Having noted the nature of Christian fellowship, I now turn to the content of Christian fellowship.
Christian fellowship is Christocentric, meaning that it centres on the Lord Jesus Christ because He is the centre of everything Col 1:17. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last Rev 22:13.
Different people focus on different things – sport, entertainment, travel, money, sex, politics, business, etc, for which there are magazines, clubs, websites, films and a host of ways of focussing on them.
Christians focus on Christ because He gives us the best and most comprehensive worldview not only for this world, but also the eternal world, and not only for ourselves but for the whole of humanity. Christians should be all-rounders.
The Lord Jesus Christ
The apostle Paul said that he was determined to focus on Christ, and thereby Paul’s biography has become the second commonest one in the world, second only to the biographies written about Jesus Christ. Paul recruited Dr Luke “the beloved physician” Col 4:14 to join him in his Christian ministry and, between the two of them, they wrote most of the Christian New Testament.
Paul’s focus is no different from the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which dwell on Jesus’ life and His teaching about the necessity of His life, death and resurrection for the salvation of sinners. He was called Jesus because “He will save His people from their sins” Mat 1:21.
Paul expressed this focus in his well known assertion:
“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”1 Corinthians 2:2
Christ’s redemption enables the redeemed to live the rest of our lives at peace with God, sleeping easy in our bed at night, having our self-worth asserted by our Creator, with the blessed prospect of eternal life.
“Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the present life as well as the life to come after death.”1 Timothy 4:8
Godliness has benefits now “in this present time, and in the world to come everlasting life” Lk 18:30, but more of this in my next post on this series.
The Christian Bible
The Bible is central to learning about Jesus Christ and His purpose for us, but also for Christian fellowship because fellowship with fellow believers begins with fellowship with God.
We have fellowship with God in our prayerful study of His Word and from this we share with others what we learn and thereby have Christian fellowship. Our horizonal Christian fellowship with each other is based upon our vertical fellowship with God through Jesus Christ by the help of the Holy Spirit 1Jn 1:3.
Collective Christian fellowship
The commonest public expression of Christian fellowship is in the public worship of God, where Christians gather to worship God together, having fellowship with each other on a weekly or more frequent basis.
Central to this Christian fellowship is the reading and preaching of the Word of God, together with the prayers and praise that arise from its teaching, and the encouragement that arises from sharing its application in our lives.
Good preaching does the same as Bible reading – explaining the Person, character, work and benefits of believing in Jesus Christ and following Him, giving meaningful purpose and direction to our lives. As this is developed and expounded, the hearts of the godly are touched and warmed Lk 24:32.
This leads to many hearers having fellowship with such Gospel preachers during their preaching, and with others in discussion afterwards. Paul refers to this in Gal 4:15 and used it as a spiritual test of the spiritual state his readers.
Most people learn what they know about Christianity, for better or for worse, from public preaching. This is why we must be careful to whom we listen. Jesus warned His disciples about this, and said that His followers would not follow false teachers Jn10:5. This is because of what they learn from and about Jesus Christ. Their fellowship with Him keeps them on the correct path.
As a preacher explains the Person, character and work of Christ as Prophet, Priest and King, and the benefits He has secured by His redeeming work as God’s appointed and anointed Saviour, one’s mind is enlightened, our heart is warmed and our soul is enthralled by the love and grace of God and the prospect of an eternity of such blessedness, too great to even describe in earthly words 2Cor 12:4. In this manner, fellowship with God is promoted, Christian fellowship is experienced and one has material to share with other Christians to engage in mutual fellowship. The purpose of preaching is not to display the preacher’s rhetorical skills nor is Christian fellowship extolling the preacher – “didn’t he get on well today!” – as if we went to the worship of God to find out how skilled the preacher is. It is Christocentric content that feeds the soul. “He must increase, I must decrease” Jn 3:30.
Everyone should read the Bible but also study it for themselves. Some people do so, and read other books to help them, but many people do not. This is why good preaching is so important, but collective Bible study is also helpful, not only in itself but to study the Bible together is a central part of Christian fellowship.
This has the advantage of making use of each other’s gifts and developing each other’s grace. It helps to focus Christian fellowship on meaningful topics and it identifies each other’s gifts for the development of congregational usefulness and outreach Eph 4:12.
