THE ESSENCE OF TRUE CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
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Is there a biblical basis or a fundamental principle for Christian Fellowship, which if adhered to will enable true Christians everywhere to fellowship together in one accord, and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and thought?
This was the apostle Paul’s plea when he wrote, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you, and that you may be perfectly united in mind thought”(1Cor.1:10).
Fellowship in the true sense of the word is, sharing together, having communion based upon common purpose, belief, conviction, work, hope, faith, suffering and need.
Any community of believers who do not have everything in common, are not having true Christian fellowship. True Christian fellowship, is fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, who is not a God of confusion but a God of peace.
In fact the apostle James state that, “If one harbors bitter envy and self ambition in their heart, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:14-16).
According to James the apostle, the atmosphere which ought to prevail amongst believers is one which should be; first of all pure; peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit; impartial and sincere, peace makers who sow in peace and raise a harvest of righteousness.
To have true Christian fellowship it is imperative that we do not walk in darkness [sin. In the book of 1John chapter 1:5, it is stated clearly that, “God is light; and in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1Jn.1:5-7).
What comprises true Christian Fellowship?
True Christian fellowship includes:-
- Fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
This is clearly stated by the apostle John, who wrote, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ”(1Jn.1:3).
- Fellowship of the Spirit
The medium by which joy is fulfilled through experiencing,“Encouragement in Christ, comfort and love, affection and mercy by “Being like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil.2:1-2).
- Fellowship with each other which includes:-
- Fellowship in material things
As illustrated by the first century church, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need” (Acts.2:44-45).
The churchesin Macedonia although they were in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. For they gave according to their means, and the apostle Paul testified that, “They gave beyond their means of their own free will, begging him earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints in a way not expected. They first gave themselves to the Lord and to the apostles by the will of God “(2Cor.8:2-5).
Also the churches in Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make some contributions for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem; they were pleased to do it, and indeed they were in debt to them, for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings” (Rom.15:26-27).
Christians are admonished to, “Share with God’s people who are in need, and practice hospitality” (Rom.12:13).It is commanded to those who are rich, “not to be arrogant, neither put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.’
They are also commanded to, ‘Do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life”(1Tim.6:17-19).
Generally, Christians are admonished, “Not to forget to do Good and to share with others; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” And, “Anyone who receives instructions in the word must share all good things with his instructor” (Heb.13:16; Gal.6:6).
- Fellowship in Sufferings:
The basis for Christian fellowship is that, “We may come to know Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death; that if possible we may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil.3:10-11).
For, “Since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, we likewise are to arm ourselves with the same mind, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.’ And, “To us it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but, also to suffer for his sake”(1Pet.4:1)
Therefore, “If there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, joy is fulfilled by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil.2:1-2).
And as members of one another, there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have equal concern for each other. If one member suffers, every member should suffer with him/her, and if one member is honored, every member should rejoice with him/her” (1Cor.12:25-26).
- Fellowship in the Gospel Ministry.
Inasmuch as, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit, and there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and diversities of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone’.
And since, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good, it is incumbent on each one to respect the work which the Holy Spirit is doing in each individual.
“For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretations of tongues; and since all these are inspired by one and the same Spirit who apportions to each one individually as he wills” we should have no alternative but to offer the right hand of fellowship” (1Cor.12:3-11).
When James, Cephas and John who were pillars of the church, perceived that grace had been given to Paul to preach to the Gentiles, they gave him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that they should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised with the gospel” (Gal.2:9).
In like manner knowing that, “To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph.4:7); we, like the former pillars of the church should offer to each other, the right hand of fellowship. We should therefore always in prayer make request for each other with joy for our fellowship in the gospel.
- Fellowship in the Gospel Mystery.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “To me who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ” (Eph.3:9).
What is this mystery, this hidden wisdom of God, which He ordained before the ages for our glory?
According to the scriptures, the plan for this mystery which was hidden for ages in God who created all things was realized in, and by Jesus Christ at the cross, as Paul wrote saying; “Assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.’
‘When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” (Eph.3:2-5).
