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Fellowship With Christ

1 Corinthians 10:16- The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

Every first day of the week we come together to partake of the Lord’s Supper. This meal is used as a memorial of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and helps us to remember what He did for us. However, it is so much more than that. To the faithful child of God, it also is a symbol and declaration of our unity to Him. Even then there is more to it and many Christians fail to recognize or do not realize at all what our communion here symbolizes. Today, we are going to look at two aspects of the Lord’s Supper that are just as important as remembering Christ’s death.

  1. It symbolizes a deep relationship: Christ in coming to this earth and dying for us was the greatest sacrifice ever made in history. In doing so He not only redeemed us but also established something truly wonderful. Now, we can have a deep and meaningful relationship with God without the weight of sin sitting on our shoulders. While yes there still needs to be a fear of God and obedience to His will, we may call Him “Abba Father.” Not only that but Christ, who sits at the Father’s right hand, is our elder brother. This communion is a declaration of that closeness and should bring us great joy in the partaking.
  2. It symbolizes our absolute loyalty to God: Again, this is something that many Christians, even if they understand it, overlook. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we say that we are His and wholly dedicated to His cause. This also means that we cannot be living in any sort of sin. In 1 Corinthians 10:21, Paul makes the statement “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.” What does this mean? It means that we cannot have one foot in each door. We have to be wholly God’s or wholly Satan’s. If we try, then we are partaking “in an unworthy manner” and are “guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:27). That does not sound like a situation we want to be in.

So as we partake, yes let us think back to the sacrifice of God but also remember what it means to us. We must not forget our relationship or our death to sin. Without them, we are just as lost as before.

What is Fellowship

1 Corinthians 1:9- God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The term fellowship is thrown around often in the religious community. Many use it in a social respect. Others use it simply as a means to promote unity, often in the wrong way. Unfortunately, what the Bible means by fellowship has been forgotten or if not its meaning, its nature. What we will be looking at in this article are the different things Christians have fellowship in and by doing so see what type of fellowship we have.

  1. The meaning of fellowship: Before we dive into what Christians have fellowship in, we need to know the definition of the word. In its most basic sense, fellowship is defined as sharing or participating in something. So yes there is a type of social fellowship. In fact, the Greek word used (koinonia) is used to describe a business partnership between Peter, Andrew, James and John (Luke 5:10). But what is it that Christians share or participate in?
  2. Fellowship in Christ: This is basic Christian principles. We all share in our love for Christ and in the fact He died for all of us. We all share in His blood and participate in the works He has given us to do. This fellowship is so strong it even connects us with those who have gone on before. Also, God is constantly calling us into this fellowship (1 Corinthians 1:9). It is not something that is difficult to gain or kept from us but one that can easily be found and is given.
  3. Fellowship in the gospel: How do we have fellowship in the gospel? Well, to put it simply, we all believe in what it says, its power and love for it. Not only that, but we participate in its spreading. We are all workers with the same goal and the same doctrine (Philippians 1:5). Another way we have fellowship here is in our obedience to it. With this, our relationship and fellowship with Christ is strengthened as well as our love for each other.
  4. Fellowship in suffering: Many would see this and shrink away from this fellowship. However, it is more a blessing than we realize. While suffering together, we can have the support we need but more importantly we suffer with Christ (Philippians 3:10). In doing so we become more like Him and become stronger spiritually. This does not mean that God wants us to suffer, but He knows that in so doing we become better as a result.
  5. Fellowship in the light: By walking in the light, we have fellowship with one another and with God (1 John 1:1-7). It is this that binds us and we must stay in this light to have fellowship with God. If we turn back to the darkness, we lose that closeness with Him and cannot reap the benefits of this fellowship.
  6. Fellowship in the Lord’s Supper: Most Christians are aware that there is a fellowship here. In partaking, we “participate in the blood and body of Jesus” (1 Corinthians 10:16). We together share in our remembrance of His death. We together declare in our partaking the allegiance we have to Christ. We together reap the benefits of His sacrifice. It is the greatest fellowship we could ever have and it is boggling how any could neglect this declaration of fellowship, not only with our fellow Christians but with Jesus as well

I hope now that we have an understanding of what biblical fellowship is. It is much more than just a social gathering and spending time together. That is not to say those times are not needed, but in regard to Christian fellowship it is something else. I hope we see that its nature was spiritual and not physical. It is these types of fellowship that we need to improve and grow in and what will ultimately get us to heaven.

