“In Canada”; “In New York”; “In the Lake”; are phrases allowing of no ambiguity whatever. We know exactly what they mean. The phrase “In Fellowship” however seems to be of a different construction. Whereas Canada, New York and the Lake have defined boundaries that leave us in no doubt as to whether we are in or out, Christian Fellowship seems to many of us, to have a conveniently adjustable perimeter.
To consider oneself to be “in fellowship” in the local church because of having been saved, baptized and openly welcomed “into the fellowship of the assembly” is surely to limit the implications of the communion of saints.
To be “in the meeting” as the saying goes, is not at all synonymous with being in fellowship. One may be in the meeting, that is, at one time or another joining oneself to a company of Christians by mutual reception and yet not entering into the involvements of the fellowship.
In our English Bible, there are eight or nine different words used to convey the idea of the word for fellowship in the original. Basically, they all seem to embrace two main ideas. These are to have a share, and to give a share. One who is actually in fellowship, then, is engaged in this twofold function, PARTICIPATING AND COMMUNICATING.
Christian Fellowship depends primarily on participating in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). This gives us, then, the capacity to walk in the light of the Divine Presence (1 John 1:7). Thus we are privileged to display the characteristics of the fellowship by loving the brethren (1 John 1:10). So we can see that to be actually, not just nominally, in fellowship involves not only privileges, but the responsibilities of obedience and love.
To absent myself by choice from the gatherings of the church is to indicate that I prefer some other thing for that hour than the fellowship, the participation of the Christians.
Most of the Lord’s people have no fear of being read out of fellowship, yet it is sadly possible that we can put OURSELVES out of fellowship by a singular lack of participating in the worship, prayer or service of the local assembly. Thus we can forego HAVING share in the common exercise of the saints.
Again, most of the Lord’s people find joy in communicating or GIVING a share of material things. This is all involved in fellowship. The gift thus given is not called fellowship, but is the evidence of a fellowship that exists. Perhaps there are some, however, who have never tasted that special joy of COMMUNICATING. They have no specific exercise, week by week, to lay the Lord’s portion by. Are such truly “in fellowship”? It need not be much but it should be regular. It will never be demanded, but it is expected by the Lord, if we have it to give. We will not be enriched by withholding nor impoverished by giving for the Lord is no man’s debtor. The Lord does not measure the amount we give to Him, but what we keep back for ourselves.
Who then is in fellowship? It would seem that the Scripture teaches those are in true Christian fellowship who are partakers of the divine nature, obedient in walk and in love to the Lord and to one another. Those who are thus involved in the common interest and exercise of the church by worship, prayer, service and giving according to the varied resources of strength, gift, time and material supply, are in true fellowship.
It might be pertinent for us all, not to look around at others to see if “they” are in or out, but each for himself in the Presence of God to put the question to our own hearts,
AM I IN FELLOWSHIP?