The subject of fellowship was never more in season than at the present time.
During the past one hundred and twenty years various crises have arisen in the brotherhood; false doctrines have been introduced and disseminated, with the inevitable result that the subject of fellowship has pressed itself upon the attention of those who have been determined to uphold the purity of the Truth. Today a new crisis has arisen in the ecclesias, and again, and if possible, even more so than in the past, the subject of fellowship becomes a matter of supreme importance.
We are all familiar with the apostle’s solemn warning. When writing to Timothy, he said:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.”
We are living in those last days, and the perils associated with them by the apostles surround us.
There are perils from without, those which come upon us from our contact with the world of the ungodly; and there are perils from within the brotherhood. Of these two the perils from within are by far the more insidious and dangerous.
The perils from without are comparatively easily recognised, and we seem to be more readily on our guard against them. The perils from within belong to a different category. They are not so readily recognised as perils. False doctrines may be introduced by brethren; unfaithfulness in regard to our obligations in the Truth, or laxity regarding practice may be tolerated; and unless we are continually on our guard, there is a grave danger of our being moved away from our steadfastness.
The greatest of all dangers to which we are exposed today is, we believe, the tendency towards a weakening in regard to the matter of fellowship; a tendency now finding expression by those from whom we are separated on a vital matter of doctrine, and by whom we believe, utterly unscriptural views concerning fellowship are held and advocated.
1) It is for this reason that we have to consider the subject of fellowship, and we earnestly appeal to all to give the subject careful and prayerful thought, and to be guided only by the teaching of Scripture.
Let us now briefly outline the method by which we propose to deal with the subject. We shall consider:-
FIRSTLY – The scripture doctrine of fellowship.
SECONDLY – The conditions essential to maintain this fellowship.
THIRDLY – The bearing of the doctrine on the question of re-union, which is now exercising the minds of so many.
These, we submit, are all matters of vital importance, upon which wrong views are being advocated. They are matters upon which it is essential that we should have right views if the Truth is to be preserved, and the brethren and sisters established in the faith in these perilous last days.
What, then, is fellowship? that is, fellowship in the Truth.
The original word, translated fellowship in the Authorised Version, occurs frequently in the New Testament, and is variously rendered:-
The following are examples in which the original word has been thus rendered:-
“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1 v 3)
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor 6 v 14)
The word here translated “communion” is the same in the original as that rendered “fellowship” in the verse just quoted from 1 John ch. 1.
“The elders which are among you, 1 exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.” (1 Peter 5 v 1)
The same original word is here translated “partaker”. Now these and the rest of the passages where the word occurs give these ideas as the true meaning of fellowship:-
- The possession of something in common.
Here let me quote definitions of fellowship from the pen of R. Roberts. In entire agreement with the foregoing ideas contained in the original word. He says:
“To have fellowship is to be ‘fellow of, or to be ‘one with’, therefore, to have ‘communion’ or union together.”
“Fellowship is cordial and loving union, springing from oneness of mind in Divine things.”
“The basis of fellowship is unity of mind, or identity of belief.”
We would ask you to particularly bear in mind the fundamental ideas contained in the word rendered fellowship. They are of supreme importance, for, as we have said, one of the greatest dangers which confronts us today has arisen, as we shall presently show, from wrong views held upon the subject.
In the chapter read (1. John 1) the apostle defines the nature and scope of true fellowship.
He says, as seen in verse 3:
“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ”.
And in verse 7 he continues:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light. We have fellowship one with another.”
The basis of true fellowship is, therefore, the teaching of the Spirit – the light – as exhibited in the apostles’ doctrine. When we accept this teaching, and render the required obedience in baptism, we at once establish our fellowship, not only with John, and those of his mind, but with the Father and the Son. So long as we walk according to this teaching, true fellowship is maintained. If we turn unfaithful to it, ceasing to walk in the light, either in doctrine or practice, we break off the fellowship, whatever we may claim to the contrary.
Let us here emphasise the fact of our fellowship being “one with another”; that it exists between the brethren and sisters, the children of God, as well as between themselves and the Father and the Son.
The following passages of Scripture make this aspect of the subject clear:
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptised: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers.” (Acts 2 v 41.42)
From this statement it is evident that these newly-baptised believers of the Truth had fellowship with the apostles, or “one with another.”
A further illustration of the same truth is to be found in Philippians 1 v 5, where we have the record of Paul’s thanksgiving to God:
“For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now”.
They were believers of the one faith, and being united in the apostles’ doctrine, were in the enjoyment of fellowship one with another. We desire to emphasise this aspect of the subject, because it has been alleged that we do not fellowship the brethren, our fellowship being, it is said, only with the Father and Jesus Christ. This is a mischievous and unscriptural doctrine, and is destructive of the basis of true fellowship: for if it were true, unity of mind, or identity of belief amongst those who gather at the Table of the Lord would be rendered non-essential.
It is very clearly laid down in the Scriptures that continuance in fellowship is dependent upon “walking in the light”. There are many profitable and instructive thoughts which arise from a consideration of this statement, each having an intimate connection with our subject. What is involved in the statement is made plain by the apostle in the chapter we are considering, for he says, as stated in verse 5:
“God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all”
God is the centre, the source, or fountain of that light, and those who are privileged to have fellowship with Him, must walk in the light, for Paul says:
“What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor 6 v 14)
Jesus Christ was a manifestation of that light of which John speaks; he said of himself:
“I am come a light into the world.” (John 12 v 46)
“I am the light of the world.” (John 8 v 12)
This is the light in which we must walk if we desire fellowship with God, and the only means by which we can now be brought into contact with that light is through the Scriptures, the inspired word of God, of which it is written:
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psa 119 v 105)
“The entrance of thy words giveth light.” (Psa 119 v 130)
From these testimonies it is evident that to “walk in the light” is to exhibit a mental and moral likeness with God and His Son. Such as have attained to this condition are thereby constituted children of light, and have fellowship with the Father and the Son, the basis of this fellowship being unity of mind in relation to Divine things revealed in the Scriptures. Hence, we have those many injunctions with which we are familiar, enjoining upon us.
“Purity of doctrine”
“Holiness of walk.”
and many other similar commands. For this reason, too, error, or darkness, and practice which is contrary to His mind, alienates from God’s fellowship.
God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” (1 John 1 v 5.6)
Let us then consider a few more of such passages, so prominently emphasised in the teaching of Christ and his apostles. They are matters of command, to be observed in the ecclesias, and faithfulness in regard to them is required of all. Let us not claim fellowship with God unless we are walking in obedience to these commands.
