Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 15, 1961

Fellowship Offerings

Robert C. Welch, Nacogdoches, Texas

This is a time for most serious thought on the subject of fellowship. Men who formerly walked together are now divided. Congregations are forming into parties with the apparent purpose of waging battle against the other similar parties. Specific questions begin to arise, such as: If a congregation cannot accept into its fellowship a man who leaves the Christian Church but who says that by faith in Jesus the Christ he has been baptized for the remission of sins, then can that same congregatson receive into its fellowship a man who says he has done the same thing but comes from one of these more recent parties, such as that in favor of church supported colleges, orphanages, Herald of Truth or Gospel Press?

While brethren and churches are thus puzzling themselves with these and other questions involving fellowship, many of the denominations are discussing plans and grounds for union. If that is brought about, it will be fellowship of a kind; but will it be fellowship in the light, or will it be fellowship of darkness? Unless it is based on the word of Christ, it will not be scriptural fellowship.

Some brethren are discussing the question of fellowship in an attempt to broaden its scope and stir up efforts on the part of brethren for more fellowship. Most of these efforts have the singular appeal that fellowship is of prime importance in comparison with other scriptural requirements, faith and baptism excepted. Outstanding in this effort are brethren Reuel Lemmons in the Firm Foundation and Carl Ketcherside in the Mission Messenger. Both are influential men, and their influence is felt through their publications. It is neither reasonable nor righteous to ignore them. Brother Lemmons has particularly addressed himself to the task of a "middle of the road" policy with reference to the church support of benevolent institutions and systems of work involving the functioning of several churches as a unit. He likes to use the term togetherness. Brother Ketcherside has written a lengthy series using the term fellowship, wherein he particularly seeks to weld together all of the parties which to him have grown from "the Restoration Movement."

Both writers have had some good things to say in the matter, and it is either ignorance or prejudice to say otherwise. At the same time several gaps and fallacies are in evidence in their essays. Both seek to get away from party spirit, but manifest it as an element of their present thinking in their articles. Both conceive of something as the "restoration movement" as a distinct group which has later been subdivided, and they think of themselves as belonging to this major denomination, but are unwilling to place themselves with any one of the segments. This will be brought out in subsequent quotations from them. Furthermore, both evidence adherence to the Catholic church-succession doctrine. Instead of speaking of congregations becoming divided in this present time, they consider a mass of congregations as being the historic church of Christ and they have inherited a divided state. Unless the "restoration movement," whatever that is, was a denomination or a unit larger than a congregation, how could it divide? This historic church succession through the restoration movement idea is a denominational concept which many brethren have accepted without due consideration. We need to get to thinking about the congregation and whether or not it belongs to Christ, and about unity within it. Another major gap left by those who are presently suing for fellowship is the scriptural requirement for out-word refusal of fellowship with some. All these things will have treatment in future essays.

"That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that ye also may have fellowship with us: yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And this is the message which we have heard from him and announce unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (I John 1:3-7)

This passage asserts and implies fellowship in several relationships: saints with the apostle who writes; the writer with the Father and his Son; hence, the saints with the Father and the Son; and saints, including the writer, with one another. This last one is not agreed upon by all. Some think that "one with another" is referring to the fellowship of the saints with. God. If the language is carefully examined, however, it will be seen that such is incorrect. The pronoun we will include the writer and those to whom he writes; but it does not include God, for he is referred to by the third person pronoun he, as the example for those designated as we; and it is the we who have fellowship "one with another." Furthermore, fellowship with God has already been asserted in the passage.

Fellowship is defined as: State or relation of being a fellow or associate; a state of being together; community of interest, activity or feeling; partnership. Hence in the cause of Christ we are scripturally fellow-workers, fellow-soldiers, fellow-citizens, fellow-heirs and fellow-partakers. In a scriptural sense we have partnership or fellowship as we share our prosperity with the saints in distress, or share our prosperity with the evangelist in furtherance of the gospel. In a scriptural sense we have fellowship (communion) with Christ as we eat his supper.

The bases or conditions of this fellowship in all of its relationships and phases are summed up in one statement of the above passage: "if we walk in the light." This condition will receive some detailed study in a succeeding article.