What really is a test of fellowship?

ACUThe following is the PowerPoint presentation for Saturday’s two lectures at ElderLink in Atlanta: “What Really is a Test of Fellowship?” and “When Does Someone Really Fall from Grace?” ElderLink outline

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to What really is a test of fellowship?

  1. Pingback: A Plea to Reconsider: Introduction « One In Jesus.info

  2. Joe Baggett says:


    If I may. The test of fellowship that Jay was speaking of was more geared toward doctrinal issues. The mens' business meeting now sees it as their job to determine who is to be fellowshipped and who is not. This dangerous terriotory because all of them would probably be dis fellowhsipped if their personal lives were made public. Here is a book I would recommend that you read and give to them. It is called "12 steps for a recovering Pharisee" by John Fischer. Here is the link if you want to order it off of Barnes and Noble. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnI

  3. Tim Henry says:

    I just finished viewing the “Test of Fellowship” PowerPoint presentation and agree with your position. I believe we should accept each others’ faith and that we should not make disputes grounds for disfellowship. My question is based on the following situation:
    Recently in my congregation, a former brother who had been “disfellowshipped” for divorcing his wife (the grounds of which are not fully known) several years ago in another congregation, had remarried and wanted to worship at our congregation with his new wife. There was a great dispute whether this man and wife should be allowed to be a part of our congregation. The “men’s business meeting” (we have no elders) decided that the couple could come to services but could not participate in any way other than to show up and sit in pews. Of course, the couple decided not to stay as they were fairly much given the cold shoulder by most members. Now my question; If we are to accept each others’ faith, how can this dispute have been resolved? Or, was the men’s decision the correct one?
    Your observations in this matter are much appreciated.

  4. Jay Guin says:


    You've raised an important but very tricky question. Let me say a few preliminary things —

    * There is no such thing as partial fellowship. We are to treat one another with the same grace God extends to us. And we are fully in fellowship with God if we are saved.

    * However, there are scriptural grounds for discipline. And when someone is disciplined, they are entirely out of fellowship — to shame them into repentance so that they don't fall away.

    * If one congregation disfellowships a couple, other congregations should do the same — unless they conclude that the first congregation was in error, particularly in doctrinal error.

    Obviously, we have serious disputes over MDR, and so what one church may consider damnable sin, another may consider covered by grace. But absent that sort of disagreement, we should join hands with our brothers in enforcing a properly imposed disfellowshiping.

    In the context of MDR, however, almost all disfellowshiping is handled wrongly. And so very few MDR disfellowshipings ought to be honored.

    But to know whether to honor one, the church has to conduct a proper investigation. I mean, how can you decide to refuse full fellowship to a couple and not even know the underlying facts??

    Let me refer you to a few previous posts. First, my views on MDR are laid out at — MDR

    My views on church discipline are laid out at —

    Church Discipline, Introduction

    Church Discipline, The Member Struggling to Repent

    Church Discipline, Those No Longer Penitent

    Church Discipline, Those Without Faith

    Church Discipline, Divisiveness

    Church Discipline, Conclusions

    In short, the decision to extent partial fellowship was surely mistaken. Where in the Bible do you find that? And if the decision of the first church to disfellowship the couple was based on the circumstances of the first divorce, it was almost certainly wrong to treat them as less than fully in fellowship.

    I mean, what kind of repentance were they expecting? A divorce? A sexless marriage? The correct repentance for covenant breaking is to stop covenant breaking.
    Therefore, they should have encouraged the couple to be true to one another and to make a great marriage, strengthened by God's grace and surrounded by a loving community.

    Anyway, that's how I see things.

  5. Trent Tanaro says:

    This material is long overdue in our heritage….it is desperately needed….thanks Jay!

  6. rodney burke says:

    First of all, is divorce for an unscriptural reason an unforgiveable sin? If one partner is not committed to the marriage, then there is no marriage. If one partner commits adultery the other partner is okay to divorce and move on.

    Another issue is forgiveness. Has God forgiven the sin of adultery? Has he forgiven the sin of divorce which too many people think is so terrible. I am divorced and i know how congregations AND elders view divorced christians.

    We need all the facts before any disfellowshipping is done. And that appears not to have happened in this case.

  7. Skip says:

    Those who concoct tests of fellowship generally are the ones not in fellowship. Hey, we could have a new test for fellowship. Those who devise tests should be excluded from our fellowship. 🙂

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