What About Withdrawing Fellowship?
Every society, every organization, no matter the size, must police itself. The Lord’s church is no exception. In order for the church to maintain its distinctive moral nature, discipline, when scripturally called for, must be administered.
Fellowship is the result of our mutual relationship with God. We are bound together in the local assembly in order that we might draw strength from one another by mutual edification. In Hebrews 10: 23-25, the writer implores, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching." This is a clear indication of the reason for our assembling. We come together to worship our God, but also so that we might be warned about being drawn back into the world. If we forsake that privilege, it is a sure indication that we have lost our fervor for God; and our consideration for the mutual edification made available by the regular assembling with the saints. A question, please: If you seldom showed up at home, would it indicate anything about the fellowship and love of your family?
"This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that 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 practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:5-9). A question please: Can we have fellowship with those with whom God does not have fellowship?
There arose a morals problem in the church at Corinth and nothing was being done about it. About that matter Paul warned, "And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from you. In the name our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump..." (I Corinthians 5:1-13). A question, please: Can brethren walk away unconcerned when saints are involved in sin? And can Christians be tolerant where God in not tolerant?
"And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother" (2 Thess. 3:14-15). A question, please: Can the congregation "note" a person who is in sin without making a public proclamation of his unfaithfulness?
Our fellowship is the result of our mutual relationship with God. As we learned from Hebrews 10:23-25, we are bound together in the local church in order to draw spiritual strength from one another. That fellowship is dependent on our being like-minded, having the same faith, hope and love. That relationship is ruptured when someone deliberately absents himself from assembly over and over, or engages himself in known sinful activity.
It takes considerable moral courage for a congregation to "mark" some unfaithful saint, or "withdraw fellowship" from someone who has obviously already withdrawn fellowship from God. And it takes considerable love for the saints for an Elder in the Lord’s church, operating on behalf of all the members of the local congregation, and in accord with the commands of God, to stand before the assembly and announce that we no longer have fellowship with some unfaithful saint. We cannot have fellowship with darkness and walk in the light, brethren.