1 Corinthians 1:9 [God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.]
Humanity longs for fellowship: fellowship is defined as companionship, friendly association a mutual sharing, as of experience, activity and interest, a group of people with the same interests.
True Christian fellowship of necessity must include fellowship with God, fellowship with Christ and fellowship with others of like precious faith.
1 John 1:3 [That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.]
The Apostle John is our teacher and in this very epistle he was teaching what he and we appreciate as sound doctrine, a message necessary to be taught.
The object of the Apostle John in writing this epistle he clearly states, saying, “These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” (Verse 4)
The fact is that the vast majority of Christians never experience the fullness of joy and peace and blessing that they might possess.
Too many are content with simply deluded first principles of the doctrine of Christ; and are merely “babes in Christ.” The object of the apostles writings was to stir up the pure minds of believers to an appreciation and enjoyment of their privileges, so that they might grow and develop.
The apostle follows the example of our Lord Jesus in symbolizing truth and righteousness as light and sin and every evil way as so much opposing darkness. God himself thus considered would be the very perfection of light. 1 John 1:5 [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.]
With this thought before our mind, the Apostle points out any growth of fellowship with God to which we may aspire, must be along the lines of truth, goodness and purity. If this is not true we are merely deceiving ourselves and others but we are not deceiving God and are not getting the blessings of those who do “walk in the light.”
Moreover, to the extent that we walk in the light and in harmony and fellowship with God, we will find ourselves in fellowship with others who are like-minded.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Jesus spoke to his followers as he was leaving, “Ye are the light of the world; Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
On the other hand, Satan is called the “prince of darkness;” and his rule of unrighteousness is called “the kingdom of darkness”; and those subject to his influence are called “the children of darkness.” Evil works contrary to the Lord and righteousness are called works of darkness.
When our first parents sinned they forfeited fellowship with God, and because of disobedience become children of the adversary; and Jesus said to such in his day, “Ye are of your father, the devil, because his works ye do.” Thus our entire race came under the influence of the darkness of sin.
A night of sin, sorrow and death has followed for now over 6000 years. We have the promise of a glorious morning when Messiah shall reign, when “Satan shall be bound for a 1000 years” and when “the Son of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his beams.”
But the morning has not yet come and now we have it only by faith, by hope. Gods promises respecting that glorious morning are figuratively called “the light” and those same scriptures after telling us that darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the heathen tell us also that the bible is a light to the path of Gods people in the midst of all this darkness.
Psalm 119:105 [Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.] Saint Peter said, 2 Peter 1:19 [We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts]
At the present times, therefore, the masses of the world are deluded, enslaved and intoxicated by ignorance, superstition and the wiles of the adversary and are generally sympathetic with the darkness. They were born in darkness and are so accustomed to it that if brought immediately into the presence of the light they would be distressed.
The truth is there are not many light bearers in the world. Even thought the census reports hundreds of millions of Christians, the vast majority give no sign of ever having seen the true light, and many of those who did receive some light put it under a bushel, until it was extinguished.
Surely it is as true today as it was in Jesus day that a very small number of humanity have the true light of the Gospel of God, the holy spirit illuminating their minds and hearts, and who set this light upon a candlestick that it might give light in the midst of darkness.
It the responsibility of all who have received the light to become light bearers. They represent the Lord in this dark world; they represent the justice, wisdom, love and power of God.
These light-bearers are not able to let all of this glorious light so shine before men as to scatter the gross darkness of the present time but they are able to glorify the Lord and can to a certain degree shed enough light to bring in a sort of twilight at least to a few. Obligation to do this is laid upon all of us.
We are not expected to convert the world, but as the Lords ambassadors we are to search for listening ears and to serve the household of faith. But while we should ever seek and cultivate such fellowship, we need to be very careful to see that our fellowship one with another is based upon correct principles. Let us see to it that our fellowship is based upon the sure foundation, the blood of Jesus Christ, and that our rejoicing and commission before of the increasing light as we walk together.
In 2 Corinthians 6:14,15 the Apostle Paul adds his advise: [Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?]
How can two walk together except they be agreed? It is impossible. Let us then see to it, that our fellowship be based on the truth, upon the ransom sacrifice of our Lord and Savior.
The great privilege we enjoy is our Christian fellowship, walking together in the light with others of like precious faith.
