Simply Devoted to Him by Fellowship with His People (Acts 2:41-42) | Jared Betts

The Necessity of Fellowship

We are continuing today in our study of the simple devotions of the church, which are the means through which we fulfill God’s regulation of the worship of Him. To say it another way, we are looking into the sanctioned devotions that are the ways through which God wants to be corporately worshipped by His people. Our duty is simply sincere and heartfelt obedience to what He defines and desires.

Last week discussed how the church is to worship God by simply being devoted to the Apostle’s teaching.[1] This is the word of the Living God, which is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, and the supreme measure of all human thought and teaching.[2] We are to live on the very breath of God which is enough to teach us all matters pertaining to life and godliness.[3] Pastors are to devote themselves to faithfully studying it so that they might properly exegete it and accurately expound upon it to give the sense to the people;[4] and everyone in the body is to let it richly dwell within them so that they might be transformed by the renewing of their minds to prove what the will of God is.[5] A healthy, worshipful church, therefore, is characterized by an unwavering commitment to the reading, preaching, hearing, and practicing of the Scripture. It is a body of believers that live not on bread alone, but on the very breathe of God; on every word which proceeds from His mouth which He moved holy men of old to write.[6]

As we are aware by now purely from frequently reading this portion of Acts, the church in the 1st century was not only characterized by their continual devotion to the Apostle’s teaching, but to fellowship. We will, therefore, devote our time to defining biblical fellowship, and understanding what the expression of this duty looks like among us.

You may remember that we left off with Paul’s words to the Ephesians when he tells them that Jesus Christ gifted His bride with apostles, and prophets, and evangelists, and pastors and teachers:

12 For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”[7]

I hope we realize that the means by which the body builds itself up in love, is sincere fellowship among God’s people centered on the truth of Christ. Fellowship is, therefore, a necessary element in the health and worship of the Church.

The question then is, what exactly is fellowship? Is it gathering to chat about current events? Is it merely getting together and talking about each other’s likes and dislikes, families, occupations, aspirations? Is it community merely for the sake of community, or is there a greater God glorifying purpose to it?

Union with Christ and Each Other

For us to even begin to understand the seriousness of being sincerely devoted to Christian fellowship, we must first consider the believer’s union with Jesus Christ. A Christian is a person whom God has graciously called into fellowship with Himself. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says that God has called us, “into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” John opens the beginning of his first epistle by describing the essence of what adherence to the gospel achieves. He says in 1 John 1:1-3:

1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

The word Fellowship conveys intimacy, communion, social intercourse, and joint-participation.[8]

We should understand that the gospel does not so much concern itself with getting people into heaven; it concerns itself with reconciling people to the Living God. When the message of life is properly taught, it does not confront people with the question, “Do you want to go to heaven when you die?” No. It confronts them with these questions, “Do you want to be made right before the Holy God whom you have sinned against, and from whose glory you have fallen short? Do you realize you are cutoff from His Life, incapable of working your way to Him, and are destined to perish forever under His fury? Do you want to be saved? Do you want to be reconciled to Him? Do you want to be united to Him? Do you want to have fellowship with Him? If so, look only to Christ who became what you are so that you might become what He is. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.[9] In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave His Son to be the propitiation of our sin.[10] God proved His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, the just for the unjust so that He might bring us to God.[11] He made Him who knew now sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.[12]

The essence of the gospel is about the Living God giving His life to dead, depraved, undeserving dust, which means that genuine believers in Christ are not necessarily a people bound to some religious system, but they are the people united to the Living God. They are in fellowship with the Word of Life who is with the Father. As Jesus says in His high priestly prayer in John 17:1-3:

“Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee, even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life. And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”

Jesus goes on to say this about those whom the Father has given to Him, and whom He has given eternal life to:

“Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us.”[13]

In other words, God is inextricably linked with His people. Just as He said to the disciples in John 14:20:

“I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

His life is bound up with His people.[14] This means when living among other believers, we are not merely mingling with flesh and blood, or merely living among those who have been born again into God’s family. We are living among those whom God has given Himself to, and caused them to live with His life. We are living among those whose very bodies the Living God has made His temple and their hearts His abode.[15]

Eternal life is knowing the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, and being eternally joined to Him, glorifying Him and enjoying Him in His fellowship among the Godhead forever. As one individual said:

