Fellowship and the Seven Ecclesias
For some considerable time we have felt the need to set forth the
scriptural facts relative to the messages to the 7 ecclesias in the
Apocalypse. Wrong interpretations have been misused to justify
the retention of errors in fellowship. What follows is based upon
an address which was given 5 September 1984 on this subject.
The aim of this study tonight is to set forth clearly the teaching of the Scripture, and to extract the very important
lessons contained therein for us in these last days. It is indeed the Lord Jesus Christ's message on fellowship to the
Seven Ecclesias. This teaching is for all to hear and obey. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
unto the ecclesias". This is repeated after each message, thus demonstrating the universality of these principles for
our admonition and obedience. John Thomas, a beloved brother, followed in the footsteps of those who before him
set forth the Truth. Although not inspired, he had an identity of faith with the prophets, apostles, and Jesus Christ.
"The Apocalypse was given to the end that the servants of the Deity who are keeping their garments might be able
to discern the signs of the times preceding the apocalypse of Christ; and the real nature of things extant in their
several generations. No believer, understanding this prophecy, could be seduced into fellowship with the clerical
institutions of the world; because he would see them in all their native deformity and sin". J. Thomas, 'Eureka'.
If we are to be counted amongst those "who are keeping their garments" we should therefore pay careful heed to
these important messages to the 7 ecclesias, which form an integral part of the Apocalypse. They are totally in har-
mony with the first of the great Promises of God - the "enmity" between two principles and two "seed(s)". This re-
sults in the ultimate victory of the woman's "seed" (Jesus Christ) through sacrifice and resurrection. Consider
Genesis 3v15 - link to 'promises'. This principle of separation between light (truth) and darkness (sin) is re-
peated time and time again throughout the Scriptures - cp 1st John 1.
This applies equally to the Apocalypse, the last message from the Lord to His people until His return, which is now
imminent. We see this clearly in ch.14v4 cp ch.17v5. The redeemed will only be there because they "are not defiled
with women", i.e. the harlotrous women shown to be the Roman "church" and her spiritual progeny - link to
'departure' page 1. Salvation totally depends upon witness against and separation from this idolatrous system -
link to 'apocalypse'. A careful examination will show that in the messages to the 7 ecclesias, the Lord sets forth the
way in which this victory over the apostacy can and must be achieved. We find that these messages are in total
agreement with the principle of separation from iniquity which is found throughout the Apocalypse.
Most calling themselves "Christadelphian" would agree with the above proposition. It is a general statement, and
therefore (except in some quarters ) it encounters little resistance. It is easy to give lip-service to any proposition
which does not involve personal suffering. However, when it comes to the application of what is entailed in total
obedience to the Lord's words, we must part company with the vast majority.
Some have been grievously misled by Rome's insistence that the apostacy foretold in the Apocalypse cannot apply
to her (she claims most of the prophecies apply to AD66-73 or after the coming of Christ). However there can be
no excuse for any believer being misled by this obvious subterfuge (see the words of John Thomas above).
The subject is covered in detail in 'apocalypse'. It is evident that we can only witness and contend against the pro-
phesied apostacy if we are able to identify it. The purpose of Rome to turn attention away from herself is served
when her dupes are lulled into compliance by the intoxication of "the wine of her fornication" (ch.17v2).
Should we individually adopt these lies it will be fatal to our spiritual well-being and salvation. Let us beware.
This is the background of the messages to the 7 ecclesias. As we read each one, & carefully consider the words of
the Lord Jesus Christ, let us ask ourselves the question - are we on the Lord's side? Do we belong to "the seed of
the woman" or "the seed of the serpent"? We cannot have "a foot in both camps". The heresy that we should not
withdraw from error is not new. As with false ideas on the Sacrifice of Christ, it is pleasing to the flesh.
Such serpent-minded reasoning has been rejected time and time again in the history of the Truth. But in these last
days, backsliders have become the norm, and we live in times when the Lord appeals only to individuals, and not to
whole assemblies - "if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and
he with me"- ch.3v20. This terrible state of things underlines that the 7 messages contain a composite theme as well
as individual admonitions. We can see by looking at the map of the ecclesias that the messages follow a geograph-
ical pattern.And the first ecclesia addressed has one fault listed - the last has seven.This deterioration becomes the
basis also of the time-applications of these messages expounded elsewhere on this site - link to 'messages'.
