Speaking where the bible speaks, and silent where the bible is silent.

Biblical Proof

It is a shame that so many liberal brethren believe that Christian fellowship has anything to do with church supported banquets, entertainment, or any other secular meetings unauthorized by the scripture. Let us examine the use of ‘Fellowship’ in the scriptures so we may see what its true significance is and what scriptural fellowship embraces, as well as how it is manifested.

Fellowship” in the New Testament can properly be defined as “sharing something with someone.” It denotes a partnership in work or legally, such as Peter shared with James and John in the fishing business (Luke 5:10). It is used to express a common relationship or nature. Jesus, in order to destroy the power of Satan over mankind, shared with man “flesh and blood” that He might deliver man through His death and destroy the power of Satan over him (Heb. 2:14).

We become “partakers” (sharers) of the divine nature through the precious promises of God and the provisions of His grace (2 Peter 1:4) The Gentiles became “partakers” of the “root and fatness” (the full nature) of the olive tree when they were “grafted” in as branches and shared such fullness with the Jews (Rom. 11:17).

We are enabled to enjoy “fellowship” with the Apostles and with God and Christ through the Gospel of  Christ (1 John 1:3). Through this Gospel we have been called by God into the fellowship of His dear Son (1 Cor. 1:9). This participation with Christ is as a member of His body, which is the church, into which we are baptized under the direction of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:13). As members of His body we participate with Him and the benefits of His blood, subject to His authority and in the doing of His will (I Cor. 12:11-14). He is the head of that body, over all things to it, and gives to its members life and strength (Col 1:18 f; Eph. 4:15-16). In that relationship Christians enjoy the bounty of His grace (Eph. 1:23).

This participation in Christ and fellowship with Him is made a reality when through faith our lives are identified with His and we become fellow laborers with Him. Personal participation with Christ is made possible in Christian worship at the Lord’s Table in His Kingdom in the observance of the Lord’s Supper.

Paul makes a very explicit and impressive argument on this in 1 Corinthians chapter 10:
(1) In Jewish worship the altar where God’s name was recorded represented and meant the presence of God to the Jews. Those who ate of the Jewish sacrifices became “partakers” of the altar, which meant to them “participation with God” because the altar was His, His name was recorded upon it, and it represented His presence (1 Cor. 10:18).

(2) Paul points out that in like manner in the assembly of the saints, even two or three in His name (Matt. 18:20), when the bread and wine are taken in commemoration of His death there is “communion” (fellowship) with the Christ, with His body and His blood, and therefore participation or sharing with Christ, personally (1 Cor. 10:16).

(3) In such observance of the Lord’s Supper there is common union with Christ upon the part of Christians and therefore (fellowship) common union upon the part of Christians with each other in this worship. Partaking of the one loaf, in commemoration of the one body Christ gave as a sacrifice, affords and expresses union and fellowship with Christ, and unites those who participate with Christ in fellowship one with another in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:17).

(4) He follows with the conclusion that since this is true (union with Christ and with one another in the Lord’s Supper) so also participation in false worship unauthorized by Christ, but in harmony with the will of the Devil, meant union with Satan and those who serve him (1 Cor. 10:20)

(5) The argument concludes with the fact that those who participate in this false worship serve Satan rather than God and as a result cannot be identified with or participate with Christ (1 Cor. 10:21).

This very plain teaching unmistakably condemns those who think they can fellowship religious error, participate in it, and encourage it, or bid God’s speed to those who take part in it’s practice and promotion, and yet have “fellowship” with Christ.

A complete misunderstanding of the word “fellowship” as taught in the Bible has caused many Churches of Christ to build  “Fellowship Halls”, built and maintained by the use of the Lord’s money, that which has been laid by upon the first day of the week by the membership to be used in authorized ways to carry on the work of the church. The word “fellowship” occurs 15 times in the New Testament and not ONE time does it have reference to social affairs. It means “partnership” and is used in the only way it can be applied, and that to the fact that we are “fellows” or “partners” in the work of the Lord.

Paul, although speaking of the Lord’s Supper, states the principle in (1 Corinthians 11:22) in these words: “What? have you not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise you the church of God, and shame them that have not?” It at best is an attempt to build up the church with something besides the gospel of Christ. They disregarded the Bible teaching of the home as the institution that provides for man’s social needs.

This kind of liberal thinking shows a complete lack of respect for the authority of Christ. If brethren can go this far where will the stopping place be? If a building to provide for the social part of man can be built with the Lord’s money, what would be prohibited? The church can go into business, buy and sell in the market place and engage in anything it desires without thought of Bible authority.

