Joel S. McCraw has suggested that if you are one of those who "gets their religion by watching religious broadcasts on the TV, or listening to the gospel via radio, you might want to step up to the set after a service and 'Give your TV a great big hug.'"
Does that sound foolish to you? It's no more foolish then thinking that you can live your Christian life without the fellowship of other believers. The electronic religion of multitudes of people creates an emptiness -- interpersonal relationships are so desperately needed to keep our faith glowing and growing. If you drop off your associations with other Christians and disassociate yourself from them in worship and service, you'll run out of spiritual fervor and dedication in a short time. There is no substitute for spending time with others of like precious faith. Fellowship is a fundamental discipline of the Christian life.
For the last several weeks, we have been looking at the fundamental disciplines of the Christian life. So far, we have seen that Bible study and prayer are basic disciplines if we are to live a productive and growing Christian life. This morning we want to look at the subject of fellowship. There is no doubt in my mind that WE NEED EACH OTHER. We not only need to spend time in God's Word learning who He is and what He wants of us, but we also need to spend time in prayer, to spend time communicating with our God. We must do these if we want to grow in our walk with the Lord. But we also need the love, exhortation, and support of each other. This is what the Bible calls fellowship. In a series of exhortations given to the Christians at Rome, Paul included fellowship:
Romans 12:9-13 (NKJV) Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
In verse 13 the word translated "distributing" is the Greek word koinoneo, which is translated several ways in the New Testament; partnership, participation, sharing, contribution, communion, distribution and fellowship. These various uses of Koinoneo convey two related meanings, from their New Testament usage.
1. To share together-- the sense of joint participation or partnership. Fellowship is sharing a common life with other believers. It is a relationship. Our fellowship is based on our union with God. Fellowship means belonging to one another in the Body of Christ.
Both classical Greek writers and New Testament writers used koinonia to refer to a business partnership. We are in a spiritual partnership created with the objective of glorifying God through the advancement of His kingdom by the proclamation of the gospel.
To share together, speaks of our union. We are one body, one family. We may disagree with each other over various issues of doctrine and practice yet we are still members of the same body. Neither our attitudes nor our actions effect this objective sense of koinonia.
This objective truth of koinonia is meant to provide the foundation for the experiential aspect of fellowship.
2. To share with -- in the sense of giving what we have to others. This is our communion with each other. We usually use the term communion to refer to the ordinances of the Lord's Supper which is to be a time of communion with God and each other. By communion, I mean communicating intimately or sharing with one another on a close personal and spiritual level.
God has created us to be dependant both on Him and on one another. The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, The Green Hornet and Kato, Batman and Robin. Faithful friends, we all need them.
We must clearly state here that your relationship with God is the foundation of your fellowship with other believers. if you are not in fellowship with God through spending time with Him in the Word and prayer, you will not be able to fellowship with other believers.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (NKJV) The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
Immediately after Paul spoke of "communion" or "fellowship" with Christ through participation in the Lord's Supper, he said:
17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
This illustrates clearly Paul's belief that fellowship with Christ was to issue into fellowship between believers.
Usually, when we get together to eat, we say that we are having fellowship. Often what we call fellowship is nothing more than socializing. Biblical fellowship means that we watch out for each other, feeling a mutual responsibility for each other's welfare.
Let me give you some practical suggestions and some specific activities that will help us experience fellowship with each other.
1. Share biblical truth with one another. Most of the time when we get together, we talk about everything except the Scriptures and our God. We talk about our jobs, favorite sports, hobbies, and the weather. We talk about everything except what God is teaching us from His Word and through His providential working in our lives.
Remember-- spiritual fellowship with one another presupposes fellowship with God. Maybe that is why there is so little fellowship among believers. In my experience, I haven't found many believers who are willing to have true fellowship. But when I have found it, it has been refreshing and joyous.
When I was in England for a week, I met some Christians and we had a great time sharing together the things of God. One afternoon we got together with folks from England, Ireland, and Scotland and had a time of worship and fellowship together. Though we had many differences, we had a common bond in the Lord, we were all relatives, we had the same Father.
Last year I was sitting at my kitchen table discussing the Bible with a lady who was visiting from out of town. She commented on how much she had enjoyed our time of fellowship. She attends a very large, very active church in her home town. I asked her how much time she spends with friends from her church talking about the Bible and what God is doing in their lives. She said, "None." So many people are involved in church, but not in fellowship with their God or other believers.
