Finding Your Place In Fellowship & Community

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi. More specifically today’s passage is found in the second chapter of this New Testament book. “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, 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: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights int eh world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).

 

            “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of serve toward me” (Philippians 2:19-30).

 

            When you come to the second chapter of the epistle which was written by the apostle Paul unto the Philippians you will find an incredible shift in the language that is used. If you begin reading with and from the first and opening verse of the second chapter you will find the apostle Paul beginning to speak directly unto the Philippian congregation concerning their conversation one with another as body of Christ. The more you read the words which are found in the second chapter the more you will be brought face to face with the tremendous truth regarding the apostle Paul and his instruction unto these saints concerning their living in community and fellowship with each other. You cannot read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter the awesome reality of the apostle Paul speaking directly unto these saints concerning their fellowship and community with each other. In all reality if you read each of the epistles written by the apostle Paul you will find him taking time to deliberately, intentionally and methodically speak unto the individual churches concerning how they are to live in community and fellowship one with another. From the epistle written unto the saints which were in Rome to the epistle written unto the Philippians which is before us right now we find incredible language written by the apostle Paul concerning the members of the body of Christ and how they were to live with each other. It is absolutely impossible to read the epistles and writings of the apostle Paul and not encounter this awesome reality as it stands as one of the main and underlying themes of his epistles.

 

            The more I read and consider the words which are found in this particular epistle the more I am brought face to face with the tremendous need for churches and congregations—even in our culture and society—to truly learn how to live in community and fellowship with each other. It is absolutely undeniable that many gather together in church buildings week in and week out on Sunday mornings, however, the question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we truly understand how to live in community and fellowship one with another. I would dare say it is easy to gather together on a Sunday morning, shake some hands and hug the necks of certain individuals and yet not truly understand how to live in community and fellowship with each other. There is not a doubt in my mind that it is incredibly easy to enter into the church buildings each week and listen to the preacher and minister preach from the word of God and yet never truly understand how to live in community and fellowship with each other. It is easy to enter into our church buildings week in and week out and give of our tithes and offerings and even worship together as we sing through a pre-selected and pre-rehearsed list of sings as we attempt to worship the living God. Where the true rubber meets the road is whether or not we are truly living in fellowship and community one with another. In fact the question must needs be asked whether or not we are truly even living in fellowship and community with each other.

 

            As I sit here this morning writing these words I can’t help but think about the tremendous truth surrounding fellowship and community with each other and I would dare say that although we might very well gather together in our church buildings week after week there are very few of us who truly understand what it means to live in community and fellowship one with another. I am becoming increasingly convinced that merely attending church services week after week and gathering together in church buildings does not mean we are actually living in community and fellowship one with another. There are a number of men and women who are presently deceived and misguided in their approach to the body of Christ as individuals members and who think that merely attending church services in church buildings Sunday after Sunday—perhaps even Sunday evenings and/or Wednesday evenings—means they are living in fellowship one with another. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth for I would dare say there are a number of churches and congregations among us within our culture and society that truly wouldn’t know the first thing about biblical fellowship and biblical community if it were present in front of them.

 

            I fully realize the words I am writing might very well be incredibly harsh and difficult to hear and respond to, however, the truth of the matter is that when I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I find myself coming face to face with the undeniable reality of what biblical fellowship and community truly does look like. Having grown up in the church all my life—and not only grown up in the church all my life but also in a pastor’s home—I have attended countless Sunday morning services. Throughout the years I have attended countless Sunday evening services and even midweek services over the years and perhaps one of the greatest questions I find myself asking is whether or not what I witnesses was truly biblical community and fellowship one with another. With this being said I find it incredibly important to state that I am in no way saying there is anything wrong with gathering together on Sunday mornings or during any other time of the week to worship before the Lord Jesus, to give of our tithes and offerings and to hear a message being preached. I firmly believe there is a tremendous need for gathering together in our church buildings week after week as we gather with fellow saints and believers of like-minded faith. I absolutely believe that it is necessary for us to gather together with fellow saints and fellow believers in church buildings as we attempt to worship before the one true King of the universe.

