So far, we have looked at two day-by-day spiritual exercises; prayer and Bible study. And we have looked at one weekly spiritual exercise, tithing. Today we will look at another weekly spiritual exercise, Fellowship. I want us to first define what fellowship is and then we will look at the why and how of fellowship.
I. What is fellowship?
Fellowship is the intentional friendship one Christian develops with other Christians. In Acts 2:42 (NLT), we have an example of fellowship. The scripture says this, “They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.”
This verse is part of a summary of the first Christian church in Jerusalem. We will read the rest of the summary later. It describes the believers in Jesus as being devoted to fellowship. The Greek word for fellowship is “Koinonia”. It means sharing or partnership. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we become partners with Jesus and with other Christians. However, just as we intentionally enter into a relationship and friendship with Jesus, we must also intentionally enter into a relationship and friendship with other Christians. In order to have real Christian fellowship with others, there must be an intentional effort to build a friendship. As I read this passage in Acts 2, I see the intentional effort here of a congregation to build friendships.
II. Why must I be in fellowship?
Does it really matter whether or not I intentionally develop a friendship with other Christians? The Bible answers this question for us. I want to share with you three reasons why we must be in fellowship.
- Because I belong to other Christians in God’s family.
Romans 12:5 (NIV) says this. “So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” As a Christian, I am one of many in the body of Christ. I have a unique place in the body of Christ and I belong there. You have a unique place in the body of Christ and you belong there. I need for you to fulfill your place in the body of Christ, and you need me to fulfill my place in the body of Christ. We belong to each other, and together in fellowship we form one body of Christ.
- Because I need encouragement and accountability.
There are two scriptures that teach us this truth. The first one is Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV). “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”
Concerning encouragement, I cannot be encouraged if I am not in Christian fellowship with other Christians. “Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” I know how much I need encouragement. Therefore, in order to receive the encouragement I need, I must be in fellowship with other Christians.
Galatians 6:1 (NIV) says this. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” This scripture reminds us that we as Christians can sin and that we need accountability. If I am in fellowship with other Christians, then they can restore me gently when I sin. The goal here of a fellowship group is gentle restoration, not harsh condemnation. Without the accountability, we are more likely to continue in sin rather than be restored from it. With accountability, we have real Christian friends that help us to overcome the failure, the sin, and the shame in our life.
- Because I am to serve other Christians.
1 Peter 4:10 (NCV) says this. “Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace.” We understand from this scripture that as Christians we all have a spiritual gift. The purpose of that gift is to serve others. If I am in fellowship with other Christians, then I have the opportunity to serve that group of Christians with the spiritual gift God has given me. And in my service, I am being a good steward of God’s gift. If I am not in fellowship with other Christians, then I can’t serve them, and my spiritual gift is not used. If my spiritual gift is not used, then I am not being a good steward of God’s gift.
So here we have three biblical reasons to be in fellowship with other Christians. We belong to each other. We are to encourage and hold each other accountable. And we are to serve each other. These ideas can take place only if we make an intentional choice to be in fellowship with other Christians. Christianity was never meant to be lived in isolation. It was meant to be lived in fellowship with other Christians. You cannot grow, develop, serve, and love if you live apart from other Christians. However, if you live in fellowship with other Christians, then you can grow, develop, serve, and love.
III. How can I be in fellowship?
Here is the rest of the summary in Acts 2:42-47 (NLT). “They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.”
There are many ways to be involved in fellowship discussed in this passage and others as well. But I have two ideas that I want to point out from this scripture of how to be involved in fellowship.
- Participate in a small group Bible study.
The scripture states that the believers were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. These Christians came together on a regular basis in order to learn from the apostles more about Jesus, God, and how to live a Christian life. From their example, I encourage you to participate in a small group Bible study.
- Devote myself to caring and praying for others in my small group.
This scripture states that these believers were devoted to praying together; they shared everything in common; they helped those in need; they worshipped together in the temple; they met in their homes for the Lord’s Supper; and they shared meals together. I use this word “devote” to stress the intentional effort that these believers gave to each other. They were committed to praying for and caring for one another. I get the sense that no one was left out, and that everyone was involved in a small group of Christians. I encourage you with this biblical example to participate in a small group Bible study, and then devote yourself to the caring and praying for others in your group. It is a spiritual exercise that will transform your life. Because of their devotion to God and to each other, God blessed this Jerusalem congregation with new believers every day. They grew larger and smaller at the same time.
Will you develop the spiritual exercise of fellowship?