Fellowship: The Expression

In our past two articles, we defined fellowship as sharing in common and as a unity among believers, based on communion with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. We have learned as well that fellowship can be experienced through association with a company of believers gathered in the name of the Lord Jesus.

It is important for us to understand that in order to enjoy happy fellowship with one another, we must be enjoying happy fellowship and communion with God. Conversely, we cannot expect to enjoy communion and fellowship with God if we are not enjoying fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Based on our mutual communion and association with the Lord Jesus, fellowship should not only be experienced but expressed in practical and profitable ways. One word that is often associated with the idea of fellowship is the word “communicate,” which can mean to share in common with, or to distribute, or to partake, depending on the context of the verses where it is found.

In his final instructions to the churches of Galatia, the apostle Paul wrote, “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (Gal 6:6).1 Here we have the responsibility of believers to support, both materially and financially, those who are their teachers.

Paul expressed his appreciation to the believers at Philippi for their practical fellowship with him during times of  adversity and hardship for the sake of the gospel: “Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction … no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity” (Php 4:14-16).

Paul wrote to Timothy, urging him to charge those who were wealthy to be rich in good works, ready to communicate, willing to distribute. That is, they should express their fellowship with needy Christians by a willingness to share their material and financial wealth (1Ti 6:17-18).

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews reminds us of our obligation to have fellowship with other believers in practical ways, giving of our material and financial possessions. He wrote, “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb 13:16).

Another word that is closely connected to the subject of fellowship is the word “minister” or “serve.” Our Lord Jesus Christ showed the greatest example of serving. He said, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mat 20:28).

The Debt of Ministering

Because God has showered His love upon us, not only in saving us by matchless grace but also in providing for us in material things and the necessities of life, we owe a tremendous debt to our fellow believers. John wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1Jn 4:11).

The apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Rome concerning his ministry, or service, to the saints, that those who received the truth of the gospel were indebted to those who had shared the blessed message with them. “It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things” (Rom 15:27).

The Duty of Ministering

In the Old Testament, the Lord instructed Moses to take out from among the children of Israel to minister, or serve, in the priest’s office (Exo 28:1). Specifically, the Lord instructed, “Anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office” (28:41).

Similarly, the Lord has taken believers out from among the world to minister, or serve, Him. The area of service for the priests of the Old Testament was the tabernacle. The primary area of service for believers today is the local church, but we shall see later that our sphere of ministering fellowship extends far beyond the local church.

We have been anointed, that is, indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We have been consecrated, that is, our hands have been filled with a work for the Lord. We have also been sanctified, that is, set apart from the world unto the Lord to minister to our fellow believers in our service to Him.

Paul reminded the believers in Corinth that they should be aware of their duty of service and practical fellowship to their brothers and sisters in Christ. He wrote, “For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous [not really necessary] for me to write to you” (2Co 9:1).

The Lord is well aware of service rendered in His name to the saints and will faithfully reward all such service in a coming day. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews assures us of this truth: “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb 6:10).

The Devotion of Ministering

The motive of our fellowship with one another in these practical areas ought to be our love for one another. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “By love serve one another” (Gal 5:13). The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews exhorts us, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb 10:24).

If we are going to have practical fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, as is our responsibility, let us do it in the spirit and attitude that Paul encouraged: “with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Eph 4:2).

The Degree of Ministering

A final thought on the subject of the Expression of Fellowship is that, in ministering to the material and financial needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are actually serving Him. He assures us, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Mat 25:40).

Paul encourages us, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23-24).

1 Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.