Fellowship With Him
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“That which we have seen and heard declare we
unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and
truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his son
Jesus Christ.” (1John 1:3)
Nowadays fellowship is defined as “the
condition of being together or of sharing similar interests
or experience, as do members of a profession, religion, or
nationality; the companionship of individuals in a congenial
atmosphere and on equal terms; a union of friends or equals
sharing similar interest” (American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd
College Edition). Originally, however, the word was a bit
more limited in its meaning.
The word “fellow” comes to English from an
Old Norse word meaning “business partner.” In Old English
the word meant “one who lays down [invests] money in a joint
undertaking with others,” and the first Modern English
definition given for “fellow” by the Oxford English
Dictionary is “co-worker.” This is precisely how the Bible
defines “fellow” the first time it uses the word:
“And when he went out the second
day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he
said to him that did the wrong, wherefore smitest thou thy
fellow?” (Exodus 2:13).
The original meaning
of “fellow” as a co-worker is also evident in the compound
nouns that the Bible forms by attaching “fellow” to words
associated with work: yokefellow, workfellow, fellowworker,
fellowlabourer, fellowservant, fellowhelper, fellowdisciple,
(John 11:16; Romans 16:21; 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philppians
2:25 and 4:3; Colossians 4:7,11; 1 Thessalonians 3:2;
Philemon 1-2, 24; and 3 John 8).[ii]
Although churches and
professing believers often refer to “food, fun, and
fellowship,” the Bible offers a much different picture of
In its first appearance in the Bible, the word “fellowship”
clearly refers to a type of “business” (that is, a working)
soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie
unto his neighbor in that which was delivered him to keep,
or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or
hath deceived his neighbor;” (Leviticus 6:2, in context of
fellowship is a working partnership, and fellowship with
darkness involves unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians
As a working
partnership (something in which two or more people take
part), “fellowship” is an equal yoking, a communion (having
things in common), a concord, and an agreement:
not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what
fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what
communion hath light with darkness. And what concord hath
Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with
an infidel? …” (2 Corinthians 6:14-46).
God saves people so
that they can work (Ephesians 2:10). Specifically, He saves
them so that they can work for Him and in fellowship with
Him. For that reason, the Lord’s invitation to salvation in
Matthew 11:28-30 is an invitation to work with Him and learn
more about Him: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.”[iv]
A yoke couples animals so that they work as a team (Luke
and when believers labor in fellowship with the Lord, their
“burden” is light because they do the Lord’s work (1
faithful by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his
Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Corinthians 1:9).
may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the
fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto
his death;” (Philippians 3:10).
The preaching and
ministry of the early church was actually “the Lord working
with them, confirming the word” (Mark 16:20).
Furthermore, God calls
believers to assemble together so that they can work in
partnership with Him. Believers who are in fellowship with
Christ will also be in fellowship with fellow believers.
continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and
fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts
The “fellowship of
believers” is a busy-ness in which believers work together
as partners “in the gospel,” doing so for (and with) their
Savior (Philippians 1:3-7).[vi]
God does not call believers to compete against each other
over numbers, personal gains, and individual accomplishments
(1 Corinthians 1:12-13 and 3:3-9). Such divisive competition
characterizes a world obsesses with sports and vain awards,
and it'’ wrong. After all, if persecuting the church is
persecuting the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:9 and Acts 9:4), if
doing something for “the least” of the brethren is doing
something for the Lord (Matthew 25:40, 45), if sinning
against the brethren is sinning against Christ (1
Corinthians 8:12) then competing against other believers is
competing against the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It is
impossible to compete against a “partner and fellowhelper”
in the ministry of the gospel (2 Corinthians 8:23).
Consider the example
of the apostle Paul (Philippians 3:17). Did he regard the
Philippian believers as competitors? No, they were his
partners (“partakers of my grace,” Philippians 1:7)[vii]
who gave themselves to God and to each other in a fellowship
of ministering to the saints (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
Nor did Paul regard
other ministers as competitors.
James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived
the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and
Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go
unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision” (Galatians
The ‘right hands of
fellowship” are more than friendly handshakes; they seal a
covenant working agreement between partners. Paul and
Barnabas were called to minister to Gentiles; Peter and John
initially were called to minister to Jews. Rather than
competing against each other, they worked together to
minister the gospel to all men, Jews and Gentiles – and God
worked with them (Acts 2:47 and 15:4).
partnership is possible only among like-minded people who
agree on what needs to be done (and why):
“Can two walk
together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).
In the case of
believers, true fellowship is possible only among
like-minded “children of light” who love God (and each
other), declaring the truth of God’s word (1 John 1:3) and
walking “in the light” that God gives through His holy words
to those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ (John 8:12;
Ephesians 5:8, 14; Psalm 119:105,130).
having the same love, being of one accord, off one mind”
(Philippians 2:2, in context of verses 1-11).
we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have
fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ
his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
therefore hinders any type of fellowship with other
believers. Sometimes a believer’s sin causes him to separate
himself from others, as when Peter separated himself from
the believers at Antioch.
withdrew himself, and separated himself,” (Galatians 2:12,
in context of verses 11-15).