It is now time to examine each of the messages, to ascertain the individual and composite commendations and ad-
monitions contained therein. This is vital information for those who would be part of the woman's "seed".
Ephesus: Revelation 2v1-7
Purveyors of loose fellowship will find nothing here to promote their pernicious ideas. Christ commends the
ecclesia because it has implemented the principles of sound fellowship. This is obvious in the following:
"thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and
hast found them liars" (v2). The ecclesia had obeyed the words of John in his 1st epistle ch.4v1-6 - also cp 2nd ep.
Also see v6 - "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate". The reference
is to those who tried to introduce pagan ideas into the ecclesia. So Jewish & Gentile apostacy were both rejected.
One point that errorists may try to twist is "thou hast left thy first love" (v4). But what was this fault?
Let us note the exhortation "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen..repent..do the first works" (v5).
This has nothing to do with disobedience to the implementation of the principles of sound fellowship.
But it has everything to do with what Paul wrote to this same ecclesia in Ephesians 1v3 concerning their "spiritual
blessings in heavenly places in Christ" cp ch.2v4-6.They had lost their first enthusiasm motivated by love, 2nd John
6, involved in their spiritual elevation at the time of the "love of (their) espousals" to Christ - cp Jeremiah 2v2.
It is worthy of note that the "commandments" of 2nd John 6 included the implementation of sound fellowship - cp
v7-11. This reinforces the fact that the ecclesia was commended for their sound fellowship position. Moreover it is
thought that John laboured at Ephesus, and if this is so he would have taught them personally!
One other attempt to subvert scriptural fellowship principles is to misapply the words of Christ (v5):
"I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent".
Therefore it is argued that only the Lord is able to withdraw fellowship from ecclesias. This specious and untrue
assertion is answered above and more fully below (see Laodicea). Let us note again that Christ commends the
ecclesia for withdrawing from errorists. The fact is that this ecclesia had dealt with those who denied the Truth.
If they had not done so the problem would have got out of hand, as we see later with Laodicea - where Christ found
it necessary to withdraw fellowship because of its total corruption. The problem at Ephesus was their spiritual
condition (see above) which only Christ could properly identify and personally deal with.
Smyrna: Revelation 2v8-11
Error in this ecclesia had taken root, and caused a division. Christ commends those who implemented the principles
of sound fellowship. How then can it be argued that we should not do the same?
Those from whom the faithful had withdrawn did not state that they had left the Truth - far from it.
Instead, their claim was that they were the ones who were right. This has been dealt with at length in 'satan', where
we have shown that when the definite article appears before 'satan' in the original, it always signifies an opponent
who claims to represent the Truth. This is vital information for us today, for we face exactly the same situation.
The identification of Christ as "the first and the last, which was dead,and is alive"strongly suggests that the division
had revolved around the Sacrifice of Christ. Also "the devil" is shown as the enemy, i.e. sin, which God condemned
in the flesh of Jesus,cp Hebrews 2v14, Romans 8v3. A denial of this is the pre-eminent error which has been foisted
upon the ecclesias in these last days. The solution is the same. A vigorous denunciation of this virulent error. And
as a final resort, withdrawal of fellowship from those who teach, believe or retain connection with the heresy.
It is also significant that there are only two ecclesias of which no fault is recorded. These are Smyrna and Phila-
delphia. Both ecclesias were separated from "the synagogue of the satan" (original Greek).
Pergamos: Revelation 2v12-17
It is difficult to imagine anyone trying to justify loose fellowship from the message to this ecclesia. In fact Christ
states clearly that He has "a few things against thee, because thou hast them there them that hold the doctrine of
Balaam". The Lord called "the devil", i.e. the serpent - link to 'devil', "the father of..a lie" in John 8v44.
