Birthmarks of the Infant Church -- Part 2: The Fellowship of the Saints

6 September 2010

We have considered the importance of doctrine. A church is not a church without doctrine. But we must know that a church is more than a doctrine. The New Testament church, in its very awakening, were people who loved one another, and fellowshipped together. Though a church is nothing without doctrine, it can have a perfect doctrine and be a dead, orthodox skeleton, a carcass without life, an empty shell! Fellowship is important. That is why God moved Luke to record this intricate part of the body of Christ.

A. CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP IS LOVE "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." -John 13:35

A church that is alive, one that is spiritual, is a church that not only loves their Lord, and His truths, but they also love one another. Jesus said this was how the world would know that we are His disciples. Not by a doctrine we hold, but by the love we have for other Christians. Surely, there were those in John's day that felt they were right with God because they knew the doctrine. But to many of these Jesus said they were full of dead men's bones. They appeared fine on the outside, but on the inside they were dead corpses.(Matthew 23:27). John wrote: "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now." Apparently there were those that said that they were in the light, that they had the light, that they had the truth, that they were the most religious, the most righteous. They claimed to have the doctrine. But they had a fatal problem. They hated their brethren. As Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun. We know of some of like this today. Jealousies, personality conflicts, competition, popularity, all contribute to this hatred among those who believe the same thing. But John makes it clear: knowledge of doctrine without love is still darkness. Perhaps there were other reasons. Perhaps some had learned the doctrine, but didn't want to be around the church people, so they took the doctrine home with them never to return to God's house where they learned it. Perhaps they loved the doctrine, but they loved the world more than Christ. So they took the doctrine home, put it under a basket, and played with their friends in the world. Perhaps they were jealous of other Christians. Many reasons for their hatred of other Christians could be given. The point is that they knew doctrine, but hated the brethren...and they were in darkness. John was accurately referred to as the apostle of love. It was said that in his last days they brought him to church on a cot. That is what I call "continuing stedfastly." Jerome stated that one phrase was continually on his lips: "My little children, love one another." When they would ask him why he always said this he replied, "It is the Lord's command, and if this alone be done it is enough." If we are really a Christians, we love Christ, His doctrine, and other Christians...and we want to be with them. Love for the brethren is the true badge of discipleship. Here we find a vertical and horizontal love relationship in a lively church which is God honoring. This dual love relationship is depicted in the first communion service. The partaking of the wine and bread represents our fellowship with the Lord: His body and His blood. The washing of the Saints' feet represents our love for our brethren, and our desire to serve them. Luke observes the New Testament Church as a place where both the vertical, and horizontal love relationship is observed. Christians fellowshipped, and they genuinely loved one another. They enjoyed "the fellowship of the Saints". There are places of worship where people assemble together, bow down together to worship, and then return to their separate places of abode with little, if any interaction with one another. This is displayed in worldly religions, and sometimes in Christian churches. They do not know one another. They do not share their families, their lives, their jobs, nor their sorrows and joys. But I ask this question: "How can people love one another, as Jesus describes, if they do not know one another?" Surely, this is not the picture of the infant church. They knew one another very intimately. They met and prayed when they had problems, and they knew where one another lived. (Acts 12:13). Togetherness is the most prominent concept of the word fellowship. It is displayed in one simple thought that they loved one another. If you love someone, you want to be with them. And we come to love others by sharing our lives with them, getting to know them, and being with them. And something is obvious here: you can't love someone that you do not know! The importance of the fellowship of the saints can be slighted by God's people, many times unknowingly. As long as they attend the sermon, many Christians feel they have done their duty. And that is what church is to them. It is a duty, and not a joy. But being a member of the New Testament church is much more than going to hear a message. It involves active participation with other Christians. This should be a joy. Churches may suffer because this fundamental aspect of Christianity is neglected. The people unknowingly suffer as well. They are not ministering to those in need, and in turn they have no one to minister to them when they have a need. People go to church, hear a message, and go home and forget about the other members till the next Sunday. They are not involved in the "fellowship of the saints." Surely, this is not the Christianity of the Bible.

B. CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP IS FRIENDSHIP "But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name."- 3 John 1:14 I believe that fellowship involves friendship. John apparently felt it to be so as he referred to his brethren as friends. Yes, apart from our own earthly family, members of churches should prefer their beloved brethren above all other friends on the earth. Our brethren should be our best friends. These are the people we should feel comfortable sharing our faith with, and our problems. It is certain that we should have some friends outside our church walls. Without these who would we invite to God's house? But our best friends, the ones we would want to spend the most time with, should be our beloved brethren who love our Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus was pressed by the crowd, and He was informed that His mother and other members of His earthly family were trying to find Him, He replied "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! "(Matthew 12:48-49) Yes, to Jesus the disciples were his most intimate friends. Are your best friends Christians? If you claim to be a Christian they should be. Some of these should be members of the same church you attend. How can we bear one another's burdens if we are not close enough to our friends in the church to share them with one another? Our best, most intimate friends, those faithful ones we would desire to share our greatest trials with, should be other Christians. They should be our beloved brethren, people we love, people we know intimately, people we know will pray for us with caring hearts, and souls. This is the fellowship of the saints. It is through this fellowship of the saints that people feel to be a genuine part of Christ's body. This is what people see first when they come to your church!

C. THE HOME CHURCH MOVEMENT "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as e see the day approaching."- Hebrews 10:23-25

