Fellowship With the Father
"God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say
we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness,
we lie, and do not the Truth"—1 John 1:5-6
THE subject of fellowship is a very deep and beautiful one—far deeper than we are apt to realize.
In its fullness it is PERFECT ONENESS, as expressed by Jesus in prayer to the Father (John 17:21-23)—
"That they all may be one: as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us.
"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."
"The glory which Thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one."
Let us try to elevate our minds to a full realization of the greatness—the infinite immensity and glory—of the fellowship of our high calling in Christ Jesus.
Glory is light, brightness, splendor, beauty, honor, praise.
Paul describes the Gospel as the "Gospel of the Glory of the blessed God" (1 Tim. 1:11), and he says that, steadfastly beholding Christ, we are transformed into his image, "from glory to glory."
This is the essence of fellowship—a oneness of glory and beauty.
* * *
THE word for Fellowship—koinonia—occurs in its different forms about 50 times, and a study and comparison of these 50 scriptures reveals a picture of marvellous spiritual depth and beauty—the divine ideal of the intimate oneness in all things of true ecclesial fellowship.
The word for fellowship means a "having or being in common." In its scriptural use it portrays a perfect oneness of heart, mind, desire, interest, effort, faith, hope, sorrow, joy, and worldly possession.
John lays the clearest foundation of the subject in the first chapter of his first epistle. He says, beginning at verse 3—
"That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us . .
—the first element of fellowship is the knowledge and belief of certain divine things—
" . and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Chris."
—God and Christ are the eternal and immovable Rock-foundation of all true fellowship. They set its pattern of perfection and beauty, and give it all its purpose, meaning and life. John continues (v. 4)—
"These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."
We must fully realize the great and basic fact that all the commands of God are for the purpose of joy and blessing and well-being. We are being invited, in the goodness of God, to the treasures of glory and joy forevermore. It gives God pleasure to create joy.
We are being invited to ascend out of our natural condition of evil and darkness and sorrow and death, up to eternal light and joy and divine fellowship.
It is absolutely essential that we clear our minds completely of any childish notion that the commands of God are harsh, restrictive, or burdensome. They are the pure expression of infinite divine love and wisdom, to be lovingly conformed to in thanksgiving.
It is the height of folly to yield to them but grudgingly and half-heartedly, fearfully fighting the glorious depths of their full implications. Fully yielded to, eagerly sought after, they lead to the infinite joy of the unity and fellowship of the divine mind.
All that stands between as and the glorious satisfaction of the divine fellowship is our pitiful, deluded clinging to the empty and rotting husks of the perishing present. Verse 5—
"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is NO DARKNESS AT ALL."
God is all Light, all Goodness, all Beauty, all Spiritual-mindedness. In Him is no darkness—nothing evil, small, petty, mean, ugly, foolish, childish.
What is John's point? He comes to it in v. 6—
"If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the Truth."
If we want God, if goodness and love and joy and light appeal to us, if we want to escape from the great evil enemy, Death, who is remorselessly approaching closer to us with every swift-passing day of our lives, then we must cast all else aside without a backward glance.
If we cling to ANY of the things of darkness, the things of the flesh, the things of the world, there is no fellowship with God, no hope, no future, no divine joy.
This is fundamental. It is basic. It is the Great Divide between life and death.
* * *
JOHN continues (v. 7)—
"But, IF we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."
This last point is a vital aspect. In vs. 8-10 he speaks of the great paradox of sin and perfection. Divine fellowship can only be on the basis of perfection. Perfection is humanly impossible.
But if we walk in the Light, honestly and sincerely straining every effort to avoid sin, to put away sin, then—and then alone—the blood of Jesus Christ His Son mercifully cleanses us and covers us with his perfection and we have life-giving fellowship with God.
There is no halfway. God's holiness demands perfection in what He fellowships, and He provides that perfection only on the basis of our straining eagerly toward His holiness.
If we know a thing is wrong (be it large or small) and do not make a sincere, prayerful, agonizing, persevering effort to put it from us—never relaxing our effort until we succeed—then we are stupidly deceiving and destroying ourselves—
"He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the Truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4).
