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Particulars of Christianity:
312 The Church Ethic

Unity and Excommunication

Introduction: Unity, Excommunication, and Essentials Only
Excommunication: Historical Context, the Gospels (Part 1)
Excommunication: the Gospels (Part 2)
Excommunication: Acts and Romans
Excommunication: Corinthians
Excommunication: Galatians
Excommun.: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians
Excommunication: Paul’s Letters to Timothy
Excommunication: Titus, Hebrews, James, Peter’s Epistles
Excommunication: John’s Epistles, Jude, and Revelation
Excommunication: Biblical Assessment
Excommunication: Historical, Logical Assessments, Conclusions

Part Two: Biblical Study
Ephesians: Requirements for Doctrinal Unity and Excommunication
There are several passages in Ephesians that are relevant to our study of unity and excommunication. The first is Ephesians 2.
In Ephesians 2, Paul discusses the fellowship shared between Jews and Gentiles through faith in Christ.
Ephesians 2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached (2097) peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Just a few verses later, Paul makes a related comment in Ephesians 3:6.
Ephesians 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs (4789), and of the same body, and partakers (4830) of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Both Ephesians 2:11-19 and 3:6 relate to the same subject we saw Paul discussing in Galatians 3. In both Galatians and Ephesians, Paul teaches that the gospel teaches that through Christ both Gentiles and Jews together receive the same promises. In Galatians, Paul explained that Jews and Gentiles together are fellow heirs of the promise made to Abraham, which (according to the texts in Genesis which Paul was quoting) involved an earthly inheritance of land. As we saw, this teaching originates with Christ himself who taught that Old Testament saints like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will receive the same inheritance in the kingdom as New Testament saints (Matthew 8:11, Luke 13:28-29.)
Again, the reason we take the time to point out these teachings is to draw contrast between the New Testament definition of the gospel and the concept of the gospel offered by an Essentials Only View today. The New Testament associates the gospel with the kingdom of God and an earthly inheritance promised to Abraham and received together by both Old and New Testament Jews and Gentiles through faith in Christ. In an Essentials Only View these issues of the kingdom of God, what it involves, what our inheritance is in that kingdom, and who receives what are all considered not to be essential components of the gospel message.
If the New Testament understanding of the gospel includes these issues as critical components of the gospel, then an Essentials Only View is wrong to leave them out and to prohibit Christians from breaking fellowship over them. As we have stated before we recommend further study on these topics. For our purposes here it is only necessary to point out the potential deficiencies in an Essentials Only View because those deficiencies contribute to modern perceptions that the nature of the promised inheritance and the kingdom of God are not essential doctrinal issues.
The next passage we will cover is Ephesians 4. Here Paul provides some insightful comments on the apostolic concept of doctrinal unity.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Verses 4 and 5 are informative regarding Paul’s conception of doctrinal unity. Here Paul stresses the singleness of several things. He states that there is only one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one baptism, one God. By these words we know that there is only a single one of each of these items. But besides these, Paul also states that there is one body. In other passages we have seen Paul talk about the church as the body of Christ (Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12.) Paul makes several statements to this effect in Ephesians (Ephesians 3:6, 4:12, and 5:23.)
Romans 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another
1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit…27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Ephesians 1:22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Ephesians 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Ephesians 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
For Paul to say that there is only one body informs us that, in his understanding, Christ’s followers were not intended to be divided into multiple sectarian groups who only fellowship and commune within their denominational bodies. We have already seen some discussion of this kind of issue in Paul’s letters to the 1 Corinthians 1.
1 Corinthians 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided (3307)? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
The Greek word translated as “divided” in 1 Corinthians 1:13 is “merizo” (Strong’s number 3307.)
3307 merizo
from 3313; ; v
AV-divide 9, distribute 2, deal 1, be difference between 1, give part 1; 14
1) to divide
1a) to separate into parts, cut into pieces
1a1) to divide into parties, i.e. be split into factions
1b) to distribute
1b1) a thing among people
1b2) bestow, impart
So, according to Paul’s statements in Ephesians 4:4, 1 Corinthians 1:13, and 1 Corinthians 12:13, the body of Christ is not to be divided into multiple, separate, sectarian groups. This is a strong affirmation of the need for Christian unity. But, Paul’s letters to the Corinthians show that the kind of unity Paul demanded was created by a uniform doctrinal understanding that had been taught to all churches everywhere by the apostles (1 Corinthians 4:17, 7:17, 11:1-2, 11:16, and 14:33-37.) Based on our readings of Paul’s other letters, we would expect that same concept of doctrinal unity to be expressed here in Ephesians.
As Paul continues in Ephesians 4, he provides a clear, consistent picture of the doctrinal unity that the apostles required the church to have. In verses 11-20, Paul explains that the purpose of apostles, evangelists, prophets, and pastors and teachers was to build the church up in a unified faith and knowledge of Christ. He states that this unity of faith and knowledge was one that would not be carried into doctrinal divergence, confusion, and error.
Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge (1922) of the Son of God, unto a perfect (5046) man, unto the measure (3358) of the stature (2244) of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
In verse 14, Paul states that those who are carried away by different doctrinal understandings are children. In contrast to this, verse 11-13 state that Christians who are unified in the faith and knowledge of Christ are “a perfect (or mature) man, unto the (full) measure and stature of the fullness of Christ.” The Greek word translated as “perfect” in verse 13 is “teleios” (Strong’s number 5046) which we saw earlier in 1 Corinthians 14:20. There Paul instructed the Christians to be mature in their understanding, rather than being like children in their understanding of the faith.
When contrasted with “children” as it is in verses 13-14, the Greek word “teleios” refers to maturity. This is further supported by the fact that Paul describes the “perfect” (“teleios”) man as having the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The Greek word translated as “stature” is “helikia” (2244) and it conveys the idea of adulthood or maturity.
2244 helikia
from the same as 2245; TDNT-2:941,308; n f
AV-stature 5, age 3; 8
1) age, time of life
1a) age, term or length of life
1b) adult age, maturity
1c) suitable age for anything
1d) metaph. of an attained state fit for a thing
2) stature, i.e in height and comeliness of stature
Paul’s comments here are similar to those he made in 1 Corinthians 3:3 where he states that those who are babes in Christ are those that have divisions and strife.
