Successful Christian Living, Part 8 – Fellowship

(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)

 Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

November 18, 2001

Successful Christian Living, Part 8 – Fellowship
Selected Scriptures

Over the course of our current series of sermons, I have given you the following definition that “A successful Christian is a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in
Jesus Christ, and, as an adopted child of God who worships Him, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting themselves to the will of God in faithfully
pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand
.”

There may be times when the successful Christian may have to stand alone for the cause of Christ even as Elijah did so long ago when he confronted the 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). However, God did not design us to be hermits and the normal life of a follower of God is lived in relationship and interaction with other believers. We usually call this “fellowship.”

(koinos) and (koinonia)

Fellowship comes from the Greek word “” (koinonia). The root of that word is (koinos) which means “common,” and (koinos) was at the heart of Greek society. The Greeks put an emphasis on the individual with personal life and rights, yet the individual lived by and for society. The Greeks said, “If the individual is not to perish, he must be firmly bound to the (koinon)” – the common, which was the root idea of what held Greek society together. It included: common or public property, governmental functions, and shared goals of the community.. We express this same idea when we say that “no man is an island unto himself.”

The word “” (koinonia), which we usually translate as “fellowship” or “communion,” specifically refers to this idea of sharing in common. Christians do share in common with one another in
many things.

*Fellowship with God (1 John 1:3,6)

*Fellowship with the Son (1 Cor 1:9)

*Fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:14 & Phil 2:1)

*Fellowship in the Gospel (Phil 1:5)

*Communion/Fellowship of the blood of Christ (1Cor 1:16)

*Communion/Fellowship of the crucified Christ (Gal 2:20)

*Fellowship with other believers (1 John 1:3,7)

1 John 1:1-7 gives the nature and basis of true Christian fellowship. “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life– 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us– 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. 5 And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and [yet] walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us
from all sin.”

To summarize the nature of fellowship.

If I have fellowship with God then I share in a relationship with Him. He is master, and I am His servant. I walk with Him.

If I have fellowship with Jesus Christ then I partake/share in His crucifixion (Romans 6) and His Resurrection (Romans 6 & 1 Cor 15). I am in relationship with Jesus. He is Lord and Savior, and I am submissive to His will.

If I have fellowship with the Holy Spirit, I share in a relationship with Him. He lives inside me to guide me, and I yield myself to Him.

If my fellowship with God is correct/true, then I will be obedient to Him and do the things He says, for that is walking in the light. I will no longer allow myself to be controlled by my thoughts & feelings
but by the Holy Spirit. I share in common with God the correct order of the universe. He leads and I follow. Those people who walk in the light share in common this same relationship with God and that is True Christian Fellowship.

True Christian Fellowship, then, is based in the common relationship each has with God. Without that there is absolutely no basis for true fellowship. In addition, a person’s claim to have fellowship with God does not mean that they do. The proof will be in how they live their lives. Again, as 1 John 1:7 points out, if person walks in darkness, i.e. a manner opposite of how God wants us to live, then they do not have fellowship with God. And if there is no fellowship with God, then there is no fellowship with
Christians.

Christian fellowship is a good and necessary part of our lives. The successful Christian will be deeply involved in fellowship with other believers for several reasons.

First, they love God and therefore they love God’s people just as 1 John 5:1,2 says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the [child] born of
Him.”

Second, they are part of the body of Christ, and the gifts that God has given to them are to be used for the purpose of building up that body. This is explained for us clearly in 1 Cor. 12 which we will look at in a couple of weeks when we examine our service to the Lord.

Third, it is only in the context of true fellowship that all the “one another” commands can be carried out. John 13:34,35 records Jesus telling His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” It is the nature of our love that demonstrates us to be followers of Christ. We will look more in depth at this love and the “one another” verses in a few
minutes.

The problem that faces those who seek true Christian fellowship is that there are so many things that substitute for if. Many of these things are fine and nice things to do, but they do not accomplish the purposes of true Christian fellowship.

True Christian fellowship is used by God to help us change and become like Christ. The so called “fellowship” that exists in most churches not only does not move people to greater Christ-likeness, but sometime even hinders that needed change.

