Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: TESTS of FELLOWSHIP

Saturday, April 28, 2012

TESTS of FELLOWSHIP



Areas of Ecclesiological Separation Necessary to Maintain Church Purity

          God puts the administration of His pulpits in local churches under the direction of the pastor of each local church.  The care and administration of what is preached from that holy desk is a grave responsibility that is beyond degree.  Giving someone the right to stand behind that holy desk and proclaim the Word of God is a privilege that should never be given to anyone who has not been carefully vetted about his beliefs and what he will preach.  Everything a preacher teaches from a pulpit is viewed as coming forth with the authority of God’s Word.  Most of those in the pews will accept what is proclaimed without any ability to insure that it is in alignment with what God has said.  Therefore, who I allow to preach from the pulpit that God has given me to administrate must be someone I believe will never lead a new believer astray.  This also becomes my test of fellowship with other pastors and other local churches.  As the pastor of my local church, I am God’s appointed watchman and guardian over the sheep of His sheepfold.  Other believers in a local church are also responsible for the purity of truth from the pulpit ministry of a local church as well as everything taught in all other aspects of the ministry of that local church.  However, ultimately the responsibility falls upon the administration of the pastor.  He is the “overseer.” 
          This was the emphasis of the Apostle Paul in Acts chapter twenty when he called the pastors from Ephesus to hear his admonition regarding their responsibilities to their flocks.

24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. 26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men {the admonition is that they strive for the same testimony when they come to the end of their lives}. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God {Paul taught in-depth doctrine by teaching all that the Word of god said, not just portions}. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves {they would be held accountable for the same}, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 2:24-31).

          Clearly, the responsibility for the tests of fellowship by which any local church is governed must be administrated by the “Holy Ghost” appointed overseer of that local church.  Therefore, the definitiveness of the doctrinal criteria for the administration of fellowship will be determined by the depth of a pastor’s understanding of God’s Word and the depth of his understanding of the degree that any departure from God’s Word affects the lives of believers under his administration. 
          However, these tests of fellowship are being defined by many outside of the local church.  Bible Colleges, Seminaries, and leaders of local church fellowships and associations are telling us that these tests of fellowship are too narrow.  They are telling us that these narrow tests of fellowship are fractionalizing fundamentalism into groups so small they are becoming ineffective in their cultural influence.  Perhaps this last statement by itself tells us why most of our historical tests of fellowship are being abandoned – the quest for cultural relevancy.  In this quest for cultural relevancy, evangelical Christianity is growing increasing like the world by degrees.  We see varying degrees of this worldliness directly proportionate to the abandonment of our historical tests of fellowship.
We have numerous Scriptural examples of tests of fellowship throughout the epistles of the New Testament.  If they were tests of fellowship for early Christianity, they certainly should be maintained as God ordained test of fellowship today. 

The Gospel

6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).

          When Paul speaks of the Gospel, he is referring to all that God does to save a person from beginning to end.  Paul speaks of the Gospel that saves the soul, saves the believer’s life, and ultimately even saves the believer’s body (I Thessalonians 5:23).  This is the expanded Gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul speaks of in Romans 1:16-17 and explains in its fullest sense throughout the rest of his epistle to the Romans.  Although I Corinthians 15:1-11 gives us an abbreviation of the Gospel, the epistle to the Romans is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  To what degree then can we allow someone to depart from this Gospel of Jesus Christ and continue to have a working partnership with him in ministry?
          Obviously, there must be a clear presentation of the objective facts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ before we can continue in fellowship with another person or local church.  There are two areas that are essential regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ before true fellowship can exist between believers or local churches.

1. There must be a clear understanding of the objective facts of Gospel of Jesus Christ and what those objective facts accomplish on behalf of the sinner. 
2. There must be a clear understanding of what defines a biblical faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

          The Gospel of Jesus Christ involves numerous details about the person of Jesus the Christ that are essential to His accomplishing His work of redemption.  Not one of these details can be allowed to be corrupted if the purity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to be maintained.

1. His immaculate conception and physical incarnation in a human body
2. His life of perfect sinlessness
3. The detailed fulfillment of all prophecies regarding His incarnation, death, burial, resurrection, and glorification
4. The vicarious nature of His death, burial, and resurrection.
5. The propitiation of God’s wrath for the sins of the whole world
6. The impartation of God-kind righteousness (justification) to the believing sinner
7. The complete victory over death by His resurrection and glorification affording the believer the same surety in the gift of salvation

          Understanding these elements of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is essential to a biblical faith response.  Corruption of any one of these seven details will corrupt the faith of anyone seeking to be saved.  It is a test of fellowship that the presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is continued with patience and clarity until a person thoroughly understands the details of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  To allow the compromise of the presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in anything other than patience and clarity until a sinner understands his condemnation and his complete dependence upon what Christ did to save him is complete irresponsibility manifesting a pragmatism that is of the grossest kind.  Yet, this abuse is the foundation of the Church Growth movement.