Hard, but necessary, words, for the issue is life or death.
* * *
"IF we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another."
Fellowship one with another springs from fellowship with God. Fellowship one with another is the greatest, deepest, most searching and most revolutionary thing in our lives.
The fellowship of the Sons of God is a thousand-fold more intimate than the extremest concept of communism It is perfect oneness in everything, even as God and Christ are one.
* * *
WE would like to follow the thread traced by the use of the word Fellowship—koinonia—through the New Testament Scriptures. It occurs 50 times, although this fact, and its deep significance, is obscured by a variety of translations and shallow renderings. It appears as: distribution, partaking, communication, partnership, contribution, communion and companion, as well as fellowship.
It is from the root meaning "common." It is just an ordinary word, but the Scriptures have given it tremendous depth and beauty by choosing it as the word to express the relationship between God and His children, and between the children themselves in their union in and through Christ.
It first occurs twice in the Gospels in a general sense; but thereafter, beginning at Acts 2:42—the key introductory verse in the new dispensation in Christ's shed blood—its 48 (4x12) remaining occurrences have a restricted, spiritual sense A few are negative warnings against false fellowship, but the great majority are positive, glorious, and heart-searching.
* * *
THE first is Acts 2:42—
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
Here, at the very beginning of the infant ecclesia, on the day of Pentecost, there is laid the 4-square foundation of doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. This is no accident.
But is not the breaking of bread the same as the fellowship? Not at all. Truly, they are related, just as all four are related. None can break bread who are not in the fellowship, and all in the fellowship must break bread. This is equally true of the doctrine and the prayer.
Breaking bread is a united act of obedience and remembrance. Fellowship is the all-embracing way of life and mutual relationship of the brethren. Fellowship is the form of their organization and oneness. It comprehends infinitely more than an eating bread and drinking wine together. It is all-pervading. It is the framework of their life. It is their ceasing to live as an individual—their complete dying unto themselves, and a living henceforth as an intimate, integral, inseparable member of the Body of Christ. This begins to come out two verses later (44)—
"And all that believed were together, and had all things common."
"Common" here is from exactly the same basic word—fellowship—they had all things in fellowship.
Again, this is not an accident. Nor is it a passing incident. It is an essential, basic principle—
"Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price."
"If ye have not been faithful in that which is another's—the unrighteous mammon—present possession—who will commit to your trust the true riches?" (Luke 16:11-12).
"None of us liveth to himself" (Rom. 14:7).
"He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves" (2 Cor. 5:15).
The next appearance of the word gives us the same picture (Acts 4:32)—
"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 in common."
Again the same word: all things in fellowship.
We begin to get a picture of what fellowship really means—"one heart, one soul, ALL THINGS IN FELLOWSHIP."
This is the basic principle of fellowship. The means and method of its manifestation must vary with circumstances.
With inspired apostles, filled with the Spirit, able to detect and destroy the Ananias' and Sapphiras, certain methods would be wise and beneficial which would not be wise today.
Even then, there was no compulsion. It was all spontaneous freewill, as the words of Peter to Ananias make clear. Everything must be pure, joyful enlightened freewill. Consider well the vital, repeated emphasis on the "willing heart" in Exo. 35, where God seeks material for His Tabernacle.
But the basic principle is as individually binding today as then—
"Neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own."
All is God's. All is a trust, a stewardship, an administration of divine property for divine purposes, of which a strict accounting will be required at the last day. May we meet that day with approval and not shame!
"Fellowshipping the necessity of saints . . . given to hospitality
. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and
weep with them that weep"—Rom. 12:13-15
The next occurrence (Rom. 11:17) is a deep and beautiful figure hidden under the shallow translation, "partake"—
"Thou (Gentile) partakest of—fellowshippest—the root and fatness of the (Israel) olive-tree."
The next occurrence is equally beautiful (Rom. 12:13)—
"Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality."
"Distributing" here is the same word; "Fellowshipping" the necessity of saints.
We may get the impression from the references so far that the principal aspect of fellowship is the sharing of material possessions, but this would not be correct. The picture will balance out as we proceed.
