Partnership With the Lord
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to the first epistle of 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.

Notice particularly verse 3:

I John 1:

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.

Now notice verse 6, please:

I John 1:

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.

If you have been noticing this emphasis as I read this portion of the Word, and if you have been with us for the past several weeks, you know that we are talking about fellowship. The reason that we are discussing the subject of fellowship is that we have been talking about the security of the believer for a number of weeks. We suggested to you that according to the Word of God, an individual cannot lose his salvation. Yet we have to face the fact, as we look into our own lives and into the lives of a lot of Christians we know, that they evidently lose something after they come to know the Lord. They don't lose their salvation, and so what is it that they do lose?

Loss Of Rewards

We have suggested for you a number of things that it is possible for the child of God to lose. We mentioned to you, for example, that it is possible for the child of God to lose his reward when he stands before the judgment seat of Christ. That's the reason that we can't lightly dismiss a lax Christian life. We can't say, “Oh, well, it doesn't matter what you do. If you're saved, you're saved, so go ahead and do anything that you want to do.”

That isn't true. If you're saved, you're saved, thank God—saved by His grace and kept by His grace. But it does matter what you do because if you are not conscientious in working out that which God has worked in, you can lose your reward at the judgment seat of Christ. Without repeating everything that we have said about that, we want to suggest to you that that is indeed a serious thing that should not be taken lightly at all.

Loss Of Fellowship

Then some weeks ago, we pointed out to you that we can lose not only our reward, but we can lose our fellowship. We suggested to you that many Christians are living out of fellowship most of the days that they know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. Many of them think they have lost their salvation because they have lost their fellowship, and they feel that they are unsaved, and that they have no claim on God at all. Many of them want to be saved all over again. Well, that isn't necessary. All that is necessary is that we keep in mind two things. One thing breaks fellowship, and that is sin. That's all. That's all that breaks it. Sin breaks fellowship. Whenever you get to the place where you know what to do with sin, then you get to the place where you know how your fellowship can be maintained in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We told you that if you confess your sin that has broken the fellowship, immediately the fellowship is restored. We told you that if you walk in the light—that is, in obedience to the Word of God—there is no need for the fellowship ever to be broken.

A great many people don't actually understand what fellowship is, and that is one reason that they lose fellowship without realizing that they've lost it. That's the reason that problems arise in Christians' lives.

Defining Fellowship

We've been trying to think together with you about what fellowship actually means, and we told you that the simplest definition of fellowship is “fellows in the same ship.” So if you and the Lord Jesus Christ are headed in the same direction, you are in fellowship. If one of you is headed one way, and the other is headed the other way, then you're not in fellowship because two cannot walk together unless they are agreed.

The Greek word koinonia that is translated “fellowship” is translated by a number of other words in the New Testament. We have looked at some of them. We review them briefly, even at the risk of repetition because you realize that the Word of God says that the best principle of teaching, regardless of the teaching principles that you may know, is line upon line and precept upon precept. That isn't always accepted, but that's one way to get it—line upon line and precept upon precept.

We would remind you that the word fellowship is often translated by the word “communion.” We speak of what happens here at the Lord's table each Lord's Day as communion. That's what it ought to be. We ought to be communing with the Lord as we wait to be served, and as we partake of the elements. A communion is between two people who have something in common that they can commune about.

We suggested to you that the word fellowship is often translated “communication.” If you are in communication with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, you are in fellowship. If you are not in communication, you are not in fellowship with Him.

Then we told you that the word fellowship is often translated “contribution.” The saints in Macedonia made a contribution to the saints in Jerusalem because of the famine that had overtaken them. Of course, that was speaking of a material contribution. You can have fellowship through material gifts. As a matter of fact, John says in his second epistle that that's one way to have fellowship with missionaries. You may never see them. You may never visit their mission stations. You may never look with your natural eye upon the thing that they are doing, but you can have fellowship with them through your monetary giving to their ministry of the Word, wherever they may happen to be.

But I suggested to you that we think about the word contribution in even a little higher sense than that. There can be no fellowship unless you make some contribution to it. If you're not making contribution, as I pointed out to you in relation to the sacrifices that every Christian ought to offer unto the Lord, there can be no fellowship. No, not animal sacrifices, but the sacrifice of praise, the sacrifice of your body, the sacrifice of your time. If you are not contributing that, then there can be no fellowship.

Then we told you that the word fellowship is translated “companion.” That is a good illustration of what fellowship is. The Apostle Paul was speaking to his Hebrew brethren. They were a bit discouraged. They were ready to turn back. They were ready to take the easy route. He said, “You ought not to do that. You willingly became companions of those who were ill-treated, and you suffered the sharing of your goods joyfully because you had your eyes on something better. So don't be discouraged and turn back now.”

