Fellowship with Christians
God calls and saves His elect people across the globe from every ethnic people group, not only to worship and enjoy Him forever, but so that we have fellowship with each other in the church. God has a people, and His people will worship and commune with Him forever. There are many people that belong to the church. Revelation 7:9 tells us that at the end of history there will be a great multitude that no person can number, ten thousands of ten thousands that will stand before God and praise “the Lamb who was slain. “
There will be many in heaven. And there are now many Christians on earth. Millions of them are scattered among the nations. Before the 19th century most of the Christians in the world were located in Europe and in North America, although there were Christians in Asia and in North Africa centuries before. But Christianity in the latter two was largely wiped out through persecution. It was only after the missionaries in the 19th century realized their calling to go out, in obedience to their Master, and make disciples and languages were transcribed and written down, Bibles were translated and the gospel was preached all over the globe, that Christianity became a world-wide phenomenon. In God’s sovereignty many came into the church from many different ethnic groups.
When a person comes to Christ and is born again and receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that person needs care and assistance. If a baby is born into this world, it needs assistance, constant care, a mother, and a family. Likewise, the church is the mother of new believers. The church is supposed to be a family. New believers need to work through their past sinful lives. They need direction, correction, care, and love. They need intensive healing. Some need more care than others. The devil, the world and the flesh are too strong to cope with in our newborn states. Therefore, God so arranged that each believer belong to a family of believers who will nurture, guide and show them the narrow road to heaven. New believers and older believers need counseling. Sins need to be confessed. Restitution needs to be made. Things need to be put right. For these things to happen the church is necessary. Each member in the church needs brothers and sisters.
We are the body of Christ. In a body there are many members, and each has a different function. But all are indispensable. Each member is dependent on the other. We are a global church and as such we need each other. But also, God has put us in smaller units, namely, in local churches. We are members of one another. The Bible tells us if one member suffers all suffer. If one member is honored all the rest rejoice (1 Cor 12:20-28). Paul was speaking to the Corinthian church. He was reminding them that they are a family and that they need one another. People are not saved to become independent “lone-ranger” Christians. We are saved to serve one another and to fulfill our function in the body of Christ. It is therefore essential that each Christian belongs to a local fellowship, a local church. Every Christian needs to be baptized and to partake of the Lord’s Supper. These visible signs, or sacraments, strengthen our faith and are testimonies that we identify with Christ, in his suffering, death, and life. We not only share in His suffering but also in his power (Rom 6:3-8). And we don’t only suffer with Christ but also with one another.
The Bible states emphatically that we should not forsake fellowship meetings but encourage each other daily:
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
(Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV)
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)
The world has a power and an attraction that constantly draws us towards it. For Christians to overcome the world and its lusts, we need brothers and sisters to carry our burdens. When we carry each other’s burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
The goal of evangelism and making God known is that people who have never experienced the love of Christ should experience it in the church. We were saved for the eternal family of God. We were saved to enjoy one another’s company, to sharpen and encourage one another, and to rejoice in our mutual salvation.We were also saved to suffer with one another! Certainly, we are not perfect: we sin often as Christians. But we learn in the body to forgive, rebuke, comfort and encourage one another. There are so many battles to be fought, so much opposition to face, so many disappointments in life, and so many tribulations to endure, that we need each other to keep on the straight and narrow path to heaven.
The goal of evangelism is to come into the fellowship of the saints and to stay there until you die (1 John 2:23-26). There are today many different churches and many different denominations, but not all understand the Bible in the same way. Many unfortunately fight with one another over many peripheral things in the Bible. It is incumbent upon us to know what the central and nonnegotiable truths are. We must believe them and defend them as Christians; and we must know where we may “agree to disagree”. Our unity with Christians in our love for the church and across denominational lines must be based upon what the Bible affirms to be true and right and good. Our unity as Christians is based on the truth (John 17:17-23). All who are truly born of the Spirit and have received Christ as their God, Savior and Lord, are irrevocably united with Christ as his eternal body, his church, throughout all ages.
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV)
Concerning preserving the unity in the global church of God, the following maxim should be remembered: in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in all things charity.