Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 15, 1966
NUMBER 19, PAGE 1-2a

The Bible Meaning Of Fellowship

Roy E. Cogdill

The very best way to determine what a word means in the Bible is to learn how it is used. The people of God are to be as distinct in their language as they are in their lives as far as separation from the world is concerned. The employment of Bible words to sectarian ideas or the adoption of the language of Ashdod to serve any purpose is always reprehensible and destructive of the truth and the purposes of God.

Paul enjoined Timothy to "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. " (II Tim. 1:13) Sometimes people who do not know and properly regard the truth are guilty of violating this injunction by employing Bible expressions to set forth sectarian ideas and also by trying to describe Bible ideas in sectarian language. Paul brands all such misuse of scriptural terms and ideas as "vain jangling" or "foolish talking" of which some were guilty "desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm," (I Tim. 1:6-7) This means an abandonment of "godly edifying which is in faith," (I Tim. 1:4)

Again, Paul exhorted young men to "in all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing incorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech that cannot be condemned." (Titus 2:7-8)

In all of this and many other passages that teach the same thing, we find emphasis placed upon "sound (healthful) speech", the "pattern of sound (healthful) words" in order that injury may not be done to the truth of God. The words of God were dictated or selected by the Holy Spirit. (I C or. 2:13) But today among brethren, in the pulpit and out, in schools where the Bible is taught, and in the Bible classes of the local churches, in our literature and in general conversation have departed from the idea of "saying Bible things in Bible words" and "strange words" are on every tongue. This is nowhere demonstrated any more clearly than in the use of the term "fellowship".

Today, the term fellowship is made to include and describe activity that is no part of the service of the Lord, the work of the church, or citizenship in the Kingdom of God. It commonly is now used even by professed Christians to include: banqueting, partying, playing, entertaining, recreation, camping, courting, and nearly everything else under heaven. In last week's bulletin we printed a letter from the "Single Christians Adult Club" of the South Gate Church of Christ, announcing a "Get Acquainted" social for single Christians at the South Gate Church of Christ. Solomon said, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord, " (Prov. 18:22) We suppose this justifies, in the minds of the South Gate Church, such activity as a good work".

This is no "farther out" however, than "youth fellowships" which are quite common among brethren all over the country. We have actually developed such a perverted and carnal conception of "fellowship" in the church that we include almost every conceivable kind of activity. There is seemingly no thought given to the fact that the usage of the term in the scripture never included such activity or a distant cousin to it. To talk about fellowship among Christians in the church in such a way, is an outright misuse of a Bible term and conveys a false and unscriptural idea.

What does the Bible idea of fellowship include? We list the usage in the scriptures for your consideration and in the hope that we will strike out the unscriptural usage of the term as well as the unscriptural practices that are so commonly justified today by its use as a part of the activity of the Kingdom of God.

1. Communion and companionship with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I John 1:6-7. I Cor. 1:9. Phil.

2. Having partnership in preaching the Gospel by helping to support the preacher. Phil. 4:15. Gal, 6:6. Phil. 1:5, 3. Distributing to the necessity of the saints. Romans 12:13; 15:26-27. II Cor. 8:4; 9:13. Heb.13:16.

4. Communion in worship with the body and blood of the Lord in the observance of the Lord's Supper. I Cor.10:16.

5, Partnership in the worship and work God has ordained for Christians to accomplish in the church. Acts 2:42. II Cor.8:23.

6. Partnership in financing the work of the Lord. I Cor.16:1-4. Acts 2:42, I Tim. 6:18.

7. Sharing in suffering. II Cor. 1:6-7. Phil. 3:10.

8. The care, relationship, and harmony that exists among the members of the church one with another. I Cor. 12:18-27.

This is the sum total of even the idea of fellowship among the members of the Body of Christ. Why can't we learn to leave all extraneous, unscriptural ideas of Christian fellowship out of our minds, speech and practice in the Kingdom of God? When we fail, we pervert the church and prostitute it to serve our own purposes, divert and misappropriate the resources of the Lord's Church to carnal and human purposes, profane the work and worship of the Lord, convey unscriptural ideas and doctrines by the unscriptural language we use. When we talk about fellowship in the church, let us mean only what the scriptures include in the use of the term.

Of course, the English meaning of the term could include joint participation in anything, good or bad, scriptural or unscriptural, authorized or unauthorized, pleasing to God or not. Even the scriptures teach that we can have fellowship with the Devil, the unfruitful works of darkness, and with error and false teachers. But such fellowship is not Christian fellowship in the Kingdom of God, (II Tim. 5:22. II John 11)

-8826 Hanna Avenue Canoga Park, California