Fellowship with One Another (A Sermon You Can Use This Sunday)
Perhaps you heard about the pastor who skipped church one Sunday when he was out of town so he could play a round of golf.
When the Devil saw what he was doing, he made a bee line for the pearly gates to accuse the back-sliding bishop to the Lord.
“Don’t worry,” the Lord assured the adversary. “I’ll make sure he gets his first and only hole-in-one today.”
“That’s how you chastise your choice servants, with a reward?” sneered the accuser.
“Think about it,” said the Lord. “Who will he get to tell?”
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:1–10, ESV)
When we consider our most basic needs in life—security, satisfaction, and significance—we see relationships are at the heart of our human identity.
Think about the way you feel when we get good news, achieve a special accomplishment, or unexpectedly face disappointment or devastation.
On those occasions, don’t we naturally want others to share with us in that experience. We want our friends to rejoice with us in our successes, to stand with us in our struggles, and sometimes just lend and ear in our disappointments.
That’s because life wasn’t meant to be lived alone. It is meant to be shared. Community is ingrained in the human heart.
Even the Lone Ranger had a sidekick.
No wonder social media, like Facebook, are so popular!
Scripture points to this as well.
The fact that we are made in the image of a triune God reveals something about how we were created. God exists in community with Himself eternally. And by making us in His own image, we are made to exist in community as well—in community with God and in community with one another.
Consider how God created a wife for Adam before he said His creative work was perfected (very good).
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:26–31, ESV)
When Cain sinned and refused to repent, his punishment was to be uprooted from his family, his community, and left to wander the earth as a vagabond. He didn’t go alone though. He took a wife with him and went away and founded his own city.
He raised up a community of people who did not worship the Lord, but it was a community nonetheless.
“And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.” (Genesis 4:10–17, ESV)
Similar examples abound not only in Scripture, but in history, in literature, and in our own experiences.
The necessity of community is innate in mankind and we can find this desire for community in every society, and in every generation.
The 16th century English poet, John Donne, reflected the felt need of community in his famous poem, “No Man is an Island.”
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
DEVOTIONS UPON EMERGENT OCCASIONS
When Jesus organized his Apostles to perpetuate the kingdom work during his earthly absence, he called them out and organized them together in a special εκκλεσια (assembly). We know it as the church.
“And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” (Mark 3:13–19, ESV)
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.” (Matthew 16:13–20, ESV)
In Scripture, the church is
- analogous to a body (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Ephesians 4:11-16)
- analogous to a family (Ephesians 2:11-22)
- analogous to a temple or spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-5)
- analogous to a new people group [chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation] (1 Peter 2:9-10)
As seen in these scriptural analogies, the church is a special interconnected community.
In the historical record of the early church, St. Luke describes the activities of this special interconnected community of believers in Jesus as sharing life, serving one another, and worshiping together for the glory of God, the edification of all believers, and the evangelization of the world.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42–47, ESV)
Frequently in Scripture, the church is admonished in the context of αλληλων, translated into various forms of “one another.”
- Have Fellowship with One Another (1 John 1:1-10)
- Accept (Welcome) One Another (Romans 14:1-4; 15:1-7)
- Forbear One Another (Ephesians 4:1-7)
- Bear with One Another (Galatians 6:1-5)
- Care for One Another (1 Corinthians 12:12-26)
- Comfort (encourage) One Another (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
- Edify One Another (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
- Greet One Another (1 Corinthians 16:19-20; 2 Corinthians 13:11-14)
- Honor One Another (Romans 12:9-21)
- Be Hospitable to One Another (1 Peter 4:1-11)
- Love One Another (John 13:31–35)
In 1 John 1:3, the author uses the word κοινωνία (translated fellowship) to describe their close association involving mutual interests and sharing with the Father, and with Christ, and with one another.1
Κοινωνία can also be defined as participation fellowship, which is the act of sharing in the activities or privileges of an intimate association or group (See Acts 2:42-47 again).
True fellowship is derived from the community of Christ faithfully communing with Christ.
In practice, church (or Christian) fellowship is not about lingering around a table of coffee and donuts before the service starts, per se. Nor is it about chatting at the potluck after church, necessarily. Of course fellowship can be happening during those times, but food and drink and laughter alone do not fill the bill.
Rather, fellowship is sharing our inner lives in the context of God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Specifically, fellowship is fiercely dedicated to uprooting the patterns of the old nature, the adamic man that sought fulfillment (security, satisfaction, and significance) in self, and edifying the new nature, the spiritual man who finds fulfillment in Christ alone.
From the Scriptural text, and from personal experience, we can intuit fellowship is something that must be cultivated. It doesn’t come natural to us.
While community is natural to us, fellowship is spiritual. Therefore, it must be cultivated with particular spiritual qualifications.
According to 1 John 1:1-10, the basis for fellowship is belief in the gospel, the condition for fellowship is walking in light (or truth), and the context for fellowship is Christ’s community.
1 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 552.
About Scott Postma
Scott lives in North Idaho collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. He helps people cultivate their capacity to perceive and appreciate the good, the true, and the beautiful by sharing rich insights into the arts and humanities, meaningful perspective on faith and culture, and valuable tips on writing and teaching. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.