In this connection we will first notice Christ’s prayer on behalf of his brethren, not only of the first century, but of all ages, as recorded in John 17 v 11
“Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.”
Between the Father and the Son there existed perfect unity in regard to Divine things; there was mental and moral one-ness, and therefore, communion, or true fellowship. Christ’s desire, as expressed in his prayer, was that the same mental and moral likeness should exist in his brethren and sisters, without which they could not be “fellows of” each other, or of the Father and Son.
Again, how unmistakably is our Lord’s mind upon this matter expressed in his message to the church at Pergamos, contained in Revelation 2 v 15.16:
“So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing 1 hate.”
“Repent; or else 1 will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”
Such a message speaks to us of the exact opposite of fellowship or communion; here was a state of error, or darkness, existing in an ecclesia, constituting a barrier between those holding the error and God and Christ.
A careful study of the writings of the apostles will impress these truths upon us; let us give them our earnest thought, remembering what Paul has said:
“If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that 1 write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” (1 Cor 14 v 37)
What, then, are the commandments of the Lord concerning this subject?
To Timothy, the apostle wrote:
“Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (1 Tim 4 v 13)
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them, for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim 4 v 16)
Similarly in the Epistle to Titus we notice the same emphasis laid upon the importance of doctrine in the ecclesias:
“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.” (Titus 2 v 1)
“In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: In doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity” (Titus 2 v 7)
These are the words of an inspired apostle: they are therefore the commandments of the Lord. Let us remember that to show ourselves unfaithful to these commands concerning purity of doctrine is to break off our fellowship with God. To be unsound in doctrine is to walk in darkness, and if, whilst so doing, we say we have fellowship with God, we lie, and do not speak the truth.
Let us further notice some of the admonitions of the apostle concerning oneness of mind in the faith. To the Philippian believers he wrote:
“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.” (Phil 1 v 27)
Further, he says:
“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 like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (Phil 2 v 1.2)
Again, writing to the Corinthians, he said:
“Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” (2 Cor 13 v 11)
These are only a few of the many passages of Scripture which clearly enjoin upon us
- Purity of doctrine.
- Unity of mind
- Identity of belief
in the things of the Truth. In regard to the first principles of the oracles of God there must be unity. Where such does not exist there is darkness, and not light; confusion, not communion. The basis essential to fellowship is absent, for darkness can never be “fellow of” or have communion with light.
The scriptures plainly reveal to us that God requires, as the basis of fellowship, identity of belief in regard to the First Principles of the Truth. Our duty, then, is to uphold this truth, and to be faithful to God’s requirements in this matter, by inviting to our fellowship only those who are of one mind with ourselves upon these vital truths.
What God requires us to believe as the basis of fellowship, He has caused to be clearly revealed in His word, and upon these truths we must be of one mind. Our Statement of Faith should therefore include all of these revealed truths, and our duty as faithful stewards is to be assured that all who claim fellowship with us are of one mind with ourselves upon these doctrines. Whilst so doing, let us, however, discriminate between what are First Principles, and what are unimportant details, upon which, in the absence of revelation, unanimity of belief is not essential to fellowship.
As an illustration we may take the subject of the earth. The First Principles concerning this are:
- The earth was, in the beginning, created by God.
- That the earth is to exist for ever, and is to be the everlasting inheritance of the redeemed.
These are revealed Truths concerning the earth, upon which oneness of belief is essential to fellowship. We should, however, be exceeding our duty, and unfaithful, were we to require of those desiring our fellowship a statement of their belief concerning the age of the earth; that is, when “the beginning” was. This is not revealed, and although an interesting question, is not important, and each may enjoy liberty of opinion. On the contrary, the belief that the earth is to be destroyed is entirely opposed to one of these revealed principles, and is consequently a barrier to fellowship.
Similarly, in regard to the Scriptures, the First Principles to be believed are:
- The Bible is the Word of God.
- “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” and is therefore infallible.
The belief that inspiration is limited to certain matters of revelation, and that consequently there is in the Scriptures that which is not the Word of God, is destructive of these First Principles, and faithfulness requires us to have no fellowship with those who hold this view. First Principles are matters of clear and definite revelation; enlightened understanding will readily discriminate between such and matters of detail only.
Our hope is ultimately to become partakers of God’s own incorruptible glorious nature – to be like Him. The Scriptures are, however, very plain regarding the fact that “mental likeness” must precede “physical likeness;” it is only by manifesting present mental and moral unity with God that unity of nature can eventually be realised. This aspect of the matter is beautifully stated by Paul, in writing to the Ephesians as recorded in ch. 4 v 1-3;
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,”
“With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love,”
“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
And in verse 11, the apostle continues:
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph 4 v 11-13)
Our hope is to become constituents of that “perfect man” community; that assembly of spirit-beings, equal unto God; incorruptible; God dwelling in us by His Spirit; when our fellowship with the Father, then perfect and complete, will have reached the consummation purposed by Him. Let us, then, not be forgetful of the fact that the apostle tells us it is to be realised through “unity of the faith”. Consequently there rests upon each of us in the Truth the responsibility of seeing that in the ecclesias there is purity of doctrine and of practice; unity of faith, uncorruptness, sincerity; and no other basis is true fellowship one with another, and with God, possible.
What, then, should be our attitude toward those who depart from the one faith? It is very clearly indicated in the Scriptures. In regard to erring brethren and sisters our first duty is to endeavour to instruct them aright; to apply the Spirit’s teaching, and to make every effort to turn such from their error. This is a work which demands patience. We should be painstaking in the matter of instruction and warning; but let us not minimise the gravity of departure from the Truth. Firmness, and an uncompromising stand for the Truth are called for. If our efforts to turn such brethren from their error to a belief of the Truth fail, then we have to bring apostolic instructions into force, and withdraw from such, and have no fellowship with them. That this is our duty in this matter is clearly indicated in the following Scripture:
“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.” (2 Thes 3 v 6)
This is a matter of command. If we are to show ourselves faithful custodians of the Truth, we shall have no hesitation when circumstances call for such treatment, in obeying the apostle’s instructions.
Further, in this same chapter, at verse 13, we are told:
“But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing.”
“And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.”
“Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”
There can be no doubt as to the apostle’s meaning in these statements. Is it conceivable that Paul would countenance the idea that a brother unbelieving or disobedient still retained the right of fellowship, and of meeting at the Table of the Lord? Can we possibly have fellowship with such an one, whilst we obey the injunction to have “no company with such”? Such a contention would render this passage of Scripture meaningless. Can we question what Paul meant us to understand, when he wrote to the believers at Rome?
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Rom 16 v 17)
Divisions are caused by false teaching being introduced into the ecclesias; brethren who do this evil work, and do not repent, and turn from their error, are to be avoided. In other words, our duty is to withdraw from them, and have no fellowship or communion with them. This is the teaching of the Scriptures regarding such. If we heed these instructions our duty regarding brethren and sisters who forsake the truth becomes perfectly clear. It is to withdraw from such; to have no fellowship with them; to avoid them; and whilst not counting them as personal enemies, to admonish them; counting them as brethren who have erred from the Truth. Let us note the apostle’s further command concerning such:
“A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject”. (Titus 3 v 10)
Let us recognise that these are commands, and that the consequences of unfaithfulness in regard to them will be disastrous alike to ourselves, as well as to the Truth.
Where would the Truth be today, if every error which has been introduced into the ecclesias since the days of Dr Thomas had been tolerated? There would, indeed, by the present time be very little to distinguish the ecclesias from the sects of Christendom, if such had been permitted. Let us, then, remember our individual responsibility to God in this matter. In the first century evil men crept into the ecclesias, bringing false doctrines and practices contrary to the mind of the Spirit: and the result was, as we all know, the development of the terrible apostasy which fills the world. Shall we doubt that the same awful consequences would again result from unfaithfulness?
But it has been said: “Did not Paul say, ‘Let there be no divisions among you?'” He did; but to quote this statement for the purpose of countenancing or encouraging laxity regarding our duty towards erring brethren is altogether an unprincipled use of Scripture. Every believer knows, or should know, to what the apostle referred when using these words. Let us examine the context, and we shall see that the statement has reference to “schisms” or “factions” in the Corinthian ecclesia. We read:
“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.”
“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.”
“Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptised in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor 1 v 1I- 13)
Here, then, is the ground of the apostle’s exhortation. “Let there be no schisms among you; no factions; no parties.” Paul here enjoins unity in Christ, and condemns dissension, but does not, here or elsewhere, inculcate laxity in regard to doctrine and fellowship. Our duty in the matter of fellowship may be classified under two heads:
Association or communion with those of like mind and faith; separation or withdrawal from all who walk contrary to that one faith either in belief or conduct.
This leads us to the consideration of the position of an ecclesia which knowingly fellowships a brother, or brethren, of the latter description. Of such a one Paul commands:
“Therefore put away from among you that wicked person” (1 Cor 5 v 13)
Here an unfaithful brother was known to exist in the fellowship of the ecclesia; this tolerance was condemned by the apostle, and called forth the command to “put away” or “withdraw” from such.
John states the matter in the strongest possible way in saying:
“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:”
“For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 John v 10. 11)
It is evident, therefore, that the knowing retention of false doctrine in an ecclesia renders such an ecclesia in God’s sight partakers of the evil. Such an ecclesia is unfaithful to its obligations in the Truth. What is our duty in regard thereto? To endeavour to awaken it to a realisation of its responsibilities; and in the event of persistent unfaithfulness our duty is to have no fellowship with it. An unfaithful ecclesia stands in the same position as an unfaithful brother.
It is in a condition of darkness, not walking in the light of the Truth; and being partakers of evil deeds has made fellowship with God and His Son impossible.
These are some of the great principles underlying the subject of fellowship.
We are well aware that it is strongly urged by many who are separated from us that their belief is identical with ours; that they know of no difference between us upon any doctrinal matters. This is doubtless true in some cases; it does not, however, touch the point of our objection. It is not merely a question of belief, but also of fellowship. It is when we ask such a question as “Will you withdraw your fellowship from brethren, and from ecclesias, who either hold or tolerate wrong doctrine?” that we make manifest the great difference existing between us.
The essentials to true fellowship are, as we have shown, “unity of mind” and “oneness of belief.”
It has been said that in thus standing aside from our brethren we are constituting ourselves judges; that we are judging them unworthy of a place in the Kingdom of God. That is untrue. Our duty is not to judge, but to manifest our obedience to God’s requirements. If faithfulness to those commands calls for withdrawal from erring brethren and sisters, do we thereby become judges? By no means; Christ will judge both them and us: it is to Him alone that we shall each have to give account; and if He, in the great day of judgement, accounts them worthy, and receives them into His everlasting kingdom, we, if also approved, will, we are sure, be only too ready to join with them in rejoicing.
Whilst we do not judge them, let us judge ourselves; in this serious matter. We judge ourselves unworthy of eternal life and the Kingdom of God if we show ourselves unfaithful in regard to our obligations in the Truth. If knowing, as we do, that it is our duty to maintain purity of doctrine and unity of mind, and to fellowship only those who are walking in the light, we go contrary to what we know, we certainly show ourselves to be unworthy of God’s goodness and salvation.
Again we appeal to be influenced in this matter solely by the Spirit’s teaching: to let the Scriptures be the guide concerning fellowship; and not to listen to the promptings of the flesh, or to the false pleas of charitableness. The times are perilous, and if the Truth is to be preserved in its purity, courage is required. We must be prepared to stand aside from all who consent not to the teaching of Christ and his apostles.
“He that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”
“And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Gal 6 v 8,9)
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Eph. 6 v 13)
1921 THE NATURE AND CONDITIONS OF FELLOWSHIP IN THE TRUTH
The Truth is professedly and confessedly a “narrow” thing. Jesus declares this in saying “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life”. This “way” he afterwards speaks of as “the truth”, saying “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free;” and also, “every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”
The narrowness of the Truth is one of the obstacles to its general adoption. People do not like to be fettered either in doctrine or practice. It is also one the causes of the active tendency to corruption which has manifested itself among those embracing the Truth from the very day it was apostolically established at Jerusalem. It is inconvenient to be under restrictions in our dealings with fellow men in the Truth or out of it. If it were a question of choice, we should all prefer absolute freedom. But no one recognising Christ as the supreme teacher can think of freedom in the matter. If we make freedom our rule, we can only have the freedom of those who set Christ aside altogether saying in the words of the wicked “Our tongues are our own: who is Lord over us”. None who truly know Christ would desire this freedom. All who sincerely accept Christ will recognise his law as paramount, however irksomely it may work in some of its present relations.