1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife (2054), and divisions (1370), are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
The word translated as “divisions” is the Greek noun “dichostasia” (Strong’s number 1370.) Earlier we saw that this Greek word “dichostasis” (1370) is a compound word formed from the Greek word for “twice” (“dis,” Strong’s number 1364) and the Greek word “stasis” (4714.) Acts 15:2 used “stasis” (4714) to describe the Paul’s disagreement with those who required Christians to be circumcised. Likewise, Acts 23:7 and 10 used “stasis” to describe the differences of opinion between the Pharisees and Sadducees. And in Romans 16:17, Paul instructed Christians to mark and avoid anyone who caused “divisions” (“dichostasia,” 1370) contrary to the doctrine that the apostles had taught. In Galatians 5:19-21, we saw that Paul listed having sectarian divisions (“dichostasia,” 1370 and “hairesis,” 139) among the things for which a person will not inherit the kingdom of God.
It is worth noting what Paul says in the verses immediately preceding his discussion of immature people whose views diverge from that of the apostles. In 1 Corinthians 2:13-16, Paul states that the apostles and mature Christians, in fact, know and have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
The Greek word translated as “mind” in verse 16 is “nous” (Strong’s number 3563,) which refers to our understanding, our intellectual faculties, our reason, our thoughts, feelings, and judgments. Here, Paul is saying that mature Christians are those who (like the apostles) know the proper understanding of Christ’s teachings which the apostles had passed on to the church. Those who deviated from that proper understanding were immature and childish Christians whose desires for the things of this life impeded their correctly understanding of sound Christian teaching. Paul’s language here invokes a comparison to a child who doesn’t carefully consider their parents rules because, when properly understood, those rules would prevent the child from doing something they wanted to do.
Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians are informative for us as we read Ephesians 4. In Ephesians, Paul is talking about mature Christians having a unity of faith in the knowledge of Christ. In 1 Corinthians, he states that (like the apostles) those who are mature know the correct understanding of the teachings of Christ. In neither passage is the correct understanding of the Christian faith something the first century church didn’t have and which future generations of Christians would have to someday achieve over the course of church history. Instead, correct understanding was something the church had already been given by the apostles. Christians only needed to remain in that sound understanding and keep ourselves and each other accountable to it. Those who do keep that understanding exhibit their maturity and show that they are approved. Those who diverge into other doctrinal views are immature and unapproved. 
The Greek word translated as “knowledge” in Ephesians 4:13 is “epignosis” (1922.) It speaks of precise and correct knowledge. It is clear then that Paul is discussing correct belief and teaching.
1922 epignosis
from 1921; TDNT-1:689,119; n f
AV-knowledge 16, acknowledging 3, acknowledgement 1; 20
1) precise and correct knowledge
1a) used in the NT of the knowledge of things ethical and divine
In verse 16, Paul refers to the same idea he expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:10. In both passages he refers to the entire church being perfectly fit together. In both passages Paul connects our being perfectly fit together with our being unified in our understanding of Christian teaching and having the same mind and judgment. In 1 Corinthians 1:9-10, Paul connects being perfectly together in our understanding to our fellowship in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same (846) mind (3563) and in the same (846) judgment (1106).
The words Paul uses for “mind,” “judgment,” “faith,” and “knowledge” in 1 Corinthians 1:9-10 and Ephesians 4:13 are also informative. As we saw earlier, the word translated as “mind” in 1 Corinthians 1:10 is the Greek word “nous” (Strong’s number 3563.) It refers to our understanding and how we view things.
3563 nous
probably from the base of 1097; TDNT-4:951,636; n m
AV-mind 21, understanding 3; 24
1) the mind, comprising alike the faculties of perceiving and understanding and those of feeling, judging, determining
1a) the intellectual faculty, the understanding
1b) reason in the narrower sense, as the capacity for spiritual truth, the higher powers of the soul, the faculty of perceiving divine things, of recognising goodness and of hating evil
1c) the power of considering and judging soberly, calmly and impartially
2) a particular mode of thinking and judging, i.e thoughts, feelings, purposes, desires
For Synonyms see entry 5917
The word for “judgment” has a similar meaning. It is the Greek word “gnome” (Strong’s number 1106).
1106 gnome
from 1097; TDNT-1:717,119
AV-judgment 3, mind 2, purpose + 1096 1, advice 1, will 1, agree + 4160 + 3391 1; 9
1) the faculty of knowledge, mind, reason
2) that which is thought or known, one’s mind
2a) view, judgment, opinion
2b) mind concerning what ought to be done
2b1) by one’s self: resolve purpose, intention
2b2) by others: judgment, advice
2b3) decree
Similarly, in Ephesians 4, Paul speaks of a unity in faith and correct Christian knowledge. The word translated “faith” in Ephesians 4:13 is the Greek word “pistis” (Strong’s number 4102.) It is the common New Testament word for the Christian faith or things Christians believe.
4102 pistis
from 3982; TDNT-6:174,849; n f
AV-faith 239, assurance 1, believe + 1537 1, belief 1, them that believe 1, fidelity 1; 244
1) conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it
1a) relating to God
1a1) the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ
1b) relating to Christ
1b1) a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God
1c) the religious beliefs of Christians
1d) belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same
2) fidelity, faithfulness
2a) the character of one who can be relied on
In Ephesians 4, Paul states that we are to have a “unity of faith.” The Greek word for “unity” is “henotes” (1775.) It comes from the Greek word “heis” (1520) meaning “one.” “Henotes” refers to unanimous agreement.
1775 henotes
from 1520; ; n f
AV-unity 2; 2
1) unity
2) unanimity, agreement
In the next verses of Ephesians 4, Paul contrasts the understanding the church had learned from the apostles with the obscured and darkened understanding of those who did not know Christ (verses 17 and 20.)

Ephesians 4:17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind (3563), 18 Having the understanding (1271) darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But ye have not so learned Christ;

The Greek word translated as “understanding” in verse 18 is “dianoia” (Strong’s number 1271.) It is formed from the Greek preposition “dia” (1223) and the Greek word “nous” (3563) which we have seen repeatedly used in our study of the New Testament. Both words (“dianoia” and “nous”) refer to “understanding, way of thinking, thoughts, mind.” In fact, “nous” is the Greek word translated as “mind” in verse 17. And both terms are listed as synonyms of one another.
1271 dianoia
from 1223 and 3563; TDNT-4:963,636; n f
AV-mind 9, understanding 3, imagination 1; 13
1) the mind as a faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring
2) understanding
3) mind, i.e. spirit, way of thinking and feeling
4) thoughts, either good or bad
For Synonyms see entry 5917
5917 Mind, understanding.
See definition for nouv [nous] 3563
See definition for dianoia [dianoia] 1271

In this way we see that those who are followers of Christ are not in darkness and misunderstanding. Instead, the church was given a clear understanding of all of Christ’s teachings by the apostles. Again, Paul’s remarks simply parallel earlier teachings from Jesus.


