The Ancient Faith
FELLOWSHIP AND UNITY-IN-DIVERSITY
The subject of fellowship and unity-in-diversity continues to be a problem in the church. Strangely, the two words contradict one another and yet a continuing effort is being made to combine the two. Fellowship has to do with association, communion, contribution and sharing in anything actively or passively.
As for unity-in-diversity, it is an unscriptural term and violates every scripture in the New Testament having to do with fellowship. Fellowship is involved in the communion (I Cor. 10: 16), the contribution (Rom. 15:26), the teaching (Rom. 16: 17-18;,II John 9-1 l), and morals (Eph.5: 11). Christians are not to be “partakers” of sin, but are to separate themselves from sin (Rev. 18:4). When Paul taught the things “concerning the kingdom of God,” and “divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples” from the group (Acts 19:8-9). Paul did not practice unity-in-diversity, and neither did our Lord. Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Then Jesus explained what he meant (Matt. 10:32-40).
Just what is unity-in-diversity? Religiously, it means we should accept those who are in error, to be consistent, because we all sin in some areas. The following quotation will summarize the doctrine, and is taken from a letter recently sent to me. “It is impossible to find two brethren in the whole brotherhood who agree on every Bible passage and issue. To some extent then we have to agree to disagree or practice unity-in diversity.” This doctrine became very popular a few years ago, and the result was the brotherhood divided over it, with some 10% of the preachers embracing it. Many churches were lost and many of the preachers went far away into denominationalism. The reason for this was, the doctrine does not allow a stopping place when it comes to error.
The term unity-in-diversity has a nice sound. However, and few seem to know this, it is a political concept. Before the birth of Jesus, the Roman Empire began to develop. Many diverse cultures and nations were involved in the Roman Empire. Thus, “the Roman world-state, by embracing through its brilliant administrative machinery the goal of unity-in diversity, gave men a conception of one universal culture based on peace and order which they had never had before, and which remained with them for some fifteen hundred years. This conception passed into the Catholic Church and later to the medieval Holy Roman Empire” (Civilization past and present, 3rd edition, Scott, Foresman, p. 177). Many years earlier, God had foretold through Daniel (chap. 2) what would happen to the Roman Empire as a result of its diversity.
Agreeing To Disagree
The brother quoted above says to be consistent we have to agree to disagree, or practice unity-in-diversity. The fact that we all sin, and if we say we don’t we make God a liar (I John 13-lo), does not mean that we must fellowship every sin that comes along. The reason is, it is one thing to commit a sin, which we all do from time to time, and another to continue in sin. John makes a careful distinction between the two. In I John 3: 1-10, we learn that “whosoever committeth sin (that is, continues to sin) transgresseth also the law” (v, 4). Or, that “He that committeth sin (or, continues to sin) is of the devil” (v. 8); or, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin (or, continue to sin); for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (v. 9). Chapter one is concerning committing a sin, recognizing it, repenting of it, confessing it (1 :9), and being free of it. Chapter 3 is concerning one who continues to sin, recognize it, or is made aware of it, and continues in it. Surely, one can see there is a difference between confessing a sin and continuing to sin.
Often Romans 14 is used to justify unity-in-diversity. However, Paul is not instructing brethren on how to fellowship sin. But that is what some brethren try to make Romans 14 teach. He is instructing concerning matters involving religious liberty, and the Christian attitude one should have toward another in these matters of liberty. This chapter has been distorted to teach many things far from the truth, such as, errors in worship, keeping of pagan holidays, including Christmas, etc.
Fellowship and Sin
Scripturally, we have no right to fellowship any sin, not even in or own lives. Why brethren cannot see this is a great mystery. If I have sin in my life, and come to recognize it, or it is called to my attention, I am obligated to repent of it, and confess it to God (I John 1 :9). When it comes to others’ sins, under the guise of unity-in-diversity, I cannot fellowship their sin either. No sin can be fellowshipped. We cannot actively live a life of sin (I John 3), and we must actively oppose those who do (Eph. 5: 11). Also, we can be in fellowship with error by simply not opposing it (1 John 9- 11).
Moreover, one does not have to commit a sin to be guilty of a sin. We can be guilty of sin by simply having pleasure in them who do sin. Read carefully Rom. 1:28- 32. Paul says that “they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do that do them.
Every sin requires an action, but every sin does not require the same action. Some sins require formal action and others simple rejection. For instance, in Matt. 18 Jesus gives us instruction on how to treat a brother who sins against us. Instructions are given on how to treat the immoral in I Cor. 5, and the heretics in Titus 3. It must be noted that the action differs concerning each of these sins, and it is a mistake to mix the actions all together and come up with a master plan to be applied to every sin imagined.
Every sin does not require a formal action. That is, when something is sinful, and we make it known that it is sinful, and that we do not fellowship the sin, and no one else believes we do, then, in most cases, we have done all we can do scripturally. This would include missing the assembling (Heb. 10:25), men having long hair, and women cutting their hair (I Cor. 11: 1-16), worldliness (I John 2: 15-17), etc. I cannot scripturally fellowship any sin, or associate with another in such a way as to make him believe I fellowship his sin, or to make anyone else think I might fellowship the sin. In these matters, this is as far as we can go. (The digressive, for the most part, know why we don’t fellowship their errors, and we should always conduct ourselves in such a way that they or no one else will think we do. Rom. 16: 17- 18.)
It is important also to remember that the Lord makes a careful distinction between the faithful and the unfaithful in any one church. In Rev. 2: 18-25 some were guilty of gross immorality and others refused the immorality (v.24), for instance. In Revelation 3:1-5, “a few” in Sardis were still faithful. In III John, there was in the same church the well beloved Gaius, along with the malicious and evil Diotrephes. In the local church we do not stand or fall as a congregation, but as individual members in that congregation.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the corporate worship and there is error in the worship that cannot be corrected, then we have no choice but to leave that church.
Every sin does not require a formal action, or disfellowshipping, but every sin does require an action, and that is whether the sin is in our life or in that of some other Christian. In short, no sin can be fellowshipped (if one can, name it), not even in one’s own life. And, finally, one must make a clear distinction between committing a sin, repenting and being forgiven, and continuing in sin.
[This is from the August 1999 issue of the OPA]
Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade
God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter
Repentance – J. W. McGarvey