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Thread: Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

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    Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

    1 Cor 5:9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people;
    10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.
    11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one.
    12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?
    13 But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.
    Verse 10 is dealing with unbelievers in the world. Clearly we have to live our daily lives in the world. This will, of necessity, require us to deal with those of the world. Indeed we are to let our light shine before those of the world.

    On the other hand, verses 11, 12 and the second half of verse 13 are dealing with "so-called" brothers - those who claim to be brothers but whose lives are far from it - these are to be removed "from among yourselves". Within the ecclesia it would seem we are not to associate with those who are immoral and so on, whose lives clearly don't match up to the profession they are making. What is interesting here is that NO MENTION is made of anyone of the world whose life falls in line with these criteria but who does not make any profession of faith. In any modern 'church' gathering there may well be some who are known to be unbelievers, perhaps someone who has expressed interest in understanding the gospel for example but who has not come to faith. Does verse 13 have any bearing upon what should be our stance towards them? Is verse 13 speaking of removal from any kind of association or just from gatherings of the ecclesia? Whilst recognising that there would be deceivers and 'so-called' brothers in the midst, the NT ecclesia seemed to be designed and intended for believers only, proclammation of the gospel took place elsewhere (again not to deny that the gospel should also be proclaimed in the assembly but primarily for the building up and correction of believers). This is very different from a modern 'church service' where unbelievers are positively welcomed. Question is: should they be?

    Martin

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    Re: Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

    Well, there is a well-known saying:

    The church is a hospital for sinners, not a stomping-ground for saints!

    Unfortunately, Spurgeon and the Spurgeonites of today promote this same monstrosity. It came largely from the Puritans. They teach that we must preach the gospel to unbelievers in church every week! So we must get someone unregenerate into the 'service'! At last resort we make our young children ('potentially unregenerate') sit through 2+ hours of traditional hymns, readings, and oratory with the threat of the paddle being administered upon any squirming or ADD! This is the pure unadulterated nonsense of Puritan tradition. If our children do not learn to hate worship, ekklesia, and koinonia by these stupid and ungodly traditions, it is a miracle of God!

    If we choose to have a service dedicated to preaching the gospel to unbelievers, it should not involve Christian ekklesia or koinonia at all. No communion but pure teaching to the lost (like the gospel of John).
    I got four things to live by: don't say nothin' that will hurt anybody; don't give advice--no one will take it anyway; don't complain; don't explain. Walter Scott

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    Re: Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

    Quote Originally Posted by BillTwisse
    At last resort we make our young children ('potentially unregenerate') sit through 2+ hours of traditional hymns, readings, and oratory with the threat of the paddle being administered upon any squirming or ADD! This is the pure unadulterated nonsense of Puritan tradition. If our children do not learn to hate worship, ekklesia, and koinonia by these stupid and ungodly traditions, it is a miracle of God!
    Amen! I cannot understand how in the world parents can spank their children in church simply because they squirmed or fell asleep.. I've seen a lot of this, and to be honest with you my wife and I think this is quite sickening and very sad. Like you said Bob, it's a wonder such children don't grow up hating "church".

    Brandan
    This is my signature.

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    Re: Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

    Skeuos:

    I believe the passage is referring to those who have joined themselves to the church, not just those who have attended services. The church errs if it views its primary function as an evangelism center for unbelievers. However it also errs if it preaches in such a way that is unintelligible to unbelievers (1 Cor. 14). I don't think the practice that is found in some churches where at one point the unbeliever is adressed and at another point the believer is adressed is necessary. The Gospel must be preached to both believer and unbeliever. Sermons can be preached in such a way that the believer is called to daily repentance but that in the hearing of the sermon the Word can be used to call the unbeliever to repentance as well.
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    Re: Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

    Perhaps we need to exegete "associate". Whichever way we look at it it seems to raise a few questions:
    what does 'joined to the church' mean? They didn't have 'membership' then. In fact, I can't think of any record of any kind of rigorous testing being applied before someone could 'join' the local ecclesia. and what is the difference between being joined and just attending services regularly in the NT sense? and if someone is seen attending services regularly won't that indeed look as though they are associating with that person?