John’s gospel captures Jesus’ teaching on the topic of understanding and darkness. According to Jesus’ his followers would not walk in darkness or remain in darkness. Rather they would come to the light so that they could understand what is right, repent of what’s wrong, and live rightly. On the other hand, those who remained in darkness do so because they don’t want to cease their sinful behaviors.


John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.


John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide (3306) in darkness.


John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.


According to Jesus, the whole body should be full of light rather than darkness.
Luke 11:34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. 35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. 36 If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.
Matthew 6:22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
And Jesus sent his apostles out to share the light of his teachings with all men in all nations. (See also Acts 1.)
Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Mark 16:14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth (4100) and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth (569) not shall be damned.
Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Again we find that Paul’s concept of knowledge and understanding is derived directly from Jesus. Jesus states that his followers will not walk in darkness and will not remain or continue in darkness. Paul states that the Gentiles who had become followers of Christ through apostolic preaching no longer walked with darkened understandings. Instead, through the apostolic ministry their eyes and understanding were enlightened. Like Ephesians 4:18, the word translated as “understanding” in Ephesians 1:18 is “dianoia” (Strong’s number 1271.)
Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,…18 The eyes of your understanding (1271) being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
The idea expressed by Paul and Jesus is that Christians shouldn’t remain in a clouded understanding tossed about by winds of false doctrinal views. But rather, through the teaching of the apostles, the entire Body of Christ should have full doctrinal agreement because the apostles taught the same things on all doctrinal issues in all of the churches.
We can see then that Ephesians 4 paints a very clear picture of the type of doctrinal unity that the church should have, the type of doctrinal unity that the apostles established in the New Testament church, and the type of unity that church leaders should always be seeking to establish in the church. The type of unity Paul describes is doctrinal unity, not mere social integration. It is a unity where different Christians and different churches aren’t divided into sectarian bodies by the winds and waves of divergent doctrinal understanding.
Moreover, in Ephesians 4 Paul states that this kind of doctrinal agreement was the very reason God’s sent the apostles out in the first place. This fits exactly with Jesus’ statements in Matthew 28 as well as Paul’s remarks throughout his letter to the Corinthians. Jesus instructed his apostles to teach all things whatsoever he had taught them to all men everywhere. And so the apostles did. They taught the same things in all the churches so that all Christians everywhere would be united in one body through uniform shared agreement and unvarying doctrinal understanding of all the teachings of the Christian faith.
We can see that Ephesians 4 gives us a solid understanding of the New Testament teaching on doctrinal unity. It is not the limited doctrinal unity of an Essentials Only View which requires agreement on only a small set of select doctrines and allows for differing opinions on a great deal of New Testament teaching. Instead, it is a comprehensive unity of uniform and universal doctrinal agreement.
From these passages we can see that Paul’s notion of doctrinal unity is quite different from that offered by an Essentials Only View.
In an Essentials Only View it is considered immature to require comprehensive doctrinal agreement as a condition for fellowship. It is considered immature and divisive to separate from those who do not share unity on a greater catalog of doctrinal topics. On the other hand, it is seen as mature for Christians to realize that we can agreeably disagree with other Christians over many different important doctrines and yet remain in fellowship with one another.
In a biblical view it is considered immature and unspiritual to have an understanding that diverged from what the apostles taught. It is not considered immature or divisive to dispute or break fellowship with those whose views diverged from apostolic teaching. In Ephesians 4 (and 1 Corinthians) Paul states in that a mature church is one that is unified in the understanding of the faith and knowledge of Christ. He calls this type of unity being spiritual. On the other hand, Paul says that churches characterized by sectarian differences and doctrinally divergent understanding are immature, babies, children, unspiritual, and carnal (a word Paul used to describe those who seek the pleasures of this age rather than the things of God.) The apostolic view and an Essentials Only View of doctrinal unity are clearly not compatible with one another.
Ephesians 4:4-16 is informative regarding New Testament teaching on doctrinal unity. But, it doesn’t provide much direct information on excommunicable issues. However, as we continue reading in this epistle, information on that topic does emerge.
In Ephesians 4:19-31, Paul lists various behaviors that Christ’s followers are prohibited from engaging in. We have seen this type of list before in 1 Corinthians 5 and Galatians 5. Here Paul includes greediness, lying, stealing, anger, speaking evil, etc.
Ephesians 4:17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind (3563), 18 Having the understanding (1271) darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
In the following chapter Paul again similarly lists the types of things which Christians are not to engage in.
Ephesians 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. 3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater (1496), hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers (4830) with them. 8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship (4790) with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
Paul again mentions fornication, covetousness, and idolatry. He also includes uncleanness and foul language. Just like Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul states in Ephesians 5:5 that those who engage in such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions (1370), heresies (139), 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
It is important to note that in Ephesians 5, Paul doesn’t simply list things that Christians shouldn’t be engaged in. In verse 7, Paul states that we are not to partake with those who are involved in these sins. In verse 11, Paul states that we are to have no fellowship with them or their sinful acts.
The Greek word translated as “partakers” in the phrase “be ye not partakers with them” is the Greek word “summetochos” (Strong’s number 4830.)
4830 summetochos
from 4862 and 3353; TDNT-2:830,286; adj
AV-partaker 2; 2
1) partaking together with one, a joint partaker
1a) of something
This Greek word speaks of Christian fellowship with the community of God. It refers to the idea of participating with someone or joining in with them. The only other time it is used in the New Testament is in Ephesians 3:6. In that verse Paul states that through Christ the Gentiles and Jews are part of the same body with one another, joint heirs together, and have fellowship together.
Ephesians 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs (4789), and of the same body, and partakers (4830) of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
In addition, the Greek word translated as “fellowship” in Ephesians 5:11 is “sugkoinoneo” (4790.) This word is formed by joining the Greek preposition “sun” (4862) meaning “with” to the Greek verb “koinoneo” (2841) is closely related to the Greek noun commonly used in the New Testament to refer to Christian fellowship (“koinonia,” 2842.)
