Fellowship Forum October 10 Summary

Ten people were in attendance and participation was encouraging, insightful, and brotherly.

[1] What are the biblical ways to help someone [or ourselves] to love, forgive, and adjust through very traumatic experiences such as abuse, betrayal, death, divorce, and equally devastating situations in life?

            David committed grievous sin with respect to Uriah and Bathsheba from which he was forgiven by the mercies of God according to 2 Samuel 12:13: “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’  And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.’”

            True as this was, nevertheless, David acknowledges in Ps.51:3: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”  Forgiveness may be full but memories are not erased thereby and may be triggered by various situations, sights, sounds, words, smells, etc.  There is nothing we can do to eradicate these memories, but it is possible to remember wrongs without bitterness, malice, hatred, anger, and vengeance.

            Devastating experiences can present a barrier to developing deep loving relationships for fear of passing through the same heartaches again.  But we must not allow these to prevent us from obeying God in the present.  We must obey the Lord regardless of what we feel.

            Being other-oriented is Christ-like and leads us out of the misery of self-occupation [Phil.2:3-5].  The Word of God is our ground and stay to get us back on track and cannot be neglected when passing through difficulties.

            Clichés do not help the suffering and sorrowful; silent sympathy may be much more significant.  We need to know and embrace the significance of Romans 8:28 before days of deep darkness descend upon us: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

            I Corinthians 16:14: “Let all that you do be done in love” – even with respect to enemies.  Love is an act of the will to what is right, loving, and best regardless of personal cost and despite how others respond.  No matter what evils have been done to us, we must do what is right by going forward – turning the other cheek, giving our coat, or going the second mile.

            “Inner healing” via a therapeutic path is founded upon a misguided notion that we as people are good and whole needing to be restored to our untainted state prior to whatever evil has befallen us as “victims.” On the contrary, the Scriptures present the reality that we are all “damaged goods” – full of sin, corruption, and far from pristine.  While not minimizing others’ sorrows, we must assist them to obey and glorify God in the present though it may be quite painful and distressing for them to do so.

            We are directed to pursue peace with all men [Heb.12:14].  “If possible, so far as it depends upon you, be at peace with all men” [Rom.12:18], and, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” [Col.3:15].

            We are to “bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ” [Gal.6:2].       

[2] What are the contrasts noted in Mark 7:1-23 and their significance as related to the heart of man?

            Verse 2 informs us that “some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed.”  Some washed and some didn’t, without condemnation by either Christ or fellow disciples.  It was the Pharisees who raised objections based on their scruples. 

            Jesus clearly stated in Mt.15:20: “to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”  Yet some of His disciples observed this religious tradition and Christ did not compel them to abandon it.  All of us have backgrounds and traditions that we have not thought through their implications.

            However, traditions and the commandments of God are different matters.  The commands of God must be obeyed while those of men not necessarily so.  The Lord Jesus Himself obeyed and observed the Law as given by God yet was fulfilling the ceremonial aspects of it by stages until completely fulfilled at the cross.

            The Law as given to Israel was in three aspects: the moral, civil, and ceremonial.  The moral law applies to every man in every culture in every generation.  The moral aspects of the law stem directly from the inherent nature of God Himself.  It would never be possible for there to be a world where untruth was acceptable, where impurity was sanctioned. 

The civil law governed various aspects of Israel’s penal code as a nation and had reference to building codes, sanitation, punishment for various crimes, etc.  The ceremonial regulations governed their worship, diet, festivals, and some aspects of their dress.

            These ceremonial aspects are what have been fulfilled by Christ and thus have no direct external application to the Christian.  “Thus He declared all foods clean” [Mk.7:19] which became the basis of God’s injunction to Peter and to the church at large thereafter in Acts 10:10-15. 

The civil law does not apply to the church as it is not a national entity as was Israel and the church enforces no penal code as such.  The moral law applies to every Christian and has not been done away with.  The NT believer keeps the law as it is fulfilled in Christ, but not necessarily in its external requisites for the nation of Israel.

            Even though David and Hezekiah did not comply with the outward regulations imposed upon Israel, they nevertheless kept the Word of God which is incontrovertible and must be obeyed as fulfilled in Christ [see Mt.12:1-7 and 2 Chron.30:17-20].  

            The things that defile us are the things we do, not the things that are done to us by others.  In this sense, we are not victims.  It is out of our own hearts that evil proceeds, not that things come into us from without that defile us.

            The solution is to fix our eyes upon Jesus, recognizing our own inner evilness of heart and die to self.  The life which we live is that of faith having been raised with Christ from death.

[3]  What is the purpose of money as it relates to godliness and Christian service?

            Luke 16:9 outlines the basic purpose of earthly resources entrusted into our hands.  “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.”  Essentially money is to be utilized in order to influence people for eternal purposes.  That is, our earthly goods should be utilized for the blessing and good of others by assisting the poor and contributing to legitimate gospel work. 

In this way by selfless living we are looking to the everlasting benefit of others rather than squandering resources on self-centered interests. Then, when this life is over, there will be people in heaven to greet us who will be forever grateful for our sacrificial and selfless manner of life in this world.  And in this sense, our use of money is a testimony to the world, either positively or negatively.

The principle of Christian giving is stated in 2 Cor.9:7: “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

It is godly and obedient to utilize money for the needs of one’s own family in particular [I Tim.5:8] as well as for the relief of needy brethren [Acts 11:27-30].

Certainly we cannot serve two masters and being anxious about daily necessities reflects negatively upon God’s care of His children and shows lack of trust on our part [Mt.6:19-34].  Discussion followed regarding the practical outworking of not storing up treasure upon earth.  In what sense is this directive to be taken, since even Christ Himself kept a money bag among the apostles?  No hard and fast conclusions were drawn regarding this.

