 11:17). By faith, we must have NO fellowship with those who habitually engage in sin.