At the time Paul received the revelation concerning the fellowship of the mystery; God’s plan in Christ had long been executed and realized. As the apostle Paul verified by saying; “I know a man in Christ who fourteen  years ago was caught up to the third heaven – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2Cor.12:2-4).
Therefore, the fellowship of the mystery although having to do with Christ’s sacrifice, and has been realized in Christ at his death, what was revealed to the Apostle Paul was, and is, the key to the fellowship of the mystery of the Gospel.
This stewardship which was granted to the apostle Paul is, “To make all men see, what, is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Eph.3:9).
Plan of the hidden Mystery
The plan of the hidden mystery is three folds, and all three are fulfilled simultaneously whenever the mystery is unraveled by the church.
- Through the church (which is the integration of Jews and Gentiles as fellow heirs, and members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ through the gospel), the mystery will be unveiled, to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, to demonstrate to them, the manifold wisdom of God, as alluded to by the Apostle saying, “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (Eph. 3:10;1Cor.11:26).
- The church having boldness and access with confidence to the holies of all through its faith in Jesus Christ. As it is written; “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the holies by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he consecrated for us, through the veil, that is his flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Eph. 3:12;Heb.10:19-22).
- The church having fellowship with one another, which is also with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses it from all sin. It is at such a fellowship that the blood of his Son Jesus Christ, represented by the cup which he instituted at the last supper for the remission of sins, does one receives cleansing for sins. As it is written; “For this is the message we have heard from him and declare to you; God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his son, purifies us from all sin”(1Jn.1:5-7).
The epitome and hallmark of the fellowship of the mystery, is the consecration of the bread and wine, and its transubstantiation into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, thus fulfilling the three fold purpose of the mystery simultaneously.
As explained by the apostle Paul saying, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation [communion, fellowship, sharing] in the blood of Christ?
And is not the bread that we break, a participation [communion, fellowship, sharing] in the body of Christ?
Because there is one bread: we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1Cor.10:16-17).
Jesus first proclaimed this message to the Jews, but they could not understand.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
For, my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will never die” (Jn.6:53-58).
This was the mystery hidden in God for ages, which was not made known to the sons of men, but was revealed to the Apostle Paul, who considered himself to be the very least of all the saints, but was given the stewardship to, “Make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things by Jesus Christ”(Eph.3:8-9).
In unveiling the mystery to the church the apostle Paul wrote; “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (1Cor.11:24)
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, as often as [whenever] you drink it, in remembrance of me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim [make known publicly and officially] the lord’s death [to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, and all men] until he comes” (1Cor.11; 25-26).
This is the mandate given to the church by God in fulfilling his eternal purpose. This amazing truth is worth restating. The apostle wrote: “This grace [stewardship] was given to me; to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.’
‘His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Eph.3:8-12).
Before unveiling the mystery to the church, the apostle Paul chastised the church for their inappropriate use of the Lord’s Supper, he said to them, “For, in the first place, when you assemble together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.’
‘When you meet together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not” (1Cor.11:18-22).
But after unveiling the mystery, and establishing the proper procedure in administering the Lord’s Supper Paul admonished the church by saying; “So then, when you come together [as a church] to eat [the Lord’s Supper], wait for one another – If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home – lest you come together to be condemned” (1Cor. 11:33-34).
This condemnation is as the result of anyone eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, not discerning the Lord’s Body.
Breaking Bread was a regular practice of the first century church, and the very essence of their fellowship. Those who believed “Devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts.2:42).
At the end of the Sabbath, on the first day of the week, the church and the apostle Paul gathered together specifically to break bread. As it is written; “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread,” and, “When Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until day break, and so departed” (Acts.20:7, 11).
The Lord’s Supper is indeed God’s food. It replaces the food which Moses was commanded to offer to the Lord at its appointed time.
The Lord said to Moses, “Command the people of Israel, and say to them, ‘my offering, my food for my offerings by fire, as an aroma pleasing to me, you shall take heed to offer to me in its due season, or at its appointed time” (Num.28:1-2).
