Strange as it may seem, some actually deny the right of the church to withdraw their fellowship from those who refuse to walk in the light. Others agree that such must be done, but that it cannot be done if some have already “withdrawn from the church.” This is strange language indeed, or we read nothing in the Scriptures about the right of people to withdraw from the church.” However, we do read about the responsibility of the church to withdraw from certain ones who become wayward. The Scripture says, “mark them which cause divisions…and avoid them” (Romans 16:17); “when ye are gathered together…To deliver such an one unto Satan….Purge out…the old leaven…not to keep company…not to eat…. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (I Corinthians 5:4-13); “from such withdraw thyself” (I Timothy 6:5); “Now we command you… withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly…note that man, and have no company with him” (II Thessalonians 3:6-14).
These passages show that the church has an active responsibility in the matter of discipline, and must take a stand for truth and fellowship. Our responsibility is not merely passive. Apostates from the faith seldom become such for no reason at all, but are actively engaged in the ways of the world. “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (II Timothy 4:10). Those who forsake the Lord in worship have usually already forsaken Him in living. Does this mean the church can do nothing to discipline wayward members if they have already ceased to worship with the saints? Just where do people get the idea that fellowship is limited to the worship “service”? They must think so, if they think they are to withdraw only from those who attend worship. Actually, we do not forbid anyone to attend worship when they are disciplined, but we encourage them to attend so as to be exhorted to Christian living. A withdrawal of fellowship simply means that Christians are to do nothing with those withdrawn from that would indicate any approval of their wayward conduct, and this would primarily be outside of the worship service. Any effort to reject God’s Will in discipline is an effort to follow the way of least resistance. We need to forget our fears and human reasoning and start obeying God.
Don W. Tarbet