Fellowship in God’s family – Part 1
The new birth experience brings the sinner into God’s family. Thus, God becomes his Father and he a child of God. The Lord Jesus Christ refers to such people as His mothers, brothers and sisters, for they hear and obey God’s word and have been brought into fellowship in God’s family. The book of Philippians emphasises various aspects of fellowship. The first chapter emphasises grace, the gospel and God of the grace and gospel.
The combination of these three brings the sinner into fellowship. Without God, there is no fellowship; He is the Father who calls us into His own family by the message of the gospel that emphasises the grace of God. To abide in fellowship, therefore, we must remain in the gospel – the good news of the grace of God. The second chapter emphasises ways of making fellowship work. Therefore, the ingredients that make fellowship work – “consolation in Christ”, “comfort of love”, “fellowship of the Spirit” and “bowels and mercies”; fulfilment of joy, like-mindedness, “having the same love”, “being of one accord” – must be upheld.
Fellowship in God’s family is not of the carnal, sensual or even social kind; it is by the Spirit. It is not one-sided, it is reciprocal. In the same breadth, “strife” and “vainglory,” which destroy fellowship must give way to “lowliness of mind” and respect for others. In other words, there should be complement, not competition, in God’s family. Each member of the family should contribute to the betterment of others in the fellowship.
The third chapter stresses the need to get more and deeper into Christ, as the more one experiences the death of the self-life – self-centredness, self-will, selfish-interests, desires and ambitions – the better for the fellowship. Until the self-life dies, there cannot be genuine fellowship. The fourth chapter, using the language of love and fellowship, underlines another area of fellowship. Appreciation of and affection for one another, use of good language, enhancement of others’ self-esteem, etc, are characteristics of those in fellowship in God’s family. Paul, the apostle, admonishes that none should be relegated to the background and none should be pushed down to make room, as there is room for everyone.
It is the sacrifice and suffering of Christ that brought us into the fellowship of God’s family and fellowship with one another. The sacrifice broke down the middle wall of partition that separates us from Almighty God; it thus, reconciled us with God. Sins separate from God. This calls the sinner to turn away from sin to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When those sins are repented of, there is forgiveness and reconciliation with God and induction into fellowship with God and His family. The Holy Spirit bears witness of this event. From thenceforth, barriers, stumbling-blocks, wall of partition and gulf of separation are taken away as Christ bridges the gulf. The events on the day of Pentecost illustrate clearly this, as those who were saved became members of the body of Christ and fellowshipped with one another including the apostles who were the foundations of the fellowship.
Fellowship brings fulness of joy. Since it was sin that broke fellowship with God in the beginning, sin must be kept out so as to remain in the fellowship of God’s family and with Jesus, the means by which we come to the fellowship. It is after forgiveness that we become true members of the body of Christ. When there is opposition, conflict, strife, division, contention, envy or malice in a local assembly, there will be implosion. As there is no competition in the physical body because they have different functions to perform, so it must be in the body of Christ.
Having been called into fellowship, we are to live and uphold the brotherhood in Christ patiently. Competition leads to trouble because we don’t have the same but complementary function. Even if someone is pushed down, none can take his place. Therefore, the weak, young, poor, needy ones, and indeed everyone is important in the body of Christ. As parts of the physical body depend on one another, so also the body of Christ. None is disposable but all are indispensable.
Further Reading (King James Version): Philippians 1:1-5; 2:1-5; 3:10; 4:1-3; Ephesians 2:13-19; Colossians 1:12-14; Acts 2:37-42; 1 John 1:1-7; Acts 5:30,51; Romans 12:4,5,15,16; 15:5-7; 1 Corinthians 12:14-25.
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