Bible Basics (5th edition): A study manual revealing the joy and peace of true Christianity

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11.5 Christian Fellowship

The Greek words translated ‘fellowship’ and ‘communion’ basically describe the state of having something in common: common-union. ‘Communion’ is related to the word ‘communicate’. By reason of knowing and practising God’s ways, we have fellowship with Him and with all others who are doing the same through being “in Christ”. It is easy to neglect the responsibilities which we have to fellowship with others: “... do not forget to do good and to share (i.e. fellowship)” (Heb. 13:16). Phil. 1:5 speaks of our “fellowship in the Gospel”; the basis of our fellowship is therefore the doctrines and way of life which comprise the true Gospel. For this reason the fellowship enjoyed by true believers is far greater than in any other organisation or church. Because of this fellowship they travel great distances to be with each other and to visit isolated believers, and should make good use of postal and telephone contact where possible. Paul speaks of “fellowship of the Spirit” (Phil. 2:1), i.e. fellowship which is based on our common following of the spirit/mind of God, as revealed in His spirit-word.

One of the greatest expressions of our fellowship is through keeping the breaking of bread service together. The early believers “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers ... breaking bread ... with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:42,46). The emblems represent the central pivot of our hope and sharing them together should bind us together in “simplicity of heart”. “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf”, i.e. Christ (1 Cor. 10:16,17 NIV). We therefore have an obligation to share the emblems of Christ’s sacrifice with all those who benefit from his work, who are “partakers of that one loaf”. 

John recalls how he shared the Gospel of eternal life with others “that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 Jn. 1:2,3). This shows that fellowship is based around a common understanding of the true Gospel, and that this brings us into fellowship both with other true believers, and also with God and Jesus on a personal level. The more we apply the Gospel to our lives, seeking to overcome our sinful tendencies, and the deeper we progress in our living of God’s Word, the deeper our fellowship will be with God and Christ.

Our fellowship with God, Christ and other believers does not just depend on our common assent to the truths which comprise the “one faith”. Our way of life must be in accordance with the principles which are expressed in them. “... 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 practise the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:5-7). Fellowship therefore occurs naturally between those who walk in the light.

‘Walking in darkness’ must refer to a way of life which is constantly and publicly at variance with the light of God’s Word (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 4:18); it does not refer to our occasional sins of weakness, for the next verse continues, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth (i.e. God’s Word – Jn. 17:17; 3:21; Eph. 5:13) is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8).

From this it should be evident that in practice, meaningful fellowship ceases when a believer starts to teach things, or lives a way of life, which are openly opposed to clear Bible teaching: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:11). Every effort should be made to win them back after the pattern of the good shepherd seeking the lost sheep (Lk. 15:1-7). 

One of the clearest passages concerning fellowship is found in 2 Cor. 6:14-18: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness ... Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be  separate, says the Lord ... and I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty’”.

We have shown how that the Word of God is light. These verses explain why we should not fellowship with religions which teach false things; why we should not marry those who aren’t in Christ, and should shun the ways of the world. If we preach God’s truth as we should, it is inevitable that communities which believe heresies like the ‘trinity’ will themselves exclude us. Doctrine is important because it controls how we live and behave; therefore we must be “pure in the doctrine” if we are to attempt to live a pure life. Our way of life must “be worthy of the gospel” -- a response to the basic Gospel we understand and believe (Phil. 1:27). On account of our separation from the world we have the breathtaking honour of becoming God’s very own sons and daughters, part of a world-wide family of others who have this same relationship - our brothers and sisters. There is only one “body”, i.e. one true church (Eph. 1:23), which is based upon those who hold the one hope - one God, one baptism and “one faith”, i.e. the one true set of doctrines which comprises the one faith (Eph. 4:4-6). 

If you have followed these studies carefully, it will be evident by now that there can be no half-way position in our relationship with God. We are either in Christ by baptism into him, or outside of him. We are either in the light, or in darkness. One cannot have a foot in both camps.

Our knowledge of these things gives us a certain degree of responsibility towards God. We do not now walk the streets or go about our daily lives like the average woman or man of the world. God is intensely watching for our response. Both He, the Lord Jesus and all true believers could almost ‘will’ you to make the right decision. But much as God, Christ and ourselves will do all we can to help you - even in God’s case to the extent of having given His only Son to die for us - ultimately your salvation depends upon your own freewill decision to grasp hold of the grace of God and the great Hope of eternity which has now been offered to you.

