The Lord's Church...
Fellowship: Between Christians
in the same local church
By Dick Ward
Luke speaks of "fellowship" among those who made up the Jerusalem church. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42 KJV). Paul reminds the Corinthians of their being "called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (I Cor. 1:9). Thus, we become aware of fellowship within the framework of the local church.
As we define various words that are used in the New Testament and translated "fellowship" or that describe the "action of having fellowship", we see a picture of working together and co-operating with one another. The noun koinonia means "joint participation, intercourse, intimacy, the share one has in anything". The noun koinonos means "a partner, associate, comrade, sharer, partaker of, sharer in anything". The noun metoche means "a sharing, communion". The verb sugkoinoneo means "to become a partaker together with others, to have fellowship with a thing". The verb koinoneo means "to come into communion or fellowship with, to become a sharer, be made a partner, join one's self to an associate, make one's self a sharer or partner".
When the local church collectively practices error, it is out of fellowship with God. Ephesus had left their first love and the lampstand was about to be removed (Rev. 2:4,5). Pergamos had some who held the false doctrines of Balaam and of the Nicolaitans and was about to face the sword of the Lord's mouth (Rev. 2:14-16). Sardis, being dead and imperfect in their works, was about to have the Lord come upon them as a thief (Rev. 3:1-3).
When a local church moves the Lord's Supper from the first day of the week to the seventh day of the week, the membership might be "partakers together with others" in their seventh day eating, but such is rejected fellowship (Acts 20:7). When a local church changes music from vocal (singing) to instrumental (singing with the instrument) the membership might be "partakers together with them" in their worship, but such worship is vain (John 4:24; I Cor. 14:15).
Paul warns the Corinthians about the sacrifices of the Gentiles and admonishes them not to have "fellowship (koinonia) with devils" (I Cor. 10:20). Paul gave the Corinthiians credit in knowing that righteousness has no "fellowship" (metoche) with unrighteousness and light has no "communion" (koinonia) with darkness. In like manner, Paul told the Ephesians to "have no fellowship (sugkoinoneo) with the unfruitful works of darkness". Paul's writings show the possibility of having fellowship in the wrong areas. In view of God's Word, we see these things to be rejected fellowship. Rejected fellowship is when a local church is united in adding to or taking from the God-given instructions found in the New Testament!
The two churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia (Rev. 2:8-11; 3:7-13), received no condemnation from the Lord and therefore it is implied they were in fellowship with God. Smyrna was rich and Philadelphia had a little strength and had kept the Lord's Word! Scriptural fellowship is the "joint participation" in following God's directions in the doing of His Will.
FELLOWSHIP IN THE SAME LOCAL CHURCH
The Scriptures teach us that fellowship between Christians in the local church can be either scriptural or unscriptural. God rejects fellowship in the local congregation when the "joint participation" is an unauthorized practice. In our society today, many churches of Christ are engaged in "joint participation" in unauthorized actiivities and as a result, they have no fellowship with God.
The Hebrew writer shows that the very act of assembling as a local church to engage in authorized acts of work and worship is scriptural fellowship. The very act of calling the church together is to create "joint participation" and thus have individual members becoming "partners together with others". The proper atmosphere in assembling the church together is: "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:" (Heb. 10:24). We are not to miss church services like many people are prone to do. We exhort each other to attend all the assemblies of the local church "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Heb. 10:25).
Paul describes the scriptural partaking of the Lord's Supper as "fellowship" in the local church. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (koinonia) of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion (koinonia) of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." (I Cor. 10:16,17; 11:17-34).
When the individual of the local congregation gives his contribution along with every other member of the local church into a common treasury "fellowship" has taken place. "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you (second person plural - D.W.) lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." (I Cor. 16:2). This has been described as "participation in common" - joint participation in increasing the monies in the treasury of the local church to be spent in authorized areas of church responsibility!
In the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs the local church engages in another act of "joint participation". In congregational singing each singer becomes a sharer in this worship to God. Each singer is "a partaker together with others" in this musical offering to God and in this act of ediifying self and each other through singing (I Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
After Herod had taken the life of James, the king next arrested Peter. The church in their deep concern for Peter's life offered up prayer on his behalf: "Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him." (Acts 12:5). When a man leads a prayer in the assembly of the church, the faithful humbly bow and follow carefully the words being spoken. When the prayer being led is scriptural, the assembly can and is praying with the leader. We become partakers and sharers in that scriptural prayer.
The local church has work to do and each member needs to feel responsible to jointly participate in the scriptural work. The membership of the local church is basically a partnership and thus each saint is a sharer in the work. Different members of a local church have different talents with varying abilities. Too often we see only a few actually doing what God has assigned as local church duties. A study of fellowship between members in the same local church should result in everyone doing his and her part and to the highest level of ability that one possesses.
[Editors Note: Thanks to Dick Ward for the article! He may be reached at: Dick Ward, 18 Eldorado East, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35405, (205) 556-2407.]
Email the Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
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