The Authority of Elders

1 Peter 5:2- shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly

As the leaders of congregations, elders have many duties. First off, they are responsible for the teaching of the flock. This means not only must they take an active role in teaching but that they keep an eye on what is being taught. It is they who protect the flock, fighting false doctrine whenever it rears its ugly head and addressing any sin within the congregation. Finally, they are to care the members, putting their needs above their own and serving them dutifully and faithfully. This demands that they know their members well and to love them enough to sometimes put up with difficult people.

Though we only listed three duties, they have a wide range of applications that can be both difficult and time consuming. However, there are those who wish go beyond their God-given duties and add more than is allowed. This begs the question on where the authority of elders ends. Before any man becomes an elder, he must know the answer to this question and have the humility to not go beyond God’s boundaries.

First off, he is not to go beyond God’s word. This goes without saying but there are many who fail to understand this. The authority goes to their heads and they believe that they can do as they please. In situations where this happens, the congregation accepts false teachings and as such the congregation is hurt as a whole. Their overall relationship with God is destroyed.

Second, he is only in charge of the congregation he is an elder of. As seen in our main passage, 1 Peter 5:2, the apostle tells the elders to shepherd their flock. Though this responsibility is daunting in and of itself, there are those who desire to go beyond this. They wish to see the elders of one congregation oversee the work of many and in essence “sponsor” them. For many, the original intention is good but regardless it does more harm than they realize. It falls under the first category we mentioned and tarnishes not only their relationship with God but also those of other congregations as well.

Lastly, he is not in it for himself. The author has not heard of many cases of this but there are men who become elders desiring the power and prestige it can bring. In these cases, they use their position to achieve their own desires and the good of the congregation comes second. These men have missed the point of being elders. They are there not only to serve God but also the congregation. Their goal must be to see their group grow spiritually and without this desire they will not be effective leaders.

The job of an elder is not always easy but as Paul says in 1 Timothy 3, it is a good and necessary work. Though we did not cover them here, the qualifications alone are hard to live up to and then the work itself is not easy. However, all men should desire to fit the standard if not have the position itself. Those that do strive to become elders must understand these qualifications and exactly what the job entails before making this decision. One final note though is that elders do not become them of their own initiative but are appointed by others. Though this is the case, the choice to accept is still the man’s and he must understand it thoroughly. Let us all take time to study every aspect of God’s word, including this.

Biblical Authority

Hebrews 7:14- For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

Authority is a concept many do not completely understand. In the case of jobs, most employees know that they can do nothing without their boss’s approval. When we have positions of authority we want our orders to be carried out exactly as we directed. However, when it comes to the Bible, many do not see the necessity of following it as directed. They pick and choose what God would want them to do and leave out the points they do not like. This is not how things should be. God is not some lenient, weak being who lets anything go. He has a way He wants things to be done and is not happy when they are not followed. Even if we understand this, the question comes of how to establish authority. In this article we will briefly cover them.

  1. Express command: This is the one everyone understands. When God commands that something be done, it is that and nothing else. The Bible is full of instances where God commanded that something be done. However, even then men still did not follow the command. The most famous example is Adam and Eve in the garden. God told them not to eat of the tree and they failed. We see that God did not just let them off the hook because they were deceived but instead He punished them. Then there is Nadab and Abihu. The Lord had told them a specific fire they were to use and when they used something different, they were killed. Lastly, look at the young prophet. He was told not to eat or drink until he returned home. However, he did it anyway, believing that God had changed His mind. Did God go easy on him for it? No, a lion met him on the way and killed him. God takes His command’s seriously, no matter how “minor” the command may be.
  2. Apostolic example: Many will say the only thing we can bind is express command. However, let’s think of this in a secular sense for a minute. When we do not know how to do something, or not sure how those in authority want it done, how do we learn? We need someone to show us. God does the same. We as imperfect humans can get many things confused, even commands. To counter this, God has shown us many examples of how we are to behave and how to worship. We see the first century Christians meet on Sunday, partake of the Lord’s Supper on that day and have many examples of how we should behave. This is just as good as command.
  3. Necessary inference: The final way to determine authority is by necessary inference or conclusion. God is not always specific with commands and even with the examples we are given. In these moments we have to think things through and reason what God has authorized. Some might see this and say there is no way to know exactly what God meant in some places but in each one of them God worded things in such a way we can only come to one conclusion. For example, we are told to meet. This means that we need a place to do so and a way to have it. We are told to sing. This authorizes books, a way to keep the tune and pitch pipes. These are just two examples but God has always made it easy for us.

