Believing in Fellowship
We always find the time for that which we believe to be important. We go to our jobs because we believe in providing for our families. We eat because we believe that eating is necessary to stay alive. We go to the doctor when we are not well because we believe the doctor can make us better. We even make time for ball games, movies, and other forms of recreation or entertainment because we believe they will give us pleasure. But where on this broad spectrum of activities in our busy lives does fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ fall? Do we believe in the value of fellowship as much as we believe in the need to work, eat, tend to our health, and enjoy hobbies?
The first members of the Lord's church clearly believed in the value of fellowship. The Bible tells us that they were devoted to fellowship (Acts 2:42). In fact, their devotion to fellowship was so great that they could not seem to get enough of it (Acts 2:46). They learned God's Word together, worshipped together, shared their material blessings with each other, and ate together. Why did they place so much value on fellowship? The answer is found in their attitude. They had received the Word of God gladly or with joy (Acts 2:41). As we see in Acts 2:46, this carried over into their new spiritual lives. The word translated, "gladness" in verse 46 is a superlative. They were not just glad. They were extremely glad. They were excited about being Christians and they were excited about spending time with other Christians. They viewed opportunities for fellowship as times of happiness and rejoicing.
Not only did members of the first century church of Christ believe in the joy that comes from fellowship, they believed that times of fellowship provided opportunities for relief. In Acts, chapter 12 we read that king Herod was on a rampage. Having killed James, the brother of John (Acts 12:2), he turned his wrath toward Peter and had him imprisoned (Acts 12:4). Peter's stay in jail was brief as we find that an angel came to release him (Acts 12:7). Now walking in freedom, Peter headed for the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark. When he arrived there he found several Christians gathered in prayer (Acts 12:12). During this particular time of intense persecution, these early saints believed that fellowship would provide an avenue of respite from the threats of those who hated them. They retreated to their safe haven of fellowship and joined as one in leaning upon God for help in their battle.
Our early church family believed in the joy of fellowship, they believed in the relief provided by fellowship, and they also believed in the encouragement offered by fellowship. Have you ever noticed what Paul did on each of his missionary journeys? When he returned to Antioch following his first mission effort, he and Barnabas gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them, including the fact that He had opened the door of the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27). His second missionary journey began with the purpose of strengthening the churches (Acts 15:41). His third journey had the same focus (Acts 18:22). On his trips, Paul would regularly meet with assembled Christians to preach God's Word to them and to tell them of the great successes that Word was having in saving souls. This encouraged these brothers and sisters in Christ to keep up their own efforts in living and spreading the Gospel. Paul's reports were welcome reminders of the power of the Gospel.
How do you and I view fellowship today? Where does it rank on our priority list? We're no busier than first century Christians were, especially considering how many time-saving conveniences we enjoy that they did not. If anything, we might have more time than they did. Why could they find time for fellowship while so often we cannot? Could it be that they found the time because they were looking for and making the time? Could it be that they found the time because they loved the fellowship of the church so dearly? As was stated in this article's opening sentence, we always find the time for that which we believe to be important. How important is fellowship with the Lord's church to you? Think of the joy, relief, and encouragement you are missing when you miss opportunities for fellowship. Why deprive yourself of so many great blessings when they are so easy to find?