    If I am seen talking to the local gangster in the street it could be argued that I was 'associating' with him - even if it was to proclaim the gospel.

    On the other hand, if we are holding a gathering for the true ecclesia, I don't think we should say "sorry sir, members only"! Otherwise, the discussion in 1 Cor 14 would not make sense. Nevetheless, whatever else we may do in seeking to reach the lost, we should hold regular meetings where the primary goal is for the ecclesia to find true koinonia.

    I think we need to look at the principle behind this rather than look for a strict set of guidelines. Not 'associating' could be for two different reasons:
    1. Not being tempted and enticed into the same sins ourselves;
    2. Not being seen to condone ungodly living and thus bringing dishonour upon God.
    Perhaps Paul had both these in view when he issued his warning? Certainly I think these would be good principles to apply in all 'meetings', whether there be 2 or 200, whether the gospel be proclaimed or not and whether there be those present who do not profess belief or not.

    Martin

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    Re: Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

    I'm not suggesting that rigorous doctrinal testing was taken place. I believe baptism was generally used as a sign of membership. In 1 Corinthians 5 it seems the problem was that they were distorting Paul's advice. Paul was telling them not to associate with those who call themselves Christians but who live unrepentantly in sin. They were taking this to mean that they should not associate with anyone living in sin which would destroy all evangelism.
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    Re: Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

    Quote Originally Posted by Skeuos Eleos
    what does 'joined to the church' mean? They didn't have 'membership' then.
    are we certain? are we unneccesarily being anachronistic by understanding joining or membership in 21st century terms? just to play devil's advocate, perhaps there was membership...it's just that we don't see it that way since it's not formal membership as we understand today. i would venture to guess that they considered anyone who was saved and baptized in that church's ministry as a member. it certainly wasn't like today where you got saved and then shopped for a church and "signed on" with the one that seemed to fit best. but i don't think that there wasn't a general understanding of who was part of the fellowship (joined as a member) and who was not. without this knowledge, 1 co 5 would make little sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by Skeuos Eleos
    On the other hand, if we are holding a gathering for the true ecclesia, I don't think we should say "sorry sir, members only"! Otherwise, the discussion in 1 Cor 14 would not make sense. Nevetheless, whatever else we may do in seeking to reach the lost, we should hold regular meetings where the primary goal is for the ecclesia to find true koinonia.
    and this is the balance. the gathering is for the believers, but it is not a gathering that excludes unbelievers. in other words, unbelievers can come and observe us worship and fellowship, getting a taste for what they do not have, but they cannot actually worship and fellowship. i think this is what 1 cor 14 is saying in a sense. and the meetings should not be designed with the unbeliever in mind, as if it were for the unbeliever or as some call them--seekers or pre-Christians, whatever that means.
    When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.
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    Re: Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

    I think unbelievers should be very welcomed.

    Scripture points to the disciples allowing such.

    2 Peter 2:13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;

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    Re: Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

    Quote Originally Posted by disciple
    are we certain? are we unneccesarily being anachronistic by understanding joining or membership in 21st century terms?
    You're right - we're not certain but I wasn't trying to be unnecessarily anachronistic. What I was trying to do (and I admit I did a poor job of it!) was to take a 21st century understanding of membership out of the equation in order to try to understand "what is the difference between being joined and just attending services regularly in the NT sense?", i.e. in NT times not modern times. I'm just trying to understand how much of a difference, if any, there is and how relevant it is to applying Paul's warning about not associating.

