What's the first thing that comes to your mind when I say the word "fellowship"? A fellowship meal, perhaps? The Greek word koinonia ("fellowship") basically means "sharing or participation with". When we share a conversation, there is fellowship; when we share a meal, there is fellowship; when we share in Christ's sufferings, there is fellowship; when we share in the sins of others, there is fellowship. There are various kinds
and various degrees
of fellowship, and fellowship can be good or bad--it all depends upon what we are sharing in and with whom.
Since not all fellowship is good (cf. Eph. 5:11), we should reflect upon the question: "With whom shall we fellowship?" If we understand the Scriptural principles involved, we'll be able to properly apply God's truth when specific questions of fellowship arise. I will be focusing on general principles in this series of lessons; it is up to you to make the application to the specific circumstances you face.
That being said, let me state the fundamental principle of fellowship that this series is based upon: We, as human beings, do not draw lines of fellowship; we simply respect the lines God has already drawn. Let me say it again for emphasis: We, as human beings, do not draw lines of fellowship; we simply respect the lines God has already drawn.
There are three passages I'd like to introduce at this time to substantiate this principle:
- Numbers 23:8 - "How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced?" This verse sets forth a principle that is worthy of our attention today. No one has the right to denounce those whom God has not denounced! Thus, if God is in spiritual fellowship with a certain person or group of people, what right do we have to denounce them? If God fellowships someone, then what right do we have to refuse to fellowship them?
- Acts 10:15 - "...What God has cleansed you must not call common." In context, God was teaching Peter a lesson about the Gentile people. The Jews generally thought of the Gentiles as dogs and unworthy of their fellowship. God was trying to change their thinking on that matter; He wanted them to share the gospel with the Gentiles and help them become Christians. Today, if God has cleansed someone from sin, then He is in fellowship with them and we should be in fellowship with them, too.
- I John 1:5-7 is very relevant here - "...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 practice 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." This passage affirms that God is true, pure, and holy in all His ways ("light"). If we desire fellowship with God, we cannot walk in "darkness" (i.e., we cannot be living in sin). Yes, we all sin from time to time (cf. I John 1:8), but there is a difference between missing the mark occasionally and continually walking in the ways of sin (cf. Col. 3:5-7). I John 1:7 implies that if we walk in the light then we will have fellowship with God; that is, we must live a life of truth, purity, and holiness if we want to share in a relationship with the Lord. Of course, walking in the light not only makes fellowship with God a reality, it also puts us into fellowship with everyone else who is walking in the light! When we are striving to live faithfully as Christians, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins as we turn from them and confess them to God (cf. I John 1:9). Thus, we are automatically in fellowship with God and those walking in the light when we walk in the light! Again, we don't draw the lines of fellowship--God does, and we must respect the lines He has drawn.
We will have more to say on this theme in our next lesson.