WHO is received and by WHOM are they received?
-The Lord Jesus said that one who receives a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. Matt.10:41
-The Lord Jesus said that one who receives a little child in His name receives Him. Matt.18:5
– People gladly received the Lord Jesus. Luke 8:40
–The Lord Jesus received the people that followed Him and healed them. Luke 9:11
– Martha received the Lord Jesus into her house. Luke 10:38
–The Father received the “prodigal” son safe and sound. Luke 15:27
-The unjust steward hoped that, after he was put out of his stewardship, he would be received by his lord’s creditors into their houses. Luke 16:4
-The Lord Jesus advised his disciples to make to themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness that they might receive them into everlasting habitations. Luke 16:9
–Zachaeus received the Lord Jesus joyfully. Luke 19:6
– As many as receive the Lord Jesus, He gave them power to become sons of God. John 1:12
–The Galileans received the Lord Jesus. John 4:45
–The disciples received the Lord Jesus into the ship. John 6:21
–Those who believe on the Lord Jesus receive the Holy Spirit. John 7:39; Acts 2:38; Romans 8:15 etc
-The Lord Jesus promised that when He returned (out of death at his resurrection) He would receive his
disciples unto Himself so that they would be where He was, i.e. in the Father. John 14:3,10,11
-Stephen called upon the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit at death. Acts 7:59
–Paul and Barnabas were received by the church, the apostles and the elders. Acts 15:4
– The brethren at Ephesus wrote letters to those in Achaia to receive Apollos. Acts 18:27
–Paul and Barnabas, veteran missionaries are received by the church, the apostles and the elders at
Jerusalem Acts 15:4
–Paul and his co-workers were received by the brethren at Jerusalem when they returned from their
journey. Acts 21:17
-The barbarous people of Malta received the shipwrecked seafarers. Acts 28:2
– Paul received all that came to him in his hired house in Rome. Acts 28:30
-Paul instructed the Roman saints to receive those who were weak in the faith because God had
received them. Romans 14:1,3
–We are instructed to receive one another as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Romans 15:7
-The Romans were instructed to receive Pheobe in the Lord as becometh saints. Romans 16:2
–The Lord promises to receive believers who obey Him and come out and separate themselves from
unbelievers. II Cor.6:17
-Paul wrote to the saints at Philippi to receive with gladness Epaphroditus, their brother in the Lord.
– Just as believers have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so we are to walk in Him.Col.2:6
– Paul wrote to the Colossian saints telling them to receive Barnabas` nephew, Marcus, if he came unto
-Paul wrote to Philemon to receive Onesimus because he was now his own son and Philemon’s brother
in the Lord. Philemon 1:12-17
–Rahab received the spies with peace. Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25
-John wrote to the saints NOT to receive into their houses one who did not come with the sound doctrine of
Christ. II John 1:10
– John wrote to the saints that they ought to receive those brethren and strangers who have gone forth
for His name` sake taking nothing of the Gentiles that they might be fellowhelpers to the truth.
III John 1:5-8
– John wrote of Diotrophes who would not receive the brethren. III John 1:10
What are THE SCRIPTURAL BASES for reception of people by believers?
-We receive strangers and those in need out of simple kindness and hospitality.
-The Lord Jesus is received by those who believe in Him.
-A Father received his repentant son home for joy!
But believers receive other believers simply on the basis of relationship with Christ as siblings, brothers and
sisters in Him!
-Is the person in question “A DISCIPLE”? Acts 9:26
-Are they “IN THE FAITH“? Romans 14:1,3
–HAS CHRIST RECEIVED THEM? Romans 15:7
-Is she “IN THE LORD“? (i.e. Is she one of the “saints”?) Romans 16:2
-Is he A “BROTHER IN THE LORD”? Philemon 1:12-17
Are any OTHER CONDITIONS of reception considered by the apostles or early believers? Not one!
TO WHAT are believers received by other believers?
No NT believer was ever received “into assembly fellowship”!
They are not received to anything, but are rather received BY each other!
They are family members who have been received by the Lord Jesus Christ so it is only appropriate
for we, “His brethren” to receive one another as Christ also received us. Romans 15:7; Hebrews
One writer who defends the idea of “reception to assembly fellowship” wrote the following:
“At times, believers claimed they had the right to be received to remember the Lord. They would declare
that an assembly cannot refuse a believer a place at the table whom the Lord has received and who was
therefore part of the body of Christ. Further appeal would be made to Rom.14:1 and 15:7. These two
scriptures are addressed to believers in a local church to have a place in their hearts for other believers
in the same local church. These verses are not addressing the question of reception into the fellowship
of a local assembly at all.”
