By Mike Riley

One of the Greek words for fellowship is the verb, “sunkoinoneo”. According to Vine’s Expository dictionary, Pg. 90, the meaning of this word is “to have fellowship with or in”, is used in Ephesians 5:11; Philippians 4:14, R.V., “ye had fellowship,” for A.V., “ye did communicate”. E.W. Bullinger in his Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek NT, Pg. 282, translates “sunkoinoneo” as one “to be a joint-partaker with others, to share with others in anything”. We see the proper usage of this word in Philippians 4:14 in the phrase, “ye did communicate with my affliction”. The NASV renders this phrase, “you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” The apostle Paul had previously expressed this same sentiment to the Philippian brethren in Philippians 1:3-7.

By Mike Riley

The sole business of the church is about souls (Matthew 16:24-27; cf. Psalm 49:6-8; Psalm 49:15). In fact, the church is souls in love with God and with one another (Matthew 22:36-40; cf. Romans 13:8-10; James 2:8).

The church is souls worshiping, weeping, and rejoicing together (1 Corinthians 14:15; 1 Corinthians 12:13-27). The church is looking up in praise, inward in penitence, outward in practice, and forward in promise (Hebrews 13:12-15; 2 Corinthians 7:4-11; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Hebrews 10:12-25; Hebrews 12:22-24.

The church is hearts knit together whose spirits share together (Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:31-37; 2 Corinthians 8-9).

The term “church” in the Greek literally means “assembly,” indicating community and brotherhood. The Lord’s church does not exist simply to “beautify” the neighborhood, but to “personify” brotherhood.

The church is not a physical building of brick or wood, but a spiritual house of saved men and women in fellowship with God and with one another (Ephesians 2:10-22; 1 Peter 2:5-10; Hebrews 3:4-6; Ephesians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:1-3).

A good illustration of the fellowship we should have with one another is that of the huge redwood trees in California. These trees are the largest and tallest living things on our planet. Some of them are 300 feet tall and over 2,500 years old.

One would think that a tree so large must have a tremendous root system that reaches down hundreds of feet into the earth, but that isn’t the case. These trees grow in groves — very rarely do we see a tree off to itself. If we were to examine the redwood’s root system, we would find that all of the roots intertwine (scroll down to middle of pg.). No tree is alone, for all of the trees support and protect one another. Each tree is important to all other trees in the grove.

Brethren, the church should be like these redwood trees — souls intertwined with one another in fellowship (Ephesians 4:11-16). Without Christ, the church is nothing (John 15:5; cf. Philippians 4:13). And without fellowship, the church is useless (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:15-17).

As God’s people, we must fellowship one another, in order to demonstrate the love of Christ to a world of folks lost in sin (John 13:34-35; 1 John 5:16-21; cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16).

If we are not willing to participate in godly fellowship here on earth with fellow Christians, none of us will ever see that heavenly realm, where eternal fellowship with God and Christ will exist (Revelation 21:1-3; cf. Revelation 3:20-22; John 14:1-3).

By Tom Moore

Fellowship, when understood in its true biblical sense, is a word filled with beauty and glory. Fellowship is a word that is replete with the ideas of work, love, association and salvation. But we are living in a sad day – a day when many do not understand “fellowship” in its true and glorious biblical meaning.

Today many are trying to make God’s circle of fellowship larger than He intends, or are trying to turn fellowship into the mere enjoyment of coffee and donuts. Concerning fellowship, many have the mentality of those in Jeremiah’s day. The weeping prophet declared, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jeremiah 6:16). Many today are refusing to walk in the old paths when it comes to the biblical doctrine of fellowship.

In this article we will deal with The Boundaries of Fellowship – now and eternally.

GOD’S WORD IS THE BASIS OF FELLOWSHIP

Only God has the authority to determine the limits of fellowship. There is a God in heaven (Daniel 2:28), consequently, we must acknowledge “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). We must also realize that God must direct our steps when it comes to with whom we can associate and have partnership with. The fellowship of God and of His people crosses all boundaries (Gal. 3:26-28), and yet it as limitations. The Psalmist realized this, and said, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Psalm 119:63). There is a distinct connection between fearing God and walking in truth and companionship or fellowship. 

