The Church, Part 3: True Fellowship

(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)

 Grace Bible Church, NY

Pastor Scott L. Harris

The Church, Part 3: True Fellowship

I. Introduction

Change is a part of life. Some changes are good and some are
bad. Some changes are neutral, but all of them can add stress to
life. We are glad to see our children getting taller and
stronger, though it does mean buying them more clothes. Some of
us are noticing more character wrinkles etched into our faces and
our hair is changing color – for a few, that color is gray. We
don’t really care for those changes. As you get older your
perspective changes and instead of counting the years from birth,
you start thinking more of how many years you may have until
death. Some of have had the joy of adding members to your family
this past year. Others have had the sorrows of family members
passing away. There is constant change in our lives and stress
because of it.

There is also change in our church family. We have seen some
new people come, and we have seen some old friends move away. I
lost count a long time ago of the number of people that have been
added to our church family, and how many have moved away over the
last 12 years. I do know that the numbers are in the hundreds,
and I do know that there are only 12 people left (counting
children) that were here when I first came. I am sure that in the
coming years we will continue to see some families moving away
while new families become part of our congregation. These changes
in the our church family put a strain on a very fundamental
aspect of the ministry of the church – Fellowship. This morning I
want to explain to you what true Christian Fellowship really is
as well as talk with you about its importance and how we can
carry out this fundamental purpose of the Church. Remember that
we are in the midst of a series on the purpose of the church
which is to Glorify God by Making Disciples of Jesus Christ. We
carry out the task of making disciples by Communicating New Life
in Christ (evangelism); Caring for New Life in Christ
(fellowship); Cultivating New Life in Christ (edification) and
Celebrating New Life in Christ (worship).

Fellowship is how we care for one another in Christ. It is
basic to the Christian life. Fellowship is what provides a sense
of stability, a sense of belonging, of being needed and of being
loved. Fellowship is basic, and yet it is often (if not usually)
misunderstood. That may surprise you that I would say that it is
usually misunderstood because we are so often involved in things
that we say are fellowship. We have "fellowship" with
each other before and after the worship services. We have special
"Fellowship Sunday’s." We have women’s
"fellowship" and a monthly men’s breakfast for
fellowship. We have other special "fellowships"
throughout the year. So what is so hard to understand about
fellowship?

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

True Christian fellowship is used by God to help us change
into what He wants us to be. The so called "fellowship"
that exists in most churches, including this one to some degree,
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 Scriptural principles.

False Fellowship

In order to understand True Christian Fellowship it will be
helpful to see what it is not, and what often passes for
"fellowship" is not True Christian Fellowship.

Gastronomical: There are many that think that Christian
Fellowship revolves around food. They take note that the early
church went from house to house breaking bread, so they think
"alright – food!" Now sharing in a meal with other
Christians may be a great environment for True Christian
Fellowship, but food is not essential. True Fellowship is
certainly a lot more than cookies and church punch or a church
supper. We laugh about it, but many churches get a better turn
out at a church potluck than a church annual meeting. Even worse
are the cases where more people show up to the church B-B-Q or
Sunday School Picnic than morning worship service. True Christian
Fellowship can include food, but it is not gastronomical.

Opinionated: There are others that think Christian
fellowship is a setting for them to share all of their opinions
with others. True fellowship often does include the exchange of
opinions and ideas, but that exchange will be done with godly
attitudes in an orderly manner for the purpose of promoting
righteousness. Too often the exchange of opinions in what is said
to be "fellowship" is more like a forum for people to
simply say what is on their minds. Proverbs 18:2 tells that A
fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his
own mind."
Opinions are shared in True Christian
Fellowship, but it is not opinionated.

Sports Minded: Then there are other people that view
fellowship either in terms of what sport they are currently
personally active in, or in how well their favorite professional
or college team are doing. Now again, I am not saying that True
Christian Fellowship could not occur in the context of a sports
team, but in my observations it has been rare. When Scripture
says that you are to "admonish the unruly, encourage the
fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men,"
it
is not referring to benching the guy who is not paying attention
to the coach, or saying "good swing" to the guy who is
trying but striking out, or sending in the pinch runner for the
guy who sprained his ankle. All those things may be good and
appropriate to do, but they do not qualify as True Christian
Fellowship. True Christian Fellowship is not about discussing the
Mets, Yankees, Nicks, Giants, Jets, Rangers, Islanders, Syracuse
or any other sports team. Christians can enjoy sports, but True
Christian Fellowship is not sports minded.