18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).

          There are a number of false beliefs that immediately provide Red Flags to departure from these two essentials regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  One such belief is that a person can lose his salvation after he has been “born again.” It is ridiculous to think a person could be un-“born again,” un-sealed with the Spirit, un-baptized from the “body of Christ,” or un-indwelled with the Spirit.  Yet, there are those that say this ought not to be a test of fellowship.  
The eternal security of the believer’s salvation is an outcome of understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Show me a person without eternal security of his salvation and I will show you a person who has not understood the Gospel and who is still lost.  Therefore, the doctrine of eternal security is a test of fellowship
Another problem is the failure to teach repentance from “dead works” (Hebrews 6:1).  We have many professing Christians who claim a “born again” experience, but who have never repented of their trust in their infant baptism or their sacramental view of salvation.  They continue in varying degrees of co-redemption because of someone’s failure to teach them the necessity of repentance from “dead works.”  Failure to teach of the necessity of repentance from “dead works” is a test of fellowship.  Christ’s teaching in the Gospels, especially in His confrontation of the “scribes and Pharisees,” dealt more with repentance of their trust in the works of the Law (Moralism and Ritualism) than He did with repentance of sin.  The Apostle Paul gives the same emphasis is Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews.  Because of this gross failure, local churches are filled with people converted to a religion of Christianity, but who have never been “born again.”
There must also be a clear understanding of what defines a biblical faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Bible uses five different verbs that are included in a biblical faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We cannot deny that God has inspired these five different verbs defining His expected responses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  To deny that they are in the Word of God would be ridiculous.  Therefore, the corrupters of the doctrine of salvation seek to simply reduce them to all having the same mean – believe.  The fact is that things that are different are not the same.  These five verbs do not have the same meanings.  These five verbs define five different actions that define a faith response to the Gospel.  Removing any one of these five verbs is a form of reducing and corrupting a biblical faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There is also an order to these five responses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that form the hand of faith that receives God’s gift of salvation.  
      
1. Repentance of sin (not sins) and “dead works” (repenting of any trust in Moralism or Ritualism to help in one’s salvation)
2. Understanding and believing the details of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
3. Public confession that Jesus Christ is Jehovah (His Deity)
4. Calling on the Name of Jesus to saved
5. Receiving the Person of Jesus as Lord and Savior (This is receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit.  This is not consecration.  Making consecration a required response to the Gospel is Lordship Salvation.)

          There are certain anomalies that also must become tests of fellowship.  One of these anomalies is Augustinian Theology.  Augustinian Theology corrupts almost every category of Theology in radical ways, especially the doctrine of salvation.  Calvinism is merely a reformation (in most cases, merely a restatement) of Augustinian Theology.  In both Augustinianism and Calvinism, the doctrines of Soteriology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology, and Pneumatology are greatly corrupted.  In both cases, the teaching that God has chosen certain individuals to be saved, while all others are without hope, is a false doctrine that is suppositional and lacks any credible biblical exegesis.  Election is never, not even once, used in this way in the Bible!  Therefore, certain doctrinal anomalies coming from Calvinism must be tests of fellowship.  

Monergism

          Monergism is the belief that man is so totally depraved (total depravity, or total inability) that he cannot even believe.  Faith must be given to him in regeneration before he can believe.  Therefore, Monergists believe regeneration precedes salvation.  Monergism is the belief that God chooses only certain people (unconditional election) to be saved, regenerates only those Christ died for (limited atonement) at some undetermined point in their lives, giving them the gifts of faith and repentance, and brings them to understand the Gospel, whereby they must ultimately believe (irresistible grace).  Then God will cause those He has elected, regenerated, and saved to persevere in their faith (perseverance of the saints). 

          All of these premises and suppositions of Calvinism are outcomes of a false view of the doctrine of election.  However, Augustinian Theology corrupts numerous other areas of Theology as well.  Each corruption becomes a test of fellowship
The contextual continuity of the epistle to the Romans demands that we see Romans chapter ten in the light of three dominant truths already established from the earlier chapters:

1. God is universally propitiated for the sins of the whole world from the fall to the end of time. 
2. This translates into universal provision of the free gift of salvation to “whoever shall call upon the name of the LORD.”  Salvation is available to “whosoever.”
3. Although both of these two statements are true and should be universally applied, and although Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is sufficient for the salvation of all, it is beneficial only to those who respond in faith according to God’s inspired directives of repentance from sin and “dead works,” believing the objective facts of the finished work of redemption as detailed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, confessing Jesus as Jehovah, calling on the name of Jesus as Jehovah to save, and receiving Jesus Christ in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. 

