Characteristics of Fellowship: Communication, Contribution, and Companionship
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to the first epistle of John. We will read the portion of the Word that we read in our last lesson when we discussed the matter of fellowship and did not cover everything that the Lord had laid on our hearts to say at that particular time. So we read from 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, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
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.
6If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
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.
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.

If you will glance back at verse 3, you will see that one of the privileges of a child of God is fellowship. The reason we are discussing this matter of fellowship at this particular time is that we have been pointing out to you from the Word of God the impossibility of losing our salvation which God so graciously gives. We also pointed out to you that, though we cannot lose our salvation, there are a number of things that we can lose, and these things are not to be considered lightly.

Loss Of Fellowship

We mentioned to you that it is possible for us to lose our rewards. Then we began the discussion of the possibility of losing our fellowship. Fellowship is the thing which makes our salvation worthwhile, the thing that makes our salvation practical, and the thing that makes us joyful in the Lord.

We discussed what fellowship is, as it is revealed here in the first epistle of John. We suggested to you that the simplest explanation of fellowship is presented in this chapter in comparison and contrast with two words—light and darkness. When you are in fellowship, there is light. When you are out of fellowship, there is darkness. We told you that there is one characteristic of fellowship that presents a barometer for us, a gauge as to our fellowship, and that is the matter of joy.

The reason that the apostle was anxious for us to have fellowship is that our joy may be full. You remember that when David sinned—committing murder, adultery, and lying—he prayed this prayer of confession in Psalm 51. He was not talking about the loss of his salvation. He was talking about the loss of his joy. That's the reason that he prayed, “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation.”

Many of us, when we have lost our fellowship and consequently have lost our joy, assume that we have lost our salvation. But such is not the case. We've lost the joy that goes with our fellowship.

We suggested to you also that there is one basic thing that will break our fellowship with the Lord, and that basic thing is sin. That sin may take many different forms, but it is sin that breaks the fellowship. It is broken immediately upon our sinning. It isn't broken after a lot of sins have accumulated. It is broken immediately upon the commission of the sin.

Fellowship Restored By Confession

We would like to remind you that fellowship is restored just as quickly as it is broken. It is restored upon the confession of that sin. We would like to remind you also that it is not necessary for us to wait until we go to church and respond to the preacher's invitation to confess our sin and restore us to fellowship. If you happen to be in a service, and you are out of fellowship, and the Spirit of God speaks to your heart, by all means confess your sins and be restored to fellowship in that service. Don't wait until you go home or somewhere else. Don't deny the tug of the call of the Spirit of God.

When we come to the Lord's table each Sunday, if the Spirit of God reminds you that your fellowship is broken because there is unconfessed sin, right then is the time to confess that sin that the fellowship might be restored.

We pointed out to you that confession is not merely saying, “Lord, I've sinned,” but it is agreeing with God about the sin. It is acknowledging before the Lord that it is sin. You know, there are many of us who are not willing to do that. For example, the Bible very plainly teaches us that when we get mad, when we lose our temper, it isn't a mistake. It isn't a weakness. It isn't that we've been pressed beyond measure. It isn't that people are provoking. It isn't that our nerves are bad. It is that we have sinned.

If we acknowledge it immediately before the Lord and say, “Lord, I have sinned,” immediately we are agreeing with God about it. But, so long as we say, “It's just a nervous condition I have. It's just a weakness that runs in my family, because my dad got mad, and my grandad got mad,” we're never going to acknowledge sin, and our fellowship is never going to be restored. Remember that fellowship is restored by the confession of sin.

We have endeavored to learn a little bit about what fellowship actually is by noticing the way the word koinonia , which is the word fellowship , is translated in other places in the New Testament. We turned to I Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 16, and we found that fellowship was translated by the word “communion.” That is what fellowship is. It is communion. It is a relationship. It is an exchange of thoughts, an exchange of feeling, and an exchange of spirit.

Communication - A Part Of Fellowship

We turned to Philemon, verse 6, and we discovered that fellowship is communication. The word fellowship was translated “communication” in Philemon, verse 6, where the apostle was praying that Philemon's faith might be communicated, that it might be effective.