There is a movement going on today which hinders the fellowship of the saints: the home church movement. This group has deemed churches today to be boring. They, therefore, have done exactly what the writer of Hebrews has encouraged us not to do...forsake the assembly. Perhaps they do not like the apostles' doctrine. Perhaps they do not like the apostles' themselves... or other Christians. Perhaps they are like many of us, they have had some bad experiences in man-made churches. Whatever the reason, these have abandoned the public assembly to meet in their own homes with their families. The confusion here is that this is not altogether unscriptural. We read of churches that met in people's homes in the days of the infant church. There was a church that met in the home of Priscilla and Aquila (Romans 16:5. But there were specific reasons for this practice in the days of the infant church, even in days to follow. One reason was the absence of meeting houses when the church first began. They were put out of the synagogues, so they met in their homes. Persecution also forced them into the confines of their homes. They hid. This hiding has been practiced by Christians through the centuries. Another reason is because churches, when first planted, are small. They have small memberships. There is no need for a church building. Homes are great places to worship until a congregation grows to such a proportion that a home can not contain them. Homes are the best places to invite neighbors. Many times a neighbor that will not come to a meeting house will come to a home. Yet in light of all of these reasons, we never read that a home church involved only the members of one family. Nor do we read of home churches being alone in their worship...they were always involved with a local body of baptized believers. Even Aquila and Priscilla were affiliated with the church at Rome. Though some churches began in homes, their meetings were attended by many families under the leadership of a God-called minister. There are many blessings missed when people flee to the confines of their homes to meet with their families alone. Allow me to mention a few. One thing that is missed is the teaching, and guidance of God called men. Though fathers of homes are ordained to teach God's word to their children, and their families, they are not ordained to pastor a church...not even if it consists of their own family. When the father is the pastor of his own family there is not a genuine church in the home. There is a home, but not an ekklesia: a called out assembly. Ekklesia is the biblical term for a church. Therefore, the sacred ordinances of the church, which include baptism and the observing of the Lord's table, cannot be respectfully observed. The New Testament church has men that God has called for that special purpose, who have been given a gift to teach the local assembly, and administer the sacred ordinances. Fathers of homes are to learn from these men and teach their families the word of God. The father is never to assume the role of a pastor unless he has been duly ordained by the presbytery of a local assembly. One of the principle marks of the New Testament church is a God-called ministry. Another thing we receive in the public assembly that we can never get in a home church is the example of other Christians, and their walk. Here we find peers that we need to observe, and emulate. It is in the assembly of the saints that we find the most wonderful peer examples. Granted, Christians are not perfect, yet many good manners are learned just by being around God's people. These gifts and graces are too numerous to be found in a mere family setting. These keep us in check as Christ is displayed in their lives. Their speech, their temperament, their love, and kindness, cause self-examination. We all need to be around these God-fearing people. It is in the local assembly that we hear God speak to His people from His word through one of His chosen vessels. The public proclamation of the word of God has always been the center stage of public worship. Peter preached to thousands; Paul to some women by the river side; Philip to one Ethiopian; Jesus to the multitudes; and we see Ezra, the priest standing on a wooden platform reading the law to the people half the day in the Old Testament. This is worship, par-excellent and was never confined to people's homes. You will not find this anywhere in the Bible! The proclamation of God's word always came from the tongue of God-called men, not fathers of homes. It is in this mode that we learn from God what we would never learn on our own. God is glorified in it. Another area which is lost in the home-church is a means of discipline, or authority in the life of the believer. As Christians, we need to be accountable to the church, and other Christians. In a home church, this is lost. The action taken by the Corinthians, as outlined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5, could never be performed in a home church. As sinners, we need to be accountable to other faithful believers who are not related to us by earthly ties. Relatives can be prejudiced. Even in good churches this can be a problem. We are not isles unto ourselves. Our personal conduct and behavior affects the testimony of Christ, and His cause. It has a bearing on how people view the church, and God's people in general. It gives the enemy great opportunity when we walk unworthy of Christ. Thus, we need to be accountable, not to our own family alone, but also to a body of baptized believers. This keeps us in check in our daily walk. There is yet more. It is in the public assembly that we have the opportunity to converse with other Christians. Dialogue is important to our Christian growth, and maturity. This we will never get, in proper measures, in our homes. We need others of like precious faith to discuss scripture, as well as other things that are subject to Christian principles. Members of churches also receive the special ministration of the saints. When they have problems and sorrows, they have other Christians to pray for them; counsel them; encourage them, and love them. They also learn how to minister to others in need. It has been a special blessing for me as a pastor to see our church family minister to one another. When a family has lost a loved one, when they have been in hospitals, when they have had family problems, when they have been depressed, I have seen them stand by one another, and minister to each particular need. I see Christ displayed in their lives. Nothing is better for a pastor's heart than to see Christ in the lives of the congregation he serves. This is fellowship which goes beyond the bounds of a single home. I do believe there is a slight tinge of Pharisee-ism in the home church movement. Many parents, though it is a God-honoring motive, want to keep themselves, and their children from bad examples. When they bring their children to the public assembly there are children there who do not hold their particular views of dress and behavior. So, to keep their children pristine, they worship in their homes. Yet, if their children are the good examples, would not these be a special blessing to those children who need peer examples? I am not suggesting (as I hope you all know) that parents subject their children to gross, immoral examples. But the Christian church, the biblical picture of the Christian church, the historical picture of the Christian church, has always been one of people from all walks of life, from many different nations, tongues, languages, traditions, worshipping together. A child may see a bad example of some sort, but that is the parent's great opportunity to point it out while allowing their child to be a light to others in the church. As we read the New Testament, we become acquainted with many individuals who made up the initial membership of the New Testament Church. We find a composite of people from various walks of life. There were fishermen, tax collectors, doctors, business men and women, soldiers, tent makers, moms, dads, sisters, brothers, children, as well as a host of others who all shared one common bond which drew their hearts and lives together. This bond was their love for Jesus Christ. It was from this relationship that these brethren were brought together to enjoy "the fellowship of the saints". Just imagine how these people, coming from diverse backgrounds, affected one another? Imagine the diverse membership at Corinth, with some members coming from the temple of idol worship. Heathens with tattoos, cuttings, nose rings, green hair, and everything else imaginable were probably observed there. The effeminate visited Corinth; the sodomite; the fornicator; the adulterer; the thief; the drunkard; and a host of others (See 1 Cor. 6:9-10). Yet, as they learned of Christ, the nose rings, green hair and other trappings of a dark world began do fall off, and fade away. Sinners repented under the sound of the gospel. Lives changed before their eyes. And remember, some of these did not have a home. How could they have ever heard the gospel message that changed their lives if all of the people of Corinth had been selfishly worshiping in their own homes? The real church is truly an ecclesia. Paul's words to the Pharisees of Corinth were, "And such were some of you". There were children present in that day, and Paul didn't command the parents to keep their children at home. They worshipped together, and their children witnessed real changes in people's lives. Imagine how their individual testimonies helped, and compliment one other. Fellowship in the local assembly is a testing ground for genuine faith! If I can't get along with other believers, with other lovers of Jesus Christ in His church, what am I anyway? Getting along with other members of God's family is a part of our growth in grace which produces Christian maturity. It is from the public assembly that the light of Christ shines brighter in our communities and in our country. If every Christian worshipped within the walls of their own homes who would know that Christ even existed? How would other strangers and pilgrims find truth, other Christians, and learn the apostle's doctrine? How could they be the witness they should be in a dark world? Had Paul, Peter and the other Christians of the infant church worshipped in their homes they would never have been put in jail, beaten, and persecuted for Christ. The church would have died at birth. God wants a public witness for Christ! Though this is negative, it seems that there are some (not all) in the home church movement who want to worship in their own homes so they will not be subject to the things I have mentioned. They do not want to be subject to the authority and discipline of a local church. They do not want to be financially obligated to a church. They want to teach their own doctrine. They want their own timetable. They do not want to be around some they deem to be bigger sinners than they are (which, according to Jesus is the worst sin). Basically, it is a worship of self under the guise of home church. As pious as it may seem, it is not God honoring, and many innocent families, who want to protect their families, follow them to their own hurt. The home church movement is not scriptural. The New Testament portrays the church as a viable, living body made up of baptized believers. Each member is an important part of the body connected to all other members "by joints and bands". Paul depicts each member of the church as a vital part of Christ's body: "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ" (1 Cor. 12:12). Just as the arm, the leg, or the eye is an important part of a natural body, each member of the church is an important part of the spiritual body of Christ, This means that each member of the church is useful, and of great importance for the proper structure, and performance, of the body of Christ. Take yourself, or your family from the local assembly to have a home church, and you affect Christ's cause in your particular area. This is a serious charge. You may feel to be only a little finger, but you have an important place in the living body of our Lord Jesus. The severing of just one body member is painful to the whole body. I believe that many times we fail to realize just how important "the fellowship of the saints" really is until we lose a body part, a member. I encourage those who are involved in the home church movement to search the scriptures and see if these things are so, to continue with their family devotions, and find a local congregation that teaches the "apostles' doctrine and unite with them. As I said in the beginning, it could be possible for a church to have its doctrine down to perfection, but still fall far short in the area of Christian fellowship. In every church there must be some interaction among the members which goes beyond sitting together and listening to a sermon. The saints must have a special time to communicate, to share one another's joys, and sorrows. For brothers and sisters in Christ to maintain a profitable relationship in the church there must be interaction. We must participate in "the fellowship of the saints".