Other times, however,
a believer’s sin forces others to separate from him.
“And if any man obey
not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no
company with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thessalonians
I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that
is called a brother be a fornicator, or a drunkard, or an
extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (1 Corinthians
beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and
offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned: and
avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
severs a believer’s fellowship with God.
the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee?” (Psalm
say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness,
we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6).
adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship
of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be
a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4,
compare 1 John 2:15).
Over and over, the
Bible illustrates this sad truth. Adam and Eve once enjoyed
daily communion with God as they worked for Him in the
garden (Genesis 2), but they later hid themselves from their
Creator after sin severed their fellowship with him (Genesis
3). Young David joyfully served God and killed giants and
wild beasts (1 Samuel 17), but King David lost his joy and
murdered an innocent man after his shameful sin severed his
fellowship with God (2 Samuel 11; Psalm 51:12). At one time
Jonah faithfully served the Lord his God (2 Kings 14:25),
yet he later hid himself in a ship and attempted to flee to
Tarshish because his sinful disobedience severed his
fellowship with the Lord, (Jonah 1). Peter once boasted that
he would follow the Lord to prison and even death (Luke
22:33), but he later tried to return to his life as a
commercial fisherman after his sinful denial of the Lord
severed his fellowship with Him (John 21).
In addition to
severing a believer’s fellowship with God, sin starts a
working partnership with unrighteousness and devils:
“I would not that ye
should have fellowship with devils” (1 Corinthians 10:20).
“And have no
fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather
reprove them.” (Ephesians 5:11).
Sadly, fellowship with
devils precludes partaking in the Lord’s business, and
spiritual adulterers who love the world more than they love
their Savior (thus working in fellowship with the Lord’s
enemies) provoke God to jealousy (1 Corinthians 10:21-22;
James 4:4; 1 John 2:15).
Only repentance and
confession of sin can restore a broken fellowship (1 John
1:9). David’s fellowship with God was restored when he
confessed his sin (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 51), and with a
restored working relationship with God, he ruled mightily
over Israel, and towards the end of his life could
truthfully say, “I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have
not wickedly departed from my God” (2 Samuel 22). Jonah’s
fellowship with God was restored after he confessed his sin
and prayed (Jonah 2), and with a restore working
relationship with the Lord, Jonah preached mightily and God
used his message to bring the entire city of Nineveh to
repentance (Jonah 3). Peter’s fellowship with God was
restored after he bared his heart and confessed the Lord
three times (John 21), and with a restored working
relationship with the Lord, Peter preached mightily on the
day of Pentecost and worked faithfully throughout Acts 1-15.
A working relationship with the Lord Jesus
Christ is absolutely essential. Without Him we can do
nothing of value, but through Him we can do anything God
asks of us.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch
cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine: no
more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are
the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same
bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing”
“I can do all things through Christ which
strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
with Christ hinges on fellowship with fellow believers, and
because fellowship with other believers hinges on obeying
the scriptures and living a Christ-honoring life (1John
1:7), God’s people need to work in a Bible-believing
partnership with the Lord and with each other, ministering
all the true words of God to other people for the glory of
Long before American politicians popularized phrases
such as “brother in arms” and “brothers in combat”
soldiers and sailors called each other “fellows”
contemporary English, a “fellow” is a comrade of
associate of the same kind, group occupation,
society, or locality; having in common certain
characteristics or interest” (American Heritage
Dictionary, 2nd College Edition). This
meaning is evident in some of the Bible’s uses of
the word (for example, judges 11:37, Isaiah 34:14
and Matthew 11;16. Notice, by the way, that
according to Judges 11:37-40, the word “fellow” can
refer to a woman as well as to a man). Because of
the implied insult in verses such as 1 Samuel 21:15
and 29:4, the word “fellow” could also serve as a
derogatory word (Matthew 12:24 and 26:61, 71; Luke
22:59 and 23:2; John 9:29; and Acts 17:5, 18:13,
22:22, and 24:5).
[iii] For example,
Acts 2:42 distinguishes fellowship from eating
(“breaking of bread”) and connects it instead with
learn about their Savior by studying the Bible – and
Bible study in turn produces unashamed “workmen” who
labor under God’s approval (2 Timothy 2:15).
The Lord does not invite believers to work in
fellowship with Him because He actually needs the
help of “unprofitable servants” who do only what
they’re commanded to do (Luke 17:10). He invites
them to join with Him because He genuinely desires
and enjoys their company.
[vi] According to
Luke 24:15, when believers commune together, the
Lord Himself draws near and goes with them.
“partnership” is any endeavor (spiritual or carnal)
in which each person involved takes part (Luke
5:7-10; Philemon 7). A person who takes part in
something is a part-taker, or “partaker” of it (1
Corinthians 8:23; Ephesians 5:7; 2 John 11).
[viii] Even the
world recognizes that he word “company” refers to a
business (or working) partnership, as in “Sears,
Roebuck, and Company.”
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