I would commend this writer for stating and acknowledging the truth of three scriptural facts:
(1) The writer correctly observes that both Romans 14:1 and 15:7 were addressed to believers in the
local church at Rome. But this writer assumes elsewhere in his pamphlet that the “local assembly” does NOT include all those who are saved in that locality. But Paul, the writer of this epistle makes very clear to whom he is addressing himself in Romans 1:7. Take note of his actual words….” To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Not one person in all the city of Rome who was loved of God and called a saint was excluded! The apostle Paul received to a place in his heart every believer without exception! And so his exhortations to the Roman believers to “receive him that is weak in the faith” (14:1) and to “receive one another as Christ also received us to the glory of God” was on exactly the same basis!
(2) This writer also correctly observes that believers’ reception of one another is “to have a place in their
hearts for other believers in the same local church.” This is always the idea of reception of saints by
saints in all the NT!
(3) This writer correctly states, “These verses are not addressing the question of reception into the
fellowship of a local assembly at all.” He is absolutely right and the same truth is true of every other
case of believers receiving believers in all the New Testament. Not one NT case of reception of believers
by believers is reception “to” or “into” assembly fellowship! Such reception is always to have a place in
their hearts for other believers!
The same writer continues his argument for restrictive reception to the assembly as follows…
“If reception is based on the principle that all who are in the body of Christ should be received, then no
one can be refused who professes to be a Christian. One of the authors was speaking with a brother who
believed strongly that reception was on the grounds of the body of Christ. When asked if he would be
happy if a man like the one in I Corinthians 5, who was guilty of serious moral sin, sat beside him at the
Breaking of Bread his immediate response was, No! It was then suggested to him to exclude one
believer violated his suggestion that reception was open to all believers.
If reception is on the grounds of the one body, the door is wide open to receive those who have never
been baptized, or others who may be saved but hold teachings and practices foreign to the Word of
Again, I would commend this writer for stating a number of truths of scripture very clearly, but I would also
take note of wrong and unscriptural assumptions that are made along the way….
(1) He correctly states the principle of apostolic reception, namely that all who are in the body of Christ
should be received, but then confuses the issue with another principle entirely, that of “profession”, “If
reception is based on the principle that all who are in the body of Christ should be received, then no
one can be refused who professes to be a Christian.” Reception of saints by first century believers was
always on the basis of their having been received by Christ into His Body. It was never simply on the
basis of one’s own profession! When Saul, as a believer and also as a very recent persecutor of the saints
at Jerusalem came and wanted to be with them, they were afraid of him and could not be received to
have a place in their hearts as a believer. (Acts 9:26) Thus Barnabas’ testimony to them of how Saul had
been converted and had preached boldly in the name of Jesus assured them and thus enabled them to
receive him (not to the assembly) but to their hearts!
(2) This writer also states clearly elsewhere that “reception is never to the breaking of bread”. This is true. Reception is always to the hearts of the Lord’s people. But in the quoted portion above, the writer confuses reception of a believer with sitting beside him at the Breaking of bread! Church discipline is only carried out toward those who are received as believers. (If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator etc) Furthermore, the actions of I Cor.5 of (1) not having company with, (2) not eating with and (3) putting away from among you are NOT the opposite or reverse of reception as is commonly taught! Nor does “excommunication” put someone “out of the church”! Sinning believers are dealt with in this manner because of the very fact that they have been added to the church and are a part of the church!
Just as reception into one another’s hearts as fellow believers is on the basis of membership in the body of Christ, so too discipline for moral evil is on exactly the same basis! Such discipline is not an “amputation”! It does not remove the sinning brother or sister from the church.
Just as an injured, diseased, broken or dislocated member of one’s physical body is given special care, so too, a sinning member of the body of Christ is given special care in order to restore them to a healthy condition again. Just as a nauseated stomach, a sprained ankle, a snake-bitten leg or a broken arm are relieved of their normal duties, so too a brother or sister who have fallen into moral sin are also relieved of their normal functions among the people of God. Then they are isolated for the purpose of their own healing and for the health of the entire body.
They are not “put out of fellowship” by the assembly, rather they themselves ceased to have fellowship with God and his people when they first began to walk in darkness! They cannot be “received back into fellowship” by others but when they repent and begin again to walk in the light, they will again have fellowship with God and with their fellow saints! Then the other saints do not receive them again, but are rather to forgive them, comfort them and confirm their love toward them! II Cor. 2:6-8
So to summarize this thought, church discipline for moral evil which entails not having company and not eating with the brother or sister who is guilty, is not at all an abrogation of the principle of reception on the basis of the one body, it is a consistent testimony to it! Because we have received this brother to our hearts as a fellow member in the body of Christ, that is the basis and the authority for dealing with him in this manner in order that he may be restored to a place of healthy functioning in that body again!
