A most intimate relationship exists between each faithful child of God and The Father which is in heaven. That sweet abiding tie can no man, Satan, nor angels, break nor alter. The Heavenly Father only authors and maintains it. Its basis is in Himself. It is expressed in the word "fellowship".
Fellowship is with The Father. John stated, "... our fellowship is with the Father..." (I John 1:3). In this "fellowship" sweet is the immense care and love shown toward us. Paul wrote, "...that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38, 39). Great therefore is our "fellowship" and love with our Father.
The Father's Only Begotten expressed relationship to his sheep. He said, "My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:29).
The "fellowship" no man can destroy because it is "with the Father." For any man, or group of men, or organization of men, to attempt to break this "fellowship" is in rebellion against God. "Fellowship" breakers shall be judged of the Father in that day. To try to break it destroys the very unity of all believers in Christ.
We learn much about "fellowship" from the beloved John. No little persecution seems to have been against the little scattering of saints in John's day. Human philosophers, though their philosophies were not named by John, seem to have been forms of Gnosticisms. They taught mainly, in their power structured philosophies, that they were superior to believers because they were born with a higher degree of wisdom. They felt to be far higher than those of the new birth in Christ. They greatly persecuted those true children of God by faith. They deemed themselves to be nigh to God.
John stated, "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrepes, who loveth to have preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Therefore, if I come, I will remember the deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church" (3 John 9, 10).
Growing out of such preemptive arrogance, John expounded on true "fellowship." Let us remember that all true "fellowship" has its basis and underlying cause in God the Father. It is in His hands. He is the final judge.
Fellowship is in Jesus Christ. True to the principle which Jesus taught of His Father, "And Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine," this fellowship," which is with the Father, is of the Son also, "by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (I Cor. 1:9). Paul was minded to know, "the fellowship of His sufferings" (Phil. 3:10), that he might be truly identified with Christ.
Fellowship is of The Spirit. We likewise, if we are led of the Holy Spirit, as were those at Phillipi, have "fellowship" of the Spirit (Phil. 2:1).
Fellowship is with the apostles. The apostles of Christ were personally trained by Jesus on earth. They later received power after the Holy Spirit came upon them, enabling them to be witnesses of Christ (Acts 1:8). It is not surprising, therefore, that the Apostle John taught, "that ye also may have fellowship with us" (1 John 1:3). Among other things, the early saints in Jerusalem continued steadfastly in the "apostles' doctrine and fellowship" (Acts 2:42).
Fellowship is with saints. Contingent upon our walking in the light, "we have fellowship one with another" (1 John 1:7). Such "fellowship" is not voted on by men. It is not granted by churches of men. John said, we "have it." It is with The Father, The Son, The Holy Ghost, and those others walking in the light, through the inspired Word of God.
Fellowship is between Jew and Gentile. The gospel was preached for about ten years before the Gentiles were brought into the kingdom. In the meantime, Saul of Tarsus was converted and later became known as Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. When the twelve apostles later perceived the grace of God was given to the Gentiles, the Jewish brethren extended unto Paul and Barnabas "the right hand of fellowship," seemingly in recognition of these truths (Gal. 2:9).
Fellowship is with righteousness. In opposition to this, there should be no "fellowship" with unrighteousness, works of darkness, and devils (2 Cor. 6:14; i Cor. 10:20; Eph. 5:11).
Fellowship is sending to the necessities of gospel proclaimers. The Philippian saints were commended for sending once and again to Paul's necessities (Phil. 4:16). This was called their "fellowship in the gospel" (Phil. 1:5).
The foregoing are brief summations of what the New Testament says relative to all kindred words translated "fellowship." Much misunderstanding and misapplication of these principles have resulted in divisions of the religious world generally, and Churches of Christ are not free from divisions.
What fellowship in the New Testament, does not involve:
(1) "Fellowship" is not granted to sectarian hierarchies, exclusively and separately fenced in by false doctrinal creeds.
(2) "Fellowship" is not something to be practiced as a test among denominational churches, to grant, or to withhold, participation in the Lord's Table.
(3) No so-called "Congregation of The Church of Christ" is said to have "withdrawn fellowship" from another "sister congregation."
(4) No apostle ever directed an organizational church to "withdraw fellowship" from a "member" thereof, even though saints are to withdraw themselves as saints from ungodliness (2 Thess. 3:6; I Tim. 6:5).
(5) So-called "elders over a church" never sent "letters of disfellowship" to an erring child of God.
(6) No so-called "eldership" ever "disfellowshipped" a saint by letter for not attending so-called "church services."
(7) No church ever made "fellowship grants" to so-called educational and benevolent "affiliated institutions."
(8) No church ever built special facilities, such as gymnasiums, encampments, kitchens, or halls, in order to have "fellowship."
(9) No special youth "fellowship" minister, or evangelist, to a church was ever appointed by an apostle.
(10) No church ate a social meal, or played fun-games, as "fellowship," in order to win the world to Christ.
(11) No man made any decisions about other men, respecting "fellowship," in "fellowship" with God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the apostles, the mystery of the gospel, sending to necessities of an apostle, Christ's resurrection, or walking in the light.
(12) When the apostle Paul desired to have "fellowship" with Christ's resurrection, such was not equated as mere social eating, secular education, or fun and games.
(13) "Fellowship with The Father" does not require kitchens, halls, gymnasiums, schools, encampments, man-made institutional churches, lordships of men, ornate buildings (plants), or general collections from saints.
(14) Withdrawing "yourselves," or "thyself" from ungodliness is not the same as "church withdrawal of fellowship" from an erring saint.
(15) The expressions, "withdrawal of fellowship" and "disfellowship" are nowhere in the Bible, and therefore the teaching is not.
(16) God Almighty never authorized "fellowship" with Himself to be decided upon, nor administered, by men for men.
(17) "Fellowship with The Father" is not extended by the Father to the alien world of rebellious sinners.
Lest we forget.