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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Romans 15:29-32 – Fellowship

It is very clear that Paul loved fellowship. If there ever was a Christian who had the potential for being self-sufficient, it was Paul. He knew more theology than any, he had richer spiritual experiences than most, and he possessed more natural talents than most. Yet he wanted to be with believers even although they had not experienced what he had or did not know the same truths as well as he did. We see his desire for fellowship in verse 24 when he writes that he wanted to enjoy the company of the believers in Rome for a while. He expresses the same desire in verse 32 when he writes that he would be refreshed by them.
We are not to imagine that Paul assumed that fellowship would only occur if they or he did something for God while they were alone. He knew that true fellowship needed contributions from him and from them. There is no such thing as the fellowship of individualism, nor is there a fellowship of silence. But what are they to speak about in their times of fellowship? Paul gives us the answer in verse 29 when he refers to the fullness of the blessing of Christ. I assume that what he means by fullness is the riches of the gospel.
Fellowship is a mark of a spiritual church and of a healthy Christian and if believers are not engaged in it they are likely to be backsliding. We can see that is the case from the description of the church in Jerusalem following the Day of Pentecost. Luke lists the priorities of the church in Acts 2:42 and one of them is fellowship.
What can we say about fellowship? Here is a list of suggested aspects – fellowship is spiritual, scriptural, sharing, sensitive, searching, and sweet. It is spiritual because it is an activity of the Spirit in the lives of his people. The Spirit creates a bond between them and constantly works to stimulate the bond as they develop together. A Christian by definition loves being with other Christians because they have been made alive by the Spirit.
Fellowship is scriptural because the Spirit leads them to focus on the issues revealed in the Bible. If our fellowship is not based on the Bible, then there are no limits to the suggestions and claims that can be made, and often they are little more than imagination. Yet there are hundreds of matters in the Bible that can be the basis of fellowship.
Fellowship is sharing because it does not happen without open hearts and open mouths. Christians should have something to share from their use of the Bible or from a need that others should pray about or a choice that they have to make in providence. They can speak about the provision of spiritual comfort or their longing for a better world.
Fellowship is sensitive, not in the meaning of not disagreeing with one another, but in wanting others to benefit from what is shared – it is not about winning arguments, but about edification. We speak because we love other believers and because we want them to become more like Jesus.
Fellowship can be searching because if we see that others have attained to a certain understanding or enjoyed a degree of assurance we ask ourselves why we don’t have it and then take steps to have them for ourselves. Real fellowship motivates healthy Christians to search for more of Christ when they see that others enjoy being Christians.

And such fellowship is sweet because it pleases God to join them and he gives them his peace. Whenever Christians have fellowship, there is an invisible person present blessing each of them. The invisible person (God) takes the aroma of his home wherever he goes and spreads its fragrance in the lives of his people.

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