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July 10, 2010


Ecclesiastical Separation, Part 5

While we would not recommend that younger men in our movement spend large amounts of time with the brother who is in error until they have a full and balanced view of theology, we ought to be able to sit across the table from or stand on a platform with someone with whom we are not in complete agreement and proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to people who are lost in their sins and headed to an eternal hell.

A practical approach

Discerning the difference between error and heresy is not the only issue we face, however. There are many non-fundamental issues on which we may sincerely disagree with other genuine believers. Some of those issues are quite significant. It stands to reason that we may feel more comfortable partnering with one group than another, depending on the type of work involved. How do we decide when it is appropriate to work together?

One framework already suggests itself, based on the comments above:

Group 1: This is heresy. No Godspeed. They are tampering with the Gospel.
Group 2: This is significant error. They are not enemies. We do, however, disagree on important issues.
Group 3: This is minor error. We have different standards. We differ in our application of certain texts.

A set of responses is implied by that framework:

Response 1: No interaction, cooperation, or fellowship.
Response 2: Not enemies. Kindness, limited cooperation on non-core projects.
Response 3: Friends. Cooperation on core projects.

A practical guideline for deciding whether a Fundamental Christian or church can fellowship and cooperate with another Christian individual or group would be to examine the prospective relationship and ask how close it comes to the mission of winning souls and planting churches. The closer a proposed relationship or project to evangelism and church planting, the greater discretion must be exercised.

If we are planting churches together, we need very close theological agreement. A team project that plans to distribute food and water to disaster victims, however, might be composed of believers who hold quite varied beliefs. Teamwork that intends to make disciples – baptizing and teaching – would need to have a high degree of agreement, even on non-essential doctrines. What will we teach them about the security of the believer and the perseverance of the saints? How will we practice baptism and the Lord’s Supper?

Ecclesiastical separation is an important issue for the church. We must be sure we do not compromise the Gospel, but we also must be careful that we do not dishonor our Lord by twisting the Scripture and displaying an arrogant, judgmental spirit. We must lift our eyes to see the fields that are “white unto harvest” and hear the call from Macedonia to “come over and help us.” Loyal to the revealed Word of God, passionate for the lost, willing to work in some way with any genuine Christian, we must forge ahead. This age has its share of skeptics who try to undermine confidence in God’s Word and the Christ to which it bears witness. The Bible, however, needs no defense, and one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord. In the meantime, we ought to join every willing, warm-hearted Christian in advancing our Lord’s kingdom while it is day, because “the night cometh, when no man can work.”

Download the entire series of posts as a PDF

  1. Jul 10 2010

    Thanks for the time and effort you put into organizing these thoughts on this subject. I believe you have ended with good guidelines to go buy.

    Would it be possible to have all 5 parts in on PDF document, or have you thought about putting it in booklet form? This would be something good for us to have on hand at our church.

  2. admin
    Jul 10 2010

    Brad…there is a link above to the entire article. Blessings

  3. Pastor Matt Mchillips
    Aug 11 2010

    QUestion about fundamentals or major areas? Who determines what is a major doctrine and a minor doctrine? Would baptism be a major doctrine? What about the use of the Lord’s Supper? I grew up that theswe did not matter, but today see that these are major to historic Baptist.

  4. admin
    Aug 11 2010

    Matt….All doctrine is important. However, there is some false doctrine that leads people away from the idea that “Jesus Saves Sinners.” I cannot cooperate with people on a professional ecclesiastical level if they do not embrace the simple gospel.

    However, there are some things that I have strong opinions about—that are not vital to a persons eternal salvation. Hence, I have created a theological model of who I can “work with” and at “what level” based on our agreement. (see this post)

    When it comes to “what” is a major issue..I believe that is best left to autonomy of local churches and their leadership. I do not beleive it is best for “Fundamental Ayatollah or Popes” to make those judgment calls for our entire group. (Romans 14–Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth )

    With regards to the ordinances, I believe they are vital to our church. We love the ordinances at Southlake Baptist. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper monthly and have baptized about 15 people over our 8 month history. (By immersion after salvation)

    Blessings to you and your church.

  5. Nathaniel Kealer
    Aug 20 2010

    I have read all 5 parts in this series, and I would have to agree with you in part. For example, when I was a teenager I had two friends whose dad was a Pentecostal Pastor, we played basketball together, shot guns, and would hang out, but when it came to spiritual things, and church I would not associate with them. There are more practical, and Ecclesiastical Doctrines that separate us from other groups of believers, not just “five” fundamentals. The problem I have is when we bring people and ideas into our churches and let them influence our young people, with their music that sounds like the world, and dress that looks like the world. The Bible still says in 1John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. I believe this means the worlds dress, music, etc. I also believe the Bible talks about a “lukewarm Christianity” in Rev 3:15&16 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. There are no gray areas with God, it is either black, or it is white. So wouldn’t the worlds philosophies such as music and dress, mixed in a church setting, even if the Gospel is being shared, mix the black and white which in turn would make it a gray area? Therefore I cannot based on Biblical truth fellowship spiritually with someone does not agree with me doctrinally and who adopts the world’s philosophy and brings them into the church.

  6. Aug 21 2010

    To the commenter above, I would say that Scripture is inerrant, but to assign inerrancy to my own interpretation is dangerous. This is not saying that we can never be certain of truth, but when we use our own interpretation to prove our case instead of going to the Scriptures objectively, we damage the foundation we are basing our conclusions upon.

    I believe we should draw lines where the Jesus draws lines, and be extremely cautious before drawing them where Jesus does not. Romans 14:4.

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