 

            Having said all of this I can’t help but think about the events which took place over the past year and a half—specifically the events which took place last year. If you remember all the events which transpired last year you will remember how everything shut down for an extended period of time. With this being said you will also recall that one of those elements of society which were closed to patrons and congregants alike were church buildings. For an extended period of time church buildings were closed due to a global pandemic that was spreading across and throughout the world. For several months on end men and women were unable to enter into the houses of the Lord and were unable to gather together to worship before the one true and living God. Due to the pandemic and silent enemy which was moving throughout the streets of our cities and towns across the world church buildings—regardless of what religion it was affiliated and associated with—were shut down. No longer were men and women able to gather together in church buildings to worship before the Lord Jesus as men and women were forced to remain in their homes. Pause for a moment and consider just how absolutely incredible this truly is and look back over all the events which took place last year when church buildings throughout this nation—yea, even throughout the world were shut down. Think about how many families and couples were forced to remain inside their homes and were no longer able to freely enter into the houses of worship which were present in society.

 

            I look back over the events which took place last year and I can’t help but think about how many men and women actually took to the streets in protest over the closing of church buildings. If you remember all the events which took place last year you will recall how there were countless professing Christians—and not merely professing Christians but ministers and leaders alike—who were taking to the streets in protest that church buildings were essential and therefore were a necessary part of society. I can’t help but recall and remember how countless professing Christians threatened to take state and local governments to court over churches being shut down claiming an infringement upon their rights as citizens in this nation. There were countless men and women who were greatly offended with the fact that church buildings were shut down to the public and some even viewed it as being persecuted. It is this concept of men and women thinking and perceiving that the closing of churches during this global pandemic was persecution that truly has me thinking for I can’t help but think about how many men and women were sorely and incredibly deceived into thinking and believing that the closing down of church buildings was indeed a form of persecution which was taking place within our society. What’s more is the twin realities of many thinking that Christians were being persecuted as well as many taking to the streets in protest of church buildings being shut down was incredibly tragic—not only to me but also in the sight of the living God.

 

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of what took place last year for although the physical church buildings were indeed shut down and closed to the public it in no way diminished the ability to fellowship together with the saints of God. While many professing Christians and churches did not necessarily go underground during those months last year there were countless churches that were forced to move themselves into a virtual realm and atmosphere that they might continue providing fellowship and community to the members of each churches. Those churches which previously weren’t equipped and previously weren’t set up to interact in a virtual environment were all of a sudden forced to take a crash course on how to set up church services in a virtual environment as they were not only broadcasting the church services live but they were also causing all their small groups and Bible studies to be done online. Pause for a moment and think about the events which took place last year and consider how the church didn’t necessarily go underground as many in the Middle East and many within countries such as China but how they transitioned into a virtual environment. During the days of the early church there would eventually come the point within the days of the Roman Empire when persecution of the church would reach an all time high and countless churches and Christians were forced underground to continue fellowship and community one with each other. There were countless men and women during those days who were forced to meet in the secrecy of homes and even in the catacombs in Rome for fear of persecution from the Roman infantry and soldiers.

 

            I sit here today writing these words and I can’t help but think about the underground church throughout the years—even during the days of World War II when Hitler ruled Germany with an iron fist and Christianity itself was being persecuted within Germany. During this time there was one German Christian who dared stand against the grain and who dared go against the current of the culture and society of that day. During those days there was one who dared stand up against and resist the government of Hitler and the name of this man was Deitrich Bonhoeffer. This man was a German Christian who not only helped deliver persecuted Jews from the cruel grasp and reach of Hitler but also stood up against the tyranny of this man who ruled over Germany with an iron fist for a period of time. Oh I can’t help but wonder how many Christians during those days were forced underground that they might continue fellowshipping together with one another in community. I have to admit that I haven’t really done a study on what took place during those years, however, I have to say that during those days I would dare say there were countless Christians who were forced to meet in secret and in hiding for fear of the Nazi government and regime that was in power during those days.