So we might remind you that there is no fellowship without communication. Now communication means exactly what we always consider it to be. It means our being in touch. Many, many times we talk about being in fellowship with God, but we go hours, days, or weeks, and there are some folk who go months or years, without ever communicating with the Lord—without ever talking to Him, without ever being on speaking terms with Him.

I would like to remind you today that there can be no fellowship where there is no communication. I would like to emphasize this by asking you to turn in your Bibles to the Song of Solomon, which is an allegorical representation of the relationship that exists, or should exist, between the Christian and the Savior, between Christ and the believer. In the Song of Solomon, chapter 2, verse 10, the Lord Jesus Christ speaks to the believer in the words:

Song of Solomon 2:

10My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
11For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;

let's pause and think for a moment about what we are reading, so we'll be able to get the message in these few verses. The Shulamite woman was speaking about Solomon when she said, “My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.”

An Invitation To Communion

If we want to use the characteristics which Solomon and the Shulamite woman represent, we might say that the believer is talking about an experience that he had with the Lord Jesus Christ one day, when he heard the Lord Jesus Christ say to him, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.”

Song of Solomon 2:

12The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle [or more accurately, the turtledove] is heard in our land;
13The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

Without going into great detail on this passage of Scripture, let us fix in our minds that this is an invitation from the Lord Jesus Christ to the believer for a time of communion. He continues that invitation in verse 14 by saying:

Song of Solomon 2:

14O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, [actually that is, in the hidden place] in the secret places of the stairs, [that is, in the places of the going up, the places of growth, or the places of ascension. Now this is what I wanted us to get to] let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.

Did you notice what He said? “Let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice.” I wonder how many of us have considered in relation to our prayer life that the Lord likes to hear our voices in prayer, that He likes to hear us talk to Him, that it is a blessing to the heart of God to hear the believer in sweet communication with Him.

I dare say that most of us think of prayer only as a matter of warting God about something. But this passage of Scripture, along with others, mentions that fellowship is made up of communication—a communication which our Lord wants to hear.

Notice, in verse 15, the believer says to the Lord:

Song of Solomon 2:

15Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

And in allegorical language, the suggestion is that the believer knows immediately why there is so little communication that it is necessary for the Lord Jesus Christ to say, “Let me hear thy voice, and let me see thy countenance.” It's the little foxes that creep in and spoil the vine,

May I pause in this discussion to ask you, “What are the little foxes in your life?” Notice we are talking about little foxes, not the big ones—the little foxes that eat the tender grapes before they have time to become full grown and luscious; the little foxes that enter in and ruin your fellowship with the Lord before it has a chance to become a deep and abiding faith. You need not be primarily concerned about the big foxes. It's the little foxes that spoil the grapes.

Contribution Of Believers In Fellowship

In the book of Romans, chapter 15, verse 26, we had another word for the word fellowship . It was the word contribution , and it was the last word that we considered in our last lesson.

As the word is used in Romans, chapter 15, verse 26, he is talking about a material offering which was received by the Apostle Paul for the poor saints at Jerusalem, and it was called a contribution. There is a sense in which we may have fellowship with other believers by sharing of our material goods. As a matter of fact, John says in his second epistle that that is one way that we can have fellowship with believers—by sending offerings to them as they carry on their work for God, offerings that will enable them to further the cause of Christ.

We are suggesting that we notice the word contribution from the standpoint of what it actually is. The Roman saints contributed something to the believers in Jerusalem, and we're suggesting that we think of fellowship in the terms of contribution—in the terms of our contributing something to the fellowship that we have for the Lord.

Have you ever stopped to think how one-sided human fellowship is if both parties involved don't contribute something? How often have you said concerning people you know, “Now we've gone to see them for the last time. We've been to see them any number of times, and they never return the visit. Evidently, they don't want to have anything to do with us, so we've gone to see them for the last time.” Now what are you talking about? You're talking about the fact that you have contributed something to the fellowship. You've contributed your time and your presence or your interest, and the other folk have only been on the receiving side, so you're not at all sure that they want to have fellowship with you. You think in order to keep from pushing yourself on them, the best thing to do is not to bother them any more.

