Tests of Fellowship • The Churches of Christ are divided over the doctrine of grace—and the division is getting worse, fast • The division isn’t really over instruments or liberalism or such • It’s about the scope of grace
Tests of Fellowship • If God accepts someone, then so must I • I can’t be a sterner judge than the Perfect Judge • Therefore, I must fellowship all who are in fellowship with God
Tests of Fellowship • Every who has been saved is still saved unless he has fallen from grace • Therefore, I must be in fellowship with all who’ve been saved and who (to the best of my knowledge) haven’t fallen away
Tests of Fellowship • Who have been saved? • All who’ve— • Heard • Believed • Repented • Confessed • Been baptized
Tests of Fellowship • What must I have heard? • The gospel • What must I believe? • The gospel • What must I confess? • The gospel
Tests of Fellowship • What’s the gospel? • It’s what we confess and believe: • That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God • That we are saved through faith in Jesus (Rom. 1:1-5; 1 Cor. 15:1-8; Gal. 3:8-1; Col. 1:21-23; 2 Tim. 2:8-9)
Tests of Fellowship • We’ve never required a confession of the convert’s position on— • Instrumental music • Baptism • Divorce and remarriage • Because of none of this is the gospel (as the New Testament uses the word)
Tests of Fellowship • Therefore, the plan of salvation can be expressed as — • Have faith (believe the gospel) • Repent • Be baptized
Tests of Fellowship • In other words— • Accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God • Accept Jesus as Lord • Be baptized
Tests of Fellowship When does a Christian fall away?
Tests of Fellowship • When he no longer accepts Jesus as Son of God Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. (1 John 4:2b-3a)
Tests of Fellowship • When he no longer accepts Jesus as Lord If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Heb. 10:26-27)
Tests of Fellowship • We can test this theory • If it’s true, then at least two very exciting things must be true • First, we are to judge the salvation of our fellow Christians by the same standards on which we were initially saved • Second, the Bible will somewhere say that all Christians are saved—all the time (until they fall away)! There are no lost Christians!!
Tests of Fellowship Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Rom. 15:7)
Tests of Fellowship • In the Greek, the first “accept” is in the present tense,indicating continuous action—“continually accept” • The second “accept” is past tense aoristindicating a single point in time in the past—“at that point in time when you were accepted”
Tests of Fellowship • “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you”thusbecomes“Continually accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you at a particular point in time in the past” • Plainly, we are to accept others by the same standard as when were accepted, that is, when we were baptized!
Tests of Fellowship But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)
Tests of Fellowship • Paul exults in how God was willing to give up Jesus for us while we were still “sinners” and his “enemies” (v. 10) • This is when we were baptized, when we were utterly and completely cleansed of our sins
Tests of Fellowship Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Rom. 5:9)
Tests of Fellowship • Paul makes the point(which should be obvious but isn’t)that now that we are God’s children(and no longer enemies!) we will now be “much more” savedthan when we were first saved • This is so true that he says it twice!
Tests of Fellowship For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Rom. 5:10)
Tests of Fellowship • Our salvation after having been baptized is more certain—much more—than we first stepped out of the baptistry!
Tests of Fellowship So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.For in my inner being I delight in God's law;but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
Tests of Fellowship What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?(Rom. 7:21-24)
Tests of Fellowship • Paul declares the desperation of all Christians who haven’t succumbed to arrogance—I’ve repented and I’m trying to stay true to it, but I keep sinning anyway • What’s the solution?
Tests of Fellowship Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. (Rom. 8:1-3)
Tests of Fellowship “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” • There are no lost Christians!
Tests of Fellowship Questions
Tests of Fellowship Q. If there are no lost Christians,what happens when a Christian sins? A. It depends • Is the Christian penitent, trying to live as Jesus wants? If so, the Christian remains in grace • Is the Christian rebelling, willfully continuing to sin? If so, Heb. 10:26-27 predicts damnation
Tests of Fellowship Q. Is this “once saved, always saved”? A. No. You can fall away
Tests of Fellowship Q. Whom must I consider a brother? • Everyone whom God considers a son or a daughter— which is everyone who’s been saved and who hasn’t fallen away which is—
Tests of Fellowship • which is everyone who has • faith • penitence and • a baptism God accepts • OTHER THANeveryone who has abandoned • his faith or • his repentance
Tests of Fellowship • Then why do good works if our salvation doesn’t depend on them? • This question only makes sense if you start with a legal mindset
Tests of Fellowship • Why do I honor my parents even though I’m too old to spank? • Why do I honor my wife even though I’m not afraid of being divorced? • (Why love your wife if no one is making you?) • We have to see love, not as a response to a command, but as our new nature
Tests of Fellowship • If we aren’t lost for believing false doctrine, then why study the Bible? • Again, you can’t start with a law-based mindset
Tests of Fellowship • If you love Jesus and have truly repented, you will want to follow his teachings • And you’ll study because you love Jesus • Teachings don’t have to end with “or you’ll go to Hell!” to be obeyed • How can you love God and have to be threatened to obey?
Tests of Fellowship • What about penitent believer with a baptism accepted by God who disagrees with me about— • Divorce and remarriage? • The age of the earth? • Children’s worship? • Instrumental music? • Missionary societies?
Tests of Fellowship • We cannot perfect ourselves morally • We know this, and so we rely on grace for our salvation
Tests of Fellowship • But we also cannot perfect ourselves intellectually • We forget this, and so we damn all who disagree with our opinions • And we dare to declare our opinions “faith”!
Tests of Fellowship • Romans 14, which is the background for Romans 15:7,explains how this works in practice
Tests of Fellowship Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. (Rom 14:1) • This applies only to those in the church, of course • But if we in the church are disputing about a matter, how can it not be disputable? • Surely the test isn’t subjective—what the preacher thinks is unclear!
Tests of Fellowship One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down onhim who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemnthe man who does, for God has accepted him. (Rom. 14:2-3)
Tests of Fellowship One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. (Rom 14:5a) • In Romans, Paul doesn’t botherto say who is right on the sacred-day issue • Why not? • In other epistles, he answers this question, but not here!
Tests of Fellowship Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. ... Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (Rom. 14:4-5b)
Tests of Fellowship He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God (Rom. 14:6)
Tests of Fellowship You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. (Rom. 14:10) • Even the ones who are wrong, will stand!
Tests of Fellowship Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. (Rom. 14:13a)
Tests of Fellowship • Notice this: • Some of our authors and preachers claim Romans 14 is about matters of indifference
Tests of Fellowship • But what about: But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! (Gal. 4:9-10)