4790 sugkoinoneo
from 4862 and 2841; TDNT-3:797,447; v
AV-have fellowship with 1, communicate with 1, be partaker of 1; 3
1) to become a partaker together with others, or to have fellowship with a thing
2841 koinoneo
from 2844; TDNT-3:797,447; v
AV-be partaker 5, communicate 2, distribute 1; 8
1) to come into communion or fellowship with, to become a sharer, be made a partner
2) to enter into fellowship, join one’s self to an associate, make one’s self a sharer or partner
2842 koinonia
from 2844; TDNT-3:797,447; n f
AV-fellowship 12, communion 4, communication 1, distribution 1, contribution 1, to communicate 1; 20
1) fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse
1a) the share which one has in anything, participation
1b) intercourse, fellowship, intimacy
1b1) the right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship (in fulfilling the apostolic office)
1c) a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship
By comparing Paul’s comments in Ephesians 5 with his comments in chapter 3 we can see what he has in mind in verses 7 and 11 of chapter 5. In Ephesians 3, Paul states that Jews and Gentiles have fellowship and participate with one another as one body. In Ephesians 5, Paul instructs Christians not to fellowship with or join with those who are involved in sins like fornication, covetousness, idolatry, uncleanness, and foul language. Just like 1 Corinthians 5, Paul is discussing the excommunication (breaking of fellowship) with Christians who are contradicting Christ’s teachings.
Again we can see that Paul’s words parallel Christ’s instructions on excommunication quite well. In Matthew 18, Jesus states that a Christian brother who continued in sin was to be treated like a Gentile. This meant that they were to be treated as outsiders who weren’t part of God’s covenant people. Here in Ephesians 3, Paul states that in Christ Gentiles become part of God’s covenant people, the Jews and have fellowship with them as adopted sons of Abraham. However, Christians were not allowed to partake with or fellowship with other Christians who persisted in things that were contrary to the teachings of Christ.
We should also note that in Ephesians 5:11, Paul not only tells Christians not to partake with and not to fellowship with Christians involved in unchristian things, but he also tells them to reprove such people and their contradictions of Christ’s teachings and commandments. The word translated as “reprove” in verse 11 is “elegcho” (Strong’s number 1651.) It is the same Greek word Jesus uses in Matthew 18:15 as he instructs the apostles on the procedures for excommunication. In Matthew 18:15 the phrase “go and tell him his fault” is translated from the Greek word “elegcho” (1651.) Here again we see Paul clearly referencing Jesus’ instructions on excommunication. Both Jesus and Paul instruct Christians not to fellowship with Christians who are in violation of Jesus’ commands and teachings.

Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault (1651) between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Having completed our section on Ephesians and doctrinal unity and excommunication, we can now summarize what we’ve seen.
Ephesians demonstrates that the apostolic conception of doctrinal unity is not the same as an Essentials Only View of doctrinal unity. In Ephesians 4, Paul explains that Christians were to have one faith and be of one body. We are to be mature adults with a unified doctrinal agreement in regards to the teachings of the Christian faith. We are not to be children whose understanding of doctrine is obscured in darkness and characterized by sectarian differences of opinion. In Ephesians 5, Paul instructs the Christians not to fellowship with those who are engaged in things which contradict Christ’s teaching. Again, the items for which Paul prohibits fellowship are beyond the limited set of essential doctrines offered by an Essentials Only View. In his letters, Paul repeatedly requires Christians to break fellowship over issues that an Essentials Only View says Christians cannot break fellowship over. In Ephesians, Paul instructs Christians to excommunicate Christians who are engaged in fornication, covetousness, inappropriate talk, idolatry, lying, anger, speaking evil, and stealing. With the exception of idolatry, an Essentials Only View prohibits breaking fellowship over any of these violations of New Testament teaching.
Philippians: Requirements for Doctrinal Unity and Excommunication
There are several short passages in Paul’s letter to the Philippians that are relevant to our study of doctrinal unity and excommunication.
In Philippians 1:3-5, Paul refers to Christian fellowship in the gospel. 
Philippians 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4  Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, 5 For your fellowship (2842) in the gospel (2098) from the first day until now;
The Greek word translated as “fellowship” is “koinonia” (Strong’s number 2842). This is the general New Testament word for Christian fellowship. We have seen this word used in Acts 2:42 to discuss how the early church had fellowship in the doctrine taught by the apostles and in the communion meal. In Ephesians 3:6 a compound word from “koinonia” was used to discuss how Jews and Gentiles have fellowship together in Christ and partake together of the promise in the gospel. In Ephesians 5:11 we saw the same compound word where Paul instructs us not to have fellowship with those who engage in behaviors contrary to Christ’s teaching and for which people will not enter the kingdom. In Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1 we saw that “the gospel” is equivalent to “teaching all things whatsoever that Jesus taught the apostles” and to “things pertaining to the kingdom.” Here Philippians 1:5 is simply referring to the same idea. If we stay in the teachings of the apostles on all things then we have fellowship with the church and with Christ now and in the coming kingdom.
These opening words from Philippians are also similar to Jesus’ words in John. In fact, Paul is clearly describing his own prayers for the Philippians, which seem to parallel Jesus’ prayer in John 17.
John 17:10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are...17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth...20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
John 15:2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me... 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
In John 17, Jesus speaks of his apostles being one with him. In verses 17 and 20, Jesus clearly shows that he has in mind the great commission described in Mark 16, Matthew 28, and Acts 1. In these verses from John, Jesus speaks of God’s word and the apostles preaching that word to others also. And, of course, this language from John 17 is reflective of John 15 also where Jesus similarly speaks of his apostles being in him and he in them as they keep his word. The sanctifying or cleaning effect of the word is mentioned in both chapters from John. And John 15:8 also reflects the future great commission as well when it refers to the apostles bearing much fruit. It is this same image of oneness in God’s word that Paul invokes here when he speaks of his prayers for the Philippians fellowship in the gospel. But most importantly, not only is Philippians 1 referring to the Christian unity described in John, but John 14 and 17 both demonstrate the indispensable role of Jesus’ teaching in that unity.
In the next three passages, Paul discusses the idea of Christian unity in the same way we have seen him discuss it before. In Philippians 2:1, Paul instructs the Christians in Philippi to have the same understanding. Notice once again the similarity to Jesus’ words in John 15. Jesus speaks of his disciples remaining in his words, joy being made full, and the disciples’ love for one another. Paul reflects these sentiments in Philippians 2 when he speaks of the Philippian disciples being of one understanding, having the same love, and making Paul’s joy full.
John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
Philippians 2:1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship (2842) of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded (846), having the same (846) love, being of one accord (4861), of one (1520) mind (5426).
Here in Philippians 2:1-2 Paul states that if there is any “fellowship” in the Spirit (“koinonia”) then we should be “likeminded,” “of one accord,” and “of one mind.” Two Greek words are translated into the single English word “likeminded” The first is the Greek word “autos” (Strong’s number 846) which means the “same.” The second is the Greek word “phroneo” (5426) which we have seen elsewhere in Romans 15:5-7 and 1 Corinthians 1:9-10. This word means “to have understanding, to feel, to think, to have an opinion” and even “to have the same mind, agree together, cherish the same views, and be harmonious.” In 1 Corinthians Paul couples being “likeminded” with having “the same judgments and opinions.”