The truth is all clear and plain in Gods’ sight, and He by His Spirit, through his Word, will lead all of His children into the light, the truth, in this due season, if they are in actual fellowship with Him. The Apostle John states this very emphatically, saying in 1 John 1:6 [If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:]
There are some brethren who would believe the Apostle is too severe; they say I know many very good Christians who say they are entirely consecrated to God, and only want to know and do His will, and truly they do many wonderful works, and yet they walk in darkness, knowing nothing of the blessed truths now made so plain to us. And not only so, but they refuse to hear it and do not want it. Yet they claim to have fellowship with God: How can this be? John’s answer is very plain and may seem to many, severe, yet we apprehend it is the severity of truth. He says, “they lie and do not the truth.” They don’t want to know it, because they don’t want to do it.
There are conditions laid down in this matter of Christian Fellowship. No one has fellowship with the Lord unless he comes into covenant relationship with Him. There is only one way of getting into relationship with God, only one way, and that is by accepting His terms and coming into His family.
As Christians there is only one way we have any standing before God at the present time. We can be counted as being righteous by what we believe. We can be justified by our faith in God, in Jesus and in his precious promises. We are reckoned as being perfect and as long as we continue to believe, for that long we continue to be part of Gods family.
Faith is the test now, just as works will be the test during the next age. Ephesians 2:8 [For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:]
After we begin to exercise this quality of mind that enables us to have faith it is God who leads us on this way of faith and gives us the trials and testings and the instructions and the encouragements and all the experiences to draw out our faith and give us more faith, and more faith.
Do you have more faith now than when you began? Yes. Where did you get it? Was it because you simply decided to have more faith? no, you were in the school of Christ and the great teacher appointed by the Father was instructing you and giving you lessons that developed you in faith.
You grew in faith as you grew in grace and that is what the apostle is saying. He says Ephesians 2:8,9 [For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.]
We do indeed, see other blessings held out for the world by and bye, but they are not available for them now. God’s Word tells us that in the next age He has wonderful blessings of restitution for the human family, a doing away with the curse and a bringing of the blessings He has promised to man but this is all future, no one can now enter into these restitution blessings.
There are many Christians who like Abraham are believers and are justified by faith. They have a standing before God and their prayers are heard. I believe God hears the prayers of everyone who comes to Him by faith and in the name of Jesus.
I believe God hears the prayers of all children. Can you imagine how many “now I lay me down to sleep.” prayers the Lord has heard? Can you imagine how many He has answered? I believe that years before I came into any knowledge of the truth, the Lord took notice of my prayers and later answered me, otherwise I would still be in darkness.
God speaks to His children through His Word, and He is acquainted with all our circumstances and of course He hears our prayers, but it is a great mistake to imagine that we have communion and fellowship with God when we only speak to Him in prayer and never examine the Word to hear Him speak to us.
No one can thus commune with God without becoming acquainted in some measure with His truth, and if they are in harmony and fellowship with Him, His plans and His purposes will become theirs.
The test of Christian fellowship is to be united to Christ by faith and consecration; not without a real consecration, nor without true faith.
While the meaning of a full consecration of thought, word and deed seems to be readily understood, some question what is the true faith necessary to be a Christian The faith at first delivered unto the saints by our Lord and his apostles.
The true faith is knowing and believing in our hearts the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith is believing that all were sinners, justly under Gods’ condemnation to death the fall; that according to Gods Word in 1 Corinthians 15:3,4 [For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:] “Christ Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures” and he was rained from the dead by the Father, who thus agave assurance to all that Christs sin offering on our behalf was complete and fully satisfactory, therefore any of Adams race who are sick of sin and desirous of harmony with God can be justified and return to His love, favor and blessing.
Romans 5:18 [Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.]
Whoever holds this simple faith is a believer, a member of the household of faith. This is the basic of our hope: this is the way to salvation, a way we could never find ourselves, but which God laid out for us while we were yet sinners. Christ died for us, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. 1 Corinthians 3:11 [Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.] Romans 5:8 [But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.] 1 Peter 3:18 [For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:]
Realizing ourselves as sinners under condemnation to death and that we may have peace with God and be justified to life by appropriating to ourselves the merits of Jesus sacrifice, we gladly accept Jesus as our redeemer. Ephesians 1:7 [In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;]
Being thus justified by faith we have peace with God. Then realizing further that those who are thus redeemed should not live the remainder of their lives to themselves and their own pleasure, but to him, who died for us, we consecrate ourselves to his service, to the best of our ability. 2 Corinthians 5:14,15 [For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.]
