Loss of Fellowship
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Turn in your Bibles, please, to the first epistle of John, chapter 1. We have had a series of discussions related to the security of the believer. We pointed out to you that the Scriptures teach us that the believer cannot lose his salvation. We attempted to anticipate some questions which might naturally arise in the minds of thinking people after we make a statement like that. So we ask a question: If believers cannot lose their salvation, is there anything they can lose? If they cannot lose their salvation, what can they lose?

We tried to show you from the Word of God that the believer, though he can't lose his salvation, can lose his reward. We attempted to show you from the Word of God that the believer is rewarded for service well done. If, even though he doesn't lose his salvation, he is careless in his Christian living, he is going to lose the reward that God planned to give him at the judgment seat of Christ.

We might pass over that very lightly and say, “What difference does it make?” But if we get a proper view of what the Word of God has to say about the judgment seat of Christ and losing one's reward there, it is something we need to be concerned about.

You'll remember that in II Corinthians, chapter 5, the Apostle Paul, dwelling on this very thing, said, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” And the terror about which he speaks is the terror of standing in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and having the Lord say, “Why didn't you do what you should have done? What reason do you have to give?” It is a serious thing to think about losing one's reward.

Loss Of Fellowship With God

We have asked you to turn to the first epistle of John because we want to suggest to you the second thing that a Christian may lose. Though a Christian may not lose his salvation, what is the second thing that a Christian may lose? If you are familiar with this portion of the Word of God, you know that the second thing a Christian may lose is his fellowship. Notice, then, I John, chapter 1, verse 1:

I John 1:

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, [notice now] that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

We are not interested in a complete exposition of these verses at the moment, as that would defeat our purpose. Let me just say to you that the reason John wanted to convey the message of truth was that he might have fellowship with these believers to whom he was writing, and that they in turn might with him have fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Then you'll notice in verse 4:

I John 1:

4And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

I want you to notice that verse because you're going to find, when we get a little farther along in this discussion, that joy is inseparably enjoined with fellowship. Where there is no fellowship, there is no joy. And where there is no joy, that is a good indication that there is no fellowship.

I John 1:

5This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Notice that statement because it will lay the precedent for a statement we are going to make farther on in this chapter. We talk about fellowship, and we talk about being a little out of fellowship, or a great way out of fellowship, or most of the time out of fellowship—as though fellowship is in degrees. Fellowship is either total or not at all. There is no such thing as a little light in darkness. The moment a little light appears, there is no darkness. John was saying here that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. Therefore, in verse 6:

I John 1:

6If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

So darkness and fellowship are placed one opposite the other, and we are reminded in this verse of Scripture that either we are in fellowship or we are in darkness. Or if we want to use the term, we are either in fellowship or out of fellowship. If we keep in mind the figure of speech we are using, either we are in the light or we are in the darkness.

Maintaining Fellowship

I John 1:

7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Notice once again, without our going into a great deal of detail, that fellowship is maintained by one simple expedient. How do you maintain your fellowship with the Lord? You maintain your fellowship with the Lord by walking in the light. Walking in the light is the equivalent of obedience to the Word of God. The very moment there is disobedience to any part of God's Word, then there is no fellowship.

Immediately that brings a question to the minds of sincere people, and it is this: “Well, suppose there is something in God's Word that I don't know about, and I am walking in disobedience to it? Am I out of fellowship with the Lord?” The Word of God becomes light only when it enters into your heart and into your life. If there is something in the Word of God about which you do not know, then certainly the light has not been turned on for you, figuratively speaking, and you could not be considered guilty of not walking in the light. If the light is on, and you deliberately walk outside the sphere of the light, then you are walking in darkness and out of fellowship with God. Notice, then, verse 8:

I John 1:

8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

A few moments ago, I asked you to notice particularly the word joy ,” because I said that joy is an ingredient of fellowship. I ask you now to notice particularly the word sin because sin is a deterrent to fellowship.

A Sin Nature Common To All Mankind

There are two descriptions of sin that we need to notice in this connection. One of them is what we might call inherent sin. It is what we might call the iniquity with which we are born—the sin nature. It is described in verse 8:

I John 1:

8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

If we say that we don't have a capacity for sin, if we say we don't have an inclination to sin, if we say we don't have a sinful nature—then we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth (the Word of God) is not in us. Always I like to emphasize the fact in verse 8 because it is so very true, that the only people we are deceiving when we make such statements are ourselves—no one else. Everyone else can see the evidence of a fallen nature in our lives, whether we can or not.

Actual Sins Committed

The other kind of sin mentioned in verse 10 is what, for want of a better term, I am going to call overt sin—sin that comes out of the sin nature. If we say that we have not sinned, then you'll notice what the Scripture says: We make God a liar, and His Word is not in us. Every Christian sooner or later will sin, and it will more likely be sooner than later. If we keep that in mind, then we recognize that sin is related to fellowship. Joy is an indication that we have fellowship. Sin is a deterrent to fellowship.

Fellowship Restored Through Confession Of Sins

The very moment we are guilty of sin, the fellowship is broken. We may ask, “What can we do about broken fellowship? Do we have to be saved all over again to be restored to fellowship? Do we have to do penance as our Catholic friends think we must do? Do we have to do some good deed to offset the bad deed as those who are proponents of 'salvation by works' suggest? What do we have to do?” The answer is found in verse 9. There is one simple little thing that we have to do, and that is to confess our sins. Notice what verse 9 says:

I John 1:

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Let me say, though we are not dealing with this problem in detail, that we want to recognize that the confession of sins is not merely, “Lord, I've sinned today, and I'm sorry. I won't do it tomorrow.” That is not confession of sin. The word confess means “to agree with God about the matter.” It means to feel the same way that God feels. It means not only to recognize the sin as sin, but it means to feel as God feels about it. If you feel as God feels about it, you'll hate it! If you feel as God feels about it, you'll abhor it! If you feel as God feels about it, you'll have a deep concern in your own heart because it has had a part of your life! This matter of glibly saying, “Forgive me the sins I committed today, and give me a good night's sleep. Amen.”, is not going to get the job done.

