Shelby G. Floyd
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. -Galatians 2:9 KJV
FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST
Many persons do not have an accurate understanding of what is involved in fellowship with God and with one another. About the only idea that some have concerning fellowship is a sign over a door in some church building which says, “Fellowship Room.” This lesson is designed to enlighten our understanding concerning our fellowship with Christ the Son of God.
The apostle John said,
“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1: 3).
That which John declared to his readers was the gospel or doctrine of Christ. John declared these things in order that the people might understand what was involved in fellowship with the Father and the Son. In having fellowship with the Father and the Son, they would truly have fellowship with the apostles and one another. The term fellowship, in the above scripture, is from koinonia, and is defined as association, community, communion and joint participation (Thayer, p. 352).This points to the intimate association that the child of God has in Christ Jesus. We have this relationship with Christ when he dwells in our hearts (Colossians 1: 27). To the Ephesians, Paul expressed this wonderful fellowship with Christ:
“that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”
(Eph. 3: 17-19 NKJV).
Since Christ dwells in us by faith, there can be no fellowship with him apart from believing and obeying the truth. All who are in fellowship with the Son of God are called into that fellowship. In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul said, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1: 9). God calls us into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, but how does God do this? God does not call us by a direct and immediate call, but indirectly by the medium of the gospel: “Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2: 14). It is by the gospel that we partake of the dignity and blessings of Christ. No one should be ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the medium through which we are called into fellowship with Jesus Christ, and it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who will believe and obey it (Romans 1:16-17; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
One is also called by the gospel into the one body of Christ, which is his church: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3: 15). No one has fellowship with Jesus Christ who is not in the body of Christ, the church; therefore, fellowship with Christ involves being a member of the church of Christ (Cf. Ephesians 1:22-23). All who are outside of that spiritual body are outside of the fellowship of Jesus Christ, and everyone who enters the church does so by being baptized into Christ (Galatians 3: 26-27), and into his spiritual body—the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
There can be no unity of fellowship unless there is unity of doctrine and speech. Since the Corinthians had been called by the gospel into the fellowship of Jesus Christ, it was wrong for them to be divided, and Paul rebuked them severely for creating factions in the church (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10-16). It is not enough to enter into fellowship with Christ; one must maintain that fellowship by faithful adherence to the doctrine of Christ. In the Hebrews letter we read, “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (Hebrews 3: 14).
The word partakers is a translation of the word metochos, and means to share in, partake of, and is used in this passage with the genitive of the thing or person in which one partakes of or shares in, which is Jesus Christ. We are partakers of, or share in Christ, when we partake of his spiritual blessings and the salvation procured by him (Cf. Thayer, p. 407). Many of the early Christians were tempted to fall away from Christ and go back either to the world or to a system of religion that could not save them. They had been made partakers of Christ, but that partaking of Christ would continue only if they held fast to the very end of life. In other words, they could not be partakers of Christ if they were unfaithful in living the Christian life. Unto the angel of the church in Smyrna, Christ said,
“…Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia, Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11).
Our continued fellowship with Christ then is predicated upon our continued faithfulness to Christ. Some of the persons in the letter to the Hebrews were in danger of losing their fellowship with Christ:
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13).
They could not continue to be partakers with Christ if they were hardened through the deceitfulness of sin and departed from the living God because of unbelief.
Fellowship with Christ can only be maintained by abiding in the doctrine of Christ. If one goes beyond what is written or endorses those who do, one severs his fellowship with Christ and becomes a partaker of evil (Cf. 2 John 9-11; 1 Corinthians 4:6). One cannot be in fellowship with Christ while preaching doctrines and practicing deeds, which Christ hates (Cf. Revelation 2:6, 15).
QUESTIONS ON THE LESSON
1. How could John’s readers have fellowship with the apostles and with the Father and the Son?
2. By what medium does Christ dwell in the heart of the Christian?
3. Can there be any fellowship with Christ apart from faith? Discuss.
4. Since we are called into fellowship with Christ, discuss how this is done.
5. Can there be any fellowship with Christ outside of his spiritual body, the church?
6. What part does unity of speech and doctrine play in fellowship with Christ?
7. Define and discuss the terms “fellowship” and “partaker?’ as used in this lesson.
8. Tell what is involved in maintaining fellowship with Christ.
1 John 1:2-4
3that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
17that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-19to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
1 Corinthians 1:9
9God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
2 Thessalonians 2:13
14He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
1 Corinthians 1:10-16
10Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. 16Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
14We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
10Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
12Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be
hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
2 John 8-11
9Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
11Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
Copyright © 2002, 2018 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142