The father of loose fellowship which caused great apostacy in Israel would have to be Balaam. When his attempts
to curse Israel were thwarted, Numbers 22-24, the wily enemy of Israel tried a new ploy, and this time his evil way
was successful.God tells us "O my people,remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the
son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal;that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord" - Micah 6v5 -
cp Numbers 31v16.The Lord here refers to the same infamous occasion - "Balaam..taught Balac to cast a stumbling
block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication". The sad result has
been recorded in Numbers 25. Yes, the ancient "doctrine of Balaam", who taught fellowship with the world, had
eaten into the ecclesia at Pergamos, and this is the first fault which the Lord finds with them. This virulent heresy
has continued with Balaam's spiritual "children" who have "follow(ed) his pernicious ways"-2nd Peter 2v1-3,12-22.
But "Antipas" (= 'against all') was His "faithful martyr" - link to 'apocalypse' re "martyr" - even as faithful
Phinehas had,by his active faith,stopped the plague & gained Divine approval,Numbers 25v6-13-cp Psa.106v28-31-
link to 'The Yahweh-Nissi Altar'.
We must demonstrate a similar faith in order to share his "covenant of peace" and "everlasting priesthood".
Is it worth it? It is worth it! It is a small price to pay now, in self-denial and loneliness - but also with integrity of
heart and a confident hope for the future. And this is judging no-one but ourselves. The Lord will judge us, and will
choose His own - link to 2nd Timothy 2. The above lesson is reinforced by the second fault which the Lord finds with
the ecclesia at Pergamos. Again, we read "So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes,
which thing I hate". These "conquerors of the people" (rejected by Ephesus) had been allowed within the ecclesia.
What is this but loose fellowship, leading as it always does, to the compromise and eventual loss of the Truth?
Thyatira: Revelation 2v18-29
As we saw above relative to Pergamos, Christ finds fault with ecclesias because of their toleration of error. The
error at Thyatira was: "thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to
seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols" (v20).
Thyatira is the 4th ecclesia addressed, and the number '4' represents Divine authority and judgment. For details
A favourite "straw man" (subterfuge) relied on by advocates of loose fellowship in this message is in vs 24 & 25:
"I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come".
It is asserted that therefore the Thyatiran ecclesia could continue to allow the Jezebel-class to spread their poison -
this in spite of the fact that the Lord states this is what He holds "against" them in verse 20. Any self-contradictory
thesis like this must be dismissed out of hand. What then does the Lord mean in verses 24 & 25?
The first thing which we see by a careful look at the actual Greek text of v24 is that Christ does not say "But unto
you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira", as if he is still addressing "the angel of the ecclesia" -v18 i.e. the spirit-
endowed eldership, and the rest. The sense of the original Greek is brought out in the RV, which renders v24:
"But unto you I say, to the rest that are in Thyatira, as many who have not this teaching, which know not the deep
things of satan, as they say; I will cast upon you none other burden".
Summarising the facts above: Christ is appealing to the sound members of the Thyatiran ecclesia, "as many as
have not this teaching". He plainly states: "I will cast upon you none other burden". What then is "the burden"
which He does cast upon them? There is one, and there will be "none other". Is it not to rectify that with which
He has already found fault - i.e. the toleration of the Jezebel-class (v20)? And in v25 He does not contradict every-
thing which He has just said! He reminds them to "hold fast" to "that which ye have", i.e. do not neglect and lose
the faithful attributes which they already have, i.e. "thy works, and love, and service, and faith, and thy patience,
and thy works; and the last to be more than the first". This is additional to their "burden", withdrawal from error.
Sardis: Revelation 3v1-6
This message would be the most misunderstood of them all. In one way it is similar to the misunderstanding above
concerning the "burden" which Christ commanded. In v1 we read: "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that
thou livest, and (i.e. "but") thou art dead".More severe criticism follows in v 2 and 3.Yet we read in v4 "Thou hast
a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments". It has been suggested that the evident faults of
Sardis were related to their secret motives, because they did have "a name that (they) live(d)". Advocates of loose
fellowship like to claim that those commended were justified in tolerating this "dead" condition. However the state
of this ecclesia had deteriorated to the point that there were only a few "things that remain, that are ready to die" -
v2. What then are we meant to understand about the "few names" of v4 "which have not defiled their garments"?
