Highway 9 church of Christ
As many denominations have become so thoroughly accustomed to, and indoctrinated in, the use of water baptism as a means of "joining" their organization, that they can no longer see past that illusion to the real purpose and import of biblical baptism, so has the preponderance of the Lord's church become lost in tradition and personal preferences when it comes to withdrawal from the disorderly.
It has become acceptable to virtually all gospel preachers and elders to follow a set procedure of: (1) Visit the offender, and if he fails to repent: (2) Take another or two and visit the offender again. If again, he fails to repent: (3) Go tell the offender (or easier, write him a letter) and inform him that he is being withdrawn from, and then publicly announce this or read the letter to the congregation. This is supposed to end the process and all is now well. Wrong! This process is not mentioned in the scripture at any time in reference to a brother who is "walking disorderly". There is no authorization for this process.
There is a process somewhat similar to this which everyone likes to use to prove the point that they have already determined to be right. You will find it in Matthew 18: 15-17 and here is what it says:
"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." Compare this red sentence to that of the one I have colored red in the quote of 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
This scripture quotation is spoken by Jesus Himself. Now His church was not yet come. Was he referring to those who worshipped at the local synagogue, or the Jews in general or was it in reference to His church in the future? He was speaking here to Jews under the Law of Moses who had virtually no understanding of His future "Called Out". I submit that He was speaking concerning the Mosiacal Law. However, I also believe it is applicable today but not concerning the instructions given concerning "walking disorderly". This is the procedure that any Christian is to take if a brother trespass against him. Nothing is mentioned about one or the other being disorderly, but rather that there is a disagreement or misunderstanding between them because of some action on one's part. It is completely different to the majority of "those who walk disorderly among you".
So, what does the Bible say for us to do if one is walking disorderly among us? The scriptures relating to this subject are very specific in their instructions, and in every instance it has reference to brethren who are professing to be active members of the Lord's church. Never is any inference made that we are to go out and 'round up' ex-members of the Lord's body and make a formal declaration of withdrawal. Let's read the scriptures--1 Corinthians 5:1-6:
"It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your Glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?"
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15: "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother who walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you; Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves and ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such, we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."
Romans 16:17-18: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple."
Only those whose minds are closed towards this matter cannot recognize what man or men are being pointed out in those scriptures and with only the wildest stretch of the imagination can one include those who have already disassociated themselves from the Lord's church. All of the preceding scriptures tell us of people who we are to cease associating with which has no formal ceremony involved whatsoever. These people are all within the midst of those being addressed by the writer and the only thing Paul is commanding is that they stop associating with people who do such things. What is withdrawing fellowship? Here is an excerpt from brother David Padfield's sermon "Withdrawing Fellowship" which explains what the word means:
The basic idea of the word fellowship is “sharing” or “joint participation.” The Greek word for fellowship, koinonia, is defined by Thayer as “fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation … the share which one has in anything (p. 352). Friedrich Hauck says the word “expresses a two-sided relation” (TDNT, 3:798).
In order for one to be "fellowshipping" someone, that someone has to be participating. They have to be fellowshipping you! When someone leaves the faith and stops coming to church services, you have NO fellowship with him immediately. You could not withdraw your fellowship if you tried. He has successfully withdrawn from you. Also, to engage in hunting down those people who have deserted the Lord and His church has nothing but negative consequences. They have already determined that they are not going to accept the right path and so, are not shamed by threats and/or a formal announcement of withdrawal but will rather, become angry and hardened against the church. There is nothing you can do. He must decide for himself if he is to ever be saved from his sins. Turn to Hebrews 6: 4-6 where the writer says:
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened , and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentence; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame."
So now, that we have successfully hardened that person's heart and have made sure that he will never return to the Lord, let us check to see what other damage we have done. According to our traditions, no Christian is to ever have any association with that person again, be it a child of his, sister, mother, father, fellow worker, etc. This is probably never accomplished. So, we must chastise the ones who continue to "fellowship" that "disfellowshipped" person. This will lead to further withdrawals, more anger and hardened hearts until the congregation has self-destructed. I witnessed such a sinful procedure once and it was this that caused me to study the subject thoroughly. This occurred in an area where there were only some 30 or 40 New Testament Christians within an entire county! We were meeting in an adjacent county with only about 20-25 in attendance. We were successful in salvaging one couple from the destroyed congregatiion. The young man went on to become a gospel preacher.
I have been told by brethren, when the story immediately above was told them, that common sense had to be used. Brethren, the common sense starts with the scriptures quoted above. We have an obligation to stop associating with any brother or sister among us who is professing to be a Christian but is walking disorderly, a busybody who does not work, a fornicator, a drunkard, a thief, etc. But to follow a pattern of Catholicism to ex-communicate or disfellowship some person because they decided to leave the Lord, we have no such scriptural authority and we will be held accountable for the damage it does to the church. If you really want to know what is involved in withdrawing yourself from someone, read Galations 2: 12-13.
In 2 Timothy 4: 10 we read Paul's words: "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica..." It must seem strange to some that Paul failed to tell Timothy to "withdraw fellowship" from this disorderly brother.