 

            With all of this being said I find it absolutely incredible to think about and consider the awesome reality of the early church and how from its inception in the city of Jerusalem when three thousand souls were added unto the number of those who were present men and women did not meet in church buildings as we know it. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts you will find that those in the early church did not meet in church buildings with fancy pews or seats nor with buildings with steeples and crosses upon them. Upon reading the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts you will find that during those days there were countless Christians who would meet in houses and homes as they gathered together in fellowship one with another. Moreover if you read the words which are found in the second and fourth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find powerful language concerning what community and fellowship actually looked like during those days. You cannot read these passages of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the early church and how when they gathered together as the saints of God they did so meeting in houses and homes as they broke bread with each other and gave themselves to fellowship and community. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the final verses of the second chapter of the book of Acts as well as the words which are found in the final verses of the fourth chapter of the same book:

 

            “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 stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers, and fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things commong; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, prasing 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).

 

            “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).

 

            Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of what is found in these particular passages of Scripture for what we find here are signs of the early church living in community and fellowship one with another. What makes these passages so incredibly unique and powerful is when you consider how Luke recorded of the early church how they broke bread from house to house. You will indeed find mentioned in the second chapter how they did in fact gather together in the Temple of the LORD as they worshipped the Lord Jesus together, however, I would dare say that one of the staples and marks of the early church was their meeting and gathering together in houses and homes as the body of Christ. Stop and consider for a moment what it would have been like during those days to gather together in houses of homes of those members of the body of Christ and what it would mean for families and households to open their homes to others. Stop and consider the tremendous compassion, humility, tenderness and affection that would need to be found within the hearts of those who would open their homes as places where the saints and brethren could gather together. Consider the tremendous grace that would need to be upon men and women as they opened their houses and homes unto the saints of God that they might gather together in worship and fellowship one with another. I would dare say there is something truly unique and powerful about those saints who were willing to open their houses and homes that the body of Christ might indeed gather together in fellowship together with each other.

 

            You cannot read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and not encounter what living in community and fellowship truly looked like and meant for the saints of God. Luke makes it perfectly clear concerning the saints of God during those days how they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship and in the breaking of bread and prayers. Not only this but 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. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of the word “together” which is found here in this passage of Scripture for when we think about true biblical community and fellowship we must needs recognize and understand that true biblical fellowship has at the very heart of it the gathering together of the saints of God and the body of Christ. I absolutely love the use of the word “together” when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the saints of God and how they all gathered together and met with each other from house to house. Luke would go on to write how they continued daily with one accord in the temple—and not only in the temple but also in the breaking of bread from house to house as they ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. Oh there is something truly astonishing when you think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the wonderful reality of the early church and how they were those who knew and understood true community and fellowship as they gathered together as one—both in the Temple as well as in the houses and homes of those who believed on the name of the Lord Jesus.

 

            The more I think about and consider the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and the more I look at the events which took place last year in this nation the more I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth that we were given an opportunity to truly learn what it meant to live in community and fellowship one with each other. On the surface there is something to be said about how we were forced into a virtual environment for by being forced into this type of environment the church setting began to operate and function within the houses and homes of men and women as well as parents and families. When once men, women, children and the like would gather together in church buildings we were now forced into a virtual environment where we would meet together with others through Zoom and using tools such as YouTube and Facebook Live. You cannot look over the events which took place last year and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the saints of God and those who professed to be Christians were forced to do “church” entirely and altogether differently than what they were used to doing in previous days, weeks, months and years. No longer were men and women able to freely meet and gather together in church buildings but now men and women were forced to remain in their homes and interact together with fellow saints through Zoom as no longer were they able to see men and women face to face in person but now saw them as faces on the screens of their tablets, their smart phones and/or their computers and laptops.

 

            Oh I can’t help but think about how truly incredible this is when you take the time to consider it there was something incredibly unique about last year and the events which transpired. In fact I can’t help but think and consider whether or not what we witnesses last year was not a prelude to what might happen in the coming days if church buildings are once more shut down—this time not because of a global pandemic but rather because Christians were branded and viewed as domestic terrorists. Last year we witnessed church buildings being closed because of a pandemic that was spreading throughout the world and in an attempt to slow the spread. Men and women were urged to wear masks, to remain in their homes, to only go out for those things which were absolutely essential, and to social distance six feet apart. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for I am absolutely convinced that what we witnessed last year was an incredibly powerful picture of what it perhaps would and could look like if church buildings were once more shut down by the government—yet not because of a global pandemic. In fact I would dare say the spirit of the antichrist is at work in the earth today and was in full motion and swing during those days, week and months of last year. I would dare say the spirit of the antichrist used a global pandemic to shut down the world—and specifically church buildings—that he might keep men and women from gathering together. With this being said I would dare say that the enemy and adversary used a global pandemic as the grounds to shut churches and force Christians into their houses and homes while no longer being able to gather together as the saints of God in the corporate setting of church buildings.

