Paul F Pavao
So many choices; so many competing churches. Does the Bible say anything about whom we should fellowship with?
There is at least one verse that directly addresses the subject:
Flee youthful lusts, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Tim. 2:22)
This gives us something to work with. Our goal is not to have awesome worship with a choir or band leading us into the presence of God. That can be a wonderful thing if the band is not idolized, but it is not our goal.
The goal of our fellowship is not terrific preaching. Terrific preaching can be wonderful when it is the truth that is being preached, but it is not our goal.
The goal of the fellowship of the saints is to pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, and all those who call on the Lord from a pure heart should be doing that together.
What church has these people that are calling on the Lord from a pure heart? Which church should you or I join in order to find them?
Most of the time our choices concern which church we should go to, and we base that choice on a statement of faith or doctrine.
The Bible tells us that there is a "sure foundation" that we can trust:
Concerning the truth, some have erred, saying that the resurrection is already past, and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the foundation of God stands sure, having this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let those who name the name of the King depart from iniquity." (2 Tim. 2:21-22)
There are many doctrines which divide churches and Christians, but God appears to care about one: stop sinning.
Turn away from iniquity.
God says he knows who belongs to him. That's not for us to worry about. What is for us to worry about is that those who name the name of King Jesus are turning away from iniquity.
On this page, concerning this subject, I am touching on just one purpose of the Church. The Church is Jesus' bride. The Church will reign with Jesus. She will be the habitation of God. The Church is a huge subject and it requires the revelation of God to understand just how important the Church and the unity of its members is.
On earth in this age, though, the Bible is clear that the churches should actively be seeking one goal: to be like Jesus by turning away from iniquity.
Really? The Bible says this?
Really and repeatedly. Consider the following verses.
He has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. (Eph. 1:4)
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works. Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhort one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching. (Heb. 10:24-25)
This is a faithful saying, and I want you to affirm these things constantly, that those who have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. (Tit. 3:8)
These verses tell us that God chose us in Jesus before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame before him in love. They say we should be preparing for our times together by thinking about how to provoke one another to love and good works. Even our time together as an assembly is to exhort one another, keeping ourselves persevering in obedience to the Lord. Finally, we have read that we must be careful to maintain good works. Paul wanted Titus to affirm this "constantly."
If that's not enough. There is more! The Scriptures tell us, concerning themselves, that being equipped for good works—for departing from iniquity"is their main purpose!
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
We can go one step further in teaching that departing from iniquity really is the foundation of God that stands firm. The Bible tells us that Jesus died to make us zealous for good works!
The grace of God, that which brings salvation to all men, has appeared, teaching us that we should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live sensibly, godly, and righteously in the present age, looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and Savior, Jesus the King, who gave himself for us so that he could redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself his own special people, zealous for good works.
Look carefully at this last Bible passage. It will bring us to the point of this article.
The grace of God that saves us teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live righteous lives. Jesus died to rescue us from all iniquity, not just some iniquity, so that he could purify a special people just for himself, who are zealous for good works.
So where do I personally fellowship? Where do I draw the line as to whom I will fellowship with?
I will only fellowship with those who are departing from iniquity. They may be at many points along the line of their departure from their old ways and from the lusts of this world. They may and probably will have members struggling with addictions. Despite these problems, they are on the narrow path, constrained by the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Jesus, and they are going forward.
How are they managing to go forward? They are managing to go forward by the grace of God first, but then also by the grace shown to them by the other members of the church. We are indeed a "band of brothers" traversing a difficult path through an evil age, beset by temptations and the warfare of the devil. By the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13), and we do this together, taking time to think about how to provoke one another to love and good works because we care about one another.
What church am I looking for? What Christians do I want to fellowship with?
I want to fellowship with those who are departing from iniquity because that is the foundation of God. I want to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
What doctrines do I want to fight with Christians about, or to dare to call people false Christians over? Once we get past the Gospel, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, then I just want to know one thing. Are you departing from iniquity, and are you teaching others to do so? The Bible says that it is false teachers who say that grace is an excuse to sin (Jude 4).
We are in a modern, confusing age. Once we have acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah King, God's Son, raised from the dead by his Father, then there is one central thing we must do: depart from iniquity.
As we have seen this is said in a lot of ways: maintain good works, by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body; use the Bible for its proper purpose, to exhort and teach Christians to be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
This is the sure foundation of God, and it will not fail you.
There are doctrines that I have to break fellowship over. I am not going to be in fellowship with someone called a Christian who denies the resurrection of the body. I cannot be in fellowship with someone who denies the deity and pre-existence of the Lord Jesus. Those who do not believe in these things are part of some other faith than the Christian faith, given by Jesus to the apostles, and handed down to the churches.
There are historic basics of the faith, though not many. As late as AD 325, the Council of Nicea gave a creed of only around 170 words that were required for all churches and all Christians. This creed is basically the same as was taught in all the churches prior to Nicea. The Nicene Creed has expanded a little bit since, but pretty much all Christian churches agree on those basic things.
Those who teach otherwise are founding some other religion than the Christian one, and turning such teachers loose in a fellowship, congregation, or gathering of Christians can only lead to disaster and confusion to young Christians.
Still, that basic creed is not long. The only thing to be added to them is to depart from iniquity. This trumps all the other arguments that we have concerning Christian theology.
At least that's how I see it.
My final comment is that I am aware that departing from iniquity is a battle that the saints engage in together. We comfort one another, love one another, encourage one another, forgive one another, and pray for one another. We do not, however, include in our pursuit for righteousness, faith, love and peace those who are not pursuing. To fail to pursue is to be disqualified. Though that subject is best saved for a separate article, I will reference 1 Corinthians 9:27 and Hebrews 12:14.
If I get more questions or comments about this article, then I will add to or adjust this last section of explanations.
Finally, you can return to the home page here.