A Fellowshipping People
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In the Book of Genesis, we read that after God created everything on earth He declared that it was good. However, after God created Adam, He declared that it was not good for man to be alone. This break in the pattern of the creation narrative indicates something significant. Each and every one of us was made for fellowship. While Genesis 2:18 refers specifically to the marriage relationship between Adam and Eve, I think we can infer that all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve were created for relationships beyond ourselves. Like Adam and Eve, we are all created in the image of the Trinitarian God, a relational God, who exists in three persons (Father, Son, and Spirit) who are in perfect fellowship with one another. At our very core, we are relational beings. We were created for fellowship.
It is not good for us to be alone. This explains why each and every one of us desires fellowship. The word fellowship literally means “sharing in a common life.” As Christians, we understand that the Christian community offers a “common life” much deeper than that of any other type of communal association on earth. For example, the car club may gather and fellowship around their mutual love of the automobile, but in most cases that is about as far as it goes. When Christians gather, their basis of fellowship reaches into every aspect of their lives. Fellowship centered on one’s love for cars might never get beyond what sits in their garage. Two individuals whose fellowship is centered on Christ are able to apply the gospel to every area of their lives—to their friendships, marriages, work, family, and even to their own individual struggles.
What’s even more unique about Christian fellowship is that two Christians from very different background, ethnicities, and social status are able to experience the deepest of fellowship solely based on the work of Christ. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, Christian fellowship “…is not something that we must realize, it is a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.” (Life Together). In Christ we are able to enter fellowship with other Christians just as we are because our fellowship is based on our connection through Christ, not on anything else. There is a freedom in Christian fellowship that does not exist in any other type of community. We are free to be who we are, even in our brokenness, because we are accepted by God in Christ, and thus also accepted in the Christian community.
Not only does fellowship around Christ add more freedom and depth to our relationships, it also makes Christian fellowship more lasting than any other type of fellowship in this world. The author of Hebrews makes it clear that together, the people of God long for a better country—a heavenly one (Heb. 11:16). The apostle Paul speaks of joining other believers who have fallen asleep before him when Christ returns (1 Thess. 4:13-14). The Bible indicates that we will not only be with God in eternity, we will also be with our brothers and sisters in Christ. While other relationships, associations, and communities will pass away, our Christian fellowship lasts for eternity.
Our deep, free, and lasting fellowship is more central to the Christian life than we might have previously imagined. Consider the quality of fellowship in the life of the church. Some of the most formative, meaningful, and memorable Christian fellowship in this life is experienced when we mourn with those who mourn, or rejoice with those who rejoice. Some of the most fruitful fellowship is experienced when we use our individual spiritual gifts to contribute to the life of the community. Our fellowship as the body of Christ not only has a sanctifying purpose for us as we move toward our heavenly home, it also has a missional purpose for the world around us. Our quality of fellowship can be a means for gospel demonstration when we display the beauty of Christian fellowship to the world in our love for one another.
It should be no surprise that the early church in Acts 2 is described as devoted to fellowship. As we have already seen, the church has a distinctive form of fellowship when compared to the “fellowship” the world offers. In fact, one could argue that the experience of fellowship as God intended it is impossible in this fallen world without the power of the Holy Spirit. How else would the biblical writers expect us to live out the more than thirty one “one another” passages we find in the New Testament, if not by the power of the Spirit? So, the type of fellowship mentioned above must be grounded in the gospel and lived out among the people of God. Our fellowship is not only important for our Christian life together, it can also be a means to God’s mission in the world. We were created for fellowship. The church is a fellowshipping people, from now into eternity.