When many of us think of “fellowship”, we envision what happened in millions of American homes last Sunday—things such as Super Bowl parties. Food, friends, fun. And to be honest, that is a sort of fellowship—a friendly relationship centered around some common interest. But the Bible points to an obstacle that makes fellowship with God impossible: all human beings are described in this passage as “sinful”, “wicked” and “dark”. God does not share any of those qualities—he is holy, righteous, and good (Isaiah 59:2 & 2 Corinthians 6:14). In this way, God and mankind do not share a “defining feature of primary importance”, so fellowship with God is absolutely impossible for sinful humans. When Isaiah encountered God, he said that he was toast because he knew that he and all people are sinful (Isaiah 6:1-5). Since fellowship is a close mutual association based on things shared in common, we’re cut off from any possibility of fellowship with God. We cannot make ourselves clean, and God certainly would not make himself sinful and filthy. Or would he? God created a basis for fellowship by sharing in our sin —and destroying it by nailing it to the cross—so that we could share in his holiness! (2 Corinthians 5:21 & Isaiah 53:4-8). Now God calls people into fellowship with himself (1 Corinthians 1:9 & 1 John 1:3).
Our world is full of contention and strife. Access into fellowship with God—the solution to the vertical problem between God and mankind—also solves mankind’s horizontal problem (Ephesians 2:12-15). There are walls of hate between people. We cannot get along with our fellow man. We cannot keep nations together, we have difficulty keeping our own families together—our divorce rate proves that. But those obstacles to fellowship are nothing compared that which was between sinful man and holy God. When God solved our sin problem he also gave us his righteousness, and this is the basis for, and only hope for, humans to have true, lasting fellowship between ourselves. In Christ, God gives us a durable basis for fellowship. Genuine Christian fellowship is the only thing that runs deep enough to hold diverse people together. God creates the basis for our fellowship—with him and with each other.
We don’t create unity, but we do have to make every effort to preserve that peace that God achieved for us through the death of his Son (Ephesians 4:3). We are joined together in Christ—our union with Christ is a theological reality—but that does not mean that fellowship cannot be damaged. It can be—that’s why Ephesians 4 says that we must “make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. It takes effort in order to experience the fruit of the fellowship Christ purchased for us with his blood. We preserve our unity and minimize our differences by focusing on the bedrock reality that what we share in common—fellowship with God—is more fundamental, more durable, than any superficial differences between us. We preserve the fellowship Christ gives us by loving and serving fellow Christians.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Know that fellowship with God and man is objectively grounded in salvation (1 Corinthians 1:9). Repentance and faith in Christ is the singular and sufficient foundation for fellowship.
- Preserve Christian unity by making every effort to love (Ephesians 4:3 & Colossians 3:14).
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)