To fully understand this (as in the message to Thyatira) we must consider the Greek of this verse. When we do this,
it becomes very clear. The RV renders "a few names...which did not defile their garments". It was in the past! The
faithful "few names" refers to those who did not (whilst alive) defile their garments". It is a reference to the good
reputations of those who had been faithful members of the Sardian ecclesia. And it is a contrast to the "name", or
the false reputation of the Sardian ecclesia in approx. AD96 when Christ delivered these messages through John.
Context and correct translation are both vital to understanding any text, whatever the subject.
The above is endorsed by what we read in v3 - "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard". Yes, the
faithful ones in Sardis, probably the pioneers of that ecclesia, had, like the pioneers of the Jerusalem ecclesia,
(Hebrews 13v7RV) "spake unto (them) the word of God". They, like the early Sardian believers, had passed
to their rest, after giving their faithful testimony. Can we not see an identity of thought and exhortation?
And the same theme of remembrance is brought out relative to the pioneers of the ecclesia in the wilderness -
cp Deuteronomy 32v7; Joshua 1v13. "Remember the days of old...Remember the word which Moses...commanded".
And this theme of remembrance is brought out in Hebrews 13v7RV "Remember them that had the rule over you".
Do we today "remember" and follow the faithful words and example of pioneers John Thomas & Robert Roberts,
who "spake unto (us) the word of God"? We may have their writings, but do they mean anything to us? Without
their faithful implementation of fellowship principles the Truth would once again have disappeared from the earth.
Is not this what we are being told in the message to Sardis?
So when Christ spoke, these faithful ones were not in the ecclesia! Their "names", or reputations, lived on after
them, but their advice was not being followed. Another thing...Christ says "they have not defiled (RV "did not
defile") their garments". And "they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy". There is a finality about
these statements. Could they be written about living disciples, who may well yet fail? The only way these verses
make any sense is if we understand that they had fallen asleep in the Lord, in full assurance of faith, and there-
fore their salvation was assured…cp "considering the issue of their life, imitate their faith" - Hebrews 13v7RV.
This is the message to Sardis - let us not deviate from the sound foundations of the Faith, laid by Christ, and then
contended for earnestly by His faithful followers, often at the cost of their lives. To "strengthen the things which
remain", therefore, involves the following of all of Christ's teaching, including the withdrawal from errors.
Philadelphia: Revelation 3v7-13
This ecclesia is the only one besides Smyrna of which no fault is recorded. As already stated, it is important to note
that both were already separated from "the synagogue of the satan" (original Greek). It is clear from the record
that in Philadelphia the faithful had only " a little strength", i.e. were small in number (cp the message to Smyrna,
where this is not recorded, showing there may have been more in that location who were faithful).
This also points to the pattern of deterioration by the time-applications demonstrated in messages.
Remember -"the synagogue of the satan" represented opponents who claimed to represent the Truth (cp Smyrna).
In spite of their fewness of numbers the faithful had demonstrated an integrity of purpose and faithfulness. Christ
says v12 "Him that overcometh I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out".
Certain Philadelphians had "gone out" from the corrupted fellowship of the majority, and Christ is thus endorsing
their faithful action for others to follow.The faithful "shall go no more out"; theirs is the gracious promise He "will
...make (the faithful) a pillar in the temple of my God", which we trace out in 'the Lord's day'-8th Vision. All of the
Lord's true "sheep" "hear his voice" and "follow him" and He "leadeth them out" - link to 'signs' - the 6th.
The Lord has set out the formula for withdrawal from an unfaithful ecclesia - link to 'foundation' - page 2.
Their smallness of number did not deter the faithful from withdrawing from "the synagogue of the satan". Christ
shows He took full notice of this by drawing attention to a time in Israel when faith had been demonstrated against
overwhelming odds in the time of Hezekiah. He quotes (v7) from Isaiah 22v22. Concerning "the key of David" we
note that the practice was for one bearing a large key to precede the king. The key "upon" the "shoulder"
represented the authority of "government", both then and pointing forward to the future rule of Christ, Isaiah 22v
20-22, cp ch.9v6,7. Hezekiah was tested at that time, & showed faith. The Assyrian advance was halted outside of
Jerusalem, and the enemy destroyed-cp Isaiah 36 & 37. As a sign of his faith Hezekiah also replaced Shebna (sig.