D. WHAT IS INVOLVED IN CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP? "And all that believed were together, and had all things common"- Acts 2:44 The word 'fellowship' means many things. First and foremost, it simply means being together. But fellowship is much more than this. People could be together and just stare at one another with no interaction at all. Though this would be company, it would not be fellowship. Or they could just be joined together as members of a church in a legal way with no interaction. This is not fellowship either. Church fellowship is an action word. When we look it up we find that it carries with it three prominent meanings: partnership, participation and communication. From this definition we gain a great deal of insight into Luke's observation of the New Testament Church in its very beginning. It was a place of (1) Partnership; (2) Participation; and (3) Communication. These can never be accomplished apart from an interacting, loving congregation of believers. Consider these with me.

(1) PARTNERSHIP Every member of the church is a partner with Christ (and one another) for the furtherance of the gospel and the prosperity of the church. When Paul wrote his second epistle to the church at Corinth, he introduced them to Titus and said "he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you" - II Cor. 8:23. Titus was working together with Paul for the cause of Christ and the benefit of the church. Therefore the prosperity of the local church is basically in the hands of every partner, looking for blessings from above. If you were involved with business partners, what qualities would you desire in them? I believe we all could say that we would like partners who would take a personal interest in the business. We would want partners who cared just as much about the success of the business as we did. We would want partners who would labor by our side to see that the business did not fail. We would want partners who showed up at work every day, who were on time, and in the right frame of mind. We like for them to be honest and faithful partners. We would want productive partners who would do all that they could to get along with the other partners so that the business would run smoothly. Now, if we would do all of this in a natural business setting, how much more should we be willing to do so in the kingdom of our Lord? Granted, the overall success of a church is in the hands of God. Yet, we know from the letters to the seven churches in Asia that God can, and will, remove a candlestick if the membership fails. Partnership means that we are all in this together. It means that the overall success of the local assembly is in the hands of every individual member, not just the pastor or the deacons. Regardless of how well the church is run, regardless of how well the preacher preaches, a church can go downhill if the partners are not working together. So much of the New Testament is devoted to this loving partnership. Allow me to give you a few of the thoughts. To the Galatians, Paul wrote, "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."(Galatians 5:15-16). To the Ephesians he wrote, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."(Ephesians 4:1-3) To the Colossians he wrote, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Colossians 3:1-12) These are just a few of the many encouragements that are given. You might ask why Paul and the other writers of the New Testament devoted so much space to the encouragement of the saints to work together, to love one another, and to get along in the church, for all to do their part. The reason is because they knew that they could risk their lives to preach, they could travel thousands of miles to evangelize, they could sacrifice their whole life to serve a church, and nothing would become of their efforts if the other partners were not doing their part. Yes, the apostle Paul could be beaten, whipped, stoned, nearly drowned, and then all of his efforts could be thwarted by Satan if the other partners were not doing their part. I hope you can see just how important this word really is. When we read passages like those I have just cited in Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians we have a tendency to skip over them with little thought. We think these are of little importance since there is nothing deep, dark and mysterious about them, or because there is no doctrine concerning our salvation in them. Yet, these are the most difficult ones for us to live up to. These are of great importance for the success and survival of the local congregation. It should be the desire of every partner to see others enjoy the blessings of the gospel. If a new customer entered the doors of your business, would you not be careful to welcome them, wait upon them, answer their questions, see to their needs, and invite them back? How much more should we entertain strangers and visitors when they first enter the doors of our church. Let us "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" Hebrews 13:2. Would you help an angel find a seat in your congregation? Would you be a partner? Fellowship means partnership! What kind of a partner are you?