We are “called unto the fellowship” (1 Corinthians 1:9), we are “called” through the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14), and we are to have fellowship in the furtherance of the Gospel (Philippians 1:5); thus, the gospel is that in which we must continue. This is why Jesus said,          “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). We must abide in the word of God to have fellowship with the Almighty, and we must know the truth to have fellowship with Him. The Scriptures teach very plainly that one can know and obey the truth. John declared, “I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father” (2 John 4). “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16). Friends, we would not be commanded to do something that was impossible!

The word of God is the only way to have fellowship with God and with one another. Fellowship cannot come through creeds and innovations of men. The apostle Paul wrote, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10), and “Be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).

Jesus said, “the seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). When disunity exists, one knows that the seeds of man have been planted; for, as in the natural realm, the Word produces only “after its kind” – simple New Testament Christians. But there are some who will not endure sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:2-3), but will instead plant the seed of denominationalism and this disrupts fellowship. Our Savior said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men…Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:8-9, 13). Beloved, God’s word is the ONLY basis for fellowship.

By Kevin Cauley

The Bible doctrine of fellowship is a difficult subject for many because of the strong emotions involved in personal relationships. No one wants to withdraw fellowship from anyone, especially their friends and family. Yet the Bible teaches clearly in such passages as Matthew 18, 1 Corinthians 5, 2 Thessalonians 3, and Romans 16:17 that sometimes we must. The Bible also teaches that failure to withdraw fellowship appropriately is equally offensive to God (2 Thessalonians 3:14). Such underscores the seriousness God has regarding the command.

Practicing this command is not easy to do either spiritually or emotionally. Because of this, some simply will not do what God desires: they will not withdraw fellowship when God’s word demands it. This kind of thinking places our love for men above our love for God and His word. These individuals need to be reminded that God comes first in our affections (Matthew 6:33, 22:37-38). We love God by keeping His commandments (1 John 5:2-3). Can we both love God and fellowship those who have left the faith? We cannot.

In contrast to the above attitude, there are those who abuse church discipline. These want to withdraw fellowship upon the slightest of indiscretions. To compound their error, they hold faithful brethren, who in patience and love continue to work with these individuals, in equal contempt. This view of fellowship is based upon the erroneous conclusion from 2 John 10-11 that mere personal appearances with certain people are enough to withdraw. In contrast, 2 John 10-11 teaches that we ought not to give aid and comfort to deliberate false teachers. If we do such, with support and encouragement, obviously we partake of their evil deeds.

2 John 10-11 does not suggest, however, that fellowship ought to be recursively withdrawn from anyone appearing with someone who is in error. Such a position would imply that faithful brethren would need to withdraw fellowship from themselves as there is always someone with whom we are in fellowship, who fellowships someone who fellowships someone (etc.) who is not in fellowship. Any doctrine of fellowship that implies that a faithful Christian need withdraw fellowship from himself is a false doctrine of fellowship!

On the other hand, we have those who say there are no boundaries of fellowship at all. “We can fellowship everyone regardless of who they are or what they believe.” Such is an equally repugnant and unbiblical position to hold.

How ought we to practice the Bible doctrine of fellowship? We ought, on a case by case basis, to judge according to righteous judgment and not according to appearance (John 7:24). We ought to accept each individuals person without partiality (1 Timothy 5:21, James 3:17) until such a point in time as they prove to us individually that they have left the faith (1 Timothy 1:19-20). Such proof may take the form of their public writings, speaking, or other actions. If their actions are private, we are obliged to follow the procedures set forth in Matthew 18:15-20 until such a time as it becomes public. We have no precedent, however, to withdraw from someone other than dealing with their actions individually and personally. Nevertheless, when such has been proven that they have left the faith, we must withdraw.

