Fellowship is a shared Spirit-led united Christian walk with God, Jesus and our brothers and sisters.
It is more than sharing the communion bread & wine which is only one small component
Our fellowship is with God, Jesus and our sisters and brothers May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Cor. 3:14 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. 1 Cor. 1: 9 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:3
According to Wikipedia At present, Christianity has between 1.5 and 2.1 billion adherents Within these groups there are reported to be over 38,000 different denominations
This isolation was not what Jesus practiced. He ate, drank and shared fellowship with those others despised.
Jesus fellowshiped Tax cheats Luke 5:27 – 32 Prostitutes Luke 7:36-40 Unclean” Samaritan & Sidonian women John 4:4- 26, Matt.15:21-28 But only if they came to him in faith.
Matthew 18:1-6 “The disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child… And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” How does a child come to Jesus? In love and faith? OR With a set of academic doctrines based on the original Hebrew and Greek?
Luke 9:49 "Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." “Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you.” How often do we forbid those who ‘are not one of us’, when we should recognise that they are ‘for us’?
But - what of verses which imply a doctrine based fellowship?
Doesn’t that mean to stay away from people who don’t understand the truth? 2 Peter 3:15-16 Paul- “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
Absolutely true. Ignorant and unstable people often miss Paul’s message. They are in danger of destruction. But what was the message they missed?
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23 “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:1-3 “God, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4
This gospel of Paul’s is repeated over and over. Who failed to understand it?.
The first century church had to contend with two main heresies The Judaizers who insisted on circumcision and enslavement to the Law again – and denied salvation by grace. The Gnostics (from Greek gnosis = knowledge) who said salvation came from special knowledge – revealed to very few.
Both groups denied salvation by grace This was the message of Paul “which ignorant ( Judaisers and Gnostics ) and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
Galatians 1:8-9 “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” Doesn’t this mean that we should not fellowship with those who believe a “different Gospel”?
Absolutely yes! What was the gospel Paul preached in Galatia? What was the “other gospel” which stood condemned? Paul’s gospel was of grace! The other gospel was of salvation by the works of the Law – and circumcision.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Galatians 5:1-12 How simple it is ! The false gospel was salvation by works-nothing to do with the traditional concept of doctrines
“Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus.” 2 Timothy 2:17 Does this mean that meeting with those who hold wrong doctrine WILL damage those who associate with error? YES - TRUE
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial (worthless ones) ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." 2Corinthians 6:14 -16 Surely this means that we should not associate with those who do not have ‘the truth’
In Paul’s day there were 3 groups of people Pagan idol worshipers Jews who had rejected Jesus Christians Paul was asking his followers to foster their associations with other Christians – not one brand of Christianity.
But wasn’t Christian doctrine pure then, and error only came in in the last 2000 years?
In Jesus time PEOPLE BELIEVED In a personal Devil or Satan - others believed Satan was symbolic of the evil in man Matthew 12:22-28 Demons - others saw demons as (mental) illness John 8:48-52 Heaven going - others awaited a resurrection to rule on earth Luke 16:20-30 Hell going - others saw death as eternal punishment Luke 16:20-30 Immortal Soul - others saw death as a termination until the resurrection Luke 16:20-30 Matt. 12:22-28, Matt. 4:24 & 9:23, John 8:48-52, Rev. 5:10, Romans 6:23
Neither Jesus nor the apostles made these ‘errors’ grounds for rejecting fellowship.
Doesn’t the Bible insist on withdrawal of fellowship sometimes?
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this.” 1 Corinthians 5:1-6 Exclusion for a period of time was encouraged for unrepentant and habitual behavioural misconduct – with the aim of regaining the offender.
“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.” 1John 1:5-7 “I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist, he denies the Father and the Son.” 1 John 2:20-27 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh, any one who does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; for he who greets him shares his wicked work.” 2 John v 7
Who walked in darkness? The GNOSTICS denied Jesus came in the flesh – as flesh was evil, and only spirit was good. They denied that the man Jesus was the Christ.
“ You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore!” Revelation 2:14-16 “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.” Revelation 2:20-21 God gave these groups time to repent. Now He calls on believers to put them out of the church for unrepentant and habitual bad behaviour – not doctrine.
The two groups - The Judaisers who insisted on enslavement to the Law again and denied salvation by grace, and The Gnostics who said salvation came from special knowledge revealed to a very few - Could be combined into one - A group who are legalistic, preach salvation by Bible study, and believe knowledge saves. Knowledge and Bible study are good, but won’t save us. We are saved by grace.
Who are in the truth? Jesus answered - "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14: 6 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” 1 John 5:1 “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20 Jesus and God know who are “In the Truth”
“And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:9-14
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” Philippians 2:1-2
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