...the churches of Christ salute you! Rom 16:16

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Brotherhood is a very common expression of fraternity. We hear it often in secular society as well as in religion. It is used of secret orders (as the Masonic Lodge). It is used extensively in labor unions and other organizations (Boy Scouts, etc).
It is defined by Webster in its ordinary sense as: an association of men united in a common interest, work, creed, etc., as a fraternity, religious order, or labor union. That seems very adequate. It conveys the idea of an uncommon oneness, a union with a common origin or heritage of belief and purpose. It suggests a cherished relationship. All of these pleasant connotations are intended when this word is adapted to the secular entities named. The same is true of the common use of this word in religious circles.
However, the most lofty application of the word is found in its place in the church of our Lord. It is unquestionably one of the sweetest descriptions of Christian unity ever selected by the Holy Spirit. Attached to the root of brotherhood is the connotation of the womb, thereby drawing from the closeness of brothers found in our fleshly families.
The Biblical usage of the word is from the Greek adelphotes, and means "brotherhood (properly the feeling of brotherliness), that is, (the (Christian)fraternity "-James Strong.
J. H. Thayer says: "a band of brothers; Christian brethren."
Notice here that the word is somewhat limited with Thayer's emphasis, "Christian brethren." Not everyone who has been baptized into Christ remains a Christian brother. Note the word: a Christian brother.
So, it becomes increasingly clear why we have the divine injunction to "love the brotherhood" (1 Peter 2:17). All these have embraced "the faith" as declared in Colossians 2:12. "Brotherhood" is made up of brothers (and sisters), and clearly, that which makes one a brother or sister in Christ, that which puts us into Christ, that action whereby we embrace the faith, simultaneously makes us a part of "the brotherhood." That would be scriptural baptism.
However, we read in 1 Timothy 4:1 that the "Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." It is not difficult to conclude that one has abandoned the Christian brotherhood when he renounces and deserts the faith, aligning with the seductive teaching of men of the devil. When this happens, the Hebrew writer says, "they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (6:6).
This can be enlarged with 1 Peter 5:9 where Peter writes of the devil, "Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." The word brethren here is the same Greek word as brotherhood, found only here and in ch. 2:17. In fact, the NKJV renders ch.5:9: "...knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world."
From this we learn that brotherhood, in its fullest application, applies to faithful brethren and not to those harboring soul-condemning error. The brethren here named that are existing in the common world we all live in, are not brethren in error. . .they were suffering fox faithfulness. This is a necessary implication.
Contradicting this reasoning, our Baptist friends tell us that even if a baptized brother later claims athe-ism-if he overtly denies God-by the blood of Christ he remains in God's favor and will still be saved. He remains a part of the brotherhood. This is as untrue as it is unreasonable.
Further, it should be clear that one scripturally baptized into Christ is added to the church, thus consequently, to the universal brotherhood (Matthew 16:18, Acts 2:47, Gal. 3:27). The question is, can this church/brotherhood relationship be destroyed? Of a brother who later espouses atheism, even though we may accommodatively refer to him as an "erring brother," is he, in his atheism, yet a part of the church, the Christian brotherhood? He may be a brother nominally, but he is not a Christian brother as Thayer defines it in the word brotherhood. Can one who decries our Great God be considered a part of "the brotherhood"? Considering this, is there not a similarity in asking: Once one is baptized into Christ, can he ever again be 'out of Christ'?" (Read Hebrew 6:1-6).

Whom the Lord Rejects
Perhaps related, Jesus once said he was going to "spue" a congregation out of his mouth (Rev. 3:16). Would that "spued out" congregation yet be in the Christian brotherhood of 1 Peter 2:17, and would it be sinful to extend that congregation any sort of godspeed without having fellowship with their sinful ways (2 John 9-11)? Should these whom the Lord rejects be considered a part of the Christian brotherhood and in our fellowship?
Similarly, Jesus warned Ephesus that he would remove her candlestick unless she repented. Would such a disciplined congregation yet remain in the Christian brotherhood, continuing in scriptural fellowship with faithful congregations? Would we not assume they were no longer "in Christ," no longer a part of the body, no longer having a part in the Christian brotherhood by this action of Jesus Christ (Rev. 2:5, 3:16)?

Figures of Speech
Moreover, another related consideration is that the words "brother," "brotherhood," "body," "kingdom," etc. are only metaphors which project different aspects of the church. At baptism, the obedient becomes identified with all of these. Brother and brotherhood suggests our familial closeness; household of faith also portray this Christian affinity. Body suggests our unity, as well as our place in subjection to our head. Kingdom suggests government, pointing to our King and we his subjects. Even our Christian armor projects both our offensive and defensive responsibilities toward the gospel. There are other illustrations. As with all metaphors, it is not necessary that each distinct detail of the figure has a corresponding particular in the application it illustrates.

Colloquial Expressions
Further, cannot the term "brotherhood" be correctly used in a more limited sense than is usual? We commonly do so of other words, and there is little difference here. Because the Bible uses a particular English
word in a particular way, it by no means requires that the word be used in no other way in our Christian vocabulary.
Consider the words baptism, fellowship, apostles (and many others). We speak of denominational "baptism, " perhaps referring to the practice of sprinkling, or, "He was baptized as a baby," with no reference at all to the Bible definition. We often say "Gather with us after services for fellowship, " meaning only "stay and visit; eat with us." We may speak of the "apostles" of the Mormon church, when they are not Biblical apostles at all. These are words or expressions used colloquially in ordinary language by common people, the meaning of which will be interpreted by the context. (Speech has a context just as does the written page.) These and similar words are words which the Bible may (or may not) use in an entirely different sense than we may use them at times.
We sometimes express the colloquial use of the word "brotherhood" as we refer to the "cups" brotherhood, or the "instrumental music" brotherhood, or the "divorce and remarriage" brotherhood, or the "no exception" or "no divorce" brotherhood. By thus using these words we are, in a sense, saying all of these are the offspring of the same "womb" -they are of the same fundamental consensus, and even where there is error involved, their like belief was begotten in the same "womb" of error-from the same cauldron, to use another expression.

Walking Away From God
Generally, when we use such expressions as we are considering, we are often suggesting we are not in fellowship. Sometimes, however, it simply means that someone holds to some peculiar judgmental belief but the matter is not one of fellowship.
Of those who have left clear Bible teaching for the "doctrines and commandments of men," worshipping in digression, those who embrace moral error such as unlawful divorce and remarriage, those who seek to be justified by the law of Moses-of such, it is my conclusion that they have left the Christian brotherhood as Thayer styles it, and it is very correct to refer to their movement as a brotherhood of its own. Recognizing "brotherhood" as a figure, it is clear to me these have left the Christian brotherhood and embraced a brotherhood of error.



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