47. Summary of Conclusions
What follows is a list, without elaboration, of some of the
fellowship principles derived from the previous studies (references which follow
certain items are to the most relevant chapter in this book):
- Excommunication should always be intended to lead to the restoration of the
sinner, the cessation of fellowship being thought of as only temporary.
is at least as wrong to go too far in our demands upon our brethren, as it is
not to go far enough. In other words, it is possible to err on the side of
- “Fellowship” appears many more times in the Bible as a
positive thing, to be shared, than it does as a negative thing, to be withheld
- Patience and sympathy, even toward error or ignorance, are
always desirable; love is never a sign of weakness (Ch. 2).
teachers and those who are falsely taught are two very different groups,
and should not be treated the same (Ch. 2).
- Even such brethren as the
Lord’s own apostles could at times disagree in “fellowship”
- The “shepherd” who protects the flock must be our
example, not the “hireling” who flees when danger threatens
- Our individual salvation is not endangered by fellowshiping
“doubtful cases” (3).
- A church without tares is an impossible
thing in this dispensation; uprooting of “tares” or doubtful
brethren can weaken the “good grain” (4).
- The main purpose of
the ecclesia is not to keep the Truth “pure” as a theory or system,
but to help its members, impure men and women, strive toward Biblical
purity or perfection (5).
- Each ecclesia should be basically, if not
altogether, concerned with its own affairs, i.e. building the “wall”
in its own place (5).
- Ecclesias are primarily responsible to Christ, and
only secondarily to one another (6).
- Inconsistencies in local fellowship
matters must sometimes be tolerated (8).
- Matthew 18, dealing with the
procedure for possible disfellowship, has nothing whatsoever to say about taking
up controversies with ecclesias other than one’s own (9).
- We must seek
reconciliation with our brethren continuously, and never be satisfied with
- Much more emphasis is placed, Biblically, upon judging
oneself than judging others (11).
- “Peace” is always to be
desired; division and strife, never (12).
- “Fellowship” is
primarily a way of life, not a technicality (13).
- It is Christ’s
utmost desire that his brethren be at one with each other (16).
are not always good nor admirable (17).
- It is a common weakness of human
nature, that those who are near to us but not quite with us arouse more
bitterness than total strangers (21).
- God knows who are truly His and He
will reveal them in due time (22).
- Sometimes the only proper course is to
choose “the lesser of two evils”. God will pardon the failings of
those who prepare their hearts to serve Him, even if their service is less than
- The greatest abhorrence of sin is not necessarily to be found
in the one who is most severe on the sinner (27).
- Christ did not believe in
“guilt — or defilement — by association”; in fact, he
acted very much in opposition to such a theory (29).
holiness” can save no man (29).
- Christ died for sinners, not
for the sinless; moreover, he lived for sinners, bearing their burdens
and patiently, lovingly helping them. He considered all men, even the
most sinful, worth saving (30).
- Perfect, or pure, fellowship with our
brethren is an impossibility in this life (32).
- Those who fail to
excommunicate “heretics” do not thereby become
“heretics” themselves (33).
- In actual practice, brethren can
agree to ignore minor differences and walk together if they are of one mind on
the vital issues (35).
- “Peaceableness” is a virtue always to be
desired; it should not be kept “under wraps” until some imagined
“purity” has first been achieved (36).
- Differences of opinion on
secondary matters are, if not ideal, at least preferable to out-and-out division
- A limited toleration of differences is more desirable than an absolute
conformity of opinion that is dictatorially imposed (37).
- Not all contention
is proper or profitable; some contention may be only for one’s own pride
and personal opinion (39).
- Mouths may be stopped by means other than the
cutting off of heads (42).
- Time and distance are often very real barriers to
ascertaining all the facts necessary to make a proper decision regarding
- No brother should ever be judged without a fair hearing
- Two ecclesias may arrive at different conclusions on a matter
involving fellowship, and yet agree to recognize each other in fellowship even
while holding opposite opinions concerning a third party