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!