Forsake not the message of the fellowship

We have been looking this week at the common phrase “forsake not the fellowship”.  We already have the understanding that it is used to condemn those who do not attend the local church, but instead attend a smaller home gathering. 

Now through this week we have learned

  1. Scriptures speaks of two or three as fellowship.  This is sufficient for Christ to be there and God the Father to answer prayers.
  2. True fellowship does not come in the traditional church format where only a few encourage the body and the rest discuss everything from sports to movies before and after the so called fellowship.  Biblical fellowship takes place when the individuals of the body encourage each other with scripture when they come together.
  3. If our coming together does not produce in us a maturing new man who lives righteously then we have no fellowship at all.  True Biblical fellowship begets godliness.

But what is the context of all this?  What position of belief is the writer of Hebrews coming from when he says,

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.[1]

In the verse before this the writer wants the reader to hold unswervingly to the gospel by which we encourage each other in true Biblical fellowship towards all godliness.  But what is this gospel?  Is it that we have arrived, we have made it, we are now secure?  Is it the gospel we preach for people to come forward and be saved and posses’ eternal life or is it something else?

You have heard it said.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.[2]

But we say.

Let us hold unswervingly to the factual we profess, for he who gave was faithful.

If we care to look and understand scripture, we find the message of the gospel of hope in the misused verse of “forsake not the fellowship” 

When you come together to fellowship in your local body, what gospel do you share?  Is it the “but we say” verse or the “you have heard it said” verse?  Whose voice are you listening to and repeating? 

If you desire true fellowship with the eternal gospel that is testified with great support in scripture then I encourage you to get to know The Gospel According to the Gospel.  The gospel of scripture that testifies our gospel is a hope and a promise.  It is not the gospel of the factual.  We have a hope of salvation not salvation itself.  We have the hope of eternal life, we do not posses it yet. We are imputed righteousness, we do not posses it yet.

So now give yourself a grade.

  1. Do you have two or three in your gathering?
  2. Is everyone in your fellowship encouraging each other with scripture?
  3. Is you fellowship moving people to maturity and holiness in Christ?
  4. Are you preaching the gospel of hope and the one who promised?

If you do not agree with me, can you prove with scripture that I have mislead and misrepresented in our discussion of “forsake not the fellowship”.  Any challengers?

[1] Hebrews 10:24-25

[2] Hebrews 10:23

Forsake the failed fellowship

In the last two posts we have learned that there is more to the phrase “forsake not the fellowship” then a simple incrimination of those who do not attend church.  We have discovered that scriptural fellowship is when two or at times three are gathered together.  We have also learned that the Father will move heaven and earth to answer the prayers of that small fellowship.  It isn’t the purpose of scripture to place the small gathering of believers under scrutiny of the local church.  Instead we find scripture admonishing the small group to do and be what Christ has called us to be and do.  So we can quit looking down on those who fellowship in smaller circles.

We have learned it is more than a head count.  It isn’t a simple role call of attendance, there is something for every believer to be accountable to, if we are going to qualify any group as fellowshipping.  Scripture teaches that in order to qualify as fellowship, every believer is to encourage one another.  We are to encourage each other to be obedient and strengthen each other with the word of God and hope of His return.

So with the size (two or three) and the responsibilities (everyone) laid out in biblical fellowship, lets look at the purpose of this fellowship.  Scripture is looking for the end result of this fellowship.  There is something that God wants to happen in His people as a result of fellowship.  Remember this result needs to come through the encouragement of every believer in each others lives when we get together.

Right on the heals of the responsibilities of all believers we have scripture teaching we need to quit deliberately sinning.  This is the goal of what the Lord wants to do in our fellowships.  He wants us to mature in all things and in righteousness.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approachingIf we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.[1]

Why should this purpose of our fellowship be strange to us?  It shouldn’t, since we have scripture in another place letting us know that the spiritually immature are not acquainted with righteousness.  So again the goal of our fellowshipping one with another, whether in a large group of small, is holiness in the life of the believer.

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.[2]

If your fellowship with other believers is not helping you to mature and train yourself to live righteously then you are immature. If you have received the knowledge of the truth and do not train yourselves to leave deliberate sin, then you who have received the truth have no more sacrifice for sins left.  God help us all.  We all need to participate in real fellowship for our own sakes and that of those we call brothers and sisters in the Lord, no matter where we find ourselves.  We need to recognize it is all of us who have forsaken the fellowship or we will suffer for our arrogance and pride.

We can not sit back and point the finger at those who worship in very small gatherings rather than the local body.  If you in the local body are not nurturing the environment where every individual is encouraged to strengthen his brothers in the Lord, then your fellowship has failed. If you in the local body do have members encouraging members, yet it does not produce mature believers who live righteously before the Lord, then again your fellowship had failed.  If all your local body has is a role call when they assemble together, then your fellowship has failed, you are not obeying scripture that teaches us to not forsake the fellowship.  If your fellowship has failed and you want true biblical fellowship, then maybe you should leave the local body and seek out a small group of practicing believers of the word and not those who spout quotes only.

