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 FAITH AND GRACE
“It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things” (Romans 15: 27 NKJV). It is the purpose of this essay to further specify the areas in which both Jew and. Gentile may have fellowship in the spiritual blessings that are in Christ Jesus and his spiritual body the church.
FELLOWSHIP WITH FAITH
Faith is among the spiritual things of which both the Jew and Gentile may have fellowship. Paul wrote a very brief but touching letter to his dearly beloved fellow laborer, Philemon, in which among other things he said:
“4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus” (Philemon 4-6).
Paul had heard of Philemon’s love and faith, which he had toward Christ and his people, but Paul desired that Philemon’s faith might be made effectual by the communication or sharing of his faith, in order that men might acknowledge every good thing that was in him.
The word communication is from the word koinonia and means, “fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation” (Thayer, p. 352). There was only one way Philemon could have communicated his faith, and that was by his faith being made perfect through works, works of obedience to the will of Christ. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10: 17). “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11: 1). Where there is no evidence, where there is no testimony, there can be no faith. The things, which are written in the word of God, are designed to produce faith (John 20:30-31). “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11: 6).
Faith without works is dead, being alone. It is like a body without a spirit; it has no power, it is inoperative. Faith without works is like a man who would say, depart from me, be ye warm and filled; notwithstanding, he would give him not those things which are needful for his body. Even so, faith if it has not works is dead, being alone. We may have communication of our faith when that faith issues forth in good works (Cf. James 2:l4-16).
Our faith must work by love. Therefore, Paul’s wish and prayer for Philemon is that men may acknowledge his faith, and that it may be made effectual by his kindness shown to the children of God: and especially to his servant Onesimus, who ran away but returned to him, not as a slave, but as a servant of Christ. According to the scriptures we walk by faith and not by sight. Therefore, it is impossible to have fellowship of faith if a man does not walk by faith. We can only have a communication or fellowship of our faith one with another when we all walk by faith, or according to instructions of the word of God. One of the spiritual things of which the Jew and Gentile may have is the fellowship of faith.
FELLOWSHIP WITH GRACE
In writing to the Philippians, the apostle Paul commended them by saying, “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace” (Philippians 1:7). The word partaker in this particular passage is from the word sunkoinonos and means, “participant with others in anything, joint partner with the addition of the genitive of the person with whom one is partaker of a thing” (Thayer, p. 593).
The Philippians then were partakers of Paul’s grace. Paul was very warmly attached to the Philippians; they had given evidence that they were sincere in their Christian life; they had helped Paul several times, sending gifts to him during his trial and adversities (Cf. Philippians 4: 10, 14, 18). In his defense and confirmation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, even before Caesar’s court, it seems the Philippians had sympathized with Paul, and had assisted him in whatever way they could. Since the Philippians then had been joint partakers with Paul in his adversity and defense of the gospel, it was natural that they should also be joint partakers and have fellowship of his grace.
Grace is favor. When it has God for its author, it is favor, which is unmerited on our part. To the Ephesians, Paul said, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2: 8-9). Man is saved by grace through faith. Grace is God’s part; grace is the favor, the mercy and the bounty, which God showered upon lost mankind in order that he might be saved from his sins. God’s grace is a teaching grace, and it has appeared to all men: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12). It follows therefore that no one can be a partaker of the grace of God unless he partakes of the instruction which grace teaches us in the gospel, which is denying ungodliness and living a sober righteous life.
When we are partakers together and have fellowship with grace, we may like Paul say, “by the grace of God I am what I am.” Since God’s grace then is a teaching grace, it is impossible to have fellowship with grace unless we abide in the teaching or doctrine of Jesus Christ. Again, this calls forth the importance that doctrine plays in Christian fellowship.
QUESTIONS ON THE LESSON
1. How could Philemon make his faith effectual and cause men to acknowledge every good thing in him?
2. What was the one way in which Philemon could communicate his faith to others?
3. Describe the nature of faith, what produces faith and how faith works.
4. Discuss how Philemon and Onesimus and. we have fellowship of our faith.
5. What does the word “partakers” mean when it is said the Philippians were partakers of Paul’s grace?
6. Describe the way the Philippians had helped Paul in his adversity while he preached the gospel.
7. Define and discuss the nature of God’s grace.
8. How is man saved from sin as described in Ephesians 2: 8-9?
9. Specify that which God’s grace teaches us to do and not to do.
10. Since God’s grace is a teaching grace, what is the way in which we may be partakers of the grace of God?
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.
4I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
11:1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.
10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.
14 Nevertheless you have done well by sharing with me in my affliction.
18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
26 For Macedonia and Achaia are pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do this, and indeed they are indebted to the Jerusalem saints. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are obligated also to minister to them in material things.
Copyright © 2002, 2018 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142