And they were continuing stedfastly in the teaching of the apostles, and the fellowship, and the breaking of the bread, and the prayers. Acts 2:42 (Strong)
In the New Testament there is only one Church, and all who by faith are in Christ Jesus are in the Church, and as such are members of Christ’s body. (Eph. 1:22-23). However, there are local expressions of the Church, or local assemblies of called–out believers. These local assemblies are to reflect the truth of the One Body, and thus they are to function according to the New Testament Scriptures, gathering only to the Name of Christ. (Matt. 18:20; Acts 13:1; Rev. 1:4)
Clearly the local assembly is to be a fellowship of believers. It would be contrary to Scripture for Christians to be “in fellowship” with those who are outside of Christ. (2 Cor. 6:14) It thus becomes incumbent upon the local assembly to know those in the local fellowship.
Sadly, many saints do not truly understand what its means to be “in fellowship.” They see fellowship as something they “do.” To many it speaks of the good times of fellowship around the meal table, or in some other social activity.
While such things are certainly proper for Christians, fellowship in a local assembly is far more than this. In Acts 2:42 the word “fellowship” is a noun. In the original language the verse reads, “the fellowship,” as shown by Strong’s translation above. It is a place as well as an activity.“The fellowship” was where the saints continued stedfastly!
The word fellowship comes from the root word translated “partners” in Luke 5:10. James, John, and Peter were partners in the fishing business.“The “fellowship” in Acts 2:42 was in reality a “partnership of believers.”
When one is taken into a partnership it is because he has common beliefs and goals. So it should be in a local assembly of believers. An assembly should know who they are receiving into“the fellowship.” Now this may be by the report of others, such as with Phebe (Rom. 16:1,2), or it may be by two or three witnesses hearing the testimony of those desiring to come into the fellowship. With the increased pressure for numerical growth these steps may be easily bypassed.
When an assembly accepts a believer into the fellowship it takes on added responsibility.The assembly is to be a place were he is cared for, edified, encouraged, comforted, and protected. It is a partnership in which the corporate body cares for the individual saint.
However, coming into fellowship involves a commitment of the individual believer to the local assembly. Since he is identified with the local testimony his daily life is not to bring shame upon the fellowship and its testimony for Christ. He is to be involved in the partnership. The assembly does not merely exist for the convenience of the saints. It is not a supermarket to which customers come at their convenience to obtain their needs and leave.
Those in fellowship are to contribute to the operation of the fellowship as the Lord enables. It may be financially. It may be by physical labor,or it may be in spiritual labor. In whatever way they contribute they are to do it as unto the Lord for the good of the local assembly of believers. (Col. 3:23)
Partners also have the responsibility of being at the gatherings of the local fellowship of believers. Those who attend inconsistently, or attend only a small percentage of the gatherings, barring illness of course, could hardly be considered partners in the work—at least not faithful partners!
Are you in fellowship, or do you simply attend the activities of a local fellowship at your convenience? Just because you attend some of the gatherings does not mean you are in the fellowship of believers. One can easily attend meetings without being in fellowship. To be “in fellowship” means you are convinced and convicted of the same truths as the assembly, and are committed to the local partnership of believers.
Is the assembly a commitment or a convenience?