In Philippians 2, Paul couples “likemindedness” with “being of one accord” and “of one mind.” The Greek word for “one accord” is “sumpsuchos” (4861.) It conveys the idea of having the same mind.
4861 sumpsuchos
from 4862 and 5590; ; adj
AV-of one accord 1; 1
1) of one mind, of one accord
Likewise, two Greek words are translated into the phrase “one mind.” The first is the Greek word “heis” (1520) which is the Greek numeral one. The second is the Greek word “phroneo” which Paul has already used earlier in this verse. By using these phrases Paul clearly conveys his concept of Christian unity. As Paul has expressed elsewhere his idea of Christian unity and fellowship in the Spirit is having the same mind, the same understanding, and the same opinions. It is not the unity of the Pharisees and Sadducees or the modern church, which is a unity riddled with their sectarian differences of opinion and divergent doctrinal understandings. 
In Philippians 3:15-17, Paul speaks similarly about Christians having the same understanding.
Philippians 3:15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect (5046), be thus (5124) minded (5426): and if in any thing (1536) ye be otherwise (2088) minded (5426), God shall reveal (601) even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained (5348) (5656), let us walk (4748) by the same (846) rule (2583), let us mind (5426) the same thing (846). 17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark (4648) them which walk (4043) so as ye have us for an ensample.
In verse 15, Paul states that those who are “perfect” should be “thus minded.” We have already seen Paul use this same word “perfect” in Ephesians 4:13. It is the Greek word “teleios” (5046) which refers to “maturity” and “adulthood.” Here in Philippians, Paul describes “maturity” as “being thus minded” and not being “otherwise minded.”
Paul is saying the same thing he said in 1 Corinthians 14:20 and Ephesians 4:13. Christians are to be spiritually mature, not perpetual children. And mature Christians were to have the same understanding and opinion as one another (and as the apostles).
The word translated as “otherwise” in verse 15 is the Greek word “heteros” (2088) which we have seen simply refers to “different.” It is here coupled with the Greek word “phroneo” meaning “to understand, think, have an opinion, etc.” According to Paul, those who didn’t have the same understanding as the mature (who were “otherwise minded” on “anything”) should come to conformity with the mature. In Paul’s mind they would not be perpetually differing in their understanding.
In verse 16, Paul instructs the Christians to walk by the same rule and mind the same thing. We can see Paul’s repeated use of the idea of “the same understanding.” Here again, Paul uses the Greek word “phroneo” coupled with the Greek word “for same.” According to Paul then, mature Christians will have the same understanding. Only immature Christians will differ in their understanding. The solution to doctrinal differences is that we walk by the same rule.
The word “rule” here is translated from the Greek word “kanon” (Strong’s number 2583.) We saw Paul express this same idea in Galatians 6:12-16 where he used the same Greek word “kanon” and told the Galatians to “walk according to this rule.” In Galatians, Paul may have only been referring to teaching about circumcision. Philippians 2, however, shows that Paul understood the idea of “kanon” to apply more broadly to the “standard measure of Christian faith” that was known by the mature who held to the apostolic understanding. This is made clear by verses 16 and 17, where Paul states that they should walk by the same rule and then states that they should walk in the manner of Paul’s apostolic example.
In the next chapter (Philippians 4), Paul again instructs Christians in Philippi to be of the same mind. He uses the same Greek words “autos” (“same”) and “phroneo” (“to understand, etc.”) And he again identifies having the same mind with keeping the things that the churches had learned, received, heard, and seen apostles teach and do.

Philippians 4:2 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same (846) mind (5426) in the Lord…9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
We have now completed our segment on Philippians’ discussion on unity and excommunication. Paul’s epistle to the Philippians doesn’t add much direct insight to our study of excommunication. However, it provides a lot of confirmation on the apostolic view of doctrinal unity and fellowship. According to Philippians, Christians are to have fellowship by walking in the same rule of faith and the same understanding, the very understanding that the apostles had taught to the churches. They were not to differ from that apostolic understanding or have differing views. Differences of doctrinal understanding were only for the immature. The mature were to be in agreement. The immature were to conform to the mature and not be otherwise minded. Both Christ and the apostles demand comprehensive doctrinal unity in accordance with all the apostles taught. This comprehensive doctrinal unity was the rule or measuring rod for fellowship and excommunication. Because the apostles taught all things whatsoever that Christ had taught them in all churches, those who differed in their understandings could be identified and were to be educated. Or, if they persisted in divergent understandings, they could be excommunicated from fellowship.
Colossians: Requirements for Doctrinal Unity and Excommunication
There are several passages in Colossians that are relevant to our study. The first passage we will look at is Colossians 1:23-28.
In this passage, Paul repeats similar statements that we have seen him make elsewhere. First, he instructs Christians to continue in the faith grounded and settled. He tells them not to be moved away from the hope of the gospel which was preached to every creature under heaven. Second, in verse 28, Paul states that the apostles (“we”) taught every man all wisdom so that every man could be mature in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1:23 If ye continue (1961) in the faith grounded (2311) and settled (1476), and be not moved away (3334) from the hope (1680) of the gospel (2098), which ye have heard, and which was preached (2784) to every (3956) creature (2937) which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;… 27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28 Whom we preach (2605), warning every man, and teaching every (3956) man in all (3956) wisdom; that we may present every man perfect (5046) in Christ Jesus:
In verse 23, Paul’s reference to “the hope of the gospel” relates to remarks he made in Acts 26:6, Galatians 3, and Ephesians 2. In Acts 26:6, Paul explains that he was judged for the hope of the promise made unto the Jewish patriarchs. In Galatians 3 and Ephesians 2, we saw that Paul stated that through faith in Jesus Christ both Jews and Gentiles receive that which was promised to Abraham. As Paul explicitly says in Galatians, for Jews like Paul, the hope that was proclaimed through the gospel and related to receiving that which was promised to God’s people since the days of Abraham. Therefore, the gospel was connected closely with an earthly inheritance and the kingdom of God.