But God knows the hearts. He knows what is necessary to emphasize. Truly, fellowship is an infinitely deeper thing than mere material sharing, but this is one of its most practical and searching tests.
If we are not willing to lay down our lives for the brethren, then WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND FELLOWSHIP. We are yet carnal, and walk as men.
Furthermore, "Fellowshipping the necessity (or need) of saints" means much more than their material needs.
The word translated "necessity" occurs 49 times, and the great majority of occurrences refer to much deeper needs than material things. A few examples will show this—
Eph. 4:29: "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying"—literally: "that which is good to the edifying of need."
So all our words must minister to spiritual need. Again—
Phil. 4:19: "My God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Heb. 5:12: "Ye have need of milk."
Heb. 10:36: "Ye have need of patience."
We must bear in mind that fellowshipping is never just a giving, but a sharing. There is its beauty. Cold charity can give, but it takes warm love to stoop down and share.
"Fellowshipping the needs of saints"—joining in them and taking them upon you.
Paul speaks frequently, as we hope to point out as we go along, of "fellowshipping the sufferings of Christ and the brethren." There must be a oneness. "Fellowshipping the needs of the saints" must be done in a way and in a spirit that draws both closer to each other and to God, or it is not fellowship at all.
* * *
THE next two occurrences are Rom. 15:26 and 27—
"It hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution (fellowship) for the poor saints at Jerusalem.
"If the Gentiles have been made partakers (fellowshippers) of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things."
We note how a confused translation misses the depth and obscures the beautiful thread of revelation.
We would do well to go through our Bibles and mark each of the 50 occurrences of this word in the margin.
Paul is not merely interested in collecting money for the poor saints. His use of this word "fellowship" shows that his concern is spiritual oneness through mutual sharing of the blessings of God—blessings given for the divine purpose of BEING SHARED
* * *
NEXT is 1 Cor. 1:9—
"God is faithful, by Whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord."
And the next verse (10) defines that fellowship—
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same things, and that there be no divisions among you: but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
How? Just by willing, or declaring, it to be so? Truly, a desire for unity of mind is essential, but it requires more than that. There must be A COMMON DIVINE STANDARD LOVINGLY ACCEPTED BY ALL, a seeking to know more and more of the mind of God, a striving for a closer and closer obedience, a getting deeper and deeper in the Truth.
Only in this way can brethren get closer to each other—by mutually getting closer to the perfection and wisdom of God.
* * *
THE next 4 occurrences are in 1 Cor. 10, verses 16, 18, 20. He is speaking of idolatry and partaking of meat offered to idols, but his great underlying point is the oneness of fellowship, and its reaching the apex of its significance in the breaking of bread and drinking wine together in memory of Christ, whose perfect obedience and sacrifice destroyed all disunity and made us one in perfectness—
"The cup of blessing . . is it not the communion (fellowship) of the blood of Christ?
"The bread we break, is it not the fellowship of the body of Christ?
"For we being many are one Bread, one Body."
He says in v. 18 that Israel fellowshipped together through the Mosaic altar of sacrifice: in v. 20 that the Gentiles fellowshipped together through partaking of the meat offered to idols. The same word "fellowship" is used in each ease.
The meat itself as such was nothing, but the implications of eating it were everything (v. 23)—
"All things are lawful, but all are not expedient."
—not wise—not edifying—not contributing to the deep harmony, of fellowship, which is all-important.
Here is another vital aspect of fellowship—another serious and searching divine principle—Anything, though quite harmless and lawful in itself, that mars, hinders or detracts from the perfect unity of true fellowship, is evil and forbidden—
"Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit—my own selfish pleasure, satisfaction, desires, comforts—but the profit of many, that they may be saved" (1 Cor. 10:33).
Therefore, beloved brethren and sisters, as James exhorts—
"Let us so walk in relation to the welfare of one another, as they that shall be judged by the law of perfectness."
* * *
ANOTHER strange and beautiful aspect of fellowship appears in the next occurrence (2 Cor. 1:7)—
"Our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers—fellowshippers—of the sufferings, so also of the consolation."
