Fellowship With Believers in Christ
- What is Biblical Fellowship?
- We Have Biblical Relationship Responsibilities
- The Purpose of Fellowship
- The Body of Christ
1 Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, exhort you to walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 being diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH,
HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES,
And HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” Ephesians 4:1-8 LSB
What is Biblical Fellowship?
In the verses above, the apostle Paul urges believers as part of God’s family to:
- Walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called
- With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love
- Be diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
Being a member of God’s family and part of His body means we are bound together in Christ. We all have:
- One body (the body of Christ)
- One Spirit (the Holy Spirit)
- One hope of your calling
- One Lord
- One faith
- One baptism (into Christ’s body)
- One God
- One Father of all who is over all and through all and in all
- Grace given to us according to the measure of Christ’s gift
- Gifts given to us by Christ
10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Take the lead in honoring one another. 11 Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Romans 12:10-13 CSB
Speaking to One Another
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with gratefulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:16-17 LSB
Fellowship comes from the Greek word koinōnía, which essentially means to share in, fellowship with, participate. God has given each one of us much to share in many different ways. As you carefully look at the verses below, determine what you can share with others and at least one practical way to share it.
11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11 NIV
21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:21 NIV
2 Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 CSB
6 Let the one who is taught the word share all his good things with the teacher. Galatians 6:6 CSB
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. James 5:16 LSB
Have you resisted someone who genuinely wanted to help you in some way? Did your attitude hinder or prevent the person from sharing with you? What happened?
Sharing involves giving and receiving; both are integral parts of meaningful fellowship. Which is easier for you—to give or receive? Why?
An Example of What Biblical Fellowship Is Not
Picture this situation. Several followers of Jesus are in the same room drinking coffee and eating doughnuts as they discuss last week’s championship game. The conversation moves to the subject of which animal makes the best household pet. Then someone tells a joke he recently heard. They enjoy a good laugh together and begin to talk about the weather forecast for tomorrow. As one of them leaves, he says, “It sure is good to have fellowship!”
Is any of this wrong? No, and you will have conversations about these things together. The question is, is there more than this? If so, what?
We Have Biblical Relationship Responsibilities
We believers fellowship together on the basis that we are all forgiven sinners—forgiven, yes, but still sinners. We can honestly share our lives in a genuine, sincere, and loving way. We don’t have to pretend to be something we are not.
Our relationship with God and our relationships with each other reveals what is really going on in our relationship with God and our relationships with each other.
In other words, if I have a problem with a brother or sister in Christ and do not follow what the Word says about being reconciled, then I have a relationship with God problem too. Remember what the Lord said?
30 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. 31 The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 CSB
Your Attitude Toward Your Brother or Sister in Christ
The Lord Jesus made it truly clear that our attitude toward our brother or sister in Christ is very important! Our own attitude toward our brother or sister in Christ is where our relationship accountability and responsibility before the Lord begins. The Lord illustrated this in Matthew 5 by talking about the commandment that says do not murder (Exodus 20:13).
21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire. 23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:21-24 CSB
He established that this commandment extends to a person’s attitude toward someone, not just the act. Murder begins with an attitude of the heart and acting on that attitude results in the taking of someone’s life. Becoming angry at someone and assuming an attitude of superiority by insulting someone demonstrates a sinful heart. A person with this sinful heart is obviously a sinner and is therefore on the road to judgment.
You must deal with your wrong attitude and make things right. Be reconciled to your brother or sister. Your relationship with your brother or sister is far more important than being right or wrong.
You are no longer walking in love if you think your relationship with a brother or sister in Christ takes second place to your thinking that you have to be right.
Until you make things right according to the Word, wait to offer your gift to God. Being first reconciled with each other makes the gift meaningful because you have obeyed His commandment to love God and love others. Remember what the Lord said through Samuel.
22 But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 NIV
What to Do When Your Brother or Sister Has Something Against You
23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:21-24 CSB
What to Do When You Have Something Against Your Brother or Sister
15 “If your brother sins against you, go tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won your brother." Matthew 18:15 CSB
35 So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:35 CSB
Forgive as the Lord Forgave You
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 NIV
The Purpose of Fellowship
Fellowship with others in God’s family is vital! Here are a few Scripture verses that begin to explain why fellowship is so important.
Keeping ourselves out of fellowship and relationship with God’s people is selfish.
1 An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends
and against all sound judgment starts quarrels. Proverbs 18:1 NIV
We need the sharpening that comes from relationships.
17 As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 NIV
Two are better than one.
9 Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. 10 For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 CSB
We must take heed to these verses from Hebrews, especially in the times in which we are living.
13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13 NASB95
24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 NASB95
The Body of Christ
God uses the analogy of a body to describe the relationship of believers with one another and with Christ.
Christ is the Head of His Body
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:15-20 NIV
Every Part of Christ’s Body Is Important and Valuable
Each and every believer is given unique and important opportunities and responsibilities in this spiritual body, the church. This means you.
