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Pastoral 2012

Expressions Of Christian Fellowship

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Christian fellowship is one of the greatest blessings that will emerge from knowing Jesus Christ as the Lord and Saviour of our life. There is nothing like it on earth as far as close and affectionate relationships are concerned. We all enter into relationships whether by affinity or consanguinity, but when such relationships are not based on Jesus Christ and His truth, they tend to have great problems. Only the fellowship that comes out of the gospel of salvation carries a very special blessing.

Christian fellowship is filled with the splendour of heavenly realities and experiences. In a sense, it is really an “out-of-theearth” experience reserved by God only for His children. It is a God-given and God-sustained fellowship designed to prepare believers for the fuller heavenly joys that await them beyond this life on earth.

It cannot be denied that some may have had encountered unpleasant experiences in pursuit of Christian fellowship. Nevertheless, a blessed Christian fellowship is something possible and workable, which Christians should desire and exercise. Thus believers should know it, experience it, and never be a cause for its hindrance.

Since Christian fellowship is a relationship that God has begun with us, how then is it to be expressed in the believers’ relationships with one another? Biblically, Christian fellowship is characterized by three important expressions. Several passages from the New Testament offer us valuable insights

Togetherness, unity and cooperation

Those who are knit together in the bond of the Spirit as members of one body, under one Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, must express these qualities. “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:1-2).

Here, believers are encouraged by the apostle Paul to express their fellowship through “likemindedness”, “love”, “one accord” and “one mind”.

If fellowship is to flourish, there must be unity and harmony among believers. So the apostle wrote about the secrets of unity and harmony in the Christian fellowship namely self-renunciation, humility and mutual respect. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

A wonderful personal testimony of the beauty and blessing of unity and co-operation of Christian fellowship is narrated by Paul in Galatians 2:9, “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” As soon as the early apostles recognized the grace of God that converted the apostle Paul, they immediately extended their hands of fellowship to him and Barnabas that they may be united in Christ and for the cause of the Gospel. Thus, Christian fellowship is characterized here by a welcoming spirit of togetherness and cooperation. So, by the maintenance of brotherly esteem and love, and by provoking fellow brethren to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), Christian fellowship is best demonstrated.

Participation in doctrine, prayer and sacraments

Christian fellowship was maintained by the early church in Jerusalem by gathering together often for instruction, prayer and sacraments. “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

The early Christians, having heard the Gospel through the preaching of the apostle Peter, received the word, were baptized, and immediately participated in the doctrine of the apostles. They did not dispute or criticise the apostles’ teachings, but accepted and learned from them. Together, they observed the sacraments and joined their hearts in prayer. With joy and gladness, they declared these doctrines to others.

These are the biblical prescriptions for Christian fellowship: the coming together for worship, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, prayer, Bible study and visitations. When it comes to these activities of the church, let us take heed to the exhortation in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Sharing, communicating of spiritual and material gifts

The sincerity and strength of the fellowship in the early church were demonstrated by the sacrificial giving to the needy among them. “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need” (Acts 2:44-45; cf. Acts 4:34-37). The early church in Jerusalem, which was a paragon of Christian fellowship, was driven by mutual love, care and self-abasement.

Likewise, the church in Philippi demonstrated to Paul their bond of fellowship through their gifts for him. “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only” (Philippians 4:15). The word “communicated” here is translated from the same Greek word for “fellowship”. This verse outlines the giving and receiving of support between the apostle Paul and the Philippian brethren. They had been mutual in supplying one another’s needs. Believers need to share their resources for the promotion of the Gospel work as well as to help needy brethren. The writer of Hebrews issues the same exhortation while pointing out its proper motivation: “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).

Paul likewise exhorted the Galatian brethren to practise such generosity, especially to those that minister the Word. “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (Galatians 6:6). When men who are endued with the gift of teaching bless us with spiritual wisdom and guidance, we must provide for them with the material blessings which God has bestowed upon us.

These are wonderful and important expressions of Christian fellowship that the church should manifest for the glory of God. As can be seen, it is more than just an expression of companionship. It fosters the idea of one’s partnership in the work of the Gospel and the practice of responsible stewardship in advancing it.

 

Pastoral Exhortation