The Biblical Principles of Church Fellowship – Ricardo

The Biblical Principles of Church Fellowship – Ricardo

When the church was established, it fostered a sense of community within the body of believers:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

Likewise, this pattern of fellowship continues to this day. It can be characterized by the following principles:

The Lord placed us in a local body united by a common faith

Following our salvation, the Lord places us in a local community of like-minded believers and assigns each of us a role in serving His church:

… But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

Furthermore, when we are placed into the body of Christ, the distinctions between our brothers and sisters in Christ us are erased. There are no longer any ethnic, cultural, or language identities that we place before our shared faith in Christ:

 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

And we must also be careful to preserve the unity among ourselves:

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19)

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” (Romans 16:17)

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is

For brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

We serve each other

The Christian life is characterized by servitude, to the Lord and to our brethren.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

We encourage each other

Before we meet up with each other, it is important to proactively contemplate how we can push others to grow in “love and good deeds.” When we meet with one another, it is not merely for our own entertainment, but to sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). We should be even more motivated to do so as we reflect on the return of Christ, which reminds us that our efforts carry a heavenly weight and will culminate in a glorious reunion with the Lord.

and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

We pray for each other

Another aspect of church fellowship is constant prayer for those in the body of Christ. Prayer is an effective weapon that can be wielded to call God to action and guards against the devices of Satan.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)

We hold each other accountable

When we are isolated from the body of Christ, we are an easy target for Satan and our sensitivity to sin can become dull if we have no one around to us warn about its danger. When we see a brother sinning, it is our responsibility to lovingly guide him to repentance, as outlined in Matthew 18:15-20. Furthermore, verse 20 highlights that the decisions made by a church in regards to discipline is supported by Christ himself: “or where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). As an aside, this also serves as a reminder that the body does not act independently of its head, Jesus Christ. Rather, our actions as a church should be aligned with His will.

We partake in the Lord’s Supper corporately

While communion is a moment to reflect and repent of our sin and give thanks to the Lord for the new covenant of blood that allowed us to be reconciled with the Father, it is also an opportunity to strengthen the bonds within the church. All the members of the body have been redeemed and have experienced the mercy of God, and we reflect on this as a body. Before taking communion, we are called to be mindful of each other.:

“But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper,  for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.” (1 Corinthians 11:17-22)

We love each other

The driving force between our fellowship with the saints is our love for each other, which in turn is driven by our love for our Lord. We humbly put our selfish desires aside in favor of a selfless love for our brethren:

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:11-12)

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;” (Philippians 2:3)

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Without love, it is impossible to build up the church:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)