My Thoughts. . .
How sound must a congregation be, to continue to be the body of Jesus? How far “gone” must a congregation be before another congregation may stop having fellowship with it? How “unsound” must a congregation be before another congregation may declare it is apostate?
If the church of God in Corinth existed in our city today, how would that fact bear on our answer to those questions and our fellowship with them?
Corinth had members who were divided into one of four denominated groups. This group psychology affected their fellowship, yet they continued to be one congregation. When Paul wrote to them, he addressed them in the singular form as “THE church” and as “THE body of Christ.” He did not gloss over their error but sent information on how to correct it. Yet, he did not withdraw from them nor did he refer to them as “apostate,” “liberal,” or “digressive.”
Despite their error in doctrine, their divisive actions, and their disposition of arrogance, he commanded withdrawing fellowship from only ONE of their members. Not one single Gentile nor Jewish assembly described them as “apostate” nor threatened them with withdrawal actions if they did not repent immediately.
To their credit, they did not scatter, establishing four different denominations. God continued to dwell within them, to inspire them, to perform healings through them, and continued recognizing them as His children despite all short comings. Paul had to write a second letter because they did not correct all of their practices nor false doctrine with the first one. Yet, neither epistle sees Paul either labeling or withdrawing from them.
For a person to claim to be “biblical,” but withdraws fellowship when that is not Paul’s instruction, fails in practicing Paul’s course with the Corinthian church.
When one congregation refuses to fellowship another, yet the one withdrawn from looks a lot better than the church in Corinth, is the withholding of fellowship a restoration of New Testament Christianity or a manmade system of error?
The divisive nature of the Corinthian church caused the four groups to not wait on one another during Communion. The groups would not share the fruit of the vine nor the unleavened bread. This caused some to remain hungry while those who would not share the wine, consumed it themselves. This resulted in some going home hungry while others went home drunk. Paul rebukes and informs them that they should stay at home since they would not share. The same could be said about those who fail to have fellowship with one another. To withdraw fellowship from another is something that Paul refused to do. This did not cause Paul to be charged by other congregations of fellowshipping error. Rather than follow Paul’s example and continuing to have fellowship with one another, today there seems to be a disunity unity.