A. Beginning to spread

What we want to cover today is an issue that has been raised and bannered by the denominational community for sometime now. It's been called by many names. You may be familiar with one of two of the most common names:

1) Unity-In-Diversity or

2) Grace and Unity (Faith and Unity).

No matter what name it wears we need to recognize that it is an argument that has been made in the denominations for several years now and perpetuated more popularly by men like Billy Graham.


1. The basic issue, among brethren, centers around an understanding of "fellowship." And the question raised by the subject has caused a considerable amount of division among churches of Christ. It boils down to who brethren may and may not fellowship–i.e. what are the bounds and limitations of Christian fellowship? This has become the question of great controversy among conservative brethren in the last decade, especially with the more recent "marriage, divorce, and remarriage" issue. At the present, this issue is just a source of disagreement; but it's slowly becoming the next major battlefield because the tension is rising.

(You could talk about the history of this movement in denominations and in the church.)

This unity-in-diversity or grace/unity mentality is taking it's toll...and not just among liberal churches. An alarming number of conservative preachers have and are contending that we have been too narrow in our view of who we can and cannot fellowship. Some are even advocating that we fellowship those who are engaging in habitual sin or teaching false doctrine. And it is a movement that's becoming a very powerful force. It's a movement that is doing its work very secretly. And the very fact that many brethren do not see it as a very strong movement is one reason why it is dangerous and threatening.

2. So what does the Bible teach about unity? What does it teach about Christian fellowship? Are there bounds and limitations? Are lines to be drawn? What is the basis of fellowship and unity—is it simply God's grace? What price is to be paid for unity? Is peace among brethren to be achieved at any price? Is our love for brethren and desire for peace with all brethren so important to sacrifice the will and the word of God? Are we to be more interested in peace with men than peace with God and love men more than we love God? Those are the questions we must deal with.

3. I'm not going to present the specific arguments made on this issue because there are so many. There's arguments made by the liberal brethren and denomination world that unity is based on grace, which allows us to be diversified in our practices. There's arguments that appeal to Romans 14 as a basis of fellowship in doctrinal matters. We'll get to the arguments as they come. But I mainly just want us to see simply what the Bible teaches about fellowship and unity.

The first thing we need to understand is...



1. There are several words used by the New Testament writers to describe fellowship. And they are used in several different senses. But the word that in the Greek that we are most interested in is the word KOINONIA and the word KOINONEO. Those words may sound familiar with some of you. When we talk about the New Testament written in Greek we say that it was written in what was known as KOINE Greek. The word KOINE means "common." In other words, the New Testament was written in common conversational Greek language making it easily understood by the common man in Greek times.

2. The word KOINONIA and KOINONEO comes from a family of words that are used in the New Testament, all of which hinge upon the idea of "sharing in common." The word KOINONIA is translated in a variety of ways in different translations: "fellowship, association, community, joint-participation, communion, communicate, contribution, or distribution." The word KOINONEO is the verb form of the word KOINONIA and means "to partake, to share, to communicate, to fellowship." Understand that the general idea in both words is "sharing in common" or "participation" or even "partnership."


1. Also important to understand that in each of the nineteen times the word "koinonia" is used, it is use exclusively regarding spiritual matters. And we need to clearly understand that.

2. Just to show you a few examples notice the following Scriptures:

a. Acts 2:42, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." Notice that the context of this entire verse revolves around spiritual activities...one of which was fellowship or spiritual participation. These Christians who were baptized on the day of Pentecost continued steadfastly in this spiritual fellowship with the apostles and one another.

b. Romans 15:26, "For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem." This is a reference we've noted before, but notice that it is in the matter of sharing with Christians in the spiritual work of benevolence.

c. 1 Cor. 1:9, "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." Obviously our relationship and communion with Christ is of a spiritual nature.

d. 1 Cor 10:16, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" No joint participation is more a more spiritual nature than jointly sharing with Christ in our observance of the Lord's Supper.

e. 2 Cor 6:14-15, "For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?" Two rhetorical questions stated by Paul to prove a spiritual point.

f. Phil. 1:3-5, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now," This is reference to the Philippians support of Paul in the work of evangelism.

3. We could go on and on with the other references, but I just want us all to understand first of all the idea behind the word fellowship and how it is always used in a spiritual sense in the New Testament. Very specifically its primary use in Scriptures is in regards to two relationships:

1) the relationship between a Christian and God and

2) the relationship between Christians.



1. Now, we cannot even begin to talk about fellowship between Christians without first talking about fellowship with God—that fellowship is the basis or foundation of all fellowship between Christians.