These are the ways we determine authority. However, as is the case with all things Biblical, men do not always listen. Many believe that if God did not forbid something, then it is okay. As the passage above states, if God did not condone an act, we have no right to ourselves. God’s authority is what matters and nothing else.

Oh To Be A Teacher

James 3:1- Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Becoming a teacher of God’s word is a wonderful ambition. God desires that all Christians know and understand His word so well that in every moment they are ready to teach. It is a good work with great rewards at the end. However, it is one that comes with some very serious responsibilities.

As James warns in the third chapter of his book, we will be judged with greater strictness. This is a two-fold warning. First off, the world will judge us more harshly. We will live in a fish bowl and all our actions will be nick-picked and monitored night and day. As people who proclaim God’s word, we are doubly expected to live it ourselves. If we fail in this regard, our opponents will quickly snatch this up and we will lose our influence and our ability to reach souls will be lost.

Second, I believe God Himself will expect more from us. While the standard by which we are judged does not change, the fact that we are taking other people’s souls into our hands. Teachers are responsible for how a person perceives and understands God. If we fail, especially when we do it knowingly, God will hold us responsible for the loss of that soul.

James 3 brings out these two warnings, but there is one more that every prospecting teacher needs to be aware of. As mentioned above we are in the spotlight much more often then other Christians. We are often the ones who make a vocal stand against sin and those who practice it. When the world sees this, they will retaliate, often in a harsh and harmful way. In these moments, we may be alone in a physical sense. Men will not always be by our side and we have to face the dangers of the world alone. If we cannot handle such a scenario, we have no business being a Christian, let alone a teacher of God’s word.

These are the top three warnings every man of God needs to take into consideration when thinking about teaching. We can be a great influence for the gospel or we can wind up hindering its work. If we cannot live the life of a Christian, we have no business being a teacher and if we are like the stony ground and buckle under persecution it is not the life for us. However, if despite this we still desire to be teachers then by all means go for it, the Lord needs you. As a final word of encouragement, remember that God will be with you, wherever you go!

The Reason for Giving

2 Corinthians 9:7

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Money is a useful thing. Without it we would have a harder time surviving in this world. We would have to hunt for our food and drink, build our own shelters and all of the pleasures we enjoy in this life would be gone. Needless to say we enjoy our money. However, how many of us realize it is a gift from God? In 1 Timothy 6:17, Paul tells Timothy that God gives us all things to enjoy. This would include our money. So many people in the world, Christians included, view everything in their possession to be theirs. They worked for it and earned it so therefore it belongs to them. We forget that God created literally everything and since that is true then all things belong to Him. What we have was given to us by God to look after and use for a specific purpose. We are nothing but stewards and what we have we need to use as God, the true owner, directs.

This is no truer than with money. There are so many ways that we can misuse wealth and our pursuit of it can cause us to lose sight of the true goal. God, in all His wisdom knew we would struggle with the temptations money brings and gave us guide lines in how to use it. One of the first uses that comes to mind is of course giving to the poor and many Christians emphasize this use. However, one that we often over look and are reluctant to do is giving back to the Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 16 as well as 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul deals with this topic. God has prospered us so we can survive in this world and the church has its own needs that have to be met somehow. We as the members of the church should be willing to give of ourselves so that the work we have dedicated ourselves to can prosper. However, many just see giving as something we do on Sunday and do not know the reasons why we give. In this article we will address a few of the reasons why we do.

