SHOULD BELIEVERS HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH UNBELIEVERS OR EVEN LESS MATURE BELIEVERS?
Objectors to God's word which commands a believer not to have fellowship with unbelievers ask, 'How can a Christian properly witness to an unbelieving world if they don't fellowship with them in order to 'earn a hearing' or 'win their confidence.' But this implies spending a considerable amount of time with them, and not contradicting their worldly ways by word and even conforming and agreeing with those ways so as not to offend them. In this way, the believer compromises his own walk with Jesus Christ, subjecting himself to continual temptation. No such 'sacrifice' was condoned by God for the sake of the gospel, rather, efforts such as these contaminated the witness of the individual and focused the message from the Word of God to the questionable behavior of the compromising believer.
God's Word indicates, instead, for the believer to avoid temptation and pray so as not to fall into it, (Mt 26:41). There is constant temptation when one is associating oneself with worldly people. Furthermore, how can a Christian claim to have fellowship with God and unbelievers at the same time?
II) DO NOT HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH THE WORLD
A) [Compare 2 John 7-11]:
(v. 7) "Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.
(v. 8) Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.
(v. 9) Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God;
[i.e., does not have fellowship with Him. Although they are saved and eternally secure, (Eph 1:13-14), they do not have God with respect to having fellowship with Him]
whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
(v. 10) If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.
(v. 11) Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work."
B) [Eph 5:3-4]:
And consider that Ephesians chapter 5 teaches that a believer should not behave like the world:
(v. 3) "But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints;
(v. 4) And there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks."
Can a believer avoid being around such improper behavior when among unbelievers? How can a believer have fellowship amongst those who do such things and not succumb or at least be associated with such unacceptable behaviors?
C) [Eph 5:11]:
Furthermore, Ephesians chapter 5 goes on to command the believer to have nothing to do with worldly ways - which clearly means, 'Don't associate with others that do these things':
"And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.."
And how long will it take for unbelievers and carnal Christians to shun the fellowship of a believer who does not agree with their lifestyle and by his example shows it. If a believer does not spew out of his mouth the same ungodly wisdom that unbelievers do, he will be singled out very quickly and ostracized. Even by taking a stand that Christ is the only way to heaven, or that homosexuality and abortion are wrong, or that getting drunk is not appropriate behavior for a believer, or that coarse, suggestive or obscene language is unacceptable - all of these stands that the ambassador of Jesus Christ must make will be enough to get him 'kicked out' of fellowship with unbelievers.
Anyone who has experienced being an active witness for Jesus Christ will tell you that the window of opportunity to present the gospel and other truths from God's Word is usually very brief. One does not need to win the favor of an unbeliever. It's the Holy Spirit's job to get that unbeliever's attention not ours. One just needs to provide an immediate answer from God's Word for whatever subject is being brought up.
D) [Compare Pr 22:24-25]:
(v. 24) "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered,
(v. 25) or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared."
So those who act like the world, even fellow believers, we are not to make friends with.
E) [Compare 1 Cor 15:33]:
"Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.' "
E) [2 Cor 6:14-17]:
Finally, compare 2 Cor 6:14-17 which commands the believer outright not to have fellowship with unbelievers:
(v. 14) "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
(v. 15) Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
(v. 16) Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,
'I will dwell in them and walk among them;
And I will be their God, and they shall be My people'.
(v. 17) Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the LORD.
And do not touch what is unclean;
And I will welcome you.
(v. 18) And I will be a Father to you.
and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,
'Says the LORD Almighty.' "
The NIV and the KJV translate "do not be bound together" as "Do not be equally yoked" which is more accurate a picture of what it means to be in fellowship with another:
Fellowship is pictured thus as 2 plow animals yoked together in close proximity, dependent upon one another and with one direction and purpose. This is not possible for the faithful believer if he is yoked with an unbeliever, carnal or immature believer.
F) [Compare Jas 4:4]:
"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."
III) DO NOT HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH BELIEVERS WHO ARE CARNAL
A) [1 Cor 5:9-13]:
(v. 9) "I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people -
(v. 10) not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.
[Notice that Paul does not have unbelievers in view but believers who are immoral whom a fellow believer must not associate with. For a believer must still be in this world to witness for Christ. On the other hand, believers who are immoral are such that one must not associate with them for believers are held to a much higher standard than unbelievers]:
(v. 11) But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater of a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such man do not even eat.
(v. 12) What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?
(v. 13) God will judge those outside. 'Expel the wicked man from among you.' "
[Ref. Dt 17:7; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21, 24; 24:7]
So a believer must also not be yoked with an believer who is carnal.
B) [2 Thes 3:6-]:
(v. 6) "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.
Notice that believers are to avoid fellowship with fellow believers who are idle from living according to godly teaching, i.e., they are carnal.