2. It's important to understand that man at the beginning of creation enjoyed perfect fellowship with God; but sin disrupted that fellowship. Isaiah 59:2 points out the fact that the result of sin was separation from God. "Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you..." Why did this separation have to take place? Go to 1 John 1. In verse 5 the apostle John explains to us that "God is light..." That is God's essence. Spiritually speaking light here represents purity, righteousness, holiness. If we continue with that verse John explains that "in Him there is no darkness at all." God cannot fellowship with darkness, and those who walk in it. Why? Remember Paul's rhetorical statements back in 2 Cor 6:14-15, "For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?"

3. Automatically we begin to see that God Himself cannot and will not just fellowship anything or anybody. It's not that He doesn't desire to, but He can't.


1. But God made arrangements by which man can have fellowship and access to Him again. In Romans 3:23 Paul explains that all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but in the very next verse (24), shows that we can be "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Notice, first of all that God made justification from sin possible. Later in Romans 5:1, Paul tell us that "having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

2. So sin separated us from God, but God made it possible to be justified–that is pronounced righteous, being acquitted from sin that separates us from God. But notice that justification from sin, which allows us once again to have fellowship with God, is found IN and THROUGH Jesus Christ. According to Paul in Galatians 3:27, "For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." That's how we enter Christ. And one who enters Christ, according to Romans 6:3-7, is baptized into Christ's death where the body of sin is done away with.

3. Now, notice that being baptized into Christ basically describes the fact that we have a relationship with Christ, and if we have put Christ on, then we have a relationship with Him. If we go back to Galatians 3:26 we understand that by faith and in Christ we enjoy a special relationship to God. Notice Paul says, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ." Again, to be sons of God means that we are in fellowship with Him.


1. So the foundation of our fellowship with God is through and in His Son Jesus Christ. But there's another very important point we have to notice from Scripture. Go back to 1 Corinthians 1:9. Paul says, "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." There's another element to the foundation of my fellowship with God. Yes, my fellowship with God exists when I have fellowship with His Son, but we've got to recognized another part of the process—we were called into fellowship with Christ.

2. What does that mean? And why is it important to recognize? Turn to 2 Thess. 2:13-14. Paul told the Thessalonian brethren, "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose your for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel..." The call to come into fellowship with Christ comes through the medium of the gospel–the word of God. Paul says in Eph. 3:6, concerning the Gentiles, that they were "partakers (our word fellowship) of His promise in Christ through the gospel."

3. Now go back to 1 John 1. John begins in verse 1 saying, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life–(2) the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us–(3) that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you may also have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ."

a. What John is saying is the same thing Paul said back in 2 Thess. 2 and Ephesians 3—that fellowship with God is founded upon the gospel. Here John says, "that which we have heard we declare to you." What John declared was the gospel of Jesus Christ.

b. The gospel is declared or proclaimed in order that men may come into the fellowship of God and Christ. So the foundation of fellowship is man's access to God as Father through His Son Jesus Christ by means of the gospel.


1. Now the last point I want to leave us with, which will serve as a foundational though to our study tonight, is this: if our fellowship with God as Father through His Son Jesus Christ is by means of the gospel–as I hear it and by faith am obedient to it...that means I must continue to follow the teaching of the gospel–the word of God.

2. Look now at 1 John 1:5-7. "This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin."

3. John said that the message he heard and declare was that God is light. And my fellowship with God, as evidenced in verse 7, is dependent and contingent upon my "walking in the light as He is in the light." What if I walk in darkness? Look at verse 6. John says we lie, first of all, but secondly He says that walking in darkness is equivalent to not practicing the truth! So there is not fellowship with God if I walk in darkness–sin and error–and do not practice the truth.

a. Notice that John says "practice" which is in the present tense–that means I must continually practice the truth to have fellowship with God even after I've been called by and been obedient to the gospel to come into fellowship with His Son.

b. Look at 2 John 9. "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine (teaching) of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son."

c. Consider John 15:6, "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire and they are burned."

4. So my fellowship with God is contingent upon my obedience to the gospel. And my continued fellowship is contingent upon my continuing to practice the truth. Can that fellowship be broken? Yes, if I chose to walk in darkness, I am no longer in fellowship with God. I am no longer in participation with Him and His word. I am no longer walking in common with Him.



1. Brethren, that is the foundation (basis) of fellowship. And man's fellowship with God is conditional.

2. Now, what we want to cover tonight is found back in 1 John 1:7. John says that if we walk in the light as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another–that's the fellowship we want to discuss next. But notice that we do not have fellowship with one another until we are in fellowship with God. That's very important to understand in our discussion of this issues of where the lines of fellowship are to be drawn. So our fellowship is first and foremost vertical—looking to God; then it is horizontal—looking out to other Christians.

3. We're going to notice some parallels in terms of the contingencies that exist in the fellowship we have with each other. So it is very important to understand this lesson first.


By Chris Peltz

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