(2) PARTICIPATION

Fellowship involves participation. This means to be present, and active. If we are to enjoy the "fellowship of the saints" we must be present and we must be actively involved in the affairs of the church. If we are truly involved in true fellowship with the saints, we are participating in every worship service that we can possibly attend. If we have problems attending, we should be earnestly striving to find some way that we can alter our schedule to be there and we should be praying that the Lord will bless our efforts to do so. If we are in fellowship with the brethren, our heart is beating with the local assembly, and most of the time, so is our temperature. We should know what is going on in the church. We are of one mind and one accord with our fellow helpers. We are participating! When I first opened my business, my accountant gave me some very good advice. He told me if I wanted my business to do well, I must be on the job while the store was open. I found out that he was right. Even when I would take off just one day, some of my customers would not like it. They would come in and want to know where I was... even if I had worked the other 364 days out of the year! My being absent, just for one day, discouraged their patronage. If you are faithful in your fellowship, you know what I am talking about. You turn around to see who is present at any worship service, and when you see an empty seat, you wonder why it is empty. We can become very discouraged by empty seats, especially when we know these could be present. We, too, can become discouraged by the patronage of others. But there is more to it than that. I found that it was not only important for the sake of my customers, but also for the proper operation of the business. Being present allowed for me to know what was going on inside of the business, to keep control of the inventory, to encourage and guide my employees, and to see that the business was heading in the direction I had initially planned. I had to participate. It is certain that we could not be in fellowship with God, nor his people, and spend our Sundays in another place. As we have already mentioned, this world has plenty of other places for us to go. Some of our excuses can get to sounding as pathetic as the two men who went fishing one Sunday. After fishing for some time, and catching nothing, one of the men began to feel guilty for going fishing instead of going to church. He looked across the boat to his buddy and said "You know, we should have gone to church this morning instead of going fishing". To this remark his friend replied, "Well, I couldn't have gone anyway." His friend asked him why? His reply: "My wife is sick." He could go fishing with a sick wife, but it excluded him from going to church. Doesn't this sound familiar? Bad weather, being tired, relatives coming, ground hog day, or some other thing will keep us from church, but not from the sporting event or some other thing we enjoy. In other words, Christ is not at the top of the list where He should be. The problems that we face in our lives, our health, the weather, the distance, can have a greater impact upon our availability at church...but not to the other places we love to go. Should not the opposite should be true? The Lord's house should be the place that we would drive the farthest, through the worst weather regardless of the problems that we are facing in our lives... even when the fish are biting. David said, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy" Psalm 137:5-6. I believe that this is the "fellowship" that Luke was observing as he penned these words. He observed people who met to worship the Lord even during the problems and persecution which prevailed around them. We should do our best to participate at every message, every prayer, every meal, every communion, every time the church meets together. After all, we are partners!

(3) COMMUNICATION Fellowship also involves communication. As we read the account of the New Testament church in the pages of Acts (as well as other places) we find that the infant church was composed of people who communicated with one another. These did not have telephones, cell phones, emails, and text messages. They either spoke face to face or they wrote letters. The epistles themselves serve as a constant reminder to us that one of their primary modes of communication was pen and paper. The written letter was one of the chief means of communication between the apostles and the churches. There were times when a portion of the elders, and apostles, met for the sole purpose of communication. They met to discuss issues in the churches. For instance, in Acts 15, "Paul and Barnabus, and certain other of them", went up unto Jerusalem to discuss certain matters of the law and how it should pertain to their Gentile converts. They communicated one with the other. Even though there was some disagreement, they continued as partners and worked towards a solution that was acceptable to all. One of the most beautiful things that we observe here, as well as in Acts 11, is that they settled their discussions with "thus saith the Lord". As they met to communicate we find that their conversation was scripturally oriented. They didn't say "this is what I think" or "this is what I feel", or "this has been the tradition". They didn't try to discredit a brother because he had done something a little differently than they would have done it. These brethren looked to the scriptures to settle their point of contention. They were men of integrity. They did not twist a scripture to fit their personal desire. Their desire was to fulfill their ministry and please the Lord. This keeps our communication spiritual. Communication is vital in any loving relationship. It is important in relationships between husbands and wives. It is important in relationships between children and parents. It is important in a workplace. We can be sure that it is of great importance in God's house. In order for this to transpire, members of the church must fellowship, they must interact, they must spend time together, and they must love one another.