 

            There is something we must needs recognize and understand when considering the events which took place last year for the events which we witnessed and beheld last year are a powerful example of the spirit of the antichrist being in full operation in the earth. The events which unfolded last year were a powerful witness of the spirit of the antichrist at work using a global pandemic to completely shut down church buildings and keep the pews and seats of contained therein empty. There is a great need for us to recognize and understand this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it brings us face to face with the manifestation of the spirit of antichrist in the earth. Last year the spirit of the antichrist used a global pandemic working together with the governments of the world to shut down church buildings amongst other things as the saints of God were forced into their houses and homes. No longer were men and women able to freely gather together in church buildings but were now forced to remain in their homes as they attended church services live through social media and interacted in Bible studies through Zoom and perhaps even Skype and/or Teams. For several months last year the saints of God were forced into an environment that many weren’t familiar with and had never interacted with. Oh there were a lot of people who were caught off guard last year when they were no longer able to gather together in church buildings and were forced to remain and abide in their homes watching church services online on a laptop, tablet or cell phone screen. There were even those who were able to watch such events on their televisions as they had Smart TV’s or streaming devices which allowed them to receive the church services which were being broadcast using YouTube or Facebook Live.

 

            The more I think about this the more I can’t help but think about the fact that while the spirit of the antichrist used the global pandemic to shut and close down the churches last year it could have served an even greater purpose. While I do firmly believe the spirit of the antichrist worked very hard last year to close and shut down church buildings that he might keep the saints of God confined into their homes there was something else that could have very well taken place. I firmly believe that we were given a wonderful and powerful invitation last year to not merely “do church” as we had been taught to do throughout the course of our lives or perhaps throughout the time of our salvation. I believe with all my heart that when the church buildings shut last year we were given an incredible opportunity to transition to the streets where we could not only be faithful ministers of the gospel but also as several churches even moved their church services outside using stages and tents. I am absolutely convinced there was a tremendous opportunity and invitation that was given unto the saints of God and the churches throughout the world last year to no longer “do church” but actually “be the church.” Although we weren’t able to gather together in church buildings we could had the opportunity to open our homes unto fellow saints and believers that we might gather together in fellowship and community with each other. I fully realize there would be some who would read these words who would call this absolutely and utterly insane to think about considering there was a global pandemic that was spreading throughout the world. I recognize there would be those present among us who would greatly question this logic due to the incredible nature of a global pandemic that spread throughout the world shutting everything down.

 

            As I write these words I can’t help but think about and consider the absolutely awesome and powerful truth surrounding the events which took place last year and how we were given an incredible opportunity to learn how to truly operate in community and fellowship with each other. I firmly believe that last year we were given an opportunity to fellowship one with another outside the confines of the four walls of the church buildings and in one another’s homes. I believe with all my heart that while church buildings were indeed shut last year the saints of God and disciples of Christ were given an awesome and powerful invitation to no longer “do church” but actually “be the church.” Although church buildings were shut down the houses and homes of countless men and women would be open. Despite the fact that countless men, women, children and families were forced to remain in their homes there was this underlying reality of men and women being able to gather together in their houses and homes as they committed themselves to the breaking of bread and fellowship. What’s more is I can’t help but think about and consider whether or not we were given a wonderful and powerful invitation last year to get back to our roots and to the roots of the early church which was present during the days after the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

