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Christians and Organisations

20/02/2020

If I am a Christian, can I be a member of other organisations?

Study notes from a talk at Templepatrick Reformed Church.

Text: Ephesians 5:1-11

Can a Christian belong to any other organisation – outside the visible church?   I personally think that associations and organisations fall broadly into three categories:- 

  1. Those that Christians should never be involved in.  I’m thinking of course of paramilitary groups, the Freemasons, ecumenical groups,  churches and religious bodies with dubious doctrines, practices and ethics.  
  2. Those that are spiritually harmless.  Parachurch organisations, business organisations, college alumni, etc.  
  3. Those that some Christians will be content to join, but others will not.  In this category we have a huge issue of subjective ethics, and Christian freedoms that need to exercised with great care, and with consideration for not only our own conscience, but the conscience of others.   Political parties, trades unions, sports and recreation clubs, professional bodies, dating clubs, And in this age, what internet groups should the Christian join? 

The question of how far Christians can associate with non-church organisations is nothing new, of course.  So, what are the Biblical foundations which we should consider when we are invited to join an organisation other than the church?   

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Where should the Christian find fellowship and friendship outside the church?

 

1 The Doctrinal Basis – A Christian is Holy and Must Practice Holiness. 

Christian holiness is our condition, by virtue of our regeneration, IT IS WHAT WE ARE IN CHRIST – when we are saved, we are set apart for God. 1 Peter 2:9-10  But HOLINESS must also be something that we PRACTICE.  What does the bible have to say about our distancing ourselves from the unholy aspects of this present world? The classic text is from 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. 14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers:

(Separation from sinfulness, and ungodliness is not something that is unique to the theology of Paul.  This doctrine spans the whole of the Bible both OT and NT.  Eg.  see Exodus 33:16  Leviticus 20:26   1 Kings 8:53  2 Thessalonians 3:6.)

  1. A warning against unequal yokes.  Paul’s reference to a YOKE would immediately have drawn his readers’ minds back to an OT ordinance found in Deuteronomy 22:10, Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. Christians, born from above by the Holy Spirit of God are a completely different breed from unbelievers.   This is the basic principle that lies behind the doctrine of separation unto holiness.  Christians are DIFFERENT from everyone else because true believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit and those Christians are warned against having fellowship, even in religious organisations and churches, with those who are not saved… Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 5:11  2 Thessalonians 3:14  1 Timothy 6:5  2 Timothy 3:5  2 John 1:10. 

READ 2 CORINTHIANS 6:14 -18   2 Corinthians 7:1 

b) Those differences illustrated.  Paul gives us a series of contrasts to to illustrate why Christians cannot have fellowship with the ungodly world… 

  • Righteousness Vs Lawlessness.  or what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?  The Christian has had the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, and his standing is in Christ, justified by grace through faith alone.  An unregenerate person stands before God condemned by the broken law. 
  • Light Vs Darkness. and what communion hath light with darkness? Our eyes have been opened to our true condition, but the unregenerate world does not even see the gospel, because the god of this world has blinded their eyes.  2 Corinthians 4:3-4  
  • Christ Vs the Devil. 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? .  The true Christian is following  and serving Jesus, but  the unregenerate person is a child of his father, the devil. 
  • Believer Vs Unbeliever.   or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?.  The true Christian is a BELIEVER. What meaningful conversation, what fellowship, what relationship would a believer have with an unbeliever? 
  • God’s Temple Vs Idolatry. 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?.  A Christian’s body is a temple!  God dwells within, – The unbeliever is by very nature an idolater, for to worship anything other than the true God is idolatry. 

c) The promise of a greater fellowship.  1 Corinthians 6:17-18   This is COVENANT TALK – God has called and redeemed a people for himself, and adopted them into his family and kingdom, and the are HIS people. God, in light of the Covenant obligations placed upon his people says to us  COME OUT!  come out from among them,   STAY AWAY!  and be ye separate, saith the Lord, DON’T TOUCH! and touch not the unclean thing;   OBEY GOD – NOT MEN!  saith the Lord Almighty.   We MUST obey Him.  

So, God makes us holy in Christ, but we are to work out that holiness in a practical sense.  Paul warns us, in 2 Corinthians 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God that as the recipients of these blessings, we should examine ourselves, and cleanse ourselves from all forms of filthiness, both outward and inward filthiness, and to stand in fear of God who

searches our hearts. The result of that may be that the Christian will not be as popular or as well liked by his/her unsaved friends and neighbours as he otherwise would otherwise be.  But he will please God, and God will receive him, and include him/her in the greatest most perfect form of fellowship ever. 

 

2 The Cautious Application of Christian Freedom. 

There is another issue to be addressed – CHRISTIAN FREEDOMS, RIGHTS and RESPONSIBILITIES.   READ 1 Corinthians 8:4-13 

A Christian must never do ANYTHING which would cause another believer to stumble! 1 Cor. 8:9 It is the very essence of Christianity that the Christian is free!  Through Christ’s death we are free from our slavery to sin.  We are to cherish that liberty! Paul says, Galatians 5:1  The word rendered liberty here is ‘εξουσια (exousia). It literally means POWER or RIGHT.  To the Corinthians Paul says, “When you demand your rights, remember that if that right harms others, you should never insist upon it!” Galatians 5:13  For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.  Our liberty can be a stumbling block to others!  

You can see all the modern applications! Some Christians will argue that a Christian has the right to: DRINK ALCOHOL, WATCH HORROR MOVIES, GO TO DISCOS, BE INVOLVED IN PARTY POLITICS, etc. But, the great ethical question is, WILL MY ACTIONS BE DETRIMENTAL TO OTHER CHRISTIANS!   Romans 14:13  Romans 14:21   This applies to everything we do! Paul argues here “take heed lest BY ANY MEANS.” Every single action, every ethical decision, every moral dilemma which a Christian must face must be tested by this, “Will my decision cause another brother to stumble?”  1 Cor. 8:13 We must do absolutely nothing which might cause a brother to stumble. Think before you act!   

 

CONCLUSION. 

So, what have we learned?  That there is a Biblical doctrine of separation, that God’s people are to be holy, as He is holy, – they are already POSITIONALLY HOLY – but they are to work that holiness out in their daily lives, – to be PRACTICALLY HOLY – and since our holiness is to reflect the holiness of God, who does not have fellowship with darkness or sinfulness, we too should be careful to eschew anything which is opposed to God or Christianity.  This doctrine runs as a thread throughout the whole Bible.  We practically apply this doctrine by examining our lives, every step of the way, with respect to our company, our use of time, our finances and resources, and our Christian testimony.  When it comes down to particular organisations and bodies, we need to ask whether they will cause us to sin, or defile our conscience, and especially, will it cause a brother or sister to stumble.   We are free to associate – but we must use our freedom with great wisdom, and with regard to others. That’s the basis of our association with others, and the principles we must apply.   

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