It is one of the narrownesses of the Truth that demands of those who receive it that they “contend earnestly for it”, even if an angel from heaven oppose it or corrupt it (Jude 3; Gal 1 v 8-9), and that they maintain it intact and unsullied among themselves as the basis and association among those who profess it, refusing to walk with a brother who either disobeys its precepts (2 Thes 3 v 14; Rom 16 v 17), or refuses consent to its teachings in vital matters (2 John 10; 1 Tim 6 v 3-5). This policy is so contrary to natural friendliness that it is easy to drift away from it, and to invent theories that will relieve us from its unpleasant obligations.
The controversy on inspiration has forced the re-consideration of this question upon us. We say re-consideration: for it was considered and debated in the beginnings of things connected with the Truth in this generation, and satisfactorily disposed of for a time. The principal cause of our trouble in the present situation has been the divergence of view that has prevailed at the bottom on this fundamental question. Many who have allowed the entirely inspired character of the Scriptures, have not been able to see the necessity for insisting upon that truth in our basis of fellowship. They have been inclined to leave it as “an open question”. This is the result of a dim or faulty perception of the apostolic doctrine of fellowship (a common sense doctrine) which requires agreement on fundamentals as the first condition of walking together, or co-operating, associating, or fellowshipping together in the prosecution of the objects of the truth. As a brother writing on the question says:
“There is prevalent at the present time a lamentable looseness in regard to what must constitute the basis of fellowship. It arises partly from ignorance and partly from an over anxiety to increase numbers, and keep together divergent elements. This must inevitably result in serious trouble or general declension … The Truth’s interest is at stake, and no doubt much depends upon our action, as to whether it is yet to be maintained in its purity and simplicity, or lapse into Laodiceanism. The crisis is, doubtless, the most acute that has taken place since it was brought to light in these latter days. It has been brewing for past years. You were reluctant to believe it, and laboured to stave it off. A too long course of loose discipline and slackness in dealing with wrong principles in doctrine and practice has, no doubt, intensified the evil and made it all the more bitter, and grievous and hard to bear. 1 am persuaded that good will result in the case of those many or few who will outride the storm by keeping a firm grasp of the anchor of the soul, by coming out of this ocean of suffering as gold tried in the fire.”
With a view to the thorough ventilation and effectual exhibition of the Scriptural principles of fellowship, we append a double series of propositions in which there is some attempt to formulate them in the bearing upon the question which has been troubling the ecclesias. We should be pleased to receive and publish enlightened criticisms that may be offered thereon; or any other capable endeavour to amplify or illustrate Scriptural principles in the same direction.
The First Series
- “Fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” consists in walking in the light, as God is in the light.
- “Fellowship one with another”, depends entirely upon our conformity to this first and necessary principle of all fellowship which John so emphatically lays down in 1 John 1 v 6.7
- “Light” is a figure of speech – a metaphor for divine wisdom, true knowledge, and accurate understanding.
- God is the fountain-head of these incomparable powers. Hence “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”
- His light is manifested to us in three ways – first, in Christ: second, in the Scriptures; and third, in His saints.
- In Christ:- “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” In the Scriptures:- “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119 v 105) In His Saints:- “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as Children of Light.” (Eph 5 v 8)
- These points being hereby established, they constitute a chain connecting God and man, not one link of which can be removed, or in any respect impaired without endangering the whole sequence and breaking the harmony of the divine relations to us individually. Take away Christ and you destroy all possibility of fellowship with God. Tamper with that Bible which He approved, and you equally render divine recognition of you hopeless, while you remove the only means in visible existence among men which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among them who are santified; you destroy the foundation of the righteous, and dissolve in so doing the household of Christ.
- “Walking in the light”, therefore, means “believing ALL things that are written in the law and the prophets”, as Paul affirmed he did (Acts 24 v 14), as well as the subsequent writings in the New Testament: exercising hope towards God as embodied in Christ our hope.”, and following “righteousness, faith, love, peace with those that call on the lord out of a pure heart”.
- Without the patient and faithful observance of these things, fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ is impossible, and in consequence fellowship one with another is likewise impracticable.
Is it not a commandment of God that we should receive His word – His oracles – the Scriptures – as supreme? Does not Christ enforce it in his “Search the Scriptures” (John 5 v 39) and elsewhere. Does not Paul teach it in many ways, in regard to both the Old Testament and the New.
Admitting this unavoidable conclusion and reading it in the light which 1 John 2 v 3, etc, throws upon the conditions of true fellowship, namely, “And hereby we do know that we know him if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar and the Truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk even as he walked”. Must we not exact Christ’s estimate of the Old Testament, and Paul’s of both the Old Testament and his own writings, as a necessary condition to be recognised in our “fellowship one with another”, if we wish to secure the end for which we are working, namely, “fellowship with the Father, and with his son, Jesus Christ”.
The Second Series
- In the accomplishment of its mission among men, the Truth acts by separation and association.
- It separates men from the world: “Come out from among them and be ye separate.”
- It associates those so separated: “Ye are all one … forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.”
It produces these results by the creation of scripturally derived ideas in the minds of those operated upon. By these ideas they are dominated and controlled. They become mentally new creatures, and manifest the change in their altered relations to men and things around them.
- But the association of those separated by the Truth, is governed by conditions, that sometimes interrupt that association. Hence, “Have no company:” “withdraw:” “turn away.” are apostolic commands concerning some who have been actually separated by the Truth.
- The conditions of association relate to two departments of our standing in Christ which may be expressed as conviction and character. Unity of conviction and mutuality of conformity to a certain standard of action, are the two conditions out of which association and fellowship grow, and by rupture of which, it is necessarily interfered with.
- This rupture may be only partial in either department and yet be sufficient to cause suspension of association in fellowship. Apostolic examples:-
- Refusal to recognise that Christ had come in the flesh was made a reason for not receiving men who believed in God and the Kingdom, and a number of other elements of truth.
- Idleness was declared a ground of disfellowship where men had otherwise submitted to the commandments of Christ.
- That the first condition of association is the belief of the Truth, apart from the perception and reception of which, there is no basis of fellowship.
- That the Truth forming this basis is made up of a number of items or elements, that are each essential to its integrity as a whole.
- That it is a matter of duty to require the recognition of these at the hands of those claiming association with us in the Truth.
- That we are not at liberty to receive any one who denies or refuses to believe any of them, because the receiving of such would open the way for the currency of their principles among us, with the tendency of leavening the whole community. The elements of the Truth are so mutually related that the displacement of one undermines the foundation of the whole.
