I believe that the same lines that I draw for an orthodox Christian faith are the same lines that I should draw for Christian fellowship. I believe that every true born again Christian is a brother or sister in Christ and that not only can I have fellowship with him or her, it is what Christ has intended, and it is what brings him great delight (Romans 1:1; Philippians 2:1-11). For me to draw dividing lines that He has not drawn grieves Him, hurts the body of Christ, and hinders the work of the Great Commission.
The mode of baptism, timing of the rapture, cessationist or non-cessationist positions, dispensational or covenant positions, church polity, style of music, philosophy of ministry—are NOT fundamentals of the faith. They never have been. When we get to heaven I think there are going to be a lot of people feeling ashamed about how they fought over these things and neglected what matters most.
Every local church or ministry will have its functional distinctives, and we need these. Every believer will have his own personal convictions, beliefs, and opinions. We need these as well. They are not unimportant and they may even affect the degree of practical cooperation in certain ministry contexts. But, these are not matters of separation and those who don’t agree with someone else’s opinions are not simply disobedient brothers.
A disobedient brother is someone who is in clear violation of biblical teaching and one who after repeated confrontation continues in his sin. The Bible gives plenty of instruction on how to work through these situations in love and toward restoration (Galatians 6:1-5).
What do we separate over?
- The Christian should expose and separate from a false Gospel (Galatians 1:8,9).
- The Christian should expose and separate from another Christian who continues to walk in disobedience (after following a biblical process for restoration, I Corinthians 5:9-13).
- The Christian should separate from the world (This is another discussion that I would like to take up in the future because I find many people have a wrong view of “the world” I John 2:15-17).
I can visit a church on Sunday morning, fellowship with believers, love what I am seeing, encourage fellow believers in what they are doing—and still choose not to join that particular local assembly. When we start separating over every belief and opinion we soon find ourselves standing all alone, criticizing the rest of body of Christ. I don’t think that is what God intended (I Corinthians 1:10-17).
Let’s separate to Christ and enjoy the sweet fellowship with every believer walking with Him. Let the church be the church autonomous. Let every believer stand and give an account for his own life as a priest before God. And let us discuss our differences with grace, integrity, and humility.