“In an unspeakable mystery, we who were once separated, alienated, and without God in the world are swept up into the divine life of the triune God Himself. This is great cause for worship.”[16]

There are a couple of implications to consider regarding the reality of the believer’s union with Christ. First, fellowship with God is synonymous with salvation. To be out of fellowship with God is to be cut off from His very life. 1 John was written so that one who professes faith in Christ may examine their manner of life to be assured that are indeed in fellowship with Him:[17]

13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”[18]

As John says in the beginning of his letter:

These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”[19]

This is an overflowing joy. It is not something we conjure up within ourselves, but from an entity outside of ourselves. This joy is one which satisfies everything that makes up our person. It fills our heart and our mind, and it satisfies our emotions and our desires. There is only one thing that can produce such a joy that satisfies every faculty of our being, and that is to know Jesus Christ. Better yet, it is to be known by Him.[20] Realizing that those whom He knows can never be separated from Him, and He from them, for they are now one.[21] He is in the Father, we are in Him, and He is in us.

The second implication is more pertinent to our discussion today, and it is this: Since every believer in Jesus Christ is inextricably linked to Him, then all genuine believers are consequently united to one another. In other words, those who are in fellowship with Jesus, are also in fellowship with each other. Some have summed it up this way:

“Those who are one with Christ are also one with everyone else who is one with Christ…. Christians have a corporate relationship with Christ, for we are untied to all who are untied to Him…. To suggest that one can be united to Jesus apart from His church is to tear the head from the body. There is no union with Christ that does not issue in fellowship with His church.”[22]

We are all, as Paul would say, “baptized into one body…we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”[23] We are Christ’s body, which possess many members, but is still only one body.[24] Paul says that, “God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.”[25] He has so composed the body, ”so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”[26]

What this means is that the Christian life cannot be lived cutoff from the people of God. It cannot be lived in isolation from a local church body. To forsake gathering with genuine believers in Christ is to forsake Christ Himself, for His life is bound up with His people. Fellowshipping with the saints in the context of a local gathering of believers is also one of the means of our being sanctified into the image of Christ. As Hebrews 10:24-25 says:

24 Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

It is, therefore, every believer’s responsibility to make sure that they are a formal and active member of a local body of believers that are in permanent fellowship with Jesus Christ by grace through faith in Him, for that is the chief means through which caring for one another can even begin to occur.

We are the household of God. A building being fitted together that is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.[27] We are, as Peter described, living stones that:

“Are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”[28]

What has Jesus done with His building, His body, His bride? He has given:

“Some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”[29]

As was said in the beginning, Christian fellowship is the means by which the body builds itself up in love. It is the means by which we diligently “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”[30]

The Expressions of True Fellowship

What then are the expressions of Christian fellowship? The New Testament is inundated with what are known as the “one another’s” of the Scripture. We have briefly touched upon several already in 1 Corinthians 12 and Hebrews 10, but there are many more. The “one another’s” tell us how to live as a body of believers to the glory of God. We will find that many of them bleed into one another (No pun intended). We will also find that true fellowship is not shallow and superficial, but sincere for it flows from a source outside of ourselves.

Our worshipful devotion to fellowship is to be characterized by our striving to do as Romans 15:7 says and “accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” To accept here is more than just a friendly smile, a brief handshake, or momentary embrace. It is to grant people access to one’s heart.[31] What drives this relationship with one another is understanding what Christ has done for us to purchase our peace with Him. We are to seek to “Live in peace with one another” as 1 Thessalonians 5:13 says. There is a call to live in harmony with all people so long it is within your own power.[32] Galatians 5:26 says, “26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” Our devotion to fellowship calls us to “Be of the same mind toward one another,”[33] and “care for one another” because we are all members of the same body.[34] 1 Thessalonians 5:15 says:

15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.”

To fulfill this, we must do as Galatians 5:13 says and “Through love serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:9-10 says:

Be hospitable to one another without complaint.10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

We are to fulfill the law of Christ and “bear one another’s burdens.”[35] We are to be confessing sin to one another and praying for each other.[36] We are to be speaking truth to each other. Colossians 3:9-10 says:

Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.”

