Part Four: Partnership —
Our Fellowship Should Be A Very Personal Relationship
Remember the sharing, the communion, the oneness in Christ? Who is in the hospital, and we do not remember to pray for him? Who does not have joy in his heart over a brother who undergoes successful surgery? Who does not sin and we feel the hurt? Remember Matthew chapter eighteen. We are not islands unto ourselves in this sea of humanity.
We are partners one with another in the Gospel. Fellowship is partnership. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Php. 1:3-5).
Sent By The Spirit
We do not know if every congregation sent offerings to Paul to help him in his travels for the Lord through Asia Minor and Greece. It is unlikely that they all did. But there was one in particular that kept him in their prayers and supported him with their offerings as partners with Paul. This was the congregation of Antioch in Syria. It was from Antioch that Paul and Barnabas went forth on the first trip, sent out by the Holy Spirit.
The other congregation which took very seriously its fellowship with Paul was the church at Philippi. The church began there with the wealthy woman and her family, and with the jailer and his family. Paul first came to Philippi on his second journey, drawn there by the vision of the man in Macedonia beckoning him to come over.
It was a compelling vision for Paul. And the congregation which became the first fruit in Macedonia was compelled, too. They supported Paul whether he was in the midst or not. They supported him time and again in the partnership they had with him in the Gospel (Php. 4:14-18). What joy to be one with God by the blood of the Christ, and to be united in fellowship in the church under His gracious hand!
Today we also are partners. We are brethren to those so many miles away in the NCLC, the CLCI, the BELC, and the JCLC. Like the brethren at Philippi we have sent support and we are sending support for the preaching of the Word. In our congregation we show our partnership when we gather as a voters’ assembly to decide on the business of the church and the best way to carry on the work of the Kingdom. We all as partners work together to keep God’s house in good repair and clean. We all have within our heart and hands His Word to use to convince, reprove, rebuke, comfort, and counsel. We should each be asking ourselves if we are full partners, half partners, or maybe silent partners in the fellowship of our church.
The Miracle Of Fellowship
To be members of the congregation, partners in His work, we do not buy stock as in a company. We are members in the fellowship of our congregation and synod by the power of the Spirit converting us. “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Php. 2:1-2).
It is only the Spirit who could work the miracle of fellowship in our midst. He converts us, and by the Word makes us of one mind. In many Christian churches discord instead of harmony is the order of the day. In so many churches a variety of teaching and a latitude in doctrine are allowed contrary to the pure standard as set forth in the Word. To so many fellowship is over the coffee cup instead of at the communion table, where it is primarily social instead of religious.
How blessed we are not to be torn apart by jealousy, strife, backbiting! How blessed we are that those who study the Word in our midst and quote it are not called fanatics and too strict, or liberals and too loose. Only the Spirit could work what we have.
He is working within us and our congregation. Our fellowship is of the Spirit. It is that unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the callingto which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:1-7).
The Common Good
Are we eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit that we have? Our koinonia means that we work together. We work to build up and not to tear down. The variety of gifts and abilities that the Lord has given each of us is to be used for the common good in our midst.
Paul uses the example of the human body in describing to the Ephesians how the church is to be. Our body works with all of its parts coordinated in their activities for the common good of the body. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16).
When we survey the religious scene around us, it is truly amazing grace that we continue in the unity of the Word as partners.
There is one thing we have neglected though in our study. We have in one area not given proper credit where credit is due. While it is the Spirit who unites, it is the devil who divides. The devil must be given his discredt. He it is who drives the wedge to separate us from one another and from the Lord. He sows the seed of error and discord. He is the reason why visible Christendom is divided. His techniques may vary, but are always dangerous. He may rant and rave, howl and cajole, whisper and entice to have you defect from our koinonia. He may try to have you be just a silent partner. That, of course, is no partner at all. He who confesses Christ before men will be confessed before the Father in heaven. It is only by clutching the Word, by poring over it in study, that we can maintain our faith and fellowship with God and His saints. Then we are able to blunt and repel the devil’s vicious attacks.
We have seen in our study how koinonia/fellowship is an activity. It is first of all, a union between God and sinful man, worked by God Himself through faith in the Son of God.
This vertical relationship has joined to it the horizontal. Our common faith means that we are also united with those who believe as we do. We have that special intimacy in the sacrament of the altar with our God, as we forsake idols to approach and partake at the Lord’s Supper.
Being one in Christ, we share our faith with each other by speaking the Word to help each other. Our help in the fellowship is not limited to words though. We also take part in assisting each other materially. We contribute toward the needs of the saints.
Working together as partners in the gospel, we live and speak and act, knowing of course that the Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies.
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).
From sorrow, toil, and pain, And sin we shall be free; And perfect love and friendship reign Through all eternity.
Blest be the tie that binds. Amen.
–Missionary David Koenig