April 14, 2019 Pastor: Don Green
Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Philippians 1:3-7
Well, let me invite you to turn to the book of Philippians as we open God's word here this morning. We'll start out reading our text and just dive right into it. Philippians 1, beginning in verse 3. We have spent a number of messages taking care of introductory matters and now we dive into the message of Philippians with this beginning in verse 3. The Apostle Paul said this,
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.
As we see there in that last verse, Paul was writing to this church from prison. He had been in prison for the sake of the Gospel and the church at Philippi had sent a gift to him by the hands of a man named Epaphroditus in order to minister to Paul and to strengthen him, and in the context of that meeting, Paul was informed about the nature of conditions at the church at Philippi and so he writes this letter to encourage them and to admonish them and to correct them, to warn them about their disunity and to warn them about false doctrine and to strengthen them in the grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And we could approach today's message by framing it with this question as Paul was writing to a local church and as we gather as is fitting and proper in the kingdom of God, as we gather together as a local church, we can ask this question: what is it that keeps and brings a local church together? What is it that brings a group of believers together and cements them, as it were, and strengthens them together in a way that allows them to minister for Christ, to proclaim Christ, to lift high the cross, and to share in fellowship and to share in life together? What is it that makes that possible and sustains it over time?
Well, we have seen in chapter 1, verse 1, that all believers are saints in Christ Jesus. Look at verse 1 with me, verse 1, chapter 1 in Philippians it says, "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi." And look at it one more time, "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi." We said that to be a saint was to be set apart in Christ, to be devoted to the purposes of Christ and that God saved us and set us apart for that purpose that we as Christians might live for Christ and not for ourselves, we have messages on that, but in that verse Paul says and uses that short English word "all, to all the saints in Christ Jesus," and having written to a church that he knew was suffering from some manner of division, which we've also looked at in the past, his emphasis on "all" here is a subtle indication that he is calling a divided church to a greater manifestation of unity, and as you read through the book of Philippians, you find this emphasis on "all" again and again and again, and I want to just walk you through this because it is very important in my judgment to understand the whole thrust of the message of the book of Philippians. Paul is emphasizing "all," he is speaking to everyone in the church at Philippi as he writes this, even though they had divided themselves and were sometimes at loggerheads with one another, Paul in the greatness of his heart, the greatness of a heart that was bursting with the affection of Christ Jesus himself, stretches his arms over all of them and in his own love and expression of love brings them together by reminding them of certain fundamental truths.
Look at chapter 1, verse 3 here as Paul says, "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all." He's including them all in what he says. Look at verse 7 which I also read earlier, he says, "it is only right for me to feel this way about you all." He's not speaking in southern dialect here, he is speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit bringing the totality of the church together. "It's only right for me to feel this way about you all. I feel this way about all of you in the church," he says. He goes on and says, "in that the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me." Verse 8, "God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus." Verse 25 of chapter 1, "Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith." Philippians 2:17, "But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all." He writes to them in this spirit of love and says, "I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus." He says, "Yeah, I may die as a result of my imprisonment here and if that's true, if I'm being poured out as a sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel," he says, "I rejoice in that because I know that you all will benefit from that as well." And finally in verse 26 of chapter 2, he refers to Epaphroditus and Epaphroditus had this same expansive love for everyone in the church, Paul says Epaphroditus "was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick."