The great object to be accomplished is the deepening and purifying and enriching of our fellowship together, and with the Father and Son.
Whatever contributes to this is good, though it may be grievous to be borne. Paul says in v. 6 that his affliction was for their consolation and salvation, and he explains this as the "fellowship of suffering."
Seeing the glory to be thereby accomplished, he said (Rom. 5:3) he rejoiced in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, because the love of God is spread abroad in our hearts—not only Paul's own patience, but the patience of all, through the deep sympathy and oneness of true fellowship.
* * *
THE next occurrence is a very serious one (2 Cor. 6:14)—
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion—fellowship—hath light with darkness?"
"Wherefore come out, be separate, touch not the unclean, and I will receive you, and be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
HOW MORE PLAINLY AND STRONGLY COULD GOD TELL US THAN THIS? What could we possibly add to make it any clearer or more impressive?
Do we care anything about God at all, or is our whole profession a hypocritical mockery of His love and fellowship?
"Come out! Be separate! Touch not! Be not unequally yoked!"
* * *
THE next occurrence is remarkable for its vivid expression of the true spirit of fellowship, the intense desire to minister. It must be freewill, from the heart.
Commands cannot make us holy: commands cannot create fellowship. They merely guide us how to channel our efforts and labors in beneficial and God-pleasing directions.
The POWER and MOTIVE must be freewill love and from the heart. 2 Cor. 8:1-7—
"Brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia . . "
(When we speak, as Paul speaks here, of eager, freewill offering, let us never lose sight of the fact that all good is of God, all our goodness is of the marvellous grace of God upon us. Let us never for a moment be self-confident or self-satisfied, but fearfully and humbly pray to be guided by the grace of God.) Paul continues—
"How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
"For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord.
"Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift . ."
There is nothing about "receiving the gift" in the original. Other versions express it better—
"Beseeching us with much entreaty for the grace of fellowshipping in this ministry to the saints."
Though very poor, they begged for the divine privilege of deepening their own poverty in order to alleviate the deeper poverty of their brethren in Judea.
That is true fellowship, with the Father and with the Son. HOW MUCH DO WE KNOW ABOUT IT?
How could Paul accept it under such circumstances? But even much more so, how could he refuse this grace of the fellowship of suffering with their brethren which they so longingly desired?
* * *
IN Gal. 2:9 we have the expression, "the right hand of fellowship," extended by the apostles at Jerusalem to Paul and Barnabas.
The hand in Scripture is a symbol of power and control. To take by the hand is to show favor, to guide, to help, to protect. The right hand represents approval, acceptance, honor, blessing and intimacy.
Jesus, the well-beloved Son, is the Man of God's right hand, the Man made strong.
So the right hand of fellowship is a fitting symbol of the united strength and intimacy of our fellowship in Christ Jesus.
* * *
IN Gal. 6:2 we read—
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
This is the basic spirit of fellowship. In v. 6 we read—
"Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto—fellowship—him that teacheth in all good things."
Goodspeed translates this very bluntly and strikingly—
"Those who are taught the message must share all their goods with their teacher."
This seems to be roughly the sense, but it gives too shallow a picture.
It is another statement of the basic principle of fellowship—as we are introduced into the Body, we give up all personal exclusiveness, and all our powers and possessions are for the common good.
We can see the power by which the Truth first triumphantly spread through the Roman Empire, before its "first love"—divine, self-sacrificing zeal—burned out.
Each new believer dedicated himself and all that he had to the welfare of the Brotherhood and the furtherance of the Gospel. What marvels could be accomplished in and by any community wherein this devoted flame could be generally kindled!
Herein the children of this world are often wiser in their generation than the children of Light, for we see such organizations as the Jehovah's Witnesses rapidly building their power and influence by such a dedicated zeal, though a zeal without knowledge.
* * *
IN Eph. 5:11, Paul commands—
"Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness."
God is Light and Truth. All error is Darkness.