'lead captive') with Eliakim (sig. 'El (God) will set up') - cp Isaiah 22v15-22 with 36v3. This clearly demonstrated
that he did not rely upon the arm of the flesh, but instead committed his righteous cause to God.
Hezekiah held the greatest Passover ever in Judah according to the principle of faith. Individuals responded to his
call from the corrupted northern kingdom. Consider 2nd Chronicles 30. The application to our own responsibilities
in similar circumstances of prevailing apostacy is so obvious that it needs no added comment.
The issues were out in the open and crystal clear at Philadelphia - "behold, I have set before thee an open door,and
no man can shut it" v8. In the Scripture we read of times of open and shut doors - link to 'foundation'. However the
faithful at Laodicea (see below) needed to cope with a situation where the "door" of opportunity was shut.In this we
can again see the time-application of these messages, and the consequent deterioration in all 7th (last) epochs.
Note also that Hezekiah"opened the doors of the house of Yahweh, and repaired them" for "Ahaz" (his father) had
"shut up the doors of the house of Yahweh, and he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem"- 2nd Chronicles
29v3;28v24. Faithful disciples will always allow "an open door, which no man can shut".
It is fitting that this 6th ecclesia should be the setting (both historical and by time-application) for the great struggle
between the spirit and the flesh - truth and error. Link to 'structure'. The conflict and the battle with self must be
won. It is in situations of smallness of numbers & strength that this struggle provides the greatest test of our faith.
Whatever specious arguments are advanced in support of toleration of error, we must, as the writer of these notes
testified before a faithless assembly many years ago, always follow the clear counsel contained in the word of God.
We ask that our viewers carefully consider the convergence of all of the above important aspects in the message to
Philadelphia. These are not our ideas - they are fundamental principles set forth clearly in the message itself.
Laodicea: Revelation 3v14-22
It would be very difficult if not impossible to think of a worse condition into which an ecclesia could sink than we
find is the case with Laodicea. The litany of faults "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" is
shocking for a body of people who are supposed to be disciples of Christ. The most damning indictment is contained
in the words "thou..knowest not" and "because thou are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of
my mouth". It is no wonder that for the first time in these messages Christ appeals only to individuals. The reason
for this is obvious. We have already noted the stark contrast between Philadelphia and Laodicea (cp 6th Message).
In Philadelphia the issues were out in the open. In Laodicea they had been covered up. In Philadelphia the "door"
of opportunity was open for all. In Laodicea cunning men had shut this "door". They had "shut up the kingdom
of heaven" by "tak(ing) away the key of knowledge" - Matthew 23v13; Luke 11v52 - link to 'foundation'.
The Laodiceans were ignorant of their condition. This theme is being followed out in a detailed study of 'proverbs'.
They were-v16 - "lukewarm, and neither cold (faithful & refreshing, Proverbs 25v13,25) nor hot (zealous, a related
Greek word is translated "zealous" in v19-"be zealous therefore, and repent"). The Lord states:
"I would thou wert cold or hot" - v15. Because they were insipid, He would reject them as vomit - v16.
It is noteworthy that in the litany of faults recorded against Laodicea we see "wretched, and miserable, and poor,
and blind, and naked". It is surely significant that such terms have a connection with the Sacrifice of Christ,and His
resurrection & immortality. See Romans 6v24, 1st Corinthians 15v19, Revelation 16v15.
The heresy of 'clean flesh' which denies this essential doctrine is fatal to those who adopt or tolerate it - 'sacrifice'.
In their desperation, advocates of loose fellowship,trying to keep the "door" of opportunity shut, advance the crazy
thesis that only Christ can withdraw fellowship from erring ecclesias - we have no authority. Cp Ephesus.
(But as we have noted above, Ephesus had dealt scripturally with errorists. The fault they still had "was their
spiritual condition which only Christ could properly identify and personally deal with").
