Christ Assembly

March 29, 2015 │Separating from Evil │ Separations in Fellowship

March 29, 2015

Separating from Evil and

 Separations in Fellowship

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Eternal Life

      Over the course of many years, I have been challenged by the evil behavior within myself and my friends. In so many ways, Jesus provided clear teaching about dealing with evil. He always preached repentance leading to salvation, and for believers, confession of sin to cleanse believers from sin as they walked in the light with Jesus and had fellowship with other believers. 1See 1 John 1-10). A greater problem arises when people who identify themselves as believers persist in evil behavior, without any repentance for their actions. This problem raises the issue of what did Jesus teach about fellowshipping with unrepentant people, persistently practicing evil, who identify themselves as believers. So, let us turn to the Bible for answers about these important spiritual issues.

Personal Behavioral Failures

          In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, the Holy Spirit commanded that believers judge those people within the church who have serious moral and spiritual problems with their personal behavior.

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler–not even to eat with such a one.

1 Corinthians 5:11

     Notice the verse has a specific list: “immoral person, covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler. . . .” We must remove those wicked people from the fellowship of the church. Of course, we should always be mindful that the goal will be first restoration of the believer through a process of repentance and forgiveness. 2See Galatians 6:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; compare the process of preferably winning the brother described in Matthew 18:15, but without repentance, results in the further disciplinary steps leading to removal of the unrepentant sinner from the fellowship (Matthew 18:16-18; compare Luke 17:1-10). In some cases, people who call themselves “believers” persist in sin. In my case, I had a friend who lived with a woman, engaging in immoral behavior with her. I read this passage to him and urged him to consider the matter. He went home, and came back later and told me that he did not find any immorality at his home. I then asked him if he had read the Bible passage we discussed and considered his immorality in light of that passage. He refused to repent and continued to live in sin. Therefore, absent repentance, I told him I could no longer pray with him, eat with him, or associate with him, as described in the passage. Most believers have never moved to end fellowship with anyone based upon the Bible and the commands of Jesus Christ. We see all around us evil practices tolerated or promoted in the assemblies throughout the world. Most people, however, seem even more oblivious to the teachings of the New Testament concerning those who promote evil doctrine within the church.

Factional Failures

      Within the church, certain people will stand up and divide the church into factions. Some people within churches display factious behavior by stirring up foolish controversies with strife and disputes about the Law and genealogies. 3The Greek term for “factions” (“αἱρετικὸν“) describes a person who causes divisions or schisms in the Body of Christ based upon foolish controversies causing strife and disputes in the assembly. In 1 Corinthians 11:19, Paul wrote that “there must also be factions (“αἱρέσεις”) among you, so that those approved (“δόκιμοι”) may become evident among you. Compare the person approved (“δόκιμον“) to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

Titus 3:10-11

      Do not misunderstand. People today do not generally have disputes about the Law and genealogies, but they do have disputes about all kinds of teaching in the Bible. By forsaking the truth, false teachers distort the teachings of Jesus. As people promote evil teachings, they create strife and factions within the church. Such people who promote evil doctrine are called “heretics.” Titus 3:10-11, provides clear guidance on dealing with heretics. Notice in Titus 3:11 that the heretic is perverted 4The Greek word for “perverted” (“ἐξέστραπται”) means someone has been turned aside from correct behavior. Notice that the word occurs here as a perfect passive indicative, highlighting that the cause of the turning has not been emphasized by the verb. Instead, the state of perversion characterizes this person. and is sinning. 5The Greek term for “sinning” (“ἁμαρτάνει“) means to miss the mark, to transgress. Compare Paul’s use of the term in 1 Corinthians 6:18, where he explained that the immoral man sins against his own body. In contrast to the perversion, the active voice of “sinning” clearly identifies that the factious man sins continuously by promoting his evil factional activities. The heretic stands self-condemned. 6The Greek term for “self-condemned” (“αὐτοκατάκριτος“) means that his own actions prove his guilt. Furthermore, the Greek term “is” (“ὢν“) emphasizes the continuous, persistent nature of his self-condemnation. His own actions convict him of factious behavior. Therefore, the church must reject the factious man, which means remove that heretic from the fellowship. 7The Greek term for “reject” (“παραιτοῦ”) means to shun, or refuse to associate with that person. Compare other uses of the same term: 1 Timothy 4:7, “have nothing to do with worldly fables;” 1 Timothy 5:11, “But refuse to put younger widows on the list . . . ;” 2 Timothy 2:23, “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations . . . .” We may glean from these passages that people promoting factions must be rejected and removed from the fellowship until they repent and are restored. When you remove the factious man, then the factions tend to disappear from one assembly. The factious man, however, may well find a new home in the group which does not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and help them turn away from the truth, embracing myths instead (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Doctrinal Failures