- A man himself believing the Truth, but willing to wink at its denial among those in fellowship in any of its essential elements, becomes, by this willingness, an offender against the law of Christ, which requires the faithful maintenance of the whole. Faithful servants of Christ cannot unite with such, on the ground that though he hold the Truth himself, such a man is responsible for the error of those whom he would admit, and therefore becomes the channel of a similar responsibility to those who may endorse him in fellowship:- “He that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
- That it is the duty of the friends of the Truth to uphold it as a basis of union among themselves by refusing to receive either those who deny any part of it, or those who would receive those so denying.
- Paul commands withdrawal from “any man” who “obeys not word,” “delivered by epistle,” He commands the brethren to hold fast the traditions taught by him, “whether by word or epistle.”
- Paul teaches by epistle that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.
- We are bound to hold fast by this, and to refuse association with any man refusing to this apostolic tradition.
- The doctrine of partial inspiration is a nullification of this apostolic tradition; and a doctrine consequently, from the holders of which, we are bound apostolically to withdraw.
- That the highest sanction of reason supports this apostolic obligation, since logically, the doctrine of partial inspiration, when worked out, deprives us of confidence in the only access we have to the divine mind in our age.
1885 SO-CALLED “HERESY-HUNTING”. A DUTY.
“All heresy-hunting is of diabolos”, says the flesh. “Try the spirits whether they are of God,” writes the Spirit; and the reason given is “because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4 v 1). The “false prophets” were teachers of heresy, but professed to teach that which was true. There was a difficulty in identifying them, and therefore all teachers of divine things were to be tried to ascertain whose teaching was genuine and whose adulterated. The object of the test was that the heresy-teachers might be repudiated.
The spirit in Peter writing of Israel says, “But there were false prophets also among the people even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the lord that brought them” (2 Peter 2 v 1). How were such false prophets to be treated? Moses says, they “shall be put to death” (Deut. 13 v 5). Even a “brother”, “son”, “daughter”, “wife” or “friend”, who attempted to introduce idolatry was not to be spared (v 6-11). The object was that Israel might be purged of evil. Communities were to be dealt with on the same principle as Individuals. If it were reported that any one city had commenced to “serve other gods” (v 12, 13) “then”, said Moses, “shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you, thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly and all that is therein” (v 14, 15).
The comparison drawn in Peter’s epistle between false teachers in fleshly Israel and spiritual Israel is evidence that this Mosaic enactment contains a lesson for us. The use of the sword or anything destructive is out of the question; a practical protest by refusing to fellowship is the full extent of permitted action. The command to “enquire” is not at variance with the New Testament injunction; it is in harmony with it. When, therefore, it is reported that any brother or ecclesia is following false doctrine, it is not only permitted, but it is obligatory on other brethren and ecclesias, to “enquire and make search, and ask diligently”, to see whether it be true and the thing certain. If it is, the responsibility of their position leaves no option but that of repudiating complicity with the evil.
It is on this principle that ecclesial action has been taken on the inspiration question. It was reported that false teaching existed in Spiritual Israel concerning the authorship of divine writings, and on “enquiring, making search, and asking diligently”, many have found “the thing certain”. Some, it will be said, have inquired without finding its existence; but it is necessary to remember that there are different ways of inquiring, and that none are so blind as those who do not wish to see. The evidence of its existence is indisputable, and there are no excuses to justify its being ignored. The repudiation of responsibility for the false teaching of those at a distance shows a defective appreciation of the unity which should exist between all the members of the one body. “The members should have the same care one for another, and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it” (1 Cor 12 v 25-26). Heresy searching among national Israel was not of diabolos, but of God; therefore heresy searching among Spiritual Israel, can have no other origin.
And what is its result? It tends to preserve the purity of revealed truth. If a heresy test were of diabolos, it would be difficult to justify the repudiation of heresy; and thus the One body would gradually become so defiled that pure doctrine would wholly disappear.
The Wheat and the Tares
The parable of the wheat and the tares is sometimes quoted as a reason for not disfellowshipping false doctrine. If this application of it had been intended by Christ, there would have been no injunction in the New Testament to “beware of evil workers” (Phil 3 v 2), etc., and no condemnation of those who harboured false teachers in their midst: (Rev 2 v 20). Such a use of the parable is, therefore, a misapplication. Christ’s words must not be placed in opposition to apostolic injunctions; when considered in connection with them, it will be seen that after all that man can do in purifying an ecclesia of perceptible false teaching and practice, there will still be left wheat and tares, which can only be separated by the penetrating eye of the infallible Judge.
“Let us hear the author’s own interpretation: ‘He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man. The field is the world. The good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels. As, therefore, the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world’ – viz: ‘The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his Kingdom all things that offend and those who do iniquity.’
“This gives the parable an entirely different aspect. Instead of the ecclesia being the field, it is the world that is the field, and the time has not come yet for the world to be cleared of the offenders, and those that do iniquity; but when that time shall come, then the Lord will send forth his angels, and will ‘break in pieces the oppressor’ in order that the world, the territory of his Kingdom may be so purified of all present pollution as to be fit to become the basis of an eternal dominion, for the Creator has said, ‘He that ruleth over men must be just’, and he will not allow unjust rule to be perpetuated forever.
“Another feature of the false interpretation is that it makes the ecclesia the Kingdom. ‘The son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of this Kingdom all things that offend.’ They say: Let it all stand together in the ecclesia until the Lord shall separate the tares from the wheat. They are both in the Kingdom, for from it Jesus says his angels shall gather the offending, or the tares. It is impossible now to do away with the tares out of the future Kingdom without disturbing the wheat, which is not yet ripe. It being not quite harvest time yet; but when this golden autumn shall come then the work of separation will be done very effectually.
“I should not have written anything on so simple a point only I know by experience how widespread the misconception on it is, and if it be passed over, it must certainly produce the conclusion that there is a contradiction.”
1886 SUMMARY OF THE HERESIES OF RECENT TIMES 1865-1933-1977
By the year 1850, through the grace of God, “The Truth” was unearthed from the accumulated rubbish of human tradition, by John Thomas. The discovery of that valuable pearl so filled this assiduous student with gratitude, that neither the onslaught of tradition-mongers, nor the supercilious contempt of those who profited in the camp of the unfaithful could move him.