The scriptural answer to this is two-fold. Firstly we do have the authority to withdraw from unrepentant sinners. In
fact we are commanded to do so throughout the New Testament Scriptures, and even more specifically within the
Apocalypse itself. Has not the Lord already commended those in other ecclesias who had withdrawn from
errorists? And has He not already found fault with those who were still tolerating errorists? Both answers are yes.
Is it not obvious that if error had been eradicated, the disaster now evident in Laodicea would have been avoided?
Secondly the fact that Christ found it necessary Himself to withdraw from this ecclesia simply underlines a very
tragic fact. Unlike the "little strength" of a few in Philadelphia which had been demonstrated by a faithful with-
drawal from errorists, there was here no movement against them. It reminds us inexorably of the time spoken of in
Deuteronomy 32v36: "For Yahweh will bring His people justice; and He shall have compassion on His servants, for
he sees that their power is gone, and only the imprisoned and the abandoned remain" (Hebrew-English Interlinear
Version1980).Therefore in His compassion the Son of God now appeals directly to"the imprisoned and abandoned"
ones in Laodicea, who are the only ones who may still have ears to "hear what the spirit saith unto the ecclesias".
"If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in unto him, and sup with him, and him with me".
The door, shut by cunning men, must be opened, as when Hezekiah "opened the doors of the house of Yahweh" (cp
Philadelphia).We repeat here the appeal of the Lord to "open" the "door" of opportunity now before it is too late.
Would any faithful believer remain within a body which the Lord Himself rejected as being unfit for fellowship?
The Lord identifies Himself in this last message as"the Amen, the faithful and true witness".For the significance of
being a"faithful and true witness"- link to 'apocalypse'.We have His faithful example before us - will we follow Him?
The Seven Ecclesias and Inter-Ecclesial Fellowship
The spiritual body of Christ is one. As stated in our introduction - "This teaching is for all to hear and obey.
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the ecclesias". This is repeated after each message,
thus demonstrating the universality of these principles for our admonition and obedience."
Therefore the messages of the Lord to the 7 ecclesias were individually & universally applicable in every case.
We have no evidence that the state of each ecclesia had been known to the other ecclesias addressed by the Lord,
and it must be remembered that the situation in each ecclesia was different. In Smyrna and Philadelphia the faithful
believers were already separated from"the synagogue of the satan". In such cases other ecclesias should have fell-
owship only with the faithful. In Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis, however, the situation in each was disgraceful.
And now that the Lord had stated the grounds of His displeasure, there was no excuse for faithful believers not
acting upon His admonitions. If such faithful obedience resulted in division, here again other ecclesias should have
fellowship only with faithful believers. And if no-one in these 3 ecclesias acted faithfully, other ecclesias would need
to themselves withdraw fellowship from such apostacy. In Ephesus, only Christ knew of and could deal with their
faults,which we have seen did not include the toleration of error.Other ecclesias would note the removal of the ecc-
lesia if this finally took place as per the very stern warning of Christ. And finally, in Laodicea, the Lord had already
withdrawn His fellowship from this apostate ecclesia. His appeal was only to individuals to also withdraw and to
thus enter into fellowship with Him. In this case it is evident that other ecclesias should (if not having already
done so) also withdraw their fellowship, and have fellowship only with faithful believers in Laodicea who withdrew
in obedience to the Lord's admonition, and with the Lord Himself.
Let us consider Deuteronomy 13. Note that if any city in Israel was reported to be corrupted through the toleration
of false teaching or practice, then other cities were commanded to investigate the matter thoroughly; and if this
apostacy was verified, they had their own responsibility to act against the erring assembly. Should any deny that
this Old Testament precept has any modern-day counterpart, let them read 1st Corinthians 5v13;1st Timothy 5v20;
2nd Peter 2v1,2 where there are quotations from & exposition of Deuteronomy 13 and the action required. Today
this action is confined, after due appeal and admonition, to withdrawal of fellowship.
And note Paul's inter-ecclesial application of the 3-fold admonition of Matthew 18 as shown in 2nd Corinthians 13.
Also link to 'heresy' where Deuteronomy 13 and our obligations are considered - published by Robert Roberts, and
'words' where the above principles were still endorsed in 1952 by 'The Christadelphian' magazine, and quotations
But sadly, as we have noted elsewhere, this magazine no longer upholds scriptural fellowship obligations.
