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February 24, 2024 3:00 am


Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 24, 2024 3:00 am

Is fellowship essential within a church, or is it just a nice way to fit in—a way for a diverse group of people to find others with similar interests? Hear the answer on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg takes a look at Christian commonalities.


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Is fellowship in a local church essential or just a nice way for a diverse group of people?

To find others with similar interests? Well, hear the answer today on Truth for Life Weekend. Alistair Begg is teaching from the book of Acts. We're looking at chapter 2, verses 42 through 47. Now we come to these marks of an effective church, and last time, having dealt with this matter of teaching, we now come this evening to the question of the fellowship. The fellowship. And the word here, as many of us are very familiar, is the word koinonia, or koinonia, as we used to say as teenagers, and I'm not sure which is the correct English-sized pronunciation. But it actually emerges from the root word, which is koinos, and that word simply means common.

Common. The reason it is of such pressing importance is because in the early church, their communal life was one of the great attractions to the pagan world. The pagan world was not so much attracted by the preaching. It was attracted by the commonality of these people, part of which commonality was the preaching of the Word of God. Clearly, effective preaching was part of evangelism.

It was used in every city where the church was born, and I'm the last one to step back from that, as is clear on multiple levels. Nevertheless, it was the very fulfillment of the words of Jesus in the life of his people that by this will all men know that you are my disciples because of the self-giving love which is characteristic of your gatherings. And it was in the fulfillment of that expressed in the developing church that the pagan world was attracted to consider what it was that united these diverse people—barbarian, Scythian, slaves, free people, people from a Jewish background, people from an Athenian background, and so on—and they had no real explanation for the commonality of their existence. And so it was that God's people devoted themselves, not only here in the early days but throughout the developing church, to the commonality of their lives. Now, what I'd like to do is to suggest just a number of words that help us to categorize this commonality, this communion, this koinonia, this fellowship and partnership. First of all, and clearly, our common life is related to a common faith—to a common faith.

If you turn, for example, to 1 John and to chapter 1 and the opening verses there, we have this summarized perfectly for us. In verses 3 and 4, we proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may have koinonia with us, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

And we write this to make our joy complete. So the very heart of the matter is this—that the common existence of God's people is on account of their shared faith. So faith, and then secondly, family.

It's simply an extension of the thought. We're all in the same family, because we all have the same Father. Now, people would say, Well, that is true of everyone who was ever made, because God is the Father of everyone.

Well, that is true, of course. He is the Father of all by creation. But he is only the Father by redemption of those who have been brought near to the cross of Christ and have come in repentance and in faith to embrace his offer of mercy.

And it is within this context that our familial relationships are established, and indeed to such an extent that they are supposed to transcend the issues of family itself. You remember, Jesus said, Here is my mother, and here is my father, and here are my brothers and sisters. And he was pointing to his disciples, and he was making the point that ultimately, the only forever family into which we will be brought is the family of faith. John 1, 12, and 13, He came to his own, his own received him not, but as many as received him.

To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision, or of a husband's will, but born of God. And this, you see, is the thing. We look around at all these funny people that make up the church, and we say to ourselves, How in the world did this group get put together in this way? What is the fact of the matter? The fact of the matter is that we've been born again of the same Spirit, and we have been united by the same Father. I don't know how much you think about that in relationship to Parkside Church. I'm not sure much I think about it myself all the time. But do I genuinely think of this place as my family?

And if I do, then presumably it should make a difference in the way in which I come to spend time with my family—the same faith, the same family. Thirdly, the same feeling. We feel what others feel. That's what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 12, the second half of verse 25, that the body should have no division but that its part should have equal concern for each other.

How would that be? He says, Well, if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now, this same notion of feeling is pointed out again by Paul when he writes in Romans 12, and in verse 13, he says, Share with God's people who are in need.

Share with God's people. In other words, there is to be a participation of feeling that my limitations and my weaknesses are complemented by your strengths. That's why you're here. That's why we're all here. We're not clones. God has purposely picked us out knowing exactly who we are. The hairs of our heads are numbered, our names are graven on the palms of his hands, and he has put the body together exactly as he determined—a funny bunch of folk without question, and yet in order that there might be a complementary dimension to our feelings. So we have a common faith, we have a common family, we have a common feeling, and we have a common experience of friction. What is friction?

Well, if you look it up in the dictionary, it will tell you that friction is heat generated by one or more objects rubbing against each other while moving in different directions. And I want to acknowledge what is obvious tonight—namely, that whenever you put people together like this, you will have friction. Every church family I've ever encountered fusses and feuds. The question is how much it fusses, what it fusses about, and what the extent of the feuds are, but they're there all the time everywhere. And when you just finish one fuss and you walk out the door, you walk right into another one.

