This is Cliff's response to comments made about an earlier message.
Firstly, who is the Brother who is in Pine Rivers who has been "dis-fellowshipped"?
Why was he "dis-fellowshipped?"
By whom was he "dis-fellowshipped?"
By God? Does God recognise men's "dis-fellowships?"
By Jesus? Does Jesus recognise men's "dis-fellowships?"
If the brother under discussion was "dis-fellowshipped" (a totally non Biblical terminology) by men, and if those who are "spiritual have restored such a one in the spirit of meekness" (cp Gal 6) surely this should be reason to rejoice, just as the Father in the parable of Luke 15 rejoiced when the prodigal returned home.
It is interesting that it is the elder Brother in Luke 15 who refused to come and eat at the Father's table of Grace when he learned that the prodigal was also eating there. And the prodigal was welcome at the Table of the Father (Lord) without the Elder Brother even being consulted or giving his consent.
So "Anonymous," by refraining from taking the emblems (at the Fathers Gracious Table at PRWC) when another was present at the same table whom you don't think should be there, who are you identifying with? The elder Brother!
This just highlights one of the major (and very important) differences between (some) modern Christadelphian's teachings and practices and Christ's teachings and practices.
For example, in Matthew 9:10 (also in Mark and Lukes records too, so the incident is more than significant; it is vitally important) we learn that "as Jesus reclined in the house, behold, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, Why does your master eat with tax-collectors and sinners?"
This is exactly the same question as asked by some Christadelphians today! Different time and place - but the core issues are identical.
"Why do you eat (fellowship) with those whom we have dis-fellowshipped?"
The terms 'tax-collectors and sinners' were the appellations given to those "dis-fellowshipped" or "cast out" by the religious leaders of the day. Obviously Jesus did not have a problem having fellowship with those who had been "dis-fellowshipped" by the religious elite of His day. Remember, mealtimes in Israel were the equivalent of our modern "Breaking of Bread"... in those days you judged others by whom they had meals with. And Jesus says of this practice of having meals with "outcasts... "Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Cor 11). So "Anonymous", would you agree, to obey Jesus we must do what Jesus did?
As Jesus said in another teaching parable of His... "Go, and do likewise!"
To do other that what Jesus clearly taught us to do, as is the "main stream Christadelphian teaching" according to our "Anonymous" friend, is to actually disobey the Commandments of Christ.
Not only did Jesus eat with those the Pharisees (the Elder Brother group) called "sinners" (incidently, Jesus never used that term Himself to describe others - anytime He does use the term "sinners" it is only when He is quoting the Pharisees back to themselves or to describe them!!), He reclined with them too. This was more than just "a sip of wine and sliver of bread just before Midday on Sunday"- this was a full on, relaxed fellowship meal. True fellowship was being had at every level in each these Gospel records and on every occasion where Jesus "Broke Bread"- not just at a superficial "Spiritually Elite," "in the club" level.
It is interesting that the Gospel writers are careful to tell us that the Pharisees did not dare question Jesus about His Table Manners. But they were bold to talk to the disciples on the side, in an effort to drive a wedge in between them and Jesus Himself. After all, Jesus was totally defying their long established culture and traditions and teaching His Disciples to do exactly the same.
Jesus was fully aware of what motivated the Spiritual Snobs of His day, and He said in Matthew 11 "But to what shall I compare to this generation? It is like little children sitting in the markets and calling to their playmates, saying, We played the flute to you, and you did not dance! We mourned to you, but you did not wail!" [In other words, the Religious Leaders in Israel were dismayed that Jesus would not dance to their tune. Jesus refused to abide by any of the socially and religiously acceptable conventions and traditions which would Spiritually Abuse any who the Father had called. And this man is the one we are to copy in every way. That is what True Worship really is: imitating in every way the one who is the Boss! It has been truly said, that we become just like the God we worship.]
Jesus continued: "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a demon." [Have you ever noticed that Jesus NEVER corrected any of their false ideas about devils, demons and supernatural forces. He even stood up in their synagogues, using their platforms where they preached such false teachings, and never once took them to task or enlightened the audience about their misbeliefs in this area. Paul and the other Apostles did exactly the same, for the Kingdom message is about how you show God in action to your fellow by your actions, not by convincing your fellow of what you do not believe!]
The observations of the Spiritual Leaders in Jesus' day was that "the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they said, Behold a man who is a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners. But wisdom was justified by her children."
This man is more than our Redeemer and Saviour! He is the very pattern upon which we are to model our own lives. As He said, "wisdom is vindicated by the results" - and the massive results of Jesus' pattern for living, is that any one of us has been included by Grace within His "Forever" family. And to act petulantly and to refuse to take the very emblems of His life and power and mission and victory because someone else [who you might not agree with in some way] may also be present at the same table, is to snub the Lord of Heaven, slap Him in the face, and deny the very power that drew you and the "other" to that Table in the first instance.
Jesus whole life is one that denied "Guilt by Association" in any form for Holiness is far more powerful than sin any day. To act otherwise at His Table, (or at any time really, for worship is a 24/7 deal - not just a Sunday thing) is to "eat and drink condemnation to oneself," says Paul. (cp 1 Cor 11).
We declare, as we take Jesus into our lives, "Jesus, you are indeed the pattern for my life, so I eat this Bread (your Body Lord) and drink this wine (your life blood Lord) and it becomes an essential part of every living cell in my body - I am fully energised by you!!!" To then act towards others differently to the way Jesus taught, nay, commanded us to act, is to deny the very Lord who died for us all.
Jesus not only ate meals (had full on Fellowship) with those who had been cast out ("dis-fellowshipped"), He went out of His way (John 6:37; John 9) to have or renew fellowship with them, despite the written and oral traditions of His day. It cost Him His life in the end.
And that has ever been the pattern of the "Elder Brother" of the parable in Luke 15 to refuse to share the great love of Him who died for all, and to use "dis-fellowship" as a control mechanism to maintain religious control, (cp 3 John v9-11). Dis-Fellowship is the "iron fist enclosed in a not so velvet glove" (referred to in Matthew 24:49) to quote a much loved Brother who has gone before us.
It is so sad to see that the Diotrephian spirit still lives on - even in the 21st Century.
Whilst this may indeed be seen by some to be "main stream Christadelphian teaching" it is actually diametrically opposed to "main stream Christ teaching."
So the question is: who should we obey? God/Jesus, or men?
At the risk of disobeying (and even disappointing) men, I choose to obey God any day.