A Biblical Perspective On Fellowship
Mat 18:20 (Phi) "For wherever two or three people have come together in my name, I am there, right among them!"
Fellowship is a great privilege, possible whenever the above occurs; in church, Bible studies, prayer meetings, home groups, with roommates or family. It is how God meets our needs--it is His "supply line". Are we taking advantage?Acts 4:32 (NIV) All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.
The worst thing we could do is to try to imitate the external behavior of the New Testament church without going through the internal changes, led by the Spirit. True fellowship requires at least: repentance, light, judgment (discernment), protection, good stewardship, the grace gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit, and real love, as we will study. All this is possible, but only "in Christ".1 Jn 1:3-4 (Phi) We repeat, we really saw and heard what we are now writing to you about. We want you to be with us in this--in this fellowship with the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son. We write and tell you about it, so that our joy may be complete.
Home Fellowship In The New Testament Church
1 Cor 16:19 (NIV) The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.
Col 4:15 (NIV) Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
Rom 16:5 (NIV) Greet also the church that meets at their house...
Acts 20:20 (NIV) You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.
Heb 10:25 (NIV) Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the day approaching.
God's New Public Relations Firm, The Church:
Col 3:12-15 (Phi) As, therefore, God's picked representatives, purified and beloved, put on that nature which is merciful in action, kindly in heart, and humble in mind. Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with each other, always ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone. Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you. And, above everything else, be truly loving, for love binds all the virtues together in perfection. Let the peace of Christ guide all your decisions, for you were called to live as one united body; and always be thankful.
John 13:34-35 (NIV) "A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another."
John 15:1-17 (Read from NIV) I am the true vine... Love each other.
The Contract With The Previous PR Firm Was Severed
Rom 11:17-21 (Phi) But if some of the branches of the tree have been lopped off, while you, a shoot of wild-olive, have been grafted in, and share like a natural branch the rich nourishment of the root, don't let yourself feel superior to the former branches. If you feel inclined that way, remind yourself that you do not support the root, the root supports you. You may make the natural retort, "But the branches were lopped off to make room for my grafting!" Very well, then. They lost their position because they failed to believe. The situation does not call for conceit but for a certain wholesome fear. If God removed the natural branches for a good reason, take care that you don't give him the same reason for removing you.
Fellowship Requires Repentance
Rev 2:4-5 (NIV) "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love... Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place."
Acts 17:30 (Phi) Now while it is true that God has overlooked the days of ignorance he now commands all men everywhere to repent.
John 6:40 (NIV) "For my father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life...
Ps 34:5,8 (NIV) Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame... Taste and see that the Lord is good...
Fellowship Requires Light
1 Jn 1:5-7 (Phi) Here, then, is the message which we heard from him, and now proclaim to you: GOD IS LIGHT and no shadow of darkness can exist in him. Consequently, if we were to say that we enjoyed fellowship with him and still went on living in darkness, we should be both telling and living a lie. But, if we really are living in the same light in which he eternally exists, then we have true fellowship with each other, and the blood which his son Jesus shed for us keeps us clean from all sin.
Eph 5:11 (NIV) Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Fellowship Requires Judgment (Discernment)
1 Cor 5:3,12 (NIV) Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present... What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."
2 Jn 1:10-11 (NIV) If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.
1 Cor 15:33 (NIV) Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."
Tough Love: Protection Of The Fellowship
2 Cor 6:14,17 (NIV) Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?... "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord."
Discipling new believers requires some "diaper changing". Clearly we must be patient with those who are growing in the faith, and continue in fellowship with them in spite of the sin they often stumble into, or are yet unaware of. But when a professing Christian willfully rejects the light, or is consistently disobedient, we are commanded to judge (discern) this and break fellowship.1 Cor 5:9-11 (NIV) I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people--not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or to the greedy or swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 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 or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
1 Cor 5:9-11 (Phi) In my previous letter I said, "Don't mix with the immoral." I didn't mean, of course, that you were to have no contact at all with the immoral of this world, nor with cheats or thieves or idolaters--for that would mean getting out of the world altogether! But in this letter I tell you not to associate with any professing Christian who is known to be an impure man or a swindler, an idolater, a man with a foul tongue, a drunkard or a thief. My instruction is: "Don't even eat with such a man."
2 Tim 3:1-5 (Phi) But you must realize that in the last days the times will be full of danger. Men will become utterly self-centered, greedy for money, full of big words. They will be proud and abusive, without any regard for what their parents taught them. They will be utterly lacking in gratitude, reverence and normal human affections. They will be remorseless, scandal-mongers, uncontrolled and violent haters of all that is good. They will be treacherous, reckless and arrogant, loving what gives them pleasure instead of loving God. They will maintain a facade of "religion", but their life denies it's truth. Keep clear of people like that.
2 Tim 3:1-2,5 (NIV) But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money... having a form of godliness but denying it's power. Have nothing to do with them.
The Aim Is Not Punishment But Restoration To Fellowship
2 Thes 3:14-15 (Phi) If anyone refuses to obey the command of this letter, mark that man, do not associate with him until he is ashamed of himself. I don't mean, of course, treat him like an enemy, but reprimand him as a brother.
1 Cor 5:2,5-7,13 (Phi) Are you still proud of yourselves? Shouldn't you be overwhelmed with sorrow? The man who has done such a thing should certainly be expelled from your fellowship... the man should be left to the mercy of Satan so that while his body will experience the destructive powers of sin his spirit may yet be saved in the day of the Lord. Your pride in yourselves is lamentably out of place. Don't you know that a little yeast can permeate the whole lump? Clear out every bit of the old yeast that you may be new unleavened bread!... It is your plain duty to expel this man from your fellowship!
1 Cor 5:2,5 (NIV) And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? ...Hand this man over to Satan, so that his sinful nature may be destroyed...