"That I may win Christ, and be found in him . that I may
know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the
fellowship of his sufferings"—Phil. 3:8-10
PAUL was very close to the brethren and sisters at Philippi. 'Fellowship' is the theme of his epistle to them. Six times the word occurs. Phil. 1:3-5—
"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now."
"I have you in my heart, inasmuch as in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel, ye all are partakers—fellowshippers—of my grace"
Paul had a strong and vivid sense of their everpresent spiritual fellowship, both of his sufferings, and in his work for the Truth. They shared the joy and the understanding of the infinite grace of God manifested through the instrumentality of Paul. This is fellowship.
* * *
IN Phil. 2:1-5, there is another beautiful delineation of true spiritual fellowship—
"If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions,
"Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, one mind.
"Let nothing he 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."
These are not just pleasant words—they are solemn, specific, divine commands—the narrow and only appointed way to life. We should read them daily, and gradually be transformed by their infinite divine beauty.
Unless we eagerly, longingly, desire to manifest these characteristics, unless we constantly examine ourselves in the light of them, seeking to bring every thought into obedience, we are not in fellowship with the Father. Yea, we do not even understand the meaning of fellowship.
In Phil. 3 Paul speaks freely and intimately of his yearnings toward Christ. How different this is from some other epistles! How personally he opens up his inner heart!
It is comforting that even Paul had no full, complete sense of accomplishment—
"I count not myself to have apprehended, but I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,
"I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ . . .
"That I may win Christ, and be found in him . . that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS."
The "fellowship of his sufferings." The Philippians were in their heart and spirit in the fellowship of Paul's sufferings, and they greatly comforted and strengthened him.
Do we know what the "fellowship of sufferings" is? Are we large-hearted and spiritually-minded enough to comprehend these things? To the natural man, all this is meaningless foolishness. We remember that Paul said—
"Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? (2 Cor. 11:29).
"To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
"And this I do for the Gospel's sake, that I might be a partaker—fellowshipper—thereof" (1 Cor. 9:23).
"If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it" (1 Cor. 12:26).
"He bath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53).
DO WE KNOW WHAT IT ALL MEANS'? Is our whole heart's desire like Paul's—to know the fellowship of his sufferings?
* * *
IN the last chapter, verses 14 and 15, he says—
"Ye have well done, that ye did communicate with—fellowship—my affliction."
"Ye Philippians know also that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated—fellowshipped—with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only."
The Philippians comprehended the true meaning of fellowship and fulfilled it in themselves, to the great joy and comfort of the apostle.
* * *
IN 1 Tim. 5:22, the negative aspect of fellowship again appears—
"Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker—fellowshipper—of other men's sins."
This is in harmony with the general principles the Scriptures lay down for separation in fellowship from that which is not in harmony with the Light.
* * *
IN Titus 1:4, Paul addresses this faithful helper as—
"Titus, mine own son in the common faith."
"Common" here is the same word as "fellowship," and is used in that sense—the faith in which we are united—the faith that makes us one.
* * *
IN the short personal letter to Philemon, the word occurs twice in significant ways, though obscured by translation. Paul, in his entreaty to Philemon, lays stress on the responsibility and intimacy of their mutual fellowship in God—
"That the communication—fellowship—of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus" (v. 6).
What does he mean? The sense is this: He is commending Philemon in verses 5 and 7 for his acts of love and goodness toward the brethren, and he here prays that this beautiful, practical manifestation of the fellowship of Philemon's faith may be effectual in bringing more people to a knowledge and acknowledging of the great goodness, and joy, and desirability, of the divine provision and relationship in Christ.
He is emphasizing the practical excellencies of this glorious spiritual communion, and praying for their diffusion through the example of Philemon.
He is strengthening and deepening Philemon's realization of the greatness of his duties and privileges in Christ Jesus. The same thought occurs in Jesus' words—
"Let your light so shine that men may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
The mutual joy and love and comfort and intimacy of God's people MUST be such as to attract the wonder and admiration of the world. Jesus said again—
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).
What cold, broken, smoky, useless lamps we are if we do not have among ourselves a glorious and manifest relationship of love infinitely exceeding anything the outside world knows!