As we saw in Matthew 28, Jesus instructed the apostles to teach all creation (every man) all things whatsoever he had taught them. Parallel accounts in Mark 16 and Acts 1 described this as “preaching the gospel” and “things pertaining to the kingdom.” In those passages Jesus stated that those who believed these things would be saved. Here in Colossians 1, Paul is referring to that apostolic commission and instructs Christians not to depart from the faith and hope of the gospel. Paul then connects this preaching of the gospel to all creation with teaching every man all wisdom. (This is similar to his statements to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, where Paul referred to keeping nothing back as he preached the kingdom of God, sharing the full counsel of God, the saints’ inheritance, and false teachers who would divide the church into sects with alternate teaching.) As with 1 Corinthians 14 and Ephesians 4, Paul here relates teaching all men all things with their being mature in Christ. The Greek word translated as “perfect” in Colossians 1:28 is “teleios” (5046) conveying the idea of maturity. It is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 14:20, Ephesians 4:13, and Philippians 3:15. Again we see that for Paul mature Christians were those who had a proper understanding of everything the apostles had taught to the churches. In order to be saved, we must therefore, not be removed from apostolic teaching to other views. As Paul has said elsewhere, such other views subvert our faith.
In Colossians 2, Paul again instructs the church to be rooted in, built up, and established in the faith that they had been taught and to continue to walk in it. He warns them against being beguiled and spoiled by false teachings and ideologies that did not come from Christ. In other words, the church was to remain in Christ’s teachings as the apostles had taught them. They were not to change their understanding through the influence of other ideas and philosophies.
Colossians 2:2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. 5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order (5010), and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. 6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
We should note that in verse 5 of Colossians 2, Paul again seems to refer to Christ’s teaching in Matthew 18 and 28. There Jesus spoke of his presence among his followers as they carried out the tasks he had appointed unto them, including both teaching all things they heard from him and also excommunication for those who refused to repent. Here in Colossians 2:5, Paul mentions his joy in observing the Colossians’ faithfulness in Christ, which reflects Christ’s words in John 15 where Jesus taught about the need to remain in his teaching and their joy in producing more disciples. And here in Colossians 2:5, Paul also relates that his is present with them in spirit, though absent physically, as he observes their order and their steadfastness in the things that they had been taught.
The Greek word Paul uses for “order” is “taxis” (Strong’s number 5010.) It refers to the proper arrangement of things or orderly condition.
5010 taxis
from 5021; ; n f
AV-order 10; 10
1) an arranging, arrangement
2) order
2a) a fixed succession observing a fixed time
3) due or right order, orderly condition
4) the post, rank, or position which one holds in civic or other affairs
4a) since this position generally depends on one’s talents, experience, resources
4a1) character, fashion, quality, style
This is the same word Paul used in 1 Corinthians 14:40 where he was instructing the church on the format, order, and content of their communal gatherings. In Corinth they were having problems and were not keeping the format and content in sync with apostolic establishment. Paul corrected their deviations and appealed to what the apostles had taught everywhere in every church.

1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order (5010).
Apparently, the Colossian church wasn’t having the difficulties that the Corinthians experienced. Instead, Paul approved of their conduct. Rather than having to correct deviation from apostolic teaching as he did with the Corinthians, Paul instead commends the Colossians for remaining steadfast in what the apostles taught.
Later, in Colossians 2, we have another instance of something that Paul says Christians cannot judge one another over. Earlier, we saw in Acts 15, Romans 14, and Galatians 2 that Christians were not allowed to refuse fellowship over whether or not fellow Christians kept Old Testament ordinances including: circumcision, Old Testament feast days, and Jewish dietary laws. Here in Colossians, Paul repeats these instructions by telling Christians not to judge one another in regard to meat or drink, or in respect of Jewish holy days, new moon festivals, or Sabbath days. The consistency of these teachings to different church communities fits with Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians declaring that he taught the same things in all the churches.
Colossians 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
As we said earlier, this is the only issue that Christians are specifically prohibited from dividing over. It is an instance where both positions were allowed by Christ. Keeping Old Testament holy days and dietary laws was acceptable. Likewise, not keeping the Old Testament holy days and dietary laws was also acceptable. It is not that variation was allowed, but rather that in this case both options had their origin in Christ’s teaching. It was Christ who gave the Law to Moses and in the gospels he certainly did not forbid keeping it. And it was Christ who gave freedom from the Law of Moses by giving a new covenant. In contrast to this, we have no New Testament instructions prohibiting Christians from refusing fellowship over any other particular doctrinal issues. Presumably, this is because other issues didn’t allow for multiple, divergent practices or views. Here there is a fundamental difference between variation specifically allowed within Christ’s explicit teaching and allowing deviation from Christ’s teaching. The first was perfectly acceptable. The second was expressly forbidden.
Here again, we find the New Testament to be in contrast with an Essentials Only View that prohibits separating on a host of doctrinal topics. To the contrary, the New Testament only prohibits Christians from breaking fellowship with those who are faithful to Christ’s teachings. In comparison, the Essentials Only View prohibits breaking fellowship from those whose have a different understanding of Christ’s teaching. Likewise, the New Testament authorizes excommunication for many issues that an Essentials Only View does not. But in comparison, the Essentials Only View prohibits excommunication for issues that the New Testament requires excommunication over.
In Colossians 3, Paul provides a list of things that he states Christians are not to engage in. This list is similar to those we have seen in 1 Corinthians 5, Galatians 5, and Ephesians 4. In those passages we saw that these behaviors were contrary to the teaching of Christ and were, therefore, excommunicable. And if a Christian persisted in them they would not inherit the kingdom of God. Because Colossians 3:5-10 mentions many of the exact same things that we know are excommunicable we can conclude that Colossians 3 is, in fact, referring to excommunicable issues.
Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
We have now finished our study of the relevant portions of Colossians.
In Colossians, Paul requires the church to remain grounded in the teachings that the apostles taught to all men everywhere. These comments mirror Jesus’ commission in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1. In Colossians, Paul instructs Christians to remain in the teaching and understanding that the apostles had taught. And similar to Acts 20, Paul warns Christians against those who would introduce other teachings and ideologies that originate from sources other than Christ and his apostles. Concerning excommunication, Paul only forbids Christians from judging one another in regard to keeping Old Testament holy days and dietary laws. However, he provides a list of issues that is similar and overlaps lists of excommunicable behaviors provided in 1 Corinthians 5 and Ephesians 4 (and possibly Galatians 5.) Therefore, we have good reason to conclude that Colossians confirms that excommunication was applicable to Christians engaged in: fornication, covetousness, idolatry, malice, blasphemy, inappropriate talking, and lying. An Essentials Only View specifically excludes Christians from separating from other Christians over almost all of the items on this list.
Thessalonians: Requirements for Doctrinal Unity and Excommunication
As with our section on Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, we will cover the relevant material from 1 and 2 Thessalonians at the same time. In 2 Thessalonians, Paul provides some informative comments on excommunicable issues. However, we will begin with 1 Thessalonians in which Paul makes some relevant remarks on doctrinal unity.
