Drawing the Line with Church Fellowship

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Puritan Board Freshman
If this is in the wrong forum (it could go in a few) please could admins move it.

After the thread in the Paedo-Baptism answers 'The Lords Supper' I got to thinking about inter church fellowship and fellowshipping with other Christians and how others go about it.

For example one would not fellowship with someone you believe to be in unrepentant sin, so as a Gospel Standard Baptist, I would be strongly discouraged by my pastor from fellowshipping with any Arminianist, Methodist, etc and especially not Papists. I was interested to see the 'no member marrying catholics' in the Westminster Confession brought up recently for example.

So, whilst we wouldn't fellowship with those in serious doctrinal error, where then do others draw the line? A Baptist for example (as someone mentioned on the Lords Supper thread) wouldn't regard a Presbyterian as baptised according to our understanding and then a Presbyterian would regard us as in unrepentant sin for not baptising our children. So does that put a barrier which fellowship cannot cross between presb and baptist?

I only ask because whilst my church is very strict on communion, as some of you may know we only allow those whom the Pastor or a fellow pastor has definite firm convictions on their salvation to partake of communion, and we usually only fellowship with other GS churches and church goers. However I know of a lot of congregants who have Presbyterian friends and I certainly wouldn't let it get in the way of a good heart debate filled friendship.

What are other peoples thoughts on this?
Sorry if this is :worms::doh:


Puritan Board Senior
Can you explain what all you mean by "fellowship"?

Despite doctrinal differences with all those you mentioned, why is it wrong to have fellowship with them? Perhaps I'm not understanding you, or perhaps I understand you and I just totally disagree.


Puritan Board Freshman
By fellowship I mean meeting for prayer, meeting to discuss the Bible, doing the things you do in Church but outside of Church.
The reason I would say it is not wise to fellowship with those in unbelief or serious doctrinal error is because they don't believe the true Gospel. An Arminianist or a Catholic believe in a false Christ and hence -
"Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" Amos 3:3
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." Psalm 1:1
"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. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
So what I'm asking is, what constitutes an unbeliever? Those who believe Jesus died for all mankind, do not believe in the same Christ as I, those who do not daily have their faces in the dust of self abasement and the horror of their sins, who do not even know the depths of their own depravity, have not been saved. Is that not an unbeliever? Is that not the spirit of Anti-Christ?
I know a lot of people will say that we should preach the Gospel to them, and I would, to the best of my abilities and knowledge but, when it comes to false doctrine Christ and especially Paul were quite firm on not fellowshipping with the doctrines of devils.


Puritan Board Freshman
Would you consider participating on this board as fellowship?
I would Brother Marshall because being here gives at least assent that it is a place where true Christians share their minds and hearts being Born of GOD and being In Christ about the Gospel of GODS grace. I'm a Reformed Baptist in Louisville KY. and we invite our Presbyterian Brethren to the Table when they are worshipping with us. We believe in emersion but do not believe Baptisms saves. Therefore those who are saved and Baptized even if we differ with the mode, are still our Brethren being in Union with Christ.


Puritanboard Commissioner
One way to understand this is in the context of corporate worship.

We would seek to worship with those whose corporate worship is close to our own, believing that worship is defined by Scripture. It's content are its doctrine.

So, if one believes "Calvinism" is the gospel, as Mr. Spurgeon said, would one seek to worship (e.g. have the Word authoritatively taught) based on Arminian doctrine?

Not seeking to worship corporately in a communion with significantly different doctrine does not mean the other person or communion is not Christian. One can believe many wrong things and still be a Christian.

Nor does it mean one cannot "fellowship" with other believers in other contexts (other than corporate worship).

Ordinarily though, it does mean seeking to corporately worship (e.g. Word and sacrament) with those of similar belief.

But, in reformed theology, the unity of the church must be grounded on doctrinal agreement. It is a confessed theology, written down. And worship reflects that.
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Puritan Board Junior
It is a good question. I think there are several distinctions that I have to be drawn.

1. We believe in the communion of the saints as an article of faith. All true Christians are united to Christ and therefore to one another.
2. This ought to express itself, ideally in a visible unity in doctrine, worship discipline and government. If every Christian were in subjection to everything the Bible taught, this would be the case, no?
3. Because of sin, however, we all recognize this is not the case. And therefore we have different denominations (or ecclesiastical organizations). The appropriate basis for these ecclesiastical unions (or terms of communion) should be "nothing but what is divine truth and reject nothing for which the church hath faithfully contended" (reformation principles exhibted). That is, no church is at liberty to add requirements beyond the word of God, but neither are they at liberty to dismiss articles of doctrine that the church has already attained. Jesus commads his disciples to teach others to observe "all things whatsoever I have commanded you". The church is not at liberty to relegate something Christ has commaded people to observe to the status of a thing indidfferent. This to me seems like the only rational and biblical basis of ecclesaistical communion.
4. But while such should be the terms of ecclesiastical communion, it is obvious that there are true Christians who are not yet of one mind on issues, like Baptism. While such issues prevent us from enjoying full ecclesiastical fellowship, there are many areas in which we can agree and enjoy fellowship to a lesser extent. We can pray together and for one another. We can discuss the word of God with one another. We can cultivate fellow-feeling between each other. We can cooperate on projects where our distinctive principles are not compromised (I think the Trinitarian Bible Society, of which I am a member, is a great example of this principle). We can even share with one another in temporal concerns, supposing that our first obligation to those brethren united to us in an even closer ecclesiastical fellowship is not diminished. In fact not only can we do such things, I believe we have a duty, in so far as our testimony is not compromised in so doing.
5. To get even closer to your question: In the case of Roman Catholics, I believe, and my confession asserts, that the pope is the antichrist. Therefore the biblical principle is clear that light and darkness, Christ and belial, can have no fellowship. Obviously we must make such distinctions with any group or professor whose profession is not Christian (anti-Trinitarians for example). With other professors, there are bound to be more or fewer opportunities depending on the level of agreement. Without enetering in upon the question of the salvation of a (Trinitarian) penetcostal, it may be difficult to pray with such a professor if that person insists on praying in tongues. It may be difficult to pray with a professed brother who is praying for things that I could not pray for. It would be less difficult to pray with a reformed baptist, brother, however. As another example, I may have sweet fellowship praying for many of the same things with my reformed baptist brother but perhaps not have as many projects we could share in. If, say, I believe in the ecclesastical text and support the Trinitarian Bible Society and he supported critical text publishing ventures, we would obviously not be united in the same goal. (Understand, this is just hypothetical. I am very grateful for my many Baptist friends who share similar convictions here--in fact often times we are able to cooperate more than the average American Presbyterian on issues like this, though I agree more closely with their sacramentology and ecclesiology).

