Christians use the word ‘fellowship’ loosely.
When Christians invite church friends over to watch the game, have a backyard picnic party, or go on a relaxing vacation they call it fellowship.
Many churches contain a banquet hall and kitchen that would match most restaurants. They call them fellowship halls.
When Christians want to just hang out or shoot the breeze under the guise of ministry, it is sanctified by calling it fellowship.
They keep using the word fellowship to describe fun, friendships, and food, but I don’t think it means what they think it means.
Fellowship in the Gospel
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, … For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…” – Philippians 4:3-5
Paul was grateful for their fellowship in the gospel.
Paul was tasked with “making all men see the fellowship of the mystery” (Eph 3:9). The Philippians saw it and were partakers of the gospel of grace given to Paul (Phil 1:7).
There is a comfort that comes when two people have in common a mutual faith (Rom 1:12). More than simply sharing the same hobbies or preferences, having a mutual faith means that you are both standing on the same foundation and have a unity of Spirit (Eph 4:3).
As more brothers and sisters are established on God’s word without error rightly divided it is a joy to see their confidence increase, their assurance of salvation, and their growth in spiritual understanding.
It is hard to change what someone else likes or dislikes, but we can establish one another in true fellowship of the gospel when we work to make all men see the fellowship of the mystery.
Fellowship in Ministry
All those who are saved by the gospel have fellowship in Christ, but the Philippians were also fellow laborers with Paul in the Lord’s ministry (Phil 4:3; Phil 4:15).
They understood the gospel, the importance of the ministry the Lord gave the church, and were participating in doing the work.
Ministry requires a change of mind and heart, and when others in mutual faith work with you in the defence and confirmation of the gospel they become extremely desirable.
“For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” – Phil 1:8
There are some bonds that are only forged by fire, and ministry produces the fellowship of suffering that fellow soldiers face as they strive together (Phil 1:27).
There are fewer folks who can claim this fellowship, but for everyone that is involved in the work I am extremely grateful to God for working in them to do His pleasure.
This fellowship is rare and goes beyond hanging out or sharing a coffee. Fellowship that is thankworthy is the kind that endures from the “first day until now” in the truth (Phil 1:4).
Frequently, fellowship starts on the right foot, but then many start to partake of other ministries that are not God’s, preach another Jesus, receive other spirits, or preach other gospels (2 Cor 11:3-4). Fellowship is broken.
Fellowship requires having something in common. Fellowship in the gospel requires the same gospel message. Fellowship in Christ requires the same Christ. Fellowship in ministry requires faithfulness to perform the right ministry with the right heart.
What Paul had in common with the faithful Philippians was a common faith, partnership in ministry, unity of the Spirit, and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. That they continued from the “first day until now” was cause for thanksgiving.
Bible fellowship is more than fun, food, and friends. You do not need God for that kind of physical enjoyment.
Fellowship is what God provides when His word works effectually in those that believe the gospel and grow up in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing…” – 1 Thess 2:13
Thank God for fellowship with like minded believers who will fight with one mind for the love of the truth.
If that is you, thank God for your fellowship.