The Importance of Fellowship

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This morning I want us to think about the important biblical idea of fellowship.
What is biblical fellowship? Whatever it is, it has something to do with potlucks right? Baptist buffet is probably part of the etomology of the Greek word of koinonia right?
What really is biblical fellowship?
Psalm 133:1 ESV
1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
Unity is a function of something that unites.
Fellowship is something that is held in common.
The location of Christian unity and fellowship, according to the New Testament, is the local church.
There is something that at a minimum unites us together, there is something that we all hold in common.
At minimum, the thing that unites the church, that thing that is held in common by all Christians is the gospel itself. The moment a person believes in the good news of the gospel there is an inward spiritual reality that takes place that forms the basis of our unity and fellowship.

The Basis of Unity and Fellowship

John 17:20–23 ESV
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
The nature of our unity, our “oneness” is spiritual. We enjoy a spiritual kind of unity. “That they may be one even as we are one.” What kind of unity does the Father and Son enjoy? It is a spiritual unity. Our unity that we enjoy with each other is the same kind of unity. The nature and basis of our unity and fellowship is spiritual in nature.
How does one enter into this spiritual unity?
1 Corinthians 12:12–13 ESV
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
We enter into spiritual unity with each other by means of our spiritual baptism into the body of Christ. We are one because we are all part of the one body of Christ.
Galatians 3:27–28 ESV
27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
How is one added to the one body of Christ?
Ephesians 2:13–18 ESV
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
How is one added to the one body of Christ? By the blood of Christ, through the cross— it is in Christ.
Unity is a function of something that unites.
Fellowship is something that is held in common.
Minimal unity and fellowship among Christians is defined by the gospel itself. Where the gospel is held in common, unity exists and fellowship should be recognized. Where the gospel is denied (either directly or by denial of a fundamental doctrine of the faith), unity does not exist and fellowship should not be extended.
Illustration: meeting a stranger for the first time and discovering they are a believer. Instant unity, instant fellowship.
That does not mean that all unity and fellowship is on the same level. As you study the NT you discover that there are levels of fellowship. The gospel is the outer boundary of Christian unity, but within that boundary is an entire system of faith and practice.

An Illustration of Christian Fellowship: Church Membership

Levels of church fellowship: Explain
Church membership is an important and serious level of fellowship. I may have personal fellowship with many different believers with different systems of faith and practice. I will gladly sit down for coffee with them, and pray with them. But, I would not enter into church membership with them. Why not?
John 10:3–4 ESV
3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
Unity is a function of something that unites us. At minimum all believers are united by the gospel. But, when you get to the local church level unity becomes even more important. Unity is not something that we can manufacture or create by wishing hard enough. Unity is given to us by God through the Spirit, and it is maintained when the we the sheep follow our Shepherd. As each one of us follows after Jesus to the best of our ability, we all begin to head in the same direction, and as we eagerly pursue Jesus together we maintain and deepen our unity and fellowship.
How do we eagerly follow after Jesus? Much of that question has to do with our doctrine. Our system of beliefs within the boundary of the gospel will determine how we follow Jesus. So, to be a church member with another person requires a high level of agreement in doctrine, in faith and practice.
This idea goes right to the heart of what church membership is! I believe that the responsibilities of church membership are define in Scripture in the “one another” passages.
1 Thessalonians 5:14–15 ESV
14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
Romans 15:14 ESV
14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
Colossians 3:16 ESV
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Galatians 6:2 ESV
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Hebrews 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.
The responsibilities of church membership even include church discipline!
1 Corinthians 5:12–13 ESV
12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
The criteria for how we fulfill the one another passages has much to do with the doctrine that we hold dear. That is why we have a doctrinal statement and church covenant. When you become a member you are covenanting together with the people in this church to encourage, admonish, teach, instruct, and even discipline you according to the doctrine that we hold in common with each other.
It is a beautiful thing! It is a necessary and God intended thing. God wants you to have the spiritual oversight, accountability, and encouragement of being a member of a local church! You need a local body of believers who will stir you up to love and good works- and so much more as you see the day approaching!
In just few minutes we are going to hear the testimony of five people who desire to covenant together with you all for church membership. This is a wonderful illustration of unity and fellowship, and it is very important! Let’s hear the testimonies of these saints and, if you are willing, enter into spiritual partnership with them!
Testimonies for Church Membership

An Illustration of Christian Fellowship: Missions

One of the purposes of today is to officially send off Alex and Nicole on their missions trip to South Africa. This is another great opportunity for us to think on the importance of Christian fellowship!
Unity is a function of something that unites.
Fellowship is something that is held in common.
Alex and Nicole both profess faith in the gospel. We are unified and we have fellowship with them because of the good news. But, we are going to a deeper level of fellowship with them because we are sending them as missionaries from our local church. This is an important level of fellowship!
Levels of Fellowship: Explain
To me partnering with missionaries is on or near the same level as church membership! It is very important who you partner with! And taking on missionaries for support and prayer is participating in fellowship.
Philippians 1:3–7 ESV
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
Philippians 4:14–16 ESV
14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.
Alex and Nicole, all of the saints here at Faith, have entered into a spiritual partnership with you! We have commited ourselves to share in the ministry with you. And you have commited to share in the ministry with us! You are part of our obedience to the Great Commission. You are our partners taking the gospel to the ends of the earth! We want to be partakers with you of your ministry!
And we would not enter into this kind of fellowship with just anyone! Why not?
2 John 8–11 ESV
8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
“Even the most insignificant encouragement to someone who is proclaiming a false gospel bring one into fellowship with the evil that follows. Apparently Christians can gain a share in the evil that apostates do. The apostate and the one who encourages the apostate have a common stake in the results of the false gospel.” —Dr. Kevin Bauder
But the flip side is also true!
Philippians 4:17 ESV
17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.
Paul states that when we enter into fellowship with missionaries, like Alex and Nicole, who profess the true gospel and who are likeminded in their doctrine and practice, we have a common stake in the results of their efforts!
Alex and Nicole, you are not going to preach a false gospel right? Of course not! We know that for certain! They have lived and ministered and prayed with us in church membership. We can have confidence that these are the kinds of Christians that we want to partner with. Praise God for this opportunity of Christian fellowship!
Faith Baptist Church- take this commitment to partner with Alex and Nicole seriously! How?

Give to missions- that is fellowship

Philippians 4:15 ESV
15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.

Pray for missions- that is fellowship

Colossians 4:3 ESV
3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—
1 Thessalonians 5:25 ESV
25 Brothers, pray for us.
2 Thessalonians 3:1 ESV
1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,
Aside: pray intelligently! Stay informed- read their prayer letter. Communicate with them directly- WhatsApp of Facebook Messenger. We are going to Zoom with them during a service sometime this summer! Alex and Nicole- if you have time I want to personally communicate with you and encourage you face to face (well screen to screen)!

Share in their Ministry- that is fellowship

Philippians 1:7 ESV
7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
Do the same kinds of things they will be doing- just here in Oconomowoc! Make disciple, evangelize, be salt and help halt the spread of sin in our society, be light and live out a genuine Christian testimony. What a joy it will be in the Fall when Alex and Nicole come back to hear how you have to partakers with them of the grace of serving Christ!
I also think this is another Biblical reason to stay informed on their ministry. Be partakers with them- weep when they weep (and let them know), rejoice when they rejoice (it was so awesome to hear how God worked!).
Sending Prayer: Personal love for Christ, Wisdom and safety on the field, An open door for the Word, financial support and a vehicle, health and safety for Nicole and baby, safe flight on May 31st
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