… The cost of true fellowship/Part 3
Over the last couple of articles we’ve talked a lot about the ingredients that lead to proper Christian fellowship. We talked about the necessity to abide in Christ, our need to be willing to give more than to receive, that fellowship isn’t somewhere we go but something we do, that it must be orchestrated by God Himself and not man, that true fellowship necessitates our willingness to allow mutual participation and that this type of fellowship will have supernatural results, and one I forgot- that the purpose of this fellowship is for the mutual edification of the saints.
Sounds exciting doesn’t it. You might now be asking, “Just where might such a fellowship be found?” and “Wouldn’t that be contradicting your statement above that fellowship isn’t somewhere we go?”
My point above about “fellowship is not somewhere we go” does not mean that this fellowship is not found in particular places- it most certainly is. A home, a restaurant, a city park or out in the middle of a desert- the location matters little. What matters is that we understand that fellowship isn’t found over there but within the relationships with have with our Father and others believers in our lives. You do not have Biblical fellowship with people you do not know about as fellowship requires intimacy and interaction. It is much more than showing up where other Christians choose to meet.
Called out for a reason
I want to reiterate exactly what I wrote in my last post under this title once again:
“Our Father did not call you, me or anyone else out of institutions for no reason. Sure, over time we each receive the various revelations He alone can show us, but that doesn’t mean we are all called to exactly the same service. There are specific truths we all need to embrace uniformly, but within that context God has a unique purpose and plan for us as individuals as well”
A Picture of Biblical Fellowship
When we Christians think of fellowship we automatically think of some scheduled event at a particular place. That is the way we have been taught to think. But are those gatherings representative with what we find in the New Testament as fellowship or are there differences? Here’s the list again:
- Our individual responsibility to abide in Christ (to cultivate our own relationship with God)
- To be willing to give more than we receive
- Emphasize what we do (contribute) to the other saints more than where we go (to a place)
- The participants are called and orchestrated by God, not men
- We must allow mutual participation
- We will witness supernatural results
- Mutually edifying to the saints
The truth is in. Most of today’s modern day church functions operate nothing like the above. First, those who attend these functions rarely know each other or generally have superficial relationships. How often have you asked your friends how their relationship with Father is or what He has taught them recently? For the most part we have no idea what’s going on with those we claim to have fellowship with- we don’t see them enough to know so.
Honestly, do most people come to places where fellowship is designed to give to others? Do most Christians even know that it is their responsibility to do so? Do they come wanting to contribute to the needs of the saints or are they looking for some kind of emotional high or spiritual fix?
I’ve got news for you all- having an open door policy and practicing inviting anybody and everybody into church through advertising is not God orchestrating who you fellowship with. Fellowship is among the people of God, it does not include unbelievers or believers whose lives are mired in sin. Using our human ingenuity and resources clouds God’s desire to “bring and remove” those who do and do not belong among the family of God. Needless to add, any large group of believers adds to the superficiality among them and doesn’t allow for any real intimacy at all. You cannot have everyone participating among large groups- it simply isn’t possible.
Supernatural results are not going to be witnessed where the above errors persist and are not corrected. Mutual edification comes from the truth being spoken and lived one to another, something the above scenarios do not exhibit. So you ask, “What do I do for Christian fellowship?”
True fellowship must revolve around specific Biblical truths
As Christians, we are called to acknowledge and believe very specific truths. For example, every truly born again Christian will acknowledge that salvation cannot be earned by one’s own merits, but rather as the Bible says, salvation is by grace, through faith. This is non-negotiable fact.
“…nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” [Galatians 2:16] [Ephesians 2:8, 9]
There are other non-negotiable facts as well: such as the Triune nature of God and the deity of Christ (Jesus is God) and the virgin birth of Christ. Those who reject these truths are not acknowledging what the Bible clearly states as being particularly Christian. You cannot have fellowship as the Bible describes it when disunity exists in these essentials. I’m sure some of you would like to add to the essential list, I might too, but this list makes my point, no?
There are also many practical considerations that also affect one’s ability to have genuine fellowship. The first is a willingness to acknowledge that there is only one true faith, (“the faith”) which encompasses both specific doctrines and specific practices. Without individual Christians being willing to acknowledge this, men will likely settle for less than God’s best (true unity in Him- 1 Corinthians 1:10) for something that falls far short of that. This doesn’t mean we must become perfect first in order to fellowship, no, but we must be continually moving and aiming toward the unity prescribed in the aforementioned verse. Such a pursuit will stay off in most cases the potential for compromise or regression as a spiritual body.