As they progess in their Christian lives, the godly discover that Jesus plans to use them in His Kingdom and to develop their usefulness by Christian service – learning on the job like “continual professional development”. The godly are “work in progress” and it is a privilege indeed, as well as the highest training, to serve the King of kings. I hope to expand on Christian usefulness in the following blogpost in this series.
Very few people have met godly people. In Scotland, less than 1.6% of the voting population are committed Christians and even fewer of them live by Christian principles, and far less have active godly lives Rom 12:1-2. There are no films nor documentaries portraying the godly in the world of the Arts although the Arts claim to be portraying “real life” in order to justify its focus on sex, violence and wicked behaviour in general.
It is no wonder that the average person knows next to nothing about the life of the godly. They assume it must be a miserable life, reinforced by the derogatory comments in popular media. Little do they know how Christ expands the interests and character of His people. This expanded interest in the whole of life was one of my first discoveries when the Lord Jesus revealed Himself to me in 1973. Ever since then, I have been interested in every area of legitimate knowledge and I see the glory of God in it all.
Christ gives meaning to one’s life. The godly wish to develop their God-given talents, resources and opportunities to promote His glory in bringing the good news of God’s salvation to their neighbours as the Lord affords them opportunities in His Providence. This brings us to our next topic.
The godly want to work and to be engaged in meaningful service.
The apostle Paul wrote against laziness in his second epistle to the Thessalonians 2Th 3:6-15 and taught that Jesus was purifying to Himself people who are zealous of good works Tit 2:14.
To this end, the godly develop their talents so that they may be useful to others in this world, and the Christian Church should help them in this. Some employments are called jobs; others are called vocations because one feels “called” to this service. The godly look upon the whole of their life as a vocation, called to serve God and man for Jesus’ sake, out of love and gratitude for what He has already done and for what He promises still to do for them.
In the 16th-century European Reformation, Martin Luther restored Christian dignity to ordinary labour. Roman Catholicism had promoted the idea that you serve God only by being an ecclesiastic – a Roman Catholic priest, a monk, a friar or a nun. Luther discovered in the New Testament that all the godly are priests 1Pe 2:9, Rev 1:6, Rev 5:10 and that secular labour can be devoted to God, and ought to be Col 3:23.
What one learns in one’s employment can be developed for Christian service and it is a source of Christian fellowship and development.
Work and rest
The bow cannot always be on the stretch and we need relaxation for body, mind and soul.
God teaches us the value of rest, and workaholics need to learn to slow down and think of something else, especially their spiritual state before God. The devil likes to keep us too busy.
God had given us this opportunity every week. “A change is as good as a rest” and the Sabbath is a rest day, God’s holiday, and we should learn and understand the value of rest.
A change is as good as a rest and on the Sabbath day God teaches us to turn aside from world occupations and recreations in order to learn about our real purpose in life and to develop it further.
Relaxation can be useful not only for ourselves but for others also.
Everyone should have meaningful hobbies that may be of benefit to others and thereby Christians have another outlet and opportunity for fellowship and learning about each other’s gifts and talents.
The essence of Christianity is experiencing the unconditional love of God and learning reciprocal love towards God 1Jn 4:19, from which flows Christian love to one’s fellow believers Jn 13:34, to one’s neighbours Mat 22:39 and even one’s enemies Mat 5:43.
Brotherly love is not an option – the apostle Peter commands it: “Love the brotherhood” 1Pe 2:17. However, one danger of misunderstanding and misapplying Christian fellowship is to become too familiar with the opposite sex and failing to observe Christian behaviour towards them 1Cor 7:1, 1Th 4:4.
Christian behaviour is too often interpreted by one’s gut feelings, which vary from person to person, rather than by biblical exegesis. It is a big subject, but sex is important, so I do not bypass it which too many Christians do, living by and judging others by their own gut feelings and personal experience, rather than by biblical exegesis.
Marriage does not cure sexual lust, far less does fornication cure it. Fornication feeds sexual lust and brings a person into bondage to sexual addiction. As long as sexual addiction is fed, it will not be cured.
