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Scripture Reading: Galatians 1:6-10
Grace-Fellowship Heresy (1)
1. “This is one of the doctrines of the New Unity Movement. It is the theory that grace is extended to cover sins of weakness and ignorance, especially doctrinal ignorance, even though such sins are persisted in.” (Wayne Partain, “The Grace-Fellowship Theory (1)”, Guardian of Truth XXX: 14, pp. 433-434, July 17, 1986) [Aka Grace-Unity Movement]
2. Redefines grace, fellowship and a host of other Bible terms, 1 Pet 4:11.
3. The G-F heresy is designed to give an assurance of salvation that is foreign to the Scriptures in order to sanction fellowship in spite of doctrinal disagreement (UID).
I. THE GRACE-FELLOWSHIP PLEA FOR UNITY IS NOT THE BIBLE PLEA.
A. It is a Plea for Unity, but not the Unity of Eph 4:1-6.
B. It is a Plea for Unity, but not the Unity for which Jesus Prayed in Jno 17:21-23.
C. It is a Plea for Unity, but not the Unity Based on Heaven’s Words Given from the Father to Christ to His apostles, Jno 17:8, 14.
II. HISTORY OF THE GRACE-FELLOWSHIP HERESY.
A. Original Intent: To have Fellowship to all Segments of the Restoration Movement. (Carl Ketcherside, Tampa FL Discussion, 1972, page 3)
-Fragmented churches: Disciples of Christ, Christian Churches, all the churches of Christ (Premillennial, no class, one cup, etc.). C. Ketcherside, Leroy Garrett, Edward Fudge, Bruce Edwards, many more.
B. Developed into Fellowship with Denominations (Rubel Shelly, Max Lucado, F. LaGard Smith, etc.).
1. Ketcherside wrote of “brothers in prospect” in denominations, and before his death in 1989 viewed them as brethren.
2. Some brethren speak of “good people” in the denom. as saved. Yet, Acts 2:41, 47; 10:22, 33; 11:14 (10:47-48).
III. FUNDAMENTAL ERRORS OF GRACE-FELLOWSHIP HERESY.
A. Principle Defense: Gospel/Doctrine Distinction (“core gospel”).
1. Gospel: Refers only to the Christ event (1 Cor 15:1-4), acceptance of this assures salvation, and fellowship should be extended to all who accept this basic truth.
2. Doctrine: Made to mean all other NT teachings and that these should not affect fellowship. (See Leroy Garrett quotation.)
3. ANS. What we obey is one and the same: The faith (Rom 1:5); the truth (2:8); doctrine (6:17); gospel (10:16); the faith (16:26).
4. ANS. Sound doctrine is according to the gospel, 1 Tim 1:10-11.
B. Primary Assault: Attack Knowing and Conforming to the Truth (No Patternism), Eph 3:3-4.
1. It is said that unless you have perfect knowledge you cannot be definitive about true doctrine without being an arrogant hypocrite.
2. Be alert to one who says: “Do you have complete knowledge?” ("100% doctrinal conformity?" etc.) All these statements minimize the importance of doctrinal accuracy (cf. 2 Tim 4:2; Eph 4:15).
a. Implication is that if you do not know everything then you cannot make any final determination concerning God’s will in the matter. (Cannot judge righteous judgment, Jno 7:24)
b. Illus: Who has assurance of salvation? Who should be disciplined for unrepentant sins? Who is in an unscriptural remarriage and what they should do about it?
* 3. Since we can understand Paul’s knowledge (Eph 3:4), we can make the same kinds of applications he did:
a) Identify and rebuke hypocrisy, Gal 2:1-14.
b) Judge fornication in the church, 1 Cor 5:1-3 (4-5).
c) Shun those who stray concerning the truth, 2 Tim 2:17-18.
C. Practical Result of the Grace-Fellowship Heresy: Unity in Diversity.
1. Ongoing fellowship in spite of ongoing immorality and error, Gal 1:6-9 (2 Jno 9-11).
2. Pastor of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church (B’ham): “We can disagree and still be in fellowship,” he (Stender) said. “There’s a whole lot more that holds us in common than separates us.” (Jim Stender, The Bellingham Herald, B2, 08Mar98)
3. Why not apply this rationale to…
a. The circumcision binders? (Judaizers) Gal 2:4-5
b. Those who denied resurrection? 1 Cor 15:12
c. Those who commit adultery? Matt 19:9; 1 Cor 5:11 (2 Ths 3:6)
4. Bible: No fellowship with sin (error), Eph 5:11; 2 Cor 6:14-17.
1. However well-intended those are who advance the grace-fellowship theory, they teach a “destructive heresy” that deceives souls, disrupts genuine unity in Christ and destroys fellowship with God and with His faithful ones (2 Pet 2:1-2).
2. Part 2: A look at some of the principle doctrinal perversions of the heresy.
Gospel/Doctrine Distinction (Baptism)
"3. Do you hold that baptism is neither a part of the gospel or apostolic doctrine?"
“Strictly speaking, I think it would be true that baptism is neither part of the gospel or the apostles' doctrine, but this would have to be explained, lest one run the risk of being misunderstood. The gospel is made up of facts, historic facts that add up to glorious news. And that is what the gospel is, good news, facts about what God has done for us through Christ. Baptism is neither news nor fact, but a command that is related to the gospel. It may symbolize the gospel, but a symbol is never the real thing. Baptism is the ordinance that God has given whereby we respond to the gospel.”
Restoration Review, 22:01, Jan 1980
UID among Bellingham, WA Denominations
“In the Christian church we have the model: We can disagree and still be in fellowship,” he (Stender) said. “There’s a whole lot more that holds us in common than separates us.”
-Jim Stender, Pastor of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, B’ham
“Local congregations focus on ‘Common Calling’”
The Bellingham Herald, B2, March 8, 1998
Discussion at University Church of Christ, Tampa, Florida, January 25, 1972
Garrett, Leroy, Restoration Review, 22:01, January 1980
Herald, The Bellingham, B2, March 8, 1988
Partain, Wayne, “The Grace-Fellowship Theory” (1) and (2), Guardian of Truth, XXX: 14, July 17, 1986 (433-434) and XXX: 15, August 7, 1986 (456-457, 466-467)
Willis, Mike, “The Grace-Unity Movement Is Not Dead”, Guardian of Truth, XXX: 7, April 3, 1986 (193, 214-215)