Now beloved, let's just gather that up and consider it for a moment. That word "all" is really important. It tells us something very strategic about the nature of Christian life. You as a Christian are not designed by God to live in isolation from other believers. Christians do not exist in isolation. God saved us in order to bring us into the body of Christ and in the body of Christ individually we are members of one another, the Scriptures say, that we are brought together in love by common purpose, by common life principle around Christ, around the Gospel, around Scripture, around love for one another, and the only way that you can live that out is to be in body, to be in unity, to be in fellowship with other believers. Now I realize, especially if you read grumpy people on the internet, that many people are abandoning this sense of church community, this sense of church involvement, and we'll talk about that as we go along here, but what I want you to understand, what I rejoice that so many of you do understand because of your involvement here at Truth Community Church, Christians do not exist as isolated individuals. That is not Christian living. That is not Christianity at all, to simply have, to treat it as though you have a private relationship with Jesus that no one else has any voice in and that you have no responsibility to others in, as if you could just go out into nature and hug a tree and love Jesus by yourself. That's not biblical Christianity and those who think that way and who think in isolation, who think selfishly about Christianity, need to rethink their entire approach and their entire understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
Beloved, I read you different times, I think, what was it, four, five, six, seven different locations, seven or eight different locations just in Philippians where Paul says "you all." Plural. A plurality of people. He did not address them as individuals in this letter with the exception maybe of chapter 4, verse 2 where he had to call out a couple of warring women to straighten them out. He addresses, the letter is collectively addressed to the entire church based on this premise: they all share a common identity as slaves of Jesus Christ; they all share a common identity as saints in Christ Jesus; and they all share, at least they did in the past, they all shared in a love for Christ's apostle, Paul, and ministered to him. So the reality of what undergirded their Christianity, their common life in the Holy Spirit, their common life in Christ, joined them together in an unseen reality that was far greater than whatever the issues were that were dividing them at the time, and it is on that basis, it is on that common life principle that Paul appeals to them to draw them together that they might repent of their divisiveness, repent of their lack of unity, and come together and express the deeper reality that is being a Christian in a local church.
You see, beloved, what I'm about to say is really important, really simple, true of each one of us now 2,000 years after Paul wrote this letter. It's this, for those of us that are gathered together as Christians today, we share a common life principle in Jesus Christ. We are collectively and individually, we are the objects of the saving intention of the cross of Christ. Christ in saving us plants his Holy Spirit within each true believer and as a result we share in a divine life, we share in a divine purpose, we share in things that greatly transcend anything on earth and bring us together in a common life that is meant to be expressed in a common spirit, in a united spirit, and that is meant to be expressed in unity. This is not simply a matter of an external imposition of conformity, rather this flows from an inner work of God in the heart of individuals that is common in its source and it is common in its principle.
So what is it that brings and keeps a local church together? With that background and introduction, we are going to explore the matter of church fellowship here this morning. Church fellowship is the clever name assigned to this message. I deliberately avoid clever things. I deliberately avoid that because Scripture warns us that the cleverness of man has a way of voiding the cross of Christ, and so we just try to speak plainly, clearly, and let the Holy Spirit work in our hearts as we look at his word together.
Church fellowship. I want to break this down over three points here this morning and starting with this, if you're taking notes, point 1: what is the meaning of fellowship? What is the meaning of fellowship? Bible students are familiar with the Greek word "koinonia." Koinonia. If you don't know how to spell that, that's okay, it's just a matter of identifying the term that underlines what we're saying here. This word "koinonia" is used 19 times in the New Testament and it has a very rich meaning, so rich and so broad that it is translated differently throughout the New Testament. It is the Greek term that underlies our word "fellowship," and so bear with me as I just give you a little bit of information about this word. The noun, fellowship, carries the idea of association, of communion, of fellowship or close relationship. There's this intimacy, there's this idea of sharing something common together in a close relationship. That's the noun. The verbal form appears another eight times, it means to share, to participate or to contribute. So you have this idea of common sharing, of participation, of joining together, you could say, of sharing, of contributing to one another. You can't contribute to someone else in isolation, can you? You can't stay alone and share with someone else anything. You have to be together in order to share and to participate and to fellowship. So this word "fellowship" speaks to a – watch this, are you ready? You're ready, aren't you? This idea of fellowship speaks to having common interests, it speaks to generosity, and it speaks to unity.
Now just as an aside, you know, we grew up most of us that had any kind of church background, we're used to thinking about fellowship in the idea of gathering together and having food together, and we eat together and we call that fellowship. I'm not going to try to deconstruct the English language on that point but we need to understand that when the Bible speaks of fellowship it's talking about something much bigger, higher, broader and deeper than that. It's speaking about much more than just an isolated time of coming together and having refreshments together, fellowship, the way the word is used is expressing a close association in shared interests. It has the idea of shared community life. So when we're talking about sharing together, we're talking about unity of participation, we're left with the question: well, what is it that we share together? What is it that we have in common that generates this shared life, this fellowship as it has been called?