This ends our study of the messages to the 7 ecclesias - however we will close with a very significant and uplifting
thought. There is also an 8th ecclesia referred to in Revelation 2 and 3. It is the Christ-body,which will be composed
of individuals who hearken to the words that recur throughout these chapters:
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the ecclesias". We must "read..hear..and keep those
things which are written therein" in order to be "blessed" by the Lord - ch.1v3.
May we attain to this perfection by our dedication to the Truth & our maintenance of sound doctrine & fellowship.
FOOTNOTE: a contemporary website not belonging to our Fellowship has strongly criticized the above exposition.
This is not surprising, because the loose fellowship advocated by that website is diametrically opposed to sound scriptural precept. The error of this critic is sufficiently refuted in our 'appeal' letter, where "the only ecclesia recognized in the New Testament" is clearly defined from Acts 2v41-47. The word 'ecclesia' is used in the Scriptures both individually and generically. To the comments in our letter, we simply add the following:
The ecclesia established at Pentecost later extended its fellowship to other ecclesias which were also founded upon "the apostles' doctrine and fellowship" - cp Acts 8 to 28. We especially regret the blindness shown by our critic, because although he has caused much trouble, he seems to want to do what is right. What he fails to realize (as we have stated in our letter) is that there has only ever been one ecclesia (and by extension "ecclesias") recognized by God as defined above.
All other religious bodies with different beliefs, whether called by the name 'Christadelphian' or otherwise, are not founded upon "the apostles' doctrine and fellowship". They are the "tares" of Matthew 13, which grow in "the field" which is "the world" not the ecclesia - link to 'tares'. And there are not two types of fellowship as our critic postulates.
Fellowship with God is founded solely upon "the apostles' doctrine". This has been committed to the ecclesia as shown, and also see Romans 6v17, Ephesians 4v1-6, 1 Timothy 6v20, Hebrews 6v1-3 etc. This ecclesia appears prominently in the Apocalypse, always in opposition to those who have corrupted the Truth, whether in doctrine or practice. Note that "the ecclesia" is (in its totality) a generic term which encompasses all believers who have been "called out" of darkness and who retain that identity - cp Acts 20v28, Ephesians 1v22, 3v10,21, 5v23-32, Colossians 1v18, 24, 1 Timothy 3v15 etc.
Individual ecclesias (and members thereof) must remain faithful to their calling, or they lose their identity and privileges. To recognize this fact by withdrawal of fellowship is not to judge the eternal destiny of anyone, but is simply to obey the many commandments in the New Testament to do so. Should we not obey, are not these words applicable to us?
"And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" - Luke 6v46-49
"He that is not with me is against me" - Matthew 12v30
To think otherwise is an invention of the carnal mind, and has no basis in the Bible. Such fallacious ideas, though subtle, are totally destructive of the Truth, and closely parallel the subtlety of the modern "clean flesh" heresy - link to 'sacrifice'. Our critic sets forth a scriptural understanding of the Sacrifice of Christ*. By his wrong idea of fellowship he has been misled into a false situation where he has not obeyed the command to "come out from among them, and be ye separate" - 2 Corinthians 6v17. The ecclesia in the Apocalypse did obey that command - Revelation 12v14-17.
* but we wish he would realise that in the same way he correctly comprehends God's revelation of "sinful flesh", he must also correctly comprehend God's revelation of whom He will allow to fellowship with Him & His dear Son (see top paras)...and why does he correctly state the teaching of John Thomas & Robert Roberts on the Sacrifice of Christ, but twist and destroy their teaching on the principles of fellowship?
