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Fellowship With Each Other

Who are your closest and most intimate friends? Your answer to that question may indicate with whom you have your most valuable times of fellowship. It is a fundamental principle of church growth that there be communion, communication and companionship with one another within that community of the Son of God, 'the fellowship' of 1 Corinthians 1:9. As an outworking of that, the early disciples 'were together, and had all things common ... and were sharing [their possessions] with all, as anyone might have need.' Not only so, 'they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart' (Acts 2:42-46). The following verse links this fellowship with growth: 'And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved' (v.47).

The word for fellowship in the Greek comes from the root contained in the word 'koinos', meaning common. It is an essential part of fellowship that those so enjoying each other's company have something in common which is both meaningful and binding. The person and doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ more than adequately meet those criteria! As those who love the Lord and serve Him as obedient disciples, we partner together, and with Him. In doing so we develop a testimony that can be seen and appreciated: 'By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another' (John 13:35).

That love for one another is based on our common love for the Lord and our common, absolute loyalty to His people, His house, His authority and His Word. It will evidence itself in the following ways:

- An enjoyment of being together; indeed, a need to be together - with frequent opportunities to fulfil that need!

- Warm hospitality, not only from overseers whose character exhibits this trait (Titus 1:8), but from all saints (Rom.12:13).

- A willingness to share generously with one another from what the Lord has given, both materially and spiritually (Gal.6:6; Phil.4:10-18; Heb.13:16; 1 Pet.4:10).

- A delight in serving one another (Rom.16:1,2,6; Gal.6:10; Phil.2:3,4).

- A willingness to bear one another's burdens (Rom.15:1; Gal.6:2).

- Unfailing forgiveness of one another (Eph.4:32; Col.3:13).

- Separation from dishonorable vessels and sanctification to the Lord (2 Tim.2:21; 2 Cor.6:14, 15).

- Faithful attendance at gatherings for the church (Heb.10:25).

There are, however, very real and imposing obstacles which Satan casts in our way and which we may allow to impede our progress in this essential aspect of church growth. Among them are identified the following:

- We are extremely busy with occupations, often with both spouses working outside the home.

- Our close friends are not necessarily those who are in our church.

- Grievances one with the other and personality conflicts are not dealt with according to scriptural principle.

- Cliques may inadvertently exclude others from fellowshipping with them.

These obstacles create an estrangement between disciples in a church and allow for the development of discontent and dissatisfaction which can lead some to feel their needs are not being met. It is a key element to remember, therefore, that being a disciple of the Lord Jesus means we do not serve the Lord so that our needs are met, but because 'we have as our ambition ... to be pleasing to Him' (2 Cor.5:9). A life of faith based on that premise will change our perspective. It is a fact that we manage to do the things we want to do, regardless of the cost, the inconvenience, the sacrifices, the distances and the other obstacles that are thrown in our way. If we want something, we go to extreme lengths to get it. It is just as blatant that we often do not do the things we need to do even when the obstacles and challenges are less onerous. Just think how easy it is to put off a time of prayer, Bible reading, memorization of scripture, and, yes, fellowship with others, just because of tiredness or inclement weather or being busy with other things! The need to do these things is both urgent and important. The largest challenge in this regard, as in so many others, is to change the 'need to' into the 'want to'! However, much too often, the 'want' to do them is lacking or non-existent! Yet the answer to developing a burning desire to do these things is found in actually doing them! The more active we become in fellowship, this essential ingredient of our disciple lifestyle, the more we desire it. And when we want it, we do it, whatever the cost. The very saints who are starving for fellowship are sometimes the people who absent themselves from the very activities that would meet their need.

In Acts 2, there was a dynamic group of people who were constantly in each other's company, praising God, and speaking His word on a day-to-day basis. It is not surprising that many were being saved and added by the Lord to this Spirit-led people. Does the account not give us some important principles in this matter of growth related to our fellowship? People see that we are disciples by our explicit manifestations of love for one another exhibited when we are together (not exclusively, but generally). Our enjoyment of each other as we delight in the Lord and our power in witness as we go out to the needy together draw sinners to the One whose love we show forth. This is where evangelism has its outworking: this is where prayer gets its burden; this is where holy living shows Christ; this is where good works have their meaning; this is where the doctrine of the Lord achieves its goal; this is where our relationship with the Lord is deepened. Fellowship with each other is essential, not just attendance at a meeting to be 'entertained' by a speaker, but an active participation in the work of the Lord together, out where the Lord is seeking to save the lost! For fellowship is not a 'stand-alone' aspect of the Lord's doctrine. It is a fundamental aspect of nearly all that we do as the people of God, as 'the fellowship of the Son of God', as the house of God. We absent ourselves from it at our peril!

So what are some practices to which we can commit to ensure that our fellowship with one another is God-honouring, is Christ-centred and is people-focused? We need to:

- Become educated in the needs of the saints in our own assembly and in others' and choose to respond after the example of the Macedonians (2 Cor. 8:1-5).

- Be a generous giver and allow others to be the same. Learn to graciously receive what others give (Luke 6:38).

- Develop a character that causes others to say of you: 'the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you' (Philemon 7).

- Open your home to fellowship occasions where fellow disciples and their guests are comfortable and welcome and able to participate in the activities and discussion (Luke 10:38).

- Determine that, since fellowship can be shown in different ways, some spiritual, some material, each one of us can engage actively in this essential activity. Then we need to do so (Rom.15:27; Gal.6:6).

- Instead of using only the usual criteria for determining where to live in a locality (cost, convenience, community), add an additional criterion to your list: to live close by other saints so that practical aspects of 'the fellowship' can be lived out day by day (Acts 2:46).

- When an activity is planned, be there if at all possible!

When our faithful God called us into this community that is the possession of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor.1:9), He did not intend that we should walk alone, isolated from our fellow-disciples. To the Corinthians, Paul said: 'You are Christ's body' (1 Cor.12:27). Not that they were the entire Church which is His Body, but that, as a church of God in the fellowship of God's Son, they were characteristic of the whole body. As such, the life of the body should be seen working fully within that church of God setting! Each member of the body needs the others; none is unnecessary! 'But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired' (12:18). His placement of you in the body at your salvation, and His call to you to be a part of the fellowship of His Son as an obedient disciple, demand your interaction with others whom He has likewise called.

Scripture quotations from the NASB.