Social: Others think that "Fellowship" has to
do with being social with other people and in specific with other
Christians. Webster tells us that being social means to have
"pleasant companionship with one’s friends." Yes, True
Christian Fellowship requires being involved with other
Christians and hopefully that will usually be a pleasant time. It
is wonderful to laugh and enjoy one another’s company, yet
true Christian Fellowship may be at its best when things may not
be pleasant. Too often when we get together with our friends our
talk centers around peripheral issues. We are more comfortable
with subjects that do not require us to expose much about
ourselves or speak of who we really are. We prefer that people do
not know the things we struggle with or fear. Even in our prayer
requests we see this. It is easy to ask for pray for some
physical ailment, but how many would ask for prayer because they
are struggling with God. We all want people to think we are like
the Apostle Paul at the end of his life – "I have fought
the good fight, I have kept the faith,"
and not like the
father of the demoniac who cried out to Jesus, "I
believe, help my unbelief."
Christians should have
"pleasant companionship" with one another, but True
Christian Fellowship is much deeper than just being social.

Intellectual: There are some people who take note that
the early church met together from house to house to concern
themselves with the Apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42). They strive
to be like the Bereans who proved to be more noble than other
groups because the were diligent in searching the Scriptures. We
need to do these things for we do need to give heed to doctrine
and be good students of the Word, but if in our diligence in
doing this we get the idea that Christian fellowship is the
intellectual exercise of our Bible knowledge, then we miss a
large part of what True Christian Fellowship is all about.

When I was a young boy the preacher in our church was like
that. Every time some kind of church event was held – picnic,
potluck, or whatever – he had to preach a sermon to conclude the
event. From what I remember, I would not have been surprised that
if you had invited him over for dinner, he would have felt
obliged to preach to you personally. Now I am certainly not
against preaching, for True Christian Fellowship does involves
doctrine and the sharing of Biblical knowledge, but it is much
more than being intellectual.

Partisan: Finally, there are others that think of
fellowship as the chance to get together with other people of
like mind to discuss how right their position is and how
incorrect any other position would be. This too could be good, if
they were talking about the fundamental doctrines of the Faith
such as the Nature of God; the Person and Work of Jesus Christ,
the Nature of Salvation, etc. However, more often than not, the
issues are not even related to the Scriptures, and if they are,
they tend to be side issues, or issues that are unclear, or
issues that really center on personal taste. This "P"
is the final letter in GOSSIP.

Gossip breeds and grows in improper fellowship. At their best,
these substitutes for true Christian fellowship suck the strength
out of the church. They leave the church lacking in unity and
failing to be effective in the tasks God has given her. At its
worst, this improper fellowship and the gossip that it breeds
leads to factions and divisions. An obscure or personal issue can
then become the cause of a church split. Growing up I saw
churches faction & split over all sorts of things. Some were
power struggles by individuals who wanted to control everything
that went on in the church. Some times it was by people whose
basic attitude was that of a spoiled child – "if you
don’t play it my way I will take my toys and go home."
Churches
have even spilt over such silly things such as the color of the
carpet and draperies.

I hate to say this and I wish it were not true, but I have yet
to know of a church where gossip was not a problem to some
extent. I know this church has had problems with it in the past.
When Christian’s turn against each other over matters that are of
no eternal consequence and over issues revolving around someone’s
hurt feelings, then there is improper fellowship taking place.
And when the church starts dividing over those issues, then
gossip is taking place.

Gossip is idle talk and spreading of rumor about the private
matters of others behind their backs. As a general rule, if you
would not say it to the person, you should not say it when they
are not there. That does not mean you cannot get advice about how
to deal with a problem your having with someone, but if you are
not part of the solution, then you become part of the problem.
All of us are pre-disposed to gossip, yet it can be dealt with
fairly easily if there is true Christian fellowship. False
fellowship breeds gossip. true Christian fellowship suppresses
it. True Christian fellowship is also a foundation we must have
if we are to reach our community for Christ.

So far all I have told you about are things that substitute
for true fellowship. Fellowship that is Gastronomical,
Opinionated, Sports Centered, Social/shallow, Information based
or Partisan.

