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The Importance of Christian Fellowship

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Philippians 1:3–5 ESV
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Introduction:
We are about to embark on a New Year (2018) which means this is a good time to evaluate the past year and look toward the new year and perhaps make some changes
What are some things that we can enhance as a church?
Three scenarios…which one is true Christian fellowship:
A group of business men get together to play golf once a week and discuss business
A group of believers get together and have a birthday party or other activity
A group of believers get together for an activity for the purpose of encouraging one another with God’s Word
Before we answer which of these is correct, let’s take some time to ask ourselves the question, “What is Christian fellowship?”
I want us to consider the phrase in verse 5 of …your partnership in the gospel.

In the beginning, Adam was placed in the garden to enjoy friendship and communion with God. When the creature chose to assert his own autonomy rather than live under the Creator’s gracious care, fellowship was broken. Hence Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord’s presence (Gn 3:8). Yet God immediately sought them out (v 9) and revealed his plan for the ultimate restoration of sinners through the work of the Redeemer (v 15).

As a result of Christ’s finished work on the cross, God now makes his permanent abode in the believer’s heart (Jn 14:23). Hence the fellowship which now prevails under the new covenant is nothing less than the vital, spiritual union of the believer with Christ (Jn 14:20, 21). Fellowship with God is the goal of the Christian life (1 Jn 1:3), and this relationship will be perfected forever when we see our Savior “face to face” (1 Cor 13:12), when God dwells with his people in the heavenly kingdom (Rv 21:3).

The gospel restores fellowship not only with God, but among believers as well. Jesus’ last supper with his disciples illustrates the relationship between the vertical and horizontal dimensions of fellowship (Mk 14:22–25). In the upper room Jesus shared with his disciples a sacred love feast. The hearts of the Lord and his followers were knit together by a deep sense of love and commitment. Later the disciples discovered that their own hearts were strongly united out of their common loyalty to Jesus. Following the cross and the outpouring of the Spirit the church was born, that new society of people in fellowship with God and with one another.

The depth of comraderie among the first Christians is portrayed in the early chapters of Acts. Daily the believers met together in house groups for teaching, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer (Acts 2:42, 46). So profound was their sense of togetherness that the Christians pooled their possessions and distributed them to brethren in need (vv 44, 45; 4:32–35). Perhaps the dominant characteristic of this early Christian fellowship was “love of the brethren” (1 Thes 4:9; 1 Pt 1:22). Constrained by love, Paul organized among the gentile churches a collection for poor believers in Jerusalem. In Romans 15:26, which speaks of the gifts of the churches in Macedonia and Achaia, the word translated “contribution” is the common Greek word for “fellowship.” Similarly, the fellowship which the Philippian church shared with Paul assumed the form of gifts to support the apostle’s ministry (Phil 1:5; 4:14, 15).

Scripture uses several images to describe the spirit of togetherness which characterized the early church. The first is “the household of God” (Eph 2:19; 1 Tm 3:15), or “the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). In God’s household, love and hospitality are to be the rule (Heb 13:1, 2). Further, the church is depicted as the family of God on earth (Eph 3:15). God is the Father and believers are his faithful sons and daughters. The life of God’s family is to be governed by love, tenderness, compassion, and humility (Phil 2:1–4). Finally, the Christian fellowship is represented as the “one new man” or the “one body” (Eph 2:15, 16). In spite of great natural diversity, the Holy Spirit binds believers together into a single organism (4:4–6). In this fellowship of love, no believer is insignificant. Each member has been endowed with gifts for the spiritual edification of the entire body.

Scripture lays down the basis of fellowship in 1 John 1:7: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” Jesus Christ, then, is the source and fount of all spiritual communion. Only when rightly related to the Lord do we experience true fellowship with another Christian. Just as light and darkness are incompatible, so a believer can have no real fellowship with an unbeliever. Neither can the Christian be in fellowship with one who walks contrary to the teaching of Christ (2 Jn 9–11), or a professing brother who is immoral, idolatrous, a drunkard, or a thief (1 Cor 5:11).

The gospel restores fellowship not only with God, but among believers as well. Jesus’ last supper with his disciples illustrates the relationship between the vertical and horizontal dimensions of fellowship (Mk 14:22–25). In the upper room Jesus shared with his disciples a sacred love feast. The hearts of the Lord and his followers were knit together by a deep sense of love and commitment. Later the disciples discovered that their own hearts were strongly united out of their common loyalty to Jesus. Following the cross and the outpouring of the Spirit the church was born, that new society of people in fellowship with God and with one another.

The depth of comraderie among the first Christians is portrayed in the early chapters of Acts. Daily the believers met together in house groups for teaching, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer (Acts 2:42, 46). So profound was their sense of togetherness that the Christians pooled their possessions and distributed them to brethren in need (vv 44, 45; 4:32–35). Perhaps the dominant characteristic of this early Christian fellowship was “love of the brethren” (1 Thes 4:9; 1 Pt 1:22). Constrained by love, Paul organized among the gentile churches a collection for poor believers in Jerusalem. In Romans 15:26, which speaks of the gifts of the churches in Macedonia and Achaia, the word translated “contribution” is the common Greek word for “fellowship.” Similarly, the fellowship which the Philippian church shared with Paul assumed the form of gifts to support the apostle’s ministry (Phil 1:5; 4:14, 15).

