Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first eleven verses of the second chapter. When the apostle Paul opens and begins this passage of Scripture he does so with very specific words that help set the stage for the ultimate instruction he wishes to provide the saints within this particular congregation. In the first verse of the second chapter we read the following words which help set the stage for that which proceeds after it: “If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies” (Philippians 2:1). As the apostle Paul begins this particular passage of Scripture he does so speaking of that which is found in Christ, that which is provided in the Spirit, as well as the reality of comfort and love. Within this first verse the apostle Paul writes concerning the consolation we as saints and believers have in Christ, but he also goes on to write concerning the fellowship of the Spirit, and I can’t help but be completely consumed with this concept of the “fellowship of the Spirit.” As I sit here and read these words I can’t help ;but first think of the fellowship that we have with the Spirit, but I also can’t hep but think about and consider the fellowship we have in the Spirit as well. It would be very easy to read these words and consider just the fellowship we have with the Spirit, however, I do not believe the apostle Paul was speaking only about the fellowship we have with the Spirit. With that being said, however, I feel compelled to emphatically state without reservation that it is incredibly difficult to have fellowship in the Spirit with the brethren if we have not first fellowship with the Spirit. I am convinced that there are a number of members among us who are attempting to maintain and develop fellowship in the Spirit with their fellow brethren, and yet they are finding it to be incredibly difficult because they have not first developed and maintained fellowship with the Spirit. I am sitting here right now and I feel compelled to declare to you who might be reading these words that it is next to impossible to truly have fellowship with our brethren—true fellowship that pleases, honors and glorifies God—if we do not first have fellowship with the Spirit.
I am convinced that in order for us to truly understand this fellowship we are to have with the Spirit, it is absolutely necessary for us to first turn and direct our attention to the words which Jesus spoke concerning the Spirit. If you turn and direct your attention to the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel of John you will find incredible words spoken by the Son of God concerning the Spirit who would be the promise of the Father sent by the Son when He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. In order to truly and properly understand this fellowship with the Spirit we must first recognize and understand the departure of Christ from this earth and His return to the right hand of His Father who is in heaven. In fact, in the opening verses of the fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel Jesus reiterates and emphatically declares unto His disciples that He was indeed and was in fact returning to His Father who was in heaven. Consider if you will the words of Christ which are recorded in the first four verses of the fourteenth chapter: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. IN my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (John 14:1-4). If you continue to read Jesus’ words in this particular passage of Scripture you will find that He continually speaks of His return to His Father who is in heaven, for He knew and understood that the time of His departure was near. Consider the following words: “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:11-14). If you continue reading in this passage of Scripture you find that Jesus continues to reiterate and reaffirm the reality that He was not and could not remain in the earth, for it was necessary and expedient that He returned unto His Father who is in heaven. IN the nineteenth verse of the fourteenth chapter Jesus speaks the following words which further confirm His departure unto His Father in heaven: “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19).
Over and over again in these three chapters Jesus constantly declares unto His disciples that the time of His departure was drawing closer, and that He was going to return to His Father who was in heaven. What marks Jesus’ words in these chapters as so incredibly fascinating is not only that it was necessary that Jesus to return in order that He might send the Holy Spirit, but also because even though Jesus was departing and returning unto His Father who was in heaven, He would not and could not leave them comfortless. Jesus knew and understood that He was returning to His Father who was in heaven, and He knew that it was necessary for Him to return unto His Father, for if He returned unto His Father who was in heaven He could send the promise of the Father who was the Holy Spirit. Up until the day of Pentecost the person and presence of Jesus could only be at one place at one time. When Jesus laid aside the garments of divinity in order that He might take up the towel of humanity He laid aside His ability to be omnipresent, which means that He could no longer be at all places at the same time. Though His Father in heaven could still be in all places at all times, and though the Spirit could be in all places at all times, Jesus was confined to the limitations of His physical and natural frame. The only indication of Jesus being able to perform a miracle without physically being in another place where the need was was in the case of the centurion’s son when He merely spoke the word which brought healing into that home—despite the fact that Jesus Himself wasn’t physically there. When Jesus took on Himself the form of human flesh, and when He partook of flesh and blood He deliberately and intentionally limited Himself and what He was capable of doing in order that He might truly become the Word made flesh which dwelt among us. It was true that when Jesus who is both Christ and Lord took upon Himself the form of human flesh it was literally God coming down to earth and dwelling among us, however, that manifestation of the person and presence of the Father who was in heaven was limited to the confines of time and space. Though God’s presence did in fact walk the earth and walk among us, He could not walk with everybody at the same time. Only those who walked with Him during those three and a half years, and only those who gathered themselves together around about Him could actually experienced His presence here upon the earth. This is perhaps seen and most evident through the death of Lazarus, for Mary had declared unto Jesus that if He had been there in person her brother would not have died. Thus Mary’s words speak very strongly of the physical limitations Jesus’ earthly and natural body had while He was on the earth.