The offering by fire was figurative to our zeal. The sweet smelling aroma was figurative to Christ, “Who gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph.5; 2).
The Lamb for the burnt offering was figurative and foreshadowed Jesus Christ the true Lamb of God;
The meal offering which consisted of fine flour mixed with pressed oil was figurative and foreshadowed the body of Christ – the unleavened bread:
And the Drink offering which was a quarter of a hin (approximately one gallon) of fermented wine, was figurative and foreshadowed the blood of Jesus Christ, represented by the wine.
This offering, the Lord’s food was to be offered to the Lord as a regular offering – morning and evening; On the Sabbath Day; at the beginning of months (New Moon), and on every annual Festival, the time appointed by the Lord.
Unfortunately, these offerings could not make perfect the conscience of the worshiper, and neither could they make perfect those who draw near to God (Heb.9:9; 10:1).
Consequently, when Christ came into the world he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me;
In burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,’ as it is written of me in the roll of the book.” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law).
Then he added, “Lo, I have come to do thy will,” He abolishes the first [sacrifices of animals with its meal and drink offering], in order to establish the second [the offering of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and the offering of the bread and wine]. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:5-10).
The offering to God his food, his offering which is to him a sweet smelling aroma is not abolished. In fact, it is now established upon better sacrifices. As the Holy Spirit indicated, “The way into the sanctuary was not yet opened, as long as the outer tent was still standing (which was symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices were offered which could not perfect the conscience of the worshiper, they were only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings – external regulations imposed until the time of reformation” (Heb.9:8-10).
But when Christ appeared as a High Priest of the good things that have come, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the most holy place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:11-12).
Now, since it is appointed for every High Priest chosen from among men, to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin; it is necessary for Jesus Christ also to have something to offer on behalf of our sins. No one can say, I don’t have sin, or I have not sinned (Heb.5:1; Heb.8:3; 1Jn.1:8-10)).
For this reason Jesus Christ had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God, to make reconciliation, and atonement for the sins of the people (Heb.2:17).
The intercession and atonement which Jesus Christ our High Priest makes to the Father on behalf of the sins which are committed on a regular basis, is his sacrificial body, represented by the bread and the wine which we partake of during the Lord’s Supper.
Because he has no sin, he has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself. But, because of our sins, he has to offer a sin offering on our behalf. For this reason, the night before he was led to be crucified he took bread, blessed it, and broke it, and gave to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:26-28).
A testament or a will is not in force whilst the testator is alive, for where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive” (Heb.9:16-17).
Therefore, the New Testament way by which an offering for sin is offered to God by the High Priest, as atonement for sin of the people, is by partaking of the cup of the new covenant for the forgiveness of sin, which became effective only after the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ.
This is the fellowship of the mystery which was hidden for ages in God, and was revealed to the Apostle Paul to make all men see the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things by Jesus Christ. It is the secret and hidden wisdom of God, “Which God decreed before the ages for our glorification, which none of the rulers of this age understood; for had they knew, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1Cor.2:7-8).
The Basis of Christ’s Blood:
The basis for Christ’s blood is for:-
- Our reconciliation, with each other and to God (Eph.2:13-16, Col.1:19, 22).
- Our redemption from the sin of Adam, our past sins, and sins committed in ignorance after conversion (Rom.3:24-25, Eph.1:7)
- Our Justification (Rom.5:9).
- Our Sanctification, which consecrate us and set us apart (Heb.10:29).
- Communion, the act of sharing in the Lord’s Supper which is the most essential part of church worship. The Lord’s Supper is the food of his offering, the sweet aroma which satisfies God’s will, and offered to Him at its appointed time. It constitutes the lamb, who is now the High priest, the meal offering – Unleavened bread, and the Drink offering – Wine. (Num.28:1-7; Exo.29:38-42; Eph.5:2).
- Our Victory in overcoming the adversary (Rev.12:11).
- Eternal life by feeding on the bread and wine (Jn.6:53-56).
This is truly the essence of true Christian Fellowship, which all Christians should try to emulate, so as to agree and have no dissensions, and be united in the same mind and in the same judgment.
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