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Sunday, November 19, 2017 pm                                        NT Church 2017 Index

 

A STUDY OF FELLOWSHIP

     This morning, in our continuing study of the NT church, we examined the work of the church in the area of edification.  We defined the word edify (to build up) and the word fellowship (to share something in common).  We noted that sometimes the word fellowship is misused to justify churches extending the work of the church in matters of building up the members of the body.

     Tonight, I would like to take a closer look at the subject of fellowship and notice what it means to us as brethren.  

 I.                     What is fellowship?

a.       Defined - from the Greek κοινωνία (koinonia - Noun) & κοινωνέω (koinoneo – Verb), it is a word that means, “close association involving mutual interests and sharing, association, communion, fellowship, close relationship.” (BDAG) 

b.       The idea of fellowship is sharing something.  It is a joining together in agreement and working together toward a common goal.  It is a partnership. The very idea of fellowship implies unity (cf. John 17:20-21). 

c.        In the Bible, the word deals with our spiritual partnership.    
Romans 15:27 – Gentiles have been partakers in spiritual things. 

As we shall see we can be in fellowship for good or for evil.  WHAT is shared is indicated by the text.   A study of scripture will indicate that it is NOT dealing with our secular interaction – food and social gatherings with each other, etc.  (that is addressed in other passages and principles).
The word in its various forms is used in the New Testament about 38 times.  In the NKJV it is most often translated “fellowship”, then communion, partakers, partners, sharing, contribution (1x), etc.

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 – lists 5 words that show one can be partakers with another:
1) Fellowship (different word) meaning participation; 2) Communion – our word meaning sharing; 3) accord meaning harmony; 4) Part (we are joined to one in an endeavor); 5) Agreement – a consensus or commonality with others.

d.       It deals primarily with our spiritual relationship, but on a few occasions, it deals with brethren helping one another financially (both in the areas of evangelism - Philippians 1:5, 4:15, Galatians 6:6 – shared; and benevolence – Romans 12:13, 15:26)
We will see its usage in this lesson.

 II.                   How does our fellowship affect our relationship with one another?

a.       It needs to be based upon fellowship with God and Christ

                                                   i.      God, the Father - 1 John 1:3-7 – speaks of our fellowship with both the Father and the Son.  This is our goal. 

                                                 ii.      Jesus – 1 John 1:3, 7; 1 Corinthians 1:9, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  1 Corinthians 10:16 – “communion” with Christ as we partake of the Lord’s supper. 

                                                iii.      2 Corinthians 13:14 – communion of the Holy Spirit; Philippians 2:1, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,

                                                iv.      THE significance of this is that we need to seek to be right with God (triune) to enjoy fellowship with Him.
That is related to following His commands – Matthew 7:21-23, Luke 6:46 – why call Me Lord and do not do what I say
1 John 1:3-7 – addresses our need to obey His will -
vs. 3 – What was seen and heard was declared (taught)
Vs. 6 - we are walking in the light as He is in the light – following His instructions.  To walk in darkness – i.e. to NOT follow His will is to NOT be in fellowship with Him!

b.       It involves acceptance of one another –

                                                   i.      Paul strove to accomplish this.  Galatians 2:9 – Paul was given the “right hand of fellowship” as James, Peter and John perceived the grace given to him – they KNEW what Paul was doing and teaching was acceptable to God. 
Ephesians 3:9 – Gentiles and Jews, Paul’s work was to let brethren know “what is the fellowship of the mystery”, that is what brought us together. 

                                                 ii.      Our fellowship with one another needs to be based upon our fellowship with God
Acts 9:26-28 – When Saul (Paul) sought to join the brethren at Jerusalem, Barnabas vouched for him based upon his fellowship with Jesus (and God).
John 17:20-21 – Jesus’ prayer – that we be one as He and the Father are one. 

                                                iii.      This acceptance is also based upon conforming to His word.
We are described as being “of like precious faith” – 2 Peter 1:1
Philippians 1:5, Paul speaks of their fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.
Philippians 2:2 – we are to be like minded and acting in one accord.

1.       That is why we are to withdraw from those who walk disorderly and “not according to the tradition received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6) 
Romans 16:17 – note those who cause divisions and offenses CONTRARY to the doctrine you learned and avoid them.
2 Corinthians 5:1-7, you have brethren who ignored the sinful and immoral behavior of someone.  They were rebuked and told to purge themselves of it.  

2.       2 John 9-11 – do not receive one who is not following the doctrine of Christ. 

3.       Revelation 2:20-21 – the church at Thyatira was rebuked because they tolerated and allowed false teaching;
Revelation 2:14-16 – the church at Peramos had those who HOLD to false teaching. 

