The Forum

The Forum

This department is provided for the free and courteous discussion of biblical and spiritual problems which may be considered edifying to the people of God. Letters concerning such matters are requested.

Church Excommunication

Dear Brother:

Recently an exercised brother in one of our assemblies asked me to send you the problem which I am quoting. His desire is that it might be placed in The Forum, with a view to airing a difficulty which has caused distress among the assemblies of God’s people, even to the point of friction. Here is his problem, as he has written it:


“At a conference meeting one of the speakers made the following statements, “Nowhere in the New Testament do we read of the excommunication of local churches. Excommunication is for the individual.” That may not be a verbatum quotation, but it is the essence of the speaker’s remark.

“Visiting a home lately, one brother, while discussing the receiving of Christians into assembly fellowship, stated of a particular assembly, “We are not in fellowship with that assembly.”

“Perhaps some mature brother can provide the answer to the vast and disturbing discrepancy between these two statements: one made by an able minister of the Word and the other by an elder whose felowship the writer has often enjoyed.

“It should be unnecessary to state that “Opinions” would be of little value. The answer must be based on sound scriptural exegesis.


Suggested Solution

I would not be presumptuous enough to assume the role of the mature brother who could provide the answer by means of a sound scriptural exegesis.

However, in reading the problem, I was reminded of a very informative and instructive article on the subject of “Excommunication,” written by W. Fisher Hunter and appearing in “Truth and Tidings,” March 1949 issue, page 165. Here is a verbatum quotation of the paragraph on this particular phase, under the heading, “The Sphere of Its Exercise.”

“The words, “Put away from among yourselves” in 1 Corinthians 5:13, shows the bounds of the use of this authority by the local assembly. Its use is limited and applicable only to those of its number, that is, by those who have been received by each given assembly into full fellowship. One assembly cannot rightly cut off nor excommunicate another assembly, because the assemblies of God as constituted by Him are neither of nor in anything from which they could be cut off or put away. They are not congregations united to each other by an organizational tie and forming a religious body with a title, such as ‘The Brethren,’ ‘Plymouth Brethren,’ ‘Open Brethren,’ etc. On the contrary, all are detached and self-governing bodies (1 Cor. 12:27). Each is alone responsible to the Lord for its practices and condition. Christ’s letters to the Seven Churches in Asia (Revelation chapters 2 and 3) are the scriptural grounds for the above assertions. He blames and charges several of these churches with specific failures, but He holds none of them accountable for, not to, the others. Nor are they told to correct or judge each other.”

The article quoted above, agrees with the statement which was made by the conference speaker. Is a “sound scriptural exegesis” required to confirm the evident fact thus revealed, that there is no Scripture that teaches the excommunication of assemblies?

It is apparent that the churches of Galatia were in fellowship with each other to some extent, because the Epistle was addressed to them as such. None of them was excommunicated even though doctrinal error was among them.

Also, in the latter part of the Colossians Epistle reference is made to fellowship and association with the church of the Laodiceans and also the church in the house of Nymphas; yet the Colossian assembly was not perfect, else why the corrective teaching given in the Epistle?

Finally, the Lord Himself directs His message as to the Seven Churches of Asia, recognizing them as such despite the lack of love, and the moral and doctrinal evils which some of them manifested and even condoned.

In view of the scriptural examples and teaching on the subject, one would wonder if perhaps the elder brother, and his assembly, were in error in denying fellowship to the saints of the other assembly.

I, too, would like to see this subject discussed by the readers of Food for the Flock, through the space allotted in “The Forum.”

Yours in Him.