As John Thomas contended for “The Faith” and for absolute submission to the Word of God, so he was forsaken by friends and former colleagues. He had, however, raised the banner of “Truth” and he knew that men must be either for “The Truth” and the whole Truth, or they depart from “The Truth”. In the latter case they depart from the God of Truth, and are no longer associated with His Son Jesus Christ. – Such is the declaration of the Word of God.
As in the case of Israel, whose history has been preserved to admonish the people of God, so in the latter days, few have held fast to “The Faith”. “The Enmity” for the most part has prevailed over those who have responded to the Gospel call. “The Truth” would again have been lost except for the fact that those who fail to hold fast and leave their “first love” are led away by false teaching; and are withdrawn from, in obedience to divine instructions by those who remain steadfast. – so “The Faith” is preserved.
Apart from divisions there would now be in the “Body”, those who believe in eternal torments for the wicked; a personal supernatural devil; a Christ of a nature in which was no sin requiring to be conquered; who received eternal life as a right and not as a gift from his Father; a Bible not “wholly inspired and infallible,” but containing “a human element liable to err”. Also those who deny that Christ will give eternal life to His faithful sheep after the judgement, and say they will rise from the dead immortal; who deny that enlightened rebels will be raised and judged, or that anyone unbaptised, will be raised and judged.
As in doctrine so in practise; marriage with the alien would be allowed; partnerships and yoking with Unions. Law Courts would be used for the recovery of debts, and for divorce. Some would be the constituents of the Members of Parliament, Freemasons, Police, and in sections of the Army. Smoking, Pictures and Theatres would receive their patronage. The women would be no longer in subjection to divine law in relation to speaking, dress, and the hair. What an assembly! professing to be “the called” separated from the world refusing to “touch, taste or handle.”
Heresies manifest the approved, who being awake to the commandments, separate from the heretics because they and all their followers have departed from “The Faith”.
Is not the most deadly heresy the one recently set forth, that all these heretical sects contain the elect? Thus by implication, they may all meet together as one Assembly, for surely one is satisfied to meet with the elect!
It is an open confession that they are allied; and indeed they are; they have left the Faith and are “of the world.” How did these heresies arise?
1866 “Doweism”. “Personal Devil.” “Eternal Torments” and “Fellowship”.
Only about sixteen years from the setting forth of “The Truth” by John Thomas, came division because of false teaching regarding the devil and the punishment of the wicked. The difficulty was not so much the persistent teaching of the heresy but the refusal to withdraw from the wrong. Certain members of the assembly in Edinburgh objected to fellowshipping the false teachers, but the leaders were against taking action. One said, “We allow great liberty of conscience in such matters which are not essentials,” and another refused to declare his position, and the majority were for leaving the question for the sake of peace.
The faithful witness for “Truth” who had worked so diligently to find it, denounced the heresy, pointing out that there was not authority for making one part of the Truth less important than another. The heretics were reminded that those in “The Faith” had come out from the world; had separated from the Apostasy; and had withdrawn fellowship from both, – and if any should come and bring not the true doctrine, they were not to be received into the house of the believer nor to be bidden God-speed.
1873 Renunciationism; Edward Tumev declared that the renounced his former belief concerning the nature of Christ.
It was in this year that the heresy known as “Renunciationism” was introduced. A declaration was made renouncing the views previously held, that Jesus was made of the same sin-stricken nature as the rest of mankind. In place thereof the belief was set forth that the body of Jesus was not under condemnation, and was free from the promptings of sin. Although the divine teaching was so clear that Jesus was made in all points like unto his brethren, the heresy, took away a great number who, after the manner of the “Laodiceans”, had become satisfied with this life, and so were unwilling to be bearers of the reproach – “Outside the Gate.”
1884 “Partial Inspiration”
The heresy known as “Partial Inspiration” made its public appearance at this time. Though so evidently wrong, viewed from this distance of time, like all the works of sin this evil insinuated itself with characteristic subtlety. At first with apparent innocence, it was said that only those parts of the Bible were inspired, which required inspiration, and there were many portions of the Scriptures which did not need divine aid for their compilation – such as historical events, and the number of horses possessed by Solomon.
The unwary failed to perceive that once the absolute inspiration of the Bible was repudiated, then its power as an infallible guide was finished.
There were many, perhaps the majority of the victims of this Apostasy who declared that they still believed as they always had done that the Bible was inspired. These failed to perceive that offences and heresies come as trials for the manifestation of those who are to be approved. Instead therefore of holding fast to the divine statement that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim 3 v 16), and in obedience to those Scriptures, withdrawing from those who consented not to the wholesome words, they refused to be disturbed. Withdrawal was condemned as cruel; as setting oneself up as judges; and as being self-righteous.
At this time the deluded ones endeavoured to ignore the separation. The term brother was retained in speaking of those who had separated, and they were referred to as “the other meeting” and as being “on the other side” – forgetful of the fact that there are only two sides, inside the house and outside.
The inside attitude is – “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1 v 21), and all who deny this doctrine “have not God
1894 The Non-Responsibility of Enlightened Rejecters
Ten years again and the false teaching known as “the non-responsibility enlightened rejecters” made its appearance. Like its predecessors, this lie assumed an innocent guise. It declared that all in Adam die and will not rise; that only those who have been baptised into Christ will rise to judgement.
Those whose love had grown cold were again deceived. What presumption it was to say that people may know God, and understand His mercy, and then deliberately to turn their back upon the goodness of God and to say “I prefer my own way; I shall enjoy the desires of the flesh; and, so long as I refuse to be baptised I am not responsible to future judgement. Only if I make a start in the way of obeying God, am I in danger of being punished in the judgement.”
At this time also many followed the sedition – not because they believed the lie, but because they refused to separate from it. The cry was raised – “Leave it an open question” even though the holy Scriptures testified: “The Word that I have spoken the same shall Judge him in the last day” (John 12 v 48)
From the year 1894 general laxity developed; and as zeal for the Word of God declined, naturally the need for separateness from the world was forgotten. Warnings were given however, and the lesson of Israel’s miserable ruin, because of the same forgetfulness, was constantly brought to notice. But “Lukewarmness” deadened the sense of holiness. False doctrine and false practice were both condoned. Re-union with the various heretical Assemblies was openly advocated; marriage with the alien became of frequent occurrence. Furthermore, local separations were not to hinder the pleasure of visits to and from other Ecclesias.
