Sermon Text: [1Jo 1:3-7 ESV] 3 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. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 5 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. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 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.
Last year at the Outposts Retreat I preached on Loneliness. Today I’m preaching on the opposite, Fellowship. Well, if Fellowship is not the opposite of Loneliness, it is as least a partial solution to it.
And there are three aspects of fellowship—each in view to some degree in our sermon text—that I will be addressing today.
I. Fellowship Among Christians
II. Fellowship With the Lord
III. Fellowship Not with Evil.
I. Fellowship Among Christians
When it comes to fellowship among people, I think first of all of Genesis 2:18 when God said “It is not good that the man should be alone.” Of course, this is in the context of marriage, and God says next “I will make him a helper fit for him.” But who could deny that this idea—that man is not meant to be alone—that this idea extends also to the broader subject of fellowship? Christians are not meant to be alone, but to have fellowship with the Church.
While an introvert like me might dream of living alone on an isolated and deserted island, the reality is that we all need fellowship. We are social creatures. And so the Lord has provided us with the Church to full much of that need.
So what is Christian Fellowship? And how are we to socialize with other Christians? Is fellowship more than socializing? And how is fellowship among Christians different than fellowship in the world?
I scarcely can answer all of these questions regarding fellowship in one sermon. But we’ll see how far we can get.
What I will do — and perhaps some of the questions will be answered in the process — is to list a number of Elements of Christian Fellowship, describing from the Bible just what it is. So I have 7 elements of Christians Fellowship.
7 Elements of Christian Fellowship
1. The Necessity of Common Confession.
And the first is the most important. The first element of Christian Fellowship is Common Confession. That is, we have a common confession when we have unity in our belief that Jesus Christ is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead. To have fellowship with one another in the church we are to be united in mind.
Now, there have mergers of denominations in church history that occurred for “practical” reasons rather than on the basis of doctrinal unity. Entire denominations, after merging, have taken up the name “United.” Examples are the United Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ. But sadly these names were more descriptive of their legal structure than their common confession. The ministers, and the people, within the denomination were not united. Some were evangelical, others not. Some believed the Bible without errors, others contended against that position. Fellowship was difficult if not impossible.
Incidentally, I should note, if we ever have that opportunity to merge with another denomination or another church, the first question we must ask is “Can we have fellowship with them; do they have a common confession?”
Psalms 133:1 says “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”
And Amos 3:3 says “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?”
And 1 John 1:7 – “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.”
To have fellowship one another we must EACH walk in the light, agreeing on the Biblical view of God, the world, sin, and salvation.
Simply, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:8 – “Be ye all of one mind.”
So that is the first element of Christian fellowship. A common confession.
2. Living In Word and In Deed
The second element I want to stress is that fellowship is to be “In Word and In Deed.” That is, we must not only SAY we have unity in belief but we must continue in deeds, not neglecting that unity.
It says in Acts 2:42 that the people of the church “devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
They were DEVOTED. This is an intentional and focused fellowship. It was their very lives, not just a passing fleeting thought “maybe I’ll go to church.”
Devotion is not just beliefs, but actions as well. Their beliefs influenced their actions.
They were devoted to the breaking of bread – they attended their worship services and celebrated communion.
3. Be Devoted to the One Another
In Acts they were devoted to the Apostle’s teaching – again note that unity of mind. And they also were devoted to the Fellowship – the people of the church.
How can we show devotion to one another?
A. We can check up on people. Anyone you haven’t seen in a while or talked to. Check up on them.
B. Consider one another to be blessings, not trouble.
I have this theory why country people are friendlier than city people. In the city everyone else is an obstacle to get around. There is traffic. But in the country, with their being few people, everyone is an opportunity for conversation, commerce, or friendship. That’s the way things should be in the church, no one should ever be an obstacle or an opponent but all should be welcomed as beneficial.
C. Consider one another as opportunities for you to show love, to bless someone in some way.
D. Consider one another as opportunities to have “iron sharpen iron.” No one knows everything. We can learn much by discussing things and listening to one another.
Also, maybe this is a sub-point. Our fellowship is with ALL at church. This can be difficult, especially the larger a church is. But since we are to be united, we are to fellowship with all.
4. Be Devoted to Praying for One another.
In Acts they were devoted to prayer.
And so should we be.
Pray for others, and ask others how you can pray for them.
