THE UNIT CONCEPT OF FELLOWSHIP
We in the CLC and our sister churches hold to what has been called the ‘unit concept’ of fellowship. This is simply the teaching of Scripture that to have religious fellowship we must agree on God’s Word and not just on a part of it. And the exercise of fellowship includes all phases of it just as unity in the Word assumes agreement on all the Word.
When Paul said farewell to the Ephesian elders he stated, “…I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20:27 Later in defending himself before Felix Paul states, “…according to the Way…I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets.” Acts 24:14 This holding to all the Word is our position also. Exercising our religious fellowship is based on this unity on the Word. This unity in the Word Paul wrote of repeatedly to congregations – 1 Cor. 1:10, Phil. 1:27,2:2, Rom. 15:5-6.
Fellowship means to draw near to Christ (1 Cor. 10:16) and to stay clear of error and those who practice it (2 Cor. 6:14-18). Scripture never says a little error can be tolerated. Far from it we have the illustration to warn of the danger of a little in leaven in a lump of dough that goes throughout the whole lump though the leaven is a little thing. Gal. 5:9 The warnings of our Lord are clear and serious about false teaching and false teachers. Mt. 7:15, 24:11,24
The most important fellowship relationship we have is with our God. 1 Cor. 1:9 Then secondly our fellowship is with one another. 1 Jn. 1:3 We devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship. Acts. 2:42 How could we be loyal to our Lord if we allowed some teaching contrary to what He taught through the Word? This is not just human reasoning, as it comes from God’s Word. Rom. 16:17-18 Error or false teaching is what comes from man’s mind in opposition to what God says. Jer. 23:16-17 We measure what is taught by the Word as the standard. If what others teach is in conformity with the Word we seek fellowship, but if not we remain separate. 2 Pet. 2:1, 1 Jn. 4:1
In searching the Word on this whole question we see the applications of the ‘unit concept’.
- Preaching – We cannot invite a pastor from a different church to preach to our people as he does not agree with us on the Word. We believe in infant baptism. A Baptist pastor would preach against that.
- Teaching – There are a great variety of teaching situations within the church. Only those can teach for us who hold to all the Word. It is one thing to talk with someone, but quite another to speak to a group as a representative of the church.
- Communion – When we stand together to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in/under/with the bread and wine, it is a visible sign of our unity. We cannot honestly give communion to another unless there is the agreement. There are serious warnings about not doing this properly. 1 Cor. 10:14-20, 11:27-30
- Worship Leaders – Anyone may come and hear the Word in our worship services, though to conduct our worship means to be one with us. The safeguard that only the truth will be preached is that there is agreement on the truth.
- Prayer – We may pray for anyone and everyone of course. If invited by someone into their house to pray for them, we gladly go and speak to God. But for someone to lead us in prayer and to pray as if he is the leader and not be agreed is not right.
- Support of the Word – We do not give our support to the preaching of false teachings even if this is accompanied by part of the truth. While we can give a Bible and Christian literature to anyone, we do not give support to other churches other than those we are united with.
- If the Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, we will apply it as we live our lives in Christ. We can associate with people in many ways as in social activities, political events, daily work and so on. In religious associations we have God’s Word to direct us very specifically.
If we have clean water to drink, it is healthy for us. Add a little dirt to it and it is no longer clean and healthy for us. So it is with error. Or think about poison. You could receive it in small portions that might not kill you right away, though it’s long term effect is deadly. Error is like the camel who first puts his nose in the tent. If tolerated, he will eventually be in the tent wholly and the camel driver out. That is the way error works, first its nose then more to come. Some people think they will not be effected by error, it they do not hold to it, but belong to a church that does allow it. We have a saying that if you lie down with dogs, you can get up with fleas.
What a joy to seek to follow the whole counsel of God. We do not waste time arguing with one another over what the Bibles says, due to disagreements. We put our time and effort into preaching, teaching and spreading the wonderful news of God in the context of the Word.
Taken from: Concerning Church Fellowship
(This is the doctrinal statement of the CLC)
The CLC has not hesitated to put down in writing its teachings. This is common with the Lutheran Church as the Book of Concord shows. If we believe, then we state what we believe. In fellowship and separation it is no different than in any other teachings which we draw from the Word. The Word is clear and so should we be.