Some people do not want to be cured of sexual lust but they want to indulge it. Intelligence will not overcome lust – wise and godly king Solmon’s legendary intelligence did not prevent his indulging his sexual appetite with multitudes of women, although in a sense he was experimenting Ecc 1:13 so that the rest of us do not need to learn the hard way. Wise king Solomon discovered that sexual addiction is vanity and vexation of spirit. It wastes a lot of time, emotional energy as well as money, and damages one’s reputation and family life. You may lose even more; your employment, your home and much more. You do not know where it will end. Even if God forgives you, your family may not, and your fair-weather friends will disappear like snow off a dyke. At least you will find out who your true friends are, and who are true Christians Jn 8:30-32, who have learned from God how to forgive Mat 18:35.
Unlike the ungodly who want to indulge their lusts, the godly want to overcome their lusts. They discover that they cannot do so themselves, but without proper Christian fellowship they may languish all their lives in despondency at their failure. They need biblical teaching.
“Lust, when it is conceived, brings forth sin – and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death” Jam 1:14-15.
This teaches us that the battle is at the level of one’s thoughts, and if the battle is lost at this level on any particular occasion, nothing will stop lust producing sin. To overcome this, our thoughts need to be guided by the Holy Spirit applying the Word of God to us in such a way that He produces faith in the life-giving Word of Christ. Jesus said: “The words that I speak to you are spirit and life” Jn 6:63, and faith in this gives the life-giving victory that overcomes the world 1Jn 5:4.
So Paul tells us: “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”The apostle Paul’s epistle to the Philippians 4:8.
The regenerating grace of the Gospel is needed to restrain our addiction to any sin, including sexual addiction 1Th 4:3-10. The Holy Spirit of God puts into the sinful heart the desire to overcome and to be rid of lust, and thereby He imparts the grace to restrain it Rom 8:13. There are several motives to this end, such as love and gratitude to Christ Jn 14:15, the heavenly hope motivate the godly 1Jn 3:3 but also Christian usefulness in this world; more on this in the next post in this series – the utility of Christian fellowship.
As there is so little written from an honest, frank and biblical point of view on this sensitive subject of human sexuality, my readers may benefit from this frank series of online talks, especially those who are struggling with their God-given sexuality, corrupted by sin. The rest of you, who think that you are above this, can nevertheless use this link as a useful resource for those who need it and even better, who want it.
In this area of human sexuality, Christian fellowship often fails because of dishonesty and failure to study Scripture. I remember an elderly, godly man saying to me about 30 years ago that he doubted if godly King David would be accepted into the membership of his local church. In the absence of honest discussion, the ungodly world has taken the initiative and promoted its version of secular morality.
In this post I have focused on the central necessity of Christian fellowship being focused on the Person, life’s work and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, but Jesus described Himself as the Vine with many branches, some bringing forth good fruit and others bringing forth no fruit.
Using another metaphor, Jesus described Himself as the Head of His church, and the church is His body. We are His arms and legs in this world, but these should function efficiently together. The apostle Paul used this same metaphor more than once, to teach our need of each other, developing each others gifts and talents, as well as keeping one’s own body pure for Christ’s service.
Our fellowship with Christ, and with God through Christ, includes fellowship with an innumerable crowd of Christians.
Christian fellowship also helps inadequate or backsliding Christians into the fellowship of God SoS 1:8, but more about this in the next blogpost in this series.
So in summary: the godly are “the excellent of the Earth” Ps 16:3, so much so that God ripens them for heavenly glory and after serving Him in this world He takes them to their heavenly reward Ps 116:15.
The godly rejoice in each other company. They enjoy horizontal fellowship with each other because each one has vertical fellowship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ 1Jn 1:3.
What they learn from their fellowship with God and with others, they share with each other and encourage each other in their living faith and hope.
Christians are very practical people. Jesus is purifying to Himself a following “who are zealous of good works” Tit 2:14. They have accomplished much already and they have and will do very much more before this world is over. This is verging into and leading into the topic of the next blogpost in this series – the usefulness of Christian fellowship.
The best is yet to come.
For those who want to know more, come and welcome to Jesus Christ.
5 Apr 2023: the nature of Christian fellowship.
27 May 2023: Christian fellowship in order to deal with pornography: link at 5’02. We need daily fellowship with God through Scripture at 8’30.