Build upon this foundation of justication and consecration we are admonished by the Apostle 2 Peter 1:5-8 [And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.]
This was the faith of the early church; and this is the faith of all who acceptably bear the name of Christ; and such only are properly named Christian.
As is true today, there were some members of the early Church who were more advanced in their studies and development than the “babes in Christ.” But those “who by reason of use, had their senses exercised” “as well as the babes were together one family,” “all in Christ Jesus” 1 Corinthians 3:1 [And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.] Hebrews 5:14 [But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.] Galations 3:28 [There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.]
They were not to leave these principles of justification by faith and consecration to do Gods’ will by displacing them by other theories, but by adding to them as the scriptures explained.
The more advanced in grace and doctrine bare the infirmities of the weak, each and all seeking to grow more and more in grace and knowledge. Where the brethren observed this rule, there could be no divisions among.
Divisions were objected to the one true church and all the apostles taught there is one Lord, one faith and one baptism. There is one fold and one Sheperd.
Christians are a separated class, separate from the world, separate from sinners, separate from all others in that they accept salvation through the redeeming blood of Christ. As fellow pilgrims they sympathize, cooperate and fellowship with one another, not by force but merely with love and common interest.
The doctrine of the ransom serves to guard each one thus in Christ against all professing Christs name but denying or ignoring this fundamental part of his work. The Lords people should except the apostles words and should have no fellowship with the works of darkness.
Ephesians 5:10,1 [Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.]
It is not surprising or remarkable that Satan should seek to divide and separate the sheep, and to put up fences, such as some of the denominational creeds prove to be, which would hinder some of the sheep from following the Shepherd into green pastures of fresh and living truth.
But it is strange that Satan is able to confuse the reasoning of so many, that they should think it proper to say, I am of Luther, a Lutheran; I am of Calvin or Knox, a Presbyterian; I am of Wesley, a Methodist or by another other name than Christ.
The Apostle Paul on the contrary, said to some in his day, who was in danger of this spirit of sectarianism: while you saith, “I am of Paul, and I of Apollos and I of Peter, are they not all men? Is Christ divided?”
Did Paul or Peter or Knox or Calvin or Wesley or anyone else that Jesus Christ die for your sins and redeem you? These men as servants of Christ should be recognized for their works sake but to name the Lords people by any other name but his is wrong.
It would seem that all would understand that in Gods sight there is but one church and that God cannot and does not sympathize with or recognize the narrow creeds in which so many of the sheep are still confined and starving. God has placed one fence around His fold. Inside of it there is plenty of room for both the lambs and the fully matured sheep.
The separation of the Lords people is well illustrated in a parable of false sheep folds in John 10:6-16 [This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. 7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. ]. Picture in your mind a fine large green pasture, surrounded by a strong and high fence (the Law of God) which keeps all the sheep within, but which recognizes no way into that fold (the justified condition) except through Christ.
John 10:7,8 “Then Jesus said unto them again, verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.” Faith in Jesus sacrifice is the only way into the fold. All climbing into the fold by any other way are thieves and robbers.
This fold is the pasture provided by the Good Shepherd for his sheep, for whom he laid down his life. John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd: The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
Into the true fold of Christ quite a flock of sheep have entered. They belong to the true shepherd; but as we look before us at the grassy slopes of the true fold, only a few sheep, a little flock indeed, seem to be enjoying the liberty of the fold, and the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free. We believe great numbers have over the years entered the fold by the front gate. Where are they?
We look and inside the door, on either side of the pathway that leads into the true fold we see there are pens. A whole series of enclosures built against the inside of the wall. Over each pen is written a peculiar name, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Adventist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran etc. etc. etc.
There pens are all built differently. Some are like prisons with iron frames and bars and chains, others are less strong, and some are merely marked out of lines over which the sheep understand they must not cross.
The Catholic pen was the first constructed, it was big, well built and a thousand years older than the later pens. The walls, bars and chains are false doctrines, mostly make believe stories, not founded on the Holy Scriptures but made up of borrowed from the heathen. The Protestant pens while claiming to protest the Catholic doctrines are very much like them.