Such a view of withdrawal is biblical, balanced, loving, and consistent with the Bible’s complete teaching on the doctrine of fellowship. It thus seeks to love God first in obeying His commands, and also our fellow man in respecting his personal situation without judging inappropriately. Practicing the Bible’s teaching regarding fellowship is not easy one way or the other. Let us not, however, seek to make it easy by either not practicing it at all, or by throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater and not having fellowship with anyone but our own clique. Instead, let us seek to judge each individual fairly, on a case by case basis, without resorting to a cliquish or devilish mentality. 

(Continued from last week)

By Kevin Cauley

The Practice of the New Testament Church – Benevolence

The key thing to think about in this passage was that there was a need and that the church provided for that need through the generous spirit of some. This was not merely a one-time event; the church made it a practice under the direction of apostolic authority to consistently take up a collection. No doubt there were many things to which the collection was going to be applied, but the first mention of this consistent practice and the primary application of the collection was church benevolence. This is the main purpose behind 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come” (ASV). The idea of Paul’s coming in this context was in regard to the great collection that was first started as a result of the prophecy of Agabus in Acts 11:28-30. That the collection continued to be taken up for other purposes as well no doubt can be inferred correctly from the prescriptive way in which Paul issued this directive. It was to be done in the churches of Galatia as well as the church in Corinth and as we find out in 2 Corinthians 8:1ff that the churches of Macedonia were involved in this as well. Such an event provided a catalyst to both initiate and educate the church on the proper use and practice of giving.

The priority of benevolence in the early church can be seen in the various charges that are given from different apostles. Paul was instructed by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem to remember the poor (Galatians 2:10). Paul says that he was zealous to do this. Paul charged the eldership at Ephesus to be mindful of the poor as well. He said, “In all things I gave you an example, that so laboring ye ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35 ASV). The context indicates that the “weak” here are those who are poor. It also fits well with the instruction that Paul gave to the church at Ephesus regarding one of the proper uses of money as the result of work, and thou shalt be blessed; because they have not {wherewith} to recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed in the resurrection of the just. (ASV)

Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). 

“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need” (Ephesians 4:28 ASV). Indeed God is well pleased with those who do good and share (Hebrews 13:16).

However, not only the apostles placed a high value on “good works,” but our Lord himself consistently challenged individuals in His lifetime to give to the poor. We read in Luke 14:12-15,

And he said to him also that had bidden him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsmen, nor rich neighbors; lest haply they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, bid the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:

Does this verse imply that we will be lost if we don’t sell everything we have and give it to the poor? No. The fact that the poor needed some things indicates that it is not a sin to own some things. The instructive value of this verse for us today can be taken in conjunction with Luke 14:12-15 namely that if we choose to bestow goods to the poor, we will no doubt have a greater heavenly reward. Nevertheless, the challenge is made by the Lord to this man here and the warning should be heeded by all of those who do have this world’s goods-giving to the poor contains more spiritual value than maintaining earthly possessions and let us not forget the command of Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:18. Moreover, that Jesus himself gave to the poor is indicated by John 13:29. Jesus and the twelve carried a treasury of money for various purposes. When Jesus mentioned to Judas to do what he had to do, some of the other apostles thought that this was in regard to giving to the poor. They were mistaken, but no doubt, they assumed this out of experiential knowledge of Jesus’ practices. He himself had no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20), yet he found a way to give to the poor. He had to have this attitude in His life in order to have the attitude that He had in His death. Paul wrote regarding this in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich.” Our very spiritual livelihood depended upon a Savior who cared not for riches, glory, and power, but who cared rather for the spiritual wealth of every person who ever lived on the planet. We would do well to imitate His example in this regard.

Perhaps the most motivating verse in this regard is 1 John 3:17 which says, “But whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him?” The very proof of our love for God and subsequently for our fellow man can be shown through giving to the poor and needy. What a frightening thought to know that one day we will stand before God in judgment with this verse written within His word. The greatest commandment is “to love the Lord thy God” (Matthew 22:37) and yet we cannot fulfill that great commandment without giving to the poor. When we look at the importance that the early church, the apostles, and Jesus placed upon giving to the poor and then consider the fact that our loving God depends upon it, how can we neglect it so in our work today? May each one of us resolve to work more diligently in our own personal lives as well as within our roles within the church to give to the poor.