      Some people within a local assembly will lead an unruly life, not according to the traditions of the apostles. In such case, the local assembly must take decisive action towards that unruly person.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the the tradition which you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:6

      In the context of 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13,  we see that some of the believers there were apparently not working, but still eating by mooching off of the working believers. 8In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul explained that the Thessalonians should stand firm and hold to the “traditions” (“παραδόσεις“) they were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. Paul included all of his word-of-mouth teachings and his written teachings. Therefore, if anyone departed from the teachings of Paul, then they were subject to the “keep away” command directed in 2 Thessalonians 3:6. Paul commanded those moochers to “work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.” (2 Thessalonians 3:12). If they refused to work, but were able to work, the local assembly must “keep away” from those slothful believers. 9The Greek term for “keep away” (“στέλλεσθαι”) means to stay away from, to hold oneself aloof from another person or thing. In this context, notice the forceful command in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please observe that the unruly behavior of some Thessalonians caused them to be removed from the fellowship. The basis for removing them was that the unruly did not follow the “tradition” delivered to the Thessalonians by Paul. 10The Greek term for “tradition” (“παράδοσιν”), literally a handing over or passing down, means here that these unruly people ignored the example of Paul and the missionary team, but instead refused to work for their own food, and had no disability preventing them from working. Paul used the term “unruly” (“ἀτάκτως“) which means lazy and idle. Paul’s remedy for the “unruly” is to confront (“νουθετεῖτε“) them in love and patience (1 Thessalonians 5:14).  Because Paul prescribed the remedy in his first epistle to the Thessalonians, the problem must have been growing worse as people expected the return of Christ, or had grown worried that Christ had returned, but they missed the day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). The point here is that Paul considered it a doctrinal failure for some believers at Thessalonica to be unruly (lazy), and not just a moral failure. Fidelity to the doctrines taught by the apostles formed the basis of fellowship in the New Testament. 11Compare 1 John 1:1-3; there, we learn that fellowship with God and other believers depends upon believers following the testimony of the apostles who had personal contact with Jesus Christ, and declared the words and teachings of Jesus to believers. The proper remedy for doctrinal failures requires the bond-servant of God to avoid quarrels, but rather with gentleness to correct opponents, “if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

      In Romans 16:17, Paul concluded his epistle with greetings to many individuals. He also provided a clear warning about people who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching from the apostles.

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.

Romans 16:17

      Paul urged the Romans to keep their eyes on certain people. We must do likewise today. We must first spot the people who cause dissensions 12The Greek term for “dissensions” (“διχοστασίας”) means to stand apart, and in this instance conveys the thought of separating into factions. This same root word occurs as part of the deeds of the flesh in Galatians 5:20. and hindrances. 13The Greek term for “hindrances” (“σκάνδαλα”) was used to describe the bait stick in a trap, or symbolically as a snare. In this context, the hindrances amount to stumbling blocks and offenses, that hinder the practice of the Word of God in the lives of believers at Rome. Instead, they are caused to stumble. Paul also explained that those people were slaves of their own appetites and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceived the hearts of the unsuspecting. Today, we see so many believers split into factions and hindered by false teaching contrary to sound doctrine delivered by the apostles of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. But, as Paul promised, the God of Peace will soon crush Satan under the feet of the believers (Romans 16:20). Paul again urged believers to remove other people from the fellowship who departed from the teachings of the apostles, especially those who hindered and ensnared unsuspecting believers.