If you read the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples—words which are recorded by the apostle John in chapters fourteen through sixteen—you will find that while it was true Jesus would be returning unto His Father who was in heaven, He would not leave them comfortless. Even though the physical person and presence of Jesus would depart from them and return unto the right hand of His Father who was in heaven, He would not leave them alone as orphans in the world. In fact, this is what is so incredibly amazing about what we find and read in these chapters, for within these chapters we find Jesus emphatically declaring unto His disciples that His departure would not only be the precursor for the arrival of the Holy Spirit, but His departure would also be the precursor for His return unto them again. More specifically, if you turn your attention to the first chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts you will find a specific account of Jesus’ departure unto His Father in heaven, as He ascended from the mount of Olives in the presence of those who gathered to Him on that particular day. Consider if you will the words which the beloved physician Luke recorded in the first chapter of the book of Acts beginning with the ninth verse: “And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven. This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath’s day’s journey” (Acts 1:9-12). What is so remarkable about the words we find in this passage of Scripture is that not only do we find mention of Jesus’ departure and imminent return in the same manner in which He departed, but we also find mention of the coming of the promised Holy Spirit. If you turn back to the fourth verse of this very same chapter you will find the following words which describe the final encounter Jesus had with those gathered together just prior to His departure:
“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:4-8).
If you read the account which Luke recorded on this particular occasion you will find that not only did Jesus declare of them that they would be baptized with the Holy Ghost, but you also find Jesus declaring unto them that they would receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon them. What’s more, is that within this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus instructing them to not depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which He spoke unto them very clearly and succinctly. Jesus did in fact speak unto them of the coming promise of the Father, but directly connected to the arrival of the promise of the Father was the command to remain, to tarry and to wait in the city of Jerusalem in order that they might receive and experience that promise. This reality is further expressed in the final verses of the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel of Luke, which is the precursor to everything we read within the New Testament book of Acts. Consider if you will the words which Luke wrote in this final chapter of the book beginning with the forty-third verse: “And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. And He said unto them, These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened He their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written ,and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye int the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned unto Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:42-53). In this particular passage you will find Luke once more recording Jesus’ words unto His disciples that He was going to send the promise of His Father upon them, and that they would be endued with power from on high. The caveat to this whole reality and experience was actually two-fold though—on the one hand, Jesus the Christ needed to return unto the right hand of His Father who was in heaven, and they needed to tarry and wait in Jerusalem until the promise was released and sent from on High. This promise would not and could not be released among and upon them until Jesus returned to the right hand of His Father who was in heaven, and unless they waited and tarried in Jerusalem for that promise to be released.
Through Jesus’ own words we not only learn and discover that it was necessary and expedient for Him to return unto His Father who was in heaven, but in order for them to receive the promise of the Father which He was going to send, they bore the responsibility of tarrying and remaining in Jerusalem until they received the promise which Jesus spoke of. When you come to the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of John’s gospel you will find specific statements and declarations from Jesus concerning the promise of the Father, and how though He was going to depart from them, He would neither leave them comfortless, nor would He leave them alone or as orphans. Consider if you will the words which Jesus which are recorded in the fourteenth chapter beginning with the fifteenth verse: “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but he know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:15-19). With these words, Jesus not only declares that His Father in heaven would give them another Comforter, but the Father would give them another Comforter in order that He might abide with them for ever. This Comforter would be the Spirit of fruth, which the world cannot receive because it does not see Him, nor does it know Him. This Comforter which the Father would send dwelt within them, and would be in them, thus taking the manifest presence of the Father and Son to an entirely different level. While Jesus was upon the earth—not only could He only be in once place at one time, but there was never any language about Him dwelling within them. It wasn’t until He started speaking of His departure and the arrival of the Holy Spirit that the reality and possibility of the Father and the Son dwelling within them became evident and apparent. In fact, both the Father and the Son desired more than simply dwelling with men, for they actually desired to dwell within, and make their abode within and inside of men.