In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul reiterates concepts with which we are already well familiar. In verse 9, he refers to his having preached the gospel to the Thessalonians. In verse 13, Paul reports that the Thessalonians had received the word of God which he had preached to them. And in between, in verse 12, Paul states that God had called the Thessalonians to his kingdom.
1 Thessalonians 2:9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God…12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. 13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
Paul’s words here remind us of what we have already seen on numerous occasions in the New Testament. The apostles understood their preaching the gospel as synonymous with sharing the message of God about “things pertaining to the kingdom.”
Similarly, in 1 Thessalonians 3, Paul again talks about how the Thessalonians had received the apostles’ message and as a result knew how to walk and please God. In verse 2, Paul states that the apostles gave God’s commandments to the Thessalonians.
1 Thessalonians 3:1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.
In all these verses, Paul simply reiterates the truths recorded in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1. The apostles were to go everywhere and teach all things that Jesus had commanded the apostles to all men everywhere who, if they believed these things, would be saved. In those passages and elsewhere this has been directly and repeatedly equated with preaching the gospel, teaching about God’s commandments, and things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians simply reflect that the apostles did, in fact, teach all of these things to all churches everywhere. So far we have seen that this at least included: Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica. 
As we finish our section on 1 Thessalonians we should note that one of the subjects we see Paul teaching about is Christ’s return, the gathering of the saints, and the resurrection of the dead (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.) These are things Christ himself also taught about. So, given that Christ told the apostles to teach all men everywhere everything that he had instructed them, it makes sense to see Paul present teachings on these end times doctrinal matters in the churches he visited and wrote to. Although we did not specifically cover it, Paul already addressed related “end times” issues in 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 50-54 and Philippians 3:20-21, both of which discussed topics relating to the timing of Christ’s resurrection, the resurrection of Christians, and Christ’s return. We will see Paul continue to address this general subject with some gravity in his second epistle to the Thessalonians.
We will begin our section on 2 Thessalonians with chapter 3 and then connect Paul’s remarks back to earlier verses.
In 2 Thessalonians 3, we find Paul relating instructions on excommunication. This marks the fifth church that we have seen Paul give direct teaching on excommunicating, withdrawing from, shunning, and avoiding other Christians. The others include Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians. (There were also some remarks about excommunicable issues in Colossians.) Here in 2 Thessalonians 3:6 Paul commands Christians to withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not after the traditions received from the apostles.   
2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
Notice from verse 6 that Paul is giving a command and doing so in the name and authority of Jesus Christ. This is clearly another instance in which Paul is simply reciting Christ’s teaching on excommunication in Matthew 18 where Jesus authorized the apostles to practice excommunication in his name. We have already seen Paul use this same language in 1 Corinthians 5 where he also appealed to Christ’s name and authority as he instructed Christians to excommunicate a Christian brother involved in fornication. Both passages (2 Thessalonians 3 and 1 Corinthians 5) derive their authority for excommunication from Christ himself. Simply put, these passages instruct the discipline of removal to be carried out in Christ’s name in observance of Christ’s own commands.
The Greek verb translated in 2 Thessalonians 3:6 as “withdraw” is “stello” (Strong’s number 4724.) It refers to avoidance, removing one’s self, departing, and abstaining from social interaction.
4724 stello
probably strengthened from the base of 2476; TDNT-7:588,1074; v
AV-avoid 1, withdraw (one’s) self 1; 2
1) to set, place, set in order, arrange
1a) to fit out, to prepare, equip
1b) to prepare one’s self, to fit out for one’s self
1c) to fit out for one’s own use
1d) to prepare one’s self, to fit out for one’s self
1e) to fit out for one’s own use
1e1) arranging, providing for this, etc.
2) to bring together, contract, shorten
2a) to diminish, check, cause to cease
2b) to cease to exist
2c) to remove one’s self, withdraw one’s self, to depart
2d) to abstain from familiar intercourse with one
Here in 2 Thessalonians Paul identifies those we must withdraw from as brothers who “walk disorderly.” The Greek word translated as “disorderly” is the adverb “ataktos” (814.) It comes from the adjective “ataktos” (813.) Both words are simply formed from the negative Greek participle “a” (Strong’s number 1) and the Greek verb “tasso” (5021.)   
814 ataktos
from 813; TDNT-8:47,1156; adv
AV-disorderly 2; 2
1) disorderly, out of ranks (often so of soldiers)
2) irregular, inordinate, immoderate pleasures
3) deviating from the prescribed order or rule
Paul is here using the word “ataktos” (814) to describe Christians who are not in accordance with the prescribed order or rule of the Christian faith. We have already seen Paul use this concept before. In Galatians 6:16, Paul instructed the Galatians to walk according to the rule that Christians did not need to keep various ordinance of the Law of Moses. In Philippians 3:16, Paul spoke more broadly about “walking by the same rule” as a reference to Christians having the same understanding and following the apostles and what they taught.
As we continue in 2 Thessalonians 3, we will get some additional information from Paul on other things he considers to be outside the rule laid down by the apostles. In verses 10-12, Paul states that the apostles laid down an example of working to provide for themselves and those who do not follow that example are acting contrary to what the apostles taught.
2 Thessalonians 3:7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9 Not because we have not power (1849), but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
It is important to realize what Paul is talking about here. Though laziness was likely contributing to the problem, he is not simply talking about laziness in the church. Paul states that he and his fellow evangelists worked while they preached to the churches. Now, Paul is clear that as traveling evangelists they had the right (“power”) to be provided for by those they preached among. The Greek word translated as “power” is “exousia” (Strong’s number 1849.) It refers to the authority or right to do something.
Paul’s teachings here are taken directly from Christ’s teachings in Matthew 10:1-14, Mark 6:7-12, Luke 9:1-6, and most particularly Luke 10:1-11. In these passages Jesus sends the apostles out to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God. As they went from town to town Jesus instructed them not to take provisions for themselves and commanded them instead to stay with someone locally and eat from their table whatever they were given. In this way Jesus established that traveling evangelists had the right to be provided for by those they were ministering among.
So, in 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul acknowledges that Christ gave traveling ministers the right to be provided for on their travels. And yet, Paul states that he and his fellow workers did not avail themselves of this right. His purpose was to give an example to the local Christian community, in this case Thessalonica. Paul’s intention was to prevent those who were not traveling evangelists from believing that they had the right to be provided for entirely by the rest of their local Christian community. While this applied to everyone equally, it is important to recognize that it especially applied to those who would be church leaders. Nowhere in the New Testament is it taught that permanent local ministers, leaders, pastors, elders, or teachers could abstain from having a job and be provided for entirely by the local community.