1908 Marriage with the Alien
In 1908 a circular letter signed by sixteen members was issued to the Nottingham Ecclesia, asking for a special meeting to consider action about to be taken, because of prevailing unfaithfulness. Among other things, the letter stated that, –
“We believe the Ecclesia in its attitude during the recent marriage controversy sanctions practices inconsistent with the law of Christ:-
- The servants of Christ are commanded to hold steadfastly and maintain the instructions conveyed in the apostolic epistles (2 Thes 3 v 14).
- One of those instructions is given as follows:-
‘We command you in the name of Jesus Christ that ye withdraw from every brother that walketh disorderly and not after the tradition which he received of us.’ (2 Thes 3 v 6).
We are convinced that the above instructions are disregarded, and in place thereof another tradition is taught, and finds favour; for instance, it is affirmed that our responsibilities may be removed by a word of warning, or a declaration that disorderly walk is wrong. This theory strikes directly at the apostolic doctrine respecting fellowship, undermines it, and renders the instruction to withdraw, of non-effect.
For some years past the evil results of this indifference of the apostolic commands has manifested itself in reference to absentees from the Table, etc., and its evil influence has assumed an acute form during the last 12 months, affecting our attitude towards those who marry out of the Lord.
In a word the question is, shall we admonish those who seek alien alliances? and withdraw from those who in face of admonition marry an alien? until such times as there is manifested a godly sorrow unto repentance?
On the contrary it is affirmed that withdrawal shall take place only when those who marry, maintain that their act is a Scriptural one after having received admonition, which shall only be administered after the marriage has taken place.”
Division took place at the end of 1908. Those in opposition to the above statement, issued a statement, in which they contended that it was “unscriptural” to treat “compromising companionships or alliances with aliens as offences, or that the act of marriage with an alien severs from fellowship.”
After a time those who went away believing it wrong to deal with alien companionships and alliances were invited back, and the stand which had been taken was given up. The ecclesial rule dealing with the alien marriages was rescinded, blank slips of paper being placed over the rule.
In this way the spiritual standard was degraded and, as failure to stand aside from declension was delayed, so the catastrophe, which ultimately overwhelmed “the Body”, was the more devastating.
1915-23 Widespread Apostasy:- Breaking down the hedge (Ecc 10 v 8).
“Non-Combatant Service”, “Special Constabulary”, Clean Flesh”, “Voting” – The Crisis
The war which broke out in 1914 revealed much weakness. In 1915 the command not to take oaths, or to resist evil was openly disregarded. “The Christadelphian” for that year in the February issue declared that it was “the nature of the oath” for military service which could not be approved. Refusal to join any branch of military service had been objected to some months earlier.
In April, 1916, the Magazine argued for “Liberty of conscience” regarding non-combatant service. In 1917, the right to be Special Constables was advocated in Birmingham. At first the shock brought contenders for the Scriptures but afterwards it was declared that the contention must cease.
In various places the old heresy regarding the nature of Christ re-appeared.
In 1921 the possibility of compulsory voting at Parliamentary elections was referred to by the Editor of the “Christadelphian”; not however to warn his readers of approaching danger, and to remind them that – here, they had “no continuing city” – but to declare that he should “simply draw lots” as to which candidate he would vote for. Thus again setting aside Divine instruction.
Two years later, “The Christadelphian”, referring to the death of a prominent Jew, mentioned the possibility of such men (although unbaptised) rising from the dead to “see the glories of the kingdom”; such possibility was said to be “God’s secret” and was “not for us to judge”. Apparently in ignorance of the fact that God has revealed the secret as to who shall rise from the dead.
1923 “Non-Combatant Service”, “Special Constabulary”, “Clean Flesh”, “Voting”, “Honouring the Glorious Dead” – The Crisis
Accumulating evidences of corruption led to a crisis in 1923, when in open meeting, at Birmingham, it was contended that it was the duty of brethren to do violence when called upon by the State, and of 1,300 members only a mere handful stood loyal to the Bible commands. The division rent the “Body” throughout the world; the vast majority tolerating by fellowship the heresies introduced.
The close of this year, 1923, saw a further obscuring of the light of the Truth, and a joining up with the “Beast full of Names” depicted in Rev. 17. It was resolved in the Birmingham Assembly that on November 11th the Ecclesia should, as all other “Bodies” would, – stand in silence for two minutes!- in response to the Royal proclamation that such silence should be observed in honour of the glorious dead.
1926 The Divorce Question
Having been freed from the corrupting “plague in the House” which had spread like a leprous infection, the minority declared their determination to unite in upholding God’s Holy Law. But only three years passed before the “lust of the flesh” again obtruded itself and demanded that the Word of God should be set aside to make room for it. In 1926 came the shocking contention that if divorce were desired on account of unfaithfulness to the marriage bond, it was lawful to have that bond legally set aside so that re-marriage might place. This heresy introduced into the “Clapham” Assembly declared that for such unfaithfulness divorce and re-marriage were allowed by the law of Christ. In fact, it was contended that such an unfaithful act itself severed the marriage bond and that legal proceedings were taken merely to have the fact registered.
Possibly the heretics did not realise the enormity of the doctrine which means that all people who commit such a sin, automatically become unmarried.
The divine law teaches that adultery is a crime worthy of death! and certainly brings no such release as is contended for.
Withdrawal from the heresy ensued. Those withdrawing holding up the Bible declaration – “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matt. 19 v 6).
1927 A Confessed Change of Belief – A Broader View
The following year (1927) brought another shock to the “Household”. A booklet was issued from Clapham in which the writer stated that the recent divisions had led him to widen his views and he now thought it “more than possible that those on the right side in the judgement will include some from each of the said divisions notwithstanding their present separation.”
Thus by one fell stroke the fortress of truth was betrayed, and all the old heresies were allowed to enter in.
Of course, each sect must still be in a separate building, but what of that if each contains the elect?
Withdrawal ought only to take place for offences against the law of God and in obedience to His commands, and the God-Breathed Word declared that “whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God”. (2 John v 9).
True withdrawal is to separate from those whose conduct separates from the fellowship of the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Therefore the action of faithful withdrawal is a loosing in heaven just as true baptism into the Body of Christ is a binding in heaven. If not, of what value is it? With the broader view all the sections called Christadelphian are the dear brethren of each other; and so the evil working of the earlier heresies at last prevailed.
The booklet in which the change of belief was published contained the copy of a letter from the promulgator of the new view, a presiding brother at Clapham to his dear brother the editor of “The Christadelphian”.
Protests were made and the new confession repudiated by many; and the publisher of the “Berean” in a reply to an Ecclesial protest disassociated himself from it.