These pens are full of sheep, but they are weak, delicate and sickly for lack of proper exercise and fresh nourishing food. They are regularly fed (every Sunday sermon) but only upon husks, with occasionally a little milk, but they eat without relish and get very little good from it. Many of the sheep are leaner and poorer than when they first entered the fold and some have become blind, (they are spiritually blind, they need eyes to see and ears to hear.)
Strange to say most of the sheep in the pens seem to be perfectly satisfied, each in his own pen, and very seldom does one try to escape. They do move from pen to pen sometimes. Marriage is one reason they sometimes cross over. Business, new friends and moving to a new location are also factors as to where they are penned.
We also notice that under shepherds had been appointed to help pasture the sheep and they were the ones who had constructed these pens but, apparently this was done without the chief shepherds permission. These were unfaithful shepherds, fallen members of the true church who didn’t wait for Jesus 2nd advent, but set up and continue to operate Christs church without him, stealing the flock of Jesus.
Perplexed to know why the sheep thus submitted to be penned, we watched to see how they were induced to enter the various enclosures. As they entered the fold through the only door (faith in Christ) each under shepherd tried to impress upon them, as they passed, the necessity of getting into one of the many pens, and the desirability of the particular pen which he represented.
As a consequence, nearly all the sheep got penned, for they trusted the under shepherds and followed the majority. For this reason only a few sheep passed on to enjoy the liberty of the fold. The under shepherds sought continually to impress upon the sheep in their pen that the free sheep enjoying the grassy fold were heretics and in route to destruction. Great evangelists like Billy Graham bring the sheep to Christ, the door and then abandon them in the under shepherds, the clergy, who then lead the sheep into the pens.
Watching to see how this matter will end, we hear that the chief Shepherd is expected to return and we know his coming will soon demonstrate whether he approves this dividing and imprisoning of his flock. (At our Lords’ 2nd advent the harvest truth began to be preached, beginning with the Object, Manner and Time of his presence.)
Nearly all the under shepherds claimed that it would be a very long time until he would come again. (They had never heard or never believed the Elijah class, just as the Pharisees refused the testimony of John the Baptist at Jesus 1st advent.)
Then we hear the sound of great rejoicing coming from the free sheep, the chief shepherd has returned quietly and unobserved (as a thief in the night) and is recognized by some of the sheep this is the reason for the great rejoicing.
Even some of those imprisoned heard the true shepherds voice they looked and listened, yet could hardly believe. It was indeed the voice of the shepherd as he tended and ordered his flock. His true sheep seemed to hear his voice condemning the penning process and saying to his sheep “come out.”
“Come out of her my people.”, this reveals that there were many, many Christian believers in the church systems when our Lord returned, the faithful were waiting and rejoiced when they began to hear the harvest truths. The Song of Moses, Restitution and the High Calling, the Song of the Lamb.
Some of the sheep jumped the fences and gained liberty and food from the Shepherds hand, while others were so weak and faint for lack of nourishment that they trembled with anticipation, but did not come out for any number of reasons; they didn’t want to leave friends and family, it could be bad for business, or they were comfortable there: but the most compelling reason they stayed was “because they received not the love of the truth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10,11 [And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:]
Then, outside the pens some of the free sheep began to bring green grass and fresh clean water to the bars of the pens (to the church doors) thus nourishing the weak ones until they were strong enough to leap their fences.
1 Peter 5:2 [Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;] How? Brother Jolly said, how can you help them if you won’t talk to them.” Speak to listening ears, give out tracts and booklets, the Bible Standard and of course we now have the internet to spread the good news.
All this activity by the free sheep to come to the aid of the sheep in the pens alarmed the under-shepherds and they redoubled their vigilance, and by varying policies sought to keep control of those they considered to be their flocks.
They have denounced and scoffed at the flock that is free and with renewed determination they have continued their efforts to maintain the offices they have usurped.
They will fellowship with us only if we are willing to compromise the truth we are always welcome in the churches until they find out what we believe.
In the finished picture the outcome is complete, the unfaithful under shepherds are exposed, the prison pens all destroyed, the fold used as designed, the flock one, its name one and its head the true shepherd who gave his life for his sheep, Our Lord Christ Jesus.
During the great time of trouble, now already upon us, the great ecclesiastical system will fail. All false teaching will be exposed as error and all truly belonging Christ will be seeking the truth. Some may remember our fellowship with them, others will be seeking fellowship. We must be ready to help them.
1 Corinthians 1:9 [God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.] who asks us to , “Feed my Sheep.”