As I think about the “fellowship” theme of Acts 2:42, I ask myself the following questions: ‘What made these new believers so passionate in their meeting together?’ ‘What would cause them to have all things in common?’ ‘What would motivate them to sell their possessions and distribute the proceeds to all, according to need?’ (Acts 2:44-45)
The more I ponder the Word, I become convinced they had a sense of community. Notice the last five letters of the word spells “unity”. That unity caused them to be dynamic, “on fire”, and devoted to ingesting the apostles teaching, celebrating the Lord’s table and praying corporately.
I believe the real meaning of Biblical fellowship is absent in the modern church, especially in the western hemisphere and in most pronounced in America, the land of wealth. Most fellowship in mainline churches is more social than spiritual. I am so thankful that at Harvest we strive to implement the principles of the first century church we read about in the book of Acts.
Let’s consider what made these first century believers so powerful in their times of fellowship. They exercised their spiritual gifts to encourage, edify and meet the needs of those who lacked. They were consistent in meeting together, not allowing anyone to become disconnected.
The enemy can cause much upheaval if he can isolate us from the body. He likes to employ the military strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ whenever possible. There’s a story about the enemy during World War Two conducting an experiment to find the most effective type of punishment to elicit information from prisoners. They found that solitary confinement was most effective. After a few days of solitary confinement, most men would tell all. Let us then make this application to the spiritual battles in this life. Without the bond of fellowship and the strength of the body, the potential to become prey to temptation and even to abandon our values is greater.
Another characteristic of strong fellowship is the love and joy we exhibit for each other.
“And day by day, attending the temple [corporate worship] together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47, brackets mine).
Consider these verses in Romans 12:
12:9, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another in showing honor.”
12:11, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
12:13, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
What the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome is just as pertinent and applicable for us today. These are not easy instructions to follow, so shouldn’t you and I seek the Holy Spirit to empower us to practice these as part of the discipleship process?
Isn’t this the mark of real fellowship in the church which honors and glorifies the Lord Jesus?
Another characteristic of biblical fellowship is our desire to spend time with the saints. This is not limited to just serving, but also includes having the heart of a servant, as Paul instructed the church at Philippi in chapter 2:1-4:
“So, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from 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. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.”
Let me close with a story. It’s probably drawn from tradition, but it contains very important principles for us to consider:
“After many months of waiting, a Russian girl finally obtained a visa to visit her relatives in Canada for three months. She arrived in Canada and was shown around the various attractions, amusements, and entertainments. The young Russian seemed immensely impressed by the number of things that people were wrapped up with. As the three months drew to a close, everyone expected her to defect and seek political asylum in Canada. She surprised them all by expressing a desire to return to her family in Russia and the small group of believers to which they belonged. She exclaimed that in North America everyone seems wrapped up in ‘things’ and doesn’t have time for people. In Russia, they don’t have as many material possessions and consequently they need each other, where fellowship is important.”
To consider …
- If given the same circumstances, would you make the same decision that that young Russian girl made? Why? Why not?
- Are you a good steward of your time, the most precious commodity we possess? Is Jesus prompting you to use it differently during this season of Lent?
- Hold your own life as a member of the fellowship of believers up against the standard of Romans 12:9-15.
Is your love genuine?
Do you abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good?
Do you love your brothers and sisters with “brotherly affection”?
Are you zealous for the things of God? Fervent in spirit?
Do you serve the Lord?
Trust in God rejoicing, even in times of tribulation?
Are you “constant in prayer”?
Do you “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality”?
Can you honestly “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them”?
Can you honestly say you “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”?
- Is there something you need to talk with God about?
March 19, 2018
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