Does this make sense?

I appreciate the RPCNA's covenant of 1871 which, in my opinion beautifully expresses these convictions in these words

4. believing the Church to be one, and that all the saints have communion with God and with one another in the same Covenant; believing, moreover, that schism and sectarianism are sinful in themselves; and inimical to true religion, and trusting that divisions shall cease, and the people of God become one Catholic church over all the earth, we will pray and labor for the visible oneness of the Church of God in our own land and throughout the world, on the basis of truth and of Scriptural order. Considering it a principal duty of our profession to cultivate a holy brotherhood, we will strive to maintain Christian friendship with pious men of every name, and to feel and act as one with all in every land who pursue this grand end. And, as a means of securing this great result, we will by dissemination and application of the principles of truth herein professed, and by cultivating and exercising Christian charity, labor to remove stumbling-blocks, and to gather into one the scattered and divided friends of truth and righteousness.


Puritan Board Senior
Hi Craig

In my town, the chap I get on best with (beside my fellow elder) is the Pastor of the local presbyterian church. We like to meet for coffee when we can, and he is a real blessing to me. (I cannot vouch as to whether it works both ways!)


Puritan Board Graduate
By fellowship I mean meeting for prayer, meeting to discuss the Bible, doing the things you do in Church but outside of Church.

I think the only problem is where they have authority that you willingly submit to.

For example, I was at a family reunion last summer and a wedding reception last winter. Just among my siblings, aunts and uncles and cousins, and all the spouses, we had crazy charismatic, high episcopal, Russian orthodox, open theology, Calvinist baptist Dispensationalists that go back to McIntyre, emergent, "doctrine does not matter", and I'm not sure what else. I talk with all of them, we say grace before the meal, eat together, and talk about all sorts of things including Christian subjects.

In contrast, a couple years ago I started going to a morning prayer meeting that looked promising. My daughter could hang out with other home school kids while we prayed, and it was the sort of meeting that went broader than most ( the nation, persecuted brethren in foreign lands, Islam, China, mideast, missionaries. Not just "me my kids my money my husband" stuff).

I quickly realized that the woman in charge was so dispensational, and so into a couple whacked out TV preachers who she would bring in the latest "word" from, and she even liked Osteen, that I was either going to have to speak up and risk being disrespectful and argumentative, or by my silence appear to agree. I decided that I could not attend a meeting with this woman in charge, nice as she was and as much as I like corporate prayer.

So, I can fellowship in the way you speak of if the authority in charge is OK. If the person leading something is decent, we have to accept that not everybody else will always be of sound doctrine. Sanctification takes time. Eventually people think about it and maybe read a book you give them or listen to some Piper CDs that grab their mind, or, they resist and end up leaving anyway. So a lot depends on the bible leader and prayer leader.

There are going to be things outside church- prison ministry, Christian school events, mercy ministries, parties, all sorts of things. I think you need to weigh who is in charge, and if they are fine, be willing to associate with others who are different at the events. If the leader is off, I would not be part. Authority is the key to the decision. Just my opinion.


Puritan Board Freshman
A conversation between Calvinist Charles Simeon (1759-1836) and Arminian John Wesley (1703-1791) about their commonality amidst the controversy:

[Simeon] Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

[Wesley] Yes, I do indeed.

[Simeon] And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

[Wesley] Yes, solely through Christ.

[Simeon] But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

[Wesley] No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

[Simeon] Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

[Wesley] No.

[Simeon] What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

[Wesley] Yes, altogether.

[Simeon] And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

[Wesley] Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

[Simeon] Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree.

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
If we believe we'll be fellowshiping with them one day in heaven, it would be a serious error to refuse prayer and Bible study with them here and now simply out of principle, especially if it's in a context where issues of submission to a church that's in error are not in play. We must not be so arrogant as to reject, because of their faults, those whom we believe God accepts in spite of their faults.


Staff member
If we believe we'll be fellowshiping with them one day in heaven, it would be a serious error to refuse prayer and Bible study with them here and now simply out of principle, especially if it's in a context where issues of submission to a church that's in error are not in play. We must not be so arrogant as to reject, because of their faults, those whom we believe God accepts in spite of their faults.

Amen and amen.

Sent from my most excellent Android device.
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