The Lord did not give His precious blood so any man in the guise of religion could have a place to play. he did not die to buy the things necessary for recreation for the physical man. To use this money, that has been laid by in store upon the first day of the week, as directed by the Word of the Lord, (1 Corinthians 16:1,2) to buy, build, and maintain, anything of a secular, recreational nature, is to reduce the church to a social agency and lose forever its place in the scheme of God for the salvation of the souls of men.

The church contains the manifold wisdom of God and is the pillar and ground of the truth (Eph 3:10 f; 1 Tim 3:15). The church is to fellowship with God’s authority to preach, teach, and study God’s Word (2 Tim 4:2-5 f; 2 Tim 2:15). They are to come together to sing praises unto God and to pray (1 Cor 14:15 f; Eph 5:19). The main purpose for all gatherings is our fellowship with Christ in partaking of the Lord’s supper, not in eating a banquet or being entertained ( 1 Cor 11). If you must eat, eat at home (separate and apart from the assembly), at your own expense as the bible commands. If you must play, play at home  (separate and apart from the assembly), using your own funds. If you are a sincere Christian, you know our time is short and our resources limited. If you have extra time and money to enjoy the pleasures of life, are they not best spent doing the will of God and not our own pleasures? As for the church, stop stealing the money designed to preach the gospel and to aid the needy saints, for your own pleasures. Fellowship with faithful brethren in needful studies of God’s Word and in the communion of our Lord. Learn not to please your own self, but to please God and your fellow brethren. This is true biblical fellowship!

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Comments on: "The True Meaning of Fellowship" (12)

  1. ISEH FREDERICK said:

    GOOD DAY SIR,
    I NEED YOUR HELP ON ANY WRITTEN MATERIAL ON CHURCH AUTONOMY. THANK FOR YOUR MESSAGES DAILY.

    • Does the church which Christ built have the right to autonomy or what is rightly defined as self-government? The word “autonomy” does not appear in the English Bible. However, the concept of church autonomy certainly does.

      Local churches are independent from each other. The authority of the elders in a local church is limited to the “flock of God which is among you” (I Pet. 5:1) and the flock “over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers” (Acts 20:28). Elders have no authority to rule over anything larger than the local church.

      The sponsoring church is a violation of church autonomy because it makes elders of the local church oversee the funds of thousands of churches, much like the Pope in Rome which oversees all Catholic churches. The elders have authority to oversee the members, discipline, teaching, and funds of the local church and it only.

      “Autonomy” is not a concept to hide behind to avoid scriptural examination, the necessity of giving Bible authority, and exposing specific cases of digression and apostasy to the light of truth. Any Christian with a Bible in his hand can ask where the Bible authorizes a specific practice of any given church. Members of that church can choose to give a Bible answer or to declare themselves immune from giving a Bible answer on the mistaken notion that giving a Bible answer to “every man that asks you a reason” violates church autonomy (1 Pet. 3:15; 4:11).

      If a church uses mechanical instruments in worship, the concept of autonomy does not shelter it from preaching that condemns innovations in worship. If a church builds a fellowship hall and perverts its mission to provide recreation for its members under the guise of “felt needs” preaching, the concept of autonomy does not condemn brethren calling attention to these apostasies.

      The doctrine of Christ is universal, that is, for every church. What the apostles taught in one church, they taught in every church (1 Cor 4:17). This means that all churches of Christ must meet each Sunday to remember the Lord’s death by taking the communion (Acts 20:7 f; 1 Cor 11:24-26). This means that all churches of Christ members must give of their means each Sunday (1 Cor 16:1,2). This means that all churches of Christ must sing without the aid of musical instruments (Eph 5:19). This means that all churches of Christ must forbid women from speaking or teaching in the assemblies (1 Cor 14:33-40 f; 1 Tim 2:11-14). This means that all churches of Christ elders and deacons be faithful men who meet all the qualifications listed in first Tim 3:1-13.

      2 John 9-11 says, “Whosoever transgresses, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abides in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son. The same gospel of Christ which makes Christians of all who obey it is a universal criteria for every church and anyone who changes it shall be accursed (Gal 1:6-9).

      However, each local church can determine when to assemble each Lord’s day because no such time was commanded. They could meet all day or just for an hour, as long as what is required has been completed. Each local church can choose which song books from which to sing and how many songs to sing. Each local church can decide whether to have gospel meetings or a special gathering for singing or praying. Each local church can decide whether to have special bible studies for the benefit of its members. None of such things as these can be commanded for every church, because none of these things were specifically commanded by Jesus and his apostles. Thus, they fall under the autonomy of the local church and its elders.

