Where is the Line of Fellowship?

How do we determine where the line of fellowship is to be drawn.  Through the years we have seen various groups draw their circles of fellowship police1smaller and smaller until very few were included in the circle.  Obviously there will be differences in every congregation.  Since churches are filled with individuals who hold varying views on everything religious, no two churches will hold identical views of Scripture.  Their attitudes, direction, and even doctrine will vary.  Under these circumstances where do we draw the line?  How do we deal with this subject of fellowship?  Honestly, we haven’t been very consistent in our efforts.

If we are honest about our definition we are really discussing how we view the salvation of others.  In many instances when we talk about fellowship what we really are discussing is whether we accept the salvation of another individual or church.  If we accept them as saved and in good standing before God we  extend fellowship.  If we believe them to be in error and outside God’s acceptance we refuse to recognize them as fellow workers in the kingdom.  This becomes an issue of judgment in our own minds.  Do we have the right to make these determinations?

Two things I want to discuss in this post:  First, do we have the right to sit in seats of judgment.?  Second,  if we do have the right to sit in judgment where do we draw the lines?  In the future we will discuss other factors concerning fellowship, but at this point this will be the extent of our discussion.

Romans 14:4 states,”Who are you to judge someone else’s servant:  To his own master he stands or falls.  And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”  In view of this verse, do we have the Scriptural right to pass judgment on any of God’s servants?  Are we here to police the followers of Christ?  As soon as these questions are asked we will hear all the verses normally quoted such as, “Mark them that cause divisions among you.”  It is an important question, “Do I have the right or responsibility to pass judgment in order to maintain doctrial purity, provided I am sure I have determined what doctrinal purity actually is?”

Let’s assume for the sake of the discussion that it is the responsibility of Christians to draw lines in the sand concerning this idea of fellowship.  Where do we draw the line? line-in-sand1 Can there be differences in how we view doctrine and if so which doctrine must be the same and which doctrine are we allowed to see differently?  Is it essential that we hold the same view on marriage, divorce, and remarriage in order to be extended fellowship?  Is there room for difference in how we view the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or must we see it exactly the same?  Can we have a kitchen in the church building or is this a sin that will cause souls to be lost and therefore a line in the sand concerning fellowship?  If I am a member of a church that claps during worship does that mean I am unworthy of fellowship?  What if we have multiple songleaders we call a praise team should fellowship be withdrawn?  Is the line drawn at the point of the insertion of instrumental music in worship?  Could it be at the point of changing the name from Church of Christ to some other name even if that name is also a Biblical name but different than “The Church of Christ?”

All of the above mentioned items have caused followers of Christ to withdraw fellowship from fellow believers.  If we must see all issues the same in order to consider each other safe and saved can we ever effectively  have unity? 

At Gethsemane Jesus prayed for unity among His followers.  We can be certain Jesus wants us to be united.    The question is this, “Did Christ give us a right to draw a line in the sand and if He did where shall we draw that line?

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6 Responses to Where is the Line of Fellowship?

  1. Todd Deaver says:

    Excellent questions, Dell. I enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Don Morrison says:

    There are definitely lines for who is a believer and who is of the world, since there is biblical reference to those “who went out from among us for they were not of us” for example. However those lines were not drawn even near the ones we seem to deal with so that we have fellowship distinguished by capital and lowercase “f” (i.e. Fellowship v. fellowship).

    Our relationship with others (believers and not) is based on our relationship with Christ who is always trying to develop fellowship with everyone. Jesus partied with Matthew and his “sinner” friends. He continued to work for fellowship even with the Pharisees, Saducees, and teachers of the law. He even extended fellowship to Judas, eating with him and washing his feet, though he had already made his “deal with the devil.”

    We are those who are always encouraging others into a relationship with Christ – no matter who they are or what they have done.

    Thanks for your thoughts

  3. Don says:

    Thanks Dell. Paul seems to speak to this concern to a point in Romans 14. For a long time, traditionally, I believed that the person who had all of the scruples was the strong brother…however, if the question is considered in the context of the above passage, it is apparent that it is the weak brother who draws lines, has a lengthy list of regulations. Blessings, Don

  4. hafford cook says:

    I enjoy the thoughts. Where does I Corinthians 1:10 fit
    into this discussion? Thank you

  5. Su Hermano says:

    The problem with drawing lines, is that soon you find yourself all alone, behind your own line. We will never enjoy the unity that Jesus prayed for until our list of what is important is as short as Paul’s. Jesus Christ and him crucified.

  6. 1 Corinthians 1:10 fits in by allowing the context to continue. In verse 13 Paul asks the question, “Is Christ divided?” If you continue in the context you will find where our source of unity finds it’s power. Verse 17 tells us we must preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. The source of unity is Christ and the preaching of the cross. The problem with many today is we try to allow the power to be in human wisdom. This only empties the cross of Christ of it’s power.

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