E. WHAT DOES FELLOWSHIP ENTAIL? "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."- John 1:3-4 The fellowship of the saints entails many spiritual things. According to John, it is necessary if our joy is to be full. As already noted, it includes but is not limited to, hearing a message. This is easily observed in the infant church. Another area of fellowship the infant church enjoyed was in the area of prayer. We find them meeting many times to pray. I will comment on this in detail later because prayer is mentioned specifically as one of the four birthmarks of the Christian church. Though prayer is a form of worship, it is, as with preaching, a time of coming together, a time of fellowship. Another form of fellowship we observe in the infant church was at mealtimes. Though you may not have thought about it when you met for potluck, dinner on the grounds, or lunch in the basement, you were really participating in fellowship infantile. It started way back then!
"And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Acts 2:46-47). It has been noted by some that it was difficult to tell when they finished their meals and began the Lord's table. Perhaps this is the reason the Corinthians mingled the two to such an extent it became a drunken feast. It is without question that they ate many of their meals together, and this served as a form of fellowship. Sometimes things in the Bible are so simple, we miss them. What better place to fellowship, to share our lives with our brethren, than at an informal meal! When we want to know people, when we want to share our lives, we usually invite them over for dinner. We are in the habit of complicating things, of making the spiritual something almost unattainable. Concerning this facet of fellowship, God is saying, "Just chill out, enjoy a meal together, and let the conversation flow." You can't eat together without getting to know one another, without sharing. When you miss the meals you are missing a vital part of the church: fellowship of the saints! Another form of fellowship we read about was found around the Lord's table. This was instituted by Christ in the upper room with the apostles. As with prayer, this is one of the distinguishing birthmarks of the infant church so I will comment on this later in that section. We also know that the early church met for the reading of the epistles sent to them by the apostles (15:22,23). Imagine how it must have been to have heard one of these epistles read at a church meeting, sent fresh from the hand of one of the apostles. It must have caused the pastor many hours of prayer, meditation and study to explain all of the details of the epistles. We also read where they met together to share the success of the gospel with the churches (Acts 14:27); where they met to send men out to preach in other areas (Acts 13:3,4); to ordain men to the office of deacon (Acts 6:6); to the office of a gospel minister (1 Timothy 4:14); to take care of church business (Acts 6:3); and I believe they also met on occasion just to sing some spiritual songs. We also read where they met together for dialogue, to ask questions (Acts 20:9). And of course, they met together, as I have already mentioned, to hear the expounding of God's word. All of this is fellowship, and may be enjoyed by the church. Yes, there are many ways to fellowship. To hear the gospel; to listen to epistles; to pray; for meals; to observe the Lords table; for business; for ordinations; for sending out men to spread the gospel; to sing; and I am sure this is not all they did. But these are surely mentioned. We should participate every time the church meets together for any of these. Through them we enjoy just a little bit of the blessings that we will one day enjoy throughout eternity: the fellowship of the saints!

F. CHRIST CENTERED FELLOWSHIP "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord."- 1 Corinthians 1:9 There are many things that draw people together. The magnetism of the New Testament church has always been a crucified and risen Christ who has brought salvation to his people. We must always remember that for whatever reason we, as a body of believers meet for fellowship, Christ is to have the preeminence. Whatever the cause, it is for Him that we meet for fellowship. In the church, Jesus Christ should be the common denominator of every heart and soul. Our lives should be fused together in bonds of Christian love. John's idea of bringing others into the fellowship of the Saints was not carnal entertainment and worldly pleasure, it was, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" - 1 John 1:3. According to John, fellowship with the church was fellowship with the Father the Son, and the Holy Ghost. I hope I have presented the importance of fellowship in the church. Jesus loved to fellowship with His disciples. He had more than doctrine. He had friends. He fellowshipped with them: "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."(John 15:15 ). He loved them so much He gave His life for them: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13). A real friend is a person that you can share you most embarrassing and difficult problems with, who will pray with you, who will help you endure your struggles, rise above your sins, who will be there when you need them, who does not tell your problems to their friends, but rather tells them to the Holy Father for divine assistance. One person said, "A true friend is the one who comes in when everyone else is going out." I see this faithfulness in the fellowship of the infant church. I see it in the personal ministry of Jesus with the apostles. This is all involved in genuine fellowship. Do you have it in your church?