True Christian fellowship is based in a personal relationship with God that then extends to other people. The result is personal interaction that God uses to change lives. False fellowship is based in trying to maintain relationships with others. The result is superficial interaction with others and a lack of conformity to God’s Word.

Acts 2:42 records the practice of the early church “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” This would occur in the Temple, in their homes or wherever they could meet.

Notice that being devoted “to the apostles’ teaching,” “breaking of bread” and “prayer” are all separate from “fellowship.” While sharing in a meal with other Christians may be a great environment for fellowship, it is wrong to consider it true Christian fellowship just because you eat together. Gathering together to hear the word of God taught is also a great context for true Christian fellowship,

but just hearing a lecture is not fellowship. The same is true for prayer. It is a great context for fellowship, but more has to occur than just prayer for their to be true Christian fellowship.

True Christian fellowship demands interaction and application of the truths of God’s Word into the lives of the individuals present. Sharing a meal is great, but what do you talk about while you are eating? Hearing the Bible taught is great, but are you then using what was taught to build each other up in Christ? Praying together is a great blessing, but does that prayer move you to practice the “one anothers” with those you are praying with and those you are praying for?

Many Christians substitute socialization for fellowship. Webster defines being social as having “pleasant companionship with one’s friends.” Hopefully our fellowship will usually be a pleasant time,
for it wonderful to laugh and enjoy one another’s company, yet true Christian Fellowship may be at its best when things are not pleasant. If our talk revolves around just peripheral issues or just those I am comfortable with, then I am just socializing. True fellowship will personally challenge my beliefs and lifestyle with God’s truth, and that may make me uncomfortable at times. There will be an exchange of thought, but true fellowship it is not a forum for people to simply say what they think. Prov. 18:2 states
A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.” In true Christian fellowship ideas are exchanged with godly attitudes for the purpose of promoting righteousness. It is not
an intellectual discussion and exchange of information, for it includes the passion of loving concern to persuade a person of what God has said and to change in light of it. I fear that even in our own church there can be more concern to have “pleasant companionship” than there is to promote righteousness and
therefore there is socialization instead of true fellowship.

As I stated earlier, it is in the context of true Christian fellowship that all the one another commands are practiced. These are the commands that define the love we are to have for each other and put it into action. Here are some of them.

Love one another (Jn 13:34; 15:12,17; Rom 13:8; 1 Thess 3:12; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 Jn 3:11; 4:7)

Members of one another (Rom 12:5; Eph. 4:25 – body concept)

In honor preferring one another (Rom 12:10; Phil 2:3)

Like minded with one another (Rom 12:16; 15:5)

Not judgmental of one another Rom 14:12)

Edify one another (Rom 14:13

Admonish one another (Rom 15:14)

Care for one another (1 Cor 12: 25)

Serve one another (Gal 5:13)

Bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:1)

Forebear one another in love (Eph 4:2; Col 3:13)

Kind to one another, tenderhearted (Eph 4:32)

Submissive to one another (Eph 5:21)

Subject to one another (1 Peter 5:5)

Comfort one another (1 Thess 4:18)

Confessing sins to one another (James 5:16)

Praying for one another (James 5:16)

I think we easily recognize the positive value in these commands, especially in doing things such as love, edify, care, serve, humbly prefer, be kind, forebear and pray. We like to hear about those and have people practice them on us. I have preached on many of them in detail in the past, so I am not going to spend time on them today. I want to spend the rest of our time this morning concentrating on the commands here that make us uncomfortable, yet are absolutely necessary to true fellowship. If you are going to live as a successful Christian, then you must also be involved in confessing your sins to each other and admonishing one another.

Most of us still have enough pride that we don’t want other people to know our struggles with sin. Itis easy to ask people to pray for our health problems because we are not responsible for those, but asking people to pray for us to overcome a sin struggle is a different matter. We want people to think the best of us and think we are much more mature than we actually are. We try to hide our weaknesses and failures and we certainly do not like other people pointing them out for us. Yet, the nature of true love for God and for one another is that we will help each other deal with our sin struggles. The quest for holiness that I spoke of last week is not something we can do on our own. We need others around us that will help us as we struggle through sin and help us to carry its burden. When we confess our sins freely, that help will come as edification and encouragement. When we try to hide our sins, that help may need to come as admonishment.