The Holy Spirit will bring to your attention those sins that you have committed, and when He brings them to your attention, be willing to name them before the Lord and recognize them for what they are. If the Holy Spirit does not bring to your attention those sins, then don't worry about a dozen sins that you might have committed, of which you may not be conscious. Leave that matter with the Lord.

Fellowship for the Christian, then, can be lost. Fellowship can be restored by the simple expedient of confession of sin.

I've said all of that to lay the foundation for what I want to say to you about fellowship. We have been talking about things that a Christian can lose. He can lose fellowship, and we have been trying to explain how that fellowship can be lost.

Things In Common

We want to talk a little while about what fellowship is because most people don't know. That is the reason they may not be conscious that they have lost it when they have. That is the reason many of the problems that arise in the life of the individual Christian are not recognizable for what they are. People do not understand what fellowship is, and in not understanding, they are not conscious that the loss of fellowship is the root of most of the problems that Christians face today.

Let me say to you, first, that fellowship comes from a Greek word, koinonia , which means “common.” We talk about having all things in common. That is fellowship. We have something in common with someone else. How many times have you said, concerning people you know, “Well, they are nice people, but we are not with them very much. We have nothing in common!”? Particularly are you inclined to say that if you make some friends among those who are unsaved. You want to witness to them, you are concerned about them, but you don't particularly enjoy spending a lot of time with them because you don't have anything in common with them. There is no basis for fellowship.

Keep in mind that the basic, simple meaning of the word fellowship , as far as the original Greek text is concerned, is a matter of having something in common. Someone said that the simplest definition of fellowship is “fellows in the same ship.” That is good up to a point. Of course, you could be fellows in the same ship and be completely out of fellowship with one another and the Lord, but if we lift that to a high spiritual term, that is a good definition of fellowship.

Yet you can have something in common and still be dormant. You can have something in common and be dead, so to speak. I would like for us to notice how this word fellowship is used in several places in the Scripture—that is, how this Greek word is translated by different words, so that we may be able to get the meaning of the word fellowship .

Communication

Philemon:

5Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
6That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

Will you notice the word communication in that verse. That word communication is the translation of our same Greek word, koinonia . So what is fellowship? Fellowship is communication. Let's put it very bluntly and say, “Well, if you are out of fellowship, you are out of communication.” Have you ever prayed and had the sense and feeling and experience that your praying was not getting through, that your prayers were going no higher than the ceiling? Sometimes that could be related to a lack of understanding of what prayer is. However, I'm talking about mature, spiritual Christians who don't have these slighter problems. Do you have the feeling that your prayers are not going through? You are not communicating, are you? Well, the reason you aren't communicating could well be that you are out of fellowship, for fellowship is communication. And may I say to you that your fellowship will be marked by that communication.

If you are not interested in reading the Word of God, which is God's method of communicating with you, that indicates that you are not interested in God's communicating with you. If you are not interested in God's communicating with you, then you are out of fellowship. That is the reason I'm always a little bit amused at all of these tremendous efforts that are being made to put the Bible into the language of the man on the street so that he will be able to understand it—so that it will make him want to read it. Well, certainly we are interested in every method that is possible to help folk understand the Word of God, but we are acting on a wrong premise, indeed, if we think that putting the Bible into simple language is going to encourage an unsaved man to read it, or is going to encourage a man who is out of fellowship to be interested in it. It simply won't help because communication is one of the definite characteristics of fellowship.

Of course, our communication with God is by prayer in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would say to you that if you are not interested in praying, and if you are not interested in having the time for communicating with God, that is a very good indication that you are out of fellowship with Him. Those who are in fellowship with the Lord are interested in communication.

Communion

Turn with me, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 10. Notice, please, verse 16:

I Corinthians 10:

16The 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?

Notice the word communion . It is our same Greek word koinonia . It is translated here “communion,” and that is what fellowship is. Fellowship is communion, representing a relationship that exists between the individuals involved.

Contribution

Will you turn, as we hurry on, to the book of Romans, chapter 15, verse 26:

Romans 15:

26For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.

Notice the word contribution . It is the translation of this same Greek word that we have been thinking about together. If you are in fellowship with the Lord, you will be making a contribution to that fellowship. The word contribution here is very definitely referring to a material gift, but I don't want to leave the impression with you that that is the only kind of fellowship you can have. The Apostle later is talking about the ministry of the saints of God, missionaries who were doing missionary work, and in talking about a material contribution to their cause, he uses the word fellowship . You certainly can have fellowship in a material way, but when I use the word contribution here, I am using it to illustrate that fellowship is not one-sided. You can't be constantly upon the receiving end as far as God is concerned and remain in fellowship with Him. Fellowship consists of contribution on the part of God to you, and on the part of you to God. It is something that must be reciprocal if it is going to accomplish its purpose in our lives.

When we speak about what a Christian can lose, we say that a Christian can lose his reward, and a Christian can lose his fellowship. When we talk about what fellowship is, we remind you that fellowship is related to having things in common, to communication, to communion, and to contribution. Each contributes something to the other. God needs you to contribute something to Him. God is incomplete without you. He needs your contribution.


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