  1. We give so the work of God may continue: As has already been stated, the church while on earth has a work that needs doing. As with everything else here, it requires money to do it. Without money we could not provide study material as easily, be able to fund preaching trips and it would be harder to find a place to meet. Also, let us not forget that preachers need to make a living somehow and their funds come also from the church treasury (1 Corinthians 9:1-14). Without funds being offered, it would at the very least be harder for the church to function the way it should.
  2. We give so needy saints may be cared for: Many want to see the church’s treasury as a means to help all the needy regardless if they are Christians or not. While this is indeed a good work that many Christians, the author included, could improve on, it is not a proper use of the Lord’s treasury. The church is not here to provide for the physical needs of the world but the spiritual. However, this does not mean that the church’s funds do not help those in need but those individuals are Christians. In every example we see in scripture (Acts 4:32-37; 6:1-7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8, 9; 1 Timothy 5:3-16) the money was sent to needy saints and in the passage in 1 Timothy 5, we see some qualifications to receive the money. The Lord’s money is not to be handed out to whoever comes and asks for it.
  3. We give to show our devotion: God loves a cheerful giver and what better person to give our money to than Him. As God gives us all things, He also wants us to give to Him. If we hoard our money and only give a bare minimum back to God, what does that show about ourselves. It reveals that we love our money more than we love God. When we really think about it, we are stealing from God, keeping back from Him what He truly deserves. It is true that God does not give us an exact amount to give but we need to examine ourselves and see if what we are giving is truly the best we can do.

Giving is indeed a commandment from God. He expects it from us and we as Christians should not only be willing to but want to. We said earlier that God does not give a particular amount we need to give but if we hold back when we could give more, what is our motivation in doing so? This does not mean that we have to give half our paycheck every week and in fact we do need to be careful that our motivation to give much is not to be seen by men, but we still need to ask ourselves if we could be giving more. Whatever the case, let us never be reluctant to give anything to God, great or small.

Keep Your Priorities Straight

Luke 12:20- But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’

We all like riches. It would not be a stretch I think to say that some love them. People all over the world seek to attain wealth for a number of reasons. The two that first come to mind are the possessions we can build up and security for our future. Did you notice something about these two perks? They are selfish. Most who attain wealth, even if they did not start out that way, wind up becoming very self centered. Not only that, but we forget one very important thing, our need for God.

Riches, though not wrong in and of themselves, can be a dangerous possession for the Christian. Jesus said in Mark 10:25 that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven”. Why is that? It is because riches can lead us to do terrible things. In 1 Timothy 6:10, Paul warns Timothy that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” If a person loves money, he will do whatever he can to get it. Look at Achan in Joshua 7. Due to his love of money he stole what rightly belonged to God, causing all Israel to suffer as a result. It led to his own death as well as his family’s. Let us also not forget Judas. He desired money so much he not only stole from the money bag (John 12:6), but he betrayed Jesus for just 30 pieces of silver. At the realization of the latter, it led him to kill himself. Money can lead us down a dark path we never wanted to go down in the first place.

As mentioned above, riches also cause us to forget God. Nebuchadnezzar is the first that comes to my mind here. In Daniel 4:28-33, the king of Babylon bragged about how he had achieved his great empire, insinuating that he had need no help in doing it. He had forgotten God. Of course God punished him for it and Nebuchadnezzar learned his place. We must remember that what we have is a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 2:4).

Many who are rich also reject God. Going back to Mark 10, the rich young ruler came to Jesus seeking eternal life. From his youth he had kept the law and was eager to know what else was needed. However, when Jesus told him to sell what he had and give to the poor he went away sorrowful. As far as we know, he never came back to the Lord but clung to his possessions. Many are that way today. Though they could be great help to the cause of Christ, the fear of either losing their possessions or the reluctance to stop their sinful practices to attain wealth keeps them back. Remember, God is more important than riches.

It is not just God that our money takes us from but also our friends. If we focus so much on work that we don’t have time for others, we lose all the friends who mean anything (Ecclesiastes 4:7, 8). Even if we have friends, the majority of them are “fair weather” friends. As long as we have money, they stay with us but once things get hard, they turn their backs on us. A true friend who loves us is more valuable than all the riches this world has to offer.

One final shortcoming of riches is their temporary nature. None of us are guaranteed to have our money and possessions the next day. Money shows no loyalty and goes from one person to the next and there are those that forcefully take it from us. We need to remember the eternal nature of God and that He is always near us. He never forsakes us even in our darkest hours and even delivers us from them. Why put our faith and give our love to something that feels nothing and cares for nothing when there is someone much more powerful that gives us everything, including wealth, and actually cares for us?

As Christians, we must keep our priorities in the proper place. Yes, money has its uses and it is not wrong to have it but in comparison to God and even the love of other people, money means nothing. It is temporary and fleeting. Let us all strive to put God first and give Him thanks for the blessings we do have.

An Unshakable Hope

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

There is only one thing that can get us through the difficult times. Something that people all throughout time have clung to and that kept them going. It is something that brings only happiness if it is met. Of course I mean hope. When we are torn down and emotionally beaten, hope can renew in us the will to go on. It reminds us that things can get better. With hope, we persevere through the hard times and do what we can to make our situations the way we want them.