The word companion used there in Hebrews, chapter 10, was this same Greek word that we're talking about that is translated “fellowship.” So if you are in fellowship, you are aware of companionship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and it puts it on a very personal basis.

Seriousness Of Broken Fellowship

This is everything we have taught about the subject up to this point. If you think about it in these concrete terms, you will be able to comprehend the seriousness of one's losing his fellowship with the Lord. When you lose fellowship with the Lord, you lose all communication with Him. You're not on “praying ground,” as we say. Something happened, and you need help. You'll have to get a lot of the debris of sin cleared away in your life before you'll even be on praying ground because the Word of God says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” If you have unconfessed sin in your life, your fellowship is broken, and God can't expect to hear anything you have to say until you acknowledge that sin.

Some people stay out of fellowship so long that they let the pile of sin get so high that it's difficult for them even to remember some of those things. The Spirit of God has to deal with them until those things are brought to their remembrance, that they might acknowledge them before the Lord.

So remember, if you lose your fellowship, you lose your communication. If you lose your fellowship, you lose your companionship. You're walking this way alone. Any individual Christian who is out of fellowship is alone, for the Lord Jesus Christ is not walking with him.

Partakers Of The Same Thing

Turn in your Bibles, please, to II Peter, chapter 1, and notice the paragraph which begins with verse 1.

II Peter 1:

1Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
2Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Notice in verse 4 the word partakers .” It is the translation of this same Greek word koinonia that is translated “fellowship” in all of these other verses of Scripture at which we have been looking, and by all these other words.

So when we talk of having fellowship, we are talking about partaking of the same thing—being partakers of the same thing. That's the reason we call the Lord's table the table of fellowship, because we are partaking together of the same thing—of that which represents the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Partakers Of The Word

Here we are told that we are able to be partakers of the divine nature through our reliance upon the exceedingly great and precious promises that are given to us in the Word of God. We find that fellowship, then, is being able to partake of the promises of the Word. Our fellowship is being able to partake of the promises of the Word. Our fellowship is being able to partake of the Word of God itself, and being able to feed on the Word.

I don't think this needs any great emphasis, but we do mention it in passing, in order to make a point. Haven't you noticed that when you are out of fellowship with the Lord, you lose your interest in the Word of God? Haven't you noticed that when you are out of fellowship with the Lord, the Word of God has very little bearing on your life?

Interest In The Word Related To Fellowship

I have noticed that when people are out of fellowship, more often than not, they not only lose their interest in the Word, but they don't want to be close to the Word of God because the Word of God makes them uncomfortable and makes them conscious of their loss of fellowship. Many times, you know, Christians want to hold onto a sin in their lives. They don't want to relinquish that sin. The Holy Spirit has put His finger on it and has convicted them of it. They know that it's sin. There's absolutely no question in their minds about it, but they don't want to relinquish that sin. They want to hold onto it. Of course, as long as they hold onto that sin, they have no fellowship. So if they stay around the Word of God, the knife is going to gouge a little deeper, and the discomfort is going to become more intense. So pretty soon, they find themselves absenting themselves from the place where the Word of God is proclaimed.

I don't think we ought to treat lightly any person's absence from the regularly appointed place of assembly. I don't think we ought to take lightly any person's absence from the time where folk meet together for the study of the Word.

Of course, it is conceivable that there could be other reasons people absent themselves from the place of fellowship around the Word of God. That's conceivable. Illness makes it necessary. Work makes it necessary. Other obligations make it necessary. We're aware of that. But when there is no concrete reason for one's absenting himself from the place of fellowship around the Word, then it should be a matter of concern to all true believers because it's a fair indication that that person is out of fellowship. And because he's out of fellowship, he doesn't want to hear the Word of God.

I might say, if we want to make this exceedingly personal—not talking about others, but talking about ourselves—if you find yourself losing interest in your opportunities to fellowship around the Word of God, you need to be concerned. It could be an indication that you are out of fellowship. It could be an indication that you're walking in darkness, and it hasn't dawned on you fully yet.

Danger Of Walking In Darkness

You know, it's possible for light to remain a little time after the light has gone out. Did you ever stop to think about that? There's a difference between darkness and total darkness. Sometimes when you turn out a light, even though there's a sudden change, there's still enough light for you to feel your way around, to see enough that you can get around from place to place. But by and by, that darkness is total, and you can't see anything at all.