It is evident that "the synagogue of satan" and "the ecclesia in Smyrna" became coetaneous assemblies. Yes, "the satan" (Greek) began as a fifth-column inside the ecclesia at Smyrna, but as in Philadelphia, a division inevitably took place. As for John Thomas, our beloved Pioneer brother, he should not be misleadingly quoted in opposition to his own conclusions. Any man should be allowed to interpret his own words. His scriptural understanding of the end result of error within an ecclesia is shown in the following excerpts concerning "the synagogue of the satan" -
"The Synagogue of the Satan"...They are not, therefore, an ecclesia, but simply a gathering together,
a congregation of blasphemers"#
"Such a synagogue...these spurious Christians...John says, in 1 Ep. 2:19, "They went out from us…"#
"This emigration from the apostolic fellowship became "the synagogue of the Satan""#
"a congregation of "real christians" may have in it some who are not true...these will sooner or later
"The ecclesia and "the synagogue of the Satan" were institutions as distinct as they are now…#
a true believer of the gospel of the kingdom is against all who have not obeyed the same"
'Eureka' Vol.1 - 'Logos' edition pages 230,231,232,233,270
# read John Thomas in 'Eureka' explaining the influence of ""the Satan", and their "church", "the synagogue of the Satan"" quoted in 'departure' - page 2.
*and in 'Eureka' Vol.3 - 'Logos' edition page 271, referring to the Donatists, he quotes from an historian: "They maintained that the church ought to be made up of just and holy men, or at least of those who were such in appearance; and that, although wicked men might lurk in the church, yet it would not harbor those who were known to be such"...plus in a letter written in 1869 and re-produced in 'The Christadelphian' July 1873 page 324 he wrote: "Those who hold Paul's doctrine, ought not to worship with a body that does not...No; if I agree with you on doctrine, I will forsake the assembling of myself with a body that opposes your doctrine, although it might require me to separate from the nearest and dearest. No good is effected by compromising the principles of the truth; and to deny that Jesus came in sinful flesh, is to destroy the sacrifice of Christ".
The language of Revelation 2v9 & 3v9 reminds us that the original ecclesia in Acts 2 was formed by believers coming out from the synagogue - also see the faithful example of Crispus - Acts 18v8 cp 1 Corinthians 1v14. Paul writes of "assembling together" now and "gathering together" to the Lord at His return in Hebrews 10v25 and 2nd Thessalonians 2v1. In both cases the words quoted are translations of the Greek 'episunagoge', which literally means "above the synagogue". Separation from spiritual corruption now will lead to deliverance from physical corruption in "the day" (Heb. 10v25 & 2nd Thess. 2v2 cp 1v10) when the Lord returns to take account of His servants. The influence of the synagogue continued in opposition (i.e. as the 'satan') to the ecclesia. When Jewish formalism, mixed with pagan philosophy, began to take over in the ecclesias, it became necessary once more to be separate from such corruption. And if, as has happened, this corruption has now taken over in "Christadelphia", we must re-identify with the Truth by separation - link to 'contending' & 'tares'.
Any difference of opinion as to whether or not a division in Smyrna had already occurred in AD96 (although the record shows conclusively that it had) is completely secondary to the inescapable fact that it would and must scripturally occur. The term 'synagogue of the satan' signifies an assembly which is based upon opposition to the Truth. The inevitability of division from such corruption by faithful believers is the fact with which our critic must grapple, instead of allowing himself to be drawn into false conclusions which have no support in Scripture. Such apostacy destroys the separation which must prevail between the two seeds (see Genesis 3v15).
The false arguments which he advances prove too much for his purpose, because if followed they would logically result in no separation from error. Is this what he wants? A repeat of the disaster which overtook the Truth in the centuries after Christ? Such a disaster is already unfolding within 'Central Christadelphians', due to the same false teaching which he is promoting. Any commentators who assist this disastrous process to reach fruition bear a heavy responsibility for their false advice and the consequent loss of the Truth amongst their followers.
If our critic would stop for just a few moments and consider the above comments, he might yet be saved from the dangerous & unscriptural idea of fellowship which he promotes. The fact that he has found "a number of good points" in this webpage encourages us that he may yet learn from the Scriptures & thus deliver himself and others from error.
Of course the Lord Jesus Christ is our great Teacher. His teaching upon the vital doctrine of fellowship is found in the Apocalypse, and this teaching has been faithfully set forth in the above exposition.
There are other misrepresentations and false charges made by our critic. We do not have the time to answer them at present, but will be happy to respond to any questions which our viewers may have-our contact address is shown below.
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