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Scripture Reading:  1 John 1:1-7

 

Fellowship and Unity of Believers

 

Intro.

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

2.  Sadly & 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 Jno. 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 & 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 (Jno. 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 & doctrinal diversity - Gal. 2:1-5, 11-14 (Jno. 17:20-21; 1 Cor. 1:10, 13).

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

  D.  The Basis (foundation) of Fellowship (with God & man) is Gospel Obedience1 Jno. 1:5-7; 2:3-6; 2 Jno. 9; Jno. 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 & 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 ChristEph. 4:1-3.

    1.  Fellowship with Christ  (sharing, commonality, participation together) produces unity of mind, will & 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 & Can be Properly Applied to Social Activities.

    1.  Borrowed from denominations.

    2.  “Fellowship” never applied 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 & Barnabas were in fellowship, though different places.

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

      c.  Rom. 15:26-27 (2 Cor. 8:4) – Contribution (koinonia) of Macedonia & 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 & 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:  “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!

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

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

    2.  Truth:  Doctrine & 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 Jno. 9.

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

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

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

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

      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 6, 24-hour days (Gen. 1)?

 

Conclusion

1.  We properly & 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 Jno. 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 Jno. 10-11).

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