It’s Monday Grace!
Some churches have a hard time staying consistent with their own doctrine. The more they assert one thing, the more they have to fix something else. Twisting the Scriptures and changing the basic message of the gospel are often consequences of this need to have everything fit together.
Take a church that says strongly that once a person is saved that person stays saved forever. That’s a doctrine with a lot of discussion, but there is good Scripture support for it.
But what happens when a person sins? What happens when a believer is exposed for doing something most everyone agrees is sin? What happens when a believer makes the rest of us look bad?
Well, that same church might suggest that the person is either not saved or is “out of fellowship” with the Lord. If they say the person can’t really be saved, even if they accepted that person as saved before, they risk suggesting that salvation is based on continuing to do good works. That means good works after salvation are the way of maintaining salvation. (Already I feel my feet sinking into the mud!) If good works are the criteria after salvation, then what did Jesus really accomplish?
So, they might go back to this idea that a believer can be “out of fellowship” with the Lord. I am never quite sure what that is supposed to mean. Does it mean that the person has lost his or her salvation? Does it mean that God is angry and will punish that person, even though Jesus has washed his or her sins away? You are just supposed to know. Nothing more needs definition.
When two people are in fellowship, it means that they are together. You have a certain fellowship at work because you share responsibilities and goals. There is a certain fellowship in a family that shares life together. It suggests movement or progress in the same direction with the same values. In a church, the people share fellowship because they come together to serve and enjoy their Lord.
If someone leaves a church, particularly in anger or serious disagreement, we might say that person is out of fellowship with the rest of the people. We understand how one person can break fellowship with another.
But how does a Christian become out of fellowship with the Lord? The only way that idea works is to forget what it means to be a Christian. No one is saved by deciding to go to church or think about Jesus. We are not saved by our own decision at all. We are saved when the blood of Jesus is applied to our lives, when we die on that cross with Him and rise from the dead in and with Him. While He does not save us apart from our will, His work is what saves us, not our choice. And, when He saves us, His life becomes ours. The only life in us, the only righteousness in us, the only power in us—is Him.
Now, I understand that this is some challenging theology and that there are people who can and will argue some of these points. That’s okay. As long as we understand that we cannot be separated from the Lord just because we have done something wrong. Christians do things that the Lord calls sin. We know that. We also know that we are not cut off from Him when we do. Why? Because He is our Life.
If we died with Him on the cross and rose with Him in the resurrection, how could we ever lose fellowship with Him? That oneness we share is our life. There is nothing else for us.
So, what happens when we sin after salvation? He might draw our attention to it by speaking to us in our spirits. He might allow us to suffer earthly consequences for our foolish decisions. He might have others come to us to help us realize the pain we are causing ourselves and others. But He does not push us away. We are still one with Him.
It helps me to think of my Christian life as a walk with the Lord. When I walk with Him, I am safe and happy. When I wander from His path, slip off on my own, I often find trouble. But He is right there waiting for us. Sometimes He even comes to get me. Never does He push me away.