Scripture uses several images to describe the spirit of togetherness which characterized the early church. The first is “the household of God” (Eph 2:19; 1 Tm 3:15), or “the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). In God’s household, love and hospitality are to be the rule (Heb 13:1, 2). Further, the church is depicted as the family of God on earth (Eph 3:15). God is the Father and believers are his faithful sons and daughters. The life of God’s family is to be governed by love, tenderness, compassion, and humility (Phil 2:1–4). Finally, the Christian fellowship is represented as the “one new man” or the “one body” (Eph 2:15, 16). In spite of great natural diversity, the Holy Spirit binds believers together into a single organism (4:4–6). In this fellowship of love, no believer is insignificant. Each member has been endowed with gifts for the spiritual edification of the entire body.

Scripture lays down the basis of fellowship in 1 John 1:7: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” Jesus Christ, then, is the source and fount of all spiritual communion. Only when rightly related to the Lord do we experience true fellowship with another Christian. Just as light and darkness are incompatible, so a believer can have no real fellowship with an unbeliever. Neither can the Christian be in fellowship with one who walks contrary to the teaching of Christ (2 Jn 9–11), or a professing brother who is immoral, idolatrous, a drunkard, or a thief (1 Cor 5:11).

Scripture lays down several guidelines for enhancing the communion of believers in the body. (1) Love one another with the same compassion that Christ displayed to his own (Jn 13:34, 35; 15:12). The law of the fellowship should be the rule of love (Heb 13:1). (2) Cultivate that spirit of humility that seeks the other person’s honor (Phil 2:3–5). (3) Lighten fellow believers’ load by bearing one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2). (4) Share material blessings with brothers and sisters in need (2 Cor 9:13). (5) Tenderly correct a sinner while helping to find solutions to the problems (Gal 6:1). (6) Succor a fellow believer in times of suffering (1 Cor 12:26). And (7) Pray for one another in the Spirit without ceasing (Eph 6:18).

The Christian will want to seriously regard the saying of an anonymous saint, “You cannot draw nigh to God if you are at a distance from your brother.”

The Greek word translated “fellowship” in the NT is the Greek word κοινωνία.
It is translated partnership (here in v. 5); fellowship, sharing, and association
κοινωνία
It can have a few different definitions:

① close association involving mutual interests and sharing, association, communion, fellowship, close relationship

② attitude of good will that manifests an interest in a close relationship, generosity, fellow-feeling, altruism

③ abstr. for concr. sign of fellowship, proof of brotherly unity, even gift, contribution

We have helped to define what fellowship is, but what does it look like? What does all of this mean?

Christian Fellowship is one of Grace

It is sovereignly effected by Jesus Christ (), and is the gift of the Spirit (; ) sent from the Father. Apart from Christ and his Spirit this fellowship is entirely impossible. Ideally speaking, the fellowship between Christ and his people even precedes time, for they were chosen in him from eternity ().
1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
2 Corinthians 13:13 ESV
All the saints greet you.
Philippians 2:1 ESV
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,
Ephesians 1:4 ESV
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
Eph

Christian Fellowship is one of Faith

Just as Christ draws sinners to himself through his redemptive acts, revealed to them by the Word and applied by the Spirit, so they approach and embrace Christ through a living, Spirit-given, faith. There is accordingly a faith-participation in Christ’s sufferings, body, and blood (; ; ; and cf. ), as well as in his resurrection and glory (; ). Faith commemorates Christ’s death, rejoices in his presence, and awaits his revelation in glory.
Philippians 3:10 ESV
that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Colossians 3:1 ESV
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Christian Fellowship is focused on Prayer and Thanksgiving

Faith comes to expression in these devotions. Believers pray both individually and unitedly. Through their prayers they glorify God. Also they remember one another in prayer and thanksgiving (, , ).
Philippians 1:3–5 ESV
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Phil 1
Phil 1:
Philippians 1:9–11 ESV
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Christian Fellowship is in love for one another

The same Magnet who attracts sinners to himself, also, in the very act of doing so, draws them into a close relationship with each other. Thus, the believer enshrines his fellow-believers in his heart and yearns for them
Philippians 1:7–8 ESV
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 2:2 ESV
complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Phil 2:24:2
Philippians 4:2 ESV
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.
, ; ;
John 13:34 ESV
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
).

Christian Fellowship means helping and contributing to one another’s needs

Believers make their fellowship of love felt by remembering the poor among their number, no matter who they are, to what race they belong, or where they are living (; ). They, moreover, also make it a practice to support the missionaries in their needs. This was true especially with respect to the Philippian believers. These had even “entered into a partnership” with Paul in an account of expenditures and receipts
Philippians 4:15 ESV
And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.
Romans 15:26 ESV
For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.
2 Corinthians 8:4 ESV
begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—

Christian Fellowship has a focus in promoting the gospel

It is an active co-operation in gospel-activity (; cf. ). Those who in this joint-participation are brothers give each other the right hand of fellowship with a view to hearty co-operation in kingdom-work
Galatians 2:9 ESV
and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.
1 Corinthians 9:23 ESV
I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Christian Fellowship is one in Separation

This sounds paradoxical but is true. The koinonia is a fellowship over against the world. Attachment to Christ always means detachment from the world, that is, from worldly thoughts, purposes, words, ways, etc. For what fellowship could there possibly be between light and darkness?
2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
; cf. ; ).
James 4:4 ESV
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
; ).
).
1 John 2:15 ESV
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Christian Fellowship is one in Warfare

Believers struggle side by side against a common foe.
Philippians 1:27–30 ESV
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
)
Philippians 2:25 ESV
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need,
)

CONCLUSION:

I ask you to consider those scenarios again:
Three scenarios…which one is true Christian fellowship:
Three scenarios…which one is true Christian fellowship:
A group of business men get together to play golf once a week and discuss business
A group of believers get together and have a birthday party or other activity
A group of believers get together for an activity for the purpose of encouraging one another with God’s Word
All could be considered fellowship but only one as genuine Christian fellowship.
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