The Power of Fellowship
Acts 2:42-47 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was ﬁlled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The “Perfect” Church
- They worshipped in the temple every day.
- They met in small groups in private homes for teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread (communion), and prayer.
- The first church building not constructed for 200 years after Jesus’ resurrection.
- God created the church and its fellowship for good reasons.
- A person can be a Christian without attending worship, but we will never mature and persevere in our faith without fellowship.
- We are not saved by attending worship.
- We're saved by receiving Christ and His payment of the penalty for our sins on the cross.
- We do not attend worship to gain God’s favour or to be more righteous.
- We attend worship out of gratitude for the forgiveness of our sins that Christ bought for us by His blood sacrifice on the cross.
- During COVID-19, online communion moved me to tears like no other in-person communion ever had. Realizing what Christ did for me when He suffered and died for my sins, combined with missing corporate worship so much – it was an unexpected emotion.
A Definition Of The Church
The word "church" comes to us through German and Latin, from the Greek word "kuriakon" or "that which belongs to the Lord". In the New Testament, the Greek word that is usually translated "church" is "ecclesia" which signifies a group of people called together for any reason, sacred or secular. Working from this basic word, the Church may be defined as "Christ together with the assembly of those He has called to worship and serve Him". The call in which Christ chooses us to be His disciples is simultaneously a call to be in His Church. If one's call to be a disciple does not include also the call to be in the Church, one has not truly heard Christ's call.
The Body of Christ
As we read Romans 12:3-5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, and Ephesians 4:12-16, we see that Christ is the Head, and Christians are members of His Body. Each member has a different place and function, and accordingly is given different spiritual gifts. But each individual's functions are all co-ordinated into a unified effort by Christ the Head. We should feel an affinity (closeness) to other Christians because we are members of the same Body.
A missionary to Japan had to take a bus, a train, a bus, a train, a bus, a train, a bus to attend worship with her group – and the service was all in Korean – she didn’t understand very much. For several weeks she did not attend, but her boss reminded her, “When you are missing, the Body of Christ in this place is incomplete!”
A Spiritual House
1 Peter 2:4-5 – As you come to him, the living Stone — rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him — you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
In a pile of bricks, we would hardly notice one missing, but a brick missing from a wall endangers its structural integrity.
“One Another” Commands
John 13:35 – By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12:16 – Live in harmony with one another.
Romans 13:8 – Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.
Romans 15:7 – Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.
Romans 16:16 – Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Ephesians 4:2 – Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Humanity is meant to live in community. Genesis 3:18 – “It is not good for man to be alone.”
In the History Channel show, “Alone”, contestants can hardly last alone in the bush for 100 days. However, indigenous communities lasted in the bush for millennia! Being in fellowship with other believers could be a matter of life or death – spiritually.
Our shelter is a roof built on four posts, and without proper bracing, we were afraid that it might fall over. However, with each piece that we add to it, we realize that it is stronger.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 – Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
The Big Temptation – taking the easy road:
“I can worship God just as well on the golf course or in the garden.”
The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
- “Lone Ranger” Christians
The power of fellowship – its benefits:
- Encouragement and hope in life’s struggles.
- Destruction of the seed of selfishness – in groups we must think of others.
- Persistence during times of persecution, marginalization.
- Growth in our relationship with God through Christ:
- Development of humility and teachability – only as we listen and learn do we grow. Arrogance and selfishness are the biggest impediments to spiritual growth.
- In small groups, there is accountability and encouragement. The Christian life is difficult enough even with fellowship. It can only be more difficult without.
- Proverbs 27:17 – As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
- The Holy Spirit moves in unexpected ways when people gather together. Characteristically, Presbyterians are not aware of the Spirit’s moving in our midst. We tend to interpret it wrongly in terms of our emotions – and a sensation of God’s power is an unfamiliar spiritual feeling. When God speaks through a sermon, by conviction, guidance, or motivation to service, it is not an emotion, but we have no other way to describe it.
- Worship in common with fellow Christians brings greater glory to God, and adds a fullness to the Christian experience which cannot be duplicated watching TV.
- Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.
Why is attending a worship service different from watching one on TV, or listening on the radio?
There is an important distinction between being a participant and being a spectator. Worship is an active mental attitude toward God which demands active participation. We are so used to watching TV as passive, uninvolved spectators, that is easy to simply watch a service online. It demands a great deal of concentration to make the conscious switch to an active, worshipful attitude, for example, actually singing the hymns. To illustrate the different attitudes, a worship service can be contrasted with a hockey game, where the players are the participants and the crowd are spectators. In a church worship service, the minister, organist, choir, and ushers are not performers, while everyone else simply watches. These leaders of the worship set the tone for the entire congregation to enter into an attitude of worship. The leaders of worship must worship, too. Everyone must focus on God, not what is being done, and guard against allowing the inevitable mistakes and distractions trap us into forgetting to make contact with God, so that we fail to worship Him.
Isaiah 29:13 – God says, "These people draw near to Me with their mouths, and honour Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me". How easy it is to go through the forms of worship, while failing to establish a direct link between oneself and God.
Attending Worship Honours God
Attending worship demonstrates the lordship of Christ in a person’s life – honouring His authority by obedience to His command:
Hebrews 10:25 – Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
During COVID-19, some churches took this as a command and reasoned with the apostles, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) They held worship services in defiance of the authorities, much like persecuted churches meeting underground. Others obeyed Romans 13:1 – “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”
Attending worship demonstrates the priority of God in our lives. If on a snowy day, we would get up and drive to work, but on an equally snowy day, we do not attend worship, it shows that worship of God is a lower priority than our work. So often, it snows overnight on Saturday night!
Your presence here is a worshipful act of sacrifice unto the Lord.
If we received a personal invitation to a small group audience with the Queen, we would probably arrange to go to London for that. Yet a personal invitation to a small group audience with the God of the universe is easily turned down!
Many Christians have testified that the very day that they were highly tempted to stay home from worship was the day when God most wanted to speak to them.