What is Fellowship?

by Joseph Franks

Fellowship is a fairly common word, but what is it?  Hobbits use this word to describe their inner circle of trusted friends.  Academic institutions use this word to describe an elite circle of post-graduates.  Undergrads use this to describe frat brothers who study too little and drink too much.  The Fellowship of Christian Athletes eat breakfast together quite often before gathering to pray following football games.  Then there are churches who use this term to describe everything from worship services, to small groups, to covered-dish dinners, to coffee and bingo.  But again, what exactly is fellowship, and how would one know if he or she enjoyed such?

We know the Apostle John enjoyed some measure of fellowship with the Twelve.  I am sure there were moments of tension between these men, but overall they appeared to love one another deeply.  They related to each other much like David’s might men.

We know the Apostle John enjoyed even greater fellowship with Peter, James and Jesus.  These four men made up an inner-circle of sorts. These friends enjoyed a sweet fellowship very similar to Jonathan and David — their souls were knit one to another.

We know the Apostle John enjoyed great fellowship with the church in Jerusalem.  As a matter of fact, he was devoted to it. (Acts 2:42-47)  Regularly, John gathered for large-group fellowship in the Temple square.  Daily he followed this up by enjoying small group fellowship in private homes.  And what did the do?  What did this fellowship look like?  They spent much time reading Scripture, praying, breaking bread, being hospitable, using their spiritual gifts, and spending their assets in taking care of one another’s needs.  In Acts we see the fellowship, which was originally enjoyed by the Twelve, soon being practiced and enjoyed by the 120 and then the 3000.

Now, approximately thirty years later, John is still found encouraging fellowship.  Notice how in the first chapter of his epistle, he mentions fellowship four times:

1 John 1     That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

So, putting all this together, I ask the following questions:

Are we enjoying fellowship with God?  We are all born dis-fellowshiped.  Because of our sinful nature, we are born at enmity with God.  However, we can be born again.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit – who enjoy blissful fellowship –  work together to elect, atone, regenerate, fill, adopt and bring the rebel into spiritual union with them.  From that point on, as one meditates on the Word, congregates with the brothers and sisters, and spends immense time in prayer, the fellowship with God is improved or sweetened.  Do you have such a relationship with the Almighty?  Those who enjoy such fellowship can be noted by their holiness.  John is very clear, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie …”  Some fellows are noted by their Greek letters; some by their rings or gowns.  Christian fellows are noted by the Fruit of the Spirit.  So friend, are we enjoying fellowship with God?

Are we enjoying fellowship with God’s family?  There is a general love that believers are to have towards all men, including their enemies.  However, as Samuel Stone penned in “The Church’s One Foundation,” there is a “mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is one.”  Those who are regenerated and growing in their adoration of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are to find their souls drawn towards like-minded worshipers.  After all, they do have the same beliefs, interests, passion, and Holy Spirit dwelling within.  God does not intend for his people to be isolated.  In Hebrews he commands them not to forsake the gathering.  In Matthew he commands them to cease worship until sin towards one’s neighbor is resolved.  In Ephesians he commands Christians to worship God, but they are to also sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to one another.   In Romans and Corinthians, God gives spiritual gifts for the purpose of blessing or edifying those within the body of Christ.  In 1 Timothy, hospitality required of all mature Christian leaders.  So we see that Christian fellowship is first vertical, but it is not only vertical.  Are you keeping sweet communion with God by keeping sweet communion within a local body of believers?

Are we open to enjoying fellowship with others?  Christian fellowship is not a closed-circle of friend.  It is not a clique.  No, it is a brotherhood open to whosoever the Lord may call.  John, in his letter, cannot hide his excitement that others might enter into fellowship with him as well.  Just like there is no limit to how many children a mother can love, so there is no limit to how many Christians can enjoy fellowship one with another.  Are you satisfied with your Christian friendships, or are you openly looking for someone else to add to the holy club?

Are we guarding, maintaining or safeguarding the fellowship?  John understands that in order for him to enjoy sweet fellowship with someone, that person needed to “walk in the light.”  Oh, John would still act like Jesus.  John would befriend the pagan sinner.  John would sacrifice for the lost neighbor.  He would still be found eating and drinking with the unbeliever.  He would not isolate himself and ostracize his backsliding brother.  No, John would seek to go and restore his compromising friend.  However, without holiness there could not be fellowship.  Christian fellowship was enjoyed and experienced by brothers who saw their sin, confessed their sin, repented of their sin, and walked in the light.  Are we aware that our unresolved sin is producing relational static?  Are we aware that our sin is troubling our family and church?

Friends, don’t you desire this?  Don’t you desire to live the rest of your days enjoying Christian fellowship?  Aren’t you tired of just being a face in the crowd?  Shouldn’t your worship include much more than you sitting, giving, receiving and going?  Don’t you desire to worship in an environment that is not isolated and cold?  Don’t you desire to eat together, pray together, sing and study with dear friends?  Don’t you want your church family to consistently grow to add more and more like-minded friends?  Don’t you need daily encouragement to walk after the manner of Christ?  Don’t you want the world to see our love and covet such friendships?  Then let us do something about it.

  • Let us pray now and renew our fellowship with God
  • Let us find a church family and commit ourselves to their spiritual care
  • Let us attend services and meetings often
  • Let us open our homes often
  • Let us determine our spiritual gifts and use them regularly
  • Let us say “No” to some things so we might say “Yes” to Christian fellowship
  • Let us make phone calls, texts, send emails, or make personal visits today to those in the household of faith.
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