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 SPIRITUAL THINGS
FELLOWSHIP WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST
Near the end of the great letter, which Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, he stated to them his desire to visit them on his way to Spain. But at the time he was writing the letter to them, he was on a trip to Jerusalem, to minister unto the saints in that area. He stated to them how the Christians at Macedonia and Achaia had been pleased to make a certain contribution for the poor saints, who were at Jerusalem, and then he added these significant words,
“It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things” (Romans 15: 27).
Often the subject of fellowship is treated in too general a way. It is the purpose of this essay and some which are to follow, to define Christian fellowship in more specific terms. In Romans 15: 27, we have a phrase that specifically defines Christian fellowship. Paul speaks of the Gentiles having been made “partakers of their spiritual things.” The word partakers, is from koinoneo, and is a first aorist indicative verb meaning, “to come into communion or fellowship, to become a sharer, to be made a partner” (Thayer, p. 351). Partaker is used in Rom. 15: 27, with the dative of the thing in which they shared and were made partners; therefore, the object of the verb partakers is the clause, “spiritual things.” Since the term partakers, is a verb, this implies certain acts were done in order to have and maintain fellowship with spiritual things.
Salvation is said to be of the Jews (Cf. John 4: 22). It was through the instrumentality and agency of the Jews that the gospel came to the Gentiles. The Jews carrying out the great commission to take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and finally to the uttermost parts of the world, were responsible for bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. When the Gentiles were baptized into Christ, and therefore put on Christ with all of the spiritual blessings that are in him (Cf. Galatians 3: 26-27), then by virtue of their obedience they were made partakers of the spiritual blessings of the Jews. Both the Jew and the Gentile were united by the gospel into one body. (Cf. I Corinthians 12: 13; Ephesians 3: 6).
Since they had received these wonderful spiritual blessings by the Jews, the Gentiles were debtors to the Jews. In other words, they had received far more than they could ever repay, for no man can know the value of the blessings of Christ. Since they were debtors to the Jews, it was their duty to minister to the Jews in carnal things; therefore, Paul had taken up a collection from the Gentile Christians of Macedonia and Achaia, and was at the very time he wrote the letter to Rome, taking that gift to Jerusalem.
It would be a wonderful thing today if all who have been made partakers of spiritual things could feel the great debt that is laid upon them. If so, we would be ready to help those who have been instrumental in giving us these great blessings, and we would feel indebted to take the gospel to the whole world. Paul himself said, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also” (Romans 1: 14-15). Now since the Gentile Christians of Macedonia and Achaia had been made partakers jointly with the Jews concerning spiritual things, in what did their fellowship or their joint participation in spiritual things consist? In other words, what were the specific spiritual things in which both had been made partakers?
FELLOWSHIP WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST
In the days of the apostles, there was not one church for Jewish Christians and another church for Gentile Christians, for both were united in the one body of Christ, the church. Jesus never promised to build but one church. To the apostle Peter he said, “. . . upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16: 18). The church at Corinth was largely made up of Gentiles who lived in the province of Achaia. In writing his first letter to them, Paul said,
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” (I Corinthians 10: 16-17).
In New Testament times, both Jew and Gentile met upon the first day of every week to observe the Lord’s Supper, consisting of the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, which was a memorial of the shed blood and broken body of Christ (Acts 20: 7). Paul argues that since all Christians were united in the communion of the body of Christ, since they were all partakers of the one bread, this also reminded them of their unity one with another, in the body of Christ, the church. He says, “For we being many are one bread, and one body.” In 1 Corinthians 10: 16, the word communion is from koinonia, and means fellowship, association, communion, community, joint participation (Thayer, p. 352).
When everyone partakes of the Lord’s Supper together, it is a reminder that we are essentially one, bound up together in the spiritual body of Christ, the church (Cf. Romans 12: 4-5). To the Ephesians, Paul spoke of the unity of the church and the fellowship of both Jew and Gentile in that spiritual institution. He said, “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3: 9). Paul emphatically states in what the mystery of the fellowship consists: “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Ephesians 3: 6).
There can be no fellowship one with another or with God outside of the church. In the church both Jews and Gentiles are joint heirs, a joint body and joint sharers in the promise of Christ.
QUESTIONS ON THE LESSON
1. Does the verb “partakers” in Romans 15: 27, indicate that certain acts were required to have and maintain fellowship with “spiritual things?” Discuss.
2. In what sense is salvation said to be of the Jews? How were the Gentiles made partakers of the spiritual things of the Jews?
3. Since the Gentiles were debtors to the Jews for their spiritual things, in what were they obligated to minister to the Jews?
4. In what work was Paul involved when he wrote the letter to the Romans? In what work was Paul involved when he wrote the letter to the Romans?
5. If we are truly grateful for being partakers of spiritual things in what will we involve ourselves?
6. Can one know the specific spiritual things in which both Jew and Gentiles had fellowship?
7. Were the Jews and Gentiles members of the same church or was there a church for each? Discuss.
8. How does the communion of the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine argue for one church?
9. Since the church is the body of Christ, how many bodies are there?
10. What is the fellowship of the mystery concerning both Jews and Gentiles?
27They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in
the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.
26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as were
baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:13-14
13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free–and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
14I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15So, as much as Is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
16Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?
And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one
loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
7On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and,
because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.
4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the
same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all
6that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,
Copyright © 2002, 2018 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142