The Agora
Biblical Fellowship

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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):

  1. Excommunication should always be intended to lead to the restoration of the sinner, the cessation of fellowship being thought of as only temporary.
  2. It 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 severity.
  3. “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 (Chapter 1).
  4. Patience and sympathy, even toward error or ignorance, are always desirable; love is never a sign of weakness (Ch. 2).
  5. False teachers and those who are falsely taught are two very different groups, and should not be treated the same (Ch. 2).
  6. Even such brethren as the Lord’s own apostles could at times disagree in “fellowship” matters (2).
  7. The “shepherd” who protects the flock must be our example, not the “hireling” who flees when danger threatens (3).
  8. Our individual salvation is not endangered by fellowshiping “doubtful cases” (3).
  9. A church without tares is an impossible thing in this dispensation; uprooting of “tares” or doubtful brethren can weaken the “good grain” (4).
  10. 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).
  11. Each ecclesia should be basically, if not altogether, concerned with its own affairs, i.e. building the “wall” in its own place (5).
  12. Ecclesias are primarily responsible to Christ, and only secondarily to one another (6).
  13. Inconsistencies in local fellowship matters must sometimes be tolerated (8).
  14. 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).
  15. We must seek reconciliation with our brethren continuously, and never be satisfied with disunion (10).
  16. Much more emphasis is placed, Biblically, upon judging oneself than judging others (11).
  17. “Peace” is always to be desired; division and strife, never (12).
  18. “Fellowship” is primarily a way of life, not a technicality (13).
  19. It is Christ’s utmost desire that his brethren be at one with each other (16).
  20. Divisions are not always good nor admirable (17).
  21. 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).
  22. God knows who are truly His and He will reveal them in due time (22).
  23. 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 perfect (24).
  24. The greatest abhorrence of sin is not necessarily to be found in the one who is most severe on the sinner (27).
  25. Christ did not believe in “guilt — or defilement — by association”; in fact, he acted very much in opposition to such a theory (29).
  26. “Negative holiness” can save no man (29).
  27. 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).
  28. Perfect, or pure, fellowship with our brethren is an impossibility in this life (32).
  29. Those who fail to excommunicate “heretics” do not thereby become “heretics” themselves (33).
  30. In actual practice, brethren can agree to ignore minor differences and walk together if they are of one mind on the vital issues (35).
  31. “Peaceableness” is a virtue always to be desired; it should not be kept “under wraps” until some imagined “purity” has first been achieved (36).
  32. Differences of opinion on secondary matters are, if not ideal, at least preferable to out-and-out division (37).
  33. A limited toleration of differences is more desirable than an absolute conformity of opinion that is dictatorially imposed (37).
  34. Not all contention is proper or profitable; some contention may be only for one’s own pride and personal opinion (39).
  35. Mouths may be stopped by means other than the cutting off of heads (42).
  36. Time and distance are often very real barriers to ascertaining all the facts necessary to make a proper decision regarding fellowship (45).
  37. No brother should ever be judged without a fair hearing (46).
  38. 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 (46)
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