By Johnny O. Trail — The term fellowship has come to mean numerous things to various people. Some of the ideas put forth regarding the nature of Christian fellowship are truly sectarian in nature (Romans 16.7; cf. John 17.21). Any view that contradicts the biblical definition of fellowship should be rejected. Suffice it to say that one must ascertain what the Bible teaches about true fellowship. To that end, it becomes apparent that one can be in fellowship with God, Christ, and fellow Christians.
First, “We have fellowship with God because we are partakers of the divine nature, as we escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.” This is a summation of 2 Peter 1:2-4 which says, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” We are in fellowship with God through the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1.7). His blood has provided the means of escape from the pollutions of this world. We contact that blood and are cleansed at the point of baptism (Acts 22.16).
The only way one can be in fellowship with the Father is to be in fellowship with the Son. In John 14:6-7, the Son of Man says, “… I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” It is impossible to deny the Son and have fellowship with the Father.
Consequently, if we truly have fellowship with God, we are striving to walk in the light. 1 John 1:5-7 says, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” It is of little wonder that Jesus is called the “true light” in scripture. John 1:9-12 says, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
Next, “We have fellowship with Jesus Christ because of the common sympathies which his life and sufferings have established between himself and us.” Galatians 2:20 says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Jesus has never endorsed sin, but He uniquely understands the human condition.
This makes Him the perfect High Priest to intercede on our behalf. Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Jesus understands what it means to face temptation, and God provides a means of escape to those who would effectuate it (I Corinthians 10.13).
Finally, “We have fellowship with one another because of the mutual participation in each other’s affections, joys, sorrows and needs.” As God’s people, we are called upon to bear each other’s burdens. Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” The church in our century has de-emphasized the importance of fellowship.
Contrary to the trends of our age, we need to build our lives and develop our families around Christ and His church (Acts 20.28). Parents should teach their children that developing relationships with the people of God is extremely important. The fellowship of the saints in the first century served as a source of comfort and strength in their times of persecution. By the same token, it can help people who are coping with various life situations if it functions in the manner in which God intended.
This is why the church was encouraged by the Hebrew writer to engage in regular assemblies. In the face of withering persecution, the saints addressed in Hebrews were encouraged to draw closer to God and to draw closer to one another. Hebrews 10:22-25 says, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 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.”
This writer is of the opinion that one of the reasons why disfellowship does not work is because we do not have true biblical fellowship with our fellow saints. While we do not want to withdraw fellowship from any person, it sometimes becomes necessary (I Corinthians 5.4-5). When one is withdrawn from, it should be a devastating set of circumstances. The one who walks disorderly (II Thessalonians 3.6) should feel alienation from God and from his church family upon the heels of an autonomous congregation withdrawing fellowship. The mere thought of losing one’s church family should be devastating. That coupled with loosing fellowship with Christ should cause a person to repent of transgressions.
Sadly, this is not always the case. To some, fellowship is nothing more than one’s face in the directory and the occasional fellowship meal. We should know something about the people in our pews beyond sporadic interaction. Jesus knew about those within His “sheepfold” and so should we. John 10:14 says, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” These passages in the gospel of John chapter ten have powerful implications for those who would serve as elders in the Lord’s church.
While we cannot be omniscient like our Master, we should have knowledge of those who are under our oversight (as elders) or considered to be brethren that we assemble with on a regular basis. Peter is in harmony with this concept when he says in 1 Peter 1:22, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” Loving the brethren is part of the divine imperative.
Fellowship is a topic rich for study and consideration. Suffice it to say that the child of God is in fellowship with any person who is in fellowship with Christ. 1 John 1:2-3 says “For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us; That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
 Shepherd, J.W. (1929). The Church the Falling Away and the Restoration. The Gospel Advocate, Nashville, pg. 38.