Can We Fellowship Alexander Campbell?

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With all the “tests of fellowship” people try to employ today, I often wonder if we would even be able to fellowship with Alexander Campbell if we followed what some teach? What is the strangest “test of fellowship” you have come across? When people start splitting over whether we call it fruit of the vine or juice I think there may be a problem.

Jesus calls for unity and I often wonder where He would draw the line of fellowship. In Mark 9:38-41 we have the story of the disciples telling Jesus about a man they saw casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They told him to stop. If an apostle told you to stop, would you? I would think so. But Jesus told them they were mistaken. “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.”

Too often our mentality has been the reverse – “Whoever is not for my doctrinal stance on these 500 issues is against me.” That is not the standard Jesus uses. That is not to say doctrinal issues are not important. That is not to say there is no such thing as error. There are lines which we should not cross. I just think we often put the line too close to our own opinions and leave out the desire of Jesus and fracture His church over non-issues.

0 Responses

  1. Matt, Thanks for posting on my blog. I haven’t heard from you in years. I hope things are well with you.

    Great post brother. A question that I have been asking about this “doctrinal stance” mode that we are in is the following: Is this ___________ (fill in the blank with a particular doctrine)something that I would die for?

    In other words, what doctrinal stance would you die for? When you start asking that question, there are many things that begin to take a back seat.

    I mean would you really die for the doctrine of instumental music that we have held onto for so many years? If a person threatened me with my life or a piano in church, where do you want the baby grand?!!

  2. Hi Keith,

    I was really glad I found your blog. It has been a long time since I saw you last. I hope things are going well with you and that they will improve with your daughter.

    The early Christians were willing to die for Jesus. Not for a yes/no on powerpoint, hymnals, what we call things, etc.

  3. Well said, Matthew.

    Some folks are indoctrinated in a way & buy into the lie that every single shred of Scripture is equally important. Therefore, developing spiritual disciplines & questions regarding the Lord’s Supper are EQUALLY important. Yet, however, Scripture very clearly indicates that this is NOT true. In 1st Cor. 15, Paul writes about matters of “first importance.” That means that other matters are further down the list of importance. Christ teaches us that the Greatest Commands have to do with love. If there is a greatest command, then there have to be lesser commands.

    So many of these issues we struggle over are simply matters of little importance. Now, that doesn’t mean necessarily that they are UN-important. But they are less important.

    Let’s make a big deal about what the Bible makes a big deal about (e.g. The Gospel; faith, hope, & love; Holiness; Being formed like Christ; et. al.) and not concern ourselves as much with issues the Bible doesn’t make that big a deal about. JMO …

  4. Matt,
    How do we balance what Jesus says here in Mark with what he says in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.7:21-23)? Here in Mark he says that no one after performing a miracle in his name will be able to speak evil of him. Yet in Matthew the people claim to have done miracles in the name of Jesus (which he doesn’t seem to dispute) but Jesus calls them evil doers.

  5. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the comment and that great question. That does seem to be a little confusing at first. I wonder if context doesn’t shed a little light on what the difference is.

    In Matthew, the sermon on the mount has an emphasis on raising the bar. “You have heard it said…but I tell you.” It is not enough to just not murder your neighbor. You can’t hate him either. It is not enouth to just avoid adultery. You can’t lust either. On and on it goes. I wonder if what Jesus is saying is this – Don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t think that just because you have accomplished something for God you are exempt from judgement.

    In Mark the preceding verses (9:33-36) show that the disciples are not to consider themselves to be the greatest. In rebuking this man they have neglected what Jesus was just teaching them. The disciples’ rationale – “he was not following us” (NIV unfortunately uses a poor translation here – “he was not one of us.”). This is more a lesson about the disciples/to the disciples than about the man casting out demons.

    In both passages Jesus does not question the validity of the claim. The casting out of demons by these individuals would have been a reality. In both passages Jesus is the judge of the heart and declares one okay and the other not. This could happen with two teacher, two evangelists, two exorcists. Jesus still judges the heart in the end.

    It also only makes sense in light of the context. Just my two cents. What is your opinion Bob?

  6. Matt,
    Your “exegesis” of the two passages is solid. It appears to me that Jesus is trying to show the apostles that this is the Jesus show not the apostles’ show. Their work should be characterized by humility and unity and not some need to feed their egos. I think Numbers 11:26-30 presents a similar situation where two elders were prophesying outside the camp and Joshua wanted Moses to make them stop. Joshua needed to understand that what was happening was not Moses’ show but God’s. The problem with this passage (and with Mark’s) is that these are obvious manifestations of the Spirit (at least obvious to the reader). But it still leaves us with the question of how to apply it. Jesus had insight into the heart, as you mention, that we don’t. Plus, is Jesus discussing doctrinal issues in Mark 9:38-41 (for that matter is he discussing doctrinal issues in Matthew 7?). I tend to dislike the general discussion of the passage because it seems to leave us with accepting people who speak well of Jesus without consideration of at least some doctrinal discussion. I’m not sure that the context is dealing with fellowship based on doctrinal considerations. But it does remind us that this isn’t OUR show but Jesus’.

  7. That is a great point. I think that is a humbling point about where our focus needs to be. We don’t know the doctrinal issues of the people Jesus’ speaks about in either passage. We just know that in Matthew Jesus says that they did not do the will of God. I do think doctrinal considerations are important and we need to be students of the word to try our best to find out what it means/what God wants.

    The distinction Jesus makes in Matthew seems to me to be more moral rather than doctrinal. He doesn’t reject them for the wrong view of the 10 commandments, etc. but for not doing God’s will.

    Good thoughts, Bob.

  8. There are some folks who are on record in saying they cannot fellowship Campbell. There are probably a lot more that would not if he were here today.

    Bobby Valentine
    Formerly of Milwaukee, now of Tucson

  9. When I say this, I am not putting Jesus and Alexander Campbell on the same level so don’t get me wrong here. There were lots of people who wouldn’t fellowship Jesus was he was physically here on earth.

  10. There is a story in circulation that says there was this man who believed that there were only two faithful people on the earth – he and his son. But he wasn’t too sure about his son.

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