It was agreed that if resources are entrusted to one’s use, generosity ought to characterize their use without undue attachment or fixing one’s hope upon their uncertainty [see I Tim.6:17-19].  Our attitude should be to even joyfully accept the seizure of earthly goods, knowing that we have a better and more enduring portion above [Heb.10:34].

Even in poverty, grace can abound to the help and relief of others, though this is not intended to lead to one’s own lack and suffering, but rather by way of equality [2 Cor.8:1-15].

[4]  What role, if any, does doctrine play as a basis of Christian fellowship?

            A Christian is noted for receiving “the love of the truth so as to be saved” [2 Thess.2:10].  A Christian is inclined towards and embraces truth as it is unfolded to his heart.  It is not that an individual must comprehensively understand and agree with particular doctrines in order to fellowship with other believers.  Assembly gatherings rallying around various doctrinal camps is a reproach to Christ and presents man-determined criteria for association [I Cor.1:10-13; 3:3-5].

            A primary concern when evaluating sound doctrine is whether it leads to practical godliness.  “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” [I Tim.1:5].  The contrast to sound doctrine is the multi-faceted deeds of wickedness proceeding from untruth as noted in I Tim.1:8-11.

            Sound doctrine is described as proper godly response to truth evidenced in the behavior of the recipients as in Titus 2:1-10.  Indeed, the grace of God instructs us to “deny ungodliness and worldly lust and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age” since the purpose of Christ giving Himself for us was to “redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.  These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority” [Tit.2:11-15].

            This is the doctrine that fellowship is based upon, walking “in the light as He Himself is in the light; we have fellowship with one another” [I Jn.1:7].  This is quite in contrast to wrangling about words which is unprofitable and worthless which leads to the ruin of hearers [2 Tim.2:14] and that sick interest in controversial questions and disputes about words that results in “envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth” [I Tim.6:3-5].

            All of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is important and bears upon all of life and we should not artificially relegate truth into categories such as primary and secondary, essential and non-essential, etc.  Therefore we need patience to “speak the truth in love” [Eph.4:15] all the while maintaining the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” [Eph.4:1f] as we grow and mature into the fullness Christ [Eph.4:13].

            Our fellowship should be in association with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart in their pursuit of righteousness, faith, love and peace [2 Tim.2:22].

            A hypothetical situation was raised about the proper response to a brother who enters a fellowship of believers and insists that all must speak in tongues in order to properly progress in spirituality.  What should be done by the assembly along with the elders to address this issue while not unnecessarily offending or driving the brother away or causing division? 

It was agreed that such situations present a matter to pray for wisdom in how to proceed along the lines of 2 Tim.2:23-25 [though this passage was not specifically cited in the discussion]: “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with meekness correcting those who are in opposition…”   

[5] How did the NT writers interpret and utilize the OT Scriptures?

            Matthew chapter 2 illustrates several ways in which this was done.  In verses 5 and 6 the OT passage was interpreted in a literal, historical, and grammatical way: the prophet said that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem which was literally fulfilled.

            Verse 15, however, disregards the historical and literal context of Hosea 11:1 which refers to Israel as a nation at the time of their exodus out of Egypt.  Rather, it was fulfilled by way of spiritual analogy by Christ. Israel, God’s chosen, suffered under the hand of a wicked tyrant who decreed a sentence of death upon the male children.  Christ, God’s chosen, suffered under the hand of Herod who had decreed the same and therefore had to be delivered from Egypt as well.

            Rachel weeping for her children in verses 17 and 18 is also an illustration of fulfillment by way of spiritual analogy.  It wasn’t literally Rachel who wept and the historical settings were centuries apart and referred to different events.  But the events were closely associated in the essence of the grief and distress that came upon both.

            In verse 23 it is stated that: “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’”  There is no such prophesy recorded in the OT using these words.  Significantly, however, it is said that this fulfilled what was spoken of through the prophets, not through the prophet.  In other words, this contains a synopsis of what the prophets spoke regarding the Christ – He shall be a Nazarene – despised, rejected of men, and of ill-repute, for this certainly was the reputation of Nazareth [see Jn.1:46].

            The OT narrative may contain spiritual illustration beyond the significance of the literal and historical events, persons, places, and things recorded in the text.  All of the Scripture was written for our learning [Rom.15:4] and the literal historical record often also foreshadows truth about the Lord Jesus as noted in I Cor.10:1-11.  “That Rock was Christ” [I Cor.10:4].

            When the Lord wrote of the care of oxen, it was not primarily for their sakes; it was for our spiritual benefit and learning, yes, “altogether for our sakes” [I Cor.9:8-11].  Acts 15:14-18 speaks about God raising up the tabernacle of David which was fulfilled, not literally in an earthly tent, but in raising up and establishing the church.

            God revealed secrets and illustrations to the NT writers and God reveals spiritual analogies and illustrations to us as well by His Spirit.  The guiding principle in such interpretation is whether a valid correspondence exists between the historical OT reference and what it is illustrating.  Narrative is to be interpreted by precept – by the clear declarations of Scripture – not precept developed from the narrative accounts of the Bible.

            Many OT quotations contained in the NT are not taken from the original Hebrew of the OT but rather from the Greek translation known as the Septuagint [LXX].  An example of this is found in Rom.3:10-18 which is a direct quote of Ps.14:1-3 in the LXX.  However, the Hebrew of Ps.14:1-3 only vaguely resembles what was quoted in Rom.3. 

            This does not constitute the LXX as an inspired translation in itself, but simply demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is free to express eternal truth in the language of His choosing. We learn from this that translations into other languages can rightly be referred to as the Word of God and are capable of conveying eternal truth into every culture.

Summary submitted by Steve Phillips