     The Scripture teaches that we must “remove” certain so-called Christians from the local assembly and further refuse to associate with them, not even to eat with them. As a general rule, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals'” (1 Corinthians 15:33). 14The Greek root term for “corrupts” (“Φθείρουσιν”) describes the destruction of both things and men in the New Testament. It graphically describes the destruction of unbelieving men (Jude 1:10–destruction results from dreaming, defiling the flesh, rejecting authority, and reviling angelic majesties) and things (1 Corinthians 3:17–the destruction of the human body as the temple of the Holy Spirit; Ephesians 4:22–the destruction of the old self, which is being corrupted by the lusts of deceit). The local assembly should never move to exclude people as a first choice. The proper order of events would be to confront the person acting against Scripture, and see if you can win your brother (assuming they are truly saved) by your gentle confrontation (2 Timothy 2:25), while seeking to restore them (Galatians 6:1-5); if they are unbelievers, then they need to receive eternal life by faith alone in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Second, if they refuse to repent, and depart from their corrupting actions, then they need to be placed under discipline according to the procedure outlined in Matthew 18:15-18. For all those people who complain that such actions are not loving, they should carefully consider 2 John 1:6:  “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.” Notice the next verse 2 John 1:7: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” We see that real love means you walk according to the commandments of Christ, and also that you oppose the teaching of deceivers. Remember the admonition of 2 John 1:10-11: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” While these verses apply primarily to unbelievers teaching false doctrines about Jesus Christ, very similar principles apply to all people (believers or not) who cause dissensions, spread false doctrines, and disturb the church by creating factions. In love, spiritual believers must respond to them. 15Consider the work of elders who must protect the flock of believers from: (1) savage wolves coming into the local assembly to attack believers; and (2) people already inside the local assembly speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. But, as we saw above, not only the elders have such duties to the local assembly, but also each individual believer must admonish the unruly (1 Thessalonians 5:14) and refuse to eat with the unrepentant (1 Corinthians 5:11.) We must always seek and pray for repentance and restoration. Real believers will miss the fellowship of other believers, and the lack of fellowship and the other believers standing away from them will promote repentance in their hearts. 

Separating from Evil

1. The Corruption Problem.  The Holy Spirit promotes unity within the church of Jesus Christ, but evil in all forms corrupts and separates believers gathered in the name of Jesus Christ. All believers have a duty to confront evil in people and urge them to repent of their sins. Left without repentance, corruption destroys the fellowship of believers.

2. Failures of Morality, Fellowship and Doctrine.  The Lord Jesus knows all about temptation leading to failures of morality, personal behavior, fellowship, and bad doctrine. He not only knows how to rescue Christians from temptation, but He also delights in repentance from evil deeds. As believers, we must move to prevent the spread of evil by confronting it, but we must also separate from unrepentant people who spread evil in the local assembly.

3. The Loving Response to Evil. God commanded believers to walk in love by walking according to His commandments. He commanded us to stay away from: (1) the so-called believers who refuse to repent and forsake their immorality, idolatry, coveting, idolatry, reviling and swindling; and (2) the people who cause divisions in the church after being warned against continuing such false teaching;  and (3) the people who promote false doctrine contrary to the tradition received from the apostles by word of mouth or by written letter. We must first seek to restore them with gentle correction from the Word of God, and if they refuse to repent and listen, then to exclude them from the local assembly. Today, most local assemblies never practice such commands. When they ignore the commands of Jesus Christ, they fail to love the people undergoing destruction. Real love from Christ calls every believer to confront the evil gripping people, and to bring them to their senses, so that by God’s grace, they may repent of their sin, leave it behind under the blood of Jesus Christ, and move back into fellowship, so that everyone may walk in the light with Jesus our Savior. For unbelievers, they went out from us so that it would be shown that they were not of us (1 John 2:19).  Click here for spiritual help.

Application for Today

      As you walk through life today, you must consider your own behavior. Are you walking in sin and refusing to repent of your evil behavior? Has someone come to you and confronted you with the Word of God, lovingly showing you that you have disobeyed the teaching of Jesus Christ? Will you repent today? Likewise, do you know someone who has disobeyed the Word of God, but you have continued to fellowship with people who cause dissension, spread false doctrine, or persist in evil behavior? You may need to contact that person walking in darkness and gently, with love, confront them with the Word of God. Furthermore, we should each examine ourselves and judge ourselves before God, so that we will not be disciplined by the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). As we walk in the light with Jesus, we will still sin, but by fellowship with other believers and fellowship with Jesus Christ, He will cleanse us from all sin as we confess it and trust His cleansing power in our lives. Will you follow His commandments today and so walk in His love? 

March 29, 2015 │Separating from Evil │ Separations in Fellowship

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