On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached a stirring sermon about Jesus. He accused the people of crucifying the Christ and that He had been resurrected from the dead. Many of the Jews believed and asked the apostles what they should do. Peter responded by saying - "Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Peter's sermon had led them to believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world, and he commanded them to be penitent and to be baptized. Why? To have their sins forgiven. When we have our sins forgiven we are now in fellowship with God. Consider Acts 3:19 - "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." Surely, to be refreshed by God's presence implies fellowship. So, in general, God is in fellowship with baptized, penitent believers. When one obeys the gospel, he is at that moment walking in the light. Such a one should seek fellowship with other baptized, penitent believers.
Additional evidence of this general truth is seen in Galatians 3:26,27 - "For you are all sons of God through the faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." If we've put on Christ by obeying the gospel, then we're sharing a relationship with Him; we are in fellowship with Him. Although this principle is generally true, there are some exceptions to it. It would benefit us to be more specific.
1. GOD FELLOWSHIPS BAPTIZED, PENITENT BELIEVERS WHO ARE STRONG.
This is where God wants all His children to be ideally. He wants us to be strong Christians--as strong as we possibly can be! The apostle Paul commanded in Ephesians 6:10 - "Finally, my brethren be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." God wants us to grow spiritually stronger in our fellowship with Him. Consider also Romans 15:1 - "We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples [weaknesses] of the weak, and not to please ourselves." There are some Christians who are strong--and God is in fellowship with them. We should be in fellowship with them, too.
2. GOD FELLOWSHIPS BAPTIZED, PENITENT BELIEVERS WHO ARE WEAK.
Romans 14:1 instructs us - "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things." Now, if God wants Christians to receive (fellowship) those who are weak in the faith, then certainly He also has fellowship with them! He would not instruct us to do that which He is unwilling to do! Furthermore, I Corinthians 8:9 is helpful here - "But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak." Now, please reflect upon that for a moment: If we are not sensitive to the consciences of others, then we may cause them to stumble and perish (cf. I Cor. 8:11). But, the only way I can cause someone to stumble and perish is if he is currently in a right relationship with God and I cause him to fall out of fellowship with God! Thus, the implication is clear--God fellowships Christians who are weak in the faith. We should be in fellowship with them, too.
We will continue these thoughts in our next lesson.