When Jesus walked the earth He could only walk with and walk among men, however, when He returned to the right hand of His Father in heaven both He and the Father could do more than just walk with and walk among men. Through the person and presence of the Holy Spirit within and upon the earth both the Father and the Son could now dwell within the hearts of men, thus being present with and among them was brought to an entirely different level. Through the person of the Holy Spirit now dwelling within the hearts and spirits of men, the person and presence of the Father and the Son could dwell with and be present with men regardless of where they went. Pause for a moment and consider how many places the Father and Son are right now through the person of the Holy Spirit who is present within the hearts and spirits of men. It is true that the person and presence of the Holy Spirit is omnipresent and can be in all places at all times at once, we must also recognize and understand that the person of the Holy Spirit can be in countless different places right now through the hearts, the spirits and the lives of the children of God. It is absolutely fascinating that through the person and presence of the Holy Spirit present within the hearts and spirits of the children of God that the presence of Jesus Christ and the Father can be manifested in countless thousands—if not millions of places at one time. Consider how many places the person and presence of the Father and the Son can be brought to within and throughout the earth because the Holy Spirit dwells within us in our hearts and spirits. The question I must ask you is whether or not you are aware of the tremendous reality that if the Holy Spirit dwells within you, wherever you go the person and presence of the Holy Spirit goes with you. Wherever the Spirit who dwells inside of you goes, so also the person and presence of the Father and the Son go also. When Jesus declared that we would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, In Judaea, in Samaria, and into the uttermost parts of the earth, those words were actually quite remarkable, for with those words—not only would the gospel of the kingdom be preached throughout the earth, but the person and presence of the Father and the Son could be brought forth and manifested within the earth. Through the promise of the Father within our hearts and spirits—not only can the Father and the Son dwell within us and with us, but the person and presence of both the Father and the Son can go with us wherever we go within and upon this planet called earth.
As you continue reading the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples in this passage of Scripture within the book of John you will find that Jesus had much more to say concerning the Spirit. Beginning with the twenty-fifth verse of the fourteenth chapter we find the following words: “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe” (John 14:25-29). If you continue reading in the gospel of John you will come to the final portion of the fifteenth chapter and will find additional language concerning the promise of the Father which Jesus spoke: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27). It would be the person of the Holy Spirit who would not only teach us all things, but it would be this same Spirit who would bring all things to our remembrance, which Jesus spoke while on the earth. What’s more is that this Holy Spirit would testify of Jesus Christ, for He would make known unto us all things pertaining to and concerning Jesus Christ. It is the primary role and function of the Spirit to bring to our remembrance the words which Jesus Christ spoke while on the earth, but also to continue making known unto them the person of Jesus Christ. This is actually quite astounding when you consider it, for despite the fact that Jesus would no longer be present among the disciples and followers in bodily form, the Spirit would continue to remind them of Him—remind them of the words He spoken, and remind them of what He was like while He walked among them. With Jesus having departed from the earth and returning unto His Father who was in heaven, it would have been easy for them to move on, and to perhaps forget about those three and a half years, yet through the person and presence of the Holy Spirit, they would be reminded of Jesus, and the words He spoke unto them while He was still among them. Though Jesus would no longer be with them physically and in bodily form, He would still be present among them through the person of the Holy Spirit.
In the sixteenth chapter of this same New Testament gospel you will find additional commentary and language concerning the coming manifestation and release of the Holy Spirit. Consider the words which we find in the sixteenth chapter beginning with the fourth verse: “But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:4-11). For Jesus, it was absolutely necessary for Him to return to His Father who was in heaven, for it would be His departure that would make possible the coming of the Holy Spirit who would accomplish more than in the earth than Jesus did during the three and a half years He walked the earth. Please note that I am in no way diminishing the work which Jesus did while on the earth, but there is a reason Jesus declared that we would do greater works than the ones which He performed. There’s a reason why Jesus openly declared that we would perform greater signs, greater wonders and greater miracles than He did, and the reason is actually quite simple—the person and presence of the Holy Spirit within and upon the earth. The Holy Spirit would not only teach the disciples, and remind them concerning Christ and the words He spoke and the works He did, but the person of the Holy Spirit would also endure them with power from on High to live just as Jesus lived while He was on the earth. Consider the fact that Jesus could only perform signs, and wonders and miracles in one place while on the earth, for He was not omnipresent, and He could not be in more than one place at one time. With the promise of the Father—the promised Holy Spirit—being released upon the earth and dwelling inside His body which was on the earth, Jesus could now accomplish much more within and throughout the earth through His body and the indwelling person and presence of the Holy Spirit.