One thing that I want to point out to you, the early church, turn back to the book of Acts 2, Acts 2, this was a preeminent aspect of life in the early church. In Acts 2:42, they were sharing life together, they were gathered together around spiritual realities that are expressed in Acts 2:42, "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship," that's our word "koinonia," "to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common," and in that context at that time it says in verse 45, "they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." So in the early church, you see this spiritual coming together, this sharing in devotion to the apostles' teaching. Beloved, they weren't simply coming together and externally hearing the word, they were there together because they had a common interest, a common affection, a common passion, a common desire to hear what the apostles had to say to them. They had a spiritual interest having just been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit coming to indwell them, that drew them into a desire for teaching. It drew them into a desire for common life together. It drew them into a love for communion and the other aspects of church fellowship.
So, beloved, seeing that as a foundation for what we're describing here, to have fellowship in a local church is so much more than shared refreshments and gathering together around whatever kind of coffee you like in the morning. You know, it's a spiritual reality that is rooted in belonging to Christ, being indwelt by the Spirit, and therefore sharing the deepest affections of life and eternity together with one another. This is something that only true believers have, only true believers have this kind of fellowship, only true believers genuinely share in these kinds of interests.
So just as an aside here, churches, so-called, I use the word loosely and broadly, churches that try to draw people together by appealing to their carnal interests in coffee and free donuts and free Wi-Fi and whatever else Crossroads is doing in the moment, it's a false approach to Christianity. We don't gather together around such superficial externalities in a true local church, you're gathering around the reality of the indwelling Holy Spirit, you're gathering together around Christ, around the Gospel, a love and a submission to God's word and a love and submission to one another. That's what true fellowship is in the church and you can't fake that by just increasing the quality of your coffee, and so we just need to realize and distinguish these things in our mind. The meaning of fellowship refers to common interests, life and relationship around the Lord Jesus Christ. That's what a local church fellowships around.
Now this plays itself out, this manifests itself in life, and so let's look at having discussed the meaning of fellowship, let's look at fellowship in the book of Philippians, fellowship in the book of Philippians, because the concept of fellowship is central to the book and the challenge for the English reader is this, is that the word is not translated the same as you go through so I just want to take a little time with you to point this out. In our text that we read earlier, Philippians 1:5, Paul says he's thanking God in all his remembrance of the Philippians, he says in verse 5, "in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now." The word "participation" is that Greek word "koinonia." They participated. They shared in Gospel ministry with Paul and that is why Paul is thankful, is that they had shared in the burden and the opportunity of his ministry from the day that they first met him. When they first came to Christ, they had proven in the subsequent 10 years or more that they shared and they genuinely participated in Paul's ministry of the Gospel.
In verse 7 he says, "it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me." Partakers, being a compound form of the word "fellowship." "You fellowship with me in the ministry of the Gospel. You are partaking of the grace that led to my imprisonment and that led to my proclamation of the Gospel. You are a part of it. You are intimately woven together in this so that we can't separate ourselves from it. I thank God for you because you have shared in Gospel ministry with me to such an extent for such a long time," Paul says to them, and what you find here, beloved, is that Paul and the Philippians were friends in the Gospel, they were brethren in the Gospel with a common faith.
