Wednesday, 1st August 2012
Biblical perspectives for living
THE PRIORITY OF FELLOWSHIP
The Greek word translated "fellowship" comes from a root meaning "common" and has the idea of sharing things in common. This was evident in the early church when persecuted believers willingly and joyfully surrendered their possessions for the benefit of others (Acts 2:44-47).
This was not communism where the State forcibly redistributes wealth (since we read later that people still owned homes and possessions, Acts 12:12; 21:8). Rather it was a spontaneous display of genuine compassion and a desire to help others in need. Paul also spoke of those who voluntarily sent him financial support for his ministry as having "fellowship in the gospel" (Philippians 1:5; 4:15-16).
Fellowship also has the idea of communion. We sometimes think of communion only as a ceremony, but it is a relational term. In the communion service we are celebrating our relationship with God through our faith in the work of Christ. But the New Testament epistles lay great emphasis on interpersonal relationships amongst believers, and the early believers frequently addressed one another as "brothers". The Lord Jesus told His disciples, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35), and virtually every epistle renews the command. "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love," (Romans 12:10); "Do everything in love" (1 Corinthians 14:14); "Live a life of love" (Ephesians 4:2); "And over all these virtues put on love" (Colossians 3:14).
In addition, believers are repeatedly told of their relational responsibilities: "serve one another" (Galatians 5:13); "bearing with one another" (Ephesians 4:2); "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another" (Ephesians 4:32); "comfort one another" (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
It should go without saying that we cannot fulfil "one another" responsibilities without active participation in a community of Christians.
It should also be noted that the New Testament warns believers to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11, NKJV), for "what fellowship can light have with darkness" (2 Corinthians 6:14).
So a biblical view of the "church" is not a building we enter nor an event we attend but a community in which we willingly and actively participate and a family to which we belong.
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