The importance of fellowship (Part 2)

Grace made frequent trips to her local post office.  One day there was a long queue for the counter service.  Grace only needed stamps, so a helpful observer asked, “Why don’t you use the stamp machine?  You can get all the stamps you need and you won’t have to stand in line.”  Grace said, “I know, but the machine can’t ask me about my arthritis.”  People need human contact.

In Acts 2:42 we read that one of the four things the early church devoted itself to was “fellowship.”  Fellowship was a very important part of their reason for meeting together.  It was a priority, and was one of the objectives of gathering together.

Today however, some view fellowship as the occasion where we have casual, shallow conversations over coffee and biscuits.  This is not bad in itself, and can contribute to fellowship, but it falls far short of fellowship according to biblical standards.

Others who may have become fed up with church seek fellowship through viewing a worship service on television, or the internet, but this too misses the picture.  Going down this road creates an emptiness.  Interpersonal relationships are so desperately needed to keep our faith glowing and growing.  The truth is this:  if you drop off your associations with other Christians and disassociate yourself from them in worship and service, you’ll run out of spiritual fervour and dedication in a short time.  There is no substitute for going to church and worshipping with others.

Why do we read that the first disciples of Jesus shared all things in common?  Well, it was because of a common relationship that they all had together in Christ and with Christ, (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:3).

So, fellowship comes out of a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ which Christians have in common with other believers.  This tells us that fellowship is first and foremost a relationship, rather than an activity.  The principle is that any activity that follows, should come out of this relationship with God.  He is to be the one that motivates all our activity.

It is important to understand that the early church was not merely devoting itself to activities, but to a relationship.  It was this relationship that produced an active sharing in other ways.  It is so important that we grasp this.   Fellowship means we belong to each other in a relationship because we share together the common life and enabling grace of Jesus Christ.  Biblical fellowship, then, incorporates this idea of an active partnership in the promotion of the gospel and the building up of believers.

Now, fellowship has both vertical and horizontal elements. 

Vertical relates to the way we commune with and experience fellowship with the Lord through the Word, prayer, the filling of the Holy Spirit, and the abiding life.  The analogy of the vine in John 15 is a good illustration of what is required to maintain a right relationship, and thus right fellowship, with our Heavenly Father.

Our priority is our 24/7 relationship with Jesus Christ, which must be maintained at all costs.  This is the foundation and source of all our other relationships and our capacity for fellowship with God, and with others.

The passage in John 15 stresses that we need:

  1. The Right Stock – Verse 1 – “I am the true vine”
  2. The Right Vinedresser – Verse 1 – “My Father is the gardener”
  3. The Right Cultivation – Verses 2, 6 – “He prunes”
  4. The Right Connection – Verses 4 – “Remain in me and I will remain in you.” 
  5. The Right Fruitage – Verses 5, 8 talk about how we are to “bear much fruit”

If we are not remaining (some translations use the word abiding) in Christ we will not live in the fellowship that God has intended us to live in.

The word ‘remain’, which occurs ten times in the passage, means the maintenance of an unbroken connection and thus speaks of the necessity of a constant active relationship between the believer and his Lord.  The resultant life will be productive and so fruitful.

Remaining in fellowship involves renouncing all confidence in our own merit, wisdom, and strength. It means we look entirely to Christ as the source of our merit, wisdom, and strength.

To remain in Christ is, on the one hand, to have no known sin unjudged and unconfessed, no interest into which He is not brought, no life which He cannot share.  On the other hand, the remaining one takes all burdens to Him, and draws all wisdom, life, and strength from Him.  Fellowship is about allowing nothing in your life to separate you from Him.

