|vol 2 no 11
||March 23, 1997
The withdrawal of fellowship from an unfaithful Christian is a serious matter and involves taking drastic measures. In describing this action the New Testament uses such urgent language as "... put out of our fellowship...", "...hand over to Satan...", "Get rid of the old yeast...", "...not to assiciate with", "...you must not associate with...", "With such a man do not even eat." "Expel...from among you." "Do not associate with..." (I Cor 5:1-13; 2 Thess 3:14).
At what point is one's fellowship to be withdrawn from another Christian? After all other means have failed. There is to be love shown by correcting, rebuking, and encouraging - with patience and careful instruction (2 Tim 4:2). Such measures as described in Matt 18:15-18 are to be taken. There are to be warnings (Titus 3:10-11). If these do not work, then the withdrawing of fellowship is to be undertaken (I Cor 5:6,7).
New Testament examples are given of those from whom our fellowship must be withdrawn; those who refuse to help settle an offense with a brother (Matt 18:15-18); The immoral and wicked (Eph 5:3-5; I Cor 5:11); blasphemers (I Tim 1:20); false teachers (Rom 16:17; 2 Jn 9-11); a divisive person (Titue 3:10); those who obey not our instructions, i.e., those who are irregular, neglectful of duty, idle, lazy, out of ranks, not at one's post or duty (2 Thess 3:6,14).
The same passages that explain the action of withdrawal also explain the purpose, "...that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (I Cor 5:5). This is accomplished when the sinner is forced into seeing the reality and consequence of his sin, experiences shame, and comes back to the Lord through repentance; the only action that can remove the shame and guilt of sin. He is, thus, brought back into fellowship with God.
Indirectly, the purity of the church as well as the eternal destiny of our own souls is at stake. We must not maintain fellowship with a Christian who refuses to repent of sin. Doing so would place our own souls in danger as well as the purity of the Lord's body.
How are we to treat those who have been withdrawn from? Withdrawal of fellowship shold be a congregational undertaking. "When you are assembled" (I Cor 5:4,5). It is to be administered by the "brothers" (2 Thess 3:6). And is to be "inflicted by the majority" (2 Cor 2:6). After they are withdrawn from we are to: keep away from them (Rom 16:17), do not associate with them (2 Thess 3:14,15), have nothing to do with (Eph 5:11), etc. But all personal contact with them is not forbidden. "do not regard him as an enemy, but WARN him as a brother. It would be quite impossible to warn and reprove a disfellowshipped person, if all contact is forbidden. Another problem, not stated in these verses, is the contact necessary where a member of the same family has been withdrawn from. There are some family responsibilities which are to be kept intact (I Tim 5:8,14,16; Eph 6:1-4). -EB-
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