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What the Bible says about Fellowship, Forsaking
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 2:18

How can a person, independent from consistent fellowship with the body of Christ, the church, still be a part of it? A person thinking this way is sliding away from God's intention, as His Word clearly shows. He fully intends we be active members of a physical body as well as the spiritual organism. Is the church only a spiritual organism? If the spiritual organism is the only important aspect, why even have congregations? Could congregations play a major role in preparing us for God's Kingdom?

Let's look at this from another angle. God intends mankind to be an active and contributing part of a physical community. "And the LORD God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.' . . . Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:18, 24).

Perhaps verse 18 could be rephrased as, "It is not good that man be independent." Our God establishes principles and patterns in His Word from which we can extract wisdom, the practical application of truth. Some of the most basic and fundamental patterns for His purpose are established very early in Genesis.

What is He showing here? That, in relation to God's purpose, the most and the best will not be produced in us if we are alone. If we are independent, we remove ourselves from the circumstances that will produce the most toward His purpose. In this specific context, God is not commanding everyone to marry, but He is clearly showing that marriage is generally better than remaining single.

Everyone understands from his own experiences that the more people who comprise a unit or community, the greater the number and intensity of problems. This occurs largely because our carnality drives us to compete rather than cooperate. Sometimes a person desires so strongly to be independent of this kind of community relationship that he separates himself in order to be completely free from the suspicions, distrust, offenses, and other hardships that occur within a group. To put it another way, it is similar to a soldier running away from the battlefield to protect himself.

In its rawest form, it is selfishness and self-interest. It can be self-serving avoidance of being useful, of contributing steadfast strength and encouragement, of being a right example to others, or of being found wrong and corrected. If nothing else, we are detaching ourselves from the unit to which God intends we show allegiance and service.

John W. Ritenbaugh
For the Perfecting of the Saints

1 Corinthians 8:1-3

These seemingly innocuous words may be the central issue in this whole book (or both books to the Corinthians) because this was the sin that led Satan to separate from God's government. He became puffed up about himself. Likewise, the Corinthians were puffed up about how much they knew.

Satan thought so much of himself that he became twisted in his thinking, and he attacked God. We do not attack God directly—this book shows us we attack each other! Therein lies the problem. We attack each other through gossip, rumors, accusations, and things of that nature.

We begin to draw up lists in our minds of the faults of those who have offended us, and we begin to withdraw from them. We will not associate with them. Division begins to occur because they offend us. We say to ourselves, "Well, they were mean to me," or "They aren't intelligent enough," or "They are peculiar," or "They wear garish clothing," or "They have strong opinions about unimportant things."

This is not to say that these things are right and good, or that one should be able to do his own thing at anytime, anywhere, and that others should be tolerant of it. Nevertheless, Satan can, if he is given the opportunity, lead our minds to find reasons to not associate with others—reasons that have nothing to do with sin. Satan is at work.

If the feeling continues unabated, we will eventually come to the place where we will withdraw from fellowship altogether. It will not happen quickly, necessarily, but gradually. Perhaps we stop attending Bible Studies or begin to find reasons not to come to Sabbath services, or we will arrive late to services and leave early. In this way, Satan is slowly but surely moving us toward self-indulgence rather than love.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)

Hebrews 10:24-25

The New Testament stresses that Christians need the fellowship of others of like mind. An identifying mark of the true church is that the members have love for one another (John 13:35). Indeed, one of the criteria by which Christ will judge us is how we treat our brethren in the church (Matthew 25:31-46). How can we love and serve one another if we do not fellowship with and get to know each other?

God has given us ample instruction regarding how we should relate to other Christians. It is His purpose to teach us how to get along with each other so we can teach others about these things in the Millennium. We are to be unselfish and concerned for the needs of others (Philippians 2:4). God wants us to learn patience and forgiveness (Colossians 3:13), striving to be "kindly affectionate," humble, and self-effacing in our dealings with one another (Romans 12:10). We should be giving and hospitable to our brethren (verse 13).

The New Testament is replete with various admonitions on how we should interact with our brothers and sisters in the church. Obviously, God views our interaction with other Christians as vital to our training to become members of the God Family and qualifying for a position in His Kingdom. He wants us to develop interpersonal skills that equip us to deal with occasional differences of opinion and offenses.

Our fellowship should be a source of encouragement to one another. We should use this time to show love to our brethren and to motivate them to perform acts of kindness and service for others. All of these exhortations show a clear need for us to be part of an organization of God's people. God's Sabbath service is like a weekly training school for Christians. The spiritual food that God's true ministers prepare for us is vitally important for our spiritual growth and development. In discussing the relationship of the ministry to the church member, Paul explains that the ministry is given

for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12-13)

The interaction that we have with one another when we fellowship at church services helps us to develop the fruit of God's Spirit—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul shows that the church is truly Christ's body, and like the human body, each part depends upon the other parts.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
For the Perfecting of the Saints

1 Peter 5:6-8

Satan may or may not be the cause of the situation, but even if he is not, he is prowling around to take advantage of it, in the hopes that he might pick us off. What does the roaring lion most likely attack? The strays, the ones on the fringes, and those not keeping up with the flock. Spiritually, the ones most likely to be attacked are those who are not spiritually with it. Wearied by a barrage of problems, they begin to separate themselves, then Satan, the roaring lion, picks them off.

He is especially adept at taking advantage of people's feelings. All too often, we are dominated by our emotions rather than facts or, we could say, the truth of God. In such a circumstance, it is easy for us to get our feelings hurt, ignore the facts, and proceed to lie to ourselves, just as Satan did to himself when he first sinned.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)

1 Peter 5:8

The animal kingdom teaches us that predators like lions usually look for and attack the animals that are alone and have wandered away from the flock. Such strays are in an exposed position because they lack the protection afforded by the large numbers of others of like kind. Our adversary likes nothing better than pouncing on sheep who try to "go it alone."

We do not have to be so vulnerable! The protection of the flock is available. Our place and our protection are found in worshipping and fellowshipping with the people of God in "the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Timothy 3:15).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
For the Perfecting of the Saints


 




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