If these things are substitutes, what then is the real
fellowship?

koinoV (koinos)

Fellowship comes from the Greek word " koinonia" (kononia) Perhaps you have
heard the word before. The root of that word is koinooV (koinos) which means
"common," and koinoV
(koinos) was at the heart of Greek society. The Greeks were in
contrast to oriental thought. They 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 (koinon)" – the common
property of all. We express this idea when we say that "no
man is an island unto himself." koinon
(koinon), the common, was the root idea of what held Greek
society together. It included: common or public property,
governmental functions, and shared goals of the community.

This idea of having things in common is also true within the
Christian community because we share things in common with each
other. We have:

Same God: Ephesians 4:6

Common Salvation: Jude 3

Common faith: Titus 1:4

and in Acts – all things in common (Acts 2:44; 4:32)

All things were held in common because, as one writer put it,
"The egotistical striving is submerged by readiness to
renounce earthly goods in obedience to Jesus’ commands (Lk 12:33;
14:33; Mt 6:19ff) for the sake of helping Christian brothers in
need" (Acts 2:45,) 4:35).

koinonia (koinonia)

The word koinonia (koinonia)
specifically refers to this common sharing. Remember that this
word is the Greek word we translate into English as
"fellowship" or "communion." It means "to
share with someone in something."
Christians do share
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)

But what does it mean in practical terms to have fellowship
with other believers? What is it based on? How can I know if it
is True Christian Fellowship or something else?

1 John 1:1-7

Vs. 1-3: John says that He was an eye witness to Jesus Christ.
He saw, heard, and physically touched Jesus. John says he is
telling us what he had seen and heard so that we could have
fellowship (6@4<@<4"
– koinonia) with him and the others that were first hand
witnesses to the life and work of Jesus Christ. I hope you catch
the idea of sharing in common here. John has knowledge of Jesus
Christ, and he is telling us about Jesus so that we can share
with him in what he knows of Jesus.

In vs. 3 John goes beyond just sharing information about Jesus
and brings the foundation of True Christian Fellowship into
center focus. John says "indeed our fellowship is with
the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
" True
Christian Fellowship must begin with a foundation of a common
relationship with God the Father and God the Son. If we do not
share the same faith and trust in God, then there is absolutely
no basis for true fellowship with each other.

John was also dealing with enemies of the Gospel that made
false claims of having fellowship with God and therefore with
Christians. There are similar enemies still around. John combats
this claim in vs. 6, "If we say that we have fellowship
with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice
the truth."
In other words, just because you say you
have fellowship with God does not mean that you do. The proof
will be in your life. If you are walking in the darkness, i.e. a
manner opposite of how God wants you to live, then you do not
have fellowship with God. And if there is no fellowship with God,
then there cannot be real fellowship with Christians.

John states in verse 7 that it is those who are walking in the
light, i.e. being obedient to doing what God wants them to do,
that have fellowship with each other. True Christian Fellowship
is based in fellowship with God, and fellowship with God will
result in a manner of life that is obedient to God. It is then
and only then that there can be True Christian Fellowship. This
is the fellowship that brings about the things I mentioned
earlier that Christians share in common such as a relationship
with the triune God and one another because of our salvation by
faith in the atonement of Christ. There is also the partnership
that exists in sending missionaries out to serve the Lord. In
Galatians 2:9 Paul talks about the "right hand of
fellowship" that he and Barnabas received when they were
sent out to be missionaries to the gentiles.

True Christian Fellowship is definitely something that exists
on a spiritual level – not gastronomical!

To simplify 1 John:

If I have fellowship with God then I share in a relationship
with Him. He is my heavenly Father, and I am His child. 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 my Lord and
Savior who lives in me (Gal. 2:20). 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.

But Fellowship does not stop there, because as we walk in the
light, i.e. as we do what God says, then we put into practice all
the practical aspects of being in relationship with other
believers. We practice all the one-another verses. 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)

In Summary "BE INVOLVED WITH ONE ANOTHER"

With this in mind, we can easily see how it fits with
edification and encouragement that I talked about two weeks ago.
I want to build up my brother and sister in Christ. I want to
encourage them to keep the goal of the high calling of God in
view. I want to inspire them to living in a godly manner, I want
to comfort them with the hope we have in Jesus.

