Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 30, 1959

Christian Fellowship

James L. Yopp, Tampa, Florida

The Christian life is one of sharing. From the moment that he is baptized into Christ until he shall close his eyes in death, the child of God is to share. The New Testament is full of examples and scriptures that teach us these things. From the good Samaritan to the lonely isle of Patmos as John records the Revelation letter, an abundance of scripture literally overflows to impress the Christian with the importance of the action. We cannot be faithful to God without a heart ready to give "to them that asketh you." Outstanding in teaching this lesson is one word. That word is "fellowship." Defined by Webster, it simply means "community of interest, activity, feeling, etc." Harper's Analytical Greek Lexicon says it is "participation." Thayer explains it as "the share which one has in anything." Fellowship is sharing. But sharing of what? What is it that the New Testament teaches that we are to participate with in fellowship? In answer to that question. the following things, according to the New Testament writers, we are to fellowship:

(1) Christ. "God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (I Cor. 1:9.) Our lives, goods and all other things we are to share with Christ. Unless we do, we have no fellowship with Him. Incidentally, we not only fellowship Christ, but the Father and the Holy Spirit. (Phil. 2:1.)

(2) Apostles. "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42.) Having fellowship with the apostles, we in turn have fellowship with Christ. (I John 1:9.) The two are inseparably linked together. Those who think they can be acceptable to God, but deny the apostles' words are badly deluded. If we share with Christ, we must share with the apostles.

(3) Brethren. "... James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision" (Gal. 2:9.) Since brethren have the same Lord, the same ideals and the same goals, it is only fitting that they should community of interest. It is only when they cease to have the same interest that fellowship breaks. When any person does not associate with faithful brethren and has no desire to do so, he has interests at heart other than Christ.

(4) Sufferings. "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings . . ." (Phil. 3:10) As children of God, we share not only with Christ, but also with other children of God who might be afflicted. (I Cor. 12:26.) This denies the Christian the right to turn aside and say, "It is no concern of mine." According to the inspired writers, we must demonstrate feeling toward those who suffer.

(5) Needy. "For according to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord, beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering of the saints." (II Cor. 8:3-4.) The early church, able to witness poverty on every hand, deeply realized the need of helping those who lacked the physical necessities of life. The church at Jerusalem even had a fund for that purpose. (Acts 4:34-35.) When a congregation reached such a state of destitution that she was unable to provide her members who lacked with the necessities of life, other churches had fellowship by sending directly to her need-(I Cor. 16:1-3.) Here is apostolic example of fellowship.

(6) Preaching of the gospel. "I thank my God ... for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now." (Phil. 1:3-5.) This fellowship was made possible by their supplying Paul's needs. (Phil. 4:15-16.) Although we may not be able to go into far places to spread the gospel, we can have a part in making such possible by sending the money necessary for sustenance to those that are preaching. Both as an individual and as a congregation can this be done by sending directly to the worker on the field. Why not have fellowship in spreading God's truth?

All of the previous are things that the Christian can share in, thereby having fellowship. There is a conspicuous absence of many things being practiced today under the misused term "fellowship." There were no rallys, parties, banquets, puppet shows, and all the paraphernalia that is exhibited as "fellowship" in the modern church. Someone has failed to read of fellowship in the New Testament. It is true that one can have fellowship by the eating of a meal, but it is not the type of fellowship that the apostolic church practiced.

Now there are a number of things that the Bible forbids Christians to fellowship. A few of these are:

(1) Demons. ". . . and I would not that ye should have communion with demons." (I Cor. 10:20.) Paganism, etc. has no place in the worship and work of children of God to introduce such is to fellowship the same, thereby violating this passage.

(2) Iniquity. "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity?" (II Cor. 6:14.) Having nothing in common, righteousness and iniquity stand opposed to each other. The Christian practicing iniquity is fellowshipping Satan and not Christ.

(3) Works of Darkness. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them." (Eph. 5:11.) Being unfruitful, so far as God is concerned, the Christian practicing such has transgressed Christ's law and no longer is sharing in the work of Christ.

Let us say, again, the Christian life is one of sharing. However, it must be fellowship in the right things. By following the rules set forth in the New Testament we can have fellowship with Christ, which is the important thing after all.