Now think with me here for a moment. The Gospel comes to us, Christ comes to us and he saves us and individually there are a lot of benefits to that, isn't there? Our prior alienation to God has been replaced with reconciliation. The weight of sin and guilt has been replaced with forgiveness and joy. Whereas before we were dead in our trespasses and sins, now we are alive in Christ. Before we were under the wrath of God, now we are under the smile of his blessing. And individually to be a Christian is to have all of that and more in Christ, right? And if you're a Christian at all, well, let me put it this way, if you're a Christian, you know something about those spiritual blessings. Well, what's true of you individually is true of the Christian that you're sitting next to, you're sitting in front of and behind you, and on and on we could go. We share in the benefits of the Gospel together. Beloved, the thing that is most critical to your eternal well-being is your participation in the life of Christ and the benefits of the work of Christ. That is the overarching most valuable treasure, it is the pearl of great price that belongs to you as a man, as a woman, as a young man, a young woman. It's the most precious thing that you have. Well, what's true of you is true of every other Christian. Our greatest treasure, the most important thing that we have in Christ is the same thing that everybody else that's a Christian also has, and so we fellowship together around that by which I mean we share and participate in the common benefits of the Gospel. Even though we differ from each other in our physical appearance, in our history, in our work, in the nature of the position of life that God has given to us, those things are secondary and they are unimportant compared to what we share together in common in Christ. We share in the benefits of the Gospel, we share in the indwelling Holy Spirit, we share in being the objects of the love of Christ, and now together we share in the advance of the teaching of God's word, we share in the advance and proclamation of the Gospel, we share in a great eternal purpose that God is working out not only through this local church but through every true local church scattered throughout the world, speaking different languages, using different music, all of those things are superficial compared to the great realities of conversion, the great realities of regeneration, the great realities of the eternal purpose of God; the things that bind us together are far greater and are eternal compared to the passing superficial differences of our different stations in life. That's why, beloved, that true churches have within them a fundamental core of unity that joins together those who have believed in the Gospel.
Now we realize and the Philippian church was an example of the fact, that there can be external matters that disrupt the experience of that unity, that disrupt the consciousness of the unity, but the things that create the unity are real and are never changing, and it's because of those realities that we have built into us the grounds to overcome disunity. Now in saying that, I'm talking in principle, there's not any big division in our church, at least that I'm aware of, the pastor is always the last one to know about those things, by the way, and that's okay, that's just the way things go, my point in saying these things is this, is that I am not saying these things to address an immediate issue in the church here at Truth Community, rather we are just dealing with a text as it has come up and dealing with what the reality is and describing these things according to the truth that is independent of our own circumstances, and because these things are true, because of what we share together in Christ as believers, then look at chapter 2, verse 1. These things, therefore, become the ground of appeal for unity. These things, therefore, also even create a responsibility among believers to preserve unity in the church. Paul appeals to fellowship as a basis for cultivating and developing unity.
Chapter 2, verse 1, look at it with me. He says, "Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ." Paul, what do you mean? Of course there's great encouragement in Christ. He said, "Well, if there's any at all, if there is any consolation of love," Paul, are you kidding? The love of Christ is the great comfort of my soul. It's the anchor of my hope. Of course there is consolation in love. He says, "if there is any fellowship of the Spirit," if there is any sharing together of the Holy Spirit in your midst, "if any affection and compassion," he goes on to say, then "make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose." Beloved, because Christians have a common possession of the Holy Spirit and they share the Holy Spirit together, that greater reality and the greatness of the magnitude of the person of the Holy Spirit who dwells within each one of us, Paul is saying that their common possession of the Holy Spirit meant that they should put aside lesser matters of disagreement for the sake of the larger shared reality of being in Christ together. You see, we don't have the option as Christians to divide over lesser matters, to nurse grudges, to continue in complaints, those things are out of place in a realm where one Holy Spirit is at work, one Holy Spirit indwells his people, and one Holy Spirit is accomplishing his purposes.
You see, forasmuch as the internet loves divisive fights and issues over all things Christian, there comes a point where you have to come together around the truth of the Gospel, the truth of the indwelling Spirit, and learn to live together in harmony with one another for the sake of the greater realities that we all share together in Christ and that means that, and man, is this important, that means that in a true local church where true Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that means that we are on guard against ourselves, against injecting disunity in the body. We are on guard against a complaining spirit. We are on guard against disputations with one another. We are on guard against those things because we so respect, we so revere the reality of the unity that God has created, making us common sharers in the life of Christ, that we learn and we condition ourselves and we humble ourselves to put aside disagreement for the sake of the greater Christ who transcends us all, and we remember that after, and we've said this so many times, we've said this so many times that the true church belongs to Christ. It's his and we do not have the prerogative or the right to inject disunity into that which Christ created to be one.
That has consequences. That's why Paul soon after having said that, look at chapter 2, verse 14, he rebukes them on the basis of the unity of the Spirit. He rebukes them, he commands them, he says in chapter 2, verse 14, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing." Well, that isn't just a bare command that he drops into the middle of an unrelated portion of the letter, he's been cultivating this idea of shared fellowship, common participation, the unity of Holy Spirit, he says you need to put away the grumbling and the disputing because it is an assault on the unity that is supposed to exist on the basis of what we share together in common.