            I sit here thinking about the events which took place last year and I can’t help but think about how absolutely tremendous and incredible they truly were for I firmly believe we were given an opportunity to rediscover our roots as the body of Christ. With this being said I would dare say that for the most part we missed that which was taking place before and all around us. What’s more is that not only do I believe that we missed what was taking place all around us but I believe we missed the divine moment and opportunity that was before us. I am absolutely convinced there were countless professing Christians who completely ignored—and if not ignored then at least missed that which the living and eternal God was doing among us. I am absolutely convinced there is something we must needs recognize and consider when we think about the events which took place last year for we were given an opportunity to truly learn how to live in community and fellowship one with another. I believe with all my heart that we as the saints of God and the body of Christ were given an awesome and powerful invitation to rediscover how to be the body of Christ and how to truly live in community and fellowship one with another. In fact I would dare say that the Spirit of the Lord sought to use the events which took place last year to teach us how to truly live together in fellowship one with another as the body of Christ in community. Oh we most certainly know how to be the body of Christ “in church,” however, I would dare say that there are very few of us who know how to be the body of Christ in community.

 

            I am absolutely and completely convinced when writing these words that we were given an incredible opportunity to learn how to be the body of Christ in community—and not only how to be the body of Christ in community but also how to be the body of Christ in fellowship one with another. I believe there are many of us who were so focused on what we perceived as being an infringement upon our rights that we could not see that which was right before us the whole time. There were so many men and women who were so focused on the potential violation of their rights they completely and utterly missed the truth and reality of an invitation that was given to rediscover our roots as the saints of God and as the body of Christ. Last year we were given the tremendous and wonderful privilege to learn—even though it was only to a small degree and measure—what it was like to no longer be able to gather together in church buildings. Last year we were given the tremendous opportunity as the saints of God and as the body of Christ to be those individuals who were able to truly rediscover biblical fellowship and community one with each other. Even if we didn’t meet in houses or homes per se we could have used the opportunities which were before us meet in open spaces as we gathered together as the saints of God and the body of Christ in fellowship and community. I would dare say that last year there were countless professing Christians, ministers and leaders alike who failed to truly understand that which was truly taking place and that which was truly present before us in the world in which we were living.

 

            When I read the words which are found in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi I can’t help but think about and consider the tremendous truth surrounding what it truly means to live in community and fellowship together with the saints of God as the body of Christ. I am absolutely convinced that what we find in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi and how the apostle Paul was writing unto them how to live in community and fellowship with each other. There is something truly unique about the words which are found in the New Testament epistle written unto the Philippian saints for what we find in this epistle is a strong and powerful picture of what it truly means to live in community and fellowship with each other as the body of Christ. I would dare say that perhaps one of the greatest truths surrounding the events which took place last year was a powerful declaration unto the saints of God concerning community and fellowship with each other. I am absolutely convinced that for quite some time we have known how to meet in church buildings and yet never truly knew or understood how to live in community and fellowship with each other. I firmly believe that although we might have gathered together week in and week out in the church buildings we truly did not know how to live in community and fellowship with each other. Oh it is with this in mind I invite you to consider if you will the following words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome as well as the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints:

 

            “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts different according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or minister, let us wait on our minister: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8).

 

            “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but consdenced to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men, if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore. If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).

 

            “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).

 

            “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now they are many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need; but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

 

            “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diveristies of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and. Yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:28-31).

            Please don’t miss the incredible truth of what is found in these passages of Scripture for what we find here is the apostle Paul writing and speaking the truth concerning the body of Christ and how we although we are many members we are altogether one body united together under one head which is the Lord Jesus. What’s more is that when we read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture we are brought face to face with the awesome reality of what it truly means and looks like to live in community and fellowship one with another in the body of Christ. If you take the time to read the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi you will find him beginning by appealing to there being any consolation in Christ—and not only any consolation in Christ but also any comfort of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, and any bowels and mercies. The apostle Paul begins and opens this particular passage by speaking of the consolation that is found in Christ, the comfort of love, the fellowship of the Spirit and bowels and mercies. The reason the apostle Paul appeals to this is that these saints might fulfil his joy that they be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, and being of one mind. Oh how absolutely incredible the words presented in this passage of Scripture truly are for they call and draw our attention to the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the appeal the apostle Paul made to the Philippian saints concerning their living in community and fellowship one with another.

