The Basis for Christian Fellowship

"In essentials, Unity; in non-essentials, Liberty; in all things, Love."

  1. Although we individually, or as a group, may believe and cherish certain doctrines, the basis of our fellowship is life in the Christ of the Scriptures rather than light on the teaching of the Scriptures. Those who have part with Christ have part with us. Because our communion is one of life and love more than one of doctrine and opinion, we seek to show that the oneness in the life of God through Jesus Christ is a stronger bond than that of being one of us - whether organizationally or denominationally.

  2. Because our fellowship is based on our common life in Christ, we do not reject anyone because of the organization or denomination with which he may be affiliated; nor would we hold him responsible for the conduct within that system, any more than we would a child for the conduct in the home of which he is merely a part.

  3. We do not feel it desirable to withdraw from fellowship with any Christians except at the point where they may require us to do what our consciences will not permit, or restrain us from doing what our consciences require. Even then, we maintain our fellowship with them in any matter where we are not called upon to so compromise. This ensures that (inasfar as we understand the Scripture) we do not separate ourselves from them any further than they separate themselves from Christ.

  4. We do not consider an act of fellowship to be indicative of total agreement; indeed, we sometimes find it a needed expression of love to submit to others in matters where we do not fully agree, rather than to prevent some greater good from being brought about. Our choice would be to bear with their wrong rather than separate ourselves from their good.

  5. We believe it more scriptural to reflect a heart of love ready to find a covering for faults, than to constantly look for that with which we may disagree. We will then be known more by what we witness for than by what we witness against.

  6. We feel it biblical never to pressure people to act in uniformity further than they feel in uniformity; we use our fellowship in the Spirit as an opportunity to discuss our differences and find this to be the most effective way of leading others - or being led by them - into the light of the Word.

  7. While enjoying such a wide range of Christian fellowship, we would not force this liberty upon those who would feel otherwise minded. In such circumstances, we enjoy fellowship as far as they will permit, then pray that the Lord would lead them further into this true liberty of the common life in Christ. note

Therefore, we strive to promote faith in God, unity of the Spirit among believers, love and understanding among all people. We pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22). We seek to walk worthy of the calling with which we were called, with all lowliness and humility, and with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).

Note:These principles of Christian fellowship are based on the research and experience of Keith A. Price. He wrote: "These principles are based on many years of inter-denominational fellowship and are conclusions I have reached after making many mistakes and after having had considerable discussion with scores of Christian leaders."

Additional Notes on Christian Fellowship

"We believe that a calm and child-like trust in God, a steadfast confidence in the undeviating rectitude of all His ways, and an unwavering belief in that unalterable and eternal love of the Father, which embraces all created intelligences, constitute the highest powers and graces of the Christian character. And these can proceed only from an abiding and deep conviction that God is, and that He reigns in supreme and unmingled goodness over all the affairs of the universe that He has made." (See Rudiments of Theological and Moral Science, By Rev. I. D. Williamson, D.D. - 1874)

        "Dogmatic adherence to a particular creed or confession as the basis for unity will produce unity only for the adherents to that particular system. And this, in practice, appears to be about the only basis for unity that is generally recognized. We suffer from what I call the "legacy of orthodoxy," the idea that one must submit to a particular set of dogmatically proclaimed orthodox beliefs to be a Christian, or to be a member of some church, or to have fellowship with other Christians." (Daniel Andersen. Be Likeminded, page 4)

The problem with all Creeds is that they contain some truth and some error. If a Creed teaches more than the Bible on any given subject, it teaches too much. If it teaches less than the Bible teaches, it teaches too little. If it contains what the Bible teaches, WHY THE CREED?

        "Doctrine is not the divine basis of fellowship. That is life and conduct. Those in Corinth who held fundamental error, denying the resurrection, were not excluded (1 Cor. 15:12). But the morally unclean person was expelled (1 Cor. 5)." (A.E. Knoch. Eternal Torment or Universal Reconciliation page 50)