                                                iv.      We need to be considerate of one another – indifferences in matters of liberty MUST be respected (Romans 14:1).  But we must also ensure that we clarify what “liberties” involves and does not.  It is not matters of those teaching error (cf. Romans 16:17), those practicing error (Ephesians 5:11) OR those endorsing error (2 John 9-11).  
We have seen that it is NOT about accepting those who are teaching or holding to error.

 

 

Sunday, November 26, 2017 pm

 

A STUDY OF FELLOWSHIP
(Continued)

 

Last week we began a study of the subject of fellowship.  This is a controversial subject and by its essence has a bearing on who we should and should not associate with. 

The source of controversy lies in determining WHERE we need to draw lines of association, especially with brethren.  There are those advocating that sincerity allows for fellowship even when we differ doctrinally (MDR, the work of the church, etc.), that it only applies in collective matters (matters of personal morality do not factor into fellowship), etc.   Lat week we defined fellowship and noted how it affects our relationship with one another.  Tonight, we make some further observations.

 I.                     What is Fellowship? (Review)

a.       Defined - from the Greek κοινωνία (koinonia - Noun) & κοινωνέω (koinoneo – Verb), it is a word that means, “close association involving mutual interests and sharing, association, communion, fellowship, close relationship.” (BDAG) 

b.       It means that we are in partnership with others in some area.  It can be either good or evil. 
Consider 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 – lists 5 words that show one can be partakers with another:
1) Fellowship (different word) meaning participation; 2) Communion – our word meaning sharing; 3) accord meaning harmony; 4) Part (we are joined to one in an endeavor); 5) Agreement – a consensus or commonality with others.

c.        We noted that fellowship needs to begin with God (cf. 1 John 1:3-7, 2 Corinthians 13:14).  And that fellowship is based upon keeping His word (John 14:23, etc.)

d.       Our fellowship with one another should be based upon that understanding (cf. Acts 9:26-28, John 17:20-21).  It too is based upon following God’s word (cf. Philippians 1:5, 2 John 9-11; and the teachings on discipline – 2 Thessalonians 3:6)

e.       Fellowship also involves acceptance of one another. We consider one another, even in matters of liberty – Romans 14:1, 15:1 - (doubtful things, matters about which God is indifferent). 
It is important we understand that these are NOT areas where one is: 1) teaching error (Romans 16:17); 2) practicing error (Ephesians 5:11); or 3) those endorsing error (2 John 9-11). 

f.         NOTE: Our concern in this study is fellowship as used in the Bible (as opposed to its more broad English usage and typical understanding).  It is not about social gatherings but a spiritual partnership with one another based upon that partnership with God.  That is WHAT we are addressing in this study!

 II.                   It is sharing with each other –

a.       We are a family! Called brethren!  1 Peter 2:17 – love the brotherhood. 
Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, and various other letters to address how their conduct failed to demonstrate this fellowship. 

b.       Philemon 6 – Paul referred to “the sharing of your faith may become effective…”  It was their faith that brought them together. 

c.        Hebrews 13:16 – do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

d.       Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” NOTE: It is interesting that “fellowship” is found in the midst of describing acts of worship.  One of the ways we “share” is by coming together to worship God.

e.       Romans 12:13 – distributing to needs of the saints.  Our bond because we are a family provokes us to provide for one another not just spiritually, but also physically. 
Consider Acts 2:44-45, cf. Acts 4:32-37.  I believe this is at least PART of what Jesus meant when He said we would receive in this life families a hundredfold houses and brothers and sisters and mothers, etc. (Mark 10:28-30)

f.         When we understand true fellowship and are seeking that, it will naturally draw us together at other times and in other areas of our lives.  That is why Christians ought to prefer one another socially. 

 III.                 There are limits to our fellowship

a.       Withdrawing from a sinning brother.  While the Greek word for fellowship is never used for discipline, clearly when we are called upon to mark a sinful brother, it affects our fellowship with them (see above – we cannot fellowship those teaching, practicing or endorsing error).

b.       Ephesians 5:11 - Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.  Clearly, we are called upon to reject those who are living ungodly lives. 
2 Corinthians 6:14 calls for us to not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers – IOW, do not put yourself at a disadvantage with the worldly. 

c.        1 Corinthians 10:20, “…and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.  This is a passage dealing with idols, namely eating sacrifices offered to idols (1 Cor. 10:14-22).   Earlier, in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Paul had noted that even though the food that had been offered to a false god was nothing but food, we need to consider the conscience of others as we eat.  Do not cause a brother to stumble just because you can eat that food. 
POINT: Paul’s concern is that we do NOT leave an impression with someone else that their false god is acceptable!   Friends, do NOT leave those teaching or practicing error thinking you approve of their conduct!

d.       2 John 9-11 – John, here clearly warns us to not share with those in error.  He who greets him, shares in his evil deeds.  False teachers need to be marked and avoided, not coddled. 

e.       1 Timothy 5:22 – do not share in other people’s sins.  Again, another general warning about not being in fellowship with sinful conduct.

f.         Consider also: 1 Timothy 6:3-5, while not using the word for fellowship, we learn that if someone is teaching error (“otherwise”) and rejecting “wholesome words” and doctrine, we are to withdraw ourselves from such.