(3) This writer also states, “If reception is on the grounds of the one body, the door is wide open to receive those who have never been baptized, or others who may be saved but hold teachings and practices foreign to the Word of God.” This also is a very true and scriptural statement, but the writer does not believe in this ground for reception and so rejects the conclusions which automatically follow and so must of necessity introduce unscriptural teachings and practices which are also foreign to the word of God!
Think this matter through with me in scriptural examples:
(a) On the Day of Pentecost 3,000 people were saved by God, baptized by men and added to the church by God. Do you suppose that any of them held teachings or practices foreign to the Word of God? Certainly they did, just as all of us, the day we got saved still held many teachings and practices that were contrary to God’s word! But that did not hinder God from receiving us and should never hinder us from receiving others!
(b) Acts 2:47 states clearly the scriptural basis for adding to the church and it is “saved ones” who are added plus or minus nothing! Acts 2:47 does not say that the Lord added those “who were saved and baptized”! So too Acts 5:14 states the same principle, “Believers were the more added to the Lord multitudes both of men and women.” It does NOT say “baptized believers were the more added to the Lord…”
It is true that scripture clearly commands and teaches believers to be baptized and that baptism is to follow immediately upon salvation. But it does not follow that baptism was ever considered to be a pre-requisite to believers being added to the Lord and His church or that it was a pre-requisite for believers to be received as saints by other believers! It is also most interesting to observe that those who teach the unscriptural doctrine of “restrictive reception into assembly fellowship” also embrace the teaching and practice of consistent delay of baptism until weeks, months or even years after conversion! This is definitely one teaching and practice which is foreign to the Word of God.
These sorts of dilemmas are always faced when doctrines of men are embraced which are never stated in the words of scripture!
But scripture never ever teaches that God’s assemblies are places where only saints are received who have shed all “teachings and practices which are foreign to the Word of God”. Rather God’s assemblies are the gatherings in which He intends that people who have come to Christ with all sorts of strange beliefs and practices are taught, exhorted, instructed and encouraged to observe all that the Lord Jesus commanded. The assembly is never presented in scripture as a show case of “perfect saints” who never teach or practice anything that is foreign to the Word of God. It is rather the place where saints are perfected or brought to maturity as they hear the scriptures taught and see them modelled in the lives of others!
In view of all of the above, from where did the doctrine of “being in fellowship” or “out of fellowship”
or the teaching that men add to believers to God’s assembly come?
Such teachings have not been derived from scripture, from the words of the Lord Jesus, from the
apostles’ doctrine nor from first century church practice! So where did the following ideas originate…
Nor do any of the following expressions occur even once in the NT!
– “church fellowship” or “assembly fellowship”
– “in fellowship”
– “into fellowship” or
-“out of fellowship.
But they certainly do run parallel with the ideas of “church membership” in the religious world or
“club membership” in the social world! Is it possible that the doctrine of being “in assembly
fellowship” originated as a means of usurping control over the people of God ? Are not club privileges
dispensed to those who meet “club standards” and withheld from those who fail to meet those standards?
Is not a merit system such as this based on debt, i.e. earning privileges and receiving what one has earned?
The erroneous basis of this system has been demonstrated in my own experience: As a sincere but false
professor of faith in Christ, I was “received into fellowship” in an assembly years before I knew what it
was to “have fellowship” with God through faith in Christ. I personally know of a number of others who
also were “in fellowship” before they were “in Christ”! But I know hundreds of brothers and sisters in
Christ who have fellowship with God and with many other saints who are “denied fellowship” because
they are not “in fellowship” with a religious system which claims to be thoroughly Biblical but which
(as seen above) cannot be based soundly on scriptural teaching!
I am firmly convinced that every doctrine of scripture is clearly stated in words of scripture.
So if a doctrine is not stated – in the pure words of scripture (Psalm 12:6),
– apart from words additional to scripture (Proverbs 30:5,6)
– apart from words which man’s wisdom teaches and
– in words which the Holy Spirit teaches (I Cor.2:13)…..
it simply is not a scriptural doctrine.
God has called every one of His children unto the fellowship of His Son! (I Cor.1:9; Gal.1:15) He
never pushes us away or cuts us off from His fellowship. He never leaves us or forsakes us, (Hebrews
13:5) but does not force Himself upon us! He allows us to enjoy fellowship as we walk in the light, but
also allows us to choose to reject His fellowship by walking in darkness! (I John 1:3-6) or by cherishing
and upholding traditions of men rather than the plain teachings of His own Word. (Matthew 15:3)