Now, beloved, this is a real challenge. This is more of a challenge than you might think because we're very accustomed to the environment in which we live. We realize when we go out and when we go into the world, we enter into a world that thrives on conflict; that glories in conflict; that glorious in men and women beating themselves up in a steel cage, for example; that glories in destroying people for the sake of politics and political power; that glories in taking advantage of people for the advance of one's own personal finances. We just walk into this environment and we live in this world that just thrives on chewing one another up. What you have to realize is when you enter into the realm of a local church, when you enter into the realm of where Christ dwells, that that mindset and that love and that blood-thirst is something that has to be set aside, that has to be repented of because in the context of a local church, the priorities are unity and love and sharing together in these eternal realities that Christ has given to us.
You know, as we walk through the doors of a local church, we come in and we respect the work of the Holy Spirit, we respect the work of Christ, and we realize, "I need to be on guard against myself about being one who would inject disunity into such a lovely thing as that with my grumbling, with my disputing, I didn't get my way, I want this, I want that. So and so did this to me and, oh, I want to tell you about it." We have to guard our hearts against that and, beloved, as I've said in the past as well, you have to guard your ears against that. When someone starts to bring that kind of divisive stuff to your ears, you have to say, "Well, you know, wait. I really don't want to hear that." That's not being rude to the person in front of you, that is being deferential to the Holy Spirit and protecting the unity that he wants his people to enjoy. You say, "I can't listen to that. I can't listen to your grumbling complaints. I'm trying to protect a unity that has been wrought by God in the midst of this body and that matters to me more than hearing your selfish complaints."
Look at verse 14 with me again, chapter 2, verse 14. Paul wasn't giving suggestions here. He wasn't giving advice that could be taken or left according to the whims of the people that he was talking to. Paul was speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as an appointed apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ when he speaks to the church there at Philippi, recorded for the church in subsequent ages, and he tells them, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing." Beloved, a church is threatened if it is divided against itself. Remembering fellowship, remembering the shared Spirit, remembering the common benefits that we have in the Gospel cultivates that unity and protects it, and it's the responsibility of each one of us to contribute to that, not to work against it, not to undermine it. That's really important.
So we have this partnership in the Gospel. Paul's not done speaking in these terms, by the way. I want to show you some more of it here. A partnership in the Gospel that's based on a common sharing of the Holy Spirit, it does something else, it leads true believers into a common sharing in sufferings that resemble those that Christ had. Paul speaks about a common sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Now he doesn't use the word in Philippians 1:29 but turn there with me. Look over a column or two in your Bible with me to Philippians 1:29. He says, "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me." It is inevitable even if we're not experiencing it right now, it is inevitable as we go through life together as a local church sharing in the fellowship of Christ, that there will be times where we suffer together as well. If we follow a Lord who suffered, then those of us who walk in his footsteps can expect suffering of some kind along our own path along the way and Paul said that he embraced that.
Look at chapter 3, verse 8. Part of our fellowship is not merely in the unity of what we share together in the Spirit but also in the sufferings that we share together as we follow Christ in this life. Paul says in verse 8, he says, "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." Stop there for just a moment. Do you see how Scripture speaks and teaches us? This is just reinforcement of what I was saying earlier, that what we have in Christ far transcends anything that we have in this world or anything that we might lose in this world. Beloved, if you have Christ, you have everything. You have all in Christ and that's why Paul can say, "All things are loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have Christ, everything else is secondary by comparison."
He goes on and he says, "for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ." Yes, it has cost me to follow Christ. Do you know what that is to me? It's refuse. It's trash in comparison. It's that which should be set out on the curb and taken away by the truck in comparison to having Christ and to knowing him. You see, beloved, when you come to grips with, when the Holy Spirit works through his word and starts to open your mind to the glory of Christ, there should be a growing comprehension in your mind that Christ is far greater than anything else and you can therefore endure the loss of anything on earth if you have Christ, and you realize that by comparison even your closely earthly relationships are not worthy to be compared to having the eternal Son of God calling you his own; to having the great God the Father adopting you into his family; to have Christ having redeemed you from the slavery of sin; to have the Spirit having come within you to mark you as God's own forever. When those kinds of things dominate your passions and affections, then the causes for division are driven away; they are put to the periphery where they belong rather than being at the center.