1 Cor 5:5 (NEB) This man is to be consigned to Satan for the destruction of the body, so that his spirit may be saved on the Day of the Lord.
NIV Study Notes: "This abandonment to Satan was to be accomplished, not by some magical incantation, but by expelling the man from the church. To expel him was to put him out in the devil's territory, severed from any connection with God's people ...so that he will repent and forsake his wicked way." Interestingly, some have placed themselves in this position.
The Cost of Not Protecting The Fellowship in The Last Days
Mat 24:12-13 (NIV) "Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved."
How To Avoid Having Your "Love Grow Cold":
Mat 18:15-17 (NEB) "If your brother commits a sin, go and take the matter up with him, strictly between yourselves, and if he listens to you, you have won your brother over. If he will not listen, take one or two others with you, so that all facts may be duly established on the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, report the matter to the congregation; and if he will not listen even to the congregation, you must then treat him as you would a pagan or a tax-collector.
Restoration To Fellowship
2 Cor 2:5-8 (Phi) If the behavior of a certain person has caused distress, it does not mean so much that he has injured me, but that to some extent (I do not wish to exaggerate), he has injured all of you. But now is the time to offer him forgiveness and comfort, so that a man in his position is not completely overwhelmed by remorse. I ask you to assure him now that you love him.
2 Cor 7:8-11 (Phi) ...I can see that the letter did upset you, though only for a time, and now I am glad I sent it, not because I want to hurt you but because it made you grieve for things that were wrong. In other words, the result was to make you sorry as God would have had you sorry, and not to make you feel injured by what we said. The sorrow which God uses means a change of heart (NIV: repentance) and leads to salvation without regret--it is the world's sorrow that is such a deadly thing. You can look back now and see how the hand of God was in that sorrow. Look how seriously it made you think, how eager it made you to prove your innocence, how indignant it made you and how afraid! Look how it made you long for my presence, how it stirred up your keenness for the faith, how ready it made you to punish the offender! You have completely cleared yourself in this matter.
Why Go To All Of This Trouble?
James 5:19-20 (NIV) My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner away from his error will save him from death and cover many sins.
Gal 6:1-2 (Phi) Even if a man should be detected in some sin, my brothers, the spiritual ones among you should quietly set him back on the right path, not with any feeling of superiority but being yourselves on guard against temptation. Carry each other's burdens and so live out the law of Christ. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Fellowship Requires Good Stewardship
Whenever the Spirit begins to move in us, the flesh jumps in and tries to "seize the reins" (Rom 8:12-14). If God uses us to prophecy one moment, the next we are spouting off our own opinions as prophecy. When we start to get a taste of God's love, the flesh jumps in with lust. When God gives us money, we spend it all on ourselves and thus cannot help others in need. Some of this is just the learning process, but some of us have never learned (2 Pet 1:8). We need to learn how to feel God's feelings (Phil 2:1), to think his thoughts (1 Cor 2:16b), and to speak his words (1 Pet 4:11a) without giving the flesh any opportunity. Good stewards prove worthy of more power, bad stewards get what little they have taken away (Mat 25:29).Gal 5:13,15 (Phi) It is to freedom you have been called, my brothers. Only be careful that freedom does not become mere opportunity for your lower nature. You should be free to serve each other in love... But if freedom means merely that you are free to attack and tear each other to pieces, be careful that between you, you destroy your fellowship altogether!
Col 3:2,7-10 (Phi) Be concerned with the heavenly things, not the passing things of earth... Consider yourselves dead to worldly contacts:.. And never forget that you had your part in those dreadful things when you lived that old life. But now you must put away all these things: evil temper, furious rage, malice, insults and shouted abuse! Don't deceive each other with lies any more, for you have discarded the old nature and all that it did, and you have put on the new nature which, by constant renewal in the likeness of its Creator, leads to a fuller knowledge of God.
Fellowship Requires The Grace Gifts And Fruit Of The Holy Spirit
Phil 2:1-4 (Phi) Now if you have known anything of Christ's encouragement and of his reassuring love; if you have known something of the fellowship of his Spirit, and of compassion and deep sympathy, do make my joy complete--live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but consider other people's interest also.
2 Pet 1:5-9 (NIV) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
2 Cor 13:14 (Phi) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship that is ours in the Holy Spirit be with you all!
Fellowship Requires Real Love
Mat 22:38-40 (NIV) Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments."
No Phony Fellowship! We Are to Be Good PR for God!
1 Pet 1:22 (Jer) You have been obedient to the truth and purified your souls until you can love like brothers, in sincerity; let your love for each other be real and from the heart.
Rom 12:9-16 (Phi) Let us have no imitation Christian love. Let us have a genuine hatred for evil and a real devotion to good. Let us have real warm affection for one another as between brothers, and a willingness to let the other man have the credit. Let us not allow slackness to spoil our work and let us keep the fires of the Spirit burning, as we do our work for the Lord. Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come endure them patiently; steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer. Give freely to fellow-Christians in want, never grudging a meal or a bed to those who need them... Share the happiness of those who are happy, and the sorrow of those who are sad. Live in harmony with each other, Don't become snobbish but take a real interest in ordinary people. Don't become set in your own opinions.
Gal 6:10 (NIV) Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
If We Enter Into True Fellowship, Jesus' Promise Is Fulfilled
Mat 12:47-50 (NIV) While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him... "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
Mark 10:29-30 (NIV) "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions); and in the age to come, eternal life.
1 Cor 1:9 (Phi) God is utterly dependable, and it is he who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.
1 Thes 4:9 (Phi) ...as regards brotherly love, you don't need any written instructions. God himself is teaching you to love each other.
John 17 (Read from NIV) The real "Lord's prayer".