THE RIGHT HANDS OF FELLOWSHIP NO. 9

By

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 THE HEAVENLY CALLING, THE OLIVE TREE, THE GOSPEL

“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). In this statement Paul affirmed that the Gentiles had been made partakers of the spiritual things of the Jews. In previous articles, several of these spiritual things of which both Jew and. Gentile were made partakers have been mentioned; several more spiritual things concerning both the Jew and the Gentile will be examined in this essay.

FELLOWSHIP WITH THE HEAVENLY CALLING

The author of the letter to the Hebrews addressed his readers as being partakers of the heavenly calling: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1). In the above statement the term partaker is from metochos, and means to share in or partake of a certain thing. It is used in this verse with the genitive of the thing in which they were made partakers, which is the heavenly calling (Cf. Thayer, p. 407).

What is this heavenly calling of which both Jew and Gentile had been made partakers? It is simply accepting the invitation of Christ to enter into and to live the Christian life; it is the heavenly calling because the invitation extended to man on earth originated in heaven; it is styled by the apostle Paul as the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Cf. Philippians 3:14); therefore, it is a heavenly calling. This heavenly calling has been extended to both the Jew and the Gentile (Cf. Romans 9: 24). All who accept this heavenly calling are obligated to walk worthy of that vocation into which they have been called (Cf. Ephesians 4:1).

This heavenly calling involves the church; for we are called into one body and into peace (Colossians 3: 15). The preaching and obedience of the gospel of Jesus Christ bring about this heavenly calling; for everyone who accepts the heavenly calling is called by the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2: 14). Therefore, once again we are enabled to see that fellowship involves the church and the truth of the gospel. Those who will not walk worthy of the gospel do not have fellowship with the heavenly calling.

FELLOWSHIP WITH THE OLIVE TREE

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul in a figure of speech likened the Gentiles to branches of a wild olive tree being grafted into a tame olive tree. He likened the Jews to branches of a tame olive tree that had been broken off. The Jews had been broken off because of unbelief and rejection of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gentiles had been grafted into the tame olive tree by belief and obedience of the gospel. Paul states that the Jews may be grafted into the tree by belief or in the same way that the Gentiles were grafted in. No doubt, the tree into which both Jew and Gentile may be grafted is the tree of faith.

The Jews were broken off because of unbelief; the Gentiles were grafted in by belief. “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree” (Romans 11:17). The Gentiles therefore by belief and obedience of the gospel were made partakers of the root. The word partakest is from sunkoinonos, and refers to the fatness of the olive tree. In Romans 11:17, the word partakest is from sunkoinonos, and means a participant with others in anything, joint partner (Thayer, p. 593). In Romans 11:17, it is used with the genitive of the thing in which they were joint partners or co-participants, that is, the root and fatness of the olive tree. Therefore, in view of this statement, fellowship with the root and fatness of the olive tree is contingent upon belief and obedience of the gospel.

The Jews were cut off because of unbelief and the Gentiles had been grafted in because of belief, but they also could be cut off anytime they rejected the gospel. Therefore, Paul says, “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again” (Romans 11: 21-23).

Again, fellowship with the people of God involves faith, but faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Therefore, fellowship with the olive tree involves abiding in the truth of God. Those who by disbelief reject the word of God do not have fellowship with the olive tree. Those who have rejected the truth of the gospel are cut off by God, that is, God has cut off fellowship with them; therefore, the people of God should not fellowship those with which God has no fellowship.

FELLOWSHIP WITH THE GOSPEL

To the Corinthians Paul stated that he became all things to all men that he by all means might save some men (Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:22). He then added this significant statement: “And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you” (1 Corinthians 9:23). Paul became all things to all men that they might be saved, and he might be a partaker with them in the salvation of the gospel. The word partaker means to be a participant with others in anything or to be a joint partner (Cf. Thayer, p. 593). Paul was a joint partner with the Corinthians in the benefits and blessings of the gospel.

Paul made many sacrifices in order that the gospel might be received by various nations of people and in order that he might share in the benefits, blessings and triumphs of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He even refused his power to receive support from the Corinthians in order that he might not be charged with abusing his power in the gospel. Even then, he had nothing of which to boast, saying, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for a necessity is laid upon me; woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Paul wishes the Corinthians to understand that he willingly made great sacrifices that he might share with them in the blessings of redemption and the glories of heaven itself.

QUESTIONS ON THE LESSON

1. What is the heavenly calling in which both Jew and Gentile has been made partakers?

2. How does Paul describe this heavenly calling in Philippians 3:14?

3. Discuss the universal scope of this heavenly calling in view of Romans 9:24.

4. Discuss how this heavenly calling relates to the gospel and the church.

5. State why the Jew had been broken off the tame olive tree and the Gentile grafted in? What is the olive tree?

6. Upon what condition is fellowship with the root and fatness of the olive tree contingent?

7. Discuss the false doctrines of the impossibility of apostasy and pre¬destination in view of Paul’s teaching in Romans 11:21-23.

8. Can God’s people have fellowship with those who do not have fellowship with the olive tree?

9. How did Paul become a joint partner with the Corinthians in the benefits of the gospel?

10. Discuss how fellowship with these spiritual things applies today.

SCRIPTURE TEXTS

Romans 15:27
27It 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.
NKJV

Hebrews 3:1
1Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,

Philippians 3:14
14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
NKJV

Ephesians 4:1
1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, [b]beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,

Colossians 3:15-16
15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
NKJV

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
NKJV

Romans 11:17
17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and [a]fatness of the olive tree,
NKJV

Romans 11:21-23
21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.
ESV

1 Corinthians 9:23
23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
ESV

1 Corinthians 9:16
16For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
ESV

MEMORY VERSE

Hebrews 3:1
1Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,
NKJV

Copyright © 2002, 2018 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved

Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142

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