OceanSide church of Christ
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DISFELLOWSHIP: FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Victor M. Eskew
Fellowship within the body of Christ is a precious gift. This fellowship involves sharing, joint participation, and communion with one’s brothers and sisters in Christ. It is obtained when a person is purchased with the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. It points to the fact that all who are in the fellowship are of the same mind and the same judgment. All those in the fellowship of Christ are separated from the world and are endeavoring to accomplish the same goals. This fellowship is unique and holy.
In order to remain in this fellowship, the saints are supposed to live their lives in harmony with the gospel of Christ. Paul told the church at Philippi: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). Titus 2:11-12 states: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” Those who comprise the fellowship of the body of Christ are not to conform to this world, but are to be transformed by renewing their minds with the perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2). As long as godly, holy behavior is maintained, one’s fellowship within the church is secure.
However, when Christians choose to practice a sinful lifestyle, fellowship can no longer be maintained. The Bible teaches us that the sinner must be disciplined. This discipline ultimately involves the sinner’s removal from the holy fellowship of the church. We see numerous exhortations to this end in the New Testament. Jesus Himself noted a time when discipline must be taken. If the trespass of one brother against another cannot be resolved, the trespasser is to be treated as “a heathen man and a publican” (Matt. 18:15-17). In the church at Corinth, a man was involved in fornication (I Cor. 5:1-2). Paul instructed the church about this matter. He said: “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (I Cor. 5:5). In the church at Thessalonica, some members had quit working believing the Second Coming of Jesus was soon to come. Their idleness gave way to their being busybodies. Paul told the church what was to be done to these individuals in II Thessalonians 3:6. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”
The fellowship within the body of Christ is supposed to be holy as we stated earlier. Sin threatens this holiness. Sin, if not disciplined, can spread throughout the entire fellowship of believers. Paul acknowledged this when dealing with the fornicator at Corinth. He wrote: “…Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump…” (I Cor. 5:6-7).
To withdraw fellowship involves all types of interaction with the sinner, except admonishing the erring to repent and come back to the fold (II Thess. 3:15). Yes, this involves any type of social contact as well. In I Corinthians 5:11, Paul teaches this very point. “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 railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” Paul speaks generally when he says: “not to keep company.” He, then, gets specific: “with such an one no not to eat.” The person who is being disciplined must feel the effects of the discipline. He must understand that in his present condition the saints of God cannot have any association with him.
This obligation is extremely difficult when the withdrawal of fellowship happens to a family member or a close friend. We love that person. We enjoy being with the individual. We do not want to have to disassociate from him. So, what is the Christian to do in such cases? One part of the answer has to do on whether the individual is still living in our home. Some have had their spouse withdrawn from. Others have had their children who live with them disciplined. In such cases, there are still obligations that one has as a spouse or parent. A wife does not cease being a wife. A parent does not cease being a parent. In such situations, the family members can admonish the sinner to turn from his wickedness every day.
If our family member or close friend has their own household, the responsibility to withdraw is very clear. We are to have no company with the person. We are not supposed to eat with the individual. Some believe that this is harsh and cruel. Those who think this way need to remember several points:
1. Discipline is designed to save the lost (I Cor. 5:5). If there is no discipline, the person may never change and will be lost.
2. God knows what is best for man. His will is to be honored over our feelings or opinions (Ps. 118:8).
3. God exhorts us not to love anyone, including a family member, more than we love Him. (Matt. 10:37). If we do, we are not worthy of Him.
4. God’s spiritual family is more important than our physical families (Matt. 12:46-50). We should be deeply concerned about keeping the family of God holy (I Pet. 1:15-16).
5. We should never put our soul in jeopardy of being lost (Matt. 16:26; Heb. 12:16-17).
Dear reader, this is one of the “tough” commands from God. It almost equals God’s command
to Abraham to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt offering on Mount Moriah. To obey this command, we must have the faith of Abraham (Heb. 11:17). Let us close with a passage that expresses the will of God in this matter of fellowship. “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as any enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (II Thess. 3:14-15).