Question: Some believers are critical of the truth we hold. They cling tenaciously to their own “Bible study,” yet they want to break bread with us and even preach in our bread-breaking meeting. How should we deal with this kind of people?
Answer: If there is an exclusive Bible study meeting, it is not being conducted according to the principle of the church. Such a meeting does not come up to the standard of God’s work. In other words, it is not God’s work but man’s imitation of God’s work. God’s work is always centered around the (local) church. It is good that man establishes Bible studies and evangelistic crusades; these are all blessed by God. But these things are not God’s work. God’s work has only one goal, which is the church. For example, the China Inland Mission is a mission; it is not a church. It is good for it to send men to the Chinese inland to preach the gospel; God blesses such a work. We probably do not have as much fruit as it has. But its work cannot be considered God’s work. We can only say that God is working within its work. We should not ignore the working of God within its work. If we say that there is no working of God in their work, we will offend Him. However, the goal and the purpose of their meetings is not the local churches.
If people such as those you have just described want to come and break bread with us, we should be willing and happy to receive them. Yet we are not receiving their denominations. Although they are in the denominations, we should not reject them for this reason. However, our receiving does not mean that they do not need to leave the denominations. We should not refuse to receive a believer in the denominations; we should merely receive the believer himself. Afterward, we still need to advise him to leave the denominations.
If a man from the denominations is saved, we can receive him into the bread-breaking meeting. But we cannot receive him to preach. If anyone is not clear concerning the truth of the church, we can have fellowship with him only in life, but not in the work. Since he still has fellowship with the denominations, we do not know what he would speak if we allowed him to preach. Therefore, with many people, we can only have fellowship in life; we cannot be co-workers with them. This was the principle of the apostle Paul.
Romans 16:17 says, “Now I exhort you, brothers, to mark those who make divisions and causes of stumbling contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and turn away from them.” We should not listen to those who are here purposely to criticize us; we should turn away from them. In the future, when some brothers are raised up from the assembly to serve as elders, they can inform the other brothers as to whom they should turn away from and whom they should not turn away from. The other brothers should then obey the elders.
Question: Suppose I go to Sinkiang and suddenly discover a bread-breaking meeting that does not belong to any denomination. Should I start breaking bread with them, or should I first send a cable to Shanghai to get the approval before breaking bread with them?
Answer: There is good reason for doing the latter; it means that one respects the opinion of the brothers. At the same time, it shows how seriously you treat the matter. Sometimes, before you go to another place, you can first seek for the consensus of the brothers. The brothers may give you the liberty to join any bread-breaking meeting which is permissible to join. You can then break bread with them. As to the sending of a cable, it can be done if it is for the sake of informing the brothers or for understanding the brothers’ mind. But it is unnecessary if it is done as a means of seeking approval. To understand the mind of the brothers is an act of the Body.
Question: Suppose I go to Sinkiang and realize that there is a bread-breaking meeting there which is related to the denominations, and I break bread with them. Later, when the assembly in Shanghai finds this out, how should it deal with me? Should I be punished or warned?
Answer: This is not just a hypothetical question you may face in Sinkiang; it is a problem we face right here in Shanghai. Let me ask you: For what purpose do you come to break bread here? If this table does not represent the Lord’s table, and if you break bread just because others are breaking bread and remember the Lord just because others are remembering the Lord, what good will this bread do you? This does not mean that you can break bread with us only after you have stopped breaking bread with others. The question is how you view our table. If you do not think that this table is the Lord’s table, why come to break bread with us? If you have found that this is the Lord’s table, why look for another table? If anyone wants to do this, I must tell him that there is no such command in the Bible.
If anyone wants to break bread with us, yet at the same time, partake of the Holy Communion in the denominations, we cannot excommunicate him. But we should deal with this kind of person by exhorting him. If he would not listen to our exhortation, we have to act according to Titus 3:10, “A factious man, after a first and second admonition, refuse.” Second Thessalonians 3:6 says, “Now we charge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the things which were handed down to you and which you received from us.” We should leave these factious people outside our fellowship and not communicate with them, so that they will feel that they are isolated Christians. Of course, some are not this way intentionally; they behave this way because they lack knowledge. In such a case, it is altogether a different story.