To the contrary, Paul states directly here that he was providing an example to the church and its leaders that they must work with their hands to provide for themselves. It is, of course, true that Christians and Christian communities did support one another’s material needs. And local church leaders could participate in that system of shared financial support. But, according to Paul this did not include permission for local church leaders to go without working entirely and simply be provided for by the church. For Paul, such a thing was considered to be a direct contradiction of apostolic commands and his own example.
While it is startling to consider that Paul is here reprimanding pastors who have no means of income apart from the church, this is not the most startling component of his remarks. The most startling thing to realize is that Paul is instructing Christians to withdraw from any person who contradicts apostolic instructions including their instruction on working to provide for yourself. This means that Paul is instructing Christians to withdraw from pastors who do not work to provide for themselves in some other manner than the financial support of the church.
In and of itself the excommunication of pastors who are totally supported by the church is a striking and alarming thing for Paul to instruct. But more than that, we can see that Paul is here making something excommunicable that today is not only a normative pastoral practice, it is also a matter of doctrine that an Essentials Only View would prohibit us from dividing over. In contrast to an Essentials Only View, Paul commands Christians to divide over this doctrinal issue.
Just to be clear about this, Paul immediately continues by reiterating his instruction from verse 6 regarding excommunication. He has specifically identifies those who do not work to provide for themselves as an example of those who must be withdrawn from. Paul then states in verse 14 that we must “have no company with” those who do not obey these things that Paul has written about in this epistle.
2 Thessalonians 3:13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. 14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 16 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all. 17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
We have already seen Paul use this phrase “have no company with” in 1 Corinthians 5:9 and 11. In both of those verses from 1 Corinthians 5 as well as here in 2 Thessalonians 3:14, the word translated as “have no company with” is the same Greek verb “sunanamignumi” (Strong’s number 4874.)
4874 sunanamignumi
from 4862 and a compound of 303 and 3396; TDNT-7:852,1113; v
AV-company with 1, keep company 1, have company with 1; 3
1) to mix up together
2) to keep company with, be intimate with one
Clearly, in both 1 Corinthians and 2 Thessalonians, Paul is instructing Christians regarding excommunication or separating from Christian brothers.
In verse 15, Paul states that we are to admonish such persons as brothers. This again exactly parallels Christ’s instructions on excommunication which we know Paul is very familiar with and has applied elsewhere. The word translated as “admonish” is the Greek verb “noutheteo” (Strong’s number 3560.) It means to warn.
3560 noutheteo
from the same as 3559; TDNT-4:1019,636; v
AV-warn 4, admonish 4; 8
1) to admonish, warn, exhort
This is precisely what Jesus instructs in Matthew 18 where he tells his disciples to go and tell Christian brothers their fault. The Greek word translated as “tell him his fault” in Matthew 18:15 is “elegcho” (1651.) It means to admonish, convict, rebuke, reprove, or correct.
1651 elegcho
of uncertain affinity; TDNT-2:473,221; v
AV-reprove 6, rebuke 5, convince 4, tell (one’s) fault 1, convict 1; 17
1) to convict, refute, confute
1a) generally with a suggestion of shame of the person convicted
1b) by conviction to bring to the light, to expose
2) to find fault with, correct
2a) by word
2a1) to reprehend severely, chide, admonish, reprove
2a2) to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation
2b) by deed
2b1) to chasten, to punish
For Synonyms see entry 5884
Paul and Jesus are discussing the same thing here, the rebuking and excommunication of a Christian brother who is not compliant with apostolic teaching. Specifically, Paul is applying Jesus’ instructions to those who do not work to provide for themselves. But we must also note that Paul is applying excommunication more broadly than this single issue of not working.
As we have seen in verses 6 and 14, Paul instructs Christians to excommunicate others who are not keeping the things that the apostles taught in the churches. In verse 14, Paul states that Christians are to excommunicate any man who doesn’t obey the words Paul gives in this epistle to the Thessalonians.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us…14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
Paul has already referred to apostolic teachings transmitted by letter twice in 2 Thessalonians. The first reference is in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5. Here Paul is addressing false teaching that the Thessalonians had encountered regarding the timing of Christ’s return, the gathering together of the saints unto Christ, and the coming of the Antichrist. In verse 2, Paul expresses that this false teaching was being alleged to come from a letter that was supposedly from him.
2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
As Paul concludes his address of these end times doctrinal issues in 2 Thessalonians 2, he again refers the Thessalonians to this letter. In verse 15, Paul instructs Christians to stand firm and hold to the teachings that the apostles had passed on to them by word of mouth or by letter.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
So, in 2 Thessalonians 3:14, when Paul instructs Christians to excommunicate anyone who did not obey the words of this epistle it is clear that Paul is including all of the subjects he taught on throughout the entire epistle, particularly his teaching on these “end times” subjects. Therefore, Paul is identifying at least two things as excommunicable issues which an Essentials Only View specifically prohibits us from excommunicating other Christians over. The first is that Paul makes not working to provide for oneself and being solely supported by the church an excommunicable issue. As we have seen this would include those who served as long-term, local leaders in the church. Second, Paul makes false teachings on the timing of Christ’s return, the gathering of the saints to Christ, and the coming of the Antichrist an excommunicable issue. We have already seen Paul take the time to teach the Thessalonians on the timing of events related to Christ’s return in his first epistle to them. Clearly, for Paul, these issues (which Christ also taught on) were of critical and essential importance.
Having completed our study of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians we will again summarize what we’ve learned about the biblical perspective on doctrinal unity and excommunication.
In his letters to the Thessalonians Paul continues to consistently instruct the church to only teach and hold on to what the apostles passed on to them. As with other New Testament texts, Paul equates this apostolic teaching with the word of God, God’s commandments, the preaching of the gospel, preaching the kingdom of God, and calling others into God’s kingdom. Likewise, Paul clearly specifies two doctrinal issues as excommunicable offenses. First, Paul requires the excommunication of Christians (including any long-term, local minister, pastor, or leader) who do not have a job to provide for themselves but instead draw all their financial support from the church. Second, Paul requires excommunication for false views of eschatological doctrines including: teachings on Christ’s return, the resurrection of the dead, the gathering of the saints to Christ, the coming of the Antichrist, as well as the sequence and timing of these events in relation to one another. According to an Essentials Only View, neither of these issues is essential and neither can be used as a basis for breaking fellowship with other Christians. Paul’s instructions again clearly contradict an Essentials Only View of essential and excommunicable doctrines.