Biblical Fellowship #7
By Tommy Thornhill
In closing last week’s article, I pointed out that the Biblical word “fellowship and its related words was never used among brethren in the Bible in connection with material activities such as social halls for feasting, entertainment and recreation. For brethren to utilize and defend such material things as part of the work of the church is without scriptural authority. If these things are not authorized by God’s word then they must be considered sinful.
Regardless of how much we would love to be in spiritual fellowship with brethren who build, utilize, maintain and defend these social activities as the work of the church we cannot conscientiously do so. If we are firm in our understanding that family life centers, social halls and related activities are not part of Biblical fellowship then we cannot be true to our convictions and abandon them to establish fellowship with people who practice them. To fellowship them in their practices while doubting their scripturalness would be sinful. Paul stated such in Rom.14:23. “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”
Many brethren today who attempt to advocate and defend their social halls and family life centers do so on the basis they understand it to be part of the mission of the church to provide for the physical needs of mankind; i.e., that when one satisfies the material needs of man then they will be ready to be taught the gospel. This is a misunderstanding of the church’s mission.
While it is not my purpose in this series of articles to discuss fully the mission of the church, let it suffice at this time to briefly point out that the mission of the church Jesus built, acting as a collective unit (a congregation), is wholly spiritual in nature, not material or physical. Its mission is to save souls and prepare its members for death and the judgment. Jesus stated His mission to be that of “seeking and saving that which is lost” Lk.19:10, and He established His church to be the “pillar and ground of the truth” 1.Tim.3:15; i.e. to support, expound and defend the truth. In so doing through His word He assigned the church the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the lost, to edify (build up) the members, and to provide for the needs of its indigent members when needed. Read Eph.4:11-2. There is no scripture that authorizes the church acting as a unit (its collective capacity) to provide fun, food, and frolic for its members. Fun, food and frolic, within the bounds of propriety and decency can be done by the members of the church, not acting as the church, but as individual Christians functioning in the realm of the home and society. The church is not a welfare agency for the world. There are human organizations that can be utilized to take care of the temporal needs of mankind.
Placing stress on the material side of man diverts the gospel’s primary purpose of saving souls Rom.1:16 to that of satisfying man’s physical needs. This concept might be called the “social gospel” since it is intended to embrace the whole man, material and spiritual. It is borrowed, not from the Bible, but by the ideas of men. Brethren with a loose, liberal slant toward God’s word feel that the social type gospel will draw more people than the pure gospel. Such a concept may satisfy man’s physical hunger, but it will not save the soul. Substituting carnal things for the power of the gospel may produce larger numbers but it will not produce spirituality.
Think with me. What do “fellowship, social halls” reflect to the world? My understanding is that it reflects a desire to be like the denominations all around us. These denominations have their fellowship halls or family life centers, so some brethren want to be like them. They are popular and provide a place for fulfilling hunger and social cravings. But if they are that important why didn’t the Lord give authority for them. They violate the scriptures !.Cor.11:22; Rom.14:17. They really cheapen the power of the gospel to save Rom.1:16.
From earlier writing I have pointed out that I cannot spiritually fellowship those who have a disregard for God’s authority. All my preaching life I have tried to adhere to the principle that everything we do must do done with God’s authority. Such scriptures as 1.Cor.4:6; 2.Jn.9-11; Gal.1:8-9; Rom.10:17; 2.Cor.5:7; Col.3:17 have guided my preaching so that I cannot advocate or support anything that I can’t back up by the authority of the word of God. That doesn’t mean I am perfect, because my understanding can be faulty at times. This is why I continue to study the matter. If I have erred, then I ask others to show me where I have done so because I want to do that which is right in the eyes of God. If one does not respect the authority of Christ, even in this matter, where will it stop? In all my years I have not found one scripture where the church was authorized to build a fellowship hall. All I ask for is scriptural authority and if given I will be one of the first to fellowship it.
One other thing that keeps me from fellowshipping fellowship halls and similar things is my understanding that the church is a “spiritual house” We, “also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” 1.Pet.2:4. We enter this spiritual house by a spiritual birth ”born of the water and the Spirit” (baptism taught by the Spirit of God) Jn.3:5. Read also Tit,3:5; 1.Pet.1:22-23. Once we enter this spiritual house we are to present ourselves, individually living as Christians in the home and our bodies as a living sacrifice in order to perform a spiritual (reasonable) service to God Rom.12:2. This spiritual service may sometimes involve us to associate with other people as citizens in a social society. (conclusion)
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