Fellowshipping or Combating Error
Fellowshipping or Combating Error?
J. W. McGarvey is recognized as one of the outstanding Bible scholars of the restoration movement of
the 1800’s. He was in the prime of his life (1829-1912) when the controversy over the use of instrumental
music in church worship divided brethren in this country. While McGarvey personally opposed
instrumental music in church worship, history tells us that he tried to combat it by tolerating its practice.
Nearing the end of his life, he gave the following assessment of this approach to dealing with error among
brethren to a young preacher. It is worth repeating:
“You are on the right road, and whatever you do, don’t let anyone persuade you that you can
successfully combat error by fellowshipping it and going along with it. I have tried. I believed at the start
that was the only way to do it. I’ve never held membership in a congregation that used instrumental music.
I have, however, accepted invitations to preach without distinctions between churches that used it and
churches that didn’t.
I’ve gone along with their papers and magazines and things of that sort. During all these years I have
taught the truth as the New Testament teaches it to every young preacher who passed through the College
of the Bible. Yet, I do not know of more than six of them who are preaching the truth today. It won’t
The New Testament also teaches us “it won’t work.” Accommodation with error does not promote
unity (Eph. 4:3-6). It promotes compromise, corrupting those who attempt to fellowship error (2 Cor.
6:14-18; 11:2-4). It produces the loss of fellowship with God as it causes one to partake in error (2 Jn. 9-
11). Yet, brethren still try to use this approach with error today - the social gospel, divorce and remarriage,
evolution, denominationalism and many more. It won’t work today, either. Do not bury your head in the
sand! Error will not go away! It must be opposed for the sake of truth and the salvation of our souls (Jude
3-4; Gal. 2:4-5)! - Joe R. Price