          No one would have a problem following the contextual continuity of the epistle to the Romans and the categorical theological establishment of the three statements above if it were not for the pre-suppositions of Calvinism and Reformed Theology that are imposed upon the epistle.  For them, the word “whosoever” means whosoever of the elect.  For them, when God says it is His will that all come to repentance and that all are saved, it means all who are elect.  For them, God’s love for the world refers to two different kinds of grace. 

1. Common Grace (or Prevenient Grace) comes to all people.  This is basically defined as God temporally withholding his judgment upon sinners and the reprobate (those not chosen by God to be saved) allowing them the common blessings of life (“the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike”).
2. Irresistible Grace (Efficacious Grace) comes only to the elect (those chosen by God to be saved).  God regenerates the elect at some unknown time before their salvation giving them the gift of repentance and faith in the person of the Holy Spirit, whereby the elect sinner will not be able to resist God’s grace and will, at some unknown time in his life, place faith in Jesus Christ.  Because of this special working of God in the lives of the elect person, he will ultimately persevere in living the Christian life proving he is one of God’s elect (this is not the same as the doctrine of eternal security). 

          These two distortions of God’s grace flow from three other theological pre-suppositional aberrations of Calvinism and Reformed Theology imposed upon the interpretation of the whole Word of God.

1. Monothetism: the monothetic definition of God’s sovereignty (whatever God wills to be done must ALWAYS be done or realized).
2. Determinism (God is the ultimate cause of all things thereby controlling all events in human history and in the future.)  God can foretell the future, not just because of foreknowledge, but because God controls and causes all events in history.
3. Monergism (being saved is not based upon the will of an individual making a faith decision to trust Christ, but upon the sovereign will of God operating within (not upon) the elect prior to their salvation by regenerating them before salvation in order for them to believe. 

          In Calvin’s preface to his Institutes of the Christian Religion (second edition of 1539) we have a defining statement that really tells us why the exegesis of all Calvinists is perverted, transforming it into eisegesis.  This happens because all Calvinists look at the Scriptures through the theological pre-suppositions of Calvin.  This is clearly stated to be Calvin’s purpose in writing his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

“I have endeavored to give such a summary of religion in all its parts (in the Systematic Theology laid out in his Institutes of the Christian Religion), and have digested it into such an order as may make it not difficult for anyone who is rightly acquainted with it (the Systematic Theology laid out in his Institutes of the Christian Religion) to ascertain both what he ought principally to look for in Scripture, and also to what head he ought to refer whatever is contained in it.  Having thus, as it were, paved the way, I shall not feel it necessary in any Commentaries on Scripture which I may afterwards publish to enter into long discussions of doctrine or dilate on commonplaces, and will therefore always compress them.  In this way the pious reader will be saved much trouble and weariness, provided he comes furnished with a knowledge of the present work (the Systematic Theology laid out in his Institutes of the Christian Religion) as an essential prerequisite.[1]”  (Underlining and parenthesized areas added.)

          What does this statement of Calvin tell us?  It is a definitive reality behind most of what defines the Hermeneutics of Calvinism and Reformed Theology.  Calvin made his Institutes of the Christian Religion “an essential prerequisite” to being able to properly exegete the Scriptures accurately.  In doing so, he also negatively transformed the biblical interpretation (Hermeneutics) of every Calvinist (anyone believing the theology of his Institutes of the Christian Religion) into eisegesis. 

The Local Church and Congregational Government

          Augustinian Theology and Calvinism greatly corrupt the doctrine of the church.  They corrupt the evangelical purpose of the church by their Replacement Theology and their Theonomic world view.  They corrupt the evangelical purpose of the church by their false doctrine of Kingdom building.  Therefore, they purport a universal view of the church as opposed to a local view of the church.  These false doctrines are not simply acceptable variations of views of the church.  They corrupt the doctrine of the church at almost every level.  Covenant Theology is not another acceptable alternative to Dispensational Theology.  Dispensationalism is NOT something new to the last century of Christianity.  Dispensationalism is the outcome of solid biblical exegesis.  Covenant Theology is the outcome of biblical eisegesis (pre-suppositionalism, to which most Covenant Theologians admit). 
          Augustine’s Amillennialism in his Theonomic worldview was hardly reformed at all by Calvin.  Calvin simply changed the one-world church from Roman to Reformed.  Walvoord speaks of Augustine’s view of the church:

“Augustine (354-430) also believed in the coming of Christ after the millennium and could for this reason be classified as postmillennial.  His view of the millennium, however, was so removed from a literal kingdom on earth that it is virtually a denial of it, and he is better considered as an amillennialist. . . Their (Roman Catholicism’s) very structure of church government and their program of works depend on use of Old Testament promises about the coming kingdom as fulfilled in the church.”[2]