 

            As you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will encounter and come face to face with the incredible truth surrounding what it truly means to live in community and fellowship with each other. I continue to believe that we as professing Christians and members of the body of Christ do not truly understand what it means to live in community and fellowship one with another. Oh we know how to gather together in church buildings and worship together with others, however, I would dare say that beyond the four walls of the church there are very few who truly recognize and understand how to live in community and fellowship with each other. This was not the case among the saints of God in the early church for what we find in the New Testament book of Acts as well as the writings of the apostle Paul is a powerful invitation to truly recognize and understand what it looks like to live in community and fellowship with each other. The apostle Paul begins and opens this passage of Scripture by appealing to the consolation that is found in Christ, the comfort of love, the fellowship of the Spirit and bowels and mercies. What I absolutely love about the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture is that he seems to indicate the source, the origin and foundation of our fellowship. If you read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture you will find that true biblical fellowship begins and originates with the fellowship of the Spirit. There is a fellowship that exists between the Spirit of the sovereign God, the eternal and only begotten Son of God and the Holy Spirit. Oh how much I absolutely love that which is found in this passage of Scripture is how the apostle Paul spoke of the fellowship of the Spirit thus indicating that true biblical fellowship does indeed and does in fact originate with the Spirit.

 

            If you read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts you will encounter and come face to face with the wonderful truth of perhaps the single greatest manifestation of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit—namely, taking three thousand souls and teaching them how to live in community and fellowship one with another. There is not a doubt in my mind when reading the New Testament book of Acts that while tongues was indeed necessary when considering the early church it was not the single greatest work and manifestation during those days. I firmly believe that the greatest work, the greatest demonstration and the greatest manifestation of the Holy Spirit during those days was indeed and was in fact the unity and community of the saints of God—those who were baptized and who believed the word(s) of the apostles and upon the name of the Lord Jesus. I am absolutely convinced when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that when we think about and consider true biblical fellowship we must needs recognize that it begins with the Holy Spirit for it is only the Holy Spirit who can truly produce the manifestation and the quality of fellowship among us that is so desperately needed. In all reality I believe that one of the invitations given unto us last year was that of coming into the fellowship of the Holy Spirit—a fellowship that is not relegated and/or limited to the four walls of church buildings but a fellowship that extends beyond pews, walls, ceilings, steeples and the like. True fellowship of the Holy Spirit is such that truly allows us to enjoy community one with another—and not only community but also communal living with each other. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the true and ultimate source of biblical fellowship—namely, the person of the Holy Spirit.

 

            When you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will encounter the tremendous truth of “the fellowship of the Spirit” and how the apostle Paul appealed unto these saints to be likeminded, to have the same love, to be of one accord and to be of one mind. Essentially that which the apostle Paul invited the Christians in Philippi to do was to recognize and understand their roots as Christians and those who called upon the name of the Lord. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find here is a powerful lookback to what is presented before us in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts and how they had all things in common, how they were of one accord, and how they gave themselves to prayer and fellowship. The apostle Paul writes in these verses how they were to let nothing be done through strife or vainglory but instead in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Not only this but the apostle Paul also invited them to look not every man on his own things but let every man on the things of others. In all reality that which the apostle Paul was inviting the Philippian saints to was a life of selfless and sacrificial living as they esteemed others as greater than themselves. The apostle Paul appealed to the Philippian saints and congregation that they be such who lived beyond themselves that they might truly live for others as they were bonded together in the fellowship of the Spirit by bowels and mercies and according to the consolation of Christ. The apostle Paul appealed to them to be likeminded having the same love and being of one accord and of one mind for he knew and understood just how dangerous and deadly division truly was in the body of Christ. Oh in order to truly understand how dangerous and deadly division is it is important to consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first epistle unto the Corinthian saints:

 

            “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas; besides, I know not whether I baptized any other” (1 Corinthians 1:10-16).

 

            “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).