[1] Hebrews 10:25-27

[2] Hebrews 5:13-14

Yeah local church, forsake not the fellowship

Those who attend local churches are always so quick to instruct those who do not. They are more than happy to quote the following verse to show the error of those who choose to stay away from the local body of believers.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,[1]

When I am confronted by those who so dogmatically instruct me in the better way, I always ask them to quote the entire scripture.  As of yet no one has been able to get past the little sound bite they so easily regurgitate, and be able to quote me the whole of the scripture.

Did you know there is a second half of the verse that every Christian tardy officer quotes, but they don’t realize they only have half the picture?  They are more interested in a legalism birthed in the local church than what scripture teaches us.  There is no interest in what makes a fellowship of believers, that being two or more, or what we are to do in that fellowship.  Rather they think this scripture is about a head count.

In order to make sure we actually have the right kind of fellowship when we come together, scripture has surrounded this verse of incrimination to those who do not attend the local church, with the purpose of that fellowship. 

In the verse before we have this statement.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.[2]

Then the verse in question actually finishes by saying.

but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.[3]

It isn’t the pastor’s job of doing the fellowshipping.  It is the job of every member of the body of Christ.  Everyone is to be spurring one another and encouraging one another with our hope found in scripture.  Not the pastor.

Which brings me to a sad state of affairs.  In every body of adult believers I have attended we talk job, sports, hunting, real estate, movies, anything but scripture.  And this while attending the church.  And in the believers home it is no different.

When I was confronted by those long time church associates about my tardiness from the local assembly, by the half a verse in question, I would ask them the last time we talk the book.  They came to realize it was never, it was always something else, but never the book.

So what of it local church?  You have a large head count, but no one is spurring or encouraging one another as scripture has told us to do.  Every individual who reads scripture should know what we are instructed to do when we come together.  Oh, maybe that is it.  This fact is evident only to those who read scripture.

You have heard it said.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.[4]

But we say.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.

How about next time someone wants to play the trump card on the believer who has “forsaken the fellowship”, how about them asking themselves if they have encouraged with scripture those they fellowship with towards love and good deeds in Christ.  Or how about encouraging with scripture those they fellowships with concerning the approaching day of our Lord.

Sitting in a large gathering of believers listening and leaving is not fellowshipping.  Nor is coming and going without individuals using the word of God to encourage and spur each other on.  So what of it local church, quit forsaking the fellowship!

[1] Hebrews 10:25a

[2] Hebrews 10:24

[3] Hebrews 10:25b

[4] Hebrews 10:24-25

Forsake not the fellowship

Have I forsaken the fellowship? I have a confession.  I have not attended a local church for about seven years now.  Before this I was a youth pastor for about four years and helped in youth ministry for about another three years.  This doesn’t include my own time spent in my own youth group from the age of sixteen and my two years at Bible College.

Yet with this background I have not even the slightest desire to attend a local church.  So, have I forsake the fellowship?  Have I not kept the instruction from scripture that says we are not to forsake coming together as believers?

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,[1]

I can not tell you how many times I have had this quoted to me or something very similar to it since I have stopped going to the local church.  But the question still remains, have I violated this instruction?  Have I stopped coming together with believers, since I do not do it at a local church?

Even though I meet with my family and other believers for worship and the study of scripture, I am sure there are those who think this is insufficient to count as meeting together with other believers.

It is assumed by those that tell me to get back into fellowship with other believers, that it needs to happen within a church.  Mostly because they feel that is where the believers gather.  The more believers that gather, the more fellowship can happen, the more I keep this instruction in scripture.

But if this is true, that the larger the gathering the more the command is kept to keep the fellowship, then are not those in small churches not as obedient to keep the instruction as those in larger churches.  How about those in mega churches, are they the ones who uphold this instruction better than all of us?  If after all, the larger the gathering of believers the more fellowship can take place, right?

I know I have taken it too far.  The point to be made is, I need to get involved in a local body of believers, in the minds of many, in order to keep the instruction of not forsaking the fellowship.

But is it I who has taken it too far or is it those who preach not forsaken the fellowship who have taken it too far?  I can not find in scripture where I am instructed that the local church is the fellowship I need to seek out.  Nor is it the mega church.  I can find nothing in scripture that speaks of what I am to consider fellowship, oh except for this one.

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”[2]

Well, well, well I guess the minimal number of keeping the instruction of not forsaking the fellowship would be two.  Whew, was I getting worried.  I guess all those who run around telling individuals like me to quit forsaking the fellowship, have not considered what Jesus has said.  It takes two and even up to three sometimes to come together for Jesus to be in their midst.

You have heard it said.

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.[3]

But we say.

“Again, I tell you that if the local church on earth agrees about anything it ask for, it will be done for it by my Father in heaven.

Apparently the Father does not consider the local body any more affective in fellowship, prayer and impacting this old world, as he does the two or three that have Christ in their midst.

How about this for a turn around?  We the groups of two or three have just as much calling and ear of the Father to change the world let alone to have our lives impacted by Christ. 

Step aside big boys and let the little guys change the world.  WE HAVE WASTED ENOUGH TIME BEING MANIPULATED BY YOU ALREADY!

[1] Hebrews 10:25a

[2] Mathew 18:20

[3] Matthew 18:19