We are to be patient with one another. Colossians 3:13 says:

13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

Ephesians 4:2 says:

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”

Ephesians 4:32 says:

32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

We should be singing praise to God with one another. Ephesians 5:19 says that we are to be:

19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”

Colossians 3:16 tells us to:

16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

We should be encouraging one another in the truth of Christ’s substitutionary atonement for us. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11:

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another.”

In the end, true fellowship requires us to subject ourselves to each other in the fear of Christ.[37] This can only be achieved through sincere love for one another. Jesus said in John 13:38:

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

It is, therefore, no surprise that the Scripture constantly presses this upon the mind of the Christian. Romans 12:10:

10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.”

Romans 13:8:

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”

1 Thessalonians 3:12:

12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people.”

1 Thessalonians 4:9:

Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”

1 Peter 1:22:

22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.”

1 Peter 4:8:

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

1 John 3:11:

11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

1 John 3:23:

23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.”

2 John 2:5:

Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.”

How do we determine whether we are actually loving our brother or sister in Christ? Simple! Apply God’s definition of love. 1 Corinthians 13 gives us the measure of true love:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffereddoes not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

This is God’s definition of love. The question is, do we possess it for one another? 1 John 4:7-12 says:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.”

As he says in verse 19, “We love because He first loved us.”

If we want to fulfill our duty of simple, worshipful devotion to sincere fellowship, we must humble ourselves and love our brothers and sisters in Christ by subjecting ourselves one to another and serving each other. It all beings with a mind humbled by the Person and work of Jesus Christ. True humility is cultivated in a person whose mind is fixed on the gospel. It draws one to regard others more important than themselves for the model is Christ Himself. Just consider Paul’s words in Philippians 2:1-8:

1Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Let us all, therefore, fix our gaze on the Author and finisher of our faith, and do as Peter says, and clothe ourselves with humility toward one another.[38] Upon doing this, let us walk in love, just as Christ loved us, and gave Himself for us.[39]

The Focus of Christ in Fellowship

It was C.S. Lewis that said:

“We don’t come to church, to be a church. We come to Christ, and then we are built up as a church. If we come to church just to be with one another, one another is all we’ll get. And it isn’t enough. Inevitably, our hearts will grow empty, and then angry. If we put community first, we will destroy community. But if we come to Christ first and submit ourselves to Him and draw life from Him, community gets traction.”

May we see that we are ultimately not here for each other. We are here for Christ. He is to be the focus of our fellowship, and when we remained focused on our fellowship with Him the whole body benefits. With this in mind, may the words spoken many years ago by Thomas Brooks, be said of us today:

“Ah, were their souls fully assured that God had loved them freely, and received them graciously, and justified them perfectly, and pardoned them absolutely, and would glorify them everlastingly, they could not but love where God loves, and own where God owns, and embrace where God embraces, and be one with every one that is one with Jesus.”

[1] Acts 2:42

[2] The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689; Article 1, Section 1 and 10

[3] 2 Timothy 3:16-17

[4] 1 Timothy 4:13-16; 2 Timothy 2:15; 4:1-5; Cf. Ezra 7:10; Nehemiah 8:1-8

[5] Colossians 3:16; Romans 12:2

[6] Matthew 4:4; 2 Peter 1:20-21

[7] Ephesians 4:12-16

[8] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; G2842: Fellowship, Koinonia

[9] John 3:16

[10] 1 John 4:10

[11] Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18

[12] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[13] John 17:21

[14] Matthew 25:34-40; Acts 9:4-5

[15] 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19

[16] Bible Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth, John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue; Page 608

[17] 2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:10

[18] 1 John 5:13

[19] 1 John 1:4

[20] 1 Corinthians 8:3

[21] John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35-39

[22] Bible Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth, John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue; Page 608-609

[23] 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

[24] 1 Corinthians 12:20,27

[25] 1 Corinthians 12:18

[26] 1 Corinthians 12:25

[27] Ephesians 2:19-22

[28] 1 Peter 2:5

[29] Ephesians 4:11-16

[30] Ephesians 4:3

[31] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; G4355: Accept, Proslambanō

[32] Romans 12:18

[33] Romans 12:16

[34] 1 Corinthians 12:25

[35] Galatians 6:2

[36]  James 5:16

[37] Ephesians 5:21

[38] 1 Peter 5:5

[39] Ephesians 5:2

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