How often have you had a conversation with someone, and all you got out of the other individual was a nod of the head, or a “yes” or a “no,” or some expression that was merely a recognition of the fact that they heard what you said. They contributed absolutely nothing to the conversation. How long do you carry on a conversation with people like that? Well, unless you just love to hear the sound of your own voice, you don't carry on a conversation with people like that very long. You decide that there isn't any point in trying to talk to them because they never talk. They never contribute anything.

I say to you today, and I say it reverently, that there can be no real fellowship with God unless we make some contribution toward it. There can be no fellowship with God unless we make some contribution toward it.

Contribution Of Praise

What contribution can you and I make toward that fellowship, that it might be maintained, and the joy of our fellowship might be full? Turn, please, to the book of Hebrews, chapter 13, and notice one suggestion. All we are attempting to do is to give you some suggestions that you might examine a bit further and pursue a bit more in detail for your own benefit. Notice verse 15:

Hebrews 13:

15By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

This passage of Scripture depicts the believer as a priest. Remember, this is in the book of Hebrews, which is taking all of its foundation truths from the Old Testament—from the services in the tabernacle and from the acts of worship of the Old Covenant. The believer is presented here as a priest who offers a sacrifice to God for the benefit of God Himself.

If you are familiar with Old Testament sacrifices, you will know that some of the sacrifices were offered for sin. Some of them were offered for the sinner, and some of them were offered simply to the Lord. They accomplished nothing for the individual who brought the sacrifice. They did not atone for sin. They were simply for the satisfaction of God.

One of them was the offering of incense—the offering of sweet incense to the Lord. Incense was burned on the altar, and the smoke of that incense ascended into Heaven. When it passed through the clouds into Heaven, figuratively speaking, there was portrayed the fact that the believer had contributed something that pleased the heart of God.

You and I must learn that if our fellowship is to be complete, we must make a contribution to that fellowship. It can't be just asking God for something all the time. There must be those times when we offer unto God the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips when we take the time to tell the Lord how grateful we are for everything He has done for us, and how much we love Him because of what He has accomplished in our lives.

Companions With Christ

Turn, please, to Hebrews, chapter 10, and notice another verse of Scripture which is going to illustrate a little bit more of what fellowship actually is. In verse 32, we read:

Hebrews 10:

32But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
33Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
34For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.

Notice in verse 33 the word companion . It is our Greek word koinonia . It is the same word that is translated “fellowship” in the first epistle of John. And so we are reminded that fellowship is companionship. We are companions. It may seem a bit strange, and certainly we do not want it to be accepted in any irreverent sense, but we are companions of the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is a blessed companionship that we enjoy in this fellowship.

Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ well enough, and are you on such intimate terms with Him, that you can speak of Him as your companion? You should be, and that's what He wants us to be. He wants to be your companion. He wants to share in all those things in which you share, and He wants you to share in all those things which He shares.

I wonder if there are areas in our lives in which He does not share? Are there areas in our lives out of which He is shut completely, and He is not our companion in the strictest sense of the word? I would suggest that you break down all those walls that shut Him out of those various areas of your life where He wants to enter and be a companion with you.

I might suggest also that if this companionship is to be true, it may necessitate on your part a relinquishing of some of the companions which you already have because some of your companions may not want to enjoy His companionship.

Notice with me Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 12:

Hebrews 13:

12Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
13Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

Of course, this is a reference once again to the Old Testament practice of taking the scapegoat outside the actual camp of Israel that it might be sacrificed because the sin that it bore made it unworthy to be sacrificed within the city itself.

When the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified in fulfillment of the type found in the Old Testament, He was taken without the city of Jerusalem before He was crucified. He bore there the reproach of all the sin that was related to you and me. This is an invitation to enter into this fellowship, to be a companion with Him in the reproach and the shame that was His because He died without the city gates, without the camp.

This passage of Scripture suggests to us that it may be necessary at times for us to go with Him without the camp, bearing His reproach. It may be necessary for us to leave family, in some instances. It may be necessary for us to leave organizations, in some instances. It may be necessary even for us to leave the established ecclesiastical organization of the day if we are to have this companionship with the Lord Jesus Christ. But fellowship means companionship, and I trust that we are companions with Him.

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