In no better way could he assure Philemon's eager compliance than by reminding him of this great matter of divine fellowship and its heavenly fruits and purposes.
After gently laying his plea before Philemon, he comes back to this great theme (v 17)—
"If thou count me therefore a partner. . ."
"Partner" here is the same word—"fellowshipper." He is saying this—
If we are united in the greatest, most holy, most intimate, most beautiful of all possible relationships between mankind, centering in God Himself—then receive Onesimus as you would receive me—he is now one with us—as you receive him will be the measure of your affection for me.
The lesson is for us. THE TRUTH IS INFINITELY TOO BIG FOR ANY PETTINESS AMONG ITS MEMBERS. To be in any way cramped in the broad flow of our affection is to be small- and carnally-minded, and "to be carnally-minded is DEATH."
* * *
IN Heb. 2 the theme is the natural oneness of Christ with his brethren, and the basic essence of that oneness is their common mortal nature. Verse 14—
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same."
Rotherham, one of the most careful and discerning of the translators, renders this verse—
"Seeing therefore the children have received a FELLOWSHIP of blood and flesh, he also in like manner took partnership in the same."
In chapter 10 Paul reminds the Hebrew brethren of their earlier zeal and steadfastness in the face of great danger and suffering (verses 32-33)—
"Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of affliction.
"Partly whilst ye were made a spectacle both by reproaches and afflictions, and partly whilst ye became companions—fellowshippers—of them that were so used."
The Weymouth translation seems to make a little clearer the thought we wish to emphasize—
"Partly through allowing yourselves to be made a public spectacle amid reproaches and persecutions, and partly through coming forward to share—(that is, fellowship)—the sufferings of those who were thus treated."
"Ye took JOYFULLY the spoiling of your goods."
How much of this glorious conception of brotherhood and fellowship can we recapture in these easy, comfortable days? Has the way to the Kingdom been made any smoother or broader? Are we really facing the facts of our responsibilities to God, or are we just taking the easy way? Paul exhorts in Heb 13:16—
"To do good, and to communicate—to fellowship—forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
WHAT "sacrifices"? What sacrifices have we made and are we making to the great and glorious cause of fellowship? We have seen many of the aspects that fellowship meant to Jesus, the apostles, and the early believers. What comparable sacrifices have we laid upon the altar of our Faith?
* * *
PETER says (1 Pet. 4:13)—
"Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers—fellowshippers—of Christ's sufferings, that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
He had said at the beginning of the chapter—
"Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.
"That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God."
What is the connection of thought? What is the exhortation he is basing on Christ's suffering in the flesh? What is our fellowshipping of that suffering, that we may fellowship his glory?
It is first of all our STATE OF MIND. He says—
"Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind."
Arm yourself against what? Against the lusts—the desires—of the flesh—the things that appeal to the flesh. Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand the wiles of the devil—the desires of the flesh.
The mind of Christ was—
"I come to do THY will, O God" . . . "I do always those things that please Him."
His sufferings were that he might lead many sons to glory. The "fellowship of his suffering" is following in the pattern of self-denial, self-emptying, that he laid down.
The fellowship of his suffering is to walk always in the shadow of the cross—humbly, reverently, meekly, joyfully, fearfully—in constant remembrance—
"Do this in remembrance of me."
Does that mean our personal thoughts of him are to be called up but once a week? We are no friends of his, no disciples, no followers, if he is not always before us.
The fellowship of his sufferings should never leave us. It should mold our lives and color every act, every thought.
* * *
IT is Peter who carries the subject of fellowship to a glorious climax. He says—
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
"According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called as to glory and virtue.
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers—fellowshippers—of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Pet. 1:2-4).
"FELLOWSHIPPERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE"—if we have the wisdom to separate ourselves entirely from the corruption that is in the world through lust. "The whole world lieth in wickedness."
While keeping before us the glorious prospect that Peter presents, it is fitting that we close with a note of urgent warning. John says (2 John 9)—
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.
"If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.
"For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker—(fellowshipper: the same word we have traced all the way through)—of his evil deeds."
"If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth."
—G.V.Growcott, The Berean Christadelphian, August, September, and October 1962