We continue a series of articles by our brother Cain dealing with vital assembly truths. These articles are geared for younger believers.
When a young person, who is spiritually growing, comes to his father with the desire to find more about fellowship in the local assembly, he will perhaps use the words, “What does it mean to be in fellowship in the local church?”
We know that we have all been brought into a fellowship, for Paul addressed the believers at Corinth with the words, “God is faithful by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (l Cor 1:9). This is a fellowship that embraces every believer and from which no believer is excluded. It is this fellowship of which Jude prepared to write, for he “gave all diligence to write of the common salvation,” which is literally “the salvation in which we fellowship” or “the salvation which we share.” Every believer then fellowships or shares in this so great salvation, and it is indeed the fellowship of God’s Son.
If, as is the case, fellowship is a sharing of things that are held in common, then how do we answer the question of our young believer who wants to know the real meaning of being in fellowship in a local assembly? He has asked the question because he wants to follow the example of Acts 2:41-42 where they “continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, and in the fellowship, and in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.”
To answer the question the father decides to turn to use of the word “fellowship” found in the story of Luke 5:1-11. The father points out that in verse 7 the word “partners” is from the Greek word “metecho” whereas in verse 10, the word “partners” is the word “koinonia” which is translated “fellowship” in Acts 2:42, 1 Cor 1:9, Phil 1:5, 2:1, 3:10,1 John 1:3,6,7 and in a number of other places. (The Strong’s #s are 2841-44). Perhaps as we study “the partnership” in this passage in Luke with them, we, as well as they, will arrive at an appreciation of what it means to be in fellowship in the local assembly. The father is reminded that when he was asking many years ago about coming into the assembly, the overseers talked to him about sharing in “the privileges and the responsibilities of assembly life.” Because he does not want to use the standard cliches, they agree to discuss the topic under the headings of the Responsibilities and the Rewards of fellowship in the local church.
However, as they meditate upon the passage and read it over and over again, for it is thus that we feed our souls and those of others, they are impressed by three things in the partnership. First, the disciples shared in the Toils; second, they shared in the Trials, and third, they shared in the Triumphs. Could this be what fellowship is all about?
“Master, we have toiled all the night…”. The partnership was not a retirement home. Neither was it a vacation retreat. They had toiled and this word translated “toil” means to labor to the point of weariness. It is used of elders in l Tim 5:17 who toil to the point of weariness in the Word and teaching. Because of their devotion as shepherds, they become physically and mentally wearied in their work within the assembly. What an indictment of those of us who only get weary in our secular spheres!
There are differences in the spheres, for they not only labored in casting the nets but then they had to labor in washing them, and in Mat 4:21, they had to labor in mending them. This reminds us of 1 Cor 12 where we see many different spheres of service based on the gifts of grace, all of which are given for mutual profit. One of the gifts is that of being a help.
Not only are there differences but there is direction in the partnership as shown by Peter’s words, “…nevertheless at Thy Word, I will let down the net”. It is imperative in the fellowship that all things be done according to the Book. Fellowship cannot exist without unity, and this unity must be based on the apostle’s doctrine. The final test of all behaviors is “…at Thy Word!”
Further, in the toiling there is determination, for they “toiled all the night”. There was consistency in their labor. With them there was no giving up, no early return to the shore. In partnership there is commitment. “If ye continue in My Word…ye are My disciples indeed.”
Our young person is learning quickly that in the assembly there will be responsibility for service. In the words of JFK, he will not ask what the assembly can do for him but what he can do for the assembly. Are you willing to toil?
“…And have taken nothing.” When we are in the partnership we get to share in the trials. What does a person do during the times when nothing is happening? The answer is to toil on and to remember the expression, “at Thy Word”. There will be times of discouragement, and these difficulties will either make us bitter or make us better; they will wear us down or they will polish us up. Paul knew that despondency can be a result of these experiences, for he wrote to the Galatians, “Let us not be weary in well doing for in due season we shall reap if we faint not” (6:9). He had told them of an unchanging law of God: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” so we are to keep on sowing and leave the results with God!
Our young believer is learning that there will have to be consistency and convictions based on the Word He will have to remind himself constantly of the expression, “at Thy Word”. He may struggle at times when it may appear that more things are happening in places where there is not strict adherence to “What saith the Scripture.” Only convictions born in his own soul will preserve him. In the local church there is seldom difficulty coping with the draught of fishes. There is often difficulty coping with the drought. Not only did they have to cope with the drought but they had to cope with the darkness, for they toiled all the night. Can we toil on knowing that “weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.”
How good that we are learning in this passage that this is a part of being in the partnership! How we cope with these and other trials is the true measure of our character and convictions.
They enclosed a great multitude of fishes. Now we get to share in the triumphs of the partnership. They beckoned unto their partners (metecho) (5:7). This word speaks of a less close relationship then does our word which is used for partners (koinonia) in 5:10. Is it because of the fact that at that time in verse 7 they were at a distance and there can be no distance in fellowship so “koinonia” cannot be used? Or is it that those in 5:7 were the hired servants referred to in Mark 1:20 who were left to serve with Zebedee when the others became fishers of men? We could not use “koinonia” of hired servants, for in the partnership there is no room for those who are serving for reward, for what they can get out of it. All partners are toiling for the good of the partnership!
Notice that they beckoned that the others should come and help them. This word for ” help” is “sullambano” and means, “to take hold of together with”. This is what help really is in the assembly, isn’t it? “And they came!” Isn’t it great that they came? And they took hold! They did not leave the others to do all the work, for this would not be partnership. Are you taking hold?
In relation to all the assembly meetings, can we always say, “they came”? In the outreach of the assembly, can we say, “they came”? In the Prayer meeting, the Bible study, the Sunday school, the visitation, can they say of us, “they came”? When a believer is going through the deep waters of trial, can it be said, “they came?” These are marks of the partnership.
The young person has come with a question. He has found some answers from the Scriptures. To be in the fellowship of the local church means to help in the toil, the trials and the triumphs! May we examine our hearts by these principles!