“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was handed down to the saints” [Jude 3]
Paul the apostle, who was given the totality of the revelation of “the faith” (Galatians 1:11, 12) often referred to that doctrinal and practical gospel as “my way(s) and/or traditions in Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:17, 11:2, 11:16, 14:33) It was these doctrines and practices that all local ekklesias were commanded to embrace and obey. (1 Corinthians 14:37).
The practical aspects of “the faith” include many things such as:
- The command to fellowship- daily (Acts 2:46, 47)(Acts 17:11)(Hebrews 3:13)
- The command to be prayerful (Matthew 6:6-8)(2 Corinthians 13:9)(James 5:16)
- The command to be lights in the world (Matthew 5:13-16)(John 12:46)(Ephesians 4:8-17)
- The command to deny ourselves and carry our cross (Luke 9:23-26)(2 Corinthians 4:11, 12)
- The command to reject sin and live holy (Colossians 3:5-11)(Ephesians 1:4)(1 Peter 1:14-16)
- The command to regularly repent (Mark 6:12)(Acts 17:30, 31)(Revelation 3:19)
- The command to live separate from this world and what they value (1 Corinthians 6:14-18)(1 John 2:15-17)
- Share one another’s joys and sorrows and material goods one with another (1 Corinthians 1:3-7)(Ephesians4:28)
- Love one another AS Christ loves His bride (John 13:34, 35)(Philippians 2:3, 4)(1 John 4:7, 8)
…and ought to include things like these as well (though they are often ignored or rejected outright);
- the settings we gather in (that are consistent with producing the above such as small groups of people)
- the manner we interact (interactive fellowship as the Bible prescribes)
- the ingredients of our interaction or potential ingredients (psalms, teachings, revelation, tongues, interpretations, judgments over what is spoken/taught, order among the people and participants)
You can read 1 Corinthians 14: 26-40 to gain a clear picture of how a local assembly/ekklesia functions properly. Sorry if that doesn’t quite fit your typical church service. There are reasons for that and if you’re courageous you can discover them.
Obviously many more things could be added to this list. As Christians these are the type of things we share and teach one another during fellowship that we might be useful vessels in God’s service. The Bible is clear that those who refuse to obey what God commands are to be marked, admonished and even excommunicated from fellowship under some circumstances. The goal is to live out the “one faith” as Paul relayed it to us, that we might appears as lights in the world. The result of the above should look something like this;
“Do all things without grumbling and disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain or toil in vain” [Philippians 2:14-16]
Fellowship has an OBJECT and an AIM
There are lots of reasons why people seek out fellowship. They may be hurting, they may be lonely or they just trying to discover where they and their particular spiritual gifts fit among others. Some want a safe environment for their kids, want to meet nice people or just need a babysitter. There are a hundred reasons people “go here or there for fellowship” but the aim and object must be Jesus. Again, the object and aim of all fellowship must be to grow in intimacy with other Christians and God Himself. All other reasons must remain secondary to this.
The ekklesia is God’s one vehicle to display Himself
I think it’s safe to say that most Christians know that the people of God are supposed to corporately display Christ to this dying world. What they hardly if ever realize is this: That what most people are displaying in “their” churches and organizations is not exclusively Jesus as all, but a combination of sectarian attitudes, religious hierarchy and worldly resources which amount to building earthly kingdoms. Needless to say, if your fellowship revolves around any of the above, it is not the type of fellowship God intends for you as a Christian, but in fact, is a counterfeit.
“I write so you will know how to conduct yourself in the household of God, which is the ekklesia of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” [1 Timothy 3:15]
What is the pillar and support of the truth? Your church, no. Your religious organization, no. Your “ministry” pursuit, no. NOT YOUR ANYTHING. The pillar and support of the truth is His ekklesia- WHAT HE IS BUILDING- SPIRITUALLY!
When you finally come to terms with this, you might just be ready to fellowship with others who are seeking Him and not anything in addition to Him.
Christian fellowship is something that is done within the context of what He is building spiritually, not within the context of what man has and continues to build on earth.
-to be continued in Part 4