    Quote Originally Posted by disciple
    just to play devil's advocate, perhaps there was membership...it's just that we don't see it that way since it's not formal membership as we understand today. i would venture to guess that they considered anyone who was saved and baptized in that church's ministry as a member. it certainly wasn't like today where you got saved and then shopped for a church and "signed on" with the one that seemed to fit best. but i don't think that there wasn't a general understanding of who was part of the fellowship (joined as a member) and who was not. without this knowledge, 1 co 5 would make little sense.
    Seems reasonable but it doesn't help me to understand whether the distinction WB saw in terms of who Paul's warning should be applied to is valid.

    Quote Originally Posted by disciple
    and this is the balance. the gathering is for the believers, but it is not a gathering that excludes unbelievers. in other words, unbelievers can come and observe us worship and fellowship, getting a taste for what they do not have, but they cannot actually worship and fellowship. i think this is what 1 cor 14 is saying in a sense. and the meetings should not be designed with the unbeliever in mind, as if it were for the unbeliever or as some call them--seekers or pre-Christians, whatever that means.
    I believe we are in complete agreement here.

    I would also be interested to know what you think about the final part of my post?

    Thanks,
    Martin

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    Re: Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

    Quote Originally Posted by RaggedEdge
    I think unbelievers should be very welcomed.

    Scripture points to the disciples allowing such.

    2 Peter 2:13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
    Perhaps in speaking of feasting 'with you' this verse may be talking about unbelievers associating with the ecclesia, but even so it does not necessarily mean that it was 'allowed' - how would that fit with 1 Cor 5:13? It seems to me to be an even further stretch to turn this verse into 'welcomed'. Now I'm not saying that 'unbelievers' should not be welcomed, I'm just saying that:
    1. I don't think this verse supports that view;
    2. "whatever else we may do in seeking to reach the lost, we should hold regular meetings where the primary goal is for the ecclesia to find true koinonia" - yes, unbelievers should not be told they're unwelcome but, since the purpose of such a meeting would not really be for them, perhaps we ought at least to explain that to them? Whereas what I see is no distinction being made.

    Martin

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    Re: Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

    Quote Originally Posted by Skeuos Eleos
    Perhaps we need to exegete "associate"...Not 'associating' could be for two different reasons:
    1. Not being tempted and enticed into the same sins ourselves;
    2. Not being seen to condone ungodly living and thus bringing dishonour upon God.
    Perhaps Paul had both these in view when he issued his warning?
    actually i would say that it is probably more likely #2 though i would spin it a bit different. it's not just that we don't condone ungodly living among the brethren, we do not even tolerate it. as i see it, the purpose for not associating with those called/named Christian (whether by themselves or by others) is the purity of the assembly and the ultimate goal is the repentance and restoration of the individual.

    the word translated associate is a word that means to keep company with, be intimate with, or perhaps in our modern idiom 'hang out' with. as i see it, here are the reasons that we bar the so-called Christian who is living in sin from the fellowship:

    Mt 18:15 "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother...17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.


    1 Co 5:7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened..12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?


    2 Thess 3:14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.


    #1 is perhaps a by-product or additional reason for it (for extra protection or measure). we find this in Gal 6:1 (though i don't know that this is a church discipline issue where they were "put out" or banned from fellowship).

    Gal 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted
    When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.
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    A room without books is a body without soul.
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    Re: Are unbelievers to be welcomed in the ecclesia?

    The ekklesia, by very definition, excludes the koinonia of unbelievers. We are to do good unto all men (unbelievers included) but our interaction with them is outside of the ekklesia.

    The agape celebration of Christians in the covenant supper can never include unbelievers, and it is the central focus of the NT worship service. It is certainly appropriate to include unbelievers in a service that consists of gospel teaching WITHOUT the communion--but not in one that includes the covenant supper (which certainly must also include gospel teaching and sharing). The latter type of service (including the breaking of bread) is the primary worship event of believers in the NT.
    I got four things to live by: don't say nothin' that will hurt anybody; don't give advice--no one will take it anyway; don't complain; don't explain. Walter Scott

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