      No local church has the right to bind their traditions upon other local churches. If a local church had bible studies or singings every week, this might be too cumbersome for those who have a heavy work schedule. No local church has the right to bind their traditions as commandments upon its members (Mt 15:7-9). If a member finds some local traditions to be too cumbersome, they have the right to leave that church, and find another faithful church which to attend. The only traditions which can be commanded are the traditions which were given by Christ and his apostles. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle (2 Thess 2:15).

      Conclusion: Let us avoid violations of church autonomy. There is no eldership which has authority over anything larger than a local church. No outside individual has the right to intrude into the affairs of a local church to make decisions for that church. However, there is no sin committed in preaching the truth to anyone, whether or not he is a member of the same local church or not. Church autonomy is not a concept to hide behind to escape open investigation of any Bible subject or principle, or the necessity of giving Bible authority for the actions and decisions made in a local church!

  2. Hello,
    Thanks for your thoughts put forth about the Church and its function. I have always wondered something and perhaps you could answer it for me. Do you suppose that Churches that have fellowship halls and kitchens and such are sinning? Are the members of that congregation lost? How do you view a group of believers that have these additions to their meeting house?

    Thanks in advance,

    • Hi Andrew, good question.

      Any addition or change to God’s Word is considered a sin and thus worthy of hell itself (1 Cor 2:13 ff; 1 Cor 4:6; 2 Cor 4:13; Gal 1:6-9; Col 3:17; Rev 22:18,19; 1 Pet 4:11). Any unrepentant sin is capable of sending a person to hell. I am not anyone’s judge, God’s Word is (Jn 12:48). Therefore, if anyone can show in the new testament where any church of Christ had fellowship halls, kitchens, and the such like which were supported by the church contribution, then by all means, they need to prove it once and for all. Otherwise, their actions condemn themselves.

  3. Interesting points – I cannot find in the New Testament where “any church of Christ had fellowship halls, kitchens, and the such like which were supported by the church contribution”. But one question lingers still in my mind…I can’t find the example of the church owning a building at all. By what authority do construct, own, and maintain church buildings? I am truely not trying to be combative, please don’t think that is my motive. I am seriously questioning these things and appreciate your input.

    Thanks in advance,

    • If the church didn’t meet in buildings other than their own homes, then why did Paul specifically salute or send greetings to Aquila and Priscilla and Nymphas and the church which was in their house? 1 Cor 16:19; Col 3:15 After all, if all churches met in someone’s house, then why mention where they met? Fact is, the bible no where commanded where the church was to meet. It could be in a building, a barn, a house or even under a tree. As long as the church gathered to gather each Lord’s day, the commandment was satisfied. However, when it come to eating when the church is assembled, it was commanded for them not to eat, but if they were hungry they should eat at home.

      • In reference to your first thought, why did Paul address the home church specifically, you make an interesting inference. However, one could also make the inference that they were meeting in many homes throughout Achaia and he was talking specifically to the one meeting in Aquila and Priscilla’s home. Who’s to say your inference or another’s is correct. I feel like that should be left to God.
        Agreed on point 2 – the bible nowhere commanded where or in what way to meet. In the absence of a command, however, are we not left to the apostolic example? Honestly, this question has bothered me a lot. It seems to me that the Lords money wasn’t used for building construction and maintenance of any sort. It just isn’t in the New Testament at all. We may say God was silent about it and then look to apostolic example to see where or how they met. We would find many different places they met as you referred to. Are we limited to the set of places that they met? Can we follow example by meeting in ways and places that the apostles didn’t? I suppose what I have a hard time with is saying, these examples are some of what is authorized but not all of what is authorized. By that token, it seems hypocritical to say we do Bible things in Bible ways but owning property is ok even though it’s not in the Bible. By the same logic, we often condemn some things as being “outside of authority”, and allows some other things as “scriptural”. In other words, can we really condemn a fellowship hall without also condemning the building itself? If a building is authorized, can it not have the same features as a home?
        Suppose a church meets in a house. Can that house have a kitchen? Should they refrain from eating together in homes? In your thoughts, is this sinful? Or, is using the Lords money to build and maintain such meeting places sinful?
        Lastly, I appreciate you taking​ the time to discuss this. It means a lot​ to be able to discuss things freely without condemnation. I hope to be able to settle this question in my mind. Thank you for being a part of it.
        Thanks, In Christ.

