Christianity as Fellowship

Phil. 1:5.---' For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.'

The whole world is suffering from lack of fellowship. The Church also needs it. Men are asking us today not so much for orthodox teaching, correct ceremonial, as for real fellowship.

What is the meaning of this great word? Look at this letter to the Philippians. It is not a doctrinal Epistle. It is not a disciplinary Epistle. It is a kindly letter written by a wise, far-seeing man to a band of his converts who were trying to maintain the Apostle's fellowship. He uses the word, here and elsewhere, concerning our fellowship with God, and our fellowship with Christ, our fellowship with one another in and through Christ. It is a word which, when we perceive its import, thrills us with all that is deepest and most tender in our relationships. It is a rich, spacious word, full of suggestiveness. It does not mean identity; but it does mean identification. Of St. Paul and his followers it is true to say that their aims were one; their hopes were one; their efforts were one. Difference of temperament, difference of employment, difference of station, difference of opinion, but all bound up in one common center, all contributing to a common center, all contributing to a common loyalty, all inspired by a common purpose. Fellowship with God means to have all things in common with God. Fellowship among men means to have all things in common with men. Not identity, but identification---fellowship, communion, partnership. Here, then, is a great sacrament---a symbol of an invisible unity, a word full of inspiration and help.

What is the underlying quality of this wonderful word? It is 'Love.' When we say that we go to the heart of the matter. Love produces fellowship. Religion moves round the thought of Love. God so loved the world that He gave---He gave Himself. And our Lord said---'He that loseth his life shall save it.' His words confront us, and also His own example of untiring service for men. All around us are men and women with the Divine image in them defaced by sin; squalor, ignorance, misery, disease---the cry of them goes up to heaven, and must send a pang into the Divine heart of Love. Let us pray for a clearer vision of what a redeemed humanity might mean and for the will to bear the common burden. We win a richer life if we are unselfish. If we are taken out of ourselves in service for others, our whole life becomes happier and more vigorous. Life always gains by expansion. The plant's cycle of life is completed when it has set its seed.

It is invigorating and full of cheer, as to help the poor, I find it is here, that these representatives of our King come right before me, and the thought comes home that I ought to do something for them. The sight of suffering poverty is very touching, very mysterious, very sad. If we saw and knew as much of it as Jesus did, we should be men of sorrows too; and the real philosophy of life is to live near to it, mix with those burdened with it, and, as far as we can, relieve it.

Such a philosophy goes deep to the heart of things. Directly we begin to care greatly for the needs of others, in this absorbing interest we lose insensibly the desire to cushion our own life in ease and seek our own comforts, and we find that the highest and most unselfish ideals have the greatest return, lead to the widest outlook, to the deepest experiences, to the most perfect joys.

Christian love is not weak sentiment, but something strong and robust---a powerful energy. It is best defined as respect for the personality of others and desire to help them. We should put no obstacles in the way of their true growth. And if there are things in their lives or their surroundings which hinder them from developing we should try at all cost to have these removed. We should realize the sacredness of human personality, and should strive to train that personality to grow to the full height of its powers. What counts in God's sight is not social conventions or class distinctions or the artificial barriers we set up between man and man; God's eye pierces right through all these and sees the common humanity in us all. Our fundamental needs are the same. a common burden of temptation and sorrow falls on us all. We all need sympathy, we all need redemption from sin. We are all children of the One Father, each one different from all the rest, yet similar in make and structure. God has put love into every heart, and He bids us let that love have free play and spend itself in service for others.

What were the features of the early Christians' fellowship?

It was a FELLOWSHIP OF PRAYER. 'These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.' Paul tells us how he was 'praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit.' He feels that as he draws near to the throne of God he is very near to his Phillippian brethren and can make their joys and sorrows his own. This is the nature of real prayer; in bringing us near God it brings us near to all the saints of God. All those who really pray to God through Christ are by that very act bound into a spiritual family.

Of all his helpers perhaps the most valued by the Apostle, because they contributed largely to the furtherance of the gospel, are those whom he describes as 'helping together by supplication' [2 Cor. 1:11]. Often we express our wonder at the scantiness of the results of so much labor. But what moves the wonder of God may be that in some churches there are so few intercessors.

It was A FELLOWSHIP OF SUFFERING. It had upon it the red marks of persecution. First the Jew and then the Gentile harried the Christians from place to place, and the Church was hardly born before it began to form its roll of heroes. In the allegory of the Vine and the Branches the first truth we see is that the branches belong to each other because they belong to the same stem, and one sap nurtures them all. But there is an additional lesson, which is sometimes missed. The vine may be called the most patient and most suffering of plants. It is ruthlessly pruned with the one object of making it yield as much fruit as possible. All unnecessary growth of leaf or tendril is shorn away. Beauty is sacrificed to utility. It endures that it may serve.

It was A FELLOWSHIP OF ADVENTURE. How typical is Acts 13., where the Church at Antioch is described in a few words, and we see Simeon and Lucius and Manaen and the rest sending away Barnabas and Paul on a new enterprise to Cyprus. The Church was always taking up new enterprises in thought and action---not playing for safety, but venturing out into the unknown.

Religion is often looked on as a kind of insurance to avoid the chance of future loss. Or it is thought of as a way of escape from compassing ills, a way of making life safe from menacing dangers. "Safety first," however, cannot adequately describe religion, if in its very essence it is an adventure of the spirit. It is the drive and urge of vital force beyond the seen and tangible. Even in a material sense we see this in every great religious movement. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles is a story of amazing spiritual adventure, not only for single souls like Paul, but for groups of common men. We see the weak things of the world go out to master the strong, to meet Greek philosophy and Roman government, to turn the world upside down. They deserted from the known and usual, and took noble risks.

It was AN INCLUSIVE FELLOWSHIP. There are, and always have been, plenty of exclusive associations in which men unite to defend their own interests. That, by the way, is a conspicuous difference between the communism of the Early Church, and the Communism of today. The Church is not a society for the defense of privileges, but a fellowship of truth and the salvation of all sorts and conditions of men. Instead of having boundaries to keep men out it has a magnetic center to draw men in, and all who are drawn to the center are necessarily drawn to one another. That magnetic center is Jesus Christ Himself---not a doctrine about Him, not a mere ideal, but a Person. It was Christ who made the apostolic bond of unity. It was Christ who prompted the prayers of the Pentecostal Church and supported them in suffering, and thrust out missionaries on voyages of adventure and took away the walls of partition between man and man, and man and God. There could have been no achievement of Christian fellowship apart from Him.

In Christ, timothy. Our Lord Comes

The Lord has given us the grace to reconcile the children to their Fathers

As One Body

  • We prepare for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
  • Harvest the Fruit of the Latter Rain
  • Follow Him as the Army of the Lord into His Glory

Help To Prepare A Holy Bride!

Issue Oriented Discussion Newsletter

Prayer Requests

Index | Search This Site | The Latter Rain | Babylon the Great | The Kingdom | The Nicolaitans | Jezebel
The Baptism With the Holy Ghost | The Grand Delusion | World Trade Org | Alphabetical Index