Paul goes on to say, verse 9, I want to "be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the koinonia of His sufferings, the fellowship of His sufferings." Sharing in it together with Christ.
And this idea of fellowship as Paul closes the letter, he comes back to this word group again. Look at Philippians 4, verses 14 and 15. He says in verse 14, he says, "Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone." You shared in it with me. You participated in it together with me. And beloved, what I want you to see, what Paul is saying here is that their gift was far more than a financial contribution. Paul makes plain in that passage in Philippians 4 that the financial aspect of their gift was really secondary to him, what he rejoiced in was what it said about the nature of their love for Christ. What it showed was that they had a common bond with him and that is what he was glad for. He didn't want more money from them. Their gift was more than a financial contribution. Beloved, gather it all up in your mind here. Their gift reflected a partnership in Christ. It reflected a partnership in the Gospel. It reflected what they shared in together. Paul went out bodily, geographically and preached the Gospel but they shared in that ministry with him by their love, by their prayers, by their contributions. They were in it together and a local church, a true local church understands that it's in the big picture of things together.
This fellowship, a fellowship in the indwelling Spirit, a fellowship in the Gospel, this fellowship in Christ, this fellowship financially, this fellowship with one another, I mean, this just goes up and down and over and across and it permeates everything in the life of a local church, and yet as you read in Scripture, you're brought into a profound reality that I do not have the language capabilities to express. This fellowship that we share together and we've been discussing on sort of a horizontal basis, is rooted in a greater fellowship, it's rooted in a vertical fellowship, it is rooted in a sharing together with the very life of the Triune God.
Look at 1 Corinthians 1. Not sharing in his divine essence but sharing in that life which he has shared with us. 1 Corinthians 1:9. Look who the fellowship is with. It's not merely human, human to human. He says in 1 Corinthians 1:9, "God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." We share in Christ.
Look at 2 Corinthians 13:14. He had said in 1 Corinthians, you fellowship with the Son Jesus Christ, in 2 Corinthians 13:14, it says, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all."
One more in 1 John. Go past Hebrews, past James and Peter and you'll find the book of 1 John. The Apostle John brings all of this together and he says, "what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also," I proclaim Christ to you for this purpose, "so that you too may have fellowship with us." I preach Christ to you so that you might enter into the human realm of the fellowship that we share together as believers in Christ; that you might participate in that and partake of the blessings of it. Then he goes on and he lists it from that human level and like a great rocketship that shoots up vertically into a different stratosphere of reality and he says, "and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." He says we are sharing together in the very life of God. Scripture says that believers share in the very life of the Triune God, a reality which God prepared before time began for believers to enter into, that Christ left heaven in order to make the reality come to pass, and which after this life is done, we will share together in perfect glorified bodies ultimately in heaven together throughout all of eternity around the throne of God, sharing together in the majesty of his glory, sharing together in a common worship toward him, and the full culmination of the purposes of God climaxed and fulfilled to completion in that great reality yet to come. That's what we share in together. That just shatters our comprehension, how great it is. The point in the context of Philippians is that that great reality should so overwhelm our affections, our love and our desires, that lesser differences are minimized and put aside and resolved for the sake of the greater purer manifestation of that great union of reality that is ours in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit whose name be blessed forever and ever, amen. That's what church fellowship is. It's so much more than, "Hand me a donut, would you?"
