Monday, 13 April 2009

Fellowship

"FELLOWSHIP is an important Bible word. It is particularly prominent in the New Testament. Fellowship means sharing, partaking and having in common. The word is translated in all of those ways as the following, fully representative selection of passages will indicate:

"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized ... and they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:41-42)

"That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3)

"God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:9)

"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? for we being many are one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

"If there is any ... participation in the Spirit ... complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." (Philippians 2:1, R.S.V.)

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14)

"If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth but if we walk in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:6-7)

"That I may know him (Christ) and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10, 11, R.S.V.)

"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased ..."
(Hebrews 13:16, N.I.V.)

"Command those who are rich ... to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." (1 Timothy 6:17, 18, N.I.V.)

"Our hope of you is steadfast, knowing that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation." (2 Corinthians 1:7)

"I (Peter) ... am ... a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed ..." (1 Peter 5:1)

"He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4, R.S.V.)

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." (2 Corinthians 13:14, R.V.)

From the foregoing it will be seen that fellowship has many elements. Some parts seem to be the foundation for the others. Let us set out these different parts under the headings of foundations and life:

Foundations

The apostles and their teaching
The promises of God
The forgiveness of sins and the blood of Jesus Christ

Life

The Body of Believers
The Breaking of Bread (Communion)
The Unity of believers in love, purpose and mind
The life of the individual believer in association with Christ
Living close to the Father and the Son

In addition to these two parts, there is the promise of ultimately sharing the divine nature by being blessed with immortality.

Fellowship becomes a very practical and living thing when based on these principles. It embraces all that it means to be a disciple
Discipleship is fellowship.

Let us suppose that someone outside this fellowship came alone and asked how he might share it. What would the answer be? We could at once assure him that such fellowship is possible for anyone, because the way has been made known for us in the Bible.
We could say also that it is not a mysterious process by which we wait for God to impart something to us from heaven. Some people have burdened themselves with this latter notion, and have waited for God to act directly upon them. This is not the process described in any of the verses we have quoted. Fellowship is made possible through the Word of God.

To be specific, the way to fellowship is through the apostles' doctrine or teaching. This teaching is the challenge to our existing fellowship outside Christ. When we learn of the great and precious promises of God made certain by the sacrifice of Christ, the moment of choice comes along sooner or later. Am I to remain walking in darkness in fellowship with the world? Am I to stay in the fellowship of death? Or, shall I step into the light in response to the call of the Gospel, and come to the new fellowship in Christ?
Fellowship comes by enlightenment and belief, by repentance and baptism, and by commitment to the new way of life. In this way the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin and we enter into the fellowship of God and His Son. We share the apostles' doctrine and the hope which they proclaimed.

The believer's fellowship is both inclusive and exclusive. He does not choose his companions in the fellowship; they are chosen by the very process which brought him into a relationship with God. There can be no artificial barriers of sex, colour, race, class or caste. All who hold the same faith in truth and submit to its discipline by baptism share a common heritage. They are members of the commonwealth of Israel and have a common hope.
The Lord makes believers one in him:

"There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female: for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28, R.V.)

"There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:4-6)

From these declarations, it follows that there should be one united Christian community throughout the world. Throughout history this unity has suffered from the ravages of false doctrine and the human lust for power over one's fellow men. This evil was already at work or threatened in New Testament times:

"And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers ... and all that believed were together, and had all things common ... and they, continuing daily with one accord ... did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God." (Acts 2:42-47)

"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 mind and in the same judgement. For it hath been declared unto me ... that there are contentions among you." (1 Corinthians 1:10-11)

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Corinthians 15:12, N.I.V.)

"Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character. 'Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God ­ I say this to your shame." (1 Corinthians 15:33-34, N.I.V.)

"For I (Paul) know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:29-30)

"I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not another gospel: only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ." (Galatians 1:6-7, R.V.)

"For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ ..." (Philippians 3:18)

"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." (1 John 2:19)"

---------------------------
Brother Harry Tennant
Fellowship
The Christadelphians - What they Believe and Preach