And when you just dealt with the final feud of all feuds, you wake up the next morning and you hit another one full in the face. Now, there are all kinds of reasons for that, but when the reason is that people who are out of touch with Jesus are in charge of areas of ministry, I can guarantee you total havoc. That is why, you see, John says, our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, and on the basis of that, we have this commonality with one another.

But when it goes on the vertical axis, it's shot on the horizontal plane. And that is exactly what had happened, you see, in the context of 1 Timothy. But what's going on with Hymenaeus and Alexander? Well, Hymenaeus and Alexander have let go of two things—faith and a good conscience. So that in terms of their morality and in terms of their doctrine, they're not cutting it straight, they're not living the life, and they're causing total havoc within the fellowship.

They are responsible for friction beyond what is tolerable. And as a result of that, Timothy as a young pastor is urged, first of all, to make sure that he watches his life and his doctrine closely, so that he doesn't become a shipwrecked sailor like these two characters, so that he is possessed by and possessing faith and love in the Lord Jesus Christ. But since these characters are unprepared to be embraced by this, nor do they display it in their lives, what is supposed to happen to them is absolutely clear. Namely, they are to be put out of the fellowship. Put out of the fellowship. Handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. In other words, put back into the realm of the world, removed from the privileges of fellowship, removed from the Lord's table, removed from all that represents security to them in terms of the things of the faith and with a both punitive and remedial purpose. Notice that they are being handed over to Satan to be taught not to do this anymore. So Paul anticipates them back, but they're not staying while they do this.

For example, in Romans chapter 16—I think it is—you find a similar emphasis. Romans 16, and verse 17, I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. What should we do with people like that?

Look at it. Keep away from them. Keep away from them.

Why? For such people are not serving our Lord Christ but their own appetites. Now, this comes across as very hard, doesn't it? Because when we think of the word fellowship, we tend to think of it all in terms of faith and family and all those things and feeling, and it's all like a big blanket. We gather all underneath a blanket and cozy up to one another, and then someone goes and introduces the issue of friction, which, of course, is nothing other than biblical honesty.

And then we say, well, how are we to deal with friction? Well, we're to deal with it according to the love of Christ and in obedience to the truth of God's Word. And if we're going to be obedient to the truth of God's Word, there are times in the fellowship of God's people when we have to take dramatic action. And that is why the Reformers said that for a church to be a true church, there had to be the preaching of the Word of God, there had to be the celebration of the sacraments, and there had to be the exercise of church discipline. So, in Titus and in chapter 3, you have a similar emphasis—again, in the pastoral epistles.

Titus 3, verse 10. What do we do with somebody who is divisive? What do you do with a divisive person? Well, he says, you warn them once, you warn them a second time, and after that, you have nothing to do with them. You're not going to let people sit at your dining room table and destroy your family because they have a bad attitude, are you?

You're going to say, you know what? You better go to your room. You better stay in your room until such times as you've figured out exactly why it is that you cannot participate happily, confidently, positively, and productively within the framework of what we're doing here. We're just not going to tolerate it. And that's exactly how we view our responsibility as elders at Parkside Church.

Let me tell you this. If I get out of touch up here, I'm going to be all out of touch down here. And what I need is to be put back in touch up here, which involves repentance and forgiveness and faith and trust. But because churches want to be thought nice places, cozy places, they tolerate friction, tolerate division, tolerate divisive people. They mustn't. The future of the church depends upon it.

Listen to Colson on this. He says, No one should expect to join a church, which after all involves a free decision, and then refuse to accept its authority. For failing to attend a few meetings, one can be thrown out of the Rotary Club. For failing to live up to a particular dress code, one can be dismissed from most private clubs.

For failing to perform the required community service, one can be thrown out of the Junior League. Yet when the church imposes discipline, denying the benefits of membership to those who flaunt its standards, it is charged with everything short of fascism. But shouldn't the church have at least the same right to set its standards as the Rotary Club?

People who don't like it should go elsewhere. We weaken the church when we fail to discipline. So fellowship, you see, has a bite to it.

It's a Granny Smith apple, not the McIntosh red. Kind of bland, soft. It's got that thing to it. And without that, the church is a laughing stock to the world. Why should the church tolerate the same immorality the world tolerates? We've got the same faith, the same family, the same feeling, the same experience of friction, the same focus. The same focus. Philippians chapter 2, verse 3, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider each other better than yourselves. Don't look only to your own interests, look to the interests of others.

Have the same attitude, the attitude of the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is that focus which creates hospitality, burden-bearing, mutual encouragement, prayer, giving, and I'll come back to giving. Incidentally, the word for generosity in giving is koinanikos. It's from the same root. And that is what you find in 2 Corinthians 8, when you think about giving.