I'm convinced that there are a number of Christians who are out of fellowship and don't even realize that they are because there's still a little glimmer of light that's enabling them to see just a little. That light is going to be dark before long, and then they'll realize that they aren't in fellowship. The sad thing about it is that by that time, they have injured themselves in some fashion because the light has gone out.

People who are walking out of fellowship with the Lord are in an exceedingly dangerous place. Remember that. It's unsafe for Christians to walk without the light, and I wish Christians could realize that.

Christians who are in fellowship, then, are partakers of the promises of God, whereby they become more like the Lord Jesus Christ.

Partnership With The Lord

Turn, please, to II Corinthians, chapter 8, verse 16;

II Corinthians 8:

16But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.
17For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.
18And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;
19And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind:
20Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:
21Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
22And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you.
23Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.
24Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.

Glance down at verse 23, and notice the words, “Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow helper concerning you.” Notice the word partner . It is the translation of this Greek word koinonia , which we noticed originally was translated “fellowship,” as well as being translated by all these other words.

Of all the definitions of fellowship, I like this one the best. To be in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ means to be a partner with Him—to be in partnership with the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what fellowship really means—to have Him as our partner. As strange as this may seem, we are His partners in the greatest partnership in the world.

Partners In Soul-Winning

Paul is speaking about Titus being his partner. I would like for you to turn to I Corinthians, chapter 3, and see how it is that we are partners with God and partners with the Lord Jesus Christ in this great enterprise of bringing men to Christ. I Corinthians, chapter 3, verse 1:

I Corinthians 3:

1And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
2I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
3For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
4For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
5Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
6I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
7So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
8Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

Now notice this verse:

I Corinthians 3:

9For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
10According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
14If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Notice verse 15. Salvation is not the issue. In verse 15, the man is saved, no matter what happens to him in relation to his work. He'll be saved, but he'll be saved with the smell of smoke on him. It would behoove every one of us as the children of God to be careful how we carry on our work in the name of Christ, whether we are building out of wood, hay, and stubble, or whether we are building out of gold, silver, and precious stones.

Different Jobs In The Partnership

Notice verse 9 because we are talking about the meaning of fellowship. We learned that the word fellowship is translated “partner” in some places in the New Testament, and here we learn what a partnership with God is. We are laborers together with God, and the kind of labor is described in the earlier verses. We don't all have the same job in this partnership. God has the same job always, but not all of us have the same job.

As you will notice in verse 6, Paul said, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” My, how foolish we are to go around talking about the souls that we've won to the Lord! How foolish we are to go about bragging about the fact that we've won so many souls to Christ! No one has a right to claim that. There may have been—in fact, there had to be—a Paul who planted that seed in that heart, and there had to be an Apollos who watered the seed that was planted. God, through many divers means too numerous to mention, brought the seed to maturity so that the fruit was ready to be plucked. You happened to be walking under the tree when the fruit was ripe, and it fell off in your hands. And then you go around bragging about the fact that you won that soul to Christ.

Of course, it's encouraging to be under the fruit trees when the fruit falls off, but you ought not to be taking the credit for yourself because someone else had to plant the seed.

I sometimes think we preachers take an awful lot of credit—too much, as a matter of fact—about the number of souls that we have won to God through our ministry. Here is a godly mother who has prayed for her child from the day it was born, and even before. She's planted the Word of God in his heart. She's trained him, and brought him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And then he comes to church some Sunday, and something touches his heart in the service, and he receives the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. The preacher puts in the bulletin that next Sunday that he won two souls to Christ in that service. He ought to be ashamed of himself. If that mother hadn't planted the Word in his heart, if she hadn't watered it with her tears and with her prayers, there wouldn't have been any fruit for him to pluck when the time came. We are partners. We are laborers together with God.

Partnership Can Be Dissolved

I want to suggest a very serious thing about this partnership. It's possible for the partnership to be dissolved, and that is what is tragic to me. You may never lose your salvation, because the Word of God declares you won't. But hear me, it is possible for the Lord Jesus Christ to dissolve the partnership of service because you are not doing what you ought to do as His partner. He can't have the firm go under because one of the partners isn't all that he ought to be. If you don't think that is true, read carefully Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, and hear the Lord Jesus Christ saying to the churches who are in partnership with Him, ”If you do not repent and do the first work, I will come and take the lampstand out of its place.” The lampstand is the symbol of witness. It is a symbol of testimony. Jesus said, “If you don't do what you ought to do, I'll take the opportunity of witness away.”

There are any number of people who are still God's children, but the partnership has been dissolved. They're not doing anything at all for God. There's only one way for the partnership to be reestablished, and that is to acknowledge sin and have the fellowship restored.


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