Fellowship with other believers is horizontal. This includes:

  • Assembling together as a whole body (Acts. 2:42; Heb. 10:25)
  • assembling in smaller groups (2 Tim. 2:2)
  • meeting together one-on-one (1 Thess. 5:11)
  • sharing and communicating Gospel truths together and building up one another (Rom. 1:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Thess 5:11; Philem. 6)
  • sharing together in worship, i.e., the Lord’s supper (1 Cor. 10:16), along with the singing of hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)
  • praying with others – listening to God for His direction and purpose for your life, and seeing how the enemy wishes to oppose God’s good and perfect plans and purposes He has for you, and rebuking them in the name of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 14:16-17)
  • the ministry of the Word (Acts 20:20; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Pet. 4:10-11)
  • sharing together as partners in the needs, burdens, concerns, joys, and blessings for the purpose of encouragement, comfort, challenge or exhortation, praise, prayer and physical help according to needs (compare Phil. 1:5 with 1:19; and 2:4 with 1:27; also 4:3; Rom. 12:15; and 1 Thess. 5:11,14,15; Heb. 10:33)

To do this means we must develop the loving art of communication. We need to be willing to share our own burdens and aspirations and be available to hear what others are saying so we may minister to needs according to the directives of God’s Word. The ultimate goal of RedBRick Connections is to build up and enrich others in the things of Christ that we may all together experience the sufficiency of His life and tune our lives into His.  We need others for that. As the early church was first devoted to the apostles’ teaching, they were also devoted to caring for one another and to sharing with one another what they were learning and what Christ was meaning to them (Acts. 2:42; Heb. 3:12-14).

As we’ve seen, fellowship is first a relationship, a relationship that deals with an objective fact: as a Christian I am related to God as His child, born into His family by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ.  So, as a believer in Christ, I am related to Christ and to all others who have been joined into union with Him; together we are members of His body through the baptising work of the Holy Spirit.  Fellowship means we share this relationship, an objective fact regardless of our spiritual condition (compare 1 Cor. 1:2 with 3:1-3).

A family went to the cinema. On the way in, the son stopped to buy some popcorn.  By the time he got into the theatre, the lights were dim and he couldn’t find his family.  He paced up and down the aisles in near darkness, peering down each row.  Finally, in desperation, he stopped and asked out loud, “Does anyone here recognise me?”

As Grace queued for stamps she was looking for fellowship.  Some of us take Christian fellowship for granted, but we should see it as a great privilege to be able to share together in the things of God.  Just queuing for stamps is not enough.  Just attending church is not enough.  Being connected with other Christians in a relationship because we have Christ in common is so important.  As we do this we all need to see ourselves as servants of Christ with a responsibility to reach out in true Christian fellowship to our brothers and sisters and, to the needy and vulnerable, especially, to those who we consider to be different to us.  We don’t want anyone to come here and ask, “Does anyone here recognise me?”  Certainly, God doesn’t want to hear anyone say “Does anyone here recognise me?”  or for Him to say that to us!

Time to think

Read Ephesians 1:15-23 and John 15:1-17.  With pen and paper (maybe your journal) to hand consider the following questions.  Perhaps you could share your reflections with others.

Digging Deeper into God’s Word

  1. How can we do a better job of including and incorporating new people in our fellowship?
  2. How has the consumer mentality affected the church?  Should the church see itself as being in the business of “meeting needs?”
  3. How does the concept that every Christian is a minister affect the fellowship of a local body?
  4. How can you develop heartfelt affection for a brother or sister you just can’t stand being around?

You might like to re-visit the first teaching on Fellowship from the 15th November.

Prayer Response

Loving Lord, thank You for all my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord, and thank You that You have made us one in Him and are building us into a spiritual temple of living stones, each with our own peculiar function, in the heavenly kingdom of God. Instil in each of our hearts an increasing thirst after holiness and righteousness, and give us an ever-deepening love for each other and for You.

Keep us I pray, from petty arguments and careless words and may we minister to one another in true Christian fellowship and godly love, in a body-ministry that exults You, where the gifts and talents of each member are used and valued in the edification of the others, to the praise of Your holy name.

Be glorified I pray, in each and every member of Your body, and use us all to be a witness of the love of Jesus to those who are lost. And Father, I pray that You would unite us in godly love and Christian fellowship, as we watch for the any day return of the Lord Jesus, in whose name I pray, Amen.