Turn to Matthew 18:15 and put something there to mark it, then turn to Galatians 6:1-4. We are going to make a quick study of these two texts just so that you will understand how we are to admonish each other and the seriousness of continued sin.

5:26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. 6:1 “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; [each one] looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the
law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have [reason for] boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.”
Gal. 5:26-6:4

When it comes to admonishing one another, we must do it properly. The idea expressed in this passage is that first, we are not to be “challenging” in the sense of provoking one another. We should not be obnoxious because of either or pride or envy. Second, we are to come with a spirit of humility to help people get out of their sins.

The word trespass used in verse 1 refers to broad categories of sin, from simple error to willful sin. Any of us can get ensnared by a trespass and we will need help to get out. The best ones to do this are those that are “spiritual.” This does not mean you have to be perfect, but is a reflection back to the contrast given in chapter 5 between those walking in the flesh and those walking in the Spirit. It is a word that should describes anyone serious about living for Christ.

Their task will be to restore the person who is in sin. The idea of restoring is to bring them back into a proper walk with God. Sin has gotten them off the path of righteousness and we are striving to get them back on it. As pointed out in our previous study on 2 Timothy 3:16,17, we use the Bible to accomplish this.

We are to do this with a spirit of gentleness. We speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). The desire here is to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (vs. 2). The law of Christ is loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Getting involved like this is the loving thing to do! We get involved because of our love and so our manner should be one that demonstrates that love for God and for the person who is caught in the sin. Keep in mind that a strong rebuke may be necessary, but even that can be done with a gentle spirit.

Verses 1 & 3 both place additional emphasis on the humility necessary to properly help someone in sin. We take seriously Paul’s warning in 1 Cor. 10:12 that he “who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” We do not want to stumble into the pit of sin ourselves while trying to help someone else out. Neither do we come as superior to inferior or as successful to failure. We come as fellow travelers on the road of life who assist each other through the difficult times, which I might add, all of us will have.

We follow the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5. We do not judge in the sense of condemnation as the Pharisees did. We examine ourselves, recognize our own weakness to take the log out of our own eye and then we go to get the speck out of our brother’s. Having failures in your own life does not exclude you from helping someone else who is in sin. It only means that you had better become serious about living in holiness yourself before you go help someone else.

Galatians 6:1-4 is really just an expansion of the first steps Jesus gives in Matthew 18 for dealing with a sinning Christian. Matthew 18:15 describes the first step. “And if your brother sins, go and
reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.”
The responsibility to admonish someone who is in sin belongs to us all.

At this point I want to remind you of a balance that is kept in this process. We are all responsible to admonish, but that does not mean we are to some sort of spiritual policemen who are anxious to write out tickets or haul to jail everyone who does meet some church list of standards. Remember that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). We are not to tolerate sin as our society does which has elevated tolerance to be the supreme virtue, but we do put up with each other’s minor idiosyncrasies and can tolerate it when someone has a “bad day” that is out of their normal character.

Thankfully, most admonition comes as minor corrections or rebukes that are done quickly and are over with the Christian does desire to live in holiness and welcomes the corrections. But what if the person will not turn from their sins? Matthew 18:16“But if he does not listen [to you,] take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.”

Let me quickly add here that a failure to do step one does not preclude doing step two. If you are aware of someone in sin, but don’t feel you are spiritually capable of dealing with them by yourself, then go find someone spiritually mature who will either help you prepare yourself so that you can carry it out the first step alone, or who will go with you to help both of you work things out.

It would be nice if such things never had to occur, but the simple fact is that sin will occur within the Body of Christ for we are still human and we still battle with our sinful flesh that used to control us. Christ died on the cross to break the power of sin in our lives (Rom. 6) We are to be holy as God is holy (1 Pet. 1:16). We must pursue holiness in ourselves and others. We have to love each other enough to do what is right regardless of current emotions. One of the great benefits of being a Christian should be this
fellowship that will restore us to spiritual health by admonishing us and helping us bear the burden of sin that has overtaken us.