With all of this being said, we must now return to the words of the apostle Paul in the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippians, for the apostle Paul not only wrote of the consolation that was in Christ, but the apostle also wrote of the fellowship of the Spirit. I am firmly convinced that it is incredibly difficult—if not absolutely and entirely impossible—to truly have fellowship of the Spirit with the brethren without and apart from the fellowship of the Spirit and fellowship with the Spirit. In the twelfth verse of the New Testament book of Acts we read “Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one according in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren” (Acts 1:12-14). In the first verse of the second chapter read how “when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). Thus far within these two particular passages we not only find that they were all with one accord, but we also find that they continued with one accord in prayer and supplication. In verses two through four of the second chapter of the book of Acts we read how “suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4). What’s so incredible about the second chapter is that in the first verse we read that when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place, and from the first chapter we learn that they continued in one accord with prayer and supplication. What we find at the end of this chapter, however, is something that is drastically different from how the chapter begins, and what we read could only be made possible through the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. Consider if you will the words which Luke records in the final six verses of this second chapter—not only concerning the original one-hundred and twenty who were present within the upper room, but also the upwards of three-thousand who were added to the number on the day of Pentecost:
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon ever soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).
When I read the words which the apostle wrote in the second chapter, I can’t help but be drawn to the reality of what we find and read in the New Testament book of Acts, for it is within the second chapter we read of the fellowship which the early church had with each other. With that being said, however, I am utterly and completely convinced that the only way we can truly have fellowship like that which they experienced in the days of the early church is if we first have fellowship with the Holy Spirit. In fact, I absolutely love how the apostle Paul writes concerning the fellowship of the Spirit, as well as the comfort of love, and bowels and mercies, for it is only when these work together with the consolation we have in Christ that what he writes afterward can even be made possible. Beginning with the second verse of the second chapter the apostle Paul writes: “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves, Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:2-5). Within these four verses the apostle invites them to fulfil his joy, and even to fulfill the joy of Jesus Christ Himself by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, and being of one mind. Please recognize and understand how incredibly difficult this is to do in and of ourselves and in and of our own strength and ability. I am strongly convinced that we cannot truly hope to accomplish the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture without and apart from first having fellowship with the Spirit—a fellowship with the Spirit that ultimately leads to fellowship of the Spirit among the members of the body of Christ. Pause for a moment and consider how hard it is for you to be like-minded with those around you, whether they be among you in the house of God, or even outside the body of Christ and in our home, or at your place of employment, or perhaps in our inner circles of friends. Consider how difficult it is to have the same love one with another, and how difficult it us to be of one accord and of one mind without and apart from the fellowship of the Spirit.
Years ago there was a popular series written called “The Lord of the Ring,” and the first book and movie in the series was entitled “The Fellowship of the Ring.” When considering this reality, it’s important to note that so long as this fellowship of the ring were of one mind and were of one accord they would accomplish the only mission that was necessary among them. It was when they abandoned the fellowship of the ring by embarking on their own journey and pursuing their own agendas or desires that dangerous ground would be breached. The reason I mention this is because if we are going to fulfill the joy of our Lord Jesus Christ, and if we are going to truly be of one accord, and of one mind, and have the same love, it is absolutely imperative that we have and experience fellowship with the Spirit. It is only when we engage ourselves in fellowship with the Spirit that we are then able to engage ourselves in fellowship of the Spirit, which in turn allows us to enter into that place of unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is only when we first have fellowship with the Spirit, and are thus ushered into a place where we walk in the fellowship of the Spirit with our brethren that we can be like-minded, we can have the same love, we can be of one accord, and we can be of one mind. Only the fellowship of the Spirit can enable us to in lowliness of mind esteem others as better than ourselves. It is only through and as a result of the fellowship of the Spirit that we can look not on our own things, but look on the things of others and allow ourselves to be esteemed more and elevated above us. I leave you with the words which Jesus prayed unto the Father which are recorded in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father art in my, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:20-23).