They gave themselves, and then they went on from there. So we've got the same faith, the same family, the same feeling, the same experience of friction, the same focus, and we've got the same future. You know, you can live in a neighborhood and say, you know, can't stand the guy up the road, can't stand his dog, hate the way he parks his car there and everything else. And you can say to yourself, Oh, well, maybe I'll get transferred, and we'll be out of here. Well, let me tell you something. There's no out of here. We're stuck with one another. Stuck for eternity. Eternity! That seems like a long time to me.

Right? So we have the same future. We're going to the same place.

We're going to sing the same songs. Our life is just a preparation. And so God says, in the preparatory stage here on earth, it is in the context of a loving and a caring fellowship that our individual weaknesses and our character defects and our personality problems are all complemented and supported and healed and compensated for by the other members of the body of Christ, provided we do not ask, What can the fellowship do for me?

but ask, What can I do for the fellowship? And I can guarantee you that when you and I start from that perspective, all of our self-pity and our concerns and our aggravations will begin to go right out the window. That is not to say that people are not neglected from time to time.

Of course they are. We goof things up. But, loved ones, do not allow impediments to fellowship to be tolerated in your own heart and mind—malice, envy, pride, criticism, slander, gossip, and all those other things. And although we may think to ourselves that we're seated in the ashes and everybody else is going to the ball, the fact is that Cinderella is about to become a beautiful creature, and the Lord Jesus is continuing to fashion his church into a beautiful and a glorious bride. And when we have that dream and that vision before us, then it brings everything else into line.

The little doggerel is all too true, isn't it? You know, to dwell above with saints we love, that will sure be glory. To dwell below with saints we know, that's a different story. And it is a different story, and God knows it's a different story. But it's the story. And I don't want to play the resident alien here, but I do want to say this to you in passing.

And you can hear it much better from someone else than me if you read the early chapters of The Body by Chuck Colson, where he addresses the issue of McChurch. In Scotland, there aren't enough churches for people to keep running off to every time they get ticked off about something. And so people stay, fight, kiss, make up, and start all over again.

And as a result of that, there is a strengthening bond in that experience. And this is not a comment on any individual either coming or going, because every week I meet people who tell me that they left such-and-such a church because such-and-such is going on, and they had to come here. I don't want to tell them that there's three people who just went to the church that they left for the very same reason that they believed they had to come here.

And it just kind of—it does my box with regularity. And we have a staggering responsibility in relationship to this. And we're not great. But this is the Lord Jesus' church, and he's our servant King. And for your encouragement, I want to read a letter that I got today. Comforted as we are spiritually by unending demonstrations of God's love and mercy and grace, we have been nourished by the care and concern of Parkside Church—that is, the members of the body who have each given so much support in their respective ministries. The care and concern, the consistency of JoyCare and Barnabas Ministries have been with us for a long time.

And we have learned of another ministry as the ladies of the kitchen and the men of custodial services provided food and furniture. We are despaired of knowing how to conduct or organize such a thing, overlooking that God provides, even and especially when we fall back on, we alone. Then we are reminded who is the Lord. And so the trial of Jesse's illness is behind us. There are many days in which we will miss him still ahead. But we know that in God's time we will see him again, and all the separations will become completions. Thank you for being there, to help him step forward onto the narrow path where his burden was lifted and a gentle yoke put in its place.

That makes me very glad. Because what it says is that lots and lots of people behind the scenes in Parkside Church have determined on the basis of the same faith, living in the same family, having the same feeling, to lay aside the experience of friction and focus on making the lives of those who are in particular need their immediate concern. Loved ones, this is a cruel and lonely world.

This is not a nice place to live. And people are fragmented, and they're fearful, and they're lost, and they're lonesome. And you and I, in devoting ourselves to the fellowship, they become the very hands and feet of our Master in reaching into their lives. That's a great reminder on the importance of genuine fellowship, you're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life Weekend. Today's message is part of a series called Seven Marks of an Effective Church. If you would like to re-listen or share Alistair's teaching with a friend, you can find the complete study on our website at

It's also available on the convenient USB if you'd like to own the series. If you've ever been to our Truth for Life website, let me encourage you to go to our website, Truth for Life. Let me encourage you to create your own account, a Truth for Life account, if you don't already have one. Having a profile is a convenient way for you to organize your listening history as you learn from Alistair's teaching.

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You can pick up right where you left off. You can also create a file of your favorite daily devotions, even track your donation history at Truth for Life. While you're on our website, be sure to check out the book we are recommending currently, a book called Death in the City. This is the last weekend we'll be talking about this book. It's a book that helps us respond biblically to the challenging culture in which we live. For more information about the book Death in the City, visit our website at

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for setting aside part of your weekend to study God's Word with us. You have probably heard of the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper or Communion, whatever you call it. Why is it so important for us to participate in these sacraments or ordinances? Next weekend, we'll have the answer. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-24 05:04:56 / 2024-02-24 05:13:38 / 9

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