AND 2 Timothy 3:1-5, here Paul addresses those living immoral and ungodly lives. He says, “from such people turn away!   NOTE: In these 2 verses we have examples of those TEACHING ungodliness and those PRACTICING ungodliness. 

 IV.                 With whom may we have fellowship?

a.       We have already plainly established this – those in fellowship with God because they are following God’s word.  But let’s make some observations and application.

b.       Is sincerity enough?  NO!  Some advocate that one is not a false teacher as long as he is sincere even though he is teaching error (and they may limit this to specified areas).  Thus we can still have fellowship with those we disagree with in that area.

                                                   i.      Jesus Himself answered this in Matthew 7:21-23.

                                                 ii.      Paul was sincere as he persecuted Christians.  Was that enough?

                                                iii.      Further in the passages we have noted – 2 John 9-11, Ephesians 5:11, etc. – do they make a distinction between motives and actions?

                                                iv.      One’s sincerity might dictate HOW we address the situation, but if one is in error, we cannot be in fellowship them.

                                                  v.      We have also noted that there are areas that are matters of liberty.  That is NOT what we are addressing here.  We are addressing doctrinal errors such as:

1.       What is the work of the church and how is it done – this affects all involved

2.       How we worship God – e.g. instrumental music, Lord’s Supper not properly offered

3.       What plan of salvation is being taught – this DIRECTLY affects fellowship with God.

4.       Moral issues clearly addressed in scripture – such as MDR, drunkenness, modern dancing, gambling, etc.

5.       Teaching theistic evolution – e.g. that the world was not created in 6 literal days.  This affects the very fiber of scripture.

6.       CONCERNING SUCH we need to draw lines WHERE God draws them!

c.        Is fellowship limited to the local congregation? NO! There are some who advocate, as long as we are not dealing with our local congregation, we can fellowship others, even if they are out of fellowship with God, because they are in error, teaching error or accepting error.   This is sometimes used to advocate “fellowship” with other congregations even though they are practicing error.
But the Bible deals with fellowship OUTSIDE of a local congregation

                                                   i.      Galatians 2:7-9 – James, Peter and John gave “the right hand of fellowship” to Paul and Barnabas as they went to the Gentiles.  They recognized each other spiritually even though they would be working in different places.  (Think concurrent works).

                                                 ii.      1 Corinthians 10:16-17 – For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.   Concerning the Lord’s Supper (referred to as “communion” aka, “fellowship”.  Paul notes that we ALL partake.  Paul is writing this while NOT in Corinth.  Wherever we are (provided we are doing it properly – which INCLUDES when we are assembled [1 Corinthians 11:20-34], one the first day of the week, proper elements, etc.) we are partakers with Christ.

                                                iii.      Philippians 1:5 – the brethren in Philippi had fellowship with Paul.  This included supporting him while he was not with them. 

                                                iv.      WHOEVER we fellowship, it needs to be based upon all parties in fellowship with God!

d.       Is fellowship limited to collective action?  NO! Some want to reason, that our fellowship only applies to matters that we do together as a congregation.

                                                   i.      Example: This may be argued to dismiss differences concerning MDR, and other moral or doctrinal issues.

                                                 ii.      BUT, fornication and adultery are NOT just a congregational issue.  1 Corinthians 5:1-6 bears this out.  The congregation was tolerating an unscriptural relationship.  Paul then made it personal – both in the way they were to treat the brother in hopes of delivering his soul, AND considering vs. 11-12.  Note that you are not even to eat with such a person (cf. 2 John 9-11)

                                                iii.      Furthermore, IF something is sinful, it is sinful!  Consider Ephesians 5:5-7 where Paul nots who will have no inheritance in the kingdom of God.  He says in vs. 7, “therefore, do not be partakers with them.” Then notice vs. 11.

 

We have seen in this lesson, and we have not addressed this exhaustively, how God feels about abiding in truth and rejecting those in error.  And these are matters that involve our fellowship. 

Fellowship is a blessing and privilege Christians enjoy.  It is a declaration to the world of our relationship with one another. It is demonstrated by how we treat each other.  But as we have seen, God’s word gives it special meaning.  Therefore, let us seek to ensure that our fellowship with one another is governed by our fellowship with Him.

 

In summary: We have fellowship with those who: 1) Teach truth (Galatians 2:9); 2) Practice truth (Ephesians 4:3), 3) Endorse truth (3 John 5-8)

We do NOT have fellowship with those who: 1) Teach error (Romans 16:17); 2) Practice error (Ephesians 5:11), or 3) Endorse error (2 John 10-11)

 How about you?  Are you in fellowship with Him?