 

            I also feel it is necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Ephesus concerning the fellowship of the saints and body of Christ. I am absolutely convinced the words which are found here not only touch the fellowship and community of the saints but also growth and maturity which is also just as vital. If I am being honest while writing these words I find it absolutely necessary to declare unto you that just as important as unity and community are we must needs understand that growth and maturity are just as vital and critical. What’s more is I would dare say that we cannot have a conversation about unity and community without also having a conversation about growth and maturity. In fact this is precisely what the apostle Paul was referring to when writing his first epistle unto the Corinthian saints and spoke of his being unable to speak to them as spiritual but as carnal—even as babes in Christ. The apostle Paul declared that strife, contention and division was preventing them from stepping and entering into true growth and spiritual maturity thus intrinsically linking and connecting the two realities together. We must needs recognize and understand just how absolutely vital this truly is for when we think and speak about growth and maturity we must needs recognize their intrinsic link and connection to community and community. Not only this but we must needs recognize that we have been called to unity and community as a corporate body of Christ as much as we have been called to it as individuals. Moreover we have been called to growth and maturity as individuals within the body of Christ but also as a corporate body of Christ united together in the fellowship of the Spirit. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints:

 

            “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelist; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body. Unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:1-16).

 

           

            Consider also if you will the following words which are found in the second chapter of this same epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Ephesus:

 

            “…For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together growth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:18-22).

 

            As I bring this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the tremendous call that has been issued to community and fellowship. What’s more is that I am convinced that we were given an opportunity last year—not only to experience fellowship within our homes but also as means to prepare ourselves for the coming days should the body of Christ not be forced into a virtual environment but actually underground and meeting in secret. There is a great need within our hearts and spirits to recognize and understand that which the Holy Spirit is seeking to accomplish and fulfil in the earth during these days—not only establishing true biblical community and fellowship but also preparing us for the days ahead in which it won’t simply be about meeting via Zoom or Teams or any other technological means. I firmly believe that we were given a taste and a foreshadowing of what it would be like should true persecution rise up in the midst of the earth and Christians are forced to disband and disbar themselves from church buildings and go underground and into hiding. What’s more is I can’t help but see the vaccines which were recently implemented in our society as wreaking havoc in the church for there are going to be those within the church who refuse to interact with those who are unvaccinated. Pause for a moment and think about how the spirit of the antichrist could use something such as the vaccine to bring division into the body of Christ as men and women are not divided along racial, political and gender lines but are divided along the line of vaccine status.

 

            UNITED CONGREGATION OF THE VACCINATED! FIRST CHURCH OF THE VACCINATED! ASSEMBLY OF THE VACCINATED! Imagine churches in our culture and society being forced to only allow those who are vaccinated to enter into the actual building. Imagine a scenario in which only those who are vaccinated are able to enter into church buildings and pastors, ministers, leaders and congregants alike are forced to choose whether or not they are going to defy such a mandate and continue meeting together or are going to bar those who are not and have not been vaccinated. Imagine needing to show up to churches—not with your Bibles but rather with vaccine cards. Even if a vaccine passport system is not implemented it might very well reach the point where vaccine cards or QR codes on your smart phone will be used to show your status as being among “the vaccinated.” Pause for a moment and think about the coming days and if churches and congregations are made up solely of the vaccinated rather than those who have chosen not to get the vaccine. Imagine churches being changed and transformed in the coming days, weeks, and months into those churches which only accommodate the vaccine—whether by preference or whether by mandate and requirement. There is something to be said about this particular truth for I am convinced we must needs recognize and understand the tremendous need for community and fellowship—regardless of whether we are able to meet in church buildings or whether we are forced to go underground and meet in homes, in warehouses, or in any other obscure places you can possibly think of. We were able to transition into the virtual sphere during the pandemic, however, we must needs ask ourselves how we are going to respond and what we are going to do if not even virtual is an option because it is monitored and censored by government agencies.

 

            It is with this in mind I would like to leave you with the following words which are found in this second chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Ephesian saints. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that in the midst of this community and fellowship we have been called to engage ourselves in during the coming days we must needs acknowledge the need for the character, the nature, the image and the likeness of Christ to be formed within us. What’s more is that we must needs recognize and understand the divine example of the Lord Jesus in showing us what true humility, what true sacrifice, what true selflessness and what true compassion and love looks like. Having said this I now leave you with the following words which are found in the second chapter of this epistle beginning with the fifth verse:

 

            “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus ever knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s