Fellowship One With Another in the Bond of Christ

Our fellowship is first with God through his Son Jesus Christ, "...truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3) This fellowship was obviously brought into being by God working in Christ as illustrated in Romans 5:1-2: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." It is through fellowship with God and Christ that we have fellowship with other believers, as is seen in1 John 1:3: "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."

It is easy to see that once we are in fellowship with God, we gain a whole new family of believers that are also in fellowship with Him. This is a great blessing to us if we take advantage of it. Once justified in baptism we have a whole new world open to us. A major aspect of this new world is being adopted into a family that is seeking to continue in fellowship with God and live obediently to His precepts and commandments. One of the primary commandments that Christ gave concerning fellowship one with another is found in John 13:34 "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."

We are to love one another in this new family just as Christ loved us. Christ demonstrated a sacrificial love so great that he gave up his life each day in loving service to God and ultimately shed his blood in sacrifice so that he and we might have eternal life.

Once in Christ, we see that we have a restored relationship to our Creator through Christ. Our brothers and sisters are following the same rules and are commanded to love each other after the manner of Christ. This should be the ideal situation, shouldn't it? This should make for a great environment for spiritual growth, correct? The ecclesial life should be filled with sweet fellowship enjoyed by all, right? Are we rejoicing with each other? Do we see the strength gained from each other? If not, why not?

Unfortunately, all too often in the Christadelphian body we focus on the problems associated with fellowship. There is no denying that there are problems associated with fellowship in our community. The problems we have must be kept in their scriptural perspective and not fill our whole view of the subject of fellowship. We need to make sure that we are giving enough focus to the benefits that we have by being in fellowship one with another. Might a little more work in this area help the problems that do exist?

The Truth and those who share it should gain strength from one another. The Truth should comfort the heart of the believer - not distract and discourage. The Truth is intended to enlighten and purify the mind while enriching the emotions, attitudes and decisions with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance (Gal 5:22-23) . Where the truth prevails there is 'righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit' (Romans 14:17) which will result in edification of one another (v 19). We each need to actively strive for this in our ecclesias.

We should not be overly discouraged when problems do arise. We know that there will be times of trouble for a purpose, as we read in 1 Corinthians 11:19: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."

Problems still occur because we each have sin in our members and we do not always exemplify what we believe. Once we find ourselves in an imperfect situation, what do we do?

Action Principles - The only plan of action is to consistently apply the principles laid down for us in the word of God. The best place to start seems to be in Matthew 22:37-40: "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

We see from the first and great commandment that we are always to have God as our primary concern. We are to return to Him the love that He showed us. We must continually seek His fellowship and appreciate the relationship that we have with Him. This is illustrated well by King David after he had a breach in that relationship, Psalms 51:4,11,12: "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight...Cast me not away from thy presence... Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation."

David clearly saw his sin for what it was and repented of it. In the process of repentance he was very concerned about how his sin affected his relationship to God. We likewise must place ultimate importance on our relationship to our Heavenly Father. We cannot have true fellowship with others if we are not first in fellowship with God.

Once we are in fellowship with God and are following Him in love with all our heart, soul and mind, a natural flow is to fulfill the second great commandment. But is it natural to us? If we are having trouble with the second commandment, we may need to spend more time on the first. Do we truly appreciate that while we were yet sinners God commended His love toward us? (Rom 5:8) Do we see that we were first shown love before we could return love? (1 John 4:10) Do we focus on Christ as an example of a servant to his brethren? (John 13:5,14) Do we apply this to our brothers and sisters?

Scriptural Balance - When problems do arise that may affect fellowship, there is one verse that must be kept in the front of our minds, Proverbs 17:15: "He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD."

This verse keeps us all in balance with God's position. Since the fall in the Garden of Eden men have been out of balance. Sometimes a brother or sister is too strict in their adherence to their perception of the Truth or conversely too tolerant in the name of love. When either of these happen, it is a violation of this proverb. There are illustrations in scripture of each of these imbalances. Romans 2:15: "Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another."

Is this not what God was telling us in Proverbs? These individuals were either accusing or excusing one another no matter what the sin (or supposed sin) to make their own consciences soothed. It is not showing love to a brother or sister to help them justify a sin. Otherwise, the Truth is relegated to second place and with it our relationship with God. 1 Corinthians 13:6 refers to love by saying that love: "Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth."

Again, this verse stresses the need to focus on the relationship to God based on truth. To do otherwise is to turn saving truth into a system of humanism, placing man and his desires (sometimes called needs to help the self-justification) before God.

On the other hand, we can not abandon love in the name of truth. We would be heading toward condemning the 'just'. As the Proverb warns us that is also an abomination. The actions of some of the Pharisees bear witness to this fact in Luke 13:14. "And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day."

Here we have the ruler of the synagogue indignant with the Son of God. His intentions were far from upright and he had missed the spirit of the law with his overemphasis on the truth he had created. He was correct in that you were not to do work on the Sabbath, but he and his fellows had added to the law. Because of his overemphasis on his own laws and scruples, he was condemning the only just man ever to live. To keep in balance with what the Proverb admonishes we need to remember two maxims:

Strengthen One Another - We need to constantly remind ourselves that we are here to help each other to the kingdom. The fellowship we have with one another is designed to be helpful not a hindrance. Galatians 6:2:"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."

Trials are for a specific purpose. Our fellowship with one another should help us to bear those burdens. We must keep this in mind because we have to apply the principles that we have illustrated when trials occur. Fellowship is a life long process of self examination in relation to the word of truth, and then the application of that truth in the proper spirit toward one another. Again, the truth and those who share it should gain strength from one another.

There is not space to consider all the aspects of fellowship with one another, but it would be useful for each of us to meditate on the significance of the peace offering. It was a specific offering that teaches us many lessons about our fellowship with God. Also we should consider Paul and his relationship to Barnabas. They were fellow laborers for a period of time, but because of a non-doctrinal issue they decided to part ways. This can be an example for us if there are truly just personality issues rather than doctrinal issues that need to be addressed. Another example would be when Paul had to correct Peter over an issue that did have doctrinal consequences. In this example, we can see that there are times when fellowship issues must be resolved and that it can be done if the parties involved manifest the spirit of Christ.

Other questions that we should ask ourselves about fulfilling our obligation of fellowship one with another might be:

The words of Bro. George Moyer, found in the November 1887 Christadelphian Advocate entitled "Oneness in Christ" page 242, are good thoughts for us to consider in our relationship one to another.

One can almost tell the spiritual condition of a congregation of believers by his feelings. Fervency of spirit, singleness of purpose and zealous sincerity in the truth are capable of being felt. These things in active operation send forth an influence and a power that we feel and cannot well resist. But, on the other hand, worldly mindedness, cares of this life, social pleasure and the deceitfulness of riches sicken and dwarf all spiritual growth and weakens the "inner man" with increasing lukewarmness ending in death.

Let us heed these words spoken so long ago that are perhaps more pertinent today. Let us look constantly to our fellowship with God and how that fellowship is manifested with our spiritual family. Let us look forward to the day when there will be only perfect fellowship when all pain, suffering, human weakness, sorrow and death are removed. 1 Cor. 2:9: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

Finally, in relation to our fellowship one with another, let us consider the words of Paul in Romans 15:5-6,14. "Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another."

And also the words found in Hebrews 10:24-25: "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."

David Love
South Hill, VA