“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as [other] Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind… Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness… But ye have not so learned Christ” Ephesians 4:17,19,20
Complete fellowship necessitates more than the foundation doctrinal agreement. It is built upon a common way of life—a morality which reflects the character and ways of Him who has begotten us. The “one body” (Eph 4:4) not only thinks as one but also walks as one—”Can two walk together except they be agreed?” said the prophet Amos (ch 3:3).
Fellowship with Christ
Before us lies a glorious hope, that, at the appear ance of our Lord, we shall be changed into immortality, an incorruptible body, vibrant with life, energy, wisdom and knowledge.
For “we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him…”. The physical change ahead of us requires a moral conformation now—a purging of fleshly ways, or in John’s words, “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). Here is a fellowship with God whom none can see whilst encompassed with mortality (1 Tim 6:16).
Fellowship in Action
Intimacy, for that is a sense of koinonia, is a delightful sharing of a common way of life embodying a proof of fellowship. The “contribution” (koinonia) of the Macedonians to the welfare of the poor saints at Jerusalem (Rom 15:26) was an active sharing.
The communion of sharing “the cup” and “the bread” (1 Cor 10:16) needs cementing in common actions, a common morality.
How can light embrace darkness or believers share an unequal yoke with unbelievers? (2 Cor 6:14). There can be no communion between the two. The very act of a ministering gift to the saints brought Paul and the Macedonians together in a bond of fellowship (2 Cor 8:1–4). How we yearn for a common way of life with others, “… the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus” (Philemon 6). The more aware we are of God’s presence and humbled by His load of benefits (Psa 68:19) the more openly will we respond in actions of faith. That our fellowship requires common moral qualities is illustrated in words penned to the Hebrews — “But to do good and to communicate (koinonia) forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (ch 13:16). How could we forget, if we are always mindful of what God has done in Christ for us.
The Importance of Our Walk
Here it is in a nutshell. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another…” (1 John 1:7). Could anything be more succinct?
To act in any other fashion is to live a lie (1John 1:6) and this is not of God “that cannot lie” (Titus 1:2)
There are two passages which, by antithesis, forge the interdependence of works of faith and fellowship. “Have no fellowship (sugkoinoneo) with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph 5:11). “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers (sugkoinoneo) of her sins… (Rev 18:4). Are we not being clearly taught that the works of faith are fruitful? (cp Gal 5:22–24) Fellowship with the world on the other hand is sterile.
But if ye Bite and Devour
Warning the Galatians, Paul counselled, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (ch 5:15). In the preceding verse the “royal law” is enunciated, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. Is not fellowship contingent on a common morality? The fructifying effect of the Spirit Mind produces “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:22–26).
He Desireth a Good Work
From whence do we gain guidance on the moral character which cements true fellowship? In directing Timothy in the selection of men suitable to guide the ecclesia Paul wrote, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (1 Tim 3:1–4). Are there different requirements for serving brethren compared with others? No. All must strive to show these qualities, which are mandatory in those representative men who oversee the welfare of the ecclesia.
To desire to be an overseer (“bishop”) is a good work for it brings one into circumstances which require the exercise of patience and understanding and which necessitate effort to conform to the moral pattern of the Lord Jesus Christ. He must be without reproach (“blameless”), having good reputation both from within and without the brotherhood. As the “husband of one wife”, with all that this implies, his morality will be beyond reproach and will not disgrace the name he bears (2 Sam 12:14). He is a temperate man, sober, well-balanced and careful. He is self controlled, sober minded, discreet and not swayed by sudden impulse or passion. A sober mind is revealed in a modest, orderly outward demeanour. His hospitality (lit “lover of strangers”) results from a recognition of the abundant gift of grace that has been given him (1 Pet 4:9). As a teacher he must first study the Word (2 Tim 2:2,24).
There are things he must shun. “Not ready to quarrel, and offer wrong, as one in wine” (1 Tim 3:3 mrg cp Prov 23:29–30). There will be no belligerence or quarrelsomeness as with one who is intoxicated—either with alcohol or self-importance. Because he must be prepared to sacrifice he must not be a lover of money (1 Tim 6:9–10) . Here is a patient man endeavouring to behave considerately to all men, not disposed to fight (2 Tim 2:24). Does he preside over his own household with care and diligence, raising obedient children by wisdom, so that the child wants to obey—and love, so that it is a pleasure to obey?
Here are attributes which each must strive to manifest each day. They are the proof of the Word dwelling within. “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?” (Psalm 94:20). By no means.
There lies within the grasp of each of us the ability to reflect the qualities of God . Our fellowship must have that moral fibre which will bind the Davids and Jonathans of today.
Let us resolve that, purified by the hope that lies within us, our fellowship with one another is the result of a morality which has been moulded, pressed and polished by the word of Almighty God. Remember, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).