      • Would you agree that congregations can get so large that a house could not contain them? It is hard to even conceive a congregation of 50 or more meeting in someone’s house. It surely would be clustered to say the least if not impossible. Talk about sardines in a can. If we are talking about a small group, surely they could meet in someone’s home and spare the church any expense. I believe it is incidental that a house someone lives in has a kitchen. However, there is no scripture that they used that kitchen, which was designed for their family, ever being used for the group meeting there to worship the Lord. I don’t think it’s a sin to have a building at the church’s expense, but I do think it’s a sin to have such a building that prohibits the work of the church because of an enormous expense to build it, buy it, or keep it up. These things only God can judge but it is imperative for Christians not to make the building into a shrine or confuse the building as if it is the church itself.

  4. I can see the point in a church building – honestly. I also agree that it shouldn’t be a shrine or confused as the church itself. There we are in agreement. I guess I just don’t see how we can use the scriptures to disallow fellowship halls and not in the same breath disallow church buildings. Why? Becuase we have examples of neither of them in the Bible. If one is ok, why not the other? If one is sinful, why not the other? How do you separate the two? I’m not sure on that one to be honest. At the end of the day, If you think they should be disallowed and are so convicted by your interpretation of the scripture, who am I to say you can’t believe that way? In a like manner, if I don’t agree with you on the “kitchen issue”, do you have a right to declare it sin? Should our faith rest in the wisdom of men or power of Christ? (1 Cor. 2:1-5) When it all boils down – do you see the “kitchen issue” as a test of fellowship? I have enjoyed this discourse so much and appreciate your kind attitude and willingness to discuss scripture. I believe it’s this attitude that keeps the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”

    Thanks in advance,

    • This is how I separate the issue of buildings and fellowship halls. The difference between church buildings and fellowship halls is this: the scripture commands all faithful Christians to assemble (Heb 10:25), but no where does it command the church to come together to eat a meal in fellowship. In fact, though the apostle Paul was speaking of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, he also made it clear that the assembly was not a place to eat our supper but rather the Lord’s supper. Christian fellowship is coming together to study, to sing, to pray, to hear preaching, and to partake of the communion (which means fellowship) which all can be accomplished each first day of the week (1 Cor 10:16 f; Acts 20:7).

      If we can do what God never spoke of, wherein is no commandment, then its possible to do most anything. The bible never once condemned instrumental music, but most all churches of Christ I know of don’t use them because the bible never commanded their use. This is the silence of the scripture absent of commandment. If the bible commands a thing but never instructs us how to do it, then the church is at liberty on how to carry out the commandment any way they choose. We sing, but song books are never mentioned nor are song leaders. However, because of the commandment to sing and the absence of how to accomplish this commandment orderly, the church is at liberty to use such incidentals with confidence that they are not in violation of God’s Word. We don’t use instruments of music because they were never commanded and are not needed to accomplish the commandment of singing.

      In the end of all things, God will judge if such additions is acceptable in His eyes, and if we as Christians are making best use of the money given for the preaching of the gospel and the assistance of needy saints. If an expensive building interferes with the work of the church, God judges. Bottom line to me, is that the church is not a place of entertainment but a place of worship. God wants us to worship Him in spirit and in truth or according to the scriptures (Jn 4:23,24). If God winks at such matters, then both us are safe come the day of judgment. However, if God does not wink at such matters, then one of us is in jeopardy. I take the most conservative road I can find to serve God. I examine myself daily to make sure I haven’t strayed from what the bible commanded. If I am going to be wrong, then I am going to be wrong doing exactly what the bible instructed, no more and no less. If God condemns that, then he condemns his own word. This is how I conduct my life and what I teach others. I don’t try to emulate denominations but rather what the early church practiced and taught. If Christians want to gather to eat their meal, not as a commandment but by choice, then do it as the bible commanded such matters, at home and at your own expense. Who could argue against that?

      • Do you see a person’s stance on the “Kitchen issue” as a test of fellowship? In other words, if a person is a member of a congregation that meets regularly in a building where a kitchen and dining room is attached, do you “set them at naught”? (Rom 14:10)

        Thanks in advance,

      • I personally see it as an issue because it adds to God’s Word where it not a necessity to carry out any commandment. If a brother is at fault, we are to go to them privately, then by 2 or 3 witnesses, and lastly before the church. Mt 18:15-17 One is not judging a brother in this case but rather an entire congregation, and if an entire congregation is at fault, then we are to come out from among them and be separated from them. 2 Cor 6:17 If a church of Christ is using instrumental music, would you attend? Kitchens and instruments are alike in that they are not necessary, not mentioned, and not commanded.

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