Earlier I mentioned several things that were not true
fellowship, yet those same things can be True Christian
Fellowship if the one another verses are being practiced.

Partisan: If it is dealing with the fundamentals of the
faith. The basic doctrines of Christianity.

Recreational: Sports are great for fellowship, if the
"one another" verses are being practiced with a
spiritual emphasis. Go out with the people after the game and
talking deeply with them. Use sports as a spring board into True
Christian Fellowship.

Appraisal/opinionated: Sharing your opinions can be
part of fellowship as long as it is in the context of the
"one another" verses. I am not there just to give my
opinion, but to appraise what is being talked about and shine the
light of the Word of God on the subject. We seek to speak the
truth of God in love. Lets face it, the only opinion that really
counts is His!

Intellectual: Part of fellowship is using our minds,
but again it is in light of the "one another" verses.
It is not just an exchange of head knowledge. Knowledge must be
applied with Godly wisdom to the life of the individual so that
he or she is changed and becomes more like Christ.

Social: Part of fellowship is social, but it is not
shallow social gatherings. It is more than "pleasant
companionship with one’s friends." There is a spiritual
overtone as the one another verses are put into practice. The
fainthearted are encouraged, the weak are helped, the unruly are
admonished, and all of this is done with patient love to move
people into greater Christ-likeness.

Eating: Food is not at the center of fellowship, but it
can provide a good context for fellowship. Inviting someone to
your home for a meal can be a demonstration of loving Christian
service, as long as we make sure that we are doing it with the
Lord in mind. Then direct the conversation around the table to
the things of God and how each person is doing in living their
lives to the glory of Christ.

These different things done properly by putting into practice
the one another verses will result in True Christian Fellowship
which is a PRAISE to God. If done without the practice of the one
another verses, the result will be improper fellowship which
leads to GOSSIP.

Conclusion

True Christian fellowship is based in a relationship with God
that extends to other people. It is prompted by the Holy Spirit
and results in personal interaction that God uses to change lives
into the image of His Son. If you put these "one
another" verses into practice, I guarantee that both your
life and those you interact with will change and become more
Christ-like. It is becoming more like Jesus Christ that keeps a
church alive, keeps it moving forward, and attracts others.

False fellowship is based in trying to maintain pleasant
relationships with others. The result is superficial interaction
with others and a lack of conformity to Scriptural principles.
This will stagnate any church, and if continued, it can kill it.

Do you have True Christian Fellowship, or the shallowness of
some substitute? Is your "fellowship" PRAISE or GOSSIP?
Why don’t you plan to get together with some other Christians
this week or even today, and talk about more than the news,
weather and sports. Get deep with one another and do what the

early church did in Acts 2:42. They not only devoted themselves
to the Apostle’s doctrine, breaking of bread and prayer, but they
had fellowship too. They were busy helping each other become more
like Christ. Don’t "do lunch" – instead have lunch and
"do the one anothers."

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) Write down all
the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2)
Count how many times the term "fellowship" is used in
the sermon. Talk with your parents about the
"fellowship" in your family and with your friends.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What changes have you experienced in the last year? How have
you dealt with the stress of those changes? How does the
continual change in the congregation affect you? Have you fallen
into the trap of false ideas of fellowship? Gastronomical?
Opinionated? Sports Minded? Social? Intellectual? Partisan? What
is gossip? Have you gossiped about others? What damage / hurt has
that caused? Have you corrected it yet? Define true fellowship?
What is true fellowship based on? What is the goal of true
fellowship? Do you have relationships in the church in which true
fellowship occurs? How will true fellowship help combat gossip?
Do you practice the "one anothers" with the people at
church? Make a list of the "one another" verses. Which
of these do you do well? Which of these do you have a hard time
doing? Which of these do you resist having people do to you?
Practice true fellowship.

Sermon Notes – 8/15/1999 a.m.

"The Purpose of the Church:
Fellowship"

Introduction

 

False Fellowship

Gastronomical

Opinionated

Sports Minded

Social

Intellectual

Partisan

koinoV (koinos)

koinonia (koinonia)

1 John 1:1-7

The "One Anothers"

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)

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)

True Fellowship

Partisan

Recreational

Appraisal

Intellectual

Social

Eating