Question 51.1 What is Christian fellowship? From Jeffrey Young

It is the practice of receiving a person as a brother in the Christian faith, and therefore honoring his equal right to teach and lead.

F1) Phi 1:5-11 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

F2) Mat 23:8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

F3) Phi 1:27-2:2 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

(Synonymns for fellowship: unite, be in league: Psa 94:20-23, to be knit together: Jud 20:11, to be compact: psa 122:1-4, to be companion: Isa 1:23; Heb 10:33-34, to be a fellow: Isa 44:11, to be perfectly joined in mind: 1Co 1:9-11, yoked together: 2Co 6:14, willingly sharing church work: Gal 2:9, to share work together or participate or associate: Eph 5:1, Phi 4:14, Rev 18:4, Phi 1:7)

51.2 What does the third commandment say about practicing fellowship with those who hold to the truth?

A. Every Christian for the sake of salvation is in duty bound to acknowledge and adhere to orthodox congregations and orthodox pastors, wherever he can find such. This is understood in the word holy, which means pure and joined to what is good.

F4) Mat 10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

F5) Luk 9:26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.

F6) Rom 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

B. One may not refuse to acknowledge and adhere to those who, he knows, publicly witness to Christ and His truth Cf. Mat 10:40-41

F7) Luk 10:16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.

F8) Mat 10:14-15 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

F9) 2Ti 1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

C. One should fellowship with those who confess the true faith, and so avoid divisions and schisms by word and deed. 1 Cor 1:10-13, Eph 4:3-6, 1Jo 2:19, Heb 10:25 (You forsake the whole assembly when you forsake any individual in the assembly, make disunity by dividing the assembly, or remain separate religiously from anyone in the assembly: Mat 18:17, Acts 2:42, 44, 46-7)

F10) 1Co 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

F11) Eph 4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

F12) 1Jo 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

F13) Heb 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

F14) Mat 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

F15) Act 2:42, 44, 46-47 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers...And all that believed were together, and had all things common;...And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

51.3 What does the first table of the commandments say about withholding the practice of fellowship? (Closed fellowship)

A. According to the third commandment, those who tolerate false teaching and vain teaching pollute the sanctity of God’s Word, and deserve punishment for continuing in fellowship with false or vain teachers.

F16) 2Co 6:14-15 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

F17) Jer 14:13-16 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place. Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And

the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.

B. According to the second commandment, it is the duty of those who recognize false or vain doctrine in a church group to mark and avoid the teachers and those in fellowship with them.

F18) 2Co 6:16-18 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

F19) 1Co 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

F20) 1Co 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

F21) Mar 7:6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

F22) Mat 24:51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

F23) Mat 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

C. According to the first commandment, the love for our God should be pure, true, and single, just as a faithful bride for her loving husband. Just as a whore does not regard her promise to remain faithful to her husband, so also a false teaching church does not give exclusive place to her LORD and Saviour, but has other bedfellows, that is, listens to false doctrine or tolerates it.

F24) Isa 54:5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

F25) 2Co 11:2-4 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

F26) Rev 19:2 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.

51.4 What activities necessarily imply practicing fellowship?

Joint church work of any kind, that is, work which recognizes the equality of religious work from someone else. (Examples: Reading Scripture in Worship Acts 15:21, 20:7, 13:44ff, Pulpit exchange 1 Tim 1:3, 1co 11:4, communion at altar 1Cor 11:20ff Acts 2:42 acts 20:7, allowing someone else to lead you in prayer Acts 16:13, Luk 1:10, 1Tim 2:1, 8, joint missionary work 1 Cor 16:1-2, etc.)

51.5 Does this mean that we should totally shun those who teach or allow false doctrine, and act as if they are dead?

No, our duty toward false teachers, and their followers is clearly spelled out in the second table of the commandments, which is summarized that we should do good unto all men, even to our enemies. Mat 5:44, 1Co 5:10, Luk 10:29ff.

51.6 What effect does disregard for closed fellowship have on the mission of the church?

It destroys church work: leads men to hell, prevents rebuke, stains wisdom, bars the door to heaven, causes God to withdraw from meetings, makes the church worthy of the curse of destruction, and opposes the spirit of faith.

F27) Mat 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

F28) Luk 6:42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.

F29) Jam 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

F30) Mat 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

F31) Job 15:34 For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.

F32) 2Co 4:13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

51.7 Isn’t it advisable for someone who teaches and believes only true doctrine to remain in fellowship with those who stubbornly reject it, and so reform them?

No, it is not. God has commanded that we sever the practice of fellowship with these according to His command. When God threatened to punish both false prophets and those who tolerate them (F17 Jer 14:13-16), He also told Jeremiah that his prayer could do nothing without severing fellowship. Because then his own pleas would be corrupt.

F33) Jer 15:1 Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.

F34) Jer 15:19-21 Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them. And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brasen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD. And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.

F35) 1Ti 6:3-6 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

F36) 2Co 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

51.8 What should we do about unionistic preaching opportunities such as permitting volunteers to lead prayer for everyone.

You should confess Christ at all times, as we learn from the example of Paul who preached in the name of the unknown God, but also rebuked ignorant worship Acts 17:23. We also may not be silent about the sin of providing such opportunities that give equal opportunity for false teachers, for this would be to give the impression that joint prayer without unity of faith is pleasing to God.

F37) 2Ti 2:16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

F38) 2Th 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

F39) 2Jo 9-10 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:

51.9 How then should we proceed toward united prayer, or other joint church work?

Complete agreement in doctrine is the necessary prerequisite to joint church work of every kind.

F40) 1Co 1:10 I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ... ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

F41) Phi 2:2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

F42) Amo 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

F43) Psa 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

51.10 Does this mean that we must immediately sever fellowship with someone whom we observe to err, and who was in fellowship before the error became visible?

No, it does not. God has commanded us to follow the steps that He spelled out in Matthew 18. This is also covered in detail in the section of the Catechism on the Office of the Keys and Confession.