Proper Grounds for Fellowship
These are confusing days for the religious newcomer. Its kind of difficult to distinguish between the good guys and the bad. We have Jerry Falwell patting the backs of the Mormons, and there goes Billy Graham to Moscow in fellowship with the Communists. The Southern Baptists are sending delegates to Rome, and Rome seeks to fellowship with Canterbury. The World Council of Churches seems to cater to red revolutionaries, and some just wont speak to anyone. When and with whom should Christians associate? There are good grounds and bad grounds.
Coffee grounds, for example, are usually a bitter foundation for fellowship. It looks like dirt and isnt far from it. Coffee grounds, make up the scum in the bottom of the cup or pot after just a few minutes of boiling and slurping. Two perfect strangers can, and often do, fellowship on coffee grounds while they have absolutely nothing in common except a bit of thirst. Religious fellowship must go beyond that.
Picnic grounds are worse than coffee grounds for true fellowship. Lots of churches use picnic grounds to build on, but disaster often results, because picnickers usually forget all about their religious roots and focus only on food, games and a few mosquitos. You can get agnostics to come to church picnic grounds, but to have true fellowshipforget it!
Shaky ground is never good on which to build a church or to share communion. Shaky ground is never really the same. One day its level, the next its lumpy, and the next marshy. Today, we may agree on a particular Bible principle, but tomorrow some international prophet may say that he rejects our position, and when you follow, we loose that bond we once had. Fellowship between Christians or churches must not be too fluctuating. After all, the Bible doesnt change.
Denominational grounds are poor as well. Just look at the Baptists. Weve got every kind of doctrine under the sun. A man wearing the Baptist label may worship only on Saturday; he may believe in falling from grace or he may be a Hyper-Calvinist, thinking that evangelism is a waste of time; some accept only Baptist immersion and others think baby sprinkling is okay; some are Protestants while the best are not. My "Handbook of Denominations" lists 28 different kinds of Baptists and thats only the beginning. For someone to come saying, "Im a Baptist. We must be brothers!" doesn't mean anything. Beware of building intimate intercourse only on denominational grounds.
Fundamental grounds sounds like a pretty lot on which to build, but its like building a house on a place of pure bedrock where no soil, flowers, trees or wildlife may be found. We believe in the "fundamentals" of the faith but so do some others with whom we cannot fellowship because of things we see in the Bible that they dont. All the Bible is important; not just 5, 10 or 25 things someone says are "fundamental."
The Holy Spirit is a spirit and as such occupies no "ground," but many today are fellowshiping, they claim, on Holy Spirit grounds. When a Roman Catholic, a Baptist and a Pentecostal all get "the baptism" and then speak in some hypnotic gibberish, they call it a "working of the Spirit." That is all it takes for some to build fellowship. Forget the differences and major on the Spirit. My reader, God must be shocked, because we see nothing of this in His Word.
Common grounds are cited as a basis for fellowship. This, of course, is when two or more people stand on the same lot. Most cities have Ministerial Alliances, which are social clubs built on common ground. "You live in my city, and call yourself a minister, and so do I. Let's fellowship together once a month." This ground is all too familiar, but not substantial enough for this pastor.
A different variety of common ground is that of common decency. The grounds of common decency are used by Jerry Falwell, his Moral Majority and others. "If you hate abortion, as I hate abortion; if you reject homosexuality; if we both want honest government, then Ill forget the fact that you are a hell-bound heretic. Well have wonderful fellowship before the lightning strikes."
I recently received a Canadian publication pushing strongly for a fellowship based on school grounds. We need a Baptist Bible School; lets unite around the education of preachers. Sounds good, but also unBiblical. The only organization given authority to teach preachers in the Bible is the local church, not some interchurch institution.
We could go on and on describing improper grounds for fellowship, examining monetary grounds, political grounds, new ground, stony ground and others, but what are the proper grounds? They are two as far as I am concerned: Scriptural grounds and the Pillar and ground."
It doesn't matter to me on what grounds Graham, Falwell, Van Impe, Southern Baptists, Fellowship Baptists and others commune. Well speak out from time to time, pointing out their errors, but it's primarily our desire to protect our own spiritual borders and foundations.
We fellowship with others only on Scriptural grounds, i.e. with the Bible, all of it, as the hub around which we revolve. For someone to reject any clearly defined scriptural doctrine requires that I not fellowship with him (II Thess. 3:6). This includes the "fundamentals" but also such things as scriptural baptism, closed communion, eternal security of the believer and such like. There are some things about which the Bible is not crystal clear, and sincere saints may disagree, but they are not as many as some would have us believe.
The other root of scriptural fellowship is the "Pillar and Ground of the Truth," the church of the living God (I Tim. 3:15), established by Christ during His ministry, protected by strict Baptist baptism and local church communion. I feel that fellowship ought to be local church sponsored and supervised. Fellowship ought to be for the edifying of the sponsoring church and not merely for the speakers involved. It must be for the purpose of glorifying God in the church according to Eph. 3:21.
Im all for fellowship, but on the proper grounds. I don't want my fellowship with Christ broken by my fellowship with man.
~K. David Oldfield, Editor The Independent Baptist Missionary Messenger
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