We need to get into the word of God and then share with others what God is teaching us. I really enjoy and look forward to our testimony times because I love hearing you share what God is teaching you. We all face the same struggles and as you share your victories, I am encouraged.
As we share biblical truth with each other, we help each other grow. We teach each other.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NKJV) Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
How much better it is to have a partner and friend who can assist (v. 10), warm (v. 11), and protect (v. 12). Analogies are drawn from the experiences of travelers who, if in pairs, can assist if one falls, warm each other on a cold night, and protect better against an enemy. Three friends together (A cord of three strands) form an even stronger bond.
Matthew Henry said, "In all things union tends to success and safety, but above all, the fellowship of Christians. They assist each other by encouragement, or friendly reproof. They warm each other's hearts while they converse together of the love of Christ, or join in singing his praises. Then let us improve our opportunities of Christian fellowship. Where two or three are closely joined in fellowship, they have a strength that they lack when they are alone."
2. Fellowship is also sharing our sins, failures, and discouragements.
James 5:16 (NKJV) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
We hesitate to share our sins and our failures with each other, don't we? Why? I guess we want people to think well of us and we don't want them to know that we fail. That is just our pride. We forget the truth of:
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV) No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
We are not going through any experience that is new or unique, we all face common trials and we all fail. Sharing our failures can help others to see that they aren't alone in their failures.
3. Accountability-- the willingness to be both checked and challenged in agreed on areas of life. This is probably one of the most neglected aspects of fellowship. Agreeing to confess our sins to one another sure helps in conquering them. Without some accountability, most of us would not develop very much in our spiritual lives.
Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV) As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
This speaks of one person's effect upon another. It's good to have someone who can help knock off your rough edges.
Who is it that can honestly tell you your faults? How would you respond if someone you don't know very well, walked up to you and said, "I have noticed that your children don't obey very well. You really need to work with them on the importance of obedience. You need to get right with God and deal with them?" You might tell them to mind their own business or maybe even to get lost. But if a close friend told you the same basic things in a loving and concerned manner, you would probably respond much better. You might even listen to them.
So koinonia is; sharing biblical truth, sharing our faults and failures, having an accountability with each other.
We all need fellowship, it is vital to our Christian lives. Since we all need it, we should be seeking to provide fellowship to those who don't have it.
Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Are you esteeming others better than yourself? Are you seeking to provide fellowship to those who need it. Sometimes we need to be spurred on by being confronted in order to awaken us to our sin. Other times we need to be encouraged because we are defeated spiritually and emotionally. We need support and encouragement to keep going.
Fellowship in the New Testament is not limited to sharing with one another only spiritual things. They also shared their material possessions with those in need.
Acts 2:44-45 (NKJV) Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
Acts 4:32-35 (NKJV) Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
One of the most common usages of koinonia in the New Testament is this sense of sharing material resources with others.
Romans 15:26-27 (NKJV) For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution (koinoneo) for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. 27 It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.
Because they shared spiritual things, they were also to share their material things.
1 Timothy 6:18 (NKJV) Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, (koinonikos)
Fellowship involves sharing what we have with others. One of the most valuable things we can share is ourselves: our time, our talents, and our energies in serving one another in the body of Christ.
It we are ever going to have true fellowship with each other, it must start by getting to know one another. Once we develop relationships, we can move into the area of spiritual fellowship. But it all starts with getting to know one another. It should be obvious that the more time we spend together, the more we will get to know one another. One of the best ways to get to know others is in a small group where you can share with each other and pray with each other. If you are not in a relationship of close fellowship with someone, you need to be working to that end. Fellowship is vital to spiritual vitality.
J.I. Packer said, "We should not think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, an optional addition to the exercises of private devotion. We should recognize rather that such fellowship is a spiritual necessity; for God has made us In such a way that our fellowship with himself is fed by our fellowship with fellow-Christians, and requires to be so fed constantly for its own deepening and enrichment."
Because we are one with each other, by virtue of our union with Christ, we are to share with one another spiritually and we are to care for one another materially.
Who is it that shares biblical truth and personal hurts with you? Who is it that holds you accountable? You need someone to help you in your Christian walk.
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