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Scripture Reading: 1 John 1:1-7


Fellowship and Unity of Believers



1.  1 John 1:1-4: The apostolic message was opening declared (1:2, 3) to provide and enable fellowship between man and God (1:3), and written that those who have fellowship with God may have fullness of joy in Christ.

2.  Sadly and to our shame, when the subject of fellowship is discussed, instead of producing joy it often engenders strife (even to division).

3.  Not because the subject cannot be understood – it can, 1 John 5:20.

4.  What is fellowship among Christians?  What does it involve?  How does it impact our unity in Christ?

5.  “Toward a better understanding”… and application … of fellowship and unity.


I.  FACTS ABOUT FELLOWSHIP. (Platform of fellowship.)

  A.  Defining Fellowship Using Bible Terms – 2 Cor. 6:14-16.

      ·   Fellowship (metoche): “partnership, sharing in, partaking of.”

      ·   Communion (koinonia):  “sharing in common, joint participation, association.”

      ·   Accord (sumphonesis):  “a sounding together” (concord, kjv).

      ·   Part (meris):  “a part as distinct from the whole, an assigned part, portion.”

      ·   Agreement (sunkatathesis):  “a putting together or joint deposit, approval.”

  B.  Fellowship:  Partnership, Commonality of Saints in Christ – 1 Cor. 1:9 (John 15:4).

    1.  Common salvationJude 3.

    2.  Common faithTitus 1:4.

    3.  Common worshipActs 2:42.

    4.  Common goodActs 2:44 (4:32).

    5.  Common suffering (fellowship of His sufferings) – Phil. 3:10 (2 Tim. 3:12).

  C.  The Basis of Fellowship is Not:

    1.  Good intentions - Prov. 16:25 (Matt. 7:21-23).

    2.  Personal relationships - Eph. 5:5-11.

    3.  Unity in moral and doctrinal diversity - Gal. 2:1-5, 11-14 (John 17:20-21; 1 Cor. 1:10, 13).

    4.  Supposed “clarity” of the subject - 2 Pet. 3:15-16 (John 8:31-32).

  D.  The Basis (foundation) of Fellowship (with God and man) is Gospel Obedience – 1 John 1:5-7; 2:3-6; 2 John 9; John 14:23.

    1.  Must first be in fellowship with God to have proper fellowship with each other.

    2.  If not in fellowship with God, our fellowship together is useless (and worse, sinful – Eph. 5:11).

    3.  Fellowship with God only comes as we live in (walk) the light of truthGospel obedience.


II.  THE FOCUS OF FELLOWSHIP and UNITY. (Practicing fellowship.)

  A.  Fellowship Implies the Presence of Unity.

    1.  Fellowship is the common part we share in Christ; it describes our participation together in spiritual things – Acts 2:42, 44.

    2.  To the extent that fellowship is disrupted, unity is not possibleAmos 3:1-3.

  B.  Maintaining Unity Among Believers is the Result of Our Fellowship with Christ – Eph. 4:1-3.

    1.  Fellowship with Christ  (sharing, commonality, participation together) produces unity of mind, will and action among Christians – 1 Cor. 1:9-10

    2.  Where there is fellowship of the Son (1:9) God commands unity among believers (1:10).


III. SOME FALLACIES ABOUT FELLOWSHIP. (Presumptions about fellowship.)

  A.  That Bible “Fellowship” Occurs and Can be Properly Applied to Social Activities.

    1.  Borrowed from denominations.

    2.  “Fellowship” never applied in the Scriptures to social events (“fellowship meals”) or places (“fellowship halls”) – 1 Pet. 4:11.  (Col. 3:17)

  B.  That Fellowship can Only be Found in the Local Church.

    1.  This mistaken view contributes to misunderstandings re. autonomy, gospel preaching, identifying false teachers and marking those who cause division, etc.

    2.  Fellowship is not limited to congregational boundaries:

      a.  Gal. 2:7-9 – James, Peter, John, Paul and Barnabas were in fellowship, though different places.

      b.  1 Cor. 10:16-17 – Separated by time and distance, we are “one bread and one body”.

      c.  Rom. 15:26-27 (2 Cor. 8:4) – Contribution (koinonia) of Macedonia and Achaia brethren with the Jerusalem saints.

      d.  Phil. 1:5 (4:15) – Support of gospel preacher (koinonia) – Beyond congregational boundary.

    3.  Brotherhood exists, implying fellowship in Christ and unity of the Spirit – 1 Pet. 2:17; Eph. 4:3.

  C.  That Fellowship May Continue Even when No Congregational Action is Involved (even though sin is present).

    1.  Ex. Unscriptural remarriage:  Some say: “Since the local church is not involved (it’s not a matter of congregational action) we can continue to have fellowship with in spite of their adultery.”

    2.  But…1 Cor. 5:1-6 – Fornication is not congregational action, yet it was a fellowship issue for the congregation.

  D.  That We May Have Ongoing (open-ended) Fellowship in Spite of Ongoing Sin/Error.

    1.  We have been inundated with this viewRom. 14 and adulterous remarriages; Work, worship and organ. of local church; no hell; etc.

    2.  Truth: Doctrine and morality do affect fellowship1 Tim. 6:3-5 (doctrinal error); 2 Tim. 3:1-5 (moral sins).

      a.  Doctrinal error/moral sin destroys fellowship with God – 2 John 9.

      b.  When one is teaching doctrinal error and/or practicing immorality he/she is not in fellowship with Christ – there can be no unity with such people – 1 Cor. 1:9-10 (John 17:20-21).

    3.  Fellowship with God is broken when we teach or practice error, or encourage those who do – 1 John 1:5-6; 2:3-6.

    4.  Do not have fellowship with those who are in sin 2 John 10-11; Eph. 5:6-7, 11Don’t be deceived.

    5.  Where there is ongoing sin/error there cannot be ongoing (open-ended) fellowship. Some examples:

      a.  Plan of salvation?

      b.  Musical instruments in worship?

      c.  Lord’s Supper innovations (once a month; fellowship meal, etc.)?

      d.  Church support of human organizations?

      e.  Church sponsored, supported, provided recreation/social events?

      f.   Aliens not amenable to the doctrine of Christ? Guilty may remarry? 

      g.   Teaching the world was not created in six, 24-hour days (Gen. 1)?



1.  We properly and gladly extend fellowship to (share in with) those who:

  a.  Teach truth (Gal. 2:9).

  b.  Practice truth (Eph. 4:3).

  c.  Endorse truth (3 John 5-8).

2.  We cannot extend fellowship to (share in with) those who:

  a.  Teach error (Rom. 16:17).

  b.  Practice error (Eph. 5:11).

  c.  Endorse error (2 John 10-11).

3.  We have fellowship with God – Must not defile it by sharing in error or immorality.  (2 Cor. 6:17-18)