(I Peter 2:17 [KJV]) Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. The word “brotherhood” here is translated from the Greek word “adelphotes”. It appears only twice in the New Testament, both times in First Peter (2:17; 5:9). The King James renders it “brethren” in 1 Pet 5:9, but then renders it “brotherhood” in 1 Pet 2:17. The Greek word shows a brotherly relationship, and therefore can be accurately described as “a brotherhood”. It is clear that Peter uses the term to refer to this community of believers throughout the world. In 1 Pet. 5:9 he compares the sufferings of those immediate brethren addressed in his epistle to that experienced by their “brethren” in other parts of the world. 1 Pet 2:17 is clearly a contrast to “all men.” Therefore, when we as brothers and sisters in Christ speak of “the brotherhood”, we are speaking of ourselves along with all the faithful in the world that share in this great relationship with Christ
Peter tells us to love this group of believers. Yet, it seems to me that in recent years we have lost much of that sense of brotherhood that Christians once enjoyed. Today, the brotherhood is splintered into “conservative”, “liberal”, “non-institutional”, “mainstream”, and even “Hyper-preterists”. And, because of these factions, most have done a pretty good job of teaching that each local congregation is autonomous and independent of any other congregation in the world, in order to retain the splintered factions. We have rightly pointed out that the congregations of which we are members can exist and scripturally function as if there were no others cogregations in the world. We have also emphasized that each member of a congregation has a relationship and responsibility to the local church. I fear that during all of this we may have developed a mentality that congregations are a bit too “independent.”
As a result of this often overemphasized sense of independence, brethren have almost isolated themselves from any real concern, contact or sense of fellowship with their brethren elsewhere. Have we forgotten how to carry out Peter’s admonition to “love the brotherhood?” The brotherhood, of which Peter wrote, is not a brotherhood of churches organized together as a unit of “sister congregations”, nor is it a brotherhood of Christians organized solely by the name above the door. It is a relationship that must exists between all Christians which share the common faith (Jude 1:3) or at least claim they hold to this faith. While New Testament congregations were not tied together organizationally speaking, they were tied together doctrinally because they subscribed to the same standard. Paul declared that what he taught and ordained in one church he ordained in all (1 Cor. 4:17; 7:17). Thus, all congregations are to be bound to the same doctrinal teachings.
Many have become confused today regarding our autonomy and fellowship with other congregations. I do not have the right to interfere in the non-doctrinal choices of another congregation and infringe upon their autonomy. Each congregation can decide, without any interference from me or you, its meeting times, when or if they will have a gospel meeting, who will do its teaching and preaching, who will lead its singing and praying, etc. But, because of my duty to “love the brotherhood,” I have an obligation to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15) to my brethren everywhere I have the opportunity to do so, just as I have an obligation to preach the word because I love all men’s souls. It is not interference in the affairs of other congregations when I demonstrate my love of the brotherhood by teaching them the truth of the scriptures and warn them of departures from the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3). In fact, it is loving to recall to their remembrance that Bible teaching governs the entire brotherhood as we exercise our autonomy. Let us “love the brotherhood” as a whole, enough to “reprove, rebuke and exhort (2 Tim. 4:2-4), because some will turn away their ears from the truth, and “depart from the faith” (1 Tim 4:1).