Thursday, March 09, 2006

"Broken Fellowship"? Not with Jesus! TAKE TWO

Sorry, I tried to recover the original post but was not succesful. However, I am still interested in continuing the conversation. Therefore: 1) Again, I want to give props to Pat Griffiths for bringing this topic to my attention during my undergrad studies at NBBC. 2) I'm reposting my excurses which is what I am hoping to continue the dialouge on. I'm very interested on your thoughts.

XXII. EXCURSES: On Breaking Fellowship with God.

1. The Problem Articulated. Though Grudem comments on this idea, it is far more common in popular literature and preaching. The concept basically goes something like this: When an individual sins, though his legal standing is never brought into question the familial relationship is disrupted and “fellowship” with God is broken. This is a fairly common evangelical viewpoint and receives relatively broad acceptance.

2. Though I understand the sentiment of such an argument, I think it needs some significant clarification. First of all, I’m not convinced that such a strong disjunction can be made between our legal standing and our familial standing. After all, our Father is the Judge and the Judge is our Father. More disconcerting is the use of the term “fellowship”. If such language is to be used, it must be noted that one is not using the phrase “fellowship with God” the way the Scriptures do. Consider 1 John 1:3-7 What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. 5 And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. Fellowship with God here is virtually equivalent with having eternal life. Likewise, the metaphor of the vine and the branches in John 15, though using different language, communicates the same principle. One either abides in the vine or is cast into the fire (15:6). The same could be pressed with the “in Christ language.” One is either in Christ or he is not. In all of these metaphors, the breaking of fellowship, lack of abiding and not being in Christ all result in one thing: Eternal death. Thus, while fellowship can be broken with other believers, to break fellowship with God (in the biblical sense) is to not have the blood of Jesus cleansing us from our sin (1 John 1:7). To press the analogy further, when we turn our back on God, He does NOT turn His back on us. He is still wooing us back to Himself (Romans 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?). If He were to turn His back on us, there would be no place for repentance, nor could we return to Him. So, though I understand what is trying to be communicated and think the idea has some biblical warrant, my point is simply to say the language is sloppy and needs to be sharpened.


David said...

the language is sloppy and dangerous. Yet we need more to find language that we can use. I'm in the pastorate now and need something to tell people who are off smoking pot and sucking face and think they've got their bases covered in the cross. Scripture gives them no surety, nor can any of us have it when we endure deliberate, willful sin in our lives. But on a smaller scale, back to issue, Grudem's point revolves around, as I heard him tell it in a course, "blessing." He attributed his wild ministerial blessing to a strong bond of practical fellowship with the Father, which, he was afraid, he could lose at any point. Practically it made him more holier (in the good way) than most people I've ever met. Holier and paranoid, though paranoid may not be a bad state for believers to revisit, seeing our God is not to be tampered with.

Anonymous said...

Because 'fellowship with God' is 'virtually equivalent with having eternal life' and John 15 'communicates the same principle' and this is tantamount to 'in Christ'- I can safely say [read: look out for my bus!] that I have never seen such a tight (rather, 'virtually equivalent') argument for believers losing their eternal life.
I missed where John 15 is a discussion of the other vines and their fruitless branches all up and in the True Vine - the branches that were never 'in Christ' for the mere fact that they get burned? But then again, verse 2 sounds like those bound to be burned branches were indeed 'in Christ' v.2, no? Well, as you say, you're either 'in Christ' or you're not - and if you use to be ... your bad,
Ciao babe