12 For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body — so also is Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and we were all given one Spirit to drink. 14 Indeed, the body is not one part but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” it is not for that reason any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” it is not for that reason any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted. 19 And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you! ” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you! ” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable. 23 And those parts of the body that we consider less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unrespectable parts are treated with greater respect, 24 which our respectable parts do not need. Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, 25 so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. 26 So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 CSB
Consider these truths from the Word and pray about them. Receive what God says to you and act upon His words concerning them.
- God has arranged you in the body of Christ just as He wanted (verse 18).
- He has placed you in His body so there would be no division in the body, and so that you and the other members of His body would have the same concern for each other (verses 24-26).
Disharmony in the body can happen due to:
- The selfish thinking that says I don’t belong to the body because I am not the part of the body I think I should be (verses 15-16).
- The selfish thinking that says I don’t need the other parts of the body (verse 21).
Do you ever struggle with feeling superior or inferior to others in the body of Christ whose functions are different from yours? Verses 20-22 tell us how to deal with these feelings.
Because the body works together as one unit, even though every part of the body is specialized and performs many diverse functions, consider how this God-given combination of unity and diversity can provide each one of us with safety and with interdependence.
What Preserves Unity in Our Relationships
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3 NIV
How do you practice being completely humble as the Lord’s disciple and follower?
Examine your attitudes toward other believers.
- Is there someone you find difficult to relate to in love as another member of Christ’s body? Why?
- What steps can you take to bring harmony to your relationship with this individual?
1 How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity! Psalm 133:1 NIV
The Local Church
The activities of the church in Jerusalem are written in Acts 2:42-47.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 CSB
Notice the activities that distinguished the church in Jerusalem.
- They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.
- Everyone was filled with awe.
- Many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles.
- All the believers were together, and held all things in common.
- They were generous.
- They devoted themselves to meeting every day.
- They broke bread from house to house.
- They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts.
- They were praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
- Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
What a generous and loving church! These believers are totally devoted and committed! It is significant that the last part of the description is what the Lord did every day. How many people would the Lord daily add to our number if we lived and loved as they did? I believe their example is what drew people in and then the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Remember what the Lord Jesus said to the disciples in John 13:34-35?
34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 CSB
The Equipping of the Saints
11 And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head — Christ. 16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself up in love by the proper working of each individual part. Ephesians 4:11-16 CSB
Who Equips the Saints So They Can Do the Work of Ministry
The Lord Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (verse 11).
Goals of Biblical Community
Verses 13-16 tell us the goals.
- The attaining of unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son.
- Growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fulness.
- We will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. (In a nutshell, spiritually mature and stable believers.)
- Growth of the body for building itself up in love by the proper working of each individual part.
Are you presently engaged in a work of ministry that God uses to build up others in the body of Christ? Why not?
1 Peter 5:1-9 gives direction to the leaders and members of a local flock.
1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, overseeing not under compulsion, but willingly, according to God; and not for dishonest gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 CASTING ALL YOUR ANXIETY ON HIM, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished among your brethren who are in the world. 1 Peter 5:1-9 LSB
See Ezekiel 34:1-16 to learn more about the contrast between false shepherds and the True Shepherd.
Beneficial Service Should Be Rewarded
Supporting those who preach and teach in the family of God is commanded by the Lord in 1 Corinthians 9:9-14.
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain. Is God really concerned about oxen? 10 Isn’t he really saying it for our sake? Yes, this is written for our sake, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes should thresh in hope of sharing the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material benefits from you? 12 If others have this right to receive benefits from you, don’t we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right; instead, we endure everything so that we will not hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Don’t you know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:9-14 CSB
Are you presently giving back to God part of everything that He has given you?
What does God want you to do with regard to prayer and support for your spiritual leaders?
2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Colossians 4:2-4 NKJV
What is one thing you can do during this week to encourage those who are helping you walk with Christ?
Points to Remember
- Genuine fellowship or biblical community is based on the concept of giving to and receiving from other followers of Jesus. You can share with others whatever God has given you—forgiveness, mercy, possessions, love, His Word, and many other things.
- God gives fellowship for the purpose of mutual encouragement and growth.
- He wants believers to live in unity and harmony with one another. To help us understand how believers are related, God uses the analogy of the body. Jesus Christ is the Head of the body, which is comprised of all believers. This provides both safety and interdependence.
- All followers of Jesus throughout the world belong to Christ’s body, but it is important for you to recognize how God wants you to be related to a smaller, specific group of believers. This smaller group is for the purpose of instruction, sharing, worship, and service. God has given spiritual leaders to help you mature in Christ and to become effective in the ministry.
Points to Ponder
In Paul’s day one of the issues concerning fellowship among believers was the cultural divide between Jews and Greeks. In our world there are often cultural and racial issues that hinder believers from sharing their lives with one another. What cultural or racial divides have you experienced? How can you work to biblically overcome these divides for greater love?