For the Christian, this is doubly true. While here on this earth, the Christian suffers things of the flesh as well as the mind. During our whole sojourn we are surrounded by those who want to see us succumb to despair and fall from our faith. It is a bleak existence we live. However, hope is what gets us through it. In fact, while hope is something that all men everywhere feel, the Christian’s hope has certain qualities about it that make it so much better.

First off, we serve a God of hope (Romans 15:13). He does not leave his people on this earth to suffer needlessly but provides the hope to strengthen them. He makes promises that are so wondrous that it makes suffering worthwhile. Our treasures will not be destroyed (Matthew 6:20), we have been freed from sin (Romans 8:2), salvation is a free gift to all (Ephesians 2:8) and we could go on with the things God has promised. This is what Paul strove for and what allowed him to be joyous despite his sufferings.

This hope is not a false hope either. God has always kept His promises all throughout time. All three of the promises given to Abraham came to pass, the Israelites conquered the land, David became king and so on and so forth. If He was willing to keep these physical promises, how much more so would He keep the spiritual ones.

However, in order for the hope to be fulfilled, we must trust in what God has said. We cannot live a life that does not follow God’s commandments or is afraid to stand up for what is right. If that is our attitude, all of these things we hope for will not be ours. Remember Matthew 7:21-23. Not every person who believes themselves to be Christians will obtain heaven but only those who do the will of the Father. We must allow this hope to fuel us and keep us on the straight and narrow path, doing as God would have us to do.

The Unstoppable Man

Romans 8:31-
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Fear is the worst emotion for a Christian to have. Because of fear, we either do those things we should not or fail to do what we must. A fearful man becomes angry, a fearful man kills needlessly, a fearful man runs from responsibility and is a reproach upon himself. However, many will overlook the sin of cowardice. We justify it within ourselves and often “coddle” others who struggle with it. What the Christian forgets in these instances is what God truly thinks of the coward. In Revelation 21:8, what is the very first sin mentioned in the list? It is cowardice. God has no use for a coward in His kingdom. Those who shirk from duty and hide from the world instead of standing for what is right will be cast into hell with the liars, murderers and sexually immoral.

This does not mean that fear does not have its proper place. There are things we should fear, such as sin and the spiritual harm of others. In fact, it is perfectly natural to have the fear of facing death, even if it is for God. However, it is when we allow that fear to control us that we fail to do what we must is when it becomes sinful. We must take courage and face whatever we fear with complete confidence in God. However, we do not do this without any assurance. God has given us many reasons to take courage and do the work He has called us to do.

  1. God is for us: If we stay true to God and fully submit ourselves to Him, He will stand with us. Our introductory passage in Romans reminds us that if God is for us, nothing can stand against us. The greatest proof of that is found in the book of Joshua. As the children of Israel conquered the land, they faced many people mightier than they. However, we see that they defeated everyone that they faced. The only time they lost was because they had sinned and God had left them. We can have this same confidence today. God is truly all powerful and the devices of man and Satan can do nothing to permanently harm the child of God.
  2. They can only kill the body: Jesus addressed this very thing during His ministry. In Matthew 10:28, he tells us to not fear the one who can kill the body but not the soul. What we must take from this is that even if death is our earthly reward for serving Christ, our soul will be taken care of. The Christians of the 1st century realized this. Stephan when he was stoned with his dying breath asked God to forgive his murderers (Acts 7:60). Paul at the end of his life faced death courageously (2 Timothy 4:6-8). A Christian has nothing to fear from death.
  3. The reward is great: In Matthew 5, Jesus again encourages His listeners by promising a reward to those who suffer. Again in 2 Timothy 4, Paul was looking to the reward that comes after death. Peter and James each made remarks in this regard as well (1 Peter 4:12-19; James 1:12). The Bible permeates with the promise of a reward for the faithful. However, the only way to achieve it is to live a life faithful to Him and to leave the physical world. We must remember that the reward is not physical but spiritual and worth more than anything this world has to offer.

So we see that the Christian has nothing to fear. For these three reasons alone we should stand firm in our faith. With God on our side we can do anything, as long as it is in accordance with His will. We are truly unstoppable and nothing but our own fear and selfishness can change that. Let all Christians who read this gain the strength and courage to do as God would have them to.