5. Be Devoted to Attending Church
We see also in acts that they were devoted to the breaking of bread. That is, they came together to worship and have communion.
Now, fellowship is More than Just Coming to Church. But it is AT LEAST attendance. You have to be on the same ship with your fellows if you want to have fellowship. Lame pun. But it is to get your attention. One of the definitions of koinonia (Fellowship) is “participation.” Fellowship requires participation.
The well known passage Hebrews 10:25 says that we are not to forsake the assembling of the brethren. But we get even more understanding, looking at it along with the previous verse. Here are the two verses together:
[Heb 10:24-25 ESV] 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
So the meeting together “stirs up one another to love and good works.”
It is not just meeting for the sake of meeting, but has that goal of encouraging one another.
Let our fellowship be for such mutual encouragement, stirring up one other to love and good works.
That’s the 6th element.
6. Christian Fellowship does not end when church is over.
Growing up, we parked in the corner spot in the church parking lot. Why? Well, positively, we were the first one’s there just about, and often jokes about “turning on the lights.” I’m not sure that we ever did turn on the lights, but we were early. But the real reason we parked in the corner spot was for a quick getaway!
When church was over, we were over!
And we had some friends in the church, but I’m sure we would have had many more had we stayed and talked to people.
But also on this subject of “Christian fellowship does not end when church is over” we must think about fellowship through the week. Yes, we have Wednesday prayer meeting. But we also have those various interactions through the week that are to encourage one another. And I’m glad to say that I see many great things being down for one another in the church. Giving rides to one another. Praying for one another. Visiting one another.
Ok, next point:
7. Fellowship with God is the prerequisite for fellowship with others.
This really flows into our next heading, Fellowship with God. We’ll see there that Fellowship with God comes first, and on that basis we have fellowship with others. As He loved us, so we are to love others.
So let’s move then from “Fellowing Among Christians” to “Fellowship with God.”
II. Fellowship With the Lord
In a number of places we find that our love for one another is possible because God first loved us.
[1Jo 4:7 ESV] 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
[Jhn 13:34 ESV] 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
[Rom 15:7 ESV] 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
[Eph 5:2 ESV] 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Christ broke down that wall dividing us from God. That wall of sin.
And Christ brings us together. He has redeemed a people, bringing us into one church.
So Christ provides the standard by which we are to love one another. As He loved us, so we are to walk in love.
We each have fellowship with God and therefore we have fellowship with one another.
But what about unbelievers; can we fellowship with unbelievers?
III. Fellowship Not with evil
Under “Fellowship,” Nave’s Topical Bible has the same 3 points as I do. They have “fellowship with believers,” “fellowship with God,” and “fellowship with the wicked forbidden.”
There are of course many Scriptures that warn against joining in on the evil of the wicked:
[Psa 1:1 ESV] 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
[Pro 22:24 ESV] 24 Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,
[2Co 6:14 ESV] 14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
[Jas 4:4 ESV] 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
One might conclude saying “we should be friendly to all, but friends only with believers.” But this isn’t entirely accurate. The reality is that we MAY be friends with unbelievers, but it is difficult to be as close and there are warning to be heeded in such friendships.
Now, we CANNOT have fellowship with unbelievers, but we can have friendships. Fellowship is limited to those with whom there is unity. Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and sinners, but unless they came to faith, they did not have fellowship; that did not join together in a common cause and purpose.
While we are to love our neighbor as our ourselves, there is, certainly, a special love we are to have for fellow Christians above all others.
One source explains: We can have friendships and relationships with unbelievers, but true Christian fellowship can only occur within the body of Christ.
That common bond in Christ is far greater than any other bond. I often see how quickly two hikers will become friends with one another, how welcoming we are in the hiking community. And there is often vast differences among hikers. How much more should we be quick to bond with those who are in Christ? We have that shared experience of knowing sin and knowing our savior.
And we celebrate out fellowship with one another and with the Lord every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. It is, after all, called “Holy COMMUNION.” It is a fellowship meal.
Let us pray for growth in our fellowship. That no one will feel left out, but that all will volunteer to help in the church and outside of the church to benefit one another and to be blessed in both the giving and receiving of Christian love.
And let all that we do be because Christ first loved us.
What a Fellowship, what a Joy divine, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.
Let us pray.
Hymn of Response: Trinity Hymnal #616, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.