Well, let's consider a third point, kind of by way of application, and just talk about fellowship today. Fellowship today. I'm talking beyond the walls of Truth Community Church but it fits within and applies within our own local body as well. As I've already said and I promised you I'd come back to this, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Bible expects and calls true Christians to join together around a common commitment to Scripture, to Christ, to the Gospel and to one another. If Christ has saved us, he has saved us as a result of the testimony of his inerrant word and we share that together and we love his word and we share that together. If Christ has saved us, it's because of the work that he did on the cross and the great love that he had in saving us from our sins. If we are saved, it's because the Holy Spirit brought new life to our hearts, opened our eyes to the reality of the glory of Christ, taught us to hate sin and to flee to Christ that we might be saved, and now he indwells us, now as we grow together and we come to increasingly greater understandings of his word, we exist together to proclaim that which saved our own soul, we come together to proclaim to others in a shared effort to expand the kingdom in that way. That's what true fellowship is. That's what a local church should look like in its deepest affections and its priorities. And just incidentally, just incidentally, this is why I'm more comfortable with a philosophy of ministry that keeps things simple and keeps things focused on that priority because we're not trying to be all things to all people. We're not trying to do everything that everybody everywhere wants us to do. We want to keep it focused on the word, on fellowship, on breaking bread and prayer together.
But, and I don't think this of any of you, we talk about the broader church, many treat the church as consumers. "I'll go to the church that I want to go to. I'll take what I want to take from that church." And they stay aloof and uninvolved. They want a brilliant sermon, an entertaining one is even better, or they want programs that cater to their specific needs. They hang around but they won't give of their time, they won't give of their resources to support the work, and then at the first sign – mark this, okay, mark it – at the first sign of difficulty or the first sign of personal accountability, they're out. They leave and they take off for someplace else and start the whole miserable cycle over again, and then they wonder 20 years down the road why they never made any progress in Christ. "Church," I use it in quotes, "church" to people like that is nothing more than a series of trampolines to bounce on, one to another to another, and you all know people like that, don't you? Eighteen months here, four years there, three years there, someplace else. I'm not talking about people that legitimately move away for job or geographic reasons, just talking about people that just can't settle in in one location and stay. Beloved, in light of God's word here today, what I want you to see is that that kind of approach to church is not koinonia. That's not fellowship. That's not sharing together in life on a human level, in life on the divine vertical level that 1 John spoke about, that's not sharing together in common purpose. That is not koinonia. Do you know what that is? That is a selfish delusion. That's people who think they are Christians doing Christian things that have never understood the first thing about what God calls for in participation in a local church. It's sad and I suppose what's even sadder is that churches gear themselves to appeal to people just like that and they get what they, they catch the fish that they put the bait out for.
What is it that brings and keeps a true local church together? We asked that question at the start. Church life is based on a shared inner reality in Christ. Church membership outwardly expresses that inner life in Christ. And I just want to say this, for those of you that are visiting, you know, you come in, you're new, that's okay, we're glad that you've come, we invite you to stay, at the same time I would say this for those of you that are considering Truth Community as a church home, our approach is to encourage you to take your time, to think through what's in your own heart, to think through what you see in a church like this because a considered commitment to something like that will bear a lot of good long-term fruit but it's not something to be done hastily, it's not something to rush into without having considered where am I at, where is this church at, are we really together? That takes time to assess and we invite you to get acquainted, we invite you to stay, but we always, at least I do, I always encourage people to wait because church membership is serious, it's an expression of a fellowship and we don't lightly make those kinds of decisions. But beyond that, let me just say those of you that are visiting, I can just give you information here, we have many long-term committed members here at Truth Community Church who give, who share, who participate, and I just want to tell you I thank God for that. I thank God to be a part of a body where that kind of shared fellowship manifests itself and the sharing is shown by the fact that people come and people stay. I love that and I thank God to have so many of you having done that over the years through thick and thin. It's my personal humble opinion that that reflects, manifests that greater reality that we share together in a real fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that that reality is something that we can give thanks to God for. You know, our church isn't for everybody. That's okay. But I can tell you this, we do seek however we may fail, we do seek to be a place where true Christians can share together in true fellowship in Christ and with one another, and those of you that consider Truth Community your church home, I ask you to pray that God would perfect and protect, perfect and protect the work that he started in us, being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you and in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Let's pray together.
O God, we thank You for our wonderful Lord Jesus. We are united in Him. We share life together in Him. You, O Christ, are our great love. Your cross is what we lift high until all the world adore Your sacred name. Cultivate these realities in our hearts and in our experience as we go forward. In Jesus' name. Amen.