          Calvin’s reformed view of the church continued Augustine’s heretical hierarchal view of church government and his replacement of Israel by the church.  This continued to generate varying degrees of the Big Church view of Christianity rather than the local church view of Christianity.  Although there can be degrees of this that can be tolerated, the degrees are borderline as tests of fellowship.  For instance, one’s view of the church will greatly impact his practical application of Ephesians 4:3 – “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  If your view of the church is a Big Church view, you will apply this imperative to a responsibility between all churches, regardless of their beliefs.  If your view of the church is a local church view, you will apply this imperative to a responsibility between individuals within a local church and then to your local church’s cooperation with other local churches of like precious faith

The End Times

          The corruption of the doctrine of the church (Ecclesiology) also corrupts the doctrine of the end times (Eschatology).  The Apostle Paul considered the doctrine of Christ’s second coming critical enough to correct aberrations that arose due to false teaching.  This is certainly true of the rapture of the church.  The pre-tribulation view of the rapture of the church and a pre-millennial view of the second coming of Christ to the Earth to establish His Kingdom are tests of fellowship

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). 

          The historical context that prompted these inspired words from God was the false teaching that the rapture had already happened (II Thessalonians 2:1-2) and that believers were now living in the terrible days of God’s wrath upon planet earth.  God intended these words to be taught to all believers so that they might “comfort one another with these words.”  To allow the false doctrine of mid-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture of the church to be taught is a complete corruption of the purpose of I Thessalonians 4:13-17 – “comfort one another with these words.”  What comfort is there in a mid-tribulation rapture of the church when one-third of the world’s population will be destroyed by the first six seal judgments of Revelation chapter six?  Certainly there is no comfort in thinking we must endure all the judgment of the nations in a post-tribulation view of the rapture.  In fact, these perversions of the rapture of the church are discomforting.  These perversions of the rapture of the church are tests of fellowship.  They cannot be tolerated. 

Sanctification by Faith

1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. 5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith” (Galatians 3:1-5)?

          There are a number of tests of fellowship when it comes to the doctrine of sanctification.  For anyone to think that sanctification, either positional or practical, can come by human effort apart from divine enabling is absolute foolishness.  We can no more sanctify ourselves than we can save ourselves.  Secondly, there is an aberration of the doctrine of sanctification that teaches that the believer’s service, or “work of ministry,” is acceptable to God solely on the basis of our positional sanctification.  In this perverted view of sanctification, meaning personal holiness and separation, practical sanctification has nothing to do with God using the believer to His glory.  This perverted view of sanctification removes all of God’s conditions upon His blessings such as answers to prayer, producing the “fruit of the Spirit,” and being used of God to bring lost souls to Christ and make disciples of Christ of them. 
          Practical sanctification is an operation of the Holy Spirit of God along with the believer (“fellowship”) who has yielded (Romans 6:11-13) his will to God’s will.  Then, the Spirit of God fills that believer, practically sanctifies him, and empowers him to live the Christ-life.  He thereby, produces the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-24) as the overflow of that filling, and thereby “abides” in Christ (John 15:5) bringing “forth much fruit.”  All ministry that is not done in “fellowship” with the Spirit, becomes a work of the flesh that is nothing more than “wood, hay, and stubble” (I Corinthians 3:12).  This will become a pile of ashes at the believer’s feet at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Knowing that all of this is true, this certainly must be a test of fellowship.  How could any pastor allow the sheep of his fold to be misled in any way regarding this wondrous doctrine of God’s enabling grace when so much is at stake? 


[1] Shank, Robert. Elect in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Election. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1970), pages 227-228.
[2] Walvoord, John. The Millennial Kingdom. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980), pages 8 and 10.

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

2 comments:

Steve Rogers said...

Bro. Ketchum,

A very good reminder to let the Bible, the WHOLE Bible not just 5 man-made doctrines that a movement approved, determine our tests of fellowship. Especially good stuff on how the Augustinian view of the church as universal instead of local has corrrupted the way separation is practiced and preached and how it has changed the Biblical emphasis on the purity of the church. More and more I am convinced that Baptists need to return to our main distinctive, that is the Word of God as our authority. I'm afraid we've gotten far to comfortable quoting men instead of the inscripturated truth of the Biblical text. I feel the weight of responsibility to protect my pulpit and thus my flock, from men who are not commited to the whole counsel of God. This has led to many conversations on why I don't automatically have Dr. Big-nose or Bro. Alma Mater speak here at Grace. I can't say that I have practiced perfect discernment, but I can say the HS has been prompting me in this area using articles like this one. Thank you.

Lance Ketchum said...

Thank you Brother Rogers.
I have tried to address issues that are critical to a local church.