        "Scholars of Church History have indicated that the concept of orthodoxy was introduced into Christendom, not in the 1st Century, but early in the 4th Century, under the leadership of the Roman emperor Constantine. He desired a unified Christianity as a state religion, in order to consolidate his own power. (see, for example, Martin A. Larson's, The Religion of the Occident, chapter 16.)
        "It seems that in the earlier centuries of the Christian era, there was a fairly healthy and free enquiry among Christians with respect to the most profound Scriptural topics, including the nature of the God-head and the Person of Christ. Once orthodoxy was established this changed. To be orthodox was to be safe. What was orthodox was well defined by creeds and could be stated and applied with absolute dogmatism. Not to be orthodox could mean the loss of home, possessions and family, even life itself. Healthy enquiry was displaced by an unhealthy fear.
        "We are grateful that, in our Western democracies, religion is not an arm of the government. However, we have been affected, to some degree, by the legacy of orthodoxy which includes the idea that a Christian is one who subscribes to a set of doctrinal statements or to certain creeds. There are certain doctrines which have to be believed and are safe. To tamper with them is to risk loss -- loss of friends, loss of fellowship, even loss of salvation and eternal life.
        "Fellowship and membership are based upon doctrines which have to be subscribed to, rather than upon an attitude of heart and mind in a quest for truth. Yet it is believed and taught that a personal faith is vital for a relationship between the individual and God. Is not this a contradiction -- to insist that individuals must initiate a direct relationship to God through a living and growing faith, yet must subscribe to a fixed set of doctrines in order to obtain membership or fellowship with a Christian Group?" (Daniel Andersen. Bible Study - A personal quest, page 3)

        "It is a tragedy that Christians unite on doctrinal or creedal bases when there can be no absolute certainty about them. The basis for fellowship ought rather to be in the realm of love, commitment, and trust than in systematized doctrines, codified beliefs and intellectual thought. Should any grounds for fellowship be more important than faith and love in relation to our Lord Jesus Christ and a patient on-going quest for truth? Love, prayer, worship, praise, study, questioning, and discussion can all be part of fellowship one with another. Believers should be encouraged to question and discuss among themselves the most profound topics of the Scriptures as freely as they talk about the weather or the World Series in sports. there should be no strife, contentions, factions, no fear of recrimination or embarrassment or of being branded a heretic." (Daniel Andersen. Bible Study - A personal quest, page 22

        "The doctrines of the Bible, we believe, have never divided Christians; but human opinions of those doctrines without charity, have always done the mischief. Man, poor, ignorant man, would dictate to the consciences of his fellows, and if they do not receive his dogmas or opinions, they are branded with the odious names of heretic, infidel, etc., and their names and sentiments are trumpeted abroad, distorted, misrepresented and blackened--for what purpose? Professedly to promote the interests of religion--but intentionally, I fear, with many, just to excite the popular clamor and indignation against them, and to raise themselves on their ruins.--Poor, weak man wishes the world to believe him infallible. If not, why so tenacious of untenable principles? Why not abandon them when proved to have no foundation in truth? Why not relinquish them when refuted with the clearest evidence? It must be because he can not brook the idea of being accounted a fallible man. ....."
        "Believing mankind to be fallible creatures, we therefore feel a spirit of toleration and union for all those Christians who maintain the divinity of the Bible, and walk humbly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord Jesus Christ, and who live by faith in his name, though they may hold opinions contrary to ours. We wish others to exercise the same spirit toward us, that we might be mutually edified--that the interests of our Redeemer's kingdom might be advanced--and that foul blot upon Christianity, the division of Christians, might be wiped away, and thus a powerful weapon against revelation be wrested from the hand of infidelity. We ardently desire to see this spirit universally prevail throughout the churches of the various denominations." (See An Address to the Churches, by Barton W. Stone, 1821)

        "We are far from imputing blame to any one on account of the religious sentiments which he may entertain. Let those sentiments be ever so erroneous, they are not of his own invention, and, in very many cases, we are quite convinced, they are only held by him because he has not had the opportunity of choosing between them and better.
        "But, even where it is otherwise, error in points of doctrine is not a ground for regarding any one with unkindness. It is sad to say that this sentiment has been too little received and acted upon in the professing Christian world, and persecution on account of difference in religious sentiment has been too generally and cruelly practiced.
        "We believe that the doctrines we hold dear teach us better. They teach us to regard all mankind as our brethren and to be lacking in love towards no one because we think him mistaken in his beliefs. They instruct us that in forming his divine judgments, God looks not with the eyes or understanding, but at the heart, and where this is right with him, he rejects no one for his mistakes in opinion. We believe that which is the practice of our heavenly Father should be what we practice." (See Important Doctrines of the True Christian Religion, page 20, by Rev. S. Noble, 1848)

Here are some other articles that should be read relating to Doctrines and Christian Fellowship:

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