Matthew 18:17 details the next steps in dealing with a Christian who is in sin. “And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.” The situation is brought before the whole body, the church, so that everyone can be involved in trying to turn the person from their sin. If they then refuse to listen to the church and repent, then they are to be considered as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer. This does not mean
shunning, for Jesus did not shun Gentiles and tax-gatherers. It means they are to be treated as people who are unsaved. They can no longer be accepted as part of the fellowship of the saints, for the reality is that they do no share in it.

Admonition can lead to the rest of the steps of church discipline, but we have to love God and the one in sin enough to carry it out. We believe this is so important that we even placed these steps into our church Constitution so that it would be clear to all what we believe God has given to us as our responsibilities in dealing with sin.

The goal is that we all become successful Christians. We want to bring glory to God’s name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting ourselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness. We do not want people to end up under God’s chastisement (Heb. 13:4-11: 1 Cor. 11:27-30) or condemned in the end by Jesus (Matt. 7:21-23) without warning. The question that remains is if you will do your part? Do you care enough about your fellow believers to notice if they have been overtaken by sin? Are you willing to seriously examine yourself and get involved? Will you let those ensnared by sin continue in it without warning and risk its outcomes, or will you help to restore them to the fellowship? I pray that you will get involved in each others lives and practice all the one anothers, including the difficult one, admonition.

Sermon
Study Sheets

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “fellowship” is mentioned? 2) Talk with your parents about the nature of true Christian fellowship and the importance of helping one another deal with sin.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What is kononia and what does is mean in the church? What are some of the things that Christians share in common? What is the nature of our fellowship with God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit? What must be true before we can have fellowship with Christians? Why should a Christian should be deeply involved in fellowship? What is the purpose of fellowship? What was the nature of fellowship in the early church (Acts 2:42)? What are some of the prevalent substitutes for true fellowship? What is the difference between being social and fellowship? List out as many
of the “one another” commands as you can find. Which of these are easy for you to do? Which are difficult? What are the benefits of confessing our sins freely? Why is admonition needed? What should be the motives for giving admonition? What guidelines does Galatians 6:1-4 give for helping a person who is ensnared by sin? What balance does love bring? What steps does Matthew 18:15-18 give when a person persists in their sin? What dangers does a person face who does not turn from their sin?

 

Sermon Notes – 11/18/2001 A.M.

Successful Christian Living, Part 8 – Fellowship

“A successful Christian is a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and, as an
adopted child of God who worships Him, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting
themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good
works He has prepared before hand
.”

(koinos) and (koinonia)

*Fellowship with God (1 John 1:3,6)

*Fellowship with the Son (1 Cor 1:9)

*Fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:14 & Phil 2:1)

*Fellowship in the Gospel (Phil 1:5)

*Communion/Fellowship of the blood of Christ (1Cor 1:16)

*Communion/Fellowship of the crucified Christ (Gal 2:20)

*Fellowship with other believers (1 John 1:3,7)

The Reasons for Fellowship

1 John 5:1,2

1 Cor. 12

John 13:34,35

True vs. False Fellowship

True Christian fellowship is based in a personal relationship with God that then extends to other people. The result is personal
interaction that God uses to change lives. False fellowship is based in trying to maintain relationships with others. The result is
superficial interaction with others and a lack of conformity to God’s Word.

Acts 2:42

The “One Another” Commands

Love one another (Jn 13:34; 15:12,17; Rom 13:8; 1 Thess 3:12; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 Jn 3:11; 4:7)

Members of one another (Rom 12:5; Eph. 4:25 – body concept)

In honor preferring one another (Rom 12:10; Phil 2:3)

Like minded with one another (Rom 12:16; 15:5)

Not judgmental of one another Rom 14:12)

Edify one another (Rom 14:13

Admonish one another (Rom 15:14)

Care for one another (1 Cor 12: 25)

Serve one another (Gal 5:13)

Bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:1)

Forebear one another in love (Eph 4:2; Col 3:13)

Kind to one another, tenderhearted (Eph 4:32)

Submissive to one another (Eph 5:21)

Subject to one another (1 Peter 5:5)

Comfort one another (1 Thess 4:18)

Confessing sins to one another (James 5:16)

Praying for one another (James 5:16)

Admonishing One Another

Galatians 5:26-6:4

Matthew 18:15-18

The Danger of Continued Sin: Heb. 13:4-11; 1 Cor. 11:27-30 and Matthew 7:21-23