The great principal of separateness from error having been betrayed, the fall from strict adherence to the law of Christ rapidly made itself manifest to the vigilant. Partnership with aliens was allowed, and it was denied that such was a yoking with unbelievers. Partnership in Co-operative Societies and membership with Trade Unions were strongly defended. Sisters were shorn of their hair in direct defiance of the divine instruction given by the Apostle Paul. And while all these offences were condoned, the people who did rouse resentment were those who testified against the wrong. ‘
1933 “Laodiceanism.” The Pemberton Trouble
Again under divine control these evils moved on to a crisis and in the year 1933 division again ensued.
On January 3rd, in response to an enquiry from “Pemberton”, the same Clapham presiding brother who had published his change of view, wrote expressing regret that the Pemberton ecclesia should have been “Disturbed over the application of 1 Cor. 14 v 34, which undoubtedly forbids sisters exhorting or lecturing” but that wisdom was profitable to direct, and that a wise sister would be justified in, say “suggesting a postponement” and that extremists were to be given a “wide berth”. In this subtle manner was the Word of God again perverted. (The man who trembles at the Word of God will not dare to alter it; and the true servant of the Lord delights to do his Lord’s Will. The “Word” was clear – “Let your woman keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted unto them to speak”).
Thus encouraged the Pemberton Ecclesia passed a resolution that sisters might “make verbal suggestions and ask verbal question in an humble manner at ecclesial business meetings.”
After appeals and admonition, division took place at “Pemberton”.
When those who withdrew from the unfaithful majority wrote to “Clapham” to know their attitude, they received a reply from the same presiding brother which concluded:- “Did you read carefully the letter I wrote to the Pemberton Ecclesia on Jan 3rd last? I have nothing to add thereto or take from.” A further appeal was sent to “Clapham” and this time the recording brother replied saying, that the time of the presiding brethren was fully occupied; and concluded: “Bro. F.G. Jannaway has written to the Pemberton Ecclesia, also to yourself on the matter, which I consider should suffice.”
The same enquiry from “Pemberton” was sent to “Nottingham”, and in reply was pointed out that the command re sisters speaking was clear and definite – “Sisters must be silent” in the Ecclesia.
A copy of the resolution which was passed was sent to “Nottingham” and one of the members of the Pemberton Ecclesia pointed out the inconsistency and unfaithfulness of the Nottingham Ecclesia if it remained in fellowship. What was to be done? The Nottingham Ecclesia was eventually called together, and a communication was sent to “Pemberton” stating that it would be necessary to stand aside from fellowship unless they were “prepared to obey the command which had been set aside by their resolution,” and that a reply was anxiously awaited in hope. No reply forthcoming, the withdrawal took place in April; and a notification sent to the “Berean”. This notification being suppressed, copies of the letter to “Pemberton” were sent to all Ecclesias.
Since that time no direct communication has been received by “Nottingham” from “Pemberton”, and questions sent to “Pemberton” have brought no satisfactory reply.
When it was found that trouble was inevitable, a number of Ecclesias being dissatisfied with the attitude of “Clapham”, pressure was brought to bear upon “Pemberton” to make some alteration. They were to ask their sisters to be silent for the sake of peace. Later they were asked to withdraw their resolution for the sake of peace. For at this time pressure was withstood; eventually after much agitation the offending resolution was withdrawn with the proviso that – “Sisters could ask questions or make suggestions through a brother or by the use of slips of paper”. The spirit of rebellion was still manifest, for the divine Word had said; “Let them ask their husbands at home.
Meanwhile others were ridiculing the contention that sisters must be silent. A statement was sent out by the secretary of the Oldham Ecclesia, and in certain eventualities might even cry out and spare not.
Scorn was poured on the determination to uphold the command.
The position feared in 1908 now prevails. Withdrawal is condemned. Ecclesias satisfy their conscience by an ecclesial declaration that certain conduct is wrong. The changed view that all sections withdrawn from heresy, have the elect among them is now universally held – except by “The Remnant” who “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Those sects who apostatised from the Truth when trial came to prove them have their meeting places in the towns of Great Britain, America, and the Dominions; they declare, moreover, that they are Jews (the people of God).
This review is to assist in making clear the vision of those who desire to be the Brethren of Christ in truth, and to be quite separate from “the Synagogues of Satan.”
Where the ‘Word of God is altered and the commandment laid aside’ in doctrine or behaviour, it is the duty of the ‘friends of The Truth’ to cleanse themselves and uphold “The Truth” in every situation.
1954 – “The Remnant” became separated and ‘went out’ from the ‘body’, “The Ecclesia of Christ” on personal matters invoking Matthew 18 v 15-20, which is predicated upon ‘trespass’ and ‘fault’, which could not be defined. This trouble was not based upon any doctrinal issue.
1964 – A crotchet was introduced regarding the exclusion of certain meats on the score of uncleanness which became elevated to a principle of Truth essential for salvation, contrary to the doctrine of Christ. 1 Timothy 4 v 1-5.
1971 – This heresy of unclean meats prevailed until a few were enlightened to the darkness of their position and cleansed themselves of the error and became known as the “Apostolic Fellowship of Christ.”
1972 – An unscriptural resolution was adopted as a principle of truth and used to deal with a personal matter of disobedience which erroneously defined the working of the “Spirit” in Ecclesial appointments, contrary to the doctrine of Christ.
1977 – The error of this position became apparent after further efforts to exercise “authority” upon the Ecclesia was manifest which resulted in the faithful rescinding the offending resolution. Once again, the unfaithful, “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:” 1 John 2 v 19.
1992 – The position in 1992 finds a minority “earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.”
“Christadelphian”, a name which at one time was dear to those who believed and loved the Truth – now, like the word “Christian”, has lost its meaning.
There are but two positions, within the “household” and outside.
True brethren of Christ are members of “The Household”.
“Christadelphianism” has amongst it:- believers of the doctrine which the Apostle John describes as “Anti-Christ.”
“Non-responsibility of rejecters”.
That the saints may be members of any heretical sect, or even of sects of the Apostasy. All these are included in the name, and the accepted teaching is that the elect are to be gathered from every section. They can no longer with strict consistency cry “Come out”. Their “Light” and their witnessing for Truth has ceased.”The Household” is separate and distinct, appreciating and honouring the true fellowship of the Father and His Son Jesus Christ and knowing that when, on account of unfaithfulness, any are cut off from the “Body” they are no longer united to the “Head.”