Are There LIMITS to Christian Fellowship?

Are There LIMITS to Christian Fellowship?

Ephesians 5:11-12 answers this question:

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.”

“Fellowship” means common participation, sharing in a common cause – especially the mutual association of those whose beliefs and practices unite them with God through Jesus Christ. Does this mean we are “in fellowship” with everyone else who considers themselves “Christian?” It is clear that Christians in Ephesus were NOT to share fellowship with some people, even including some who considered themselves Christians. How can we know who we should consider a fellow-Christian?

The new testament’s word for “fellowship” comes from words that reflect the ideas of partnership, common participation, and having something in common with another person. “Fellow-ship” involves sharing or doing something together; we cannot participate “together” in something if we do not share that “something” in common.

U.S. citizens share “fellowship” with all other U.S. citizens; men share the “common ground” of their gender with all other men, as women do with all other women. Common ground in ONE part of life does equate to fellowship in ALL areas, however. Christian fellowship is based on “…fellowship…with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3), and John expands this in verse 7 by writing, “…if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” If we don’t share in fellowship with God (vs. 6), we walk in spiritual darkness. In other words, if we aren’t “on the same page” as God there’s no way we can share Christian fellowship with each other. Fellowship with God is only possible when we are cleansed of sin’s guilt by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7), so anyone who has not been “washed” from sin in His blood (Revelation 1:5) does not have this fellowship.

“Can’t all believers just ignore their differences, and agree to work together?” A religious “union” (people “agreeing to disagree” about their beliefs) is not the same as true Christian fellowship, even though prominent people sometimes assert that it is. Genuine Christian fellowship is based on people’s relationship to God through Christ – not on their willingness to “get along” with each other. It’s simply not possible to have Christian fellowship with someone who’s not “in Christ” (Romans 8:1 & 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus said “…whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50) and “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31). He did not empower US to decide the terms of Christian fellowship, only to “measure” ourselves by His word (John 12:48)! Romans 16:17 authorizes us to, “…mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them” and 2 Thessalonians 3:6 likewise says “…withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.”

By limiting the fellowship of the saved God establishes and maintains the separation of the saints from the world, 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 – we are a “people for His own possession,” 1 Peter 2:9. In doing this, He also maintains the purity of His church; “…friendship with the world is hostility toward God” (James 4:4).

No one who is out of fellowship with GOD can be “in fellowship” with any faithful Christian. Since WE don’t get to set the boundaries of Christian fellowship, it behooves us to “leave the landmarks alone” (Proverbs 22:28)!



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