Bible Basics: Contents

Part 1: "The things concerning the Kingdom of God" Study 1: God 1.1  The Existence Of God || 1.2  The Personality Of God || Belief In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3  God's Name And Character || Belief In Practice 2: Grace (John Parkes) || Belief In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Belief In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Belief In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4     The Angels || Belief In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2:  Why The Trinity Was Accepted || Study 1: Questions Study 2: The Spirit Of God 2.1  Definition || 2.2  Inspiration || 2.3  Gifts Of The Holy Spirit || 2.4  The Withdrawal Of The Gifts || 2.5  The Bible The Only Authority || Digression 3: Is The Holy Spirit A Person? || Digression 4: The Principle Of Personification || Belief In Practice 7: The Implications Of Inspiration || Study 2: Questions Study 3: The Promises Of God 3.1  Introduction || 3.2  The Promise In Eden || 3.3  The Promise To Noah || 3.4  The Promise To Abraham || 3.5  The Promise To David || Belief In Practice 8: Covenant Relationship With God || Study 3: Questions Study 4: God And Death 4.1  The Nature Of Man || 4.2  The Soul || 4.3  The Spirit || 4.4  Death Is Unconsciousness || 4.5  The Resurrection || 4.6  The Judgment || Belief In Practice 9: Judgment Now || 4.7  The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?|| 4.8  Responsibility To God || 4.9  Hell || Digression 5: Purgatory || Digression 6: Ghosts And Reincarnation || Digression 7: The 'Rapture' || Belief In Practice 10: The Motivational Power Of Understanding Death || Study 4: Questions Study 5: The Kingdom Of God 5.1  Defining The Kingdom || 5.2  The Kingdom Is Not Now Established || 5.3  The Kingdom Of God In The Past || 5.4  The Kingdom Of God In The Future || 5.5  The Millennium || Digression 8: The Kingdom Of God Now (Graham Bacon) || Belief In Practice 11: What The Kingdom Of God Means Today || Study 5: QuestionsStudy 6: God And Evil 6.1  God And Evil || 6.2  The Devil And Satan || 6.3  Demons || Digression 9: The Implications And Origin Of The Belief In A Personal Satan || Digression 10: Witchcraft || Digression 11: What Happened In Eden? || Digression 12: Lucifer || Belief In Practice 12: Battle For The Mind || Study 6: Questions

Part 2: "The things concerning...the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus. 7.1  Old Testament Prophecies Of Jesus || 7.2  The Virgin Birth || 7.3  Christ's Place In God's Plan || 7.4  "In the beginning was the word" || Digression 13: Jesus The Son Of God (Michael Gates) || Digression 14: Did Jesus Create The Earth? || Belief In Practice 13: Jesus Didn’t Pre-exist: And So What? || Study 7: Questions Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus 8.1  Introduction || 8.2  Differences Between God And Jesus || 8.3  The Nature Of Jesus || 8.4  The Humanity Of Jesus || 8.5  The Relationship Of God With Jesus || Belief In Practice 14: The Real Christ || Digression 15: How The Real Christ Was Lost || Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus || Study 8: Questions Study 9: The Work Of Jesus 9.1  The Victory Of Jesus || 9.2  The Blood Of Jesus || 9.3  Jesus As Our Representative || 9.4  Jesus And The Law Of Moses || 9.5  The Sabbath || Digression 17 The Crucifix || Digression 18: Was Jesus Born On Dec. 25th? || Belief In Practice 15: The Meaning Of Christ’s Resurrection For Us || Belief In Practice 16: Christ Died For Me- So What Should I Do? || Belief In Practice 17: The Real Cross || Belief In Practice 18: The Inspiration Of The Cross || Study 9: Questions || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus 10.1  The Vital Importance Of Baptism || 10.2  How Should We Be Baptized? || 10.3  The Meaning Of Baptism || 10.4  Baptism And Salvation || Digression 19: Re-baptism || Digression 20 The Thief On The Cross || Belief In Practice 19: The Certainty Of Salvation || Study 10: Questions Study 11: Life In Christ 11.1  Introduction || 11.2  Holiness || 11.2.1  The Use Of Force || 11.2.2  Politics || 11.2.3  Worldly Pleasures || 11.3  Practical Christian Life || 11.3.1  Bible Study || 11.3.2  Prayer || 11.3.3  Preaching || 11.3.4  Ecclesial Life || 11.3.5  The Breaking Of Bread || 11.4  Marriage || 11.5  Fellowship || Study 11: Questions ||