STATEMENT OF TRUE DOCTRINE
1. We believe, teach, and confess that complete doctrinal agreement is the Scriptural basis for church fellowship. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). (§ 4-7)
2. We further believe that the doctrine which the Church should teach and hold is restricted to the doctrine of the Bible. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). (§ 8-9)
3. We further believe that the Word of God (the Old and New Testaments) is inerrant, inviolable, and clear. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16); “ . . . the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35); “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path’’ (Ps. 119:105). (§ 10-13 )
4. We believe that all aberrations from the doctrines of Scripture are condemned by God. “Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith” (Jer. 23:31), and “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. l:9). (§14-15)
5. We believe and teach that church fellowship is forbidden with all who deviate from the Word of God in their teachings. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). (§ 16-41)
6. We further believe that all manifestations of fellowship are forbidden with those who deviate from the Word of God in their teachings (Rom. 16:17b). (§ 42-45)
7. We further believe and teach that suspension of an established fellowship is to take place when it has been ascertained that a person or group is causing divisions and offenses through a false position in doctrine or practice (Rom. 16:17-18). (§ 46-48)
1. We reject and condemn any limitations on the extent of the application of the Scriptural injunctions to separate from false churches and teachers. (§ 49)
a. We reject the teaching that the application is limited to non-Christian bodies. (§ 50)
b. We reject the teaching that the application is limited to those who deny the redemptive work of Christ. (§ 51)
c. We reject the teaching that the application is limited to those who err in fundamental doctrines. (§ 58-60)
d. We further reject the teaching that errorists and their followers are to be avoided only when they no longer listen to admonition, or that we are to remain in fellowship with errorists as long as we think there is hope that they might give up their errors. (§ 61-72)
e. Though the teaching Church is ever an admonishing Church, we reject the opinion that separation from errorists is dependent upon the course of admonition. (§ 73)
2. We also reject and condemn all limitations on the intensiveness of such divinely commanded separation from false churches and teachers.
a. We reject as false the teaching which would forbid only joint worship services with errorists. (§ 75-77)
b. We reject as spurious the distinction which is made between prayer fellowship and joint prayer, namely, that while the former is indeed forbidden with errorists, an occasional joint prayer would not be displeasing to God. (§ 78-80)
c. We also reject the teaching that fellowship with errorists is permitted if there be no complicity with the error itself, or that the errorist may be fellowshipped but not his error. (§ 82)
d. We also reject the teaching that one may practice outward or external fellowship with errorists, if one does not embrace the error in his heart. (§ 83-84)
e. We also reject the idea of protesting fellowships when they are used as license to practice fellowship with errorists. (§ 85-88)
f. Finally, we reject the plea of “cooperation in externals” when it is used as license for actual joint church work with errorists. (§ 81)
For a fellowship relationship to develop as we have seen in the past with our present sister churches several things must exist:
- The inquiring group should have no fellowship with other church bodies or be willing to break such based on non-agreement and the teaching of false doctrine in such a body,
- The group must agree with us on what we believe and teach as drawn from Scripture, as every Lutheran teaching must be a Bible teaching and every Bible teaching must be a Lutheran teaching,
- If and/or when there is correction in error advanced by us to them, they must be willing to bow to the Word and will of God as we will also when corrected,
- They must show a willingness to continue in the Word, and that we study and learn together (we cannot possibly cover all teachings in several days of discussion or even in numerous letters), (This whole idea of learning together is implicit in our brother to brother relationship with both learning.)
- There must be an integrity demonstrated in so far as we can see up to the point of our meetings, realizing that this is something that we watch for throughout our relationship and not just at the outset. We know there are many who see the USA as a cash cow. Some will try to deceive to receive. We hold to the moral and ethical code of Scripture and fully expect our brothers to also.
1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Philippians 1:27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,
Philippians 2:2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Romans 15:5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” 17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” 18 “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.”
Galatians 5:9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
Matthew 24:11 “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
Matthew 24:24 “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Romans 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
Jeremiah 23:16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They continually say to those who despise Me,`The LORD has said, “You shall have peace “‘; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say,`No evil shall come upon you.’”
2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.u