Fellowship Cannot Exist With Darkness

There are many positive benefits to fellowship - It can be a wonderful blessing; Jesus stated that those who have "left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake... receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting." (Luke 18:29-30)

When we consider all of the special blessings and benefits associated with fellowship, we ought to do all that we can to promote, encourage and invite fellowship with others. In fact, if fellowship is such a good thing, then we ought to encourage fellowship with everyone and we ought not to resist or discourage fellowship on any grounds. I speak as a fool!

There are Scriptural boundaries and limitations on fellowship and these are not ours to determine. Fellowship with the Father and the Son is to be conducted on their terms, not ours. If we want to be a part of that family and share in the blessings of that fellowship, then we owe it to ourselves to learn what the limits are.

Is fellowship exclusive? The Bible teaches that there are very specific guidelines and definite boundaries for fellowship. We need to learn about fellowship from the Word of God, do all that we can to both promote the potential blessings and avoid extending our fellowship beyond those boundaries allowed in the Bible. Therefore, the focus for this article is on the scriptural limitations to fellowship.

Do not fellowship the darkness of immorality - The Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians, "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." (Ephesians 5:11) He refers in this case to the darkness of immorality and mentions the following evils: "fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient." (Ephesians 5: 3-4)

He tells them plainly to avoid those who are engaged in these works of the flesh; "Be not ye therefore partakers with them." (V.7) He reminds the brethren, "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light." (V.8)

These works of the flesh were identified in even greater detail to the Galatians. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21)

We must not fellowship with those who are engaged in these immoralities, whether in the world or in the household. He told the Corinthians this, "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." (1 Corinthians 5:11)

We need to look over the listed works of the flesh carefully. It is not just about what our brother may be doing. We may be able to confidently discount many of the items on this list as things that we would never do. But we must be sure to notice that there are other things, such as wrath, hatred, strife and envying and they have the same consequence. Do we engage in any of these things? "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." (1 John 1: 6)

There are certain characteristics among those who walk in darkness that are an abomination to God. "A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren." (Proverbs 6:16-19) Many of these things are indeed subtler than the works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5, but the Lord still hates them. As we go through our self-examination process we need to ask, are we personally responsible for bringing any of these traits into our fellowship with the brethren?

Do not fellowship the darkness of teaching error - We live today in a world of toleration. It is politically correct to show respect for people of other faiths. This modern philosophy has made inroads into the household, with some feeling comfortable in attending functions and even services sponsored by apostate churches. The Apostle Paul had no tolerance for this approach. He told the Corinthians, "I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils." (1 Cor 10:20-21)

He went on to tell them, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you." (2 Cor. 6:14-18)

His advice to Timothy was that he "shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness." He was speaking about those who falsely taught that the resurrection was past, and overthrew the faith of some. (2 Tim. 2:16-18) How do we avoid false teaching? The Word of God is our only defense against teaching error. "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (Verse 15)

We must be well grounded in the first principles of the doctrine of Christ so we will recognize and avoid false teachers. "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed." (2 John 10) These words have been traditionally applied to the Memorial Service; however, they actually go beyond that. The word "house" in this verse refers to a personal residence or abode. This means that we should not engage in social fellowship with teachers who do not accept the Truth, and we certainly must never make them feel welcome in our homes or wish them well in their efforts as representatives of falsehood. Any association that we allow with such individuals must be as steadfast teachers of truth, trying to help them without allowing them to influence us. (2 Timothy 2:23-26)

Sin mars fellowship - We were born separated by sin, "dead in trespasses and sins having our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh." (Ephesians 2:1-5) But now we have been, "quickened with Christ, (raised up and made to sit) in heavenly places in Christ Jesus"

We must "henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." (Ephesians 4:17-19)

If we are abandoned to unrepentant sin we can lose our favored status even as Israel did. They were told, "your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2)

It is not only sin that will separate us from God. We are prone to complacency in our service and true fellowship is denied to those who are servants in name only. The Laodicean's were told, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot...because thou art lukewarm...I will spue thee out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15-16)

If we desire fellowship we must avoid sin, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." (Psalm 66:18) We must also avoid the neglect of our reasonable service. Wickedness before God is not only associated with gross evil. It is defined in Malachi 3:18 as applying also to "him that serveth him not."

Fellowship with Christ is not compatible with the world. We learn from James 4 that "friendship of the world is enmity with God." The entire world lies in wickedness; Jesus therefore prayed for his disciples, "not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." (John 17:14-15)

If we want to remain in fellowship with the Father and His son then we must, "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." (1 John 2:15-17) The lust of the eye, the flesh and the pride of life are the characteristics of worldliness. Our problem is that we want all of these things to be compatible with our life in Christ, but they are not. We justify the pursuit of happiness, of materialism, of success with the 'good life" at the expense of our fellowship with the Father. We justify these things that at clearly not of the Father, trusting in our own version of the "amazing grace" that we think will somehow make it all ok in the Day of Judgment.

Self-promotion and pride mars fellowship. One of the greatest deterrents to harmonious fellowship between brethren is having envying, and strife, and divisions among us. (1 Corinthians 3:3) These things are nearly always the result of pride, one of the things that is an abomination to God. Paul addressed this carnal thinking when he encouraged us, "that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another." (1 Corinthians 4:6)

One of the most prominent examples of self-promotion and pride affecting fellowship is found in 3rd John: 9-10: "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church."

This "lord over the flock" mentality is always damaging to our fellowship and yet it is also one of the more difficult areas to control. The true servants of God are humble in their approach and they are likely to be easily bullied by those who lift themselves up as the spiritual leaders, the defenders of purity. When we deny fellowship to one who may be in true fellowship with the